Governor Signs Land Use Legislation
Gov. Gray Davis completed the legislative year by signing every high-profile planning bill that hit his desk.
Davis signed a bill that severely curtails the use of lot line adjustments and certificates of compliance in creating subdivisions. He approved a three-package bill that forces a closer link between planning and water availability. The governor also signed a $2.6 billion park bond initiative that will appear on the March ballot, and a measure that allows redevelopment agencies to extend their life spans by 10 years. Unlike previous years, Davis vetoed few land use measures.
"I think he was much more aware of planning issues this year," said Sande George, lobbyist for the California Chapter of the American Planning Association.
While Davis' signature on the water and planning bills was not entirely unexpected, many people viewed the governor's decision on the lot line adjustment crackdown as a big test. That bill, SB 497 (Sher), severely restricts landowners' practice of seeking certificates of compliance to legitimize antiquated subdivisions, and then using lot line adjustments to reconfigure the old lots into more usable — and more valuable — parcels. The measure limits lot line adjustments to only four parcels. The measure was lawmakers' direct response to the Hearst Corporation's stated plan to rely on an 1852 map to carve 279 parcels out of its 83,000-acre ranch in San Luis Obispo County, where the Coastal Commission has blocked Hearst plans for a resort.
Davis signed the bill but, interestingly, issued no statement regarding his decision. Most of the state's powerful development, real estate and forestry interests lobbied hard for a veto. How the bill will actually affect the Hearst Ranch is uncertain, as San Luis Obispo County has already issued Hearst nearly all of the certificates of compliance that the company sought.
Davis did have something to say about the water bills. The governor said SB 221 (Kuehl) and SB 610 (Costa) "provide an important and necessary foundation for developing comprehensive state water policies to prepare California to meet our future water needs."
The Kuehl bill applies to projects of at least 500 homes. The measure requires a water provider or local government to make a finding, based on substantial evidence, that adequate water is available without putting the existing community at risk. While SB 221 hits development at the end of the planning process, the Costa bill focuses on the early stages by forcing water agencies to take a substantial role in the preparation of municipal water plans. The governor also signed SB 672 (Machado), which integrates regional and state needs and encourages the use of new technologies.
Davis used his signing message for the water bills to "re-emphasize the need to aggressively pursue infrastructure projects throughout California." Among the projects he identified were increased water storage, including raising the height of Shasta Dam, more conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater, and implementation of the Cal-Fed Bay Delta project.
As implied by the formal name of SB 1602 (the Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks and Coastal Protection Bond Act), a wide variety of land purchases and restoration activities would qualify for some of the $2.6 billion if voters approve the ballot measure next March. In his signing message, Davis said he supported investing in parks and natural resources, but noted that the state's economy — and, therefore, state revenues — are rapidly declining. If voters approve the park bond, Davis promised to disburse the money slowly "to balance the cost of debt service with other high priority demands on the general fund."
Hundreds of cities closely watched the redevelopment bill, SB 211 (Torlakson). It allows a 10-year extension of any pre-1994 redevelopment project area if the jurisdiction has a state-approved housing element and it makes a finding that significant blight remains. The 10-year extension comes with a number of conditions, including a requirement that agencies spend at least 30% of the additional tax increment on low- and very low-income housing, as compared with the usual requirement of 20% for low- and moderate-income housing.
The California Redevelopment Association, which sponsored SB 211, had to make a number of concessions to get it through the Legislature, said CRA Executive Director William Carlson. "The Legislature, even though it is heavily Democratic, is very skeptical about redevelopment. So we had a tough time," he said.
Carlson estimated that about 40% of eligible agencies would qualify for an extension, depending on whether they can make the required blight finding. Had Davis vetoed the bill, many of redevelopment agencies facing a 2004 deadline for issuing debt would have sought individual extensions next year, Carlson said. The Torlakson bill provides needed uniformity, he said.
Davis's signing of SB 211 came over the objection of his Department of Finance, which worried about school district revenue losses that the state must backfill. However, the Department of Housing and Community Development urged approval because officials estimated the measure could provide up to $1 billion for affordable housing.
Other land use bills:
AB 436 (Chan). Allows a focused EIR to be prepared in parts of the City of Oakland for certain urban infill, multi-family, residential developments, or residential and commercial projects, or retail mixed-use developments with not more than 25% of the total floor area used as retail space. Signed by governor.
AB 1532 (Pavley). Requires a lead agency to call at least one scoping meeting for a project of statewide, regional or area-wide significance. Signed by governor.
SB 244 (Speier). Extends the public review period to 120 days for the draft EIR on the San Francisco International Airport expansion, and gives the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors a say over the runway project. Signed by governor.
AB 1367 (Wiggins). Establishes a meet-and-confer process between school districts and local governments to address long-range school-siting plans. Signed by governor.
AB 1553 (Keeley). Requires the Office of Planning and Research to include environmental justice matters in its general plan guidelines. Signed by governor.
SB 520 (Chesbro). Requires general plan housing elements to consider the needs of disabled people. Signed by governor.
SB 932 (McPherson). Extends by six months the deadline for jurisdictions in the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments to complete updated housing elements. The new deadline is December 31, 2002. The bill also extends by six months the deadline for all local governments not otherwise specified in statute to update their housing elements. That new deadline is December 31, 2003. Signed by governor.
AB 8 (Cedillo). Increases the amount of per-unit assistance available under the Department of Housing and Community Development's Downtown Rebound Program. The bill also requires the units to be in a school attendance area where at least 50% of students qualify for free meals. Signed by governor.
AB 369 (Dutra). Allows courts to award attorneys' fees against local governments that violate the anti-NIMBY law. Developers or housing advocates are eligible for receiving attorneys' fees after winning a lawsuit. Signed by the governor.
