Legislative Update September 2021
By Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates
STATE EVICTION MORATORIUM COMES TO AN END… WITH CAVEATS
As of October 1, 2021, residential and commercial property evictions are no longer under a moratorium with the state’s order ending yesterday. While this potentially opens the door for evictions for non-payment of rent, a recent state bill places a caveat on how evictions may occur. Assembly Bill 832 requires landlords to apply for rental assistance before they can evict a tenant through the courts. The City of San Diego’s ordinance did also have a provision for commercial tenants that they have until the end of the year to pay their deferred rent owed prior to June 20, 2021. The City of Chula Vista and the City of San Diego and County of San Diego all still have funding available for rental assistance. AB 832 also includes tenant protections that forbid a landlord’s ability to interrupt or terminate utility service as a means to evict a tenant. The bill also pushes the date when landlords can sue in small claims court to recover unpaid rental debt to November 1, 2021. To learn more, click HERE.
GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN AVOIDED; INFRASTRUCTURE BILL DISCUSSIONS HEAT UP
The House was able to muster enough votes to pass a stopgap funding bill in order to avoid a government shutdown, extending funding through December 3rd. The stopgap bill also contains disaster aid and funding to resettle Afghan refugees. At the time of writing this, an unlikely form of federal gridlock has taken place in Washington as the President’s own party remains divided over his proposed infrastructure spending package. “Progressive” Democrats remain fortified in voting no on the bipartisan $1.2 trillion bill that would provide funding for roads, bridges, transit and rail, broadband and internet access, airport and port upgrades, electric vehicle fleets, environmental remediation, and utility infrastructure unless the Senate makes progress on the President’s broader package. You can follow the live updates HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO APPROVES NEW RATE STRUCTURE FOR SEWER, WATER, INDUSTRIAL POLLUTERS TO SEE WASTEWATER FEES SPIKE
Following unanimous City Council approval, single-family home rate payers will see a 17% increase in sewer rates January 1, 2022, and a 31% increase over the next four years in the city of San Diego. Conversely, commercial properties would see a 5% decrease in 2022, while rates for condos and apartments go down by 12.1%. The adjustment was spurred by a study that showed some properties have been paying more than their fair share. The new rates will dedicate additional funding to fix the City’s aging sewer infrastructure and pay for Pure Water recycling system. The action also included a 3% water rate “pass-through” increase, as the County Water Authority recently raised rates for imported water to 5.6%. The full staff report can be found HERE.
As part of the item, businesses the City of San Diego classifies as industrial polluters will see a sharp increase in fees paid for treatment of industrial wastewater. More than 400 local businesses are expected to see a spike in fees. Businesses are determined by pollution type, for example hospitals, theme parks, car washes, and heavy equipment rental businesses will see annual fees increased to $2,603. Pharmacies, breweries, laundromats, and manufacturing businesses will also realize an increase, as will schools, aerospace manufacturing, and metal finishing businesses.
The increases are tied to an audit that showed City officials were not re-evaluating the fees on a regular schedule and that residential rate payers were offsetting costs associated with administering the industrial wastewater program. For a further breakdown on industrial polluter wastewater fees, click HERE.
SPLIT ROLL INITIATIVE SUBMITTED TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Advocates for splitting the property tax rolls and increasing property taxes on commercial properties in the State of California have submitted a new initiative to the California Attorney General which could eventually lead to the initiative being circulated for signatures to be placed on a future statewide ballot. Presently being called the “Housing Affordability and Tax Cut Act of 2022”, the measure, being backed by organized labor, including SEIU, would essentially double the current tax on commercial properties and, unlike the last initiative which failed, would include apartments and homes valued at $5 million or more, which broadens the applicability. BOMA, along with the broader protect Prop 13 coalition who opposed the last initiative, is assessing the language and next steps. To read the initiative, please click HERE.
