CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 07/09/2010

Housing

AB 602 (Feuer) – Oppose
As Amended on June 21, 2010

Assembly Bill 602, by Assembly Member Mike Feuer, would change the decision of a Court of Appeal (Urban Habitat v. City of Pleasanton) relating to a statute of limitations provision related to housing issues. CSAC has a number of concerns with the approach of the bill, the primary of which are described below:

1. Land Use Statute of Limitations Intentionally Short. This bill would create an unlimited statute of limitations to challenge land use planning decisions in the name of furthering loosely defined affordable housing goals. In contrast, the limitation period for all other land use decisions—including the California Environmental Quality Act—are only 30 to 90 days. As such, AB 602 counters the overall purpose of the short limitation periods which is to “provide certainty” for planning and land use decisions. Cal. Government Code Section 65009(a)(3). 

2. Creates Uncertainty for Development Approvals. This bill would allow groups discontent with local development decisions to challenge them based on an allegedly inadequate housing element if any connection may be found to affordable housing goals. For instance, market-rate residential projects and commercial projects could be challenged based on their failure to include affordable housing if a group alleges that the agency’s housing element has not provided enough sites for affordable housing. This is contrary to the Legislature’s expressed intent to “provide certainty” for planning and land use decisions. 

3. Minimizes All Other Planning Objectives. State law requires local planning agencies to adopt policies relating to environmental protection, transportation, greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, public safety, and a myriad of other priorities in addition to housing. If housing issues are allowed an unchecked statute of limitations, all other policies can be challenged based on their housing impact. It skews the entire planning process toward one goal—particularly when one of the available remedies is to suspend all permitting authority of mandate approvals of specific projects. See Cal. Government Code Section 65755. 

4. Other Statute of Limitations. We are still unclear why this solution is needed given all the other remedies and limitations periods that are available for specific types of claims. Housing elements are already subject to a longer statute of limitations than any other planning approval. Merely by sending a letter to a local agency within 90 days of housing element adoption, groups concerned about a housing element can extend the statute of limitations to a total of one year plus 150 days from adoption. Housing claims may also be brought under a number of statutes, including CCP Section 338, which allows up to three years to file a claim when the local agency fails to comply with state law. This is the statute of limitations period upon which the plaintiffs in the Urban Habitat case were allowed to proceed, and on which they ultimately received a favorable Superior Court decision. SB 375 also allows lawsuits if local agencies do not meet deadlines for implementation contained in their housing elements. 

5. Recent Changes to Housing Element Law Require Substantially More Effort by Local Agencies. The Legislature has significantly amended the housing element statute over the past few years. In 2004, the Housing Element Working Group was formed and recommended legislation that required significantly more detail in the Housing Element. Many agencies’ housing elements are hundreds of pages long and the cost of most housing elements is in six figures. Jeopardizing this investment, in a time of budgetary crisis, years after adoption is unfair.

6. Different Rules for Newer Statutes. Recent changes to the law start the statute of limitations time period from the point of when a housing element violation occurs, rather than upon adoption of the element. The result of these changes is that there is a longer time period for individuals and/or groups to challenge the updated element. 

7. SB 375 Provides More Zoning Certainty. The recent changes to SB 375 also provide reason for pause. There was a concession to require local agencies to zone consistent with the housing element and add additional remedies to the housing element law to allow challenges to assure that local agencies had met their zoning requirements. 

CSAC, the League of California Cities, and the American Planning Association, California are all currently working together to negotiate an agreement with the sponsors and author to reconcile our concerns with the measure.

AB 602 was passed out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on June 29 by a vote of 6 to 3. 

AB 1867 (Harkey) – Support
As Amended on April 26, 2010

Assembly Bill 1867, by Assembly Member Diane Harkey, would allow a local government to meet up to 25 percent of its regional housing needs obligation through the conversion of certain existing market-rate units to low- and very low-income units.

The measure incentivizes local governments to rehabilitate existing substandard housing stock in order to provide more affordable housing in a community by allowing such rehabilitated units to count towards a city or county’s RHNA obligation. 

AB 1867 was passed out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on June 29 by a unanimous vote.

AB 2064 (Perez) – Support
As Amended on July 1, 2010

Assembly Bill 2064, by Speaker John A. Perez, would, by requiring the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to issue a notice or notices of funding availability to potential applicants as soon as possible after Emergency Housing and Assistance Program (EHAP) funding becomes available, ensure that funding to local agencies for this vital program will continue in a more timely and efficient manner than previously implemented. The bill would also require HCD to grant awards pursuant to the notice of funding availability within 180 days after issuing
that notice. 

