Updates from AEP's Legal & Legislative Review Committee - September 2019

Capitol Update

The 2019 legislative session ended at about 3am Saturday morning, September 14, after several hours of delays due to protests from antivaxxers. While the most controversial CEQA and housing bills of the year, like SB 50 (Wiener) and SB 25 (Caballero), had already stalled before the final weeks of session, many other bills passed.

In the final week there was a last minute attempt to extend the AB 900 program, which is run through OPR. The program ends at the end of this year, but the effort to extend it did not materialize in the final weeks of session.

Also, a last week attempt by Governor Newsom to establish a tax credit program to overlay with the Federal Qualified Opportunity Zones tax breaks. The proposal would have given state tax relief for housing and clean energy/transportation projects within QOZs. However, the concept did not make it into legislation before the deadline.

On the rent control front, AB 1482 (Chiu) passed the legislature after a deal was reached with Governor Newsom, over the objections of the Realtors and others. The bill caps annual rent increases at 5% plus inflation.

The Governor now has until October 13 to sign or veto legislation that was passed by the Legislature.

Bill Review

-A newly amended bill AB 1484 (Grayson) did not move in 2019, but will be in play in 2020. The bill proposes to place significant limits on housing impact fees and other related development fees by local governments.

-AB 143 (Quirk-Silva) to add several cities and counties as eligible for CEQA streamlining for homeless shelters, passed the Legislature and awaits Governor Newsom's signature.  The bill adds Orange County and San Jose to those eligible, among others.

-AB 168 (Aguiar-Curry) to require AB 52 consultation prior to utilizing SB 35 housing streamlining, stalled as conversations between opponents and proponents will continue into the fall.

-AB 747 (Levine) to require local governments analyze egress/evacuation as part of hazard mitigation planning, passed the Legislature and awaits action by Governor Newsom.

-AB 1560 (Friedman) to expand the definition of a major transit stop under CEQA passed and awaits action by the Governor.

-SB 182 (Jackson) would have required local governments to complete a substantial retrofit strategy as part of wildfire hardening, but stalled in the final week of session.

-SB 330 (Skinner) to ensure local governments, for the next 5 years, cannot make it more difficult to build housing, passed the Legislature and awaits action by the Governor. The bill also has provisions to require cities and counties to reduce the time it takes to process permits, prohibits them from hiking fees or changing permit requirements once the project applicant has submitted all preliminary required information, and bars housing-constricted urban areas from changing building design standards, among other things.  As mentioned by Bill, the bill also includes anti-displacement measures, including banning the demolition of affordable and rent-controlled units unless developers replace all of them and pay to rehouse tenants and offer them first right of return at the same rent.

-SB 450 (Umberg) to create a CEQA exemption for converting a motel into transitional housing passed and awaits action by the Governor.

-SB 744 (Caballero) to create a CEQA exemption for building permanent supportive housing also passed the Legislature and awaits the Governor's signature.

Bills Addressing Homelessness

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a package of bills on Thursday, September 26th to confront the national crisis of homelessness and assist city and county governments by removing regulatory barriers to fight homelessness. The bills build on the historic $1 billion investment made in the budget, and new legal authority that make it easier for cities and counties to build emergency shelters.

The Governor signed legislation that provides a CEQA exemption for supportive housing and shelters in the City of Los Angeles. The new laws announced today will also give Alameda County, Orange County, the cities within those counties, and San Jose, the ability to expedite the construction of emergency shelters upon declaring a shelter crisis.

“Homelessness is a national emergency that demands more than just words, it demands action," said Governor Newsom. "State government is now doing more than ever before to help local governments fight homelessness, expand proven programs and speed up rehousing. And just this month, the Legislature passed the strongest package of statewide renter and anti-eviction protections in the country -- a top priority for this Administration that will protect Californians from unfair evictions and rent gouging that have contributed to this crisis.”

“I am pleased to sign these bills that give local governments even more tools to confront this crisis,” added Governor Newsom.

Ahead of the meeting tomorrow of the Governor’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, the Governor sent a letter to the council members urging them to focus their attention on chronic street homelessness, and to identify action steps for how local governments can more quickly distribute the historic funding provided through the budget.

“The Council must identify public policy changes and best practices for local communities to spend the major infusion of state dollars to address the problem of street homelessness by providing immediate emergency shelter and services,” Governor Newsom wrote in his letter. “This should be the focus of the task force over the next three months.”

