With the August 31 deadline for legislative action looming, state lawmakers face the usual mountain of bills during the session’s final weeks. Among the land use bills in that mountain are two major flood control measures, the biggest overhaul of redevelopment law since the early 1990s and a complicated housing bill that cities strongly oppose.

Nearly as interesting are the bills that appear to have failed, including a builder-friendly housing bill that had the administration’s backing and another measure that would have further reduced local regulation of second dwelling units. Still, “gut and amend” is a popular bill-writing strategy during the final weeks of a two-year session, meaning that no proposal is dead until lawmakers start heading for the airport.

The redevelopment reforms are contained in a cluster of bills: SB 53, SB 1206 and SB 1650, all by Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), and SB 1210 (Torlakson). The centerpiece bill, SB 1206 tightens the legal definition of “blight,” gives opponents more time to challenge redevelopment decisions, and makes it easier for the attorney general’s office to intervene in redevelopment controversies. Redevelopment agencies oppose the bill, arguing that the blight finding requirements for project extensions are unreasonable.

The other three bills all deal directly with eminent domain. Senate Bill 53 requires redevelopment agencies to specify how, when and where they will use eminent domain, and requires agencies to make new blight findings before extending the time period for eminent domain authority. Similarly, SB 1210 requires renewed blight findings before an agency may extend its eminent domain authority. The bill also adds some property owner protections to eminent domain actions. Finally, SB 1650 requires a two-thirds vote of the governing body to change the original designated public use of a condemned property.

Lawmakers have already sent the governor two other redevelopment bills: AB 782 (Mullin) eliminates the existence of antiquated subdivisions as a means of determining blight, while AB 1893 (Salinas) confirms that redevelopment money may not be spent on city halls or county administration buildings.

While numerous flood bills have stalled this session, Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis) is carrying the two major flood bills that remain alive, AB 802 and AB 1899. The bills alter both long-range and project-specific planning practices. Criticism of AB 802 is muted, but AB 1899 faces fierce opposition from the building industry, landowners, the California Chamber of Commerce and local governments. The California Chapter of the American Planning Association also is opposed.

Assembly Bill 802 requires cities and counties to revise their general plans to identify flood hazard zones and establish policies to minimize risk for new development; identify existing and planned development in flood zones; identify areas subject to inundation if levees fail; specify essential infrastructure at risk of flooding; and adopt policies to protect against flooding.

Assembly Bill 1899 prohibits cities and counties from approving subdivisions unless the state Board of Reclamation determines the project site has 100-year flood protection, and the local government or the state board determines the site has or will soon have 200-year flood protection. The bill’s provisions apply only to the Central Valley and they exempt infill projects in urbanized areas.

The year’s biggest housing bill may be AB 2511 (Jones), which is sponsored by affordable housing groups and the California Association of Realtors. The bill permits courts to intervene if a city or county does not file an annual general plan progress report with the Department of Housing and Community Development; strengthens a law against downzoning residential land; reduces from 180 days to 90 days after completion of environmental review the time local government has to decide on affordable housing projects; and deletes the “granny flat” age provisions in state law regarding second units.

A different Jones bill, AB 2922, that sought to boost the amount of redevelopment tax increment dedicated to housing has been substantially amended and now addresses only agencies’ administrative costs and the rights of low-income residents.

The California Building Industry Association housing bill that died before summer recess is SB 1800 (Ducheny). The measure would have required cities and counties to identify 20-year land supplies for new housing, permitted more by-right housing development, and decreased environmental review and public hearing requirements for projects that conform with a general plan. The bill’s language was introduced late, and the legislation never gained traction, even though it had administration support.

Other land use bills of interest:
• AB 1387 (Jones) increases California Environmental Quality Act exemptions for urban infill projects of up to 100 housing units.
• AB 1766 (Dymally) allows all enterprise zones to extend their life spans by 25 years.
• AB 1881 (Laird) requires cities and counties to adopt the State Department of Water Resources’ model ordinance for water efficient landscaping.
• AB 2158 (Evans) requires regional housing needs assessments to consider local agency formation commission growth policies.
• AB 2295 (Arambula) makes local road rehabilitation projects eligible for money through the State Transportation Improvement Plan. Counties strongly support.
• AB 2610 (Keene) extends immunity for hazardous substance cleanup to anyone who acquires property from a redevelopment agency if the agency is immune from liability.
• AB 2634 (Lieber) requires housing elements to provide for “extremely low-income” households that have incomes of 30% of median.
• AB 3042 (Evans) establishes a procedure for cities and counties to transfer shares of regional housing needs.
• AB 2762 (Levine) lets 16 Indian tribes join the Southern California Association of Governments.
• SB 1432 (Lowenthal) overhauls Mello-Roos community financing law. Among other things, the bill would permit use of Mello-Roos bonds for affordable housing projects, and for services such as street lighting and maintenance, graffiti removal and snow plowing.
• SB 1532 (Alarcon) requires preparation of economic impact reports for proposed retail stores of at least 75,000 square feet.
• SB 1627 (Kehoe) requires local governments to approve ministerially the placement of telecommunications antennas in most instances.