The League of California Cities is the unifying voice of California’s cities. Together, with our members, Cal Cities delivers major victories for cities year after year – protecting local control, securing billions of dollars in the new funding, and preserving existing city resources. In just the past few years Cal Cities has scored major wins for our members:
Cal Cities Delivers
Together, with our members, Cal Cities delivers major victories for cities year after year – protecting local control, securing billions of dollars in new funding, and preserving existing city resources.
bills/ballot measures passed or defeated to retain local control
in new funding for cities in the past five years
in federal recovery funding in 2021
of lawsuits won protecting local control and city interests
Advocacy in Action
January—April 2022 Highlights
Old East Davis Neighborhood Association v. City of Davis - In a significant win for cities, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld cities’ discretion to interpret their land use plans. The court deferred to the city of Davis’s interpretation of its general and specific plans and held that the city acted within its discretion when approving a mixed-use development project. The court explained that a city council’s determination that a project is consistent with its general plan carries “a strong presumption of regularity” and can only be overturned if the city council abused its discretion. The opinion was unpublished, but upon request by Cal Cities, the court published the opinion, allowing it to be used as precedent in future cases.
Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters v. City of Los Angeles - The California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District issued a favorable opinion regarding the city of Los Angeles’s approval of an environmental impact report for a mixed-use development. The court held — consistent with Cal Cities’ friend-of-the-court brief — that the report complied with the California Environmental Quality Act requirement that a project description be “accurate, stable, and finite.” The court explained that the requirement to contain an “accurate, stable, and finite” project description does not mean that a development proposal cannot evolve, or that the project entitlement cannot incorporate a degree of flexibility. Upon request by Cal Cities, the court published the opinion, allowing cities to use the opinion as judicial precedent in future cases.
Plata v. City of San Jose - The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District issued a favorable opinion in a case that challenged the water rates charged by the city of San Jose’s municipal water system, and the transfer of a portion of the revenues from those rates to the city’s general fund. The court found that the transfers did not violate Proposition 218. The court also ruled — consistent with the arguments made in Cal Cities’ friend-of-the-court brief — that the plaintiffs’ challenge to the tiered structure of the water rates was barred by the Government Claims Act, since the claim the plaintiffs submitted to the city before filing the lawsuit did not put the city on notice that the tiered structure was being attacked.
Kinney v. Superior Court -The California Court of Appeal for the Fifth District published a favorable opinion in a case concerning whether disclosure of arrest records under the California Public Records Act is limited to contemporaneous records. The court cited and agreed with the arguments outlined in a joint Cal Cities and California State Association of Counites friend-of-the-court brief that the information sought by the petitioner, which was nearly a year old when she filed her request, should not be considered “contemporaneous” information.
Rose v. County of San Benito - Consistent with arguments made by Cal Cities and others, the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth District published a favorable opinion holding that San Benito County did not enter into an implied contract with retirees and could modify its contributions to their health insurance premiums. The court explained that implied rights are not inferred without clear and convincing evidence and that the subjective understanding of certain board of supervisors is insufficient to establish legislative intent. The court then held that, because the resolution did not contain any express language vesting retiree health benefits in perpetuity, no such rights existed.
Streamlined ARPA fund delivery - Cal Cities worked closely
with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the California Department of Finance to make the application process for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) recovery funds more efficient and to ensure that cities’ concerns were addressed. Cal
Cities organized information sessions with key state and federal officials on the use of ARPA funding and related resources to help city officials access and maximize these funds. Because of this focus, California was one of the first states
to distribute ARPA fiscal recovery funds to all its municipalities.
More Cal Cities Delivers Highlights
Sea level rise adaptation guidance - Representatives from the League of California Cities Coastal Cities Group Leadership Committee, the California State Association of Counties, and the California Coastal Commission developed a suite of documents to help local governments plan for and address sea level rise. The documents, which maintain local decision-making, were approved by the California Coastal Commission.
CalPERS discount rate - After pressure from city leaders, the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) voted to keep the long-term interest rate used to fund future pension benefits at 6.8%. Cal Cities organized a group of city officials to present at a CalPERS Board of Directors meeting. Cal Cities President Cindy Silva and others argued against lowering the rate due to the detrimental impact it would have on city budgets.
Federal infrastructure funding - The federal government responded to Cal Cities’ calls for greater infrastructure investment with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which comprises billions in new federal investments in the nation’s infrastructure, including an estimated $45.5 billion in funding for the state of California.
Mutual aid - As the state faced devastating wildfires, more than 100 city managers joined Cal Cities on a call with Cal OES leadership to discuss mutual aid needs for cities and a significant need for additional first responder assistance.
