PCL Insider – August 2021

Summer Legislative Update

It’s been another extraordinary year in the Capitol. Now that the legislature is in recess, we’ll take the opportunity to give an overview of the bills PCL has been engaged in this year. With an unpreceded amount of Federal and State relief funds on the table, another historic drought looming, and the height of the wildfire season still ahead, all eyes have been on the budget, pandemic recovery, and disaster preparedness—but a substantial amount of important non-budget related policymaking has been underway as well. You can see our full watchlist here, but here are some highlights:

Active priorities:

SB 10, Oppose Unless Amended: would allow jurisdictions to streamline approval of up-zoning residential areas up to 10 units per parcel within the existing urban area. It also includes provisions that would allow local governments to override voter-approved initiatives. Earlier this year, PCL helped convince the sponsors of AB 1322 to abandon similar initiative-overriding provisions, and among our other concerns with the SB 10, it is a top priority for PCL to get this initiative provision removed from the bill.

SB 6, Oppose Unless Amended: would allow streamlining of converting underutilized office and retail zones to be converted to housing. This is an intent that PCL strongly supports, so long as it is in the right places. Among other specifications, we believe the provisions must be limited to location-efficient low vehicle miles traveled (VMT) areas, so as not to undercut the state’s ability to achieve its GHG reduction mandates.

SB 9, Oppose Unless Amended: would allow one-time ministerial approval of lot splits and second units on all single-family zoning within the existing urban area. Similar to our recommendations on SB 6, we strongly believe that these provisions should be limited to low-VMT areas so we do not undermine California’s climate mandates.

AB 1147, Support: provides multiple improvements to Regional Transportation Plans/Sustainable Communities Strategies implementation mandated by SB 375 (2008), including better coordination with the California Transportation Plan and local General Plans, improved public process and equity considerations, and creation of a new grant program for transformative active transportation projects. PCL worked with many partners and interests in trying to make this bill as strong as possible. There is much more thought to be given to strengthening SB 375, and there are two other 375 reform bills, SB 261 and SB 475, that PCL will be engaged in next year, but AB 1147 is a step forward.

AB 122 and AB 1238, Support: decriminalizes aspects of biking and walking. AB 122 would allow bicyclists to only have to stop at a stop sign if there is cross traffic, essentially making the “stop” sign a “yield” sign for bikes. AB 1238 legalizes jay-walking when there is no cross traffic, which often takes places where there are no adequate options for safe crosswalks. These bills make biking and walking easier (good for the environment!) while lessening the disproportionate amount of violations that people of color receive for these everyday actions (good for people!).

SB 790, Support: proposes an advanced mitigation credits program between CalTrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. This bill would incentivize CalTrans to construct more projects that improve habitat connectivity for fish and wildlife in return for compensatory mitigation credits that could apply towards other CalTrans projects in the same region.

 AB 284, Support: would mandate that the value of carbon sequestered in our natural and working lands be quantitatively incorporated into the Air Resources Board’s AB 32 GHG Scoping Plan. Lots of smart people have been working on how to do this for years, it’s time to get it done!

SB 222, Support: A Human Right to Water bill would establish the Water Rate Assistance Fund in the State Treasury to help provide water affordability assistance, for both drinking water and wastewater services, to low-income ratepayers and ratepayers experiencing economic hardship. Another Right to Water bill, SB 403, would make it easier for the State Water Resources Control Board to enact water system consolidations where disadvantaged communities are reliant on “at-risk” systems or wells. Making sure all Californians have access to safe water will also help ensure that California keeps its water safe in the first place. 

SB 45, Support: would have enacted the “Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2022” to address the resiliency of California’s infrastructure, but failed passage. There is so much interest in the Capitol for a disaster/climate resiliency bond, but getting one across the finish line remains elusive.

SB 266, Support: would expand the Chino Hills State Park by adding 3 new parcels of land to be managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation. This bill is the first step towards accomplishing the “30 by 30” goal by identifying new land for conservation to protect biodiversity and improve access. 

SB 12 proposed restrictions on building in high-risk fire areas, as well as a host of tools to assist in existing community resilience in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). The bill failed, but it is a topic that will come back, and a topic that PCL is very interested in.

AB 416, Support: prohibits state agencies from working with any contractors who have contributed to tropical forest deforestation, exploitation of indigenous or tribal people, or illegal wildlife poaching.