CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 06/15/2012

Indian Gaming

SB 162 (Anderson) – Oppose
As Amended on May 21, 2012

SB 162, by Senator Joel Anderson, would prohibit a state agency from opposing fee-to-trust land acquisition applications if the land is intended for housing, environmental protection, or cultural preservation. 

CSAC has adopted policies in support of Tribal governments and their ability to protect all members of their community and to preserve traditional Tribal culture and heritage. At the same time, CSAC recognizes and respects the counties’ legal responsibility to provide for the health, safety, environment, infrastructure, and general welfare of all members of their communities.

We do not generally oppose Tribes taking fee land-into-trust and in fact our policies support trust applications and associated Tribal development when the affected local governments also support the application. However, taking fee land-into-trust has the potential for significant impacts at the local level, whether reducing tax revenues utilized for public services or for environmental protection purposes. Further, currently there is no meaningful role in the fee land-into-trust process for local governments and the people they serve, even though the potential impacts are typically most significant at the local level. This is due to the fact that the federal fee land-into-trust process does not currently provide an affected local government with adequate notice, meaningful consultation, or mitigation. 

Additionally, there is no prohibition for a change of use once land is taken into trust by a Tribal government. A Tribe can apply to the federal government to take fee land-into-trust for purposes of non-gaming activities such as housing, environmental protection, or cultural preservation and upon approval of the application immediately begin planning and implementation of a gaming facility or other type of project. 

Counties rely on the State to provide comments on fee-to-trust land acquisition applications on behalf of the state as a whole and also the affected local communities. Therefore, we oppose any attempt to limit the State in this capacity. Moreover, it is the State’s duty to provide comments on Tribal fee-to-trust land acquisition applications as the federal government and Californians at large have a right to understand all potential impacts an application for trust land may have, regardless of the type of project the application includes. 

SB 162 is set for hearing before the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee on June 20.

CSAC Comments on Cap & Trade Auction Revenues

A coalition of transportation stakeholders have been developing a proposal to dedicate a large portion of the Cap and Trade revenues derived from fuels for transportation infrastructure improvements that meet the State’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions goals and also provides multiple co-benefits pursuant to AB 32 and SB 375. CSAC has recently joined this coalition in support of their efforts and provided comments to the California Air Resources Board to this end. As a part of this coalition, CSAC will strive to ensure that any Cap and Trade revenues allocated for transportation infrastructure purposes are available statewide to support not just Sustainable Communities Strategies as required by SB 375 but also equivalent regional blueprint plans and other regional plans that contribute to meeting GHG emissions reductions goals. 

Housing

AB 2314 (Carter) – Support
As Amended on June 14, 2012

AB 2314, by Wilmer Amina Carter, would provide local governments additional tools to fight neighborhood blight. 

Specifically, the measure 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 deterioration to 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 Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on June 12 by a vote of 8 to 0. The measure now awaits a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Transportation

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

AB 2231, by Assembly Member Felipe Fuentes, 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 is scheduled for a hearing before the Assembly Local Government Committee on June 20.

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