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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March 22, 2017

California is on the highway to danger. It’s time to fix our roads. (The Tribune)
The recent storms, while a welcome relief from California’s drought, have exposed critical gaps in our infrastructure. It’s not just potholes — roads are actually collapsing throughout our state. The Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur crumbled, cutting off travel between Monterey and the Central Coast. Moreover, our clogged and crumbling roads are stealing hours away from commuting families every day. Sacramento has been ignoring this problem for quite some time. Over the past decade, annual transportation funding in the state budget has decreased by 14 percent, despite significant growth in state budget revenues. The time is right for a major investment in transportation infrastructure and a major re-evaluation of how we fund roads going forward. We can make the necessary investments in our transportation infrastructure without hammering working families with hefty tax and fee increases. It is simply a matter of prioritizing and protecting transportation funds. Californians already pay some of the highest gas taxes and vehicle-license fees in America. But much of that revenue is not spent on roads. Instead, Sacramento engages in clever gimmicks to divert money away from roads and toward other uses. This has to end.
Garcetti, other L.A. leaders call on Legislature to end delays on transportation funding plan (Los Angeles Times)
A group of officials including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday called on state legislators to end a stalemate over approving a transportation funding plan to cover a $130-billion backlog of repairs to California’s roads, bridges and highways. Current legislation that would raise the gas tax and vehicle fees to generate $5.5 billion annually needs a two-thirds vote of the Legislature but has been bogged down with some Democrats withholding support. Pressure on legislators was also ratcheted up by Brian Kelly, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, who said he hopes new legislation will be introduced next week that “will reveal the entirety of the funding plan.” County Supervisor Hilda Solis and City Councilman Joe Buscaino also called on lawmakers to reach an agreement. Current legislation would raise the per-gallon gas tax by 12 cents in phases over three years, set the price-based per-gallon excise tax at 17.3 cents, increase the diesel tax by 20 cents, boost the sales tax on fuel by 4% and increase the annual registration fee by $38 for all vehicles. Some Democratic lawmakers want more money guaranteed for neglected districts and mass transit. But Garcetti called on the legislators to show leadership and reach a compromise.
Jerry Brown meets with Republicans, ‘cautiously optimistic’ about Caltrain approval (Sacramento Bee)
With his mind on bipartisan cooperation, Gov. Jerry Brown emerged from meetings Tuesday optimistic that California could receive approval for a stalled rail project to shuttle riders between Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Brown’s meetings follow his personal appeals to Chao asking her to reconsider a nearly $650 million grant to electrify Caltrain, which serves more than 60,000 riders each weekday and is being heavily lobbied for by deep-pocketed Bay Area interests.  The Democratic governor is hoping to receive tens of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure funding from the federal government for projects ranging from roads to levee repairs. Caltrain is a small project among many. But it’s viewed as an early test of whether the Trump administration and congressional Republicans will assist California.
Chao delayed the grant after McCarthy and the rest of the California House Republican delegation wrote a letter asking for it to be blocked. GOP members argue that it’s become too intertwined with Brown’s high-speed rail system, which they strongly oppose.
Sacramento County approves broad plans to help the homeless (Sacramento Bee)
Sacramento County supervisors on Tuesday approved an ambitious series of proposals to breathe new life into services for homeless people. The Board of Supervisors voted to begin the process of creating a full-service shelter, launching a new rehousing program, redesigning the family emergency shelter network and supporting long-standing job training and transitional housing programs. Paul Lake, chief deputy executive of countywide services, called the plans a “comprehensive roadmap for fixing what is not working and shoring up those things that are.” Cindy Cavanaugh, the county’s director of homeless initiatives, described a system in which chronically homeless people would enter the shelter, receive mental and physical healthcare, and be referred to an array of housing and employment services, including at the Mather Community Campus, run by the Volunteers of America. MCC lost its federal funding for the next fiscal year, so Cavanaugh recommended putting county general-fund money into the program to support job training and transitional housing.
Cities in Sacramento County
California lawmakers want to pull pension fund investments from companies who work on Trump border wall (New York Daily News)
Companies bidding to construct the proposed massive border wall between the United States and Mexico might have a financial problem in California. Three of the state’s Democratic lawmakers are threatening to divest from firms who work on the wall — just a few days after early plans for the highly contested structure were revealed. Ting and two California assembly colleagues are sponsoring a bill that force two of the state’s pension funds to liquidate investments in any companies working on the project, according to the Mercury News. The funds, California Public Employee Retirement System and California State Teachers Retirement System, have a combined $500 billion worth of investments, according to the newspaper, making them two of the largest in the country. The law would also require the funds to report a list of the companies it invests in, according to the Mercury News.
