Legislative Update - April 2022
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
by: Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates

Section: Government Affairs





Legislative Update

April 2022

By Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates

COVID-19 UPDATE

 

Vaccine mandate bill held up

 

Assembly Bill 1993 (Wicks), which would have required workers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination by January 1, 2023, has been put on hold by the author. AB 1993 was scheduled for a hearing; however, due to concerns voiced by both business and labor representatives, the author pumped the brakes on legislation some doubt had the votes to begin with. Wicks’ bill would have applied to all employees including independent contractors. You can learn more HERE.

 

Governor Newsom also announced that he would hit pause on a state mandate that would have required schoolchildren to be immunized for COVID-19. The requirement will now await FDA approval for the vaccine in children 12 and older. Newsom’s mandate would be limited to grades seven through twelve and allow exemptions for those with medical or religious beliefs. If the requirement moves forward, it will go into effect July 1, 2023. You can read more HERE.

 

To mask or not to mask…

 

A Florida judge struck down the federal mask mandate requiring masks on airplanes, trains, buses, and other public transportation. This comes less than a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had extended the masking requirement through May 3. Individual airlines and local transit agencies may now decide whether or not to keep masking in place. 

 

In San Diego, the Metropolitan Transit System announced that face coverings are now optional aboard buses, trolleys, the Sprinter, and Coaster. Amtrak and ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft have also dropped the requirement. Despite the recent federal changes, Los Angeles County has elected to keep the mandate in place on public transit or when inside an airport. 

 

The Justice Department, meanwhile, is filing an appeal seeking to overturn the judge’s order that voided the federal mask mandate. It is unclear if President Biden will ask the appeals court to grant an emergency stay to immediately reimpose the mask mandate.

 

COVID Health Emergency Extended

 

Now more than two years old, President Biden is extending the Coronavirus Public Health Emergency for another 90 days. A key provision in the extension allows those covered by Medicaid to stay in the program, even if their incomes have risen above the normal ceiling for eligibility. The move also allows agencies to fast-track authorization for COVID-19 treatment, tests, and vaccines at the Food and Drug Administration.

 

BUILDING ENERGY BENCHMARKING ORDINANCE WEBINAR SCHEDULED FOR MAY 3RD

 

BOMA members are encouraged to attend a City of San Diego webinar, May 3, 9am-11am aimed to train building professionals on how to use energy benchmarking tools. Annual building energy benchmarking is required for commercial and multifamily buildings larger than 50,000 square feet. To register, click HERE.

 

COUNTY RECEIVES PUBLIC INPUT ON DECARBONIZATION PLAN, MORE WORKSHOPS SCHEDULED

 

The County’s plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2045 is making the community rounds. To date, most of the public input has revolved around calls for more rooftop solar, methane capture at landfills, and job development for those working in natural gas industries. BOMA members are encouraged to attend one of the upcoming public outreach events June 28 and July 26. A special sector workshops for Buildings is scheduled for April 28. You can register HERE. The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the final framework in August.  BOMA members are encouraged to review and comment on the draft Decarbonization Framework through May 31. You can recap the update HERE.

 

PLANNING COMMISSION MOVES FORWARD BUILD BETTER SAN DIEGO PLAN

 

The City of San Diego Planning Commission moved forward the Planning Department’s proposed Build Better San Diego plan to the city council for consideration. The Build Better plan includes a new city-wide Development Impact Fee (DIF) to replace the current fees which are set on a community plan by community plan basis.  During the planning commission discussion, staff indicated that they are proposing changes, based on the input from stakeholders from the commercial real estate community, including BOMA SD, to lock in the fees at the point the application is deemed complete for both residential AND non-residential projects, rather than how it’s done now, which is when building permits are pulled. This was done to help create a “pipeline provision” to protect projects in process and also align both residential and non-residential requirements. It included a delay in implementation of approximately one year to July 1, 2023, to address concerns about impacts to projects in process and the delays these projects have faced. Additionally, the language was amended to allow for the applicant to choose which fee they wanted to pay regardless of when their application was submitted, meaning either the old DIF or the new DIF amount. These provisions were similar to those in the Parks Fee approved last year and added between Planning Commission hearings. The final vote was unanimous (7-0) For more information, please click HERE. The full staff report and accompanying resolution can be found HERE and HERE.

