September Legislative Update
Thursday, September 28, 2023
by: Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates

Section: Government Affairs




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Legislative Update 

September 2023 

By Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates 

 

BOMA SAN DIEGO GOES TO CALIFORNIA COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE SUMMIT

A delegation of BOMA San Diego members joined other commercial real estate leaders from around the state at the 2023 California Commercial Real Estate Summit in Sacramento this month.  The mission was to advocate for common sense legislation to assist those who house jobs in California. A number of bills were discussed with various members of our state’s legislative delegation, including those having to do with warehouses, energy consumption and benchmarking, climate action planning and transportation of goods.  Over 200 leaders went to Sacramento to participate. To learn more about the summit, the focus areas and the California Business Properties Association of which BOMA California is a member, please CLICK HERE

 

BILL TO MAKE IT HARDER TO PROTECT PROP 13 ADVANCES OUT OF ASSEMBLY, SENATE, WILL NOW HEAD TO BALLOT

ACA 13, which was introduced late last month by Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) and is a direct attack on Prop 13 and the BOMA-supported Taxpayer Protection Act, made it out of the State Legislature largely on a partisan vote, with almost all Democrats supporting and all Republican legislators and four Democrats opposed.   

 

As previously reported, this legislation would require any measure that aims to increase the vote threshold for a tax or fee must pass by at least that same majority requirement.  This bill is clearly aimed at allowing the “Upland loophole” to continue to be used to skirt the voter-approved rules under Prop 13 that require a 2/3rds vote in order to increase taxes.  The Courts have watered down those protections under “Upland” which allows citizens initiatives (those that gather signatures to qualify for the ballot) that propose to increase taxes to only pass by a simple majority.  It should be noted that the BOMA-supported “Taxpayer Protection Act” (CLICK HERE) is on the November 2024 ballot and would close the Upland loophole if passed by the voters. 

 

BOMA, in addition to a broad coalition of business organizations strongly opposed ACA 13.  In a late-night change, rather than placing it on the March ballot, it will now likely be placed on the November 2024 ballot setting up a head-to-head with the Taxpayer Protection Act.  The lawyers are looking at what this means, so there will be more to come.  To read more, please CLICK HERE.  To read the bill, CLICK HERE.

SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL APPROVES WATER RATE INCREASE

The San Diego City Council voted 5-3 to approve a nearly 20% increase in water rates, but with a phase-in period. The rate hikes will be implemented in three stages: a 5% increase starting on December 1 of this year, followed by a 5.2% increase on July 1, 2024, and a final increase of 8.7% on January 1, 2025. The increases are partially attributed to higher rates from the San Diego County Water Authority, the region's water wholesaler, which are being passed down to customers like the City of San Diego. The increase is also a result of costly infrastructure projects like Pure Water, which is expected to supply half of San Diego’s water supply by 2035 using recycled water, as well as wage hikes to Public Utility employees. There was quite a bit of opposition to the hikes, noting cost of living challenges in San Diego, as well as the poor customer service from the Department.  The Council took that to heart and pressed staff on how they can improve their services.  The community opposition was also reflected in the split council vote.  To read the Staff Report, click HERE. The Independent Budget Analysts report can be found HERE. Cities throughout the region are grappling with the rate hikes passed on by the Metropolitan Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority. The Oceanside city council, which is considering an increase of 6% in 2024 and another 6% in 2025, is expected to vote on November 15. To learn more, click HERE.

 

CITY OF SAN DIEGO SPEEDS UP PROCESS FOR INTERIOR OFFICE TI PROJECTS

The Development Services Department (DSD) has introduced the Professional Certification Office Tenant Improvement Program, enabling design professionals to obtain same-day building permits for interior office tenant improvement projects without the need for plan review. Effective as of September 1, the initiative aims to streamline permit processing and reduce wait times for qualified projects up to 20,000 square feet. Customers seeking office tenant improvement permits will need to schedule online appointments with DSD staff to apply. You can make appointments HERE. To learn more about the program, click HERE. This is just another step in the efforts by BOMA to help improve permit processing and approvals.  It follows the city’s efforts to outsource certain reviews.  BOMA will continue to work to expand the self-certification program to allow for more of our members to use it, but this tool is important as it should create capacity at DSD to process permits for other, non-qualifying projects, in a more timely manner.

 

CHULA VISTA PONDERS HOMELESS ENCAMPMENT BAN

The City of Chula Vista has opened the door for potential encampment bans, following in the steps of San Diego and Poway. The city plans to host a workshop to discuss a potential ban on October 5, 4:00pm, at City Hall. Following the workshop, city council is expected to vote on a possible homeless encampment ban in October or November. If passed, the ban would prohibit tents in public spaces as long as shelter beds are available. 

 

CHULA VISTA CITY COUNCIL VOTES 4-1 IN FAVOR OF CITYWIDE PLA REQUIREMENT FOR PUBLIC PROJECTS, PROJECTS ON CITY LAND, AND RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT USING CITY FUNDS

The City of Chula Vista City Council voted along party lines, 4-1, in favor of a citywide project labor agreement requirement this week. The city council, made up of four Democrats with strong ties to organized labor, wholeheartedly endorsed the proposal, calling city staff “PLA champions.” Republican Mayor John McCann cast the lone no vote. The project labor agreement requirement focuses only on city-initiated (public) projects, projects on city land, and residential developments utilizing city funds. A blanket PLA for private projects and labor peace agreement provisions for ongoing operations were not under consideration. You can read the staff report HERE.

