A view of the San Diego skyline. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Often, San Diego lawmakers take lessons learned in their own backyard and use it as inspiration to write bills that would apply across the state – like Assemblyman Todd Gloria’s bill aimed at helping localities avoid a disastrous response to a public health crisis like San Diego’s 2017 handling of a hepatitis A outbreak. (That bill, by the way, passed the full Assembly this week.)

But other times, they use their state positions to seek solutions that would only apply to San Diego. Sometimes those efforts are so granular they zoom in on a specific portion of a single street.

Some of their proposals are attempts to make changes that advocates have tried and failed to secure at the local level, including sharp restrictions on short-term vacation rentals and reforms to the San Diego Unified election process.

AB 157: Sparing Seniors From SDG&E Charges

This bill by Assemblyman Randy Voepel would spare certain seniors from charges San Diego Gas & Electric would otherwise be allowed to impose. The bill has not yet been subject to legislative analysis so it’s not clear how many people would receive lower bills.

AB 421: De Luz Community Services District

This bill, written by Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, would require the state to allocate a portion of the fuel excise tax revenues already set aside for counties to the De Luz Community Services District for local roads. The district would be required to submit a list of projects in need of funding.

It has not been heard by a committee.

AB 423: A San Diego Air Pollution Control District Shakeup

Assemblyman Todd Gloria wants to shake up the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District. The five-member County Board of Supervisors currently runs the little-known district, which oversees major sources of air pollution — other than cars, which the state regulates. Environmental activists have long argued the district has done a lackluster job, failing to update air pollution assessments or take action against polluters. This bill would reconstitute the district with a more diverse group of members that would be presumably more favorable to stricter regulations.

AB 893: Gun Shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds

Carried by Gloria and Tasha Boerner Horvath, this bill prohibits the sale of guns and ammunition on the Del Mar Fairgrounds, which is state-owned and overseen by the 22nd District Agricultural Association. Violations would lead to a misdemeanor. But the bill would continue to allow gun buy-back events hosted by law enforcement agencies.

It passed the Assembly on April 25, and will move on to the Senate.

Gloria and activists have argued that the state shouldn’t in the business of promoting firearms for profit because gun buyers have plenty of other options.

Pro-gun groups argue that the Del Mar gun shows help keep firearm transactions from going underground and comply with all state and federal firearm regulations, including wait times.

AB 1150: San Diego Community College District: Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District

This one is also written by Gloria. It would require that a candidate for the San Diego Community College District or the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District comply with the same rules that exist for municipal elections. It would also prohibit a candidate from filing nomination papers for more than one governing board position for the same governing board in the same election.

Gloria argues that in most other large cities, candidates need to pay a filing fee and produce signatures to show they have sufficient community support. That’s not the case in San Diego or Grossmont-Cuyamaca.

So far, it’s passed the Assembly Higher Education and Elections and Redistricting committees. It has the support of both college districts as well as the California Federation of Teachers.

AB 1164: The Future of the State Building Downtown

Gloria wants the state to step away from a state office complex that now spans two city blocks in downtown San Diego. Gloria’s AB 1164 would give the state the go-ahead to offer the building to local agencies or affordable housing developers. Complicating matters, the bill now houses offices for 12 state agencies so they would need to be relocated if Gloria’s bill passes. His team argues the building is no inefficient and the land it’s on could accommodate much-needed housing units.

AB 1302: San Diego Unified School Board Elections

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill would do what advocates have long sought at the local level: change the way San Diego Unified board members are elected. Rather than run first in a subdistrict and then citywide, candidates would run only within their subdistrict in both the primary and general elections if Weber’s bill became law. She’s put it on a two-year track to give the San Diego City Council one more chance to put the change in motion itself.

AB 1413: A Boost for Local Transit Agencies That Want to Raise Taxes

AB 1413, written by Gloria, would let several San Diego transit agencies –  the San Diego County Regional Transportation Commission, SANDAG, MTS and the North County Transit District – propose new taxes for a specific portion of the areas they cover, cleaving off tax-averse areas from both paying the tax and voting to approve it.

AB 1492: Neptune Avenue Speed Limit

This bill gives Encinitas the authority to lower the speed limit to 15 miles per hour on Neptune Avenue between Grandview and La Mesa streets. The residential area is home to three beach access points and other look-outs, so it attracts families with children, bicycles, surfers and joggers. Boerner Horvath said her bill is intended to make the street safer for all road users.

An analysis of the bill conducted by the Assembly Committee on Transportation, however, finds that lowering speed limits does not lead to slower drivers. Instead, officials often speak of real improvements in mobility coming through education, engineering and enforcement.

The committee analysis also noted that local authorities already have the ability to reduce a speed limit on a residential street to 15 mph if it’s justified by an engineering or traffic study and less than 25 feet in width.

AB 1730: A Deadline Extension for SANDAG

This bill, written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, allows SANDAG an extra two years to submit its regional transportation plan, a document required by law that lays out how the agency plans to meet its transportation and climate goals. AB 805, an earlier bill passed by Gonzalez, restructured the agency, giving larger cities in the region far more power. Between that shakeup and the agency hiring a new executive director following massive scandal, the bill is needed to give the agency time to adjust to the changes and to produce a plan that reflects the new leadership’s vision, according to an analysis of the bill.

AB 1731: Short-Term Vacation Rental Limits

Boerner Horvath’s AB 1731 aims to set strict limits on short-term vacation rentals in coastal neighborhoods. The North County lawmaker’s bill would establish a pilot in San Diego County barring vacation rental platforms like Airbnb and VRBO from listing San Diego vacation rentals that fall into both residential and state coastal zones on their sites for more than 30 days a year unless a full-time resident is on site. This would dramatically curtail rentals outside commercial areas in neighborhoods such as Pacific Beach or La Jolla.

