A mayor hasn’t been President of the United States since Calvin Coolidge. But mayors have taken valuable municipal experience to Congress as well as state capitals. As a former mayor, I daily cherish the empowerment Californians feel when they’re able to help shape their unique and diverse communities with their mayor and city council members.
Governor Gavin Newsom, a former San Francisco Mayor, appears to be struggling to reflect on his days in city hall. Instead, the cookie-cutter approach captured in far too many laws on his desk highlight a concerning willingness to squash the powers that protect the diversity of ideas in California.
After all, San Francisco couldn’t be more different than El Centro, or Bakersfield or even Los Angeles. Yet, this year, our state legislature has introduced legislative agendas that aim to confiscate the tools that maintain our intellectual and legal diversity. Together, the Governor and legislature have become nothing more than a bully with a cookie cutter.
Each of the pieces of legislation below ties the hands of city council members from governing their cities. Worse yet, their citizens lose their political power to resolve local issues and help shape their communities with their most trusted level of government. If the state continues to govern by hostile takeover, what role is left for a city?
- AB 1857 (Garcia, Cristina D) repeals the provision of law that allows jurisdictions to count up to 10 percent of the waste sent to transformation toward their 50 percent diversion requirement.
- AB 2011 (Wicks) requires specified housing development projects to be a “use by right” on specified sites zoned for retail, office, or parking – removing a city’s ability to review and approve.
- AB 2097 (Friedman) prohibits a city from imposing minimum parking requirements on developments near public transit.
- AB 2234 (R. Rivas) establishes time limits and procedures for approval of, and requires online permitting of, post-entitlement permits.
- SB 379 (Wiener) requires cities to implement an online, automated permitting platform for residential solar energy systems.
- SB 930 (Wiener) creates a pilot program, beginning January 1, 2025, and before January 2, 2030, to allow the selling of alcoholic beverages at the licensed premises between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.
- SB 972 (Gonzalez) removes some of the already limited tools cities have to ensure the public’s health and safety used to regulate street vending.
- SB 1186 (Wiener) forbids a city from prohibiting the delivery of medicinal cannabis.
I appreciate differing viewpoints on issues affecting cities. In my role representing 77 cities, I hear differing viewpoints all the time. But, at the end of the day, we work together to discover solutions to the issues that these laws attempt to address. I ask Governor Newsom and the state legislature to give California’s cities the chance to collaborate with them and discover solutions to shared issues together. In that spirit, we hope you can entrust cities with knowing what’s best for our communities. If not, our partnership needs to evolve.
One-size-fits-all solutions will not work in California. Cities, like Californians, are far too diverse for any one solution to work for all 482 of us. The more decisions from the Capitol impact local governance, the more the unique state we all aspire for will disintegrate.
At the local level, cities are better equipped to capture candid feedback from residents who are at the heart of these issues, and moreover, to work with them in determining the direction of their communities. Let cities be the continued resource and voice for their communities, where the power to set the course of our state belongs.
Marcel Rodarte is the Executive Director of the California Contract Cities Association – comprised of 77 cities advancing collaborative governance, fortifying local control and elevating the voices of more than 7.5 million people – and the former Mayor of Norwalk.