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Matt Vander Sluis

2017 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

October 15 marked the end of the 2017 California legislative session. Greenbelt Alliance endorsed a lot of stellar bills and opposed a few duds (check out AB 898 and AB 899 at the bottom of the list). We ended the year with some once-in-a-generation successes but also some disappointments. Here’s an overview:

Signed Into Law by the Governor:

SB 2 (Atkins) establishes a much-needed permanent funding source for affordable housing to begin to address the state’s considerable funding gap. The law will generate roughly $250 million a year for state and local housing programs through a $75 fee on certain real estate transaction documents.

SB 3 (Beall) authorizes a statewide $4 billion bond for new affordable homes. If approved by voters in November 2018, it will support a variety of affordable housing programs and provide funds to help military veterans struggling to buy a home.

SB 5 (De Leon) authorizes a $4 billion park bond to come before California voters in June 2018. SB 5 will be the largest investment in conservation and natural resources in our state’s history. The bond prioritizes park creation and rehabilitation, drinking water safety, natural resource conservation, and flood prevention, with a strong focus on the needs of low-income communities.

SB 35 (Wiener) expedites the approval process for infill housing for residents across the income spectrum in communities that have fallen short of their regional housing production needs. It also improves reporting on housing performance across the state.

SB 150 (Allen) strengthens California’s groundbreaking climate law SB 375, which calls for each region of the state to prepare a regional land use and transportation plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SB 150 ensures that the regional SB 375 greenhouse gas reduction targets set by the California Air Resources Board are aligned with the state’s ambitious long-range climate goals.

SB 365 (Dodd) authorizes the creation of a Countywide Park and Open Space District in Solano County. Today, Solano is the only county in the nine-county Bay Area that does not have a park and open space district. We’re now working with leaders across the county to develop a ballot measure for local approval—which will likely be included in the 2018 or 2020 election.

SB 492 (Beall) streamlines the effort to preserve up to 6,500 acres of open space owned by the San Jose Water Company. The law clears the way for what could be the biggest open space conservation deal by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District in years.

SB 680 (Wieckowski) significantly expands opportunities for infill housing by expanding the areas in which BART can pursue transit-oriented joint development. BART estimates the changes will help in developing 20,000 new homes, including 7,000 new affordable homes, by 2040.

AB 1505 (Bloom), also known as the “Palmer Fix,” re-affirms the authority of cities and counties to adopt inclusionary zoning ordinances. These programs ensure that new housing developments include a certain percentage of affordable homes. They’ve been a vital tool for the provision of affordable homes across California.

AB 1521 (Bloom & Chiu) helps preserve the affordability of existing housing by giving affordable housing organizations a first right of refusal to purchase homes with expiring affordability provisions. This bill could help protect thousands of expiring units across California.

Sadly, the following did not make it to the governor’s desk:

AB 71 (Chiu) would have increased funding for the construction and rehabilitation of affordable homes through the elimination of California’s mortgage interest deduction for vacation homes.

AB 663 (Bloom) would have restored the California Coastal Act’s authority to require affordable housing in the coastal zone. Affordable housing in the coastal zone was originally intended to be protected with the same rigor as public access, wetlands, agriculture and other coastal resources. Unfortunately, the authority was repealed by the Legislature in 1981.

AB 1608 (Kalra) would have developed a Vibrant Landscape Program Fund to support both planning and implementation grants that integrate reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with agricultural and wildlife conservation purposes.

AB 1630 (Bloom) would have addressed barriers to wildlife passage, both existing barriers and those that could be created from proposed transportation projects.

SB 424 (Allen) would have established ongoing funding to expand California’s environmental education programs to improve the environmental literacy of all California students.

ACA 4 (Aguiar-Curry) would have authorized California voters to consider a constitutional amendment to would lower the local voter threshold for approval of a bond or special tax measure from a two-thirds supermajority to 55%. This sensible approach would allow more communities to invest in important local priorities, including conservation, affordable housing, transit, and other infrastructure.

Fortunately, these bills didn’t pass:

Assemblymember Jim Frazier proposed AB 898 and AB 899, which would have raided funding from the East Bay Regional Park District. After outcry from across the East Bay and in Sacramento, the bills were dropped by the author.

For the next legislative session, Greenbelt Alliance will continue pushing state leaders to pass laws that help the Bay Area (and the rest of California) grow in ways that make it more sustainable and affordable. If you’d like to learn more about any of these bills, contact Matt Vander Sluis.

Photo: Eric Anderson via Unsplash

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