The top bills and key budget negotiations for cities to watch in August

Jul 20, 2022

August is one of the most critical moments in the legislative cycle. When lawmakers return from their summer recess on Aug. 1, they will have just four weeks to get their bills through any remaining policy committees, a second suspense file, and eventually, a floor vote. After that, Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Sept. 30 to act on any bills that make it to his desk.

Below are the top housing, infrastructure, homelessness, and climate change bills, as well as the major budget negotiations, that cities should follow for the rest of the year. Read next week’s issue of Cal Cities Advocate for an overview of the top pending public safety, governance, tax, and environmental bills.

Multiple housing bills threaten local control and undermine existing housing plans

Addressing California’s persistent housing supply and affordability crisis is a top priority for Cal Cities, legislators, and the Governor. Although the state budget invests significantly in affordable housing, lawmakers are also advancing dozens of bills that would hinder cities’ ability to properly plan for and support increased housing.

Perhaps the most significant bill for cities is AB 2011 (Wicks). The bill would require most cities to ministerially approve certain affordable housing and mixed-use housing developments in areas zoned for offices, retail, or parking. Cal Cities opposes the bill since it would undermine local zoning and state-mandated planning processes. It would also restrict cities’ ability to negotiate with developers for supportive infrastructure and eliminate opportunities for public engagement, which often leads to better projects.

Cal Cities also opposes AB 2097 (Friedman) due to its potential impact on development negotiations and its one-size-fits-all approach to project-specific issues. The measure would significantly restrict parking requirements within one half-mile of public transit. The bill defines public transit as a high-quality transit corridor with a 15-minute interval or a major transit stop, such as a ferry terminal or rapid transit stop.

AB 916 (Salas) would require cities to increase the maximum height of all accessory dwelling units (ADU) from 16 to 18 feet on all parcels and to 25 feet for parcels located within a half mile of transit. The proposed provision undermines the stated purpose of ADUs: to create density in a modest fashion that is not disruptive to established communities. Cal Cities opposes the measure unless it is amended to conform with existing height standards.

Similarly, SB 897 (Wieckowski) would require cities to allow ADUs with a height of up to 25 feet near transit. It would also prohibit cities from denying permits for ADUs that violate state-mandated building standards or local zoning requirements. Cal Cities opposes the measure due to its impact on local housing plans.

Cal Cities has an oppose unless amended position for SB 6 (Caballero), a bill that would allow residential development on certain commercial and industrial sites. Cal Cities recently secured amendments that allow residential capacity from SB 6 sites to be “reallocated” to sites that meet housing element densities. Cal Cities is seeking additional amendments that exclude zones not suitable for housing, such as surface mining or hog farms, limit the process to infill areas, and better align SB 6 with the existing streamlined application procedures.

AB 2295 (Bloom) would allow local educational agencies to build housing on their properties if the project satisfies specific requirements. Cal Cities has a support if amended position and is seeking amendments that better align the measure with local plans and standards.

Cal Cities continues to advocate for its $500 million budget ask to fund a new Housing and Economic Development Program. This program would encourage partnerships between state and local agencies by providing matching funds to cities that adopt local tax increment financing tools to support affordable housing, upgrade essential infrastructure, and stimulate economic development.

Cal Cities seeking amendments on unfunded infrastructure mandate

Cal Cities is entering the final stretch of the legislative session with a strong tailwind behind its infrastructure priorities. Cal Cities already scored two major victories with the defeat of AB 2237 (Friedman) and amendments to AB 2438 (Friedman), two bills that would have threatened local transportation projects and funding.

Additionally, the state budget includes billions of dollars in investments in public transit, active transportation, freight, and climate adaptation, as well as $550 million to complete an open-access middle-mile network, which will help deliver high-speed broadband services to all Californians.

Of the remaining bills, the most significant is SB 932 (Portantino), a large, unfunded mandate that would require cities to adopt significant and costly bicycle, pedestrian, and traffic calming elements in their general plans. The measure ignores the significant funding restraints that cities face and their diverse infrastructure needs. Cal Cities has an oppose unless amended position for the bill, and is seeking changes that protect local flexibility, provide a funding source, and eliminate the bill's proposed private right of action.

