AEP’s Legislative Review Committee held its annual ‘Day at the Capitol’ this year on March 10 and 11. This is an important event for AEP each year as it helps develop relationships with decision-makers in Sacramento and solidifies AEP as a strong voice on CEQA issues in the Capitol. Now that AEP has held this annually for several years, Legislators and staff have become very familiar with AEP and we’re able to have in depth conversations about CEQA, planning and land use policies being developed by the state. AEP holds this annual event after all bills are introduced, so we are able to discuss matters immediately before the legislature. This year, there have been dozens of CEQA and land use bills introduced, providing much for us to discuss.
During our full day of meetings in the Capitol, we met with Senator Scott Wiener, Chair of the Senate Housing Committee and author of the controversial SB 50 which failed and the new scaled down attempt, SB 902. We also met with Senator Steve Glazer, author of SB 621, a bill that failed last year which attempted to expedite judicial review of CEQA challenges to affordable housing projects. We also met with Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, who is authoring AB 1907, which would provide a broad CEQA exemption for all affordable, transitional, supportive and homeless housing projects. Finally, we met with Assemblymember Mark Stone, chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee who reviews many CEQA bills.
We also met with several of the most influential staff in the policy-making space. We met with Katie Kolitsos, CEQA and Housing policy consultant to Speaker Rendon, to discuss land use and zoning legislation proposals and the myriad CEQA bills being proposed in the Legislature this year. We also met with Steve Wertheim, consultant to the Assembly Housing & Community Development Committee who is working on legislation to amend the numerous CEQA streamlining provisions currently available to housing projects. In addition, we met with Tina Andolina, Legislative Director for Senator Ben Allen, Chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. Lastly, we also met with staffers to many members of the Senate EQ Committee and the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, including Assemblymembers Susan Eggman, Tyler Diep, Monique Limon, Heath Flora, Ed Chau, Kevin McCarty, Mark Berman and Cristina Garcia; and Senators Pat Bates, Lena Gonzalez, and Anna Caballero.
As in years past, the AEP Legislative Review Committee also gives a presentation in the Capitol open to all Legislators and staff. Given the focus in the legislature on homelessness and housing and the introduction this year of bills to expand, recast or create new CEQA exemptions and streamlining measures for housing projects, AEP’s presentation this year provided a brief summary of how housing projects are reviewed under CEQA and how the many different streamlining measures work. Nearly 30 staff attended the meeting, including several Chief Consultants of influential committees, leading to many needing to stand. It was another great presentation done this year by AEP President Bill Halligan and AEP Legislative Review Committee Co-chairs Betty Dehoney and Kristin Blackson.
Finally, we had a long lunch meeting with staffers at the Office of Planning and Research to get an update on their activity and share the latest from practitioners on the ground.
It was another very successful Capitol Day for AEP, helping us promote the organization and our mission to the state’s decision-makers and raise our profile. Importantly, our Capitol Day was done before the legislature was forced to recess due to the coronavirus. We hope that the Legislature will be able to focus on CEQA, land us and housing issues upon their return, and AEP continues to review and express our ideas to the Legislature in the meantime.