CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 04/13/2012

Housing

AB 2314 (Carter) – Support
As Amended on April 11, 2012

AB 2314, by Assembly Member Wilma Amina Carter, would provide local governments additional tools to fight neighborhood blight. Specifically, AB 2314 would eliminate the sunset date on existing statutory authority that allows counties to impose civil penalties of up to $1,000 for failure to maintain vacant residential property. The measure also provides new owners of blighted property a sixty-day grace period in which enforcement actions are prohibited as long as repairs are being made to the property. The measure further requires banks to notify local agencies when they release liens on foreclosed properties so that demolition of blighted properties can proceed. Finally, the measure provides that a property owner is liable for all unrecovered costs associated with a receivership in addition to other remedies provided for in the law. 

One of the most significant consequences of the economic downturn and collapse of the housing market – an unprecedented number of foreclosed homes – continues to affect California’s local communities and neighborhoods. Many foreclosed homes have fallen into a state of disrepair creating neighborhood blight, public health and safety issues, as well as further declines in surrounding home values. California’s counties need to have a variety of tools at their disposal to prevent and fight neighborhood blight caused by the foreclosure crisis. AB 2314 provides local agencies with such additional tools. 

AB 2314 is set for hearing before the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 17.

Public Works Administration

AB 1901 (Jones) – Support
As Introduced on February 22, 2012

AB 1901, by Assembly Member Brian Jones, would extend the sunset date on existing design-build authority granted to counties, eliminate the project cost threshold in order to use the design-build method, and modify the reporting requirements that counties must submit to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. 

The design-build method is an approach to delivering public works projects which CSAC finds beneficial. Under design-build, the owner contracts with a single entity to both design and construct a project at a fixed price. The owner prepares documents that describe the concept of the project and the desired outcome for the project. In addition to price, proposals are generally evaluated on criteria such as best-value, qualifications and design quality. There are a number of advantages to using design-build, when compared to the traditional design-bid-build method:

  • Projects can be completed faster, as construction can commence during the design phase.
  • Contractors are provided with more flexibility over project design, materials and construction methods. This promotes project design and construction innovation, which can ultimately result in higher quality, as well as cost savings.
  • Time-consuming and costly disputes between designer and contractor are reduced, because both parties are affiliated with the same entity.

By 2009, approximately nine counties had used or planned to use the design-build method for project delivery for a variety of projects ranging from parking facilities to parks and recreation projects to fire stations, to mention a few. Counties and tax payers in general benefit from the use of design-build authority due to cost savings produced by this method of project delivery. Furthermore, given the difficult economic times across the State, local agencies need maximum flexibility to delivery projects based on their expertise in choosing the right delivery method. 

AB 1901 was set for hearing before the Assembly Local Government Committee on April 11 however, the hearing was canceled at the request of the author. A new hearing date has not been set at this time. 

Transportation

AB 2231 (Fuentes) – Oppose
As Introduced on February 24, 2012

AB 2231, by Assembly Member Felipe Fuentes, would amend long-standing statues related to sidewalk repairs, drastically changing current law and disrupting the many successful and orderly sidewalk repair programs in place in cities and counties throughout the state. 

Current law provides that property owners are responsible for repairs on sidewalks adjacent to their property. However, AB 2231 would effect a major change in California law by making cities and counties responsible for the repair of any sidewalks they “own” or that have been damaged by any plant or tree. The bill also makes cities and counties liable for any injury resulting from the failure to repair and prohibits cities and counties from imposing an assessment on the adjacent property owner for the repair of the sidewalk. These unnecessary changes would have severe and negative impacts for cities and counties.

First, mandating cities and counties to incur sidewalk repairs would result in significant financial losses, resulting in the diversion of funds from projects that benefit the entire traveling public such as street and road maintenance, storm drain cleaning and sewage line maintenance. 

It is important to note that after the passage of Proposition 13, which reduced property taxes that fund many local services, and also in fiscally difficult times, cities and counties are continually forced to make tough fiscal decisions in deciding which local maintenance projects can be sustained. It is difficult to justify repairing a sidewalk for a homeowner in a residential neighborhood instead of filling potholes on a thoroughfare that serves as a primary route for the movement of people and goods. 

Current law provides a framework for local jurisdictions to work from regarding sidewalk repair programs, and many local governments have policies in place that go beyond statute, to the benefit of the homeowner. For example, some cities and counties have programs scheduled years in advance to repair sidewalks street by street at no expense to the homeowner. The level of fiscal commitment to the repair of sidewalks should be left with cities and counties who are best equipped to assess available resources and prioritize projects that benefit the community as a whole, not the state. 

Second, shifting sidewalk repair responsibilities and liability for injuries will likely result in the reduction of new sidewalks built, such as those provided under Safe Routes to Schools grants, due to inadequate funding for maintenance of those new sidewalks.

Additionally, shifting sidewalk repair responsibilities will result in additional strain on local General Fund monies normally allocated to public safety and other vital programs and services. 

It is also a challenge to ascertain who “owns” the sidewalk. The abutting property owner usually “owns” an easement and a city or county usually “owns” the underlying fee interest. 

The “one-size fits all” approach outlined in AB 2231, would create a costly and inefficient maintenance system that fails to take into account numerous considerations relevant to the public safety of residents, infrastructure planning, and limited resources. Local jurisdictions throughout the state have created long-standing, successful, and locally appropriate programs to address sidewalk repairs in their city or county, including remedies for potential concerns from property owners. 

AB 2231 is set for hearing before the Assembly Local Government Committee on April 18.

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