 

CITY OF SAN DIEGO SEEKS INPUT ON COLLEGE AREA COMMUNITY PLAN UPDATE

 

The City of San Diego’s Planning Department launched a new online engagement tool for stakeholders to provide input on the College Area Community Plan Update. The plan, which will dictate land use and urban design policies for the area surrounding San Diego State University, is expected to be released in late summer, followed by a host of community open houses before the plan makes its way to City Council for approval in the fall of 2023. To provide input, you can visit the new online engagement tool HERE.

 

CA BILL AIMS TO REDUCE WORKWEEK TO FOUR DAYS FOR COMPANIES WITH 500+ EMPLOYEES

 

Assembly Bill 2932 (Garcia, Low) would make California the first state in the nation to reduce its work week from 40 hours to 32. The bill, which would apply to companies with more than 500 employees if approved, was allegedly prompted by the exodus of employees during the pandemic. The thinking behind its inception is that worker well-being would be increased; however, opponents stress that additional labor costs amid a reduction in work hours would impact employers’ ability to hire and create new positions, limiting job growth in California. AB 2932 will go before the Labor and Employment Committee for review, pending a hearing date. As drafted, unionized workforces or those with collective bargaining agreements would be exempt. Employees working over 32 hours would be subject to compensation at a rate of no less than one- and one-half times their regular pay. The full text may be found HERE.

 

HEIDI VONBLUM SELECTED AS NEW CITY OF SAN DIEGO PLANNING DIRECTOR

 

Vonblum who has worked for the City of San Diego since 2009 as a deputy city attorney and planning staffer was tapped by Mayor Gloria to replace Mike Hansen, following his resignation. Vonblum has served as Interim Planning Director since January and will continue to lead the City’s climate and housing efforts. Vonblum is credited for spearheading the “Homes for All of Us” package, aimed at spurring new housing development, and “Build Better SD,” which would create a new citywide infrastructure fund. You can read more about the appointment HERE.

 

CITY TO APPEAL RULING ON MEASURE C, CONVENTION CENTER EXPANSION

 

The San Diego City Council voted to appeal a recent decision in order to help validate Measure C, the tax to fund the expansion of the convention center.  In March, 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. San Diego’s elected leaders disagree and voted to pursue an appeal of the court ruling that will ultimately be decided by a higher court. 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. To learn more about the continuing saga, click HERE.

 

SANDAG’S GRAND CENTRAL STATION CONCEPT EYES DOWNTOWN, FUNDING STILL UNCLEAR

 

Plans to build a central transportation hub have quickly shifted from Old Town’s NAVWAR site to a potential multi-billion-dollar concept downtown. The Civic Concourse area, which includes the City Administration Building, San Diego Civic Theater, City Operations Building, and the Evan V. Jones Parkade, is being considered to build out a central transit center with bus, trolley, and subway service, in addition to a new potential City Hall, theater, city operations complex, and potential mixed-use development. While still very much a concept, early cost estimates indicate that just the transit hub alone could cost around $4 billion. SANDAG’s Executive Director, Hasan Ikhrata, has acknowledged that a ballot measure to raise sales tax would likely be needed to fund the endeavor. A citizen’s initiative is still collecting signatures in order to qualify for the November ballot. Additionally, SANDAG is working with the Port of San Diego to move forward with a “people mover” transit plan to link up the trolley to the airport from two different directions.  One of the movers would operate from Union Station downtown and move to the terminals along Laurel.  The other would move southbound from the current site of the Port Administration Building on Pacific Highway.  This project would cost an estimated $4 billion bringing both projects, the central transportation hub and the two people movers, to $8 billion.  To learn more, click HERE.

 

CITY OF SAN DIEGO BUDGET RELEASED

 

Mayor Gloria has released his proposed Fiscal Year 2023 Budget, which focuses on park spending, arts, homelessness, and climate change. The City’s annual operating budget projects an increase by 8.2% to $1.89 billion. Here’s a breakdown of some of the budget changes:‚Äč

  • $2 million for out-sourced, as needed plan check and inspection services to help address backlog issues at Development Services
  • $2.5 million for an addition 44 staff positions to support housing permitting, which will have benefit to all users
  • Programs around policing short term vacation rentals, street vendors, weed abatement, sidewalk sanitation, and library security are expected to see increases
  • The budget includes some small business aid, free broadband access in communities of concern, scooter, and parking enforcement
  • $300k for a new management center where city officials can observe intersections and immediately change stoplights to alleviate congestion
  • $4.3 million for park staff recruitment, training, and grant writing
  • $13.3 million to cover anticipated pay raises for police, fire, and lifeguards
  • $28.4 million for infrastructure funding with an additional $29.7 million to cover flood prevention and stormwater pollution mitigation


Homelessness prevention would see an increase from $49 million to $63 million, including new shelter beds and broader street outreach efforts

 

You can find the full budget HERE.  You can also find the Development Services Department budget detail HERE, if you’d like to geek out to numbers.  BOMA’S Government Affairs Committee received an update from the city on the budget and is recommending support for some of the items within the budget.

