By Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. SAN DIEGO
a. CITY COUNCILMEMBER WORKING ON A PLAN TO BAN ENCAMPMENTS IN CERTAIN AREAS
b. PARCEL TAX SIGNATURE GATHERING EFFORT FAILS TO GARNER ENOUGH SIGNATURES IN RANDOM SAMPLING
c. 2022 LAND DEVELOPMENT CODE UPDATE NARROWLY APPROVED IN 5-4 CITY COUNCIL VOTE
d. CITY OF SAN DIEGO DECLARES HOUSING A HUMAN RIGHT
e. CHULA VISTA, ESCONDIDO, CARLSBAD FILL VACANT COUNCIL SEATS f. HEATHER FERBERT ANNOUNCES INTENT TO RUN FOR SAN DIEGO CITY ATTORNEY POST
g. COUNTY CREATES ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE WORKING GROUP
h. CITY OF SAN DIEGO NOW EXPECTS $104M SURPLUS
a. TAXPAYER PROTECTION ACT QUALIFIES FOR NOVEMBER 2024 BALLOT b. SUPERVISOR NATHAN FLETCHER ANNOUNCES BID FOR STATE SENATE c. CHAIR NORA VARGAS OUTLINES PRIORITIES IN FIRST STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS
d. STATE RAISES WATER ALLOCATION FROM 5% to 30% TO AGENCIES e. NEWSOM’S CARE COURT CHALLENGED IN COURT
a. BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO LET NATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY EXPIRE IN MAY
TAXPAYER PROTECTION ACT QUALIFIES FOR NOVEMBER 2024 BALLOT The Secretary of State in California announced that the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act will appear on the 2024 ballot. The California Business Properties Association, which includes BOMA California, is part of a large coalition supporting this measure. The act will give voters the ability to approve or reject new or increased taxes and promote accountability and transparency regarding taxes and fees. Key provisions of the act include requiring voter approval for new taxes, restoring two-thirds voter approval for new local taxes, defining what constitutes a tax or fee, requiring truthful descriptions of new tax proposals, and requiring agencies to specify how revenue will be spent before enacting a tax or fee. This measure was put forward, in part, in response to local governments using a “citizens initiative” loophole to get around the 2/3rds requirement. The loophole was allowed by the courts who had ruled on a couple of tax increases that there was a difference between a government sponsored tax increase and something put forward through the initiative process. The full ballot text may be found HERE. To visit the campaign website in support of the initiative, please click HERE.
CITY COUNCILMEMBER WORKING ON A PLAN TO BAN ENCAMPMENTS IN CERTAIN AREAS San Diego City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn plans to unveil a proposal next month to help address rising homelessness in San Diego. Part of his proposal would include a safe tent campground at a yet-to-be-determined parking lot near downtown. By providing the additional camping site, Whitburn believes it would allow the city to approve an ordinance banning camping on certain public property, including parks, canyons, and sidewalks within a certain distance from schools and minor-use facilities. To read more, click HERE.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO LET NATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY EXPIRE IN MAY The Biden administration announced that it intends to allow the coronavirus public health emergency to sunset on May 11th, a signal that the pandemic is moving into a new phase with less severity. The end of the emergency declaration would change the federal approach to addressing the virus and treat it as a persistent public health threat that can be managed through normal means. To read more, click HERE.
PARCEL TAX SIGNATURE GATHERING EFFORT FAILS TO GARNER ENOUGH SIGNATURES IN RANDOM SAMPLING
A campaign to raise taxes in the City of San Diego through a 2-cent parcel tax to support parks and libraries appears to have failed after the City Clerk and the Registrar of Voters found the number of signatures gathered to be insufficient. The Registrar found that a random count of 3% of signatures showed enough of them to be invalid, leaving the petition as many as 10,000 signatures short. While proponents still hope to launch a full validation effort, it appears unlikely that the measure will qualify for the 2024 ballot. The measure would have placed a parcel tax of 2 cents per square foot on property within the city of San Diego.
2022 LAND DEVELOPMENT CODE UPDATE NARROWLY APPROVED IN 5-4 CITY COUNCIL VOTE Earlier this week, the City Council voted to approve the 2022 Land Development Code update, which is brought forward annually to simplify the City’s development regulations, make the code more adaptable, eliminate redundancies and contradictions, standardize the code framework, and increase predictability in the application of regulations.
Redefinition of Transit Priority Areas (TPA): Staff has come up with a newly defined designation called “Sustainable Development Area” or SDA to replace TPA’s for the purposes of the City’s Complete Communities program. Complete Communities allows for more density in certain areas of the city that are adjacent to transit. The original SDA proposal indicated a significant reduction in net developable acreage. Staff made adjustments in certain areas of the city to better reflect transit access and, more importantly, increase the acreage available for development. The new map shows a net difference of over 5,000 acres. To access the interactive map, please CLICK HERE.
Change in uses allowed in RMX / EMX zone: Staff also, in response to stakeholder input, chose to withdraw a proposal to prohibit self-storage and certain auto related uses, like sales and repairs, in the EMX and RMX zones. They did continue to include prohibitions on self-storage in areas covered by the Prime Industrial Land (PIL) designation.
To review the code update package from the City’s code update webpage, please click HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO DECLARES HOUSING A HUMAN RIGHT
City Council voted to support a non-binding resolution declaring housing as a human right. The item, which was brought forward by Council President Elo-Rivera, was first discussed in October of 2022. At the time, City Attorney Mara Elliott warned that the resolution could potentially open up the city to future lawsuits, stating if “we make promises we can’t keep, we will likely be sued.” The resolution itself is mostly ceremonial in nature, stating that the city has made it a “priority to enact policies and create programs that are geared toward providing housing opportunities,” but contains nothing in terms of code language. This action is a lead up to an expected introduction of a “tenant protection” ordinance in the next month. Mayor Todd Gloria and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera revealed their intent to jointly bring forward that ordinance late last year.