The Emergency Housing and Assistance Program (EHAP) provides facility operating grants to local agencies and nonprofits for emergency shelters, transitional housing projects, and supportive services for homeless individuals and families. Eligible activities include providing direct client housing, including facility operations and administration, residential rent assistance, leasing or renting rooms for provision of temporary shelter, capital development activities of up to $20,000 per site, and administration of the award (limited to 5 percent). 

One of the many side effects of the downturn in the economy is an increased prevalence of homelessness in California’s most vulnerable populations such as children, emancipated foster youth, and even families who have experienced unemployment and foreclosure. As such, the State and California’s cities and counties must work together to allocate and put to use EHAP funding in a more timely manner.

AB 2064 was passed out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on June 29 by a vote of 6 to 2. The measure now awaits a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

AB 2347 (Feuer) – Support
As Amended on May 28, 2010

Assembly Bill 2347, by Assembly Member Mike Feuer, would authorize local entities to postpone nonjudicial foreclosures for up to 60 days, on certain multifamily properties in which they hold ownership interests, thereby allowing local agencies more time to protect critical agency-assisted affordable housing. 

The foreclosure process requires that a foreclosed multi-family property be sold at a public auction. In the current process, government agencies that are the secondary loan holder are not given ample time to approve the funds, make a bid, cure a default, or buy a distressed property to ensure that it remains affordable.

Given what is now being called “The Great Recession,” cities and counties need additional tools and increased flexibility to provide affordable housing across the state, let alone be allowed to lose existing stock of affordable housing due to the foreclosure crisis.

AB 2347 was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 29 by a vote of 3 to 1. The measure now awaits action by the entire Senate. 

AB 2508 (Caballero) – Support
As Amended on May 3, 2010

Assembly Bill 2508, by Assembly Member Anna Caballero, would allow a local agency to petition the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for a jurisdiction reclassification under housing element law related to applying for state bond funds which can have threshold requirements for funding programs promoting infill development.

Existing housing element law puts certain jurisdictions at a disadvantage when it comes to applying for bond funding such as that made available by Proposition 1C, the Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2006. Specifically, the Infill Incentive Grant Program requires that projects must meet certain average residential densities in order to be eligible for funding. These densities range from 10 to 30 units per acre depending on the way a jurisdiction is classified. A jurisdiction’s classification is based on definitions established under housing element law. While housing element law might define a particular city or county as metropolitan, suburban, etc. based on population, that same jurisdiction might not have the capacity to build at the mandated densities due to infrastructure or other kinds of deficiencies. Further, in light of greenhouse gas reduction targets to be established under SB 375, densities may be more desirable in some jurisdictions over others. 

AB 2508 would assist cities and counties that are disadvantaged by the housing element law descriptions for types of jurisdiction by allowing them to petition to HCD for reclassification for purpose of applying for bond funds. The measure evens the playing field for cities and counties that are currently lacking a competitive edge in applying for bond funding. 

AB 2508 was passed out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on June 29 by a unanimous vote. 

Planning

AB 853 (Arambula) – Oppose
As Amended on July 1, 2010

Assembly Bill 853, by Assembly Member Juan Arambula, would require a board of supervisors, within 180 days of receiving a petition to apply for annexation to a city or reorganization that includes an annexation to a city, to adopt a resolution of application for an annexation to a city or reorganization that includes an annexation to a city if the affected territory meets specified conditions. This bill would also require the agency to include in its written statement a determination with respect to the location and characteristics, including infrastructure needs or deficiencies, or any disadvantaged inhabited communities. Finally, the bill would also require a Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) , upon the review and update of a sphere of influence on or after July 1, 2010, to include in the review or update of each sphere of influence of a city or special district that provides public facilities or services related to sewers, nonagricultural water, or structural fire protection to include the present and probable need for public facilities and services of disadvantaged inhabited communities. 

We also remain concerned about the lack of funding for the increased LAFCO requirements, which will fall to counties, cities and special districts to fund.

AB 853 passed out of the Senate Local Government Committee on June 30 by a vote of 3 to 2. 

