With the passage of $42 billion in bonds last November, infrastructure spending has risen to the top of the state Legislature's agenda. More than 60 bills attempt to allocate portions of the money or establish criteria for spending the funds, according to the California Budget Project. Still, there is plenty of legislative activity surrounding other planning and development staples, including housing, the California Environmental Quality Act, flood control and economic development.
A number of failed, controversial measures from 2006 have returned in new form: Senate Bill 303 (Ducheny) would require cities and counties to zone for 10 years worth of housing need. Assembly Bill 70 (Jones) would assign local governments some financial liability for levee failures. SB 103 (Cedillo) would require hearings on any economic development subsidies. SB 2 (Cedillo) would make emergency shelters and transitional housing by-right uses in multi-family residential zones.
But while many issues in Sacramento are familiar, many of the players are not. No fewer than 30 of the Assembly's 80 members are freshmen, mostly from city councils and boards of supervisors. Some freshmen are even committee chairs, including Democratic Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, who previously was the mayor of Salinas. Some former local officials appear to forget their "roots" when they enter the Capitol, but Caballero is carrying two housing bills sponsored by the League of California Cities.
Assembly Bill 1256 would exempt from the state's density bonus law cities and counties that have inclusionary zoning policies. Those policies require developers to provide a certain percentage of new housing units affordable to low- or moderate-income residents or to pay an in-lieu fee. About 170 cities and counties have inclusionary requirements. In recent years, lawmakers have worked with affordable housing advocates and the building industry to expand the density bonus law. The statute now provides for bonuses of up to 35% and the waiver of some local regulations.
Pete Parkinson, vice president of policy and legislation for the California Chapter of the American Planning Association, said Caballero's bill is attractive because local governments are getting slammed with density bonus projects. Yet the threshold for density bonus eligibility is low, said Parkinson. A project with as little as 5% of units designated for very low-income residents or 10% for low- or moderate-income residents earns at least some density bonus and a waiver of some regulations. In addition, developers "double-dip" by demanding density bonuses for meeting inclusionary zoning requirements.
Affordable housing advocates are skeptical. Brian Augusta, who heads the California Housing Law Project, contended that developers should receive density bonuses for providing affordable units that are mandated by inclusionary zoning. "We want to encourage density bonuses," he said.
Caballero's AB 1254 is more complicated. Currently, cities lose a portion of their property tax revenue to "ERAF," a fund for school districts. Also, most affordable housing projects built by nonprofit developers are property tax-exempt. Under AB 1254, cities could deduct from their ERAF payment to schools the amount that a new nonprofit, affordable housing project would have provided in property tax revenue had the project been taxable.
"We think the bill would be a great reward for cities that are trying to do the right thing," said Daniel Carrigg, the League's legislative director. It also removes one of the NIMBYs' arguments — that affordable housing projects cost a city money, he said.
Caballero's housing bills might be considered minor compared with SB 303. Similar to last year's failed SB 1800, which had the backing of the Schwarzenegger administration and the California Building Industry Association, SB 303 would rewrite big portions of general plan law. Among other things, the bill would require that cities and counties zone up-front for 10 years worth of housing need and make findings about the suitability of parcels zoned for residential development. The bill also would mandate that every element of the general plan encompass a 20-year planning period, and that every element except the housing element be updated every 10 years. The bill specifies retention of the current 5-year housing element updates.
In introducing the bill, Ducheny said it would "ensure responsible planning" and boost affordable housing.
"Our local governments have the right and responsibility to plan for places for people to live," Ducheny said. "We just want them to go the extra step of making sure that their process provides places that are truly appropriate for the housing they're planning."
But the League's Carrigg said the bill conflicts with state and local infill policies. The bill specifies that local governments must make findings that each site zoned for residential development "will realistically accommodate construction of the maximum number of units allowed by the density range applicable to the site." The findings must be based in part on availability of infrastructure and services, environmental constraints, and "market demand for the density and type of housing."
It would be difficult to make such findings for many infill sites, said Carrigg, because, "a lot of infill sites are hard work." Plus, nothing in the legislation limits development to the sites in the 10-year zoning.
"How can we plan our regions?" Carrigg asked. "This is really going to result in sprawl."
The APA's Parkinson, who heads Sonoma County's Permit Resource Management Department, said the concept of a 20-year land use plan is appealing. But he said it is "impractical" to have 10 years worth of zoning in place because it would hinder the ability to plan and phase growth.