 

CITY OF SAN DIEGO APPROVES NEW RESIDENTIAL EVICTION MORATORIUM

 

The City Council voted 5-1 to approve a local eviction moratorium that goes beyond the newly approved State extension. The City’s ordinance would prohibit no fault evictions until 60 days after the end of the declared state of emergency from COVID-19 (read staff report for hearing here). No fault evictions typically occur when an owner wants to move back into a property, remodel it, or sell it. This measure does not impact commercial tenants. To learn more about the state action, click HERE.

 

CITY OF SAN DIEGO RELEASES NEW DOWNTOWN INTERACTIVE MAP SHOWCASING CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY

 

The City of San Diego’s new map includes all construction activity within the Downtown Community Plan area since 2001. The map overlays data from projects that are currently under review, pending construction, under construction, and built. You can view the new map HERE. The Downtown Development Status Log may be found HERE.

 

CITY OF SAN DIEGO DEVELOPMENT SERVICES DEPARTMENT ADDING PERMIT REVIEW CAPACITY STARTING THIS MONTH

 

In response to BOMA’s advocacy and to assist in clearing the current 40-day permitting backlog, the City’s Development Services Department has hired specialized outsourced consultants to slash long permit processing timelines and serve as a stop-gap measure while the department seeks to fill its existing 100 vacancies. Customers should expect to see new names and faces assisting with their permit processes; though, the contracted employees will have City of San Diego email accounts and work under the authority of DSD section supervisors. While the $250,000 contract is a one-time expenditure, BOMA will continue to advocate throughout the budget process for additional relief, including the proposed $2 million allocation in the FY 22-23 budget recently unveiled by Mayor Gloria.

 

PACKAGE OF BEHAVIORAL HEALTH BILLS AIM TO GET SICK INDIVIDUALS OFF THE STREET AND INTO CARE

 

State Senator Susan Eggman has introduced eight bills aimed at overhauling the State’s approach to mental health care and the use of conservatorship. Mayor Todd Gloria joined other California mayors in support of the package as big cities throughout the state grapple with an influx of individuals who suffer from behavioral health conditions and substance abuse. Given behavioral health and substance abuse are very prevalent amongst the homeless population, there is hope these efforts can help provide additional tools to help get people off the streets.  BOMA’s Government Affairs Committee recommended support for the following bills:

 

  • SB 929: Addresses data shortfall that exists when services are provided to those with behavioral health challenges. Currently, numerous entities are involved in the identifications, investigation, treatment and follow-up when it comes to those experiencing serious mental illness. This bill intends to establish data requirements aimed at getting treatment service providers on the same page.
  • SB 965: Under current law, a petition for conservatorship can be filed when a person is considered “gravely disabled,” meaning they are unable to provide for their basic needs of food, clothing, or shelter. This bill would ensure that the court considers relevant testimony and a report produced at the conclusion of one’s conservatorship investigation.
  • SB 970: Has four main components requiring counties to establish a suite of behavioral health goals and measurable outcomes. It will also require counties to track and report out on their performance by way of a statewide online dashboard. Additionally, Health and Human Services would eliminate the current requirement for counties to spend 80% of their Mental Health Services Act funds on community services, 20% on prevention and early intervention, and 5% on innovation.
  • SB 1035: Current law allows court ordered treatment plans to include coordination and access to medication, but it does not explicitly permit courts to order medication as part of a treatment plan. This bill would make explicit that medications can be included in an order for assisted outpatient treatment.
  • SB 1154: Would establish a real-time, internet-based dashboard to collect and aggregate information about beds in outpatient psychiatric facilities, crisis stabilization units, residential community mental health facilities, and licensed residential alcoholism or drug abuse recovery facilities. This will help service providers quickly find and secure treatment for clients vs. delays or extended stays in emergency rooms.
  • SB 1227: Currently, counties can establish an option to follow a 14-day period of intensive treatment with an additional period of 30 days for those who are gravely disabled. This bill would provide for an added 30-day period as an alternative to conservatorship proceedings, if it is expected that the patient will stabilize without need of conservatorship.
  • SB 1238: Evaluates plans to address behavioral services and infrastructure shortages to determine the existing and projected need for those services in each region.
  • SB 1416: Changes the definition of “gravely disabled” to include a condition in which a person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is unable to provide for the basic needs of personal or medical care or self-protection and safety.