SUPERVISOR NATHAN FLETCHER ANNOUNCES BID FOR STATE SENATE
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced that he is running for State Senate District 39, currently held by Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, who will term out of office in 2024. Fletcher, a Democrat and Marine veteran, has served on the Board of Supervisors since 2018. Previously, Fletcher served as a State Assemblymember. His campaign priority is behavioral health reform, having added mobile crisis response teams to respond to mental health calls in San Diego, and calling on the opening of crisis stabilization centers for those with psychiatric emergencies. To learn more, click HERE.
CHAIR NORA VARGAS OUTLINES PRIORITIES IN FIRST STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS New Chair Nora Vargas, in her first State of the County address, stated that jobs, housing, and environmental health will be top priorities in 2023. While little details were provided, Vargas said she plans to work with cities throughout the region to enhance rental protections and construct affordable housing, while also supporting small businesses, creating green jobs, and promoting environmental justice. She announced that the County will launch mental health screenings for all middle school students in the county and plans to work with the Sheriff's Department on fighting gun violence and reducing overdoses through a public awareness campaign. Vargas also aims to improve transportation and air quality by expanding bus and trolley access and offering free public transit passes to those under the age of 24. In addition to being Chair of the Board of Supervisors, Vargas is also the Chair of SANDAG and APCD, so she can have influence on many of these themes beyond just the Board of Supervisors. During her speech, she indicated that she intended to use the platform to “work with cities” to “expand rental protections” and “build affordable housing.” The full speech can be found HERE.
STATE RAISES WATER ALLOCATION FROM 5% to 30% TO AGENCIES
Recent weather events over the last couple of months have helped significantly raise the state’s reservoirs, resulting in a decision by the state to increase the amount public water agencies will receive to 30% of what they had requested. This is up from the 5% the state had originally announced in December. An estimated 32 trillion gallons of rain and snow were dropped on the state in the first three weeks of January. While California is still considered to be in varying degrees of drought status, the recent water events have partially restored major reservoirs. It is unknown if restrictions, like bans on decorative turf for business and commercial properties, will be rolled back.
NEWSOM’S CARE COURT CHALLENGED IN COURT
CARE Court, a proposal by CA Governor Gavin Newsom which was signed into law last year to help those struggling with severe mental illness, has been challenged by a coalition of disability and civil rights advocates. CARE Court allows family members, first responders, medical professionals, and behavioral health providers to petition the court to mandate treatment programs for those suffering from psychotic disorders. The coalition filing the lawsuit alleges that CARE Court is unconstitutional as participation may be involuntary. Unless halted by the recent legal challenge, CARE Court is expected to roll out in San Diego by October 2023. For more information, please CLICK HERE.
CHULA VISTA, ESCONDIDO, CARLSBAD FILL VACANT COUNCIL SEATS
Alonso Gonzalez, who worked for Chula Vista’s city council over ten years ago, was officially sworn in for a two-year term following a 3-1 vote in favor of his appointment. Chula Vista Mayor John McCann cast the lone no vote against Gonzalez. The council had an open seat after Councilmember Steve Padilla, who represented District 3, was elected to the California Senate in December. Gonzalez has lived in Chula Vista for seven years and is currently working as a real estate broker.
The Escondido City Council selected Christian Garcia, a teacher and current president of the Palomar College board of trustees, to fill the District 3 seat on the council. The vote was 3-1, with Councilmember Consuelo Martinez casting the dissenting vote. Christian Garcia will complete the remaining two years of Joe Garcia's term, who currently serves as the District 2 Councilmember. Garcia has been a resident of Escondido for four years.
In Carlsbad, Carolyn Luna, a former member of the Carlsbad Planning Commission, was appointed to fill the vacant District 2 council seat left open by the election of Keith Blackburn to Mayor. Luna retired from a series of Riverside County government administrative and planning jobs in 2015.
HEATHER FERBERT ANNOUNCES INTENT TO RUN FOR SAN DIEGO CITY ATTORNEY POST Heather Ferbert, a deputy city attorney in San Diego, has become the first person to officially announce their candidacy to replace her boss, City Attorney Mara Elliott, in the 2024 election. Mara Elliot is termed out and cannot seek re-election. A top competitor in the race is expected to be Assemblymember Brian Maienschein, who is rumored to be running for the job after an unsuccessful bid in 2008. The city attorney election is predicted to be the most competitive of the seven city races in 2024, as it will be the only race without an incumbent candidate. To learn more about Ferbert, please click HERE.
COUNTY CREATES ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE WORKING GROUP
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved the formation of a Regional Social Equity Working Group comprised of residents who have “faced environmental injustices, community/tribal organizations, and academics with expertise in the root causes of health, social, economic, or environmental disparities.” A workshop will be held involving labor unions, environmental organizations, universities, nonprofits, and economic development groups to formulate strategies for job growth, decarbonization, and workforce development. The results of the workshop will be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors at a later date. To learn more, click HERE.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO NOW EXPECTS $104M SURPLUS
San Diego's tax revenue has fully recovered from its drop during the pandemic due to a surge in home prices that boosted property tax, extraordinary inflation elevating sales tax, and the recovery of local tourism. The city is now projected to end the budget year with $104 million in excess cash; however, officials warn that inflation is skewing the numbers, particularly sales and tourism occupancy taxes. Despite the surging revenues, San Diego is still expected to face deficits over the next five fiscal years due to rising pension costs, skipped contributions to reserves, and depletion of federal COVID-19 aid.