CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 04/20/2012

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 was passed by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 17 by a unanimous vote. The measure is now set for a hearing before the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on April 25. 

AB 2447 (Skinner & Perez) – Request for Comment
As Amended on April 17, 2012

AB 2447, by Assembly Member Nancy Skinner and Speaker John Perez, would create a competitive grant program for purposes of financing, among other things, the purchase of foreclosed homes, the establishment of land banks for foreclosed homes, the demolition of blighted structures, and the redevelopment of demolished or vacant properties. The bill would transfer $25 million from bond monies made available to the California Homebuyer’s Downpayment Assistance Program from the Self-Help Housing Fund to a newly created fund, the California Neighborhood Revitalization Fund, for these purposes, and would make an appropriation to fund the program in an unspecified amount. The bill would require the Department of Housing and Community Development to issue guidelines for purposes of implementation by a specified date.

AB 2447 is set for hearing before the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on April 25.

Public Works Administration

AB 1901 (Jones) – Support
As Amended on April 17, 2012

AB 1901, by Assembly Member Brian Jones, as amended, would reduce the project cost threshold in order to use the design-build method from $2.5 million to $1 million. 

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 is set for hearing before the Assembly Local Government Committee on April 25. 

SB 1516 (Leno) – Request for Comment
As Amended on April 9, 2012

SB 1516, by Senator Mark Leno, would prohibit bid specifications from requiring a bidder to provide submission of data substantiating a request for a substitution of “an equal” item prior to the bid or proposal submission deadline.

SB 1516 is set for hearing before the Senate Government Organization Committee on April 24.

Transportation

AB 1706 (Eng) – Concerns
As Amended on April 17, 2012

AB 1706, by Assembly Member Mike Eng, would:

  • Make findings regarding the role and history of public transit in California;
  • Eliminate the current axle weight limits for transit buses from January 1, 2013, until January 1, 2016;
  • Create interim weight standards for public transit that would prohibit transit providers from procuring a transit bus weighing more than the gross weight of the heaviest bus in the systems’ existing bus inventory, in that new bus’s “fleet class” (with some exceptions); and,
  • Require that the Secretary of the Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency convene a task force to study a variety of issues relating to bus weights and the impact of heavy buses on highways, streets, and roads.

As explained, the majority of buses are currently operating above the legal weight limit, and the cause of the increased weight is a variety of state and federal statutory and regulatory requirements that have been imposed after the weight limits were established in law.

Counties value the services that transit operators provide to California’s communities and we have made a commitment to explore possible solutions with the sponsors. Unfortunately, as in print, CSAC, working with the League of California Cities and other stakeholders, has not yet identified a solution that is amenable for all stakeholders. There are many different issues to address including buses available for procurement, the impact of heavier buses on local streets and roads, and roadway safety concerns. 

Many cities and counties have made significant financial commitments to their transit service providers. At the same time, cities and counties continue to experience a staggering funding shortfall for the maintenance and preservation of the local streets and roads system. We cannot simply ignore the findings of the most recent Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment which reported a $78.9 billion 10-year shortfall. If there is any way to continue to provide transit services without significantly impacting the roadway system, it needs to be fully explored. For this reason, we may be able to support the report requirements of the bill. 

However, we have significant concerns regarding the new interim weight standards which create fleet classes for buses. These provisions, without explicitly doing so, increase bus weight limits to the weight the heaviest bus in the inventory of a particular transit provider. In some ways, this would reward those transit agencies that have disregarded current law the most by allowing them to continue to purchase buses that far exceed the legal weight. 

In addition, enforcement of weight limits would be nearly impossible. In order to enforce weight limits, an official would need to know the heaviest bus in a particular fleet as of January 1, 2013, the “fleet class” that the bus belongs to, and when the bus was procured. 

CSAC and the League will continue to work with the author and sponsors to find a mutually agreeable solution. 

The measure has been set for hearing before the Assembly Transportation Committee on April 23. 


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 was passed out of the Assembly Local Government Committee on April 18 by a vote of 7 to 0 with Assembly Members Rich Gordon and Steve Knight abstaining. The measure is now set for a hearing before the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 24.

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