Court rules against SF in Ellis Act apartment rental case (SF Gate)
When landlords decide to go out of the rental business, San Francisco can’t legally require them to pay their evicted tenants as much as $50,000 to cover the higher rents they’ll face on the open market, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday. A never-enforced 2015 ordinance that would have required the payments was “a form of ransom which interferes and places an undue burden on landlords who simply seek to go out of business,” said the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. The court said the ordinance, scaled down from a previous measure that was also overturned in court, violated property owners’ rights under a 1985 state law called the Ellis Act. That law, sponsored by the real estate industry, allows landlords to evict all their tenants when they leave the rental business, without having to show the usual legal grounds for eviction. Under a section of the law allowing local governments to require “reasonable” relocation assistance, courts have upheld a 2005 San Francisco ordinance that entitled displaced tenants to $4,500, adjusted annually for inflation.
San Francisco
As LA rents rise, leaders seek to help residents avoid evictions (Press-Telegram)
In a move they say could help decrease homelessness, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to look into creating a legal defense program and providing financial assistance to help residents avoid eviction. The 5-0 vote by the Board comes a day after a report from research and analysis firm Axiometrics found that Los Angeles County’s average rent — which takes into account all apartment units ranging from studio apartments to penthouse units — was $2,271 in February, up 2.5 percent from a year earlier. L.A. County’s occupancy rate for apartments was 96.3 percent in February, up from 96 percent in January and even with the year-ago rate. Board supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who authored the motion, said prevention is among the goals in the county’s initiatives on homelessness, which was launched in 2015. The plan includes several ways to house those who already are homeless.
Los Angeles
Los Angeles debating size of 'granny flats' and where to allow them (Southern California Public Radio)
Los Angeles officials agree that "granny flats" — the second units homeowners often use for relatives — are a way to ease the city's housing crunch, but they're at odds over how large the units should be. City Councilmember Gil Cedillo has proposed the city adopt the state's maximum size of 1,200 square feet for these backyard units. That size provides enough space for two bedrooms. But Council President Herb Wesson and other members want that maximum halved for Los Angeles. Another concern is that some neighborhoods are less equipped to handle more second units than others. A planner in Councilmember Paul Koretz's West Los Angeles office made this argument before the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee on Tuesday. The City Council will take up the issue in the coming weeks. A proposed ordinance will contain Cedillo's preference for a 1,200 square foot maximum for the granny flats and would ban the units from hillsides.
Los Angeles
Under fire, Oakland officials scrap pot residency requirement (SF Gate)
Oakland lawmakers Tuesday withdrew a legally questionable component of their newly minted cannabis ordinances that would have largely barred non-city residents from opening a pot business there. The latest revisions — an effort by City Council members to contain the fallout from their attempt to put Oakland residents ahead of outsiders — mean the implementation of the laws will be delayed by several weeks. The residency condition would have blocked anyone from the city’s expected cannabis bonanza who hasn’t lived in Oakland for at least three years. It was an eleventh-hour addition two weeks ago to a batch of laws meant to leverage the marijuana permitting process as a way to help the people whose drug use has been heavily policed in recent decades — believed to be a first-in-the-nation form of reparations. The laws give a head start to so-called equity applicants — people who were either convicted of a cannabis-related offense in Oakland in the last two decades, or people who live in neighborhoods that have historically seen high numbers of pot arrests. For the latter group, applicants can qualify only if they make less than 80 percent of the city’s median income.
MuniServices helps cities manage emerging cannabis industry (Civic Business Journal)
In years past, Cathedral City, a desert community of 52,000 people located between Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, was more well-known for its golf courses than its cannabis industry. Now, in the wake of the passage of Prop. 64 last November, a new “Green Rush” has the potential to carve a niche in the Coachella Valley landscape. As of January 2017, nine medical marijuana dispensaries are open and operating in Cathedral City. An additional 11 dispensaries have submitted applications. By proactively working to help cannabis manufacturers, transporters and retailers comply with tax levies and municipal codes, Cathedral City—in partnership with MuniServices, one of the nation’s leading municipal tax auditors—is helping legitimize the rapidly growing industry to increase their community’s revenue.
Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage
Council unanimously approves city regulation of drones (Pasadena Now)
Given the rising popularity of drones and the potential for conflicts with public safety, the Pasadena City Council Monday voted unanimously to direct the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance “regulating the operation of unmanned aircraft systems commonly referred to as drones, above or near critical infrastructure, and over permitted special events.” In a presentation by Michelle Garrett, project manager for the Drone Policy Internal Working Group, City staff recommended the drafting of an ordinance to address three major local drone issues—careless and reckless operation, operation during special events, and critical infrastructure. City staff recommended that the Council consider limiting drone flights over permitted special events only to events where the property owner and the event organizer have granted permission, and where the event organizer has demonstrated compliance with FAA regulations and “committed to collaborate its drone activities with the Police Department’s Air Operations Section,” said Garrett.
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