Legislative Update - February 2022
By Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates
CALIFORNIA RELEASES NEXT PHASE OF COVID-19 RESPONSE, INDOOR MASK MANDATE SUNSETS
Governor Newsom announced a shift yesterday in the state’s COVID-19 response from pandemic to endemic via the release of the “California Smarter” plan. SMARTER stands for: Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education and Rx (for evolving treatments, as opposed to vaccine shots). This shift comes a full two years after the Governor imposed the statewide stay-at-home order. This less restrictive approach will include encouraging masks and vaccines particularly in high-risk settings or during times of high transmission. The Governor stressed that “Californians are not out of the woods just yet and we should be ready to be flexible.” For more information, please click HERE.
With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in decline, the statewide indoor mask mandate was not renewed as of February 15. Masks will still be required on public transit, including airplanes, in K-12 schools and childcare facilities, healthcare centers, homeless shelters, jails, and senior care facilities. Unvaccinated individuals will still be required to wear masks in indoor public settings and businesses. CDPH has updated its guidance which went into effect on February 16. To learn more about the new guidance, click HERE.
GOVERNOR SIGNS SUPPLEMENTAL PAID SICK LEAVE MEASURE
The law adds up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to full time employees of a company with 26 or more workers. Employees must prove that they or a family member has tested positive for COVID-19 to be eligible. The new law is retroactive to January 1, 2022 and extends through September 30, 2022. A coalition of business groups expressed concern, prior to the measure’s passage, noting that there are no federal tax credits to help cover the costs of this round of sick leave (as there were in previous iterations), and costs borne by businesses will be particularly devastating. You can read more HERE.
SINGLE PAYER HEALTHCARE BILL DIES BEFORE HEARING
Assembly Bill 1400 would have created a state-run universal healthcare system, ‘CalCare’; however, the bill was withdrawn once it was clear the bill did not have enough votes to pass. Funded by hefty tax increases in the hundreds of billions, the bill drew opposition on the grounds that personal income tax rates would increase by 2.5%, payroll tax of 1% of the aggregate amount of wages, and gross receipts tax of 2.3% on businesses with more than $2 million in gross revenues. This is the third time a government-run health care system has been defeated in California. The measure also caused issues amongst the health provider community, as it potentially conflicted with federal programs and funding. To learn more, click HERE.
MAYOR ANNOUNCES CHANGES TO DEVELOPMENT FEES
The Mayor announced a proposal to dramatically change how developer impact fees (DIFs) are collected and spent, shifting from neighborhood-specific projects to a new citywide pot. The new policy, entitled “Build Better SD,” aims to divert more DIF funding from new development to communities of concern and to help fund climate resiliency projects. Similar in nature to the recent changes to the city’s park funding program, under the Mayor’s proposal, neighborhoods would retain funds already collected but under the proposal all new developer fees would go to the new citywide fund. The fee would also be standardized across the city, meaning a new fee would be proposed as part of the package. The new fee amount is unknown but current fees range from $1,000 to $100,000 per unit depending on community plan area. The proposal, including some municipal code changes, is expected to go to the Planning Commission in March and then to the City Council in the Spring. To learn more please click HERE or sign up for the City’s March 10th virtual workshop, HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO OFFERS NEW VIRTUAL SERVICE FOR PROJECT APPLICATIONS
The City’s Development Services Department now offers virtual 30-minute project appointments for demolition and standalone mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) permits. The new appointments are available during regular business hours for applicants who have a project number and have uploaded all required documents for either a demolition permit or a standalone MEP permit with plans. For more information, please click HERE. The Virtual Appointment Page can be found HERE.
