Legislative Update - December 2021
By Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates
CALIFORNIA ISSUES INDOOR MASK MANDATE TO TAKE EFFECT DECEMBER 15 – JANUARY 15
Following a 47% increase in COVID-19 cases since Thanksgiving, state officials are reimposing a mandatory indoor mask mandate set to take effect December 15 through January 15; though, the mandate could be extended if rates do not drop. Indoor venues like grocery stores, restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, and churches would be subject to the new mandate. Additionally, any event with 1,000 or more attendees must require proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test taken 24 hours before the event. There is no indication that the State is expected to impose further mandates at this time. To learn more, click HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO LAND DEVELOPMENT CODE UPDATE PASSES UNANIMOUSLY WITH DRIVE-THRU BAN REMOVED
San Diego’s annual slate of typically smaller policy changes and zoning updates passed unanimously Monday. As part of the update, development rules were loosened to allow for the construction of more residential units, as were rules around the operation of veterinary clinics and pet “hotels,” allowing them to operate downtown. A proposal to ban drive-thrus along transit priority areas, which BOMA opposed, was removed per the request of the City’s Land Use and Housing Committee. We expect the drive-thru ban to return as a standalone item, once staff completes a more rigorous analysis of the proposal. We will be included in any stakeholder meetings when they occur. Other updates include changes to the floor area ratio bonus for childcare facilities from four to ten square feet, which should help meet demand for childcare in San Diego, and an update to the Downtown Employment Overlay Zone, allowing more flexibility for developments with employment uses and housing. To view all 33 updates, click HERE. The UT’s write-up can be found HERE.
BOMA NEEDS YOUR INPUT ON CARBON REDUCTION STRATEGIES
In an effort to be more proactive in the carbon reduction conversation, BOMA International is drafting a “Reducing the Build Environment’s Carbon Footprint” framework. The framework aims to identify what solutions for carbon emission reduction might make strategic business sense for our members and asks that you provide any solutions that promote clean energy while avoiding costly and ineffective mandates. Please provide any input that you may have, HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO DEVELOPMENT SERVICES DEPARTMENT FEES TO INCREASE 6.1%
All Development Services Department (DSD) user fees will increase by 6.1% beginning January 1, 2022. The City is requiring the increase to help DSD meet service level goals, improve customer service quality, and ensure the department remains cost recoverable. Any projects submitted by Saturday, December 31, will not be subject to the new fee. The City’s public notice can be found HERE.
SANDAG’S REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION PLAN PASSES; FUNDING PLAN STILL UNCERTAIN
SANDAG’s board passed last week a proposed $163 billion transportation plan (RTP), purportedly the most expensive plan of its kind in history. The RTP, passed on an 11-8 vote, aims to massively expand transit in an effort to relieve congestion and allow for alternative means of transportation. Touting the benefits of more transit to get San Diegans out of their cars and onto buses and trolleys, the City of San Diego, County of San Diego joined several other jurisdictions in supporting the plan. Following the adoption of the plan, the board discussed funding mechanisms, favoring a combination of fees on internet transportation services, like Uber and Lyft, as well as an increase in local sales tax which would need to be approved by voters, possibly in November 2022. While the plan was praised by mobility and climate action advocates and a few business groups, some critics have pointed to issues around low ridership, uncertain timelines, and the $163 billion price tag. They also expressed concern over the potential per-mile fee for car travel and its impact on lower wage income earners without the flexibility to take transit. For more information, click HERE.