Backup power for wireline facilities - Cal Cities participated in a series of stakeholder meetings organized by Senator Mike McGuire, as well as telecom, local government, and California Public Utilities Commission representatives, to discuss the deployment of 72 hours of backup power generators for wireline facilities. As a result of these meetings, Cal Cities was able to distribute timely information to members regarding the siting and permitting of backup power for wireline facilities.
Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara - On remand from the California Supreme Court, the Second District Court of Appeal held that the franchise fees at issue in the case bore a reasonable relationship to the value of the property granted. The Court of Appeal agreed, as argued in Cal Cities’ amicus brief, that the plaintiffs made no effort to challenge the trial court’s findings of a reasonable relationship between the fee and the value of the franchise rights transferred to the city. The court found that because the parties negotiated in good faith, the outcome of the negotiations between the parties was the best indicator of the value of the property interests.
Housing plan processes - In a significant win for cities, several housing bills that infringed upon local control became two-year bills or failed to advance entirely, including AB 500 (Ward), AB 1401 (Friedman), and AB 989 (Gabriel). These bills would have added more hurdles to the housing plan process, which would have likely stalled existing efforts to plan for more housing.
Short-term rental tax collection - Cal Cities blocked SB 555 (McGuire) from advancing. The bill would have resulted in less effective and transparent transient occupancy tax collection from short-term rentals and lacked several crucial reporting requirements. SB 555 was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
SB 1 Local Streets and Roads Maintenance of Effort - Cal Cities helped advance major relief for cities from SB 1 Local Streets and Roads Maintenance of Effort (MOE) spending requirements. Specifically, AB 149 (Assembly Comm. On Budget), which Governor Newsom signed, suspends the annual minimum MOE expenditure requirement for 2019-2020. Additionally, for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, these expenditure requirements will be adjusted in proportion to decreases in taxable sales in a city. A city can also request to use transient occupancy tax revenues instead of taxable sales to make these adjustments.
Statewide Primary Election: Terms of Office - Cal Cities supported SB 590 (Allen), which resolved an issue caused by SB 970 (Umberg, 2020). Previously, cities had councilmembers whose terms would expire pursuant to existing law prior to the next election for their council seat, and at least one city would have lost quorum. SB 590 provided a quick remedy to the situation and restored what would have been a concerning loss of representation and decision-making. Governor Newsom signed the bill.
Sustainable broadband funding - Cal Cities worked closely with Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Senator Lena Gonzalez to develop two complementary broadband bills, AB 14 (Aguiar-Curry) and SB 4 (Gonzalez), both of which were signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The two measures prioritize equitable broadband deployment and make important tweaks to the California Advanced Services Fund, which supports broadband deployment
Small wireless facilities attachments - After sustained advocacy from Cal Cities, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed SB 556 (Dodd), a bill that would have forced local governments to make space on public infrastructure available to telecommunications providers. The Governor’s veto message largely mirrored Cal Cities’ arguments saying, “part of our achievements laid out in the broadband budget bill, SB 156 (Chapter 112, Statutes of 2020), enables and encourages local governments to take an active role in last mile deployment and, in doing so, drive competition and increase access.”
Brown Act Relief - At the urging of Cal Cities and other local government associations, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a remote meeting bill, AB 361 (Robert Rivas), into law. The bill allowed cities to continue meeting remotely during proclaimed states of emergency under modified Brown Act requirements that are similar, but not identical to the rules and procedures established by previous Brown Act executive orders.
Climate change funding - Cal Cities partnered with key legislators to secure $4.5 billion in the state budget to help cities prepare for, fight, and recover from wildfires, as well as update local coastal plans and fund urban climate resiliency programs. In the final days of the legislative session, lawmakers also passed two trailer bills that provide millions for climate resiliency and disaster preparedness. This includes an ongoing, ten-year appropriation of $200 million to CAL FIRE for healthy forest fire prevention programs, prescribed burns, and other fuel reduction projects.
Alternative organic waste diversion compliance and funding - Cal Cities worked closely with Senator John Laird to develop an alternative way for cities to implement SB 1383 (Lara, Statutes of 2016) regulations. Additionally, Sen. Laird and Cal Cities staff helped secure $60 million in grant funding to help cities implement SB 1383 regulations and more than $60 million for organic waste infrastructure — the largest amount ever set aside for cities in a single fiscal year for SB 1383.
Public meeting requirements - Cal Cities led a coalition in strong opposition to AB 339 (Lee), a bill that imposed additional meeting requirements on large jurisdictions. Although Cal Cities worked with the author to secure amendments, the bill’s language remained problematic. The measure was eventually vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who shared many of Cal Cities’ concerns.