COUNTY APPROVES “WORKING FAMILY ORDINANCE” FOR CONSTRUCTION ON COUNTY LAND
In a 3-2 vote, the County Board of Supervisors approved a policy requiring construction on county land to use a skilled and trained work force and pay them prevailing wages. The ordinance applies to projects over $1 million and requires employers on county-leased land to provide paid sick leave, with an exemption given to small businesses, nonprofits, and affordable housing projects. To learn more, click HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO CLIMATE ACTION PLAN EXPLAINED
City staff is sharing their six strategies for reducing GHG emissions, per the pending Climate Action Plan update. Strategy one includes decarbonization of the built environment. In eight years, the City expects to phase out 45% of natural gas from existing buildings, jumping to 90% by 2035. Upon reaching out to city staff, it remains unclear how the city will implement the measure on existing buildings, as the “program still needs to be developed and defined.” BOMA will continue to provide feedback on how it will be implemented and to encourage minimization of unintended consequences such as higher costs, time delays, and equity impacts. For new development, staff is proposing an all-electric reach code sometime in 2023 that would go beyond state requirements in mandating full electrification of new construction, including non-residential. The plan does anticipate certain exemptions for research and development buildings and restaurants. Strategy two looks to expand renewable energy generation, while strategy three focuses on transit and mobility. Strategy three includes references to the aforementioned “Build Better SD” plan and VMT reduction by 8% via future community plan updates, the latter of which is already in effect as the City focuses on mixed-use development in transit priority areas, and the build out of more pedestrian, bicycle, and transit infrastructure. Also of note is an expected code amendment requiring electric vehicle and bike charging stations in new buildings. Strategies four and five focus on waste reduction and efforts around climate resiliency like marshland restoration and urban tree canopies. Finally, strategy six acts as a catch all for everything else, such as emerging technologies and potential emission offsets. While there is no current timeline for adoption, we could see a new climate action plan come to City Council as soon as this spring. For more information, or to provide online comment please click HERE.
CITY OF SD PENSION CUTS REVERSED
In 2012, City of San Diego voters approved Proposition B, which cut pensions for newly hired city employees with the exception of police officers. Prop. B, which has been tied up in courts for nearly a decade, received a ruling that it was illegally placed on the ballot because the City never negotiated details with its respective employee bargaining units. San Diego must now pay an estimated $80-$100 million to unwind pension cuts for employees hired after Prop. B’s passage. Past employees will be given the option to recoup a pension or keep their 401(k) retirement plan. Thanks to the market’s performance, many are expected to keep their 401(k), painting a better-than-anticipated fiscal outlook for the City. Still, the City’s pension obligations will have a bitter impact on future budgets. Nevertheless, city officials and union representatives have insisted that the pension reform under Prop B exacerbated the city’s efforts to attract and retain staff in various departments, including the police and development services departments. Time will demonstrate whether the reversion back to public pensions will attract talent back to the City. To learn more, click HERE.
PROPOSED PARCEL TAX POSTPONED
A proposed parcel tax to raise $250 million for parks and library renovations will be postponed to the 2024 ballot. Supporters said this will give them more time to raise money, collect signatures, and give them a better chance of approval during the presidential election, during which voter turnout is higher. The tax would apply a two cent per square foot levy up to a maximum of one acre on both residential and commercial properties. You can read more HERE.
SDPD FACING EXTREME STAFF SHORTAGE
Reversing a four-year surge in SDPD hiring, 109 officers have left the force since September 2021. The San Diego Police Officers Association cites low morale, low pay, and the recently imposed vaccine mandate for all City employees. Applications are down 25% and hundreds of officers are scheduled to retire by 2025, painting a bleak outlook for the future of public safety in San Diego. To learn more, click HERE.
DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO PARTNERSHIP PUSHES FOR SAFE CAMPGROUND TO HOUSE HOMELESS
The Downtown San Diego Partnership, which administers the Clean & Safe program, reported its highest homeless count (1,406 people) since 2016. In an effort to get more unhoused residents off the sidewalks of Downtown and adjacent communities, the group is putting pressure on the City to explore safe camping locations. The mayor who has concerns with safe campsites did not dismiss the idea but stressed that the region consider all options. Safe Campsites would provide a spot for a homeless individual to camp. It’s not like your typical campsite, though, because there would be rules and regulations along with on-site services and management. This is similar in nature to what the City deployed in 2017 during the Hep A crisis. You can read more HERE.