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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May 24, 2017


ASSEMBLY BILL 1250
Legislation touted as pro-transparency will eliminate basic services (Orange County Register)
The fundamental purpose for a city or county is to serve its residents. If government is doing its job, then your streets are clean and safe, your public parks and buildings are maintained and the like. Taxpayers should be able to expect that government is spending their hard-earned dollars on critical services that improve their health, safety and quality of life. Assembly bill 1250, authored by Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, would severely limit a city or county from contracting for services with a private entity. The proposal encompasses virtually every service a city or county can contract for — services such as accounting, waste-hauling, park maintenance, street cleaning, wastewater treatment, legal services, drug treatment facilities, IT services, landscaping services and more. If this bill is passed, it will drive up cities’ and counties’ costs and add layers of complexity to contracting for services — so much so that agencies would have limited choices for contracting services, or would be forced to eliminate specific services altogether. Let’s set aside for a moment the backroom tactics used to move this measure to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which included replacing members on the first policy committee that heard it to ensure its passage.
Statewide
 
HOUSING
L.A. County median home price ties record high as housing market sizzles (Los Angeles Times)
he median home price in Los Angeles County has reached the all-time high set in 2007, a milestone that follows five years of steady recovery but comes amid renewed concerns over housing affordability.  Home prices rose nearly 6% in April from a year earlier, hitting the $550,000 level where the median plateaued in summer 2007 before a sharp decline that bottomed out in 2012. Other areas in Southern California also are hitting record levels, according to the report on regional home prices released Tuesday by CoreLogic. Orange County surpassed its pre-bust high last year, and in April set a new record of $675,000. San Diego County also exceeded its pre-bust peak for the first time last month, as the median price — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — climbed 7.4% to $525,000. The hot market mirrors a national upswing that economists said remains underway despite a disappointing Commerce Department report Tuesday that showed new home sales last month dropped by the most in over two years. The decline was largely described as an anomaly in the notoriously volatile measure, which has a small sample size.
Cities in the Los Angeles County Division
 
Southern California home sales drop but prices still rising (Sacramento Bee)
Southern California home sales dipped nearly 5 percent last month compared to a year ago but the housing price hit a record high in two counties. The research group CoreLogic says 20,244 houses and condos were sold in April in Los Angeles County and five surrounding counties. That's down 8.4 percent from March and 4.8 percent from April of 2016. However, low home inventory, low mortgage rates and job growth kept prices surging. The region's median home price was $485,000 — the highest since it reached $500,000 in August 2007. CoreLogic says the price hit an all-time high in Orange and San Diego counties and tied a decade-old record in LA County. The region's most affordable counties — Riverside and San Bernardino — also posted year-over-year price gains.
Statewide
 
Sacramento County lags on building affordable housing (ABC10)
You've probably heard a lot about affordable housing, but just how much has actually been built?
Gov. Jerry Brown's budget addresses California's housing shortage, but it also recaps how counties across the state have done in terms of constructing affordable housing since 2003. According to the governor's budget, between 2003­14, only 46 percent of needed affordable housing was actually constructed in Sacramento County. Other counties fare far worse. San Joaquin, Yolo and Stanislaus counties all had completion rates below 40 percent, while almost 60 percent of the affordable housing needed in Placer County was built during the same time frame. So what's behind the shortfall in Sacramento County? Sacramento Housing Alliance Executive Director Darryl Rutherford said the biggest challenge is sources of funding. The alliance has lobbied local governments on finding new ways to fund affordable housing.
Cities in Sacramento County
 
Low inventory, low mortgage rates drive housing demand (Inland News Today)
Riverside and San Bernardino counties continue to outpace Southern California in the run-up of home prices.  The average Inland Empire home sold for $328,000 last month, a full 8.5 percent above a year ago. The Southern California rate was 6.2 percent.  The median price paid for all Southern California homes sold in April was $485,000, the highest for any month since August 2007 when it was $500,000. The median remains around 20 percent below record levels from more than a decade ago.  The number of new and previously live-in homes in the Southland fell by about 1,000 during April. CoreLogic said sales of newly built homes – detached houses and condos combined – were about 39 percent below the long-term April average.
Cities in the Riverside County Division and San Bernardino County
 