CALIFORNIA VOTERS MAY BE ASKED TO DECIDE ON AN $18/HOUR MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE
A Los Angeles millionaire and activist is spearheading the Living Wage Act of 2022, which was recently filed with the attorney general’s office. Now, a signature gathering effort will get underway in order to qualify the measure for the ballot. The current minimum wage is set to increase to $15/hour in January. The signature gathering effort could be halted if state lawmakers agree to pass their own increase. To learn more, click HERE.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY PLACES EMPHASIS ON BEHAVIORAL HEALTH
In response to a worsening nationwide behavioral health crisis, County leadership is making behavioral health a top priority in 2022. Earlier this year, the County of San Diego launched a Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) program to deploy teams of mental health clinicians who can assess individuals in crisis and connect them to the appropriate level of care. The MCRT program, which was first piloted in north county, was given the green light to operate countywide in November. Since then, over 260 calls have been issued. The MCRT program emerges in conjunction with new crisis stabilization centers where individuals can be transported and receive treatment for drug or other mental health needs. While the program has been called “a work in progress,” it is expected to expand in 2022 pending funding availability. Given the number of homeless individuals who experience mental health issues, particularly in downtown San Diego and other key areas like Mission Valley, this program was seen as a way to help those individuals seek help, as well as shelter. If you encounter an individual in need, dial the Access and Crisis Line at: (888) 724-7240 to dispatch an MCRT team. You can learn more HERE.
WATER WASTERS MAY FACE FINES IN RESPONSE TO WORSENING DROUGHT
Californians continue to not meet the 15% voluntary cut requested by the Governor. Prohibitions may include the washing of vehicles with hoses that do not have shut-off nozzles, sidewalk washing, and the watering of landscapes that may cause excessive runoff or watering within 48 hours after rainfall. Violators could face fines up to $500 a day, which would be enforced by local municipalities. While no commercial or industrial water use measures have been proposed, the San Diego Water Authority has the ability to conduct its own water saving initiatives. If the drought worsens, we could see a 20% mandatory water cut imposed in San Diego. To learn more, click HERE.
SHAKE UP AT CITY COUNCIL: ELO-RIVERA ELECTED COUNCIL PRESIDENT IN SURPRISE VOTE
Last week, in a surprise action, the San Diego City Council voted to elect a new Council President. Previous Council President Jennifer Campbell was seeking a second term as Council President, but that bid failed to get a majority vote. Following the vote, and after a brief recess, Council reconvened and supported a motion to elect Sean Elo-Rivera 8-1. Elo-Rivera, a progressive Democrat and Chair of the City’s Environment Committee, has made repealing the Peoples’ Ordinance governing San Diego’s free trash pickup for single family homes a priority. As one of his first actions, he canceled a hearing on the long-awaiting sidewalk vending ordinance. You can read more about how the Council President vote unfolded, HERE.
MEASURE E, MIDWAY’S HEIGHT LIMIT INCREASE BLOCKED BY COURT, SET FOR APPEAL
Judge Katherine Bacal ruled in favor of Save Our Access’ petition that Measure E, which would raise the coastal height limit in the Midway community planning area, was improperly placed on the ballot. Save Our Access’ petition alleges the City failed to follow CEQA procedural requirements prior to City Council’s vote to place the measure on the ballot. The writ of mandate would vacate approval of the project until lawful approval is obtained after an adequate environmental analysis is prepared. It is unclear how the process will unfold for developers, whose bids to redevelop the Sports Arena Property were due December 3, 2021. The City intends to appeal this ruling. To learn more, click HERE.
DOWNTOWN EMERGES AS POTENTIAL NEW HOME TO GRAND CENTRAL STATION
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is now seriously considering building its new central transportation hub in the heart of Downtown, the site of San Diego’s current City Hall. The concept for a San Diego Grand Central has previously eyed the NAVWAR property along I-5 in Old Town; however, Downtown’s status as a major employment center, its existing transit lines, and the availability of public land in major need of redevelopment has made Downtown a serious contender. According to SANDAG’s head, Hasan Ikhrata, “NAVWAR is still the focus, but that could change.” To learn more, click HERE.
SAN MARCOS PROPOSES GENERAL PLAN UPDATE
The City of San Marcos is still soliciting input from community members, property owners, and other impacted stakeholders on an update to the City’s General Plan, before producing a preferred land use map. The City envisions a General Plan that promotes more pedestrian and bicycle use, a more open-ended plan as future priorities may shift, and a plan that adds flexibility with respect to retail and commercial uses. Any land use map change request must be submitted by December 23, 2021, using this LINK.