CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 06/17/2011

Land Use 

AB 129 (Beall) – Support
As Amended on June 14, 2011

AB 129, by Assembly Member Jim Beall, would authorize a city or county to specially assess any fines or penalties not paid after demand by the city or county against the owner of real property whom owes fines or penalties. The fines and penalties may be collected at the same time and in the same manner as regularly county taxes thereby avoiding additional time consuming and costly new procedures. Finally, the measure would also authorize a local agency to appoint a hearing officer to hear and decide issues regarding ordinance violations and the imposition of administrative fines and penalties.

Local agencies can have code enforcement violation cases drag on for years. The changes proposed by AB 129 would provide cities and counties an additional tool for recouping fines and penalties owed to the local agency and streamlines the existing code enforcement process.

AB 129 is set for hearing before the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on June 22. 

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 Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on June 14 by a vote of 5 to 3. The measure now awaits action by the entire Senate. 

SB 244 (Wolk) – Pending
As Amended on June 14, 2011

SB 244, by Senator Lois Wolk, would require a city or county to amend its general plan to address the presence of island, fringe, or legacy unincorporated communities inside or near its boundaries. 

CSAC has been working closely with a group of local government and planning stakeholders and with the author and sponsors of the measure to negotiate amendments that achieve their goals yet do not burden local governments with costly unfunded mandates during a time counties and cities are struggling to provide the most basic planning services. CSAC staff is currently reviewing the June 14 amendments to determine whether our opposition has been removed. 

SB 244 is set for hearing before the Assembly Local Government Committee on June 22.

Transportation

AB 720 (Hall) – Oppose
As Amended on May 23, 2011

AB 720, by Assembly Member Isadore Hall, would erode flexibility currently granted public works departments working under the direction of their boards of supervisors to determine when it is most cost effective to utilize their own workforce for transportation projects. This authority, referred to as “road commissioner authority” has been in place since 1935. This remains vital to counties that are responsible for a vast and often time remote transportation network throughout California.

The bill as currently drafted would preclude the 33 counties currently under the Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Commission (CUCCAC) from exercising their road commissioner authority unless they convince all other county departments to withdraw from CUCCAC. Although the bill does attempt to exempt maintenance and emergency work, and allow counties to perform a minor amount of new road construction and road reconstruction, it is much more restrictive than road commissioner authority due to a fairly strict definition found in Public Contract Code Section 22002. 

There are several consequences with the loss of road commissioner authority. The first of which is increased cost for projects if we have to design and go out to bid. For many counties this also means paying a higher prevailing wage. Further, contracting out will also delay projects. Counties report saving 15 to 35 percent with the ability to perform the work in-house. Of even greater concern is the inability to maintain sufficient public works crew to respond to emergencies throughout the year without year around work. 

AB 720 is set for hearing before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on June 21. Counties need to make personal contact with their Legislator regarding the implications and opposition to AB 720.

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County Of The Week:
Merced