COUNTY PLAN TO MANDATE PREVAILING WAGE ON COUNTY-OWNED PROPERTY DRAWS OPPOSITION
The “Working Families Ordinance,” which is slated for discussion at the County Board of Supervisors meeting on October 5, would impact over 500 enterprises by mandating they pay prevailing wages and 56 hours of annual sick time if operating on County-owned property. Some say the mandate is unfair because businesses must still pay market-rate lease rates, all while trying to survive during the pandemic. The ordinance could also harm potential for new development on county property, including on county airports. You can read more, here.
MAYOR PROPOSES $5 MILLION LEGAL FUND FOR TENANT DEFENSE
The new legal fund would be used to combat wrongful residential evictions and provide education to those struggling with rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The San Diego City Council will be asked to support the program on October 5, and if approved, the Housing Commission would provide oversight. The State’s temporary eviction ban expired this week thus leading to the Mayor’s announcement. You can learn more HERE.
ENCINITAS BANS GAS IN NEW BUILDINGS
The Encinitas City Council unanimously approved an ordinance last month that will disallow the installation of natural gas infrastructure in new residential and commercial developments. Emergency buildings and restaurants could seek exemptions, although they are limited. The new ordinance would go into effect following a second reading, expected to occur on October 13th. To learn more, click HERE.
NOVEMBER 1 IS THE DEADLINE IN THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO TO CONVERT EXISTING PAPER PROJECTS AND PLANS SUBMITTED TO THE DEVELOPMENT SERVICES DEPARTMENT TO DIGITAL
All previously accepted paper-based permit applications, plan resubmittals and stamp transfer/issuance for Building and Combination Building projects submitted to the City of San Diego’s Development Services Department must be submitted electronically in PDF format beginning November 1, 2021. Please view the following Public Notice from the city to learn more about steps that must be taken to convert to the new format HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO MAYOR GLORIA IS SPENDING TO ASSESS STREETS FOR EQUITY
The Mayor plans to spend $700,000 to survey road conditions in the City of San Diego so that repairs and upgrades can be performed in a way that addresses social equity and boosts bicycling opportunities. The survey is expected to commence in March 2022, taking six to twelve months to complete, and will differ from previous surveys in terms of how it recommends repairs be carried out. For example, it is alleged that the previous administration was focused more on minor upgrades (slurry seal) to streets in decent condition vs. conducting more expensive upgrades (asphalt overlay) on badly damaged streets. The formula will also take into account neighborhood equity, climate resiliency, mobility, and proximity to parks and libraries. To learn more, click HERE.
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO VOTES TO JOIN COMMUNITY CHOICE ENERGY PROGRAM, NATIONAL CITY SETS FOUNDATION, OCEANSIDE TO LOOK AT NORTH COUNTY PROGRAM
The County Board of Supervisors authorized the County to join San Diego Community Power, placing Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer on the “joint powers authority” (JPA) board of directors along with the cities of Chula Vista, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, and San Diego. The program will allow energy consumers in the unincorporated areas to choose who they purchase power from, claiming more competitive rates and a commitment to more renewable energy sources. San Diego Community Power (SDCP) is projected to commence service in the spring of 2023. To learn more click HERE. National City’s City Council discussed the possibility of joining San Diego Community Power. Public comment was split as some fear the move would lead to job losses and a smaller pool of ratepayers left to cover the costs. National City will revisit the item in the coming weeks. You can read more, HERE. The City of Oceanside rejected joining the SDCP, fearing dilution of interest, and directed staff to look at the Carlsbad led Clean Energy Alliance, which includes Carlsbad, Del Mar and Solana Beach. The cities of Vista, San Marcos and Escondido are all also looking into the Alliance.
