Local News RoundUp
The Local News RoundUp is the League's daily news clipping service of articles related to California cities and local government.
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October 1, 2014
HOT ISSUES: BANKRUPTCY
Judge to Rule on CalPERS Pension Protection in Stockton Bankruptcy Case (The California Report)
In California when a city goes bankrupt, its employees pensions are off limits to creditors. But that could soon change, a federal judge overseeing the city of Stockton's bankruptcy could upset that standard. Chief Judge Christopher Klein is expected to rule today on whether Stockton's pension debt can be treated like any other debt on the city's books. If the judge decides it can, then public employees' pensions throughout California could become vulnerable to creditors.
Historic Decision Looms in Stockton Bankruptcy; Can CalPERS Pensions be Reduced? (Sacramento Bee)
Stockton’s bankruptcy is headed to a historic ruling Wednesday, when a judge is expected to decide whether the city can reduce its payments to CalPERS and scale back the pension benefits that have been promised to city retirees and active employees.
LAND USE & DEVELOPMENT
Governor’s Signing Deadline – Key Land-Use Bills Plus Picks from the SGF ‘Greatest Hits’ (California Planning and Development Report)
Within a day of his deadline for signing decisions, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed AB 2280 late September 29. Carried by Assemblymember Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, AB 2280 would have revived redevelopment-style tax-increment financing in narrowly chosen urban areas, with 25% affordable housing set-asides, to bring back a narrowly focused form of tax-increment financing usable in populous cities.
AB 2280 had passed the Legislature after extended negotiations among business, local government, and housing advocates. The bill represented the latest attempt by the Legislature to revive redevelopment in a more limited form – and the second time in the last three years that Brown has vetoed such a bill. (There was no veto last year because Senate leader Darrell Steinberg chose not to forward a bill to Brown’s desk.)
Insight: Everyone Wants to Keep Leverage Under CEQA (California Planning and Development Report)
Environmental and citizen groups have always used CEQA to gain leverage, of course – that’s the point of the law. But today, unions, business trade associations, rival local government agencies, and even the building industry all use CEQA to gain leverage over some local political process, and in most cases there’s no other way for them to get so much leverage.
Land Use Approvals in California Can Avoid CEQA If a City Directly Adopts a Voter Land Use Initiative (Fox Rothschild)
A city need not conduct an analysis of the potential environmental impacts of a proposed development if it chooses to directly adopt a voter-sponsored initiative for the project.
For developers of projects that are popular but likely to be challenged by a small minority, the California Supreme Court’s decision in Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Superior Court is good news. A popular project can skip the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) or other environmental document pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This strategy saves time and money in two ways. First, developers can save months – sometimes years – waiting for a city to prepare technical studies analyzing the environmental impacts of proposed projects. These studies are almost always prepared at the developer’s expense. Second, if there is no CEQA document, there is no CEQA litigation. The cost and delays that result from CEQA litigation are avoided. As a result, project opponents have one less arrow in their quiver to try to delay or kill a project by filing a CEQA lawsuit.
Gov. Brown Signs Bill Easing Pressure for Dense Development in Marin (Marin Independent Journal)
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday that no longer requires Marin County to have the same high-density affordable housing as San Francisco.
Assembly Bill 1537, introduced by Assemblyman Marc Levine, lowers the required minimum density of future affordable housing developments in Marin, San Rafael and Novato.
Gov. Brown Rebuild Redevelopment (Cal Watchdog)
Reversing his 2011 abolition of redevelopment, on Monday Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law two bills that will revive it, Senate Bill 628 and Assembly Bill 229. He also vetoed a third redevelopment measure, AB2280, he believed went too far by codifying an anti-poverty program into redevelopment law.
New Law Could Benefit Napa Redevelopment (Napa Valley Register)
Napa officials are assessing whether a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown can help fill the financial hole created when he and the Legislature killed community redevelopment agencies statewide.
Brown announced Monday that he had signed SB628, allowing local governments a partial replacement tool for financing infrastructure projects such as water systems, transit facilities and affordable housing.
