CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 07/02/2012

California Environmental Quality Act 

AB 890 (Olsen) – Support
As Amended on January 13, 2012

AB 890, by Assembly Member Kristin Olsen, would exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) repair, maintenance, and minor alterations of existing roadways, provided the project is initiated by a city or county to improve public safety, does not cross a waterway, and involves negligible or no expansion of an existing use. The exemption would sunset January 1, 2016.

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 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. The amended version of the measure goes even further to ensure that projects that would expand the existing use of a roadway would not qualify for this important exemption. 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. 

AB 890 is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on July 2.

Housing

AB 542 (Allen) – Support if Amended
As Amended on June 27, 2012

AB 542, by Assembly Member Michael Allen, would replace existing housing element law that allows a county or city to use densities less than the statutorily defined default densities to accommodate lower-income households in order to accommodate the jurisdiction’s share of the regional housing need. Specifically, in order for a county or city to use densities less than the default densities, existing law requires the county or city to prepare an analysis demonstrating how the adopted densities accommodate the lower-income household needs. The analysis must include, but is not limited to, factors such as market demand, financial feasibility, or information based on development project experience within a zone or zones that provide housing for lower-income households. 

AB 542 replaces existing language with two different options/requirements in order to use less than the default densities. The new analysis would be based on substantial evidence and include one or both of the following:

  1. An analysis demonstrating the financial feasibility of newly constructing unsubsidized, market-rate housing that is affordable to low-income and very low-income households at the adopted densities.
  2. An analysis demonstrating that the total development cost per unit of newly constructing housing affordable to lower-income households at the adopted densities does not exceed the total development cost per unit of newly constructing housing affordable to lower-income households at the default densities and that the adopted densities do not reduce the ability of housing developments affordable to lower-income households to obtain subsidies to meet all anticipated funding gaps.

CSAC supports the new options provided for in AB 542. However, it is imperative that existing language from Government Code §65583.2 (c)(3)(A) be retained in statute. CSAC, along with a number of other housing stakeholders, including the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and low-income housing advocates, developed the default densities language as a part of the first Housing Element Working Group effort approximately eight years ago. This language was carefully crafted and the default densities and alternative language were a carefully negotiated deal that was intended to provide local governments enough flexibility to meet the low-income housing needs recognizing the diversity of our counties and cities in the state. The language was ultimately added to the statute under AB 2348 by Assembly Member Gene Mullin (Chapter No 724, Statutes of 2004). 

CSAC is aware of a number of local jurisdictions that have successfully used the provisions in current law to use less than the default densities after submitting the required analysis to HCD. 

We strongly urge the author to retain the new options, but also find it imperative to restore existing law that has been eliminated in AB 542. Both options recognize differences throughout our regions and state, but strive towards providing flexibility for counties and cities to meet their low-income housing goals. For these reasons we can only support AB 542 if it is amended to restore existing law. 

The measure is set for hearing before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on July 3. 

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 Judiciary Committee on June 26 by a vote of 4 to 0. The measure now awaits action on the Senate Floor. 

AB 2447 (Skinner) – Support
As Amended on June 26, 2012

AB 2447, by Assembly Member Nancy Skinner, the California Neighborhood Revitalization Partnership Act of 2012, would create a competitive grant program for financing the purchase of foreclosed homes, the demolition of blighted structures that are foreclosed or abandoned, and the redevelopment of demolished or vacant properties. The bill would transfer $25 million 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. 

AB 2447 is set for hearing before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on July 3. 

Planning

AB 904 (Skinner) – Oppose
As Amended on June 27, 2012

AB 904, by Assembly Member Nancy Skinner, would prescribe a one-size-fits-all parking standard for most infill projects on a statewide basis, stripping local elected officials of the discretion to determine the appropriate on-site parking requirements for individual developments in light of overall neighborhood conditions and needs. 

The commercial parking standards in this bill prohibit local communities from requiring parking standards greater than two parking spaces per 2,000 square feet, for projects 20,000 square feet or less, regardless of the type of project. Different businesses have different parking needs so planners develop different parking standards for restaurants than for hospitals or big box stores. This bill fails to contain enough flexibility to account for the different needs with regards to commercial projects.

The residential parking standards in this bill prohibit local communities from requiring parking standards greater than one parking spot per unit of housing, regardless of how many bedrooms the unit contains. A local jurisdiction can only require developers to provide a half a parking spot for a three-bedroom affordable housing unit. The unreasonable parking standards in this bill make it unworkable.

There is interest among local governments in supporting infill development and locally-adopted measures to reduce required parking, where appropriate. However, these decisions need to be made jurisdiction by jurisdiction to address the unique circumstances in each community. Some areas lack pedestrian and bicycle facilities to support alternate transit modes while others have insufficient transit to require residents to do without a car. Unfortunately, this bill could make it more difficult to secure approval for infill projects if neighborhood parking concerns cannot be addressed. Surrounding neighborhoods will have legitimate concerns over the parking impacts of AB 904 that could only be addressed through other regulatory avenues that may discourage infill. The principle of local control could be fully respected and infill development could be promoted through the use of incentives rather than through the restrictions on local land use authority in this bill. 

The measure is set for hearing before the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on July 3. 

Public Works Administration

SB 1516 (Leno) – Oppose
As Amended on June 18, 2012

SB 1516, by Senator Mark Leno, would effectively eliminate a local agency’s right to require substitution requests from bidders prior to the submission of bids unless they first establish a specific procedure for doing so. SB 1516 also allows a bidder whose proposed “or equal” item is rejected to issue a court challenge.