Flood legislation, which went nowhere in 2006, returns this year with a focus on the Central Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The key bill could be SB 5 by Sen. Michael Machado (D-Linden), whose Stockton-based district has extensive flood-prone areas under heavy development pressure. Machado has made clear he is not afraid to fight the building industry over flood control, and SB 5 would prohibit new residential development in areas lacking 500-year flood protection. The bill also tasks the Department of Water Resources with updating flood control plans and flood risk maps.
Meanwhile, AB 70 (Jones) is similar to failed legislation from 2006. The idea is to make local governments financially liable for approving development in flood-prone areas. Builders generally oppose the concept because they fear local governments would reject subdivisions in low-lying areas, and local governments oppose because they have little control over levees and regional flood management systems.
There also is a great deal of interest regarding climate change in the Legislature. However, legislation concerning land use planning and climate change has not coalesced. Interest in redevelopment reform and eminent domain limitations appears to have faded this year.
Daniel Carrigg, League of California Cities, (916) 658-8222.
Brian Augusta, California Housing Law Project, (916) 446-9241.
Pete Parkinson, California Chapter, American Planning Association, (707) 565-1925.
California APA legislative platform: www.calapa.org/en/art/?109
Land Use Legislation Introduced This Year
These bills have been introduced since December. "Spot bills" are essentially placeholders with few details. The legislative year ends September 14.
• AB 89 (Garcia). Directs the Business, Transportation and Housing secretary to study financing mechanisms for infrastructure along the border with Mexico.
• AB 232 (Price). Spot bill regarding an integrated investment and development strategy for low-income neighborhoods in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento.
• AB 831 (Parra). Requires the Legislature to review annually all tax breaks and repeal those that do not serve a public purpose.
• AB 1272 (Arambula). Requires the Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (I-Bank) to provide technical support to small and rural communities for local infrastructure and capital projects.
• AB 1398 (Arambula). A complete overhaul of the system for awarding hiring tax credits. Among other things, the bill would eliminate the ability to claim multiple tax credits under different programs.
• AB 1606 (Arambula). Requires several state agencies to coordinate preparation of a statewide economic development strategic plan, and to develop a system for measuring the performance of all state policies, programs and tax expenditures intended to stimulate the economy.
• ABs 1719, 1720, 1721 and 1722 (Arambula). A series of bills concerning economic development, trade and investment policies.
• SB 103 (Cedillo). Requires local agencies to conduct hearings on the details of proposed economic development subsidies of at least $25,000 and provide reports after approval. A similar bill failed last year.
• AB 5 (Wolk). Prohibits cities and counties in the Central Valley from approving new development in flood-prone areas. The bill also authorizes local agencies to adopt their own flood protection plans.
• AB 26 (Nakanishi). Exempts Delta flood control maintenance projects from Department of Fish and Game streambed alteration regulations. A similar bill failed last year.
• AB 70 (Jones). Makes local governments partially liable if a flood control project fails.
• AB 156 (Laird). Increases the Department of Water Resources (DWR) role in Central Valley flood protection. The bill requires DWR to report on levee conditions, map flood-prone areas, undertake levee maintenance, provide annual warning notices to landowners, and establish mitigation banks.
• AB 162 (Wolk). Requires cities and counties to make various provisions for flood control in general plans.
• SB 5 (Machado). Addresses numerous aspects of flood management and planning. Among other things, the bill prohibits new residential development in any area with less than 500-year flood protection.
• SB 6 (Oropeza). Requires local governments to consider global climate change before deciding on new developments. Substantial amendments are likely.
• SB 17 (Florez). Renames the Reclamation Board the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and requires the board to review local and regional land use plans for compliance with standards adopted by the board.
• SB 34 (Torlakson). Authorizes DWR to collect user fees and assessments to fund flood control in the Delta.
Funds for planning
• AB 1253 (Caballero) and SB 292 (Wiggins). Spot bills regarding Proposition 84 funding for local and regional planning.
• SB 167 (Negrete McLeod). Commits $45 million from Proposition 84 for general plan revisions, general plan implementation, regional blueprint projects, and LAFCO municipal service reviews and spheres of influence.
• SB 669 (Torlakson). Makes regional recreation corridors eligible for Proposition 84 planning funds.
• AB 239 (DeSaulnier). Authorizes Contra Costa County to increase its real estate recording fee to fund affordable housing. A similar measure failed last year.
• AB 414 (Jones). Limits cities' and counties' use of land zoned for nonresidential uses in meeting regional housing needs.