Opposition to Redwood City housing development stalls: City Council denies appeal to below-market home ownership development (The Daily Journal)
Despite opposition from its neighbors, a six-story Habitat for Humanity development expected to make 20 below-market-rate condominiums available at 612 Jefferson Ave. in downtown Redwood City was allowed to move forward Monday. The City Council voted 6-0 at its meeting Monday to deny an appeal of the development that contested its compliance with the city’s downtown precise plan and consistency with nearby historic buildings, with Councilwoman Diane Howard abstaining from the vote. Attorney Geoff Carr, whose law offices at 605 Middlefield Road share the same block, submitted the appeal, citing concerns shared by neighbors of the currently empty lot about the impact of the building’s height and modern design elements as well as lack of open space where the children of the families expected to live there can play. Councilmembers praised the development expected to create five one-bedroom, 10 two-bedroom and five three-bedroom condominiums for low-income residents on a vacant lot just more than 5,000 square feet between Bradford and Marshall streets on Jefferson Avenue. The condominiums would be available to those making between $63,000 and $85,000 for a family of four, or 80 percent of the county’s median income, confirmed the nonprofit’s representatives when the Planning Commission approved the development at its March 21 meeting.
Redwood City
 
Huntington Beach gets preliminary win in appeal over low-income housing (Orange County Register)
A state appeals court has sided with the city, in a preliminary ruling that reverses a 2015 Superior Court decision that ordered the city to change the zoning on land along Beach Boulevard and Edinger Avenue to allow development for low-income and high-density housing. In a decision that still allows each side to make a limited oral argument, the state Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled the trial court erred when it struck down changes the Huntington Beach City Council made to the city’s housing plan that drastically cut the number of available spots for state-required low-income housing units. City Attorney Michael Gates said for cities like Huntington Beach, “wrestling for local control of their land, this is a huge win.” The nonprofit Kennedy Commission, a housing advocacy group, sued the city in July 2015, claiming it had essentially shut down opportunities to build low-income housing when it cut the number of housing units that could be built on the 459-acre Beach-Edinger area from 4,500 to 2,100. The Commission argued that move two months earlier had restricted affordable housing and violated state law. Superior Court James Chalfant agreed and voided the City Council’s changes.
Huntington Beach
 
Can Sacramento city and county do a better job with affordable housing? (Sacramento Bee)
As homelessness and rents are on the rise, the local agency that builds and maintains low-income housing is facing questions about its existence. The Board of Supervisors will discuss Wednesday whether it makes more sense to have the city and county manage affordable housing on their own rather than rely on the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. That question comes six years after state leaders agreed to eliminate redevelopment funds, which stripped SHRA of a key responsibility. “The ‘R’ went away from SHRA, there is no more redevelopment,” said Supervisor Patrick Kennedy, who represents most of south Sacramento. “I would like to ask the question: Is it necessary to have such a big housing authority?” How the county would assume the responsibilities of the decades-old agency is unclear, and a decision Wednesday to move forward would launch an exploratory effort. The county has not yet compiled data on potential cost savings or impacts from dissolving SHRA, which has a $190 million budget. Kennedy said he suspects it makes more sense for the city and county to assume SHRA’s responsibilities, but he is waiting to see more details before making up his mind. The mere discussion, however, has alarmed some local housing advocates.
Sacramento
 
REVENUE/TAX
Will Legislature raise taxes by $200 billion for universal health care? (Sacramento Bee)
The timing of Monday’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing was exquisite. It came hours after a raucous convention of the California Democratic Party, during which ascendant left-wing activists loudly demanded taxpayer-supported universal health care coverage. The object of their desire, Senate Bill 562, was the biggest item on the committee agenda, and a staff analysis laid out its immense cost – $400 billion a year, or more than three times the entire state general fund budget. The big number did not deter Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, the bill’s chief author. Lara and other advocates assume that existing federal, state and local government spending on health care would cover about half the total. However, with President Donald Trump and a Republican Congress bent on changing the Affordable Care Act and reducing health spending, that’s scarcely certain.
Statewide
 
