Governor Leaves Mark on 1999 Legislative Session : Redlands ‘Doughnut Hole' Bill, Marks-Roos Reform Earn Vetoes
In his first year as governor, Gray Davis has gained a reputation as a chief executive quick to wield the veto pen — and the field of planning and development legislation proved to be no exception.
Even though the Legislature passed only small and incremental bills — opting against sweeping change in any area — Davis vetoed one-third of all planning and development bills that reached his desk.
"I think he actually striped the middle pretty well," said Clyde McDonald, Assembly Local Government Committee consultant. "All the bills he vetoed had a fair argument one way or the other."
In a few cases, Davis vetoed bills to protect the state's general fund. But the majority of vetoes seemed to reveal a governor intent on sending a strong message to the Legislature as to who will control the Sacramento agenda. Most of his veto messages seemed to be based not on an overarching vision but on some specific aspect of the bill that he did not like. And in most cases he claimed to be open to similar legislation next year — if the things he did not like were removed.
For example, he vetoed AB 1553 (Longville), the so-called "Redlands doughnut hole" bill, which would have resolved a controversial development dispute in San Bernardino County by requiring that county's Local Agency Formation Commission to remove a prime parcel of land from Redlands's sphere of influence. While acknowledging that the solution envisioned in the legislation — joint planning and revenue sharing on the property — was reasonable, Davis essentially ordered the local governments to reach agreement.
"This is a local land use dispute and locally elected officials should resolve it," the governor said in his veto message. But, he added, he would sign the bill next year if the locals remain at odds with one another.
"That veto says, I believe in home rule, so go home and rule," commented Peter Detwiler, Senate Local Government Committee staff director.
Davis also vetoed AB 1480 (Cardoza), a bill banning most mining from Williamson Act land, apparently because it contained an exemption for a large gravel miner in Placer County who might otherwise have opposed the bill. Once again, Davis supported the cause but criticized the bill itself, saying "the creation of such an exemption in the closing days of the session denied the opportunity for full public comment and review."
William Geyer, lobbyist for the Resource Landowners Coalition, likened the AB 1480 veto to Davis's veto last month of AB 84, a last-minute bill that would have pre-empted the right of local government to issue land-use permits to certain "big-box" retailers. (See CP&DR, September 1999.) "I took the veto message to read, take out the big mining box and I'll sign it," Geyer said.
With one veto in particular, however, Davis stepped into the middle of one of the most contentious development issues in the state — the activities of Pacific Genesis Group Inc. in working with municipalities to issue Marks-Roos bonds. In doing so, Davis angered fellow Democratic office-holders.
At the urging of Pacific Genesis and the California State Council of Laborers, Davis vetoed AB 1511 (Florez), a bill that would have prohibited mutual water companies from entering into joint-powers authorities with public agencies. The bill was aimed at blocking a Marks-Roos issue to finance infrastructure for a development project in San Bernardino County. The Marks-Roos issue was initiated with Pacific Genesis's assistance by the small cities of Waterford and San Joaquin, located hundreds of miles away in the Central Valley. After legislation passed last year prohibiting Marks-Roos issuers from investing in projects geographically remote from the project, a mutual water company was formed by the project's developer, and a JPA was created among the water company and the two cities.
The cities have since withdrawn from the JPA, but AB 1511 would have prohibited this arrangement and at least two others like it. State Treasurer Phil Angelides and Attorney General Bill Lockyer, both of whom have been critical of the Waterford/San Joaquin deal backed AB 1511. But the Council of Laborers and Pacific Genesis lobbied Davis to veto the bill, saying that it would kill the three projects and eliminate several thousand jobs.
In his letter to the governor, David Fitzgerald, chairman of Pacific Genesis, complained personally about the attitude of Dan Reeves, Angelides's legislative aide. Fitzgerald urged Davis to veto the bill "so that we can terminate these annual legislative forays that no more than ten to twelve California residents even care about."