Outdoor dining - Cal Cities supported three outdoor dining bills, SB 314 (Wiener), AB 61 (Gabriel), and SB 389 (Dodd), all of which were signed into law. The measures provide some regulatory flexibility or relief to qualified businesses serving alcoholic beverages in nontraditional spaces due to indoor dining restrictions. Cal Cities worked closely with SB 314’s and AB 61’s authors to secure key amendments that preserve local authority.
Recycling program reforms - Cal Cities helped pass several attempts to overhaul California’s plastic recycling system — most notably SB 343 (Allen) and AB 1311 (Wood) — despite intense lobbying efforts from industry groups. SB 343 clarifies which materials are suitable for recycling. AB 1311 expands the number of beverage container redemption opportunities under the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act.
SB 1 regulatory relief - Cal Cities secured much-needed relief to the maintenance of effort requirements under SB 1 (Chapter 5, 2017). This relief provides a two-year exemption from the state’s annual minimum expenditure requirements in the 2019-20 fiscal year, with proportional adjustments to their fiscal obligations through the 21-22 fiscal year.
Short-term rental enforcement - Cal Cities strongly supported SB 60 (Glazer), which allows cities and counties to impose larger fines for violations of short-term rental ordinances — up to $5,000 for each violation. The new law will help prevent public health and safety violations related to short-term rentals.
Police reform - Cal Cities worked closely with lawmakers to pass legislation that holds bad actors in police forces accountable, without removing cities from the decision-making process. Among the measures that Cal Cities helped secure amendments for were SB 16 (Skinner), SB 2 (Bradford), and AB 89 (Jones-Sawyer). The final bills largely mirror Cal Cities’ recently adopted peace officer decertification process policy.
Cannabis regulation guide – The Cal Cities City Attorneys Department released “Seed to Sale: A Guide to Regulating Cannabis in California Cities.” The free publication includes information about the development of cannabis law, its current status, practical approaches to regulations, and regulatory frameworks. It also examines cannabis-related finance and taxation and outlines enforcement tools for cities.
ARPA funding clarification - Cal Cities submitted official comments regarding the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund Interim Final Rule to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In our comments, we requested further clarity, guidance, and flexibility for local governments on issues such as public health, economic impact, and infrastructure. The concerns were later addressed in the Treasury Department’s Final Rule.
The Guide to Local Recovery - Cal Cities created a one-stop-shop repository of information and resources for city officials looking to guide their communities through recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to a webpage, Cal Cities has been updating city officials through email alerts, webinars with federal and state agencies, and a weekly column in the Cal Cities newsletter. A collection of the entire list of updates can be found on the Cal Cities website.
Revenue Loss Calculator - To help city officials comply with the American Rescue Plan Act funding rules, Cal Cities created an innovative revenue loss calculation tool that determines best estimates of a city's funding allocation spends. Cal Cities developed the tool with input from city finance professionals and the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers. The calculator will be updated online regularly as any new information comes in.
Speaker Series - The Cal Cities Speakers Series is a new initiative featuring high-profile state leaders and policy experts sharing insights on timely issues, leadership, and their priorities. The series kicked off June 2 with California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot talking about drought and wildfire threats in California and what communities can do to prepare. The series is free to member cities and League Partners.
Executive Order Relaxing Brown Act Requirements Extended - Gov. Gavin Newsom granted Cal Cities' request to extend Executive Order N-29-20 past June 15, when the order was set to expire. Cal Cities and partner organizations argued that local governments needed more time to prepare for in-person public meetings while remaining in compliance with the Brown Act. The executive order provided government agencies with the necessary flexibility to conduct business meetings in a virtual format and will remain in effect through September 30, 2021.
Flexible COVID-19 Relief - In response to growing budget shortfalls, Cal Cities issued support for the $9.6 billion COVID-19 relief package to provide urgent relief to Californians experiencing pandemic hardship, but with a call for direct and flexible funding to cities that have not received any state aid to address revenue loss.
Newsom v. Sutter County Superior Court - The Third District Court of Appeal issued a favorable decision in May, overturning a trial court ruling that questioned the validity of the executive orders cities have relied on to conduct business throughout the pandemic. Cal Cities and the California State Association of Counties filed a joint friend-of-the-court brief, urging the court to overturn the trial court ruling due to its lack of clarity and potential to subject cities and counties to legal challenges.
Statewide Infrastructure Investment Impact Report - Cal Cities and a coalition of partners produced a first-of-its-kind report on the state’s transportation infrastructure and a related, customizable database that demonstrates its local economic benefits. The report found that upcoming spending on federal, state, and local infrastructure will generate nearly $200 billion in economic activity in California annually and will support 700,000 jobs per year. That is a return of $4.30 in economic activity for every $1 spent on infrastructure for the next ten years. The findings make it clear that the construction, maintenance, and operation of the state’s infrastructure network is a major economic driver that benefits all Californians.