Other notable bills that Cal Cities has an oppose unless amended position include AB 1685 (Bryan), a parking violations forgiveness bill, and AB 2953 (Salas), a bill that would require local agencies to allow the use of recycled materials in local streets and road projects. Cal Cities is seeking amendments to AB 1685 that would provide state funding for implementation and backfill lost revenues for cities. Cal Cities is seeking amendments to AB 2953 that would exempt cities based on population instead of annual revenues, which is an unreliable metric.

Cal Cities partners with lawmakers to seek improvements to behavioral health services through increased funding and enhanced data collection

This year, lawmakers placed an increased emphasis on expanding access to behavioral health services, particularly for California’s homeless individuals, both in the state budget and in a slate of related bills. Cal Cities has a support if amended position for the most high-profile bill, SB 1338 (Umberg), which would create a new civil court process known as the CARE Court program.

CARE Court would connect individuals experiencing acute mental illnesses to a court-ordered care plan managed by a care team in the community. These care plans would include clinically prescribed, individualized interventions, along with supportive services, medication, and a housing plan. Cal Cities has been working on amendments that would create a phase-in implantation plan for CARE Court, ensure sufficient funding, and include city voices when appropriate. 

Additionally, Cal Cities supports a six-bill legislative package put forward by Sen. Susan Eggman that would better coordinate existing programs. Collectively, SB 929, SB 970, SB 1154, and SB 1238 would increase data collection to help behavioral health agencies better understand the outcomes of involuntary holds, their services, and waiting periods, along with current and projected behavioral health care infrastructure, and service needs. The other measures — SB 1035 and SB 1227 — would identify changes to the existing system to address each patient's needs.

Cal Cities also supports two grant program bills: AB 2281 (Lackey) and SB 513 (Hertzberg). AB 2281 would establish a grant program to improve access to mental health services for children under the age of five. SB 513 would create a program that provides funding to homeless shelters that allow pets with the goal of removing barriers to shelter. This funding would build on the $200 million that Cal Cities helped secure in the 2022-23 State Budget to support California’s behavioral health workforce.

State and local governments aligned on key climate measures

Cal Cities has made considerable progress on efforts to strengthen disaster preparedness, resiliency, and recovery from climate change impacts. Cal Cities helped secure a second round of funding for SB 1383 organic waste recycling programs. The funding will help cities implement this important greenhouse gas emission reduction law, which requires cities and counties to divert organic waste from landfills.

Nonetheless, lawmakers have yet to pass several key measures, including AB 1985 (Rivas, Robert). This Cal Cities-sponsored bill would help cities with their organic waste (SB 1383, Lara) procurement requirements. The bill would phase in procurement requirements, clarify what projects and products count towards the requirement, and allow cities to process organic waste outside the state to meet procurement targets.

Similarly, SB 833 (Dodd) would help local governments develop community energy resiliency plans through a grant program. These resiliency plans would identify critical facilities and locations where microgrids could meet local resilience needs and potential funding sources. Cal Cities supports the measure as it would help cities move towards a cleaner, reliable, and more resilient energy future.

Cal Cities also supports AB 2142 (Gabriel), which would reinstate an important tax exemption for turf replacement rebates from gross income in California. Water efficiency incentive programs like turf replacement are an effective way to spur both immediate conservation and ongoing water efficiency. However, taxing these rebates can create an unnecessary barrier for households — especially low-income families.

Unfunded mandates still need funding

Although this year’s state budget includes significant one-time funding opportunities, it does not include funding for Cal Cities’ $933.5 million budget ask to reimburse cities for costs related to state mandates.

According to data obtained from the State Controller’s Office, the state owes cities, counties, and special districts more than $933.5 million for costs related to state mandates incurred after 2004. Of that amount, $466.6 million — not counting interest — is owed to cities. Cal Cities and others are calling on the state to reimburse the full amount.

Cal Cities is still advocating for this appropriation as the Legislature continues to finalize additional budget details. State mandates include a wide variety of essential programs and services, such as those related to public meetings, identity theft, domestic violence, child abuse, and crime reports.

For more information about pending priority bills, read next week’s issue of Cal Cities Advocate for an overview of the top public safety, governance, tax, and environmental bills.