Davis issued the veto, saying he feared a loss of jobs and indicating that he would have signed the bill if it were prospective and did not affect projects already in the pipeline. Angelides and Lockyer issued a swift and angry response, saying, "We will continue to work together to enforce existing law and assure that abuses are halted."
In three cases, Davis vetoed planning and development bills that would have affected the general fund. These were:
o AB 47 (Cardoza), which would have shifted revenue from Williamson Act cancellation fees from the general fund to the Agricultural Land Stewardship Fund.
o AB 597 (Longville), which would have instructed Caltrans to create flexible highway standards to encourage New Urbanist-style designs. Davis said that the $300,000 program "should be considered as part of the normal budget process."
o AB601 (Cedillo), which would have appropriated $6 million to assist property owners in downtown Los Angeles and in Compton to convert older, unleased commercial buildings for residential use. As with the other vetoes, Davis expressed support for the goal but objected to the cost.
At the same time, Davis signed more than a dozen bills — most of them minor — affecting planning and development issues in the state. These included the following:
o AB 178 (Torlakson), which prohibits jurisdictions from providing financial incentives to lure certain types of retailers from neighboring communities. In his veto message for AB 84, Davis cited AB 178 as a better policy approach.
o AB 262 (Runner), a routine bill that provides an implementing statute for last year's Proposition 11, a constitutional amendment permitting sales-tax sharing between cities.
o AB 670 (Papan), which allows BART and transit districts in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to acquire land for transit-oriented developments. Provisions allowing the agencies to use eminent domain for this purpose were dropped at the last minute.
o AB 1229 (Assembly Agriculture Committee), which renames the Agricultural Land Stewardship Program as the California Farmland Conservancy Program and expands the program's mission and eligibility.
o AB 1385 (Battin), which permits gaming contracts between Indian tribes and the state — but specifically states that those contracts are not "projects" under the California Environmental Quality Act.
o AB 1505 (Ducheny), which allows five-acre farmworker housing projects on Williamson Act land.
o AB 1555 (Longville), which re-instates lapsed statutory provisions to expedite annexations of county "islands" in the LAFCO process. The bill, however, contains many exemptions.
o AB 1630 (Lowenthal), which appropriates $320,000 to permit the Los Angeles County LAFCO to study detachment of the Wilmington/San Pedro area from the City of Los Angeles.
o SB 115 (Solis), which requires the Office of Planning and Research to study and make recommendations on incorporating environmental justice issues into CEQA.
o SB 216 (Solis), which creates the San Gabriel Mountains and River Conservancy, the seventh state land conservancy.
o SB 497 (Rainey), which requires the state controller to investigate reported violations of redevelopment law and authorizes the attorney general to file enforcement lawsuits.
o SB 526 (Kelly), which makes it easier for the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy to buy land to implement habitat conservation plans and natural communities conservation plans, especially in desert areas.
o SB 754 (Hayden), which creates the Los Angeles River Conservation and Restoration Commission. The panel is charged with writing a plan to restore the Los Angeles River to a more natural state.
o SB 807 (Senate Agriculture and Water Committee), which permits LAFCOs to approve extraterritorial urban services by cities and special districts in response to threats to public health and safety. The bill emerged in response to concerns that a previous ban on extraterritorial services was too strict and did not permit alleviation of hazardous sewer or fire situations.
o SB 948 (Alarcon), which makes a series of relatively minor changes to the Housing Element law — but, significantly, tightens up the findings local governments must make to deny an affordable housing project.
o SB 985 (Johnston), makes a series of minor changes to the Williamson Act.
Clyde McDonald, Assembly Local Government Committee, (916) 319-3958.
Peter Detwiler, Senate Local Government Committee, (916) 445-9748.
S.R. Jones, California Association of LAFCOs, (530) 265-7180.
Cathy Calfo, Treasurer's Office, (916) 653-2995.
William Geyer, Resource Landowners Coalition, (916) 444-9346.