SB 1174 (Wolk) – Oppose
As Amended on April 29, 2010

Senate Bill 1174, by Senator Lois Wolk, would create the Future Sustainable Communities Pilot Program. Cities and counties with a disadvantaged community inside or near its boundaries would be eligible to apply to the Strategic Growth Council (SGC) for a Prop 84 disadvantaged community set-aside planning grant (the total funding pot is equal to approximately $12 million over 3 cycles). The SCG would select five cities and five counties to participate in the program. Participating cities and counties would have to do the following: 

Upon receipt of grant funds a city or county shall review and prepare, and the legislative body shall adopt, amendments to at least one of its general plan elements to include data and analysis, goals, implementation measures, policies, and objectives that will address the presence of unincorporated island, fringe, or legacy communities. The updated general plan shall include all of the following:

1. The identification of each unincorporated island, fringe, or legacy community within or near a city or county; 

2. An analysis of the extent to which households have access to sanitary sewer service, municipal water service, paved roads, storm drainage, sidewalks, and street lighting; 

3. An analysis of the extent the improved infrastructure services listed above would improve water quality, water conservation, and natural resource protection and the extent to which improvement would encourage sustainable growth and development; 

4. An analysis of the city or county’s current programs and activities to address disadvantaged communities, and any constraints to addressing these conditions and deficiencies. This shall include an evaluation of whether an annexation or extension of service is appropriate; 

5. A statement setting forth the city or county’s specific quantified goals for eliminating or reducing the conditions and deficiencies present within a disadvantaged community; and

6. A set of flexible implementation measures to carry out the goals and the identification of resources and a timeline of actions. 

CSAC is actively working with the sponsors, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and a number of counties to negotiate amendments that would allow real progress to be made in terms of planning for improving the infrastructure deficiencies in the communities specifically related to the most pressing health and safety concerns while still making the program workable from the limited staff and resource county perspective.  Our goal is to establish a pilot program with select, interested counties to ensure certainty in obtaining funding from the Strategic Growth Council.

However, the bill as recently amended is unlikely to be useful since a competitive grant program remains problematic due to significant staff reductions throughout county planning departments. Further, we have concerns with the prescriptive nature and level of detailed analysis required, which will far exceed available resources from Proposition 84 grants.

SB 1174 was passed out of the Assembly Local Government on June 30 by a vote of 6 to 3. The measure has now been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 

Transportation

AB 2567 (Bradford) – Support
As Amended on June 17, 2010

Assembly Bill 2567, by Assembly Member Steven Bradford, would authorize a local public agency to utilize an automated parking enforcement system that uses equipment installed on street sweepers to take digital images of parking violations occurring in street-sweeping parking lanes during designated street sweeping hours.

AB 2576 was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 29 by a vote of 3 to 1 and now awaits action by the entire Senate. 

AB 2703 (Perez) – Support
As Amended on May 17, 2010

Assembly Bill 2703, by Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, would provide similar authority, as provided to American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds, to advance projects scheduled to be funded from Proposition 1B infrastructure bonds.

Due to the short time frames built into ARRA, and that will likely be a part of any second federal economic stimulus package, AB 2703 is necessary in order to ensure California can spend its share of funding under the federal deadlines. Without this flexibility, it will be very difficult to use a second round of federal economic stimulus dollars on transportation projects that can be awarded in 90 days of federal apportionment. The measure also contains provisions that ensure repayment of federal economic stimulus funds from the State Highway Account. 

AB 2703 was passed out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on June 29 by a unanimous vote. 

SB 1418 (Wiggins) – Support
As Amended on June 21, 2010

Senate Bill 1418, by Senator Patricia Wiggins, would clarify the allowable uses of funds dedicated to motorist aid services to include those that provide roadside assistance, improve the efficiency and quality of travel, and clear incidents, and authorizes individual “service authorities” (SAFE) to increase the SAFE fee by one dollar per registered vehicle in its county.

There have been significant technological advances, more congestion, and an increase in the cost to provide services since the original SAFE legislation was enacted in 1986. Without the legislative changes proposed in SB 1418, SAFEs are not able to implement the range of motorist aid services required to meet the current demand. Making use of new technology and systems can facilitate quicker detection and removal of incidents, and better communication amongst motorists and service providers, such as the California Highway Patrol and tow truck drivers. Notably, between 30 percent and 50 percent of roadway congestion is attributable to roadway incidents. Also, additional funding would allow SAFEs, particularly SAFEs representing smaller counties, to maintain existing highly cost-effective programs, such as the Freeway Service Patrol program, and implement new proven successful motorist aid strategies. 

SB 1418 failed passage in the Assembly Transportation Committee on June 28 by a vote of 6 to 5.

 

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