CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 06/04/2012

Housing

AB 2447 (Skinner & Perez) – Support in Concept
As Amended on April 30, 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 off the Assembly Floor on May 29 by a vote of 50 to 26. The measure is now awaiting a policy committee assignment in the Senate.

Transportation

AB 1706 (Eng) – Concerns
As Amended on May 25, 2012

AB 1706, by Assembly Member Mike Eng, would:

  1. Make findings regarding the role and history of public transit in California;
  2. Exempt transit buses from the current axle weight limits until January 1, 2016;
  3. Allow, until December 31, 2015, public transit agency contracts for the procurement of public transit buses issued after January 1, 2013, to purchase buses that do not exceed 22,400 pounds; and,
  4. 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. 

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

AB 1706 was passed off of the Assembly Floor on May 31 by a vote of 64 to 8. The measure now awaits a policy committee assignment in the Senate.

AB 1780 (Bonilla) – Support
As Amended on March 29, 2012

AB 1780, by Assembly Member Susan Bonilla, would direct the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to pay for the oversight of planning documents that are paid for by local agencies and make improvements to the State Highway System. Specifically, the measure seeks to statutorily direct Caltrans’ transportation planning review department to pay for their own staff cost of reviewing planning documents (referred to as PIDs) from the State Highway Account (SHA). 

A PID is an initial report that outlines the potential scope, cost, and schedule for a transportation project that impacts the state highway. Caltrans’ current reimbursement policy requires cooperative agreements to be negotiated between the local agency sponsor and Caltrans before the review of any PID documents. This adds delay and costs, negating ANY reforms that seek to streamline or reform the PID review process. AB 1780 eliminates the reimbursement policy, providing a streamline effect for project approval by removing the need for cooperative agreements between local agencies and Caltrans. Combined with other reforms developed by Caltrans, AB 1780 would facilitate sound, cost effective and timely decisions are incorporated into these initial planning documents.

AB 1780 was passed off the Assembly Floor on May 29 by a vote of 75 to 1. It now awaits a policy committee assignment in the Senate. 

AB 2231 (Fuentes) – Oppose
As Amended on May 31, 2012

AB 2231, by Assembly Member Felipe Fuentes, as amended on the Assembly Floor, would require voter approval before cities and counties could implement state law that states that property owners adjacent to sidewalks are responsible for sidewalk repair. 

Cities and counties across California have taken bold steps to increase the walkability of their communities. They have found ways to balance the competing needs of pedestrians, property owners, and the city. Local governments make every attempt to fund sidewalk repair, and have used a variety of funds to pay for sidewalk repair including redevelopment funds, federal Community Development Block Grants, gasoline tax revenues, and Safe Routes to Schools programs. Unfortunately, all of these funds are either obsolete or in jeopardy of significant cuts. If cities and counties are unable to find another solution, which sometimes may include updating an ordinance, sidewalks will simply remain in a state of disrepair.

Locally elected officials have traditionally decided what is best for their communities. It’s what locally elected officials are elected to do. As State Legislators can understand, these decisions, while in the best interest of a community, may not be most popular. The ability for city councils and county boards of supervisors to decide how best to balance infrastructure needs is absolutely critical given shrinking resources available to local governments. 

Many local governments have voluntarily implemented policies that go beyond current law 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. In the future, however, if cities and counties are unable to make changes to these policies they will be unlikely to take the extra step in the first place. 

Just as state elected officials are elected to make decisions on behalf of constituents, so are locally elected officials. We believe administrative decisions like how to fund sidewalks are exactly the type of decision locally elected officials are elected to make. AB 2231 undermines their ability to make sure that sidewalk repairs are completed. 

AB 2231 was passed off the Assembly Floor on May 31 by a vote of 46 to 23. It now awaits action a policy committee assignment in the Senate. 

We continue to urge all counties to send letters of opposition to Assembly Member Fuentes.

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