At least five local slow-growth ballot initiatives will come before voters across California in November. Measures in Del Mar, Santa Monica and other cities would hand voters the power to approve large developments and changes in major planning documents and zoning.

The measures set up a showdown of sorts between localities, which often seek to limit building, with Gov. Jerry Brown, who is trying to tear down some of those local barriers in order to alleviate the state housing crisis.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, measures limiting growth and development were common. An upcycle in the economy and the state push for affordable housing might be sparking another upsurge.

If passed, many of these measures might directly conflict with state law – a conundrum that Encinitas, where voters approved a similar measure in 2013, is grappling with.

“Some of the concerns is that the more localized land use decisions get, it becomes almost a veto power,” said Stephen Russell, executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation. “That’s problematic statewide.”

Such measures would also make it even more difficult for low-income housing developers to get funding, since they need permits before they can apply for tax credits to help pay for their projects, Russell said.

“These local communities are actively resisting things the state has tried to do with density bonus, the housing element and other laws to make housing more affordable,” he said.

A city analysis of the measure in Del Mar said it would specifically require that strategies intended to make the city comply with state housing laws be subject to voter approval. Yet if the city doesn’t follow those state laws, it can become ineligible for certain state and federal funds or be vulnerable to lawsuits.

The proposed initiative in Del Mar would require voters to approve large developments, or projects that require a zoning change, an increase in development restrictions or that let developers build more homes on a given plot than they normally could in exchange for more affordable units.

The power struggle over development between the state and localities could get even more intense.

The governor’s proposed housing plan would supersede many local rules if developments include low-income units, and other bills making their way through the Legislature might also change the dynamics of local land use policies.

For example, AB 2584 by Assemblyman Tom Daly would expand who can enforce the Housing Accountability Act, which says local governments must follow certain legal mandates before denying a housing development application. Now, only the applicant of a proposed housing project or potential future tenants can sue a local government if it denies a housing project that meets existing zoning rules and other regulations. If the bill passes, it would allow nonprofits or advocacy groups to also bring legal actions against local governments to compel them to approve housing projects.

A combination of more local measures and stronger housing laws at the state level could mean a lot more lawsuits against cities over housing development.

Maya Srikrishnan

Encinitas at the Center of State Housing Debate, Part 2

Encinitas appears to be setting another trend in terms of how cities statewide approach the housing crisis.

Back in 2014, Encinitas tried to get creative and encourage folks with so-called “granny flats” – small homes or units that share a property with a primary home – to turn the spaces into homes for low-income residents.

Now, reports the L.A. Times, several state bills are in the works to “make it easier for homeowners to build small units on their properties, whether in their garages, as additions to existing homes or as new, freestanding structures.”

The only thing: The granny-flat experiment didn’t go well for Encinitas. Virtually no one took the city up on its offer.

There are some key differences, though: Namely that Encinitas was trying to spur folks to bring existing granny flats up to code – not build new ones.

Either way, even if the state legislation passes, experts don’t expect it to make a very big dent in housing stock.

The San Diego Pushback on Gun Control

Barry Bahrami of Carlsbad submitted petitions for six measures that all seek to overturn recently passed gun-control measures. The secretary of state cleared the measures to start collecting signatures this week, but “the effort is a long shot as 365,000 signatures are needed on each of six separate petitions by Sept. 29, just two months from now,” reports Cap Public Radio.

Meanwhile, two North County state legislators continue to be outspoken about the measures recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Republican Assembly members Rocky Chavez and Marie Waldron are scheduled to appear at an event Friday organized by the San Diego County Gun Owners PAC.

“Laws are not created to turn law abiding citizens into felons overnight,” Michael Schwartz, the head of San Diego County Gun Owners, told the Sacramento Bee.

Back in April, I talked with state Sen. Joel Anderson about his opposition to the latest gun control measures.

New Laws Comin’ Atcha

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a batch of bills into law late last week, including several written by San Diego legislators.

Here’s an overview:

• SB 1087, written by Sen. Joel Anderson, eliminates a hurdle to allowing business records obtained by a search warrant to be admissible in court.

• SB 1281, written by Sen. Marty Block, requires unaccredited law schools to post more information about tuition costs, class sizes, number of faculty, bar passage rate and graduates’ employment outcomes.

• AB 1700, by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, streamlines certain administrative procedures for trustees in probate cases.

• AB 2846, also by Maienschein, is another one that amends the state probate code. It includes several modifications aimed at clarifying the rights of those involved in trust and estate cases.

• AB 1735, by Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, requires that in certain divorce proceedings, parties serve papers to the other party’s attorney instead of the party themselves.

• AB 2655, by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, gives a prosecutor more time to decide whether to file charges against a defendant without him or her having to take out additional bail bonds.

Golden State News

• Even as Hillary Clinton has the chance to ascend to the highest office in the country, many state legislatures are woefully short on women. California Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who has risen to chair of the judiciary committee, notes that she’s still struggled to pass some family leave protections. (Associated Press)

• Several members of the California Legislature were in Philly for the Democratic National Convention, including San Diego native Kevin de Leon, who had a speaking slot, and Assemblywomen Toni Atkins and Lorena Gonzalez.

• Politifact analyzed de Leon’s claim during his speech that California has the world’s sixth-largest economy.

• California millennials are registering to vote in big numbers. The question now is whether they’ll actually come to the polls. (CalMatters)

• Here’s a thorough look inside the plan to overhaul California’s state park system. (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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