March Legislative Update
By Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced a new set of guidance for the wearing of masks. The new guidance means that most Americans will no longer be asked to wear masks indoors unless they meet a new set of criteria. New metrics for determining when masks must be worn will consider caseloads, hospitalizations, and local hospital capacity. Masks will then only be required when COVID community levels reach a certain threshold.
In communities with a “low” COVID level, mask guidance is based on personal preference and threshold for personal risk. In “medium” level communities, mask wearing is recommended for the immunocompromised or those at high risk for severe illness. In “high” level communities, a “well-fitting” mask is indoors, in public regardless of vaccine status or individual risk, including in school settings. Under the new guidance just posted by the CDC, San Diego falls into the “high” category, which means that the CDC guidance is wearing masks indoors in public.
Nevertheless, the California Department of Public Health guidance remains in place, which includes the revised guidance that went into effect on February 15th. Those new rules mean that the indoor masking requirement has expired, reverting to the previous guidance which requires masking for unvaccinated individuals in all indoor public settings and required masking for all individuals regardless of vaccination status in higher risk settings like public transit and congregate living. Workplaces will continue to follow the COVID-19 prevention standards set by CalOSHA.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is extending its mask mandate for airplanes and other public transportation through April 18th. While other federal agencies have rolled back masking guidance, transportation officials will still require masks for passengers on airplanes, buses, and trains.
COUNTY SUPERVISORS RECEIVE UPDATE ON DECARBONIZATION WORKFORCE STUDY
The County Board of Supervisors received an update on their Draft Regional Decarbonization Framework (Framework), including a new workforce study, which looks at impacts to the local workforce resulting from climate action. Findings suggest that regional decarbonization pathways would generate an average of nearly 27,000 jobs per year. According to the report, no fossil-fuel based industries would face job loss before 2030. The report also suggests that regional governments should convene a “just transition task force” that includes business and labor leaders to begin developing a set of “just transition policies” for the region’s workforce. The cost of such transition is unknown. BOMA members are encouraged to review and comment on the draft Decarbonization Framework through May 31. You can recap the update HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO DEVELOPMENT SERVICES DEPARTMENT OFFERING NEW VIRTUAL SERVICES – PERMIT ISSUANCE APPOINTMENTS FOR PROJECTS SIGNED OFF BY ALL REVIEWERS
The City’s Development Services Department is now offering virtual appointments for the final steps in permit issuance for qualified projects that have been signed off by all reviewers. The new virtual 30-45 minute permit issuance appointments are available during business hours for: No Plan or Rapid Review Building Permits, Demolition Permits, Standalone Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP) Permits with plans, and Sign Permits. To book an appointment, click HERE.
CALIFORNIA TO RECEIVE ADDITIONAL $136M AIMED AT PREVENTING RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS
The Biden administration announced that it will divert $136 million in federal emergency housing aid to California, New York, and New Jersey. The funds are derived from $377 million in unspent Emergency Rental Assistance Program monies, most of which was recouped from states that failed to distribute aid. The Treasury Department noted that emergency assistance funds are drying up and soon states will need to use their own revenues to support low-income tenants. To learn more, click HERE.
PEOPLE’S ORDINANCE REFORM MEASURE CLEARS FIRST HURDLE, WOULD END FREE TRASH PICKUP FOR SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES
The City of San Diego Rules Committee voted to begin drafting a ballot measure that would amend the “People’s Ordinance,” which currently allows for free trash pickup to most single-family homes. The measure, if approved for the ballot, would require single-family homeowners to pay a fee for trash pickup, pending a cost of service study. Commercial buildings, apartment buildings, and homes on private streets, all of which already pay for private waste hauling, would see no change. The 100-year ordinance has faced scrutiny in recent years as San Diego is the only major city in California that provides free trash pickup. Once language is drafted, the measure would return to the Rules Committee before going to City Council who will be asked to place the measure on the ballot. To learn more, click HERE.
WARD ANNOUNCES BILL TO IMPOSE 25% LEVY ON “HOUSE FLIPPERS”; ALSO SIGNIFICANTLY IMPACTS COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES
Calling it the California Speculation Act (AB 1771), San Diego Assembly member Chris Ward aims to reduce “house flipping” he believes are caused by rampant investor speculation by imposing a 25% tax on gains from home sales if resold within three years after it was purchased (the tax would phase out over years 3-7). Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. The bill proposed to tax the equity on virtually all real estate transactions at 25% if they are residential properties OR COULD BE residential properties, meaning, if you owned a commercial property that was zoned in a way to allow residential and sold that property regardless of what the buyer’s intent was for the use of the property the tax would apply. BOMA’s Government Affairs Committee will have an opportunity to speak to the Assembly member at an upcoming meeting. To learn more, click HERE.