Governor Vetoes Redevelopment Bill; Galt Loses $6 Million in Funding (Lodi News-Sentinel)
The state will not release millions of dollars in Galt redevelopment funds earmarked for specific projects after California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed agencies to use the bond proceeds. Galt anticipated $6 million in redevelopment funds.
“We are obviously extremely disappointed with the governor’s veto. ... (It) would have allowed agencies throughout the state to spend bond proceeds that were issued prior to the dissolution of redevelopment agencies for important community projects, creating thousands of jobs in the process,” City Manager Jason Behrmann said.
PENSIONS / LABOR RELATIONS
CA City Considers Increasing Hotel Tax to Fund Governor Employee Pensions (EAG News)
On November 4th, Palo Alto voters will be asked to approve Measure B, with only a simple majority required for passage. According to a summary compiled by the California Taxpayers Association, “2014 Local Elections,”Measure B “increases the city hotel/motel tax by 2% and extends the tax to apply to online bookings, to fund general city services.”
Pension Funds Feel Heat on Climate Change Issue (Calpensions)
CalPERS signed a United Nations pledge in Montreal last week to measure the “carbon footprint” of its $296 billion investment portfolio, with the goal of reporting the results before a UN climate change conference in Paris late next year.
Chiu’s Airbnb Legislation, Still a Controversial mess, Moves to Full Board (San Francisco Bay Guardian)
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu’s reputation for forging decent compromises is being severely tested as his widely criticized legislation to legalize and regulate Airbnb and other short-term housing rental companies now moves to the full board, where its fate is uncertain.
Nobody is happy with this legislation, not even Airbnb and its hosts, whose scofflaw actions in San Francisco would finally be made legal. But because the company has been unwilling to help the city regulate its short-term rentals in order to preserve permanent affordable housing units in the city, the final legislation would be tough to enforce.
CityLab 2014: The Sharing Economy Takes Center Stage in LA (Southern California Public Radio)
Over the last three days, hundreds of leaders from cities around the world have converged in Los Angeles to share ideas at the CityLab: Urban Solutions to Global Challenges conference. "Everyone can have a house with a backyard and they stay there. What makes a great city is the civic commons. The civic commons is the shared bike lanes, the transit, and the pedestrians where you're bumping into people who are quite different than you. And it doesn't have to be Central Park. It can be quite small and shareable."
Few Legal Consequences for Growers Gaming California Marijuana Laws (CBS San Francisco)
They call it the green rush: People from all over the world are flocking to Northern California’s Humboldt County to grow marijuana. The law says it has to be for medicine, but it’s all too easy to game the system with hardly any legal consequences.
From the sky it’s painfully obvious, the rivers and streams of Northern California are running dry. But in Humboldt County it’s not just because of the drought: It’s the thousands of marijuana plants.
6 Things to Know About California’s Landmark Plastic Bag Ban (The Herald Bulletin)
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, following the lead of more than 100 California cities and counties. The fight between environmentalists and manufacturers is not over, as plastic bag makers vow to take their opposition to the ballot box.
Here are some key things to know about the landmark legislation.
Sacramento Strong Mayor Vote Could Impact Future of City Managers Statewide (California City News)
Voters in our state capital will be voting on the biggest governmental restructuring facing the city in a generation. Voters will decide whether they should keep their current 'city manager' form of government or move to a 'strong mayor' construct, essentially shifting the vast majority of administrative functions to the elected Mayor.
The ramifications of the outcome of Measure L is profound, and not just for Sacramento. A success in November could spur further efforts to implement strong mayor forms of government throughout the state.
JOBS & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Berkeley’s New Minimum Wage Goes into Effect Wednesday (Berkeley Patch)
Berkeley’s new minimum wage goes into effect Wednesday with a citywide rate of $10 an hour (a dollar higher than the state’s minimum). It’s the first step in a three-stage plan that begins with $10 and then increases a year later, on Oct. 1, 2015, to $11. A year after that, onOct. 1, 2016, it rises again to $12.53, to match the amount expected in Oakland under an Oakland ballot measure likely to pass in November. The Berkeley plan received final approval in a unanimous City Council vote on June 24.
