CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 04/27/2012

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 out of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on April 25 by a vote of 7 to 0. The measure now awaits action by the entire Assembly. 

AB 2447 (Skinner & Perez) – Support in Concept
As Amended on April 17, 2012

AB 2447, by Assembly Member Nancy Skinner and Speaker John Perez, the California Neighborhood Revitalization Partnership Act of 2012, would create a competitive grant program for financing 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. Finally, the California Housing Finance Authority would be required to develop and issue guidelines for implementation of the grant program by March 2013.

CSAC supports the goal of the measure – to address the negative effects of the foreclosure crisis on California’s neighborhoods and communities. Furthermore, CSAC supports efforts for the development and financing of affordable housing for low-to-moderate income households. 

While we support the goals of the measure, we offered the following comments from counties for the authors and committee members to consider during the hearing:

  1. The five percent administration cost allowance provided for in Section 53569(d) is too low if applied to the grant recipients. A minimum of ten percent of the grant award is needed for administration.
  2. Section 53572 (2) requires “a contribution of a specified percentage of funds leveraged from other sources”. Given the recent loss of the 20 percent set-aside for low-income housing, the lack of other local funds, and the continued cutbacks at the state level in regard to other state funding programs, it may be very difficult for some jurisdictions to secure additional funding for leverage. For those counties that have been severely affected by foreclosures, it seems to give an advantage to jurisdictions that have been less affected by foreclosures, whose economies may be more robust, and have more funds available to access for use as leverage.
  3. The program should set-aside a certain percentage of the overall funds for smaller/rural jurisdictions. For example, smaller counties were not eligible to apply for the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Often times it is challenging for smaller/rural jurisdictions to compete with larger agencies in grant programs even though these areas have been negatively affected by the foreclosure crisis. A rural set-aside would level the playing field by guaranteeing at least a small portion of the funds are eligible for these areas.

AB 2447 was passed out of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on April 25 by a vote of 5 to 2. The measure is now in the Assembly Appropriations Committee awaiting a hearing. 

SB 1220 (DeSaulnier) – Request for Comment
As Amended on April 16, 2012

SB 1220, by Senator Mark DeSaulnier, would impose a fee of $75 on the recording of each real-estate related document, except for those documents recorded in connection with a transfer subject to documentary transfer tax, and directs the money to the Housing Opportunity and Market Stabilization (HOMeS) Trust Fund. The HOMeS fund would be used for the development, acquisition, rehabilitation, and preservation of homes affordable to low- and moderate-income households, including emergency shelters, transitional and permanent rental housing, foreclosure mitigation, and homeownership opportunities. 

SB 1220 was passed out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on April 24 by a vote of 6 to 2. It was also passed out of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on April 25 by a vote of 5 to 2. The measure now awaits a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

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, have 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 was passed out of the Assembly Transportation Committee on April 23 by a vote of 12 to 0. AB 1706 now awaits a hearing before the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 

AB 2231 (Fuentes) – Oppose
As Amended on 23, 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. 

As introduced the bill would also have made 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. However, the April 23 amendments appear to remove the liability issue CSAC was concerned about. We still have concerns with the new mandate associated with making counties and cities responsible for sidewalk repairs damaged by plants or trees and as such remain opposed to the measure. 

AB 2231 was set for hearing before the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 24 however the measure was pulled from the agenda after the April 23 amendments. The bill now awaits further action, likely in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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