CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 09/04/2012

California Environmental Quality Act

AB 890 (Olsen) – Support
As Enrolled on August 30, 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 only apply to a city or county with a population of less than 100,000 persons and would sunset January 1, 2016. In addition to the amendment to narrow the application of the CEQA exemption to jurisdictions based on population, recent amendments also narrow the definition of projects that would comply and outlines specific environmental areas that must be avoided. 

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. Thus, CSAC supports AB 890 as it would take a step in the right direction.

AB 890 was passed by both the Assembly and Senate in the last week of session. The measure now awaits action by the Governor. 

Land Use/Planning

SB 214 (Wolk) – Support 
As Enrolled on August 31, 2012

SB 214, by Senator Lois Wolk, would update state law governing Infrastructure Financing Districts (IFDs) to provide an improved mechanism to deliver much-needed infrastructure projects and create jobs in California. 

Specifically, SB 214 would, among other things, eliminate the two-thirds vote requirement to establish an IFD, remove the two-thirds vote requirement to issue IFD-associated bonds, extend the life of IFDs from thirty to forty years, expand the eligible projects to include transit priority projects consistent with a Sustainable Communities Strategy, and would allow IFDs to locate in former redevelopment areas.

IFDs allow the reallocation of existing tax revenues to improve a designated area and specifically allows local governments to use their property tax increment to pay for public works projects. Current law, which requires a two-thirds voter approval to create an IFD, unnecessarily discourages local governments from using this creative option to fund much needed infrastructure projects. SB 214 still requires approval of every affected taxing jurisdiction including the City Council or Board of Supervisors to approve a plan for the IFD thus making it a public process that allows for community input into the program. 

Given the fact that there has been a significant underinvestment in transportation infrastructure across the state over the past few decades and that the major sources of transportation funding are no longer sufficient to maintain our current system, let alone modernize it, SB 214 offers an much-needed solution to allow local governments more flexibility to make transportation investments in their communities. 

SB 214 was passed off the Senate Floor by a vote of 22 to 15 on August 30. The measure now awaits action by the Governor. 

Indian Gaming

AB 2515 (Hall) – Support
As Enrolled on August 31, 2012

AB 2515, by Assembly Member Isadore Hall, would appropriate $9.1 million from the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund (SDF) for the purpose of local community mitigation grants to help off-set the impacts on infrastructure and public services from tribal gaming.

While the grants offered via the SDF program do not mitigate all of the affects Indian gaming has on California’s local communities, the funding is still very critical to local jurisdictions affected by gaming. Counties experience a myriad of costly impacts on local infrastructure and services ranging from transportation to wastewater to public safety. 

Additionally, these are special funds and have no impact on the State’s General Fund or budget. These funds are even more vital during such difficult budget and economic times and could even stimulate some economic activity as a result of investing the money in infrastructure mitigation projects. 

AB 2515 was passed by both the Assembly and Senate in the last week of session. The measure now awaits action by Governor Brown. 

ADA Bill Would Place Fee on Business License Applications

SB 1186, by Senators Darrell Steinberg and Bob Dutton, addresses disability access issues and will significantly change state rules on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits. Among other things, SB 1186 will reduce minimum damages for ADA violations if the defendant hired a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) and prevent the stacking of multiple claims of ADA violation to increase statutory damages.

While SB 1186 mainly addresses compliance and litigation issues with respect to ADA, of importance to counties is a small aspect of the bill that would place a one-dollar fee on all business license applications and renewals for the purpose of funding an increase in the number of CASp in local building departments and funding educational and training resources at the state and local level to promote ADA compliance. 

The monies collected from the fees would be split – 70 percent to the local agency and 30 percent to the Division of the State Architect (DSA). Local public entities would be able to use five percent for administration costs and the remainder will be used to pay for hiring and training more CASp for local building departments. Local agencies would be required to work with the California Commission on Disability Access to gather, develop and disseminate educational materials and information to facilitate disability access compliance (those materials would be provided by the state). Additionally, local agencies would be required to make an annual report to the Legislature and Chairs of the Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committees as well as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review regarding the total fees that had been collected in the previous calendar years and their distribution.

SB 1186 is awaiting action by the Governor.

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