Will deBlasio’s Big Raise for Low-Wage Workers Encourage Other Cities to Follow Suit? (The Washington Post)
On Tuesday, New York Mayor Bill deBlasio signed an executive order expanding the city’s living wage law. The change means businesses housed in buildings that benefit from hefty city subsidies will have to pay employees who don’t receive benefits the so-called living wage, now $13.13, up from the current $11.90. The mayor and his supporters hope to pressure the state legislature to give the city authority to raise its minimum wage across the board.
10 Finalist Announced for LAEDC’s 2014 Most Business-Friendly City Award (Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation)
The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) today announced the finalists for its 2014 Most Business-Friendly City in Los Angeles County Award. The cities of Bellflower, Glendale, Lakewood, Palmdale and Santa Clarita are finalists for the population 65,000 and over category, and the cities of Artesia, El Segundo, Glendora, Pico Rivera and Vernon are finalists in the population under 65,000 category. One winner from each category will be announced live at the 19th Annual Eddy Awards® on Thursday, November 13th, at the Beverly Hilton.
FEDERAL: HIGHWAY TRUST FUND
As New Federal Fiscal Year Begins, the Clock Ticks Toward Another Highway Trust Fund Crisis (For Construction Pros)
With October 1 marking the beginning of fiscal year 2015, the 31-member organization Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) urged Congress to find a way to pay for, and pass, a new long-term surface transportation measure as soon as possible. They cautioned that failure to act would lead to another self-imposed funding crisis that would undermine vital road, highway and transit repairs.
Los Angeles City Council, IBEW Near Settlement on Contested $4 Million Trusts (Contra Costa Times)
The Los Angeles City Council sent a proposed settlement with the IBEW to the Board of Water and Power Commissioners on Tuesday that would allow an audit of two trusts and bring an end to a contentious legal fight.
Governor Veto of Funding Plan Wallops New Cities (San Diego Union-Tribune)
California Gov. Jerry Brown's decision to veto a $19 million funding plan dealt a hefty blow to four new Riverside County cities that were counting on the measure to make up for lost revenue.
GRANTS & FUNDING
The City of Los Angeles, CA, Did Not Always Ensure That Community Development Block Grant-Funded Projects Met National Program Objectives (Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)
The City did not always maintain the required documentation for its CDBG-funded projects to support its vested interest and ensure that national program objectives were met. More than $1.9 million in CDBG funds was at risk of not being used to meet the specified national program objectives. These funds may be lost due to the City not ensuring that developers completed projects to meet national program objectives.
VIDEO: City Council Decides to Improve Police Transparency with New and Improved Committee (KSBW)
Housing in Mixed-Use Projects Can Count Toward State Housing Requirement (The Almanac)
Menlo Park -- and other California cities and towns -- will now be able to count housing within mixed-use projects toward its state-mandated affordable housing requirements, thanks to Assembly Bill 1690, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Tuesday, Sept. 30.
The bill, with encouragement from Menlo Park Councilman Peter Ohtaki and city staff, was sponsored by Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, to allow units to be counted as very low- and low-income housing if the project site's zoning allows 100 percent residential and requires that at least 50 percent of the development be used for housing.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS & TECHNOLOGY
S.F. Rolls Out Free Wifi in Public Spaces Throughout City (San Francisco Gate)
San Franciscans can now search the Web, return e-mails or help their kids with homework at 30 city parks, plazas and recreation centers where free Wi-Fi was rolled out this week, thanks to a partnership between the city and Google.
REVENUE & TAXATION / MUNICIPAL FINANCE
Runaway Production Panel: Tax Credits Aren’t Going Away (Variety)
The annual budget for California’s film and tax credit will be more than tripled to $330 million starting on July 1, and Lemisch said that they “anticipate a big increase in production as well.” She said that, despite the flight of production to places like New York, Georgia and Louisiana, California still remains the first choice of many producers. That’s because of the existing infrastructure, the availability of skilled crew members and the weather. “You can never underestimate the sun,” she said.