SB 507: Donut Holes Around the Bay

Nearly six decades after the state created the Port of San Diego to manage the bay, there are patches of the area technically managed by the state – and that’s created jurisdictional headaches ever since. The so-called donut holes around the bay have led to both regulatory confusion and forced some leasees to ink multiple agreements with separate agencies. State Sen. Pro Tem Toni Atkins introduced SB 507 to transfer those lands to the Port of San Diego to manage with the goal of creating more consistency around land use decisions along the Bay and allow the Port to enforce environmental protections in those areas.

SB 656: A Suicide Deterrent System for the Coronado Bridge

A bill requires Caltrans to establish an advisory committee to provide input on a suicide deterrent system for the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, and specifies certain requirements for who should be on the committee, including a representative from law enforcement, the mental health community, a local suicide prevention community group, a resident of the Barrio Logan/Sherman Heights community and representatives of specified city and county governments.

SB 690: Dumping Sewage Spills on the Federal Government

Sen. Ben Hueso wants to get the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board to stop the spills of sewage into the United States through the Tijuana River. His bill would require the board – which is a state agency – to negotiate an agreement that would make the federal government take responsibility for the problem. It’s unclear how the state will be able to boss around the federal government.

SB 768: Health Care for the Homeless

Hueso introduced SB 768 in hopes of pushing the county to begin a three-year pilot project to provide public health nurses at homeless shelters in the county and establish a mobile health unit to serve homeless San Diegans living on the street. He’s since decided to put the bill on hold after county officials said they are voluntarily taking steps including vaccination events at homeless shelters and elsewhere throughout the county. A spokeswoman for Hueso, who is eyeing a bid for county supervisor in 2020, said he will monitor the situation and may bring the legislation back later this session or early next year if he’s not satisfied with the county’s response.

Lisa Halverstadt, Sara Libby, Jesse Marx, Ry Rivard

Briggs Wades Into the SB 50 Debate

A well-known San Diego lawyer is preparing to enter the fray of the heated debate about legislation that would make it easier to build denser housing near mass transit.

Attorney Cory Briggs said he opposes the transit-housing bill, SB 50, because it would destroy single-family neighborhoods in favor of luxury high-rises.

He said he is drafting a constitutional amendment that would address the power taken away from local communities to regulate development in that bill and in separate legislation, SB 330, that would roll back city and county home-building regulations for a decade.

Briggs said he plans to formally file the amendment in the coming weeks with the goal of getting it on the November 2020 ballot.

“We are going to try to do for homeowners and neighborhoods what Jarvis did back in the 70s: a grassroots campaign to protect homeowners and neighborhoods from the overreach of their government,” said Briggs, referring to Howard Jarvis’ property tax-cutting Proposition 13.

Though he declined to detail its specific components or who requested its drafting, Briggs said the constitutional amendment would apply retroactively. That would allow it to counteract housing legislation under consideration now that is ultimately approved.

The move makes sense for Briggs, given that he kicked off his mayoral campaign by presenting himself as an opponent to Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s plans to speed up home-building by easing parking requirements and other development regulations. He said he was hired to draft the amendment prior to announcing his mayoral ambitions, but acknowledged both campaigns were motivated by similar concerns about political efforts to loosen development restrictions.

Briggs is not alone in his opposition to statewide and local efforts to pursue changes designed to address California’s housing crisis.

The Linda Vista Planning Group voted recently to oppose SB 50.

“We had concerns about the effect that this legislation would have on the community character of the west side of Linda Vista along the Morena Corridor,” Chair Noli Zosa wrote in an email. “We are against any legislation that takes away community input for development in our city.”

A group calling itself Clairemont Cares is also opposed to SB 50, which it says is poorly thought out and would not alleviate the region’s housing problems.

“It removes the residents and community from having input in their own neighborhood, community plan, and their city as a whole,” said Julie Wilds, one of the group’s founding members. “While this may be convenient for government administrators, SB 50 will ruin the character, environment, and sustainability Californians have worked hard to create.”

Despite Faulconer’s embrace of YIMBYism, the mayor’s office told the Union-Tribune this week that he is neutral on the bill, and City Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, who chairs the Land Use and Housing Committee, also told the paper she is neutral on the bill and has no plans to bring a resolution on it forward.

After significant revisions were made, SB 50 was approved last week by a Senate committee. The bill, written by Sen. Scott Wiener, still has a long way to go and was recently amended to exclude coastal cities with fewer than 50,000 people.

Lyle Moran

Weber Bills Often Spark Loud Public Fights – This One Died a Quiet Death

Many of Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s efforts to bring more accountability and transparency to the public school system have led to loud, angry public confrontations as the bills make their way through the public vetting process.

But her latest effort appears to have died in a much quieter, secretive way.

CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenthall reports that Assembly committee chairs are quietly killing bills by simply not bringing them up for a committee hearing. She pointed to Weber’s bill to change the funding formula for public schools as an example of how this tactic is playing out.

“Generally even if the chair opposes a bill they will set the bill for a hearing, and then people can vote it up or down,” Weber told CALmatters.

Though the mechanism for killing the bill might be new, Weber’s effort to change the school funding formula is old. She’s been pushing similar bills since at least 2017. That year, Weber told VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan: “I could not tell you with any confidence that the money meant to go with kids to special needs is going where it’s supposed to go. We shouldn’t fund a low student-teacher ratio across the district. The special grants were built around the idea that it takes more money to equalize a situation and create a level playing field for these kids.”

Sara Libby

Golden State News

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