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Busy Week Ahead for Housing: Three Priority Bills Cities Should Oppose

April 6, 2016
The League strongly urges cities to oppose three pieces of proposed housing legislation.
 
Two threaten to diminish or eliminate input into proposed housing projects in their communities, and one that makes unnecessary, confusing, and costly changes to the redevelopment dissolution process.
 
AB 2501 (Bloom), AB 2522 (Bloom) and AB 2697 (Bonilla) all will be heard next Wednesday, April 13, in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. For more detailed bill information and sample opposition letters, each bill is linked below.

The League appreciates the Legislature’s effort to address the state’s housing crisis — a goal that cities share. Unfortunately, however, the zeal to make a difference has led legislators to pen bills that infringe on local control. Too often, these bills would hand virtually unchecked authority to developers — stripping away the vital buffer of planning commissions and councils and muting the voice of the residents and business owners that they represent.

AB 2501

AB 2501 would make significant changes to the existing law of density bonuses, chief among them requiring a city to take action on the density bonus within 60 days of finding the application complete and act on an appeal within 15 days.
 
In addition to containing unrealistically short deadlines, the bill would also: infringe on a city’s ability to reduce development standards without waiving them entirely; prohibit a city from providing public notice or holding on a density bonus application; limit the discretion of a city to approve concessions and incentives requested by a developer; prohibit a city from imposing application fees or requiring additional reports or studies; allow applicants to appeal the determination of completeness to the city council rather than the planning commission; not allow a city to deny a concession or incentive, even if the city can produce evidence it is not required to produce the units; open the door to litigation rather than allowing money-saving requirements that appeals go before a planning commission; and allow for an applicant to accept no density increase, undercutting the premise of existing law.
 
Troublingly, the bill would change existing law in such a way that it would infringe on a city’s authority to interpret its own development standards, by allowing the developer to identify cost reductions yielded by a concession or incentive rather than the city. The bill also calls for the statute to be “liberally construed” in favor of producing the maximum number of units — which would violate the separation of powers.AB

AB 2522

AB 2522 would require an attached housing development to be a permitted use by right if it satisfies specified conditions as to location and is on property that is part of city’s residential inventory of land suitable for residential development and either the rezoning has been completed or three years have passed since the city’s housing element was adopted.
 
This bill would not necessarily recognize local ordinances providing that “use by right” does not exempt a project from design review or allow a city to impose certain standards on the housing development. Allowing by-right approval of the maximum number of units listed on the housing element inventory would not allow cities to complete a detailed analysis of whether the site can, in fact, accommodate that many units. The bill also specifies by-right approval with specific percentages for market rate and affordable housing that would make it even more difficult than under current law to disapprove of a development. Finally, the bill would require continued affordability for just 30 years, rather than the 55 years under existing law that the League has long supported in order to ensure affordability and availability.
 
AB 2697

AB 2697 would require a successor agency, prior to the disposal of land of the former redevelopment agency, to send a written offer to sell for the purposes of developing low- and moderate-income housing to any local public entity within whose jurisdiction the land is located, as specified. The bill would additionally require the sale of land of the former redevelopment agency to be subject to certain requirements relating to affordable housing.

This measure subjects successor agency property to the surplus property act. Many properties have already been transferred from the successor agencies to cities — to be used for government purposes. In most instances, the properties that were purchased for affordable housing development were previously transferred to cities in their capacity as the housing successors.
 
This measure imposes new procedural and substantive requirements for the disposition of former redevelopment agency properties that would complicate and delay the wind down process. Additionally, it would work to the disadvantage of the local taxing entities which have an interest in obtaining maximum value for the properties to be sold and or get the benefit of increased valuations from the properties that are to be used for economic development.
 
While the League strongly opposes the bills listed above, it is supporting a number of others that would help cities address the demand for housing. These include:
  • AB 2319 (Gordon), which would allow the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank) to fund affordable housing projects.
  • AB 2475 (Gordon), which would establish a new Local Government Affordable Housing Forgivable Loan Program within the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank.
  • AB 2734 (Atkins), which would dedicate a portion of state savings resulting from the elimination of redevelopment to address local affordable housing needs;
  • AB 2817 (Chiu), which would increase the state’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit by $300 million to build and rehabilitate affordable housing; and
  • SB 873 (Beall), which would increase the benefits for private investors who choose to invest in affordable housing.


 
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