• AB 641 (Torrico). Requires that local governments defer all fees on projects with at least 49% affordable units until the certificate of occupancy stage.
• ABs 723 and 1096 (DeVore). Spot bills declaring a five-year "CEQA holiday" for urban infill, affordable, employee and farmworker housing projects.
• AB 763 (Saldaña). Increases the required notice given to tenants of apartments being converted to condominiums.
• AB 872 (Davis). Spot bill providing a CEQA exemption for urban infill projects of fewer than 300 units.
• AB 1254 (Caballero). Reduces the shift of property tax revenue from cities and counties to school districts when the city or county approves an affordable housing project.
• AB 1256 (Caballero). Exempts local governments from the state density bonus law if the local government has an inclusionary zoning ordinance that mandates a portion of new units be available to low- or moderate-income residents.
• AB 1449 (Saldaña). Tightens eligibility for density bonuses and waivers of local regulations.
• AB 1497 (Niello). Exempts from land suitable for meeting regional housing needs land that is covered by Williamson Act contracts.
• AB 1675 (Nuñez). The speaker's spot bill regarding transit-oriented development.
• SB 2 (Cedillo). Makes emergency shelters and transitional housing by-right uses in areas zoned for multi-family residential uses. The bill is similar to last year's SB 1322, which the governor vetoed.
• SB 12 (Lowenthal). Revises the Southern California Association of Governments' regional housing needs assessment process to align with the regional transportation plan (see CP&DR Insight, August 2006). The bill has passed the Senate.
• SB 303 (Ducheny). A detailed, complex bill that, among other things, requires cities and counties to zone for 10 years worth of housing demand. The legislation is similar to last year's failed SB 1800.
• SB 375 (Steinberg). Increases the CEQA exemption for urban infill projects.
• SB 900 (Corbett). Increases the ability of local governments to block the conversion of mobile home parks to resident-owned condominiums. Such conversions are used by park owners to avoid rent control.
Local government finance
• AB 373 (Wolk). Expands the use of Mello-Roos financing to include flood protection, snow removal and graffiti abatement.
• AB 934 (Lowenthal). Authorizes creation of up to 100 housing and infrastructure zones in which tax-increment financing would pay for a variety of housing and infrastructure projects.
• AB 1221(Ma). Permits a city or county to engage in tax-increment financing to fulfill the goals of a transit village plan.
• SB 670 (Correa). Prohibits the imposition of transfer fees when property is sold. Transfer fees have become popular ways to finance affordable housing and open space. AB 980 (Calderon) requires greater disclosure of transfer fees.
• AB 82 (Evans). Spot bill concerning preservation of agricultural land through local planning.
• SB 634 (Wiggins). Requires owners of land covered by the Williamson Act to receive local government approval for the division of land and the construction of any road or building. The bill is partly a response to a situation in Humboldt County in which a Williamson Act landowner acting on an old subdivision map has sold parcels for residential development.
• SB 421 (Ducheny). Authorizes the Department of Parks and Recreation to acquire property under a conservation easement or similar restriction.
• ACA 2 (Walters) and SCA 1 (McClintock). Constitutional amendments to limit use of eminent domain.
• AB 987 (Jones). Permits any low- or moderate-income person to enforce affordability covenants on subsidized housing units.
• AB 1169 (DeVore). Spot bill prohibiting adoption or amendment of a redevelopment plan, or the merging of project areas, unless an unnamed state agency approves.
• AB 1553 (DeSaulnier). Allows use of tax increment for loans to firefighters for the purchase or rehabilitation of homes in a project area.
• AB 665 (DeSaulnier). A spot bill calling for creation of the California Growth Management Act.
• AB 704 (Eng). Requires local governments to establish a resident advisory commission on the environment to make planning recommendations.
• AB 889 (Lieu). Creates a new authority to construct a rail line from Los Angeles International Airport to a Metro Green Line station on Aviation Boulevard.
• AB 1066 (Laird). Requires local governments to consider climate change when preparing or updating local coastal programs.
• SB 10 (Kehoe). Makes the San Diego Association of Governments responsible for planning a new airport in San Diego County. Currently, an airport authority has the responsibility.
• SB 157 (Wiggins). Ratifies a compact between the state and two Indian tribes (The Big Lagoon Rancheria of Humboldt County and the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians of San Diego County) to permit development of side-by-side casinos in Barstow (see CP&DR Deals, August 2006).
• SB 162 (Negrete McLeod). Requires local agency formation commissions to consider environmental justice when considering boundary changes.