AB 807 (Salinas). Extends the Farmworker Housing Grant program to include seasonal, migrant housing. Signed by governor.
AB 1359 (Lowenthal). Merges four existing predevelopment loan programs. The consolidated program will provide loans for technical and financial assistance to local government agencies and nonprofit corporations for predevelopment expenses incurred in the production or rehabilitation of affordable housing in urban and rural areas. Signed by governor.
AB 1611 (Keeley). Authorizes the California Educational Facility Authority to sign agreements with nonprofit entities to finance housing construction for students, staff and faculty near UC, CSU, community college and participating private college campuses. Signed by governor.
SB 73 (Dunn). Increases the State Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program by $20 million to $70 million a year, and indexes the program for inflation. Signed by governor.
SB 784 (Torlakson). Establishes the Jobs-Housing Balance Program within HCD as an on-going program, and allows local governments to use grants for any purposes. Signed by governor.
SB 1098 (Alarcon) prohibits cities and counties from extending beyond 45 days a moratorium on housing projects that have large multi-family components. A city or county could extend the moratorium only if it makes specific findings based on substantial evidence that the moratorium was the only way to avoid significant, quantifiable health and safety impacts. Signed by governor.
SB 1209 (Romero). Enables the California Educational Facility Authority to offer tax-exempt revenue bonds for construction of faculty housing owned by private colleges. Vetoed by governor.
ABX2 27 (Lowenthal). Authorizes the State Lands Commission to execute a contract with the City of Long Beach and any city contractor to provide incentives to explore and develop gas reserves in the Long Beach tidelands. Signed by the governor.
AB 104 (Nation). Allows boards of supervisors in nine Bay Area counties to levy a vehicle registration fee of up to $4 to fund open space purchases, improve water quality and restore wetlands. Vetoed by governor.
AB 134 (Kelley). Allows the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which sells water wholesale, to provide retail water service to a specific area. Signed by governor.
AB 252 (Pavley). Grants temporary protection under the California Endangered Species Act to any plant or animal thought to have been extinct but is rediscovered. The bill's target is the 3,000-home Ahmanson Ranch project in Ventura County, where a flower thought to have disappeared was rediscovered. Vetoed by governor.
AB 1207 (Longville). Gives cities and counties until April 15, 2002, to enact ordinances governing the development of power-generating windmills in non-urbanized areas. If a city or county does not adopt rules, a landowner may build a windmill by right. The bill also places restrictions on how much a city or county can regulate windmills. Signed by governor.
SB 909 (Chesbro). Extends the time for public comment on timber harvest plans. Signed by governor.
AB 212 (Correa). Requires the City of Tustin to give 100 acres of the former Tustin Marine Corps base to the Santa Ana Unified and Rancho Santiago Community College school districts. Signed by governor.
AB 237 (Papan). Requires the final offer of a public entity that is in eminent domain proceedings to include compensation for loss of goodwill. The bill also sets up a process for mediating eminent domain disputes. Signed by governor.
AB 637 (Lowenthal). Makes a number of changes to housing requirements in redevelopment law. The bill eliminates the January 1 sunset date for the 15% inclusionary housing requirement, mandates that redevelopment agencies leverage their housing spending with private and commercial financing, and require that housing units provided by agencies remain affordable for up to 55 years. Signed by governor.
AB 1567 (Runner). Allows the Lancaster Redevelopment Agency to satisfy the inclusionary housing requirement by purchasing long-term affordability covenants on mobile home parks. Signed by governor.
SB 32 (Escutia). Is a three-part brownfields bill. First, it enables local governments to order the investigation and cleanup of idle parcels of less than 5 acres. Second, it requires Cal EPA to conduct a peer reviewing of "screening numbers," which are advisory figures that provide rough estimates of what level of cleanup might be required before redeveloping a property for a particular use. Third, it requires Cal EPA to publish information helping local officials and developers to understand the factors and procedures the Department of Toxic Substances Control and regional water boards use when ordering cleanups. Signed by governor.
AB 93 (Wayne) creates the San Diego Regional Airport Authority. The new nine-member, appointed entity will have exclusive authority to plan, build and operate regional airports in San Diego County. The bill removes the Port of San Diego and the San Diego Association of Governments from the process of planning a new airport to replace Lindbergh Field in San Diego. Signed by governor.
AB 330 (Reyes). Allows cities that annex land covered by a Williamson Act contract to avoid Williamson Act restrictions on development. Vetoed by governor.
AB 545 (Steinberg) requires the state, when leasing, purchasing or constructing state government office buildings, to consider the availability of public transit, proximity to affordable housing, pedestrian access to retail businesses, and the need for an area's economic revitalization. The bill gives priority to use of buildings with historic, architectural or cultural significance. It also requires state-owned office buildings, when feasible, to include ground-floor retail or other amenities to serve pedestrians. Vetoed by governor, who then signed an executive order containing many provisions of this bill.
AB 1171 (Dutra). Calls for the state to pay 40% of the cost of earthquake retrofits of Bay Area toll bridges — about $820 million. The bill also extends a $1 toll surcharge until enough money is collected. Signed by governor.
AB 1419 (Aroner). A complicated bill that, among other things, requires Caltrans to provide 20 acres to San Francisco for $1 to allow redevelopment of the San Francisco Transbay Terminal project. The bill also provides a limited exemption from CEQA. Vetoed by governor.
AB 1495 (Cox). Alters the procedures for revenue neutrality calculations when new cities are proposed, and sets up new ways to handle appeals for city incorporations. Signed by governor.
SB 975 (Alarcon). Extends prevailing wage requirements to developments that receive subsidies of almost any sort, including fee waivers and reimbursements. The bill makes a few exceptions for certain affordable housing projects. Signed by governor.