CITY’S PROPOSAL TO REDO INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCE AND RELATED IMPACT FEES TO MOVE FORWARD
The City of San Diego’s Planning Department is moving forward the Mayor’s “Build Better San Diego” program, which will be heard at the next City’s Planning Commission. The plan envisions a more equitable way to fund and distribute infrastructure finance dollars. It includes how city streets, libraries and other community infrastructure is funded. As part of the program, the city’s development impact fees (or DIF’s), which vary by community, will be set at a uniform rate, which means some may go up and some may go down. Additionally, funding from the fees can be used for projects outside of the community planning area where the fee was originally charged. The city has developed a DRAFT fee calculator, which can be found on the Build Better web page (scroll to the near bottom under “Relevant Documents”. For more information on the Build Better plan, to use the fee calculator or to provide public input, please CLICK HERE.
CITY LOOKS TO UPDATE THEIR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
The Economic Development Committee of the San Diego City Council unanimously moved forward a recommendation to the Mayor to fund an update of the city’s “economic development strategy”or EDS. Proposed by the committee’s chair, Councilmember Raul Campillo, the plan would be to add funding to the city budget to pay for the update. Last updated in 2016, the EDS outlines specific strategic and tactical objectives that provide guidance to City Departments on actions and policy decisions to support the business community in the creation of new jobs, especially middle-income jobs and incorporates other important City documents that were absent in previous versions. This effort and will continue to promote means to help support economic development in our region. To learn more, please CLICK HERE.
MEASURE C, CONVENTION CENTER EXPANSION, FACES ANOTHER HURDLE
Superior Court judge Kenneth Medel ruled that the City Council had no legal authority to change the outcome of the 2020 ballot measure when it declared that Measure C was approved by voters. Measure C, which would have raised the Transit Occupancy Tax to fund an expanded Convention Center and designate funds for street repair and homelessness, originally needed a two-thirds majority of the vote; however, the measure came up just shy at 65.24%. Following the election, a validation suit was filed where the City asked the court to determine that Measure C only needed 50% (+1) of the vote. While Judge Medel’s ruling temporarily puts a damper on the validation suit, the Court of Appeal will be asked to weigh in on whether the City had legal authority to declare Measure C was approved. To learn more, click HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO INITIATES THIRD PARTY PLAN CHECK AND PERMIT REVIEW
The San Diego City Council has approved and staff is initiating a contract with NV5 to assist the Development Services Department with their backlog of permits and applications needing review. BOMA, along with other industry groups, has been leading the charge to help provide relief to our members who are facing significantly delays in getting their permits approved. The City has faced a hiring challenge and has, as a result, a number of vacant positions in key areas, including the Development Services Department. BOMA supported the city’s budget request to provide more resources to help fill these vacancies, but also called on the City to provide relief through outsourced third-party support. The approval for $250,000 worth of services is the first of three actions to help support third-party review. BOMA will continue to support actions that accelerate review and approval of discretionary and ministerial applications. To learn more, please CLICK HERE.
GOVERNOR NEWSOME PROPOSES “CARE COURT” PROGRAM TO ADDRESS MENTAL HEALTH AND HOMELESSNESS ISSUES
California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed yesterday a new court system that could lead to mandated mental health treatment and housing. This would be an alternative to conservatorships, hospitalizations, or incarceration. The Governor was joined in the announcement by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria with both describing this program as a new tool to provide comprehensive treatment and housing to people with severe mental illness. Under the program, family members, first responders, clinicians and community members could refer people to CARE Court where they would be evaluated for referral to a treatment program. The program is intended to help both those on the streets as well as in homes. The specific legislation has not yet been drafted, and the Republican Assembly Leader, James Gallagher, has proposed something different, so there is still more to come. BOMA has been following these efforts, including conservatorship reform as potentially helpful in helping get the increasing number of mentally ill homeless people off the streets and into care and shelter.
$18 MINIMUM WAGE INITIATIVE GATHERING SIGNATURES
The Living Wage Act of 2022, which began gathering signatures in February, aims to garner a required 700,000 signatures. If successful, the measure will appear on California’s November ballot. The measure aims to phase in an increase to the state’s minimum wage from $15 an hour to $18 an hour by 2025. If approved, it would only apply to businesses with more than 25 employees. Businesses with less than 25 employees would be subjected to a wage increase to $17 an hour by 2025. You can learn more HERE.
STORMWATER INFRASTRUCTURE TAX MEASURE MAY APPEAR ON NOVEMBER BALLOT
San Diego City Councilmembers are looking to pursue an “impermeable area” water quality tax to help pay for the $1.8 billion in water infrastructure and stormwater projects. The new tax, if placed on the November 2022 ballot and passed by 2/3rds of city voters, would charge property owners based on how many square feet of one’s property is covered by driveways, walkways, and other pavement that allows for urban pollutants to enter storm drains. A poll conducted to gauge support for the proposed tax was presented to the Council Committee reviewing the measure this past week. It presented rates to potential voters of 4 cents, 4.5 cents, and 5 cents per impermeable square foot of property and showed that when presented with arguments for and against NONE of the rates garnered 2/3rds support, which would be required to pass. To learn more, click HERE.