California Considers a Slate of Affordable Housing Bills

Government

Sacramento Report: The Other Housing Bills on the Block

Decision day on a long list of bills, an Assembly slush fund meets its end, new questions about California’s congressional lines and more in our weekly Sacramento roundup.

There’s been a lot of attention on Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins’ bill to charge a fee on real estate transactions to boost funding for affordable housing. That bill, AB 1335, advanced from committee this week and now heads to the full Assembly.

A different bill – AB 744 – concerned with housing affordability, will go to the full Assembly next week.

Sacramento Report logoRight now, California’s “density bonus” law lets developers build more homes on a given property than are allowed by official zoning if the developer agrees to build a certain amount of homes for low- and very low-income residents.

AB 744 would get rid of minimum parking requirements for projects that take advantage of the density bonus law and are within a half-mile of a transit stop or are reserved for seniors or special needs residents.

By removing those parking requirements, the thinking goes, it would make it easier and cheaper to build the sorts of dense projects in urban areas that state and local leaders say should dominate new development.

The bill has received some Republican support, but the opposition it’s faced has also come from the right, including from San Diego County Assembly members Brian Maienschein, and Marie Waldron. The California League of Cities has also raised concerns with the bill.

Through a spokesman, Maienschein said the state should leave the matter to local governments.

“AB-744 proposes an unworkable, one-size-fits-all standard for neighborhoods and communities in our state of 38 million people,” he said. “It doesn’t take into consideration the type of project, the conditions in the existing neighborhoods, or impacts on nearby businesses.”

The bill is likely to be amended before advancing to the Senate, if it makes it there. It could, for instance, allow developers to provide less parking for projects with affordable units, rather than do away with the requirement altogether.

Worth noting: This is a rare case of Republicans advocating for stricter requirements on private market activity, while Democrats are the ones pushing for deregulatory legislation.

Three other housing-related bills are through committee and heading to the full Assembly for approval:

AB 1056 seeks to make it easier for former inmates to get housing and treatment, in order to reduce recidivism.

AB 35 would increase the state’s low-income housing tax credit program by $300 million to build and rehab low-income housing projects.

AB 90 restricts rental projects funded through the federal Housing Trust Fund to low-income residents for 55 years, and homeownership programs funded the same way to be restricted for 30 years.

Andrew Keatts

Black Thursday for a Slate of Bills

Thursday was a big day in the Capitol – the day the Assembly Appropriations Committee emptied its “suspense file” – bills that would cost the state at least $150,000 are put here for Assembly leaders to decide which ones to advance. So, many high-profile bills met their deaths, including a measure by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber that would have created a report on how many people die across the state in police custody, and one by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez that would extend paid sick days to in-home health workers, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Lots of other measures advanced, though, including: several measures by Atkins addressing issues from the San Diego River conservancy to a bipartisan measure to boost preschool funding, and measures by Gonzalez giving extra pay to workers forced to work Thanksgiving and automatically registering people to vote who get or renew a driver’s license, among others.

Blurred Lines, Supreme Court Edition

A while back, we asked an election law professor how a Supreme Court case over Arizona’s redistricting process would affect California. That case comes down to who gets to regulate federal elections. This week, along came another Supreme Court case that could make big waves when it comes to how congressional districts are drawn.

The question at the heart of this new case, as summed up by the Washington Post, is “whether political districts should be drawn based on the number of people that live in the district, or based on the number of people in that district that can vote.”

If districts were drawn solely by the number of eligible voters in a state, California would be the biggest loser, one consultant told the Los Angeles Times.  The reason: “States with large noncitizen populations – such as California – may be assigned fewer seats if only eligible voters are considered,” according to the Times.

Goodbye, Spending Spree

This is what journalists (and everyone else, probably) calls “making an impact.” The Associated Press dropped a big revelation earlier this week: Assembly leaders “control a large annual operations budget that they regularly tap into to boost services of their choosing without a single hearing or vote.”

That’s the type of set-up that usually gets shortened to “slush fund.”

Speaker Toni Atkins was in on the action – she steered large sums to the Museum of Tolerance, a senior nutrition program, a program to help vets find work and others, according to the AP. All worthy and mostly noncontroversial causes, sure – but directing money in such large amounts ideally involves some public input.

And lo and behold, a day after the story published, came this: “California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins plans to stop steering millions of dollars toward favored causes using her chamber’s operating fund.”

Dave Rolland, who works in Atkins’ office, tweeted that the decision was made before the AP story ran.

All Weber, All the Time

The U-T notices that Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s been in the spotlight a lot lately since she decided to take on two powerful interest groups: teachers and cops. Shockingly (I kid), that’s earned her some backlash and provoked some uncomfortable conversations.

Weber has introduced bills this session aimed at boosting teacher evaluations and transparency measures for police body cameras.

No description of Weber’s rising profile, though, will ever be as good as her own, which she gave to Liam Dillon: “We got juice.”

Golden State News

Anne Gust Brown keeps a low profile (she says the First Dog, Sutter Brown, gets recognized far more often), but is arguably the most powerful gubernatorial first lady in the country. (California Sunday)

The Assembly passed two bills this week to discourage ridiculous ballot measures like the one filed earlier this year that would OK the killing of gays. One boosts the filing fee for proposed measures; one allows for a disclaimer to be included when a measure would likely violate a person’s constitutional rights. (L.A. Times)

A major piece of Gov. Jerry Brown’s health care budget is not winning over many lawmakers. (Sacramento Bee)

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