The Governor continued: “I ask you to spend your remaining meetings focusing on developing concrete short-term actions and longer-term recommendations for the state to partner with local communities and the private sector to: 1) end street homelessness, 2) break down barriers to building more housing, and 3) get more people into treatment. These three challenges demand our collective focus as the Council proceeds in its work.”

The Governor’s 2019-2020 budget included:
  • $650 million to local governments for homelessness emergency aid,
  • $120 million for expanded Whole Person Care services,
  • $150 million for strategies to address the shortage of mental health professionals in the public mental health system,
  • $25 million for Supplemental Security Income advocacy,
  • $40 million for student rapid rehousing and basic needs initiatives for students in the University of California and California State University systems,
  • $20 million in legal assistance for eviction prevention,
  • Over $400 million to increase grants to families in the CalWORKs program,
  • Budget more than doubles the investment in the Cal-EITC Working Families Tax Credit to $1 billion, which will increase the number of participating households from 2 million to 3 million, lifting some out of poverty.
Through the budget process, the Governor also supported and signed a number of new laws that speed up shelter construction and make it easier for cities and counties to act.

The Governor signed the following bills into law:

AB 58 (Rivas) – This bill requires the Governor to appoint a representative from the California Department of Education (CDE) to the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council. Under the federal McKinney-Vento Act, which is implemented by CDE, schools are the first points of contact to identify, interface with, and assist homeless students and their families.

AB 139 (Quirk-Silva) – This bill updates the requirements of local governments’ housing plans to address the needs of the homeless crisis, specifically by changing the criterion for assessing the need for emergency shelters and housing to a regional level, and requiring that to be accounted for as part of the Housing Element of a city or county’s General Plan.

AB 143 (Quirk-Silva) – This bill adds Alameda County, Orange County, all of the cities within those counties, and the City of San Jose to the list of jurisdictions authorized to declare a shelter crisis, which permits the suspension of state health, planning and zoning, and safety standards; those jurisdictions must then adopt a local ordinance for the design and operation of homeless shelters, which must be approved by HCD. The bill also requires these jurisdictions to develop plans to address the shelter crisis, including how to transition residents from homeless shelters to permanent supportive housing.

AB 728 (Santiago) – Previous legislation gave counties the authority to create Multidisciplinary Personnel Teams (MDTs) for homeless adults and families to facilitate the expedited identification, assessment, and linkage of homeless individuals to housing and supportive services, and allow provider agencies to share confidential information for those purposes to ensure continuity of care. This bill creates a five-year pilot program in the following counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Clara and Ventura) to expand the scope of an MDR to include serving individuals who are at risk of homelessness. The program would sunset on January 1, 2025.

AB 761 (Nazarian) – This bill allows, at the sole discretion of the Adjutant General (TAG), the use of any armory deemed vacant by the California Military Department throughout the year by the county or city in which the armory is located for the purpose of providing temporary shelter from hazardous weather conditions for homeless persons.

AB 1188 (Gabriel) – This bill creates a legal framework allowing a tenant, with the written approval of the owner or landlord, to take in a person who is at risk of homelessness. It includes a number of protections for both the landlord and tenant, including the ability for the tenant to remove the person at risk of homelessness on short notice.

AB 1197 (Santiago) – This bill provides a CEQA exemption for supportive housing and shelters in the City of Los Angeles.

AB 1235 (Chu) – This bill renames the runaway and homeless youth shelters run by the Department of Social Services as “youth homelessness and prevention centers,” expands the categories of youth for which the centers are required to provide services to also include youth at risk of homelessness and youth exhibiting status offender behavior, and expands the time a youth can stay in the center from 21 to 90 days.

AB 1745 (Kalra) – Earlier legislation authorized San Jose to build and operate emergency bridge housing for the homeless during a declared shelter crisis, and required that each person housed in the bridge housing be placed in an affordable housing unit. This bill extends the sunset date from January 1, 2022 to January 1, 2025, for San Jose to meet these obligations.

SB 211 (Beall) – This bill authorizes Caltrans to lease its property to local governments for the purpose of an emergency shelter or feeding program for $1 per month plus administrative fees.

SB 450 (Umberg) – This bill provides a CEQA exemption until January 2025 for hotels converted to supportive housing.

SB 687 (Rubio) – This bill requires the Governor to appoint a representative of the state public higher education system to the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council.

SB 744 (Caballero) – This bill provides a CEQA exemption for supportive housing and No Place Like Home projects.