On Preservation: Assaults from Sacramento, part two: The Assembly now attacks!

| July 29, 2020 | 3 Comments

When I last reported on the shotgun blast of California State Senate bills aimed at the heart of single-family neighborhoods and the quaint idea of local control, I had been keeping an eye on the second barrel coming out of the Assembly which produced its own buckshot of bills. Like the Senate proposals, these bills blew through their respective committees with minor changes in July and will be arriving in their opposite house as the Larchmont Chronicle lands on your doorstep.

Meanwhile, our local neighborhoods’ dynamic duo in the upper house, Sen. Benjamin Allen and Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, voted to approve all of the bad Senate bills mentioned here last month (SBs 995, 1085, 1385, 1120) with the exception of SB 902 — arguably the worst bill, from San Francisco’s single-family housing hater Sen. Scott Wiener — where both Allen’s and Durazo’s votes were not recorded. Were they afraid that maybe their Los Angeles constituents would not favor the opportunity bestowed upon us by Sacramento to gut our own single-family neighborhoods and historic districts?

Perhaps Allen and Durazo were more comfortable with SB 1120 that would allow developers to create luxury duplexes in single-family neighborhoods, but only if the locations were not encumbered by any type of Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, other overlay zone, environmental issues or pesky existing tenants. Still not a good approach to planning.

While we concerned citizens might have been focusing on the many threatening SBs, our own Assemblyman Richard Bloom teamed up with eastern San Francisco’s ambitious Assemblyman David Chiu (and Sen. Wiener) to craft the Assembly’s answers to the soundly-rejected SB 50 from earlier this year. Let’s quickly examine this second brood conceived as kin of that defeated, mean-spirited bill.

AB 725: Written by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (Berkeley) and Sen. Wiener, this bill uses the cudgel of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) to force cities to ensure that at least 25 percent of their share of moderate income and above moderate income housing be allocated to sites with zoning that allows for at least two units of housing which, with new accessory dwelling unit laws, includes all neighborhoods zoned single-family.

AB 1279: This is the attempt by Assemblyman Bloom (representing our neighborhoods, basically west of Plymouth Blvd.) to usurp local control by imposing by right developments in undefined “high opportunity areas” to be determined by the Dept. of Housing and Community Development if RHNA targets are not met (again the cudgel!). Once triggered, AB 1279 allows 50 housing units per quarter-acre and 120 units per half acre within all existing residential areas, from single-family neighborhoods to mixed-use shopping districts. Affordable units are supposed to be included, but a fee to the government may be paid instead!

AB 2345: San Diego’s Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez teamed up with Assemblyman Chiu to produce a bill that is essentially Los Angeles’s Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) program with less affordable housing required. It has the potential to conflict with our town’s TOC program by offering a 15 percent affordable housing requirement rather than our 17 percent requirement in order to get a 50 percent density bonus. Result? More luxury housing units for fewer affordable ones!

AB 3040: Assemblyman Chiu strikes again with what Livable California called his “Sophie’s Choice” bill, which forces cities to choose between rezoning single-family homes over 15 years old to satisfy RHNA targets (the cudgel!), or do it through the state Density Bonus Program which has proved impossible for most cities. Since failure is assured, Wiener’s SB 35 (streamlined construction) is brought to bear to provide a sucker punch.

Learn more about Livable California, the nonprofit that advocates for empowerment of local governments to foster equitable, livable communities and truly affordable housing, at livablecalifornia.org.

AB 3107: Finally, to add insult to injury, our own Assemblyman Bloom proposes a bill that legalizes housing in commercial areas (something already legal in Los Angeles) 5but also specifies that housing projects with 20 percent affordable units will be arbitrarily up-zoned, regardless of their surroundings, to the tallest height allowed in commercial or residential areas within one quarter mile. In Los Angeles, that potentially means nine-story mixed-use apartments citywide.

It is not too late to contact your State Senators and Assemblymembers!

The best way to do this is to call your representative directly and tell him or her to oppose these bills. You also can organize a group to schedule a Zoom meeting with a staff member or the legislator to express your concerns. You can also reach the relevant committees and their staffs through the “California Legislature Position Letter Portal”: calegislation.lc.ca.gov/Advocates

Once you sign up on that portal, you can use it to search and submit comment that is received by the Legislature’s “bill analysts” and committee members. You can create an account for groups as well.

Act now to ensure that housing policy and planning remain in local control and that your voice will continue to be heard.

By Brian Curran

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Category: Real Estate

Comments (3)

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  1. Lorena Gonzalez says:

    Sir, I think you didn’t actually read my bill, AB2345. It’s actually modeled after a San Diego program but grandfather’s in LA’s more stringent 17% requirement. Thank you For correcting your column in advance.

    • Kathleen Mulligan says:

      Please explain your comment For those of us who don’t know about the San Diego bill and don’t know what the 17% grandfather terminology means.

      Also does your bill have an exemption for homes in a federally protected historic district?

  2. Kathleen Mulligan says:

    Just got off the phone with GONZALEZ’ office because I couldn’t send an email since I don’t live in her district. Her office said if the builder dedicated 17% to affordable housing (As defined by Local standards), then the building could add 30.5% capacity over the normal limits. They could not tell me if the bill would exempt federal historic District (like wilton, where I live) And suggested that I contact the staff person on the bill, Ismael.contreras@asm.ca.gov. (I hope I got that address right.)

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