PRESSURE MOUNTS FOR SIDEWALK VENDING REGULATIONS
In 2018, a bill authored by Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher legalized sidewalk vending in the public thoroughfare. With no local regulations in effect, complaints about the proliferating vendors mounted, citing unfair competition, unsafe operations, sidewalk bottlenecking, and illegal grease and trash dumping. In 2019, Mayor Faulconer proposed local legislation for the City of San Diego that would have banned vending in high-traffic areas due to public safety concerns; however, it was never docketed at City Council, even after passing unanimously out of the Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee. Now, under a new Mayor and five new councilmembers, there is renewed focus on bringing an ordinance to City Council; though, no date has been provided. Issues in the beach communities, most notably Mission Beach, as well as Downtown, including the Gaslamp Quarter are helping drive the latest activity. To learn more click HERE.
RECALL FAILS BY WIDE MARGIN
An attempt to recall Governor Newsom failed considerably with 63.7% of Californians voting no. The results project a dire picture for the California GOP in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one. Governor Newsom will now stay in office until 2022 when he must run for reelection. Had the recall been successful, conservative talk radio host, Larry Elder, who was the top vote getter, would have replaced the Governor. The election, which cost the state approximately $276 million, has motivated California Democrats to propose an overhaul the recall process. The Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments will hold hearings in the coming months to reform a process that requires signatures from 12% of the total voter turnout from the prior election, as well as other potential changes.
CALIFORNIA STATE LEGISLATION UPDATE:
Assembly Bill 455, a “gut-and-amend” bill that would have imposed a statewide vaccination mandate never made it out of the legislature. While it won’t be heard again this legislative session, it is expected to resurface when the legislature reconvenes for 2022. To learn more, click HERE.
Assembly Member Gonzalez-Fletcher’s AB 701, which prohibits warehouse employers like Amazon from setting production quotas, was signed by the Governor. The bill, which BOMA opposed, requires that all companies must disclose any productivity quotas if using warehouse labor. It is feared the bill could drive some warehouse tenants out of state and lead to further supply chain issues. Additionally, the bill opens up the potential for violations to the Private Attorneys General Act, which could bring lawsuits to warehouse employers. To learn more, click HERE.
Senate Bill 646, which limits janitorial employees represented by a labor union and covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) from suing under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), was signed by Governor Newsom. Janitorial employees may no longer bring a suit under PAGA if the CBA provides for certain wages, hours worked, and working conditions. The bill goes into effect January 1, 2022, and expires July 1, 2028. The full text of the bill may be found HERE.
CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES PRESIDENT TO RESIGN AT END OF 2021
Marybel Batjer, who has led the state commission responsible for providing access to utility services and regulatory oversight for over two years, a term during which time the CPUC came under scrutiny for rolling blackouts and personnel issues, has announced her resignation effective at the end of the year. The Governor is expected to appoint a new president in the weeks ahead. To learn more, click HERE.
After the President issued an executive order that would require private sector businesses with 100 or more employees, and contractors who do business with the federal government to require vaccination or mandatory weekly tests, Republican leaders challenged the constitutionality of the directive. Several legislators and some union officials say the order is an overreach on the part of the President’s authority. The President has expressed that he’s doing what needs to be done to fight resistance, despite months of encouragement and incentives. Provisions of the rule are still being determined. The White House expects to provide more guidance soon. To learn more, click HERE.
The San Diego School Board voted unanimously to approve a mandate that staff and students 16 and older be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 20. Amidst pushback from represented employee unions, the City will give City employees an extra month to comply with the mandate that all workers be vaccinated. The City maintains that the requirement will not be scaled back.
A Los Angeles City Council vote to require proof of vaccination to enter indoor restaurants, shopping centers, personal care, and other venues was delayed a week. If passed, the policy would take effect November 4.
Healthcare workers must now comply with a statewide vaccine mandate despite an appeal from the California Hospital Association requesting a 45-day extension for facilities experiencing a critical staffing shortage.
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO PROCLAIMS MISINFORMATION A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS
After a 15-hour (!) meeting, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to declare medical misinformation a public health crisis. While opponents allege the action would restrict free speech, proponents claim it will not impose any sanctions or punishments against anyone spreading misinformation. Instead, the measure aims to create platforms for medical authorities to counter misinformation with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff will return to the Board with a framework in 90 days. To learn more, click HERE or HERE.