CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 05/06/2011

California Environmental Quality Act 

AB 890 (Olsen) – Support
As Amended on March 29, 2011

AB 890, by Assembly Member Kristin Olsen, would exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) a roadway improvement project or activity performed by a city or county on the local street and road system within the existing right-of-way. Specifically, this measure would include, but not be limited to guardrails, shoulder widening, minor drainage improvements, culvert replacements, traffic signal modifications, minor realignments, and safety improvements. 

While CSAC supports the goals of CEQA – to inform elected officials, decision-makers, and the public at large about potential environmental impacts from public works projects – unnecessary environmental review processes increase project delivery times and overall project costs without advancing CEQA’s goals. On major projects, environmental review remains necessary. However, some maintenance and safety projects, such as installing or replacing a guardrail to address safety concerns on a local street or road, in the existing right-of-way, do not have significant, if any, environmental impacts. Requiring CEQA review on these projects makes the process unnecessarily long and delays important infrastructure improvements that are necessary to protect the safety and well-being of all Californians. The proposal would not exempt projects that would disturb previously undeveloped land. It would, however, streamline the project delivery process for important safety improvements at sites where environmental review has already occurred and the project would not cause additional environmental impact. 

Given the current fiscal climate throughout California, it is important, more now than ever before, to maximize taxpayer dollars for the greatest amount of benefit. Money saved on unnecessary environmental review means more money for more transportation safety projects. 

AB 890 failed passage in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on May 2 by a vote of 3 to 0.

Land Use

AB 1220 (Alejo) – Oppose
As Amended on April 25, 2011

AB 1220, by Assembly Member Luis Alejo, would expand from over one year to five years the statute of limitations to sue a city or county, challenging the adoption of a housing element or a number of related ordinances. It will encourage a broad array of expensive lawsuits that do not differentiate between major noncompliance with state law or a small difference in interpretation. This will leave local agencies, businesses, and developers unfairly open to uncertainty long after decisions have been made. And, it is important to note that these challenges do not mandate approval of actual housing projects, but only require a change in a planning document.

Our concerns related to this bill are consistent with our opposition to similar bills introduced in previous legislative sessions – except that this year, cities and counties are even more strapped for funding and staff. 

As important, however, is the fact that this bill is not needed to enforce housing obligations. In Urban Habitats v. City of Pleasanton, the decision this bill is intended to overturn, the housing advocates were successful in reaching a settlement that overturned the City’s growth limit. There are also a number of new remedies available to housing advocates to enforce local housing obligations, at the very time local agencies will be expected to implement a large number of brand new housing element requirements. 

The law has to be balanced – for cities and counties, housing and commercial developers and advocates. This bill, under existing circumstances, is not a balanced approach. Under this bill, a small misstep on the part of the local agency can shut down development in a jurisdiction until a lawsuit is completed, even though more targeted remedies are available that can require a local agency to make a fix without imposing a full building moratorium until a court makes a final determination. And again: these challenges, costing local agencies millions of dollars to defend, are brought to require a specific change in a planning document, not to build housing. As such, CSAC is opposed to this measure. 

AB 1220 was passed out of the Assembly Local Government Committee on May 4 by a vote of 5 to 3. The measure is awaiting action on the Assembly Floor. 

SB 184 (Leno) – Support
As Amended on March 24, 2011

SB 184, by Senator Mark Leno, would restore to counties and cities an essential tool for planning and providing their fair share of the housing need for lower-income residents in the state by making explicit that local inclusionary policies are not prohibited under the Costa-Hawkins Act.

SB 184 passed out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on May 3 by a vote of 5 to 3. The measure is now awaiting action on the Senate Floor.

Planning

SB 730 (Kehoe) – Request for Comment
As Amended on April 5, 2011

SB 730, by Senator Christine Kehoe, would require a city or county to approve a building permit application to install electric vehicle charging equipment within one business day and conduct an inspection within seven days of completing the work.

SB 730 was passed out of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on May 3 by a unanimous vote. The measure now awaits a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Public Works

AB 943 (Williams) – Support
As Amended on May 2, 2011

AB 943, by Assembly Member Das Williams, would increase the limits under which jurisdictions can use informal bidding procedures for public works contracts under the Uniform Public Construction Cost Accounting Act (UPCCAA). There are currently 177 cities and 34 counties that voluntarily participate in the UPCCAA. In doing so, those jurisdictions save time and taxpayers dollars by using informal bidding procedures for eligible projects. 

Specifically, AB 943 would increase the limit for eligible projects from $125,000 to $175,000. If all bids received are in excess of $175,000, the public agency could award a contract up to $187,500 provided the governing body adopts a resolution by a four-fifths vote. 

The UPCCAA is a program created in 1983 which allows local agencies to use informal bidding procedures for public works contracts, provided those contracts fall under specified limits. The UPCCAA requires the limit to be reviewed every five years by the California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Commission (CUCCAC). At the March 30, 2011, meeting, CUCCAC voted to recommend the increased bid limits included in AB 943.

AB 943 is set for hearing before the Assembly Local Government Committee on May 11.

AB 1354 (Huber) – Oppose
As Amended on April 26, 2011

AB 1354, by Assembly Member Alyson Huber, would put scarce resources for schools, hospitals, parks, fire houses, and other public infrastructure at risk by limiting the maximum amount of retention local governments can negotiate in public works contracts. Contract retentions ensure that:

  •  Public projects are delivered on time and on budget;
  • Contractors complete all contract requirements, including small unprofitable punch-list items. When a contractor does not have the proper incentive to complete a public works project, local agencies are left to go back out to contract to finish the job. This is time consuming and costly and does not efficiently use limited financial resources;
  • There are sufficient funds to correct defective work if a contractor fails to do so; and
  • There are sufficient funds to pay workers in the event contractors fail to pay prevailing wage properly.

A five percent retention cap diminishes a county’s ability to ensure that the provisions of our construction contracts are fully executed, and therefore our ability to protect state and local taxpayer dollars. 

AB 1354 was set for hearing before the Assembly Business, Professions, and Consumer Protection Committee on May 3 however it was pulled from the agenda and is no longer moving through the legislative process at this time. CSAC understands that another measure will likely be amended in the near future with similar provisions though.

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