Increased Access to SB 1 Transportation Funding - The League of California Cities vigorously advocated for SB 640 (Becker), which Governor Newsom signed. The bill creates a more equitable, competitive SB 1 (Beall, 2017) application process by allowing two or more eligible cities, or one or more cities and a county, to combine resources on projects that affect multiple jurisdictions. Until recently, smaller cities and counties were effectively shut out of the application process, as they were unable to provide the required matching funds. The bill also consolidates reporting requirements into a single report.
Local Streets and Roads Revenue Estimates - Cal Cities released local streets and roads (LSR) revenue allocation estimates for the current fiscal year and upcoming budget year. The figures included Highway Users Tax Account (HUTA), as well as Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account (RMRA) distributions, and were based on updated estimates of state collections of fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees released by the California Department of Finance (DOF) in coordination with Gov. Gavin Newsom's revised May budget proposal.
Bezis v. City of Livermore - The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a favorable ruling in Bezis v. City of Livermore, in which Cal Cities filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the City. The ruling affirmed that the city council meeting at issue in the case was a limited public forum, and therefore the Livermore city council members were empowered to interrupt a speaker to remind them to limit remarks to the agenda topic at hand without violating the First Amendment.
Daly v. San Bernardino - In a case on a trial court order that required the removal and replacement of a county supervisor, the California Supreme Court found that the order should have been stayed pending appeal. The court reasoned that the order required the county to take an affirmative action to remove and replace the supervisor. This holding is consistent with the amicus brief filed by Cal Cities, which argued, in part, that an automatic stay should be issued pending the appeal in order to maintain the status quo and allow the regular functioning and efficiency of government during litigation.
Busker v. Wabtech - The California Supreme Court issued a favorable ruling on a case involving prevailing wages. In the case, the plaintiff argued that work they performed on a rail car was a “public work” subject to prevailing wage. The Supreme Court disagreed and held that “public works” are limited to construction or installation of structures fixed to real property and that work does not become a “public work” just because it is integral to another activity that itself is a public work. The court’s holding is consistent with arguments made by Cal Cities — along with other entities — in a local government coalition amicus brief. The California Supreme Court’s ruling narrows the kinds of work for which prevailing wages must be paid and provides local government more certainty when budgeting and planning for publicly funded projects.
Broadband Funding - After intense negotiations, Cal Cities successfully secured $3.75 billion for a statewide, open-access, middle-mile broadband network in the final budget agreement. This is part of an overall $6 billion multi-year broadband infrastructure and improved broadband access package. Details have yet to be finalized, and Cal Cities will continue to promote local governments' interests as negotiations advance.
Housing and Homelessness Funding - Cal Cities helped secure $1 billion in the state budget to support local efforts to address homelessness and is advocating for city interests in the budget trailer bill that will incorporate new oversight and accountability provisions.
City of Portland, et al. v. United States - The United States Supreme Court declined to review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in a case that was initiated by a coalition of local governments and local government associations — including Cal Cities — against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The case challenged orders adopted by the FCC in 2018 to accelerate the deployment of 5G wireless technology by limiting local governments’ authority to regulate the installation of small cell wireless facilities. The Ninth Circuit’s decision was largely positive for local governments because it struck down aspects of the orders that limited cities’ ability to regulate the location and design of such facilities.
Landwatch Monterey County v. County of Monterey - In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth District agreed with Cal Cities’ argument that revisions made in the county’s final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) pursuant to certain comments on the draft EIR did not constitute significant new information requiring recirculation of the final EIR.
Wyatt v. City of Sacramento - The California Court of Appeal for the Third District agreed with the argument Cal Cities made in its amicus brief: Cities are not prohibited from collecting general taxes on the use of water, sewer, garbage, and other property-related services, if those taxes are approved by a majority vote.
Austin v. Burbank Police Department - In a case that Cal Cities had previously filed a friend-of-the-court brief in, the Second District Court of Appeal granted Cal Cities’ publication request and certified its dismissal order. The plaintiff attempted to appeal a ruling denying him access to records sought from the city via a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request. The plaintiff failed to follow the appropriate appellate procedure and the city sought to dismiss the appeal. While the court had discretion to hear the matter, it declined to do so, noting the plaintiff’s numerous CPRA lawsuits against California cities. Cities can now rely on the published order as precedent for requiring repeat CPRA plaintiffs to follow the CPRA’s appellate procedure.
Our policy positions are entirely driven by our members – city officials like you. Through our multiple policy committees, divisions, departments, and our board, city officials drive the positions Cal Cities takes on legislation. If you aren’t already engaged, we’d love to have your voice join our efforts.