Legislative Update October 2021
By Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates
STATE EVICTION MORATORIUM COMES TO AN END… WITH CAVEATS
As of October 1, 2021, property owners can evict tenants that do not pay rent, regardless of COVID-19-related financial stress; however, 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 Chula Vista and the City 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.
SAN DIEGO OFFICIALS UNLIKELY TO IMPOSE INDOOR VACCINE MANDATES
County officials announced that San Diego reached a vaccination rate of 80%, one of the highest in the nation. Additionally, COVID-19 case rates are showing a decline. When asked, Chair of the County Board of Supervisors, Nathan Fletcher, stated that San Diego County has NO plans to mandate vaccines at local businesses. The City echoed this sentiment, relaying that the City would not impose mandates unless the County changed direction. The news comes a week after the City of Los Angeles required proof of full vaccination at indoor venues. To learn more, click HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO TO UPDATE CLIMATE ACTION PLAN
The City of San Diego Planning Department has released an updated Climate Action Plan (CAP) for public review. The plan is intended to update the City’s previously adopted CAP and include additional strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on an accelerated timeframe. Some of the proposed strategies include expanding distribution and installation of solar, full electrification of new buildings (both residential and commercial) and expansion of diversion of waste from our region’s landfills.
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 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 coalition who opposes this kind of massive tax increase, 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
County staff will soon explore the creation of a new ‘Working Families Ordinance’ that, if passed, will require businesses operating on County of San Diego property to pay prevailing wages. Labor leaders touted the plan based on the idea that raising wages and ensuring workplace protections will help address the region’s widening pay and housing gap; however, hundreds of businesses would be impacted on properties where the County acts as landlord. Tenants voiced their concern, stating that requiring prevailing wages will cause the County to lose tenants and disincentivize new development on County property. The ordinance is expected to return to the Board of Supervisors in February 2022. To learn more, click HERE and HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO PROPOSES BAN ON DRIVE-THRU’S IN TRANSIT PRIORITY AREAS
In a departure from practice for the annual Land Development Code (LDC) updates, the City of San Diego Planning Department is proposing a code change that would BAN new drive thru’s in “transit priority areas” or TPA’s. As previously established, TPA’s cover broad areas of the City of San Diego, so the proposal is tantamount to a city-wide ban on new drive thru’s. The proposal will go to the Planning Commission on October 28th, the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee on November 3rd and then the City Council sometime before the end of the year. Groups, including the Regional San Diego Chamber of Commerce, the California Restaurant Association, NAIOP, and the Building Industry Association of San Diego are in opposition to including this in the LDC Update. For more information, please click HERE.
STATE EXTENDS OUTDOOR DINING RULES, BOOZE TO-GO, WITH MODIFICATIONS
To-go alcoholic beverage sales and outdoor alcohol service, made possible by pandemic relief measures, will be extended thanks to three bills recently signed into law. Two bills extend outdoor dining permits and the sale of alcohol in parklets for a year after the state of emergency ends. The third bill allows the sale of to-go alcoholic beverages (with food orders) through December 31, 2026. To learn more, click HERE.
REPEAL OF THE PEOPLE’S ORDINANCE GOVERNING WASTE REMOVAL MAY MAKE BALLOT
The 1919 measure requiring the City of San Diego to pick up trash and subsequent ballot initiatives that led to charges for commercial and industrial waste but exempted single-family home trash pickup is under scrutiny. Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera believes it is time to repeal the law because condominium owners and businesses, most of which must pay private haulers to remove waste, are paying more than their fair share. Additionally, Elo-Rivera believes that requiring single family residences to pay for trash pickup would generate millions in revenue for the city and encourage single-family homeowners to generate less waste. The City Council will explore a potential 2022 ballot measure in the coming months. Whether voters will support a measure ending their free trash pickup remains to be seen. More about the People’s Ordinance and its history can be found HERE and HERE.
MAYOR PROPOSES $5 MILLION LEGAL FUND FOR TENANT DEFENSE
The new legal fund would be used to combat wrongful evictions and provide education to those struggling with rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. City Council will be asked to support the program on October 5. If approved, the Housing Commission would provide oversight. The State’s temporary eviction ban expired this week. You can learn more HERE.
NOVEMBER 1 IS THE DEADLINE TO CONVERT EXISTING PAPER PROJECTS AND PLANS TO DIGITAL IN THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO
All previously accepted paper-based permit applications, plan resubmittals and stamp transfer/issuance for Building and Combination Building projects in the City of San Diego must be submitted electronically in PDF format beginning November 1, 2021. Please view the following Public Notice from the City’s Development Services Department to learn more about steps that must be taken to convert to the new format HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO MAYOR GLORIA SPENDING TO ASSESS STREETS FOR EQUITY
Mayor Todd Gloria 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, 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
The County Board of Supervisors authorized the County to join San Diego Community Power, placing Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer on the joint powers authority 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 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.
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 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, tentatively set for December 14. To learn more click HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO SEEKS INPUT ON THE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY PLAN
Last updated in 1987, the University Community Plan is expected to be updated in the months ahead, providing direction for long-term development, land use concepts, aesthetic design, parks, mobility, and housing. Your input and feedback will help shape the future of University. To fill out the survey, please click HERE.
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, we expect it will 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.
LAND BORDER RESTRICTIONS FOR NONESSENTIAL TRAVEL TO BE LIFTED IN NOVEMBER
While the exact date will be announced “very soon,” the news comes as a welcome sign of relief for tourism, families, and cross-border commerce. The San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce estimates that businesses lost $644 million in sales and roughly 1,900 jobs between March 2020 and March 2021 with nearly 80% of San Ysidro businesses relying on cross-border customers and tourism. In November, the Department of Homeland Security will allow fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico or Canada to enter for nonessential purposes. More on this topic HERE and HERE.
CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES PRESIDENT TO RESIGN AT END OF 2021
Marybel Batjer 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. The Governor is expected to appoint a new president in the weeks ahead. To learn more, click HERE.
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.