MARIJUANA
Town decision on marijuana needs review (Paradise Post)
Pot gardening was back on the Town Council’s agenda recently. Weed, that is, the controversial now legal-in-California recreational plant that alters one’s reality for a time. California law gives any adult citizen the right to grow up to six marijuana plants where they live for personal use. The Council decided in their last meeting that the leaves of marijuana may not receive either direct sun rays or fresh air, nor may their roots touch the earth in Paradise. They presented two clear reasons for this new ordinance: odor and crime. The stink of cannabis plants is so offensive, skunk-like they agreed, that the outdoor growing of even a single plant should be against the law. The attorney assured them that they have the power to ban pot in outdoor gardens. Would that they only had the power to ban skunks. Not one of the Council members or the town staff, nor a single member of the public in attendance, noted that not all pot has such an offensive stench. A simple Internet search reveals there is much interest in low odor strains, and many are readily available. For example, Kanna.biz sells no less than twenty low odor strains, one named Paradise Seeds. One may wonder about the mindset of anyone wanting to grow a few pot plants in their yard why they didn’t provide this information to the council for consideration.
Paradise
 
PUBLIC SAFETY
What you should know about Sacramento police body cameras (Sacramento Bee)
The Sacramento Police Department has been rolling out body cameras for police officers over the past few months, and it expects to place them on all patrol officers by this fall. Right now, you can find the square-box cameras on officers who don’t have access to in-car cameras, including bike patrols, horse-mounted officers and motorcycle cops. But as the cameras become more common, police want the public to know they’re being filmed, and what exactly those cameras are catching. Right now, the cameras always capture a 30-second time loop, but unless an officer hits the big button on the front to save the footage and begin recording, that half-minute is constantly erased. Officers are also able to “tag” moments of filming by pressing a button on the side that allows them to quickly find that time stamp during review. Department spokesman Officer Matt McPhail said that function is helpful to pinpoint significant moments for later prosecution, such as when a suspect discards “contraband.”
Sacramento
 
PENSION
Measure P sales tax wasn’t presented to voters as helping cover pension costs, panel says (Fairfield Daily Republic)
Using Measure P sales tax money to help pay city employee pension costs is not how the ballot proposal was presented to voters, members of the citizens oversight committee for Measure P said Monday. Liesa Houdashelt said she is concerned about convincing voters again in 15 years to support a sales tax if some of the money now goes to help cover increased pension costs. Pensions paid city employees when corporations have not provided such benefits for decades is a major issue for many resident, said Houdashelt, vice chairwoman of the Measure P Oversight Committee. Houdashelt said after the meeting that corporate employees “have been told for years to pay for their own pensions.” Committee member Tim Tomko said at the Monday meeting of the panel that the 15-year extension of sales tax funds – approved Nov. 8 by Fairfield voters after a campaign about preserving city services of police, fire and road work – was not presented to the public as helping to cover city pension costs. The Measure P panel was presented Monday with the projected long-term pension expense for the city. At the May 16 meeting of the City Council a review of increasing city pension costs included a staff recommendation to allocate $4 million in the municipal loan fund – set aside in case Measure P did not pass last November – toward pensions costs.
Fairfield
 
Pension problem looms for Sacramento (Capital Public Radio)
The City of Sacramento currently pays about $67 million for pensions from its general fund. Within eight years, it will be paying about $148 million. City officials are trying to figure out where the money will come from. Its unfunded pension liability is currently $718 million. Half of CalPERS' pension investments are in stocks. Two years ago, Ted Eliopoulos, CalPERS' Chief Investment Officerit, says those investments earned 18 percent. Last year, that number fell to six-tenths of a percent. On Tuesday, he was before the Sacramento City Council with a positive message for the long haul, if not for any specific year. The system has about 64 percent of the money that it is supposed to have in order to pay current and future retirees. Eliopoulos says fund managers are now selling assets to meet obligations while keeping cash on hand for an anticipated economic downturn. Leyne Milstein is the City Finance Director. She says the California Public Employees' Pension Reform Act, known as PEPRA, will help, but not for another two decades. New employees will likely pay a significant portion of the amount required to make payments in and out of the system equal.
Sacramento
 
TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE
Southern California Edison to offer $450 rebate for all-electric, plug-in hybrid vehicle owners (Los Angeles Daily News)
Southern California Edison is offering a $450 rebate to customers who own an all-electric or plug-in electric hybrid vehicle, the utility announced Monday. The Rosemead-based investor-owned utility joined others in the state in passing along revenues they’ve received in the form of credits from the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard program to customers using electricity as a low-carbon transportation fuel. However, EV or plug-in hybrid owners served by municipal-owned utilities in Southern California will not be getting any cash back. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Pasadena Water and Power and Azusa Light and Water all do not have a cash-back program. LADWP offers discount electricity rates if EV owners charge their cars using separate meters and up to $500 rebates for the purchase of EV home chargers. Also, Pasadena does not give a cash rebate for the purchase of EVs, wrote Amanda Gadbow, PWP spokesperson in an email after learning of the SCE rebate program. Pasadena will continue offering incentives such as $200 in free LED light bulbs for EV and plug-in hybrid owners and a $400 bill credit for residential and commercial customers who install a 240-volt charger at their home or business.
Statewide
 
MARIJUANA
Santa Rosa rejects ban on outdoor marijuana gardens for personal use (Press Democrat)
When it comes to banning cultivation of marijuana for personal use, it turns out Santa Rosa was just blowing smoke. The City Council on Tuesday soundly rejected an immediate temporary ban on growing pot outdoors for personal use as council members questioned whether enough safety or nuisance issues existed to warrant emergency restrictions on pot gardens in the city. Mayor Chris Coursey said he was concerned about burdening a code enforcement staff that would be unlikely to prioritize any odor or other nuisance complaints stemming from a proliferation of backyard grows. It was the third time the council considered the measure in as many months, shelving it two previous times to get more public input or to wait for the full council to be present. The city originally proposed the immediate ban because it didn’t want cannabis cultivators to get too invested in their crops only to have them become illegal later in the year if the city passes comprehensive rules banning outdoor growing, which remains a possibility. But the delay stretched into growing season, making it harder for city staff to press for an urgency ordinance, which requires approval from five of the seven members and would have taken effect immediately.
Santa Rosa
 
CITY PLANNING
San Diego city attorney raises concerns about SoccerCity proposal (San Diego Union Tribune)
City Attorney Mara Elliott says the SoccerCity initiative doesn’t guarantee San Diego a professional soccer stadium or a river park, and could burden taxpayers with hefty costs for environmental clean-up of the Qualcomm Stadium site. Elliott, who issued a 27-page analysis of the proposal late Tuesday afternoon, also raised concerns about contradictions and lack of clarity in parts of the 3,000-page initiative, suggesting those could lead to costly litigation. FS Investors of La Jolla, the group behind the initiative, said Tuesday evening that many concerns raised by Elliott and others can be resolved in a lease the group would be required to negotiate with Mayor Kevin Faulconer if the initiative is approved. And some of Elliott’s concerns are addressed in a long list of concessions the group last week sent Faulconer, with a promise that they’d agree to include those in the lease.
San Diego
 
CITY IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Long Beach one of the best U.S. cities for access to local parks (Press Telegram)
Irvine is among the United States’ best cities for park lovers, and Long Beach isn’t too shabby either, according to a new survey on park access. Irvine claimed a spot among the nation’s top ten — tied with New York City for seventh place — in the Trust for Public Land’s newest edition of their annual survey gauging how accessible parkland is in the country’s 100 most populous cities. The new version of the survey was released Tuesday evening. Among other Southern California cities included in the survey, Long Beach finished in a six-way tie for 24th place. Anaheim and Riverside tied for 63rd place, near the middle of the pack. Los Angeles, California’s most populous city, ranked 74th. Santa Ana was in the 75th spot. The survey’s rankings are based several factors: median park size; the area of parkland as percentage of a city’s land area as adjusted to exclude purely industrial areas like airports; and public spending on parks, as well as specific park amenities. When assessing the last of those criteria, the trust tallies cities’ basketball hoops, dog parks and playgrounds, as well as recreation and senior centers.
Long Beach
  
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