The measure was scheduled for a hearing before the Assembly Business, Professions, and Consumer Protection Committee on June 26 however the author pulled the bill from the agenda. It is our understanding that Senator Leno does not intend to continue to pursue the measure in the remaining months of the current legislative session. 

Transportation

AB 1706 (Eng) – Concerns
As Amended on June 26, 2012

AB 1706, by Assembly Member Mike Eng, as amended on June 26, would increase weight limits for transit buses. Unfortunately, this bill fails to reconcile the needs of transit with the needs of local streets and roads and has potential problems with enforcement. In addition, possible alternative solutions may be available and have not been fully discussed. Specifically, our concerns include:

  • Exceeds Design Standards

Streets and roads are built to specific design standards, and those standards are based on state and federal law. Transit buses exceeding the legal weight have apparently been operating on streets and roads that are not designed to hold their weight. We understand that a significant number of buses are operating at as high as 33% heavier than current statutory limits, thus significantly exceeding the current capacity of our local streets and roads. 

  • Enforcement Questions

The author is expected to offer an amendment in committee that would allow transit operators to replace a bus in their fleet with another bus that weighs the same as the heaviest bus in their fleet. These provisions effectively increase bus weight limits to the weight of 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. 

  • Need for Working Group

CSAC appreciates the many conversations the sponsors and author have had with us about the results of the new laws and regulations that have increased bus weight. It is with regret that we 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. 

CSAC understands that the state may be unable to fund a working group and study at this time. However, that does not prevent continued discussions with the goal of presenting a united and comprehensive solution that takes into account the impact to all stakeholders. 

There is no question that this issue needs to be addressed. However, more time needs to be dedicated to reviewing data and to ensuring that any solution is the most efficient and cost effective. CSAC is asking that the author and sponsor hold AB 1706 and ask the stakeholders to remain at the table in a cooperative manner. 

AB 1706 is set for hearing before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on July 3.

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 is set for hearing before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on July 3. 

AB 2231 (Fuentes) – Oppose
As Amended on June 28, 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. Further, the bill would prohibit cities and counties that have an ordinance in place that requires that local entity to repair sidewalks, from imposing a fee, charge, or assessment, except a voluntary contractual assessment, for sidewalk repairs against an owner of private property fronting on any portion of a sidewalk, unless a repeal of that local entity’s sidewalk repair ordinance is approved by the voters.

CSAC is opposed to AB 2231 in its current form and all other previous forms of the measure as we believe counties and cities must retain existing authority to fund sidewalk repairs in a manner that allows individual communities to balance all of the needs on the transportation network. Additionally, we have significant concerns with the dangerous precedent that would be set should AB 2231 become law. Every day local legislative actions should not be subject to voter approval. Decisions over local municipal matters should remain the domain of local elected County Boards and City Councils. 

AB 2231 is set for hearing before the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on July 3. 


ACA 23 (Perea) – Support
As Introduced on February 23, 2012

ACA 23, by Assembly Member Henry Perea, would allow for the imposition, extension, or increase of a special tax, by a local government for the purpose of providing funding for local transportation projects upon the approval of 55% of its voters from the current two-thirds voter requirement. 

Current funding mechanisms for California’s transportation systems fall far short of needs, both short and long-term. The 2010 California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment Study concluded that there is a 10-year funding shortfall of over $79 billion for the local transportation network alone. When needs outweigh available resources, it is imperative that state and local governments, as well as other transportation stakeholders, work cooperatively to identify alternative ways to fund those needs to ensure a long-term seamless transportation system for our state. 
ACA 23 provides local governments with a better tool for raising additional, much needed transportation funds in communities across California. Many counties, both small and large, would benefit from a reduced voter threshold and would in fact attempt local bonds for transportation purposes in their county should ACA 23 be signed into law. 

ACA 23 was passed out the Assembly Local Government Committee on June 27 by a vote of 6 to 3. The measure now awaits a hearing before the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 


SB 907 (Evans) – Support if Amended
As Amended on May 3, 2011

SB 907, by Senator Noreen Evans, would create the Master Plan for Infrastructure Financing and Development Commission and would require the Commission to prepare and submit a strategy and plan for infrastructure development in California by December 1, 2013. 

CSAC supports the creation of a Commission as a way to develop the necessary information to equip elected officials and decision-makers to plan for and ultimately provide much needed infrastructure in the state across a broad range of categories from transportation, water, schools, and housing, to name a few. 

However, while SB 907 explicitly states that the Commission shall consist of eleven members representing the business community, organized labor, the public, etc., local government has no official representation. As owners and operators of a significant amount of infrastructure in the state, such as the local street and road system of which counties and cities own and operate 82% of California’s total maintained miles, it is imperative the Commission have a local government member. The measure does not even provide that the task forces created to support the Commission have official local government representation. Therefore, we respectfully request an amendment to the measure to explicitly state that one member on the Commission shall represent county government. 

California’s counties have a wealth of information and experience in doing similar work to assess the infrastructure needs in our local communities. For instance, CSAC was a founding part of a similar on-going effort to research and determine data and statistics on the needs of the local street and road system as we recognized the difficulty in making funding decisions and prioritizing projects without this information. We hope to use this first-hand knowledge to contribute in a meaningful way to the Commission’s efforts as envisioned in SB 907. 

SB 907 is set for hearing before the Assembly Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy Committee on July 3.

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