Updates from AEP's Legal & Legislative Review Committee - January 2020

Good morning AEP Members,

The California Legislature returned to session on January 6 to start the second year of the two year session.  Housing, homelessness and land use remain some of the most urgent issues facing policymakers.  Numerous bills have already been introduced in this space and the Governor’s Proposed Budget includes billions of dollars in spending to try to address the situation.

Bills that failed in 2019 are under a one-month deadline to pass from their house of origin and onto the second house by January 31.  The most high profile piece of legislation facing that deadline is SB 50, Senator Wiener’s upzoning bill.  This will be his third attempt at moving this type of legislation.  Two important changes he made since last year are (1) adding a 5 year delay on the application of the bill’s upzoning provisions for vulnerable communities, and (2) creating a process for local control by which local governments would be given two years to come up with a plan to meet the goals of SB 50 in their own way.  Pro Tem Atkins has helped the bill move through the process, but it still has a tough road ahead.  As of the writing of this summary, the bill has yet to be brought up on the Senate Floor, so we will see if the changes are sufficient to pass the bill onto the Assembly.

AEP will be closely watching a newly introduced bill, AB 1907 by Assemblymember Santiago, which aim to exempt outright all supportive, transitional, and affordable housing projects from CEQA review.  The bill has yet to be heard in any committee, but is certain to attract a lot of attention when committees begin this spring.  Another bill AEP will be watching closely is AB 1924 by Assemblymember Grayson, which intends to restrict the impact fees that may be charged by local governments on new housing construction.  Should this bill be amended with more substantive language and be heard in committees, it is certain to attract significant opposition from local governments.

Further, Governor Newsom’s Homelessness Task Force issued their list of recommendations for policy changes to help solve the state’s most pressing crisis.  Among the many recommendations is having the Legislature place a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot that would create a “legally enforceable, results-based, accountability mandate” requiring state and local governments to provide resources for and remove barriers to the creation of both interim and permanent housing.  This measure would need voter approval, and could create new causes of action against governments that do not provide sufficient resources to homeless in their communities.

Finally, Governor Newsom presented his proposed Budget for the 2020/21 fiscal year.  While there remain 5 months of negotiations between the Administration, Assembly and Senate before a final Budget is approved in June, this initial proposal is often an influential starting point.  This year, The Governor proposes $750 million in General Fund dollars to establish the California Access to Housing and Services (CAAHS) Fund within the Department of Social Services. The funds would be provided through contracts with regional administrators to help finance the development of affordable housing, provide rental subsidies to people facing homelessness, and provide subsidies to operators of board and care facilities.

Things are off to a quick start in Sacramento for another busy year in the legislature.  Legislators have until February 20 to introduce new bills, and we expect nearly 2,000 bills to be debated in 2020.  AEP will be closely monitoring and engaging on bills impacting CEQA and land use, which will be priorities within the Capitol again in 2020.