The first half of the 2017-2018 legislative session has been packed with issues that impact cities on a variety of fronts as the legislature focused very strongly on the issues of housing, infrastructure, and public safety. Next year, we anticipate a continued focus on housing policy, as well as movement on water and environmental issues. Below is a summary of both the successes California Contract Cities Association achieved as well as the challenges we face ahead:
- AB 1250 (Jones-Sawyer): AB 1250 cut to the core of CCCA’s mission and its amendment represented our biggest victory of the legislative session. AB 1250 would have banned cities from contracting out for services “solely on the basis that savings will result from lower contractor pay rates or benefits” while not permitting cities to consider the often-significant overhead costs that could be saved from contracting out in a cost difference analysis. It would have also created significant new bureaucratic reporting requirements when entering into or renewing contracts.
We lobbied hard against AB 1250 because we believed it would have amounted to a de facto ban on contracting for municipal services and put the entire contract city model in jeopardy. Due to strong advocacy from all of our member city along with days of intense lobbying in Sacramento, the sponsors of AB 1250 agreed to remove cities from the bill and have it only apply to counties. It truly demonstrated what cities can achieve by banding together.
The amended version of AB 1250 was placed on two-year status so we will monitor its developments in 2018.
- SB 649 (Hueso): SB 649 was the small cell bill pushed by telecommunications companies that will prevent cities from exercising discretionary review over the placement of small cell wireless facilities, only allowing for building or encroachment permits. Cities would be further banned from negotiating for public benefits in return for small cell leases (many cities have used the opportunity to guarantee Internet access for libraries, parks, or police and fire stations), and be bound by the fees and size parameters set in the bill. Cities would get nothing in return for all of this, as the bill does not require telecommunications companies to offer any particular standard of service, raising the possibility that cities far from population hubs will be forced to provide land for small cell facilities while not receiving adequate network access in return.
Along with our partners in the League, we opposed SB 649 as we believe it to be a huge infringement on local control over land use matters and would have prevented communities from having any input on the placement of cells.
We were very pleased that Governor Brown vetoed SB 649 after it passed both houses of the Legislature, and that in his signing statement he recognized the need for a balanced approach to this issue that respects the needs of cities.
- SB 786 (Mendoza): SB 786 was our bill introduced by Senator Mendoza at the beginning of the session to address the problem of overconcentration of alcohol and drug abuse treatment facilities in residential neighborhoods, a longtime legislative priority of ours.
California law currently treats an alcohol and drug recovery facility with six or fewer beds as a residential use of a property for zoning purposes. This means that these facilities must be allowed to be built in residential zones, including single-family zones, and cities may not treat them any differently from other types of residences. CCCA wholeheartedly supports this policy as beneficial and therapeutic to both patients and to cities by allowing recovering patients to reintegrate with their communities. However, profit-driven companies have exploited this policy to take over multiple adjoining lots in order to create campus-style rehabilitation facilities in single-family neighborhoods. This is both detrimental to recovering patients seeking to better integrate into the surrounding community and to residential neighborhoods faced with becoming more like hospital zones. This also clearly contravenes the purpose of the law, which was to create rehabilitation facilities that would provide residential rather than medical settings to patients, to allow them to become part of the fabric of a community rather than segregating them from it.
SB 786 would correct this loophole by requiring the state to notify cities and counties of applications for licenses to build these facilities within 45 days of approving any applications, and allow cities and counties to request denial of the application if a proposed facility would be located within 300 feet of an existing facility. These noticing and distance provisions are required of other types of licensed group homes in California, so this bill would provide some much-needed consistency in California law. SB 786 does not seek to discriminate against residential rehabilitation facilities, but will protect both patients and true residential group homes from exploitation by profit-driven companies.
SB 786 did not make it out of committee but we continue to believe that protecting neighborhoods from losing their character and patients from being exploited is a worthy cause and will fight to bring it back up next year.
- The Legislature passed a massive affordable housing package of bills at the end of this year’s session. We consider this package to be a mixed bag–while some of these bills will provide financial relief for cities looking to build affordable housing and allow them to hold developers accountable for keeping housing affordable, others did intrude on local control. These are the ones we took positions on:
SB 3 (Beall): SB 3 is a housing bond measure set to go on the 2018 ballot. We supported SB 3 as it would create $3 billion in housing funds and create numerous grant and loan programs for cities and local agencies looking to build affordable housing, including:
- $300 million for a Local Housing Trust Fund Matching Grant Program for local governments to create pilot programs for the construction or preservation of affordable housing
- $300 million in grants for infrastructure on affordable housing projects designated as infill, such as water and sewer infrastructure or traffic mitigation
- $200 million for localities to build transit-oriented development
SB 35 (Wiener): SB 35 was this year’s version of Jerry Brown’s by-right proposal from last year and would make approvals of certain multifamily developments subject to a state ministerial process, bypassing local hearings, CEQA findings, and public input for cities that are found to not be in compliance with RHNA numbers.