To learn more, click HERE.

 

BUILDING ELECTRIFICATION CONCERNS BUSINESS AND LABOR UNION LEADERS

 

The City’s efforts to update its Climate Action Plan (CAP), including the electrification of new and existing buildings has come under fire amid concerns that approximately 7,000 natural gas jobs, both union and non-union, would be at risk. While the City Council has yet to adopt a new plan, the City’s framework lays out a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, 20% of which comes from the natural gas used to power building utilities and appliances, according to the City. Labor unions, including Local 230 (Pipefitters Union), are asking the City to slow down electrification efforts in an attempt to transition their workforce to other job sectors. The City does not have a timeline for City Council adoption.  BOMA San Diego continues to meet with the City to address concerns about the impacts of overly onerous and infeasible implementation requirements that might result from updated CAP standards. To learn more click HERE.

 

DROUGHT WATCH: GOVERNOR ORDERS URBAN WATER SUPPLIERS TO ACTIVATE “LEVEL 2”

 

In California’s driest ever start to a year, Governor Newsom announced an executive order calling on local water suppliers to implement more drastic conservation efforts. The order requires that suppliers like the San Diego Water Authority activate ‘Level Two’ of their water conservation contingency plans. These contingency plans have up to six levels. At Level Two, local suppliers can reduce the number of days residents may water outdoors, prohibit car washing, and require the use of recycled or non-potable water in construction “when available.” The Governor has also asked the State Water Resources Control Board to consider a ban on the watering of decorative grass at commercial properties. If ‘Level Three’ is triggered, construction operations receiving water from a fire hydrant meter or water truck will not be able to use water “beyond that required for normal construction activities,” construction projects requiring water for new landscaping may only irrigate before 10:00am and after 6:00pm, ornamental fountain operations would be prohibited (except for maintenance), and street cleaning would cease among other conservation practices. To view all six levels of San Diego’s water conservation contingency plan, click HERE.

 

STATE OF THE COUNTY RECAP, WHAT TO KNOW

 

In Supervisor Fletcher’s second state of the county, which is unusual given the chair usually rotates annually amongst the Supervisors, the hourlong speech touched on issues spanning from homelessness to project labor agreements. Here’s what you should know:

  • Employment/Project Labor Agreements
    • Chair Fletcher announced that he is working with Supervisor Vargas on a policy to protect warehouse workers against unsafe and unfair practices. 
    • The County’s ban on project labor agreements is expected to be overturned. What wasn’t stated is that the ban on PLA’s is expected to be replaced with a PLA requirement for construction on County land
    • A Living Wage Ordinance is expected to be heard at a future date; however, details remain vague. We have reached out to the Supervisor’s office to request additional information and a briefing at a future Civic Engagement Committee.
    • Fletcher, a Marine veteran, wants to double the number of veterans hired by the County
  • Homelessness/Housing
    • The County will open a new 150-person shelter on Rosecrans in partnership with the City and the Lucky Duck Foundation, July 1, and a new low-barrier addiction treatment facility at the former Pier One location off Midway
    • An agreement was created between the County and San Diego’s 18 incorporated cities outlining what roles cities have in providing safe camping, parking, and tiny homes. The County would provide behavioral health services while cities are expected to provide locations and operations. The County will make $10 million available in grants to support programming
    • Fletcher called on other government agencies to work on a master plan for surplus land to be used for affordable housing development with funding by the San Diego Foundation ($10M)
    • County will open capacity for up to 4,000 affordable residential units free of Vehicle Miles Traveled costs to developers
  • Childcare
    • A regional conference will be held with Labor Council and Chamber of Commerce leaders to develop a regional plan for childcare
    • The County is committing $10 million from COVID relief funds to increase the supply of childcare options. The County will also create a childcare center for County employees on one of its properties
    • The County is launching “Faith in Motion” to partner with church groups around recruiting more foster parents
  • Other notes
    • The County is expected to purchase a new firefighting helicopter
    • Admission costs and transportation to regional parks will be covered by the County to help facilitate first time experiences by families in need
    • You can view the full speech HERE