 

CITY OF CARLSBAD HOLDS ON BUILDING ELECTRIFICATION REACH CODE MANDATES

This past month, the Carlsbad City Council voted 3-2 to “take no action” on the development of a reach code that would possibly mandate full building electrification. Carlsbad, like several cities around the region including the City of San Diego, have essentially paused efforts until the lawsuit filed by the California Restaurant Association against the City of Berkeley’s electrification mandate concludes. To read the staff report, click HERE. It’s Agenda Item #12.  You’ll need to scroll down toward the end of the full packet to read the staff report on the electrification item.  

 

BILL BANNING USE OF POTABLE WATER FOR DECORATIVE GRASS MAKES IT OUT OF THE LEGISLATURE 

California legislators have passed a bill (AB 1572) that would ban the use of potable (drinking) water for purely decorative grass areas. It is estimated that these "nonfunctional" turf areas, often found along roads, in medians, along sidewalks, and in front of businesses, make up an estimated 51,000 acres. If signed by the Governor, the legislation would take effect in phases between 2027 and 2031, with exceptions for certain areas like active recreational (sports) fields and areas irrigated with recycled water. The full bill language can be found HERE. The Governor has until October 14TH to sign.

 

COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO KICKS OFF SEARCH FOR NEW CAO

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors initiated a new search to fill the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) position replacing Helen Robbins-Meyer, who previously announced her retirement. Robbins-Meyer was expected to retire in March, however, she elected to stay on after the Board paused on taking action to replace her.  This will kick off a search and selection process that will likely culminate after the 4th Supervisorial election is over and a new supervisor is seated.

 

PROPONENTS FOR PARK AND LIBRARY PARCEL TAX SUE TO GET ON BALLOT

Supporters of a proposed City of San Diego parcel tax have filed a voting rights lawsuit in an attempt to get a measure, aimed at funding park and library improvements, on the November 2024 ballot. Proponents allege that city and county officials wrongly invalidated signatures, set unrealistically high signature requirements, and based those requirements on outdated data. The proposed tax would create a $250 million funding source for city parks and libraries and would levy an annual tax of 2 cents per square foot on properties, with exemptions for agricultural-zoned properties and property owners with incomes below 80% of the area median income. City Clerk Diana Fuentes and County Registrar Cynthia Paes have denied any wrongdoing, and a court hearing is scheduled for January 5, 2024.

 

SAN DIEGO FIRES PERSONNEL DIRECTOR

In a 3-2 vote, the San Diego Civil Service Commission elected to terminate Personnel Director Douglas Edwards. The move comes as proponents, namely Councilmember Marni von Wilpert, renew efforts to shift authority for city hiring from the independent Personnel Department to the Mayor's Office due to months-long waits associated with hiring new staff. If approved by voters, the move would result in a quicker hiring process and improved city services like permitting and park maintenance as departments remain understaffed. 

 

CARLSBAD CITY COUNCIL RACE TAKING SHAPE
Two candidates, Kevin Sabellico and Kevin Shin, have announced their intention to run for the Carlsbad City Council District 2 seat, currently held by Carolyn Luna. Sabellico, a political consultant and member of the Carlsbad Planning Commission, emphasized the need to protect open space, maintain the environment, and ensure community safety in his campaign announcement. Shin, a Marine Corps veteran and firefighter, highlighted his leadership experience and community involvement, having served on various nonprofit boards. Luna was appointed to the seat and is ineligible to run for re-election.

 

CITY TO AMEND SIDEWALK VENDING ORDINANCE

San Diego officials plan to amend the city's sidewalk vending ordinance to more clearly distinguish between vending and free speech activities. The move comes after some vendors claimed First Amendment protection in order to continue selling in prohibited areas. Mayor Todd Gloria said the revised ordinance would eliminate ambiguity in the definitions, making enforcement more straightforward for park rangers and police. The city will also reintroduce special free-speech zones in certain areas while preventing vendors from overcrowding high-traffic zones. 

  

SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEM TONI ATKINS TO STEP DOWN FROM LEADERSHIP POSITION

Senator Toni Atkins announced that she will step down from her leadership position as the state Senate leader. Atkins, who cannot seek re-election, is termed out at the end of 2024. Rather than risk a year of jockeying and in-fighting, Atkins has elected to step down from the position of President Pro Tem early, making way for Senator Mike McGuire to take her place.  The leader of the California Senate is in a powerful position, responsible for negotiating with the governor and Assembly speaker on key legislation as well as the state's budget. To read more, CLICK HERE.

 

SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL LAND USE & HOUSING COMMITTEE SUPPORTS HOUSING ACTION PLAN UPDATE

The San Diego City Council’s Land Use & Housing Committee supported the Planning Department’s proposed update to the City’s Housing Action Plan.  They added an amendment that would maintain the waiver of DIF for micro-units until January 1, 2025.  They also took asked for a separate study on the economic and environmental impacts of incentivizing development in “Promise Zone” areas that have discontinued incompatible uses.  The Housing Action Plan is intended to further accelerate the provision of housing units at all income levels.  It includes incentives for redevelopment of property including commercial spaces.  It will next go to the City Council for consideration.  To learn more, please CLICK HERE.

 

CITY OF SAN DIEGO SEEKS INPUT ON COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE AND HOUSING PRIORITIES

The City of San Diego is seeking input on its “Consolidated Plan”.  The survey gives residents the opportunity to provide input and feedback on housing, neighborhood, public service and development needs in their community.  The City updates its Consolidated Plan every five years to help them in their application and expenditure under several state and federal grant programs.  There are also several community forums, should you be interested in participating in person.  To learn more, please CLICK HERE.  To take the survey, please CLICK HERE.