We believed that this was a punitive bill—we recognize that California is in an affordable housing crisis and that cities are constantly looking for ways to provide more affordable housing. However, this has become increasingly difficult as federal funding for affordable housing has declined and redevelopment agencies have been eliminated. More than $1 billion annually in affordable housing money has evaporated with the elimination of redevelopment agencies in 2011. Funds from the 2006 state housing bond have been exhausted and federal dollars have been declining for decades. In that vein, SB 35 is a punitive measure forcing a ministerial process on cities that have tried to comply with state affordable housing mandates without adequate financial assistance from the state.
Furthermore, streamlining such developments goes against the principles of local control and citizen input on major developments in their neighborhoods. Public hearings allow both cities and residents to raise issues surrounding potential developments and reach compromises. We believe that removing major developments from local land use processes without resolving the underlying lack of funding to resolve California’s housing crisis will only worsen the tensions between residents, local governments, and the state.
While we do encourage cities to ask Governor Brown to veto this bill, we consider it unlikely to happen given that Brown has championed similar proposals in the past. Instead, we urge cities to prepare for legal challenges and to emphasize how the lack of funding has made complying with RHNA numbers difficult.
- AB 1505 (Bloom): AB 1505 was the “Palmer Fix” that would finally codify a city’s right to enact inclusionary zoning ordinances, requiring large, market-rate real estate developments to set aside a certain number of units for low-income households. Many of our member cities have such ordinances, and others have been prevented from enacting them due to the Palmer court decision several years ago. It’s important to note that this bill does not require cities to enact these ordinances, but simply gives them the option. We therefore supported it because it gives cities a powerful tool to create more affordable housing units while not infringing on local control.
- SB 1 (Beall): SB 1 was the road repair act that would generate over $52 billion over the next ten years for various forms of transportation package. We supported this bill after amendments were added to guarantee that 50% of the funds would be allocated to local road repair and infrastructure.
Of the 50% allocation for local investment programs, over the next ten years SB 1 will generate:
- $15 billion to fix potholes and repair neighborhood streets,
- $7.5 billion for public transit operations and capital,
- $2 billion for the State and Local Partnership Program to assist “self-help” counties (including Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties, which encompass nearly all of the member cities of CCCA) that have already adopted local tax measures for improving transportation infrastructure,
- $1 billion for active transportation programs to assist cities in building and improving bicycle and pedestrian facilities,
- $825 million to the State Transportation Improvement Program to allow local agencies to nominate projects for further funding, and
- $250 million to assist cities and regions with updating Regional Transportation Plans.
We were also pleased that SB 1 contained safeguards to ensure that the funds will go to their intended purpose and that the funds will be protected from any other use, as well as other transparency and oversight measures. We believe this will give cities the resources they need to repair and maintain local roads and transportation infrastructure.
- SB 268 (Mendoza): One of CCCA’s priorities is to advocate for increased representation by our cities on regional boards, and SB 268 would have allowed for greater and more proportionate representation on the Board of Directors of the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Currently, the board consists of all five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, along with four members from the City of Los Angeles and four from the other 87 cities in the county. That formula results in a breakdown of 38% of the board representing unincorporated Los Angeles County, 31% representing the City of Los Angeles, and 31% representing the other cities.
However, this breakdown does not reflect the actual breakdown of the population of Los Angeles County, which consists of 52% of the population in cities besides Los Angeles, 38% within the City of Los Angeles, and 10% in unincorporated Los Angeles County. The current makeup of the board of directors is therefore unfair to the residents of the 87 other cities in Los Angeles County as they are underrepresented relative to their proportion of the population of Los Angeles County.
SB 268 would require the board to work with CCCA, the League of California Cities, and the Los Angeles County City Selection Committee to come up with a reorganization plan. If no such plan is agreed upon or implemented, the formula for representation on the board would revert to a statutory formula consisting of:
- The five members of the board of supervisors
- The mayor of the City of Los Angeles
- Five LA City Council members and one public member appointed by the mayor
- One member from the City of Long Beach
- 8 members from the other cities
- One nonvoting member appointed by the Governor
This formulation will result in a breakdown on the board of directors of 47% representing the other 87 cities in Los Angeles County, 40% representing the City of Los Angeles, and 13% representing areas governed directly by the LA County Board of Supervisors—far closer to the actual breakdown of the population of Los Angeles County than under the current plan. SB 268 was put onto two-year status but we will push for it to be brought back up next year.