Senate Bill 375 is alternately being described as the most important land use legislation since the California Coastal Act of 1976, and a step in the right direction. Only time will tell whether the bill is a landmark or an incremental step, but there is no denying that SB 375 author Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) aimed high. "At the heart of this effort," Steinberg said, "is the need to integrate our housing and transportation plans to create sustainable communities."
Steinberg's bill was by far the most significant land use legislation approved during the two-year legislative session that concluded on August 31.
Urgency legislation extending the life of all subdivision maps by one year has been signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. The California Building Industry Association (CBIA) praised the governor for signing SB 1185 (Lowenthal). The real estate slowdown has prevented developers from following through with approved projects, and the legislation ensures developers and landowners do not have to go through the entitlement process a second time.
Redevelopment agencies may soon have authority to assist homeowners with subprime loans who are facing foreclosure, and to acquire foreclosed housing.
Under a measure likely to pass the Legislature, redevelopment agencies could aid homeowners, lenders and developers whether or not the subject property is within a redevelopment project area. However, a late amendment to the bill would prevent agencies from using their 20% housing set-aside fund for the activities.
Although the state's mounting budget deficit is expected to predominate in Sacramento for many months, 2008 could be a blockbuster year for land use legislation. Scores of bills related to planning, the California Environmental Quality Act, redevelopment, housing, the Subdivision Map Act, and other land use matters have been introduced during the first two months of the year or remain leftover from 2007.
Three bills that would have established "green" building standards for housing, commercial structures and state government buildings were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The governor also vetoed a controversial planning bill that would have limited cities' ability to satisfy regional fair-share mandates with non-residentially zoned properties.
During the final days of the 2006 legislative session, a package of bills intended to force better coordination between flood control and land use planning in the Central Valley and Bay Delta region died amid a deluge of acrimony. This year, however, state lawmakers approved six bills similar to measures that failed last year.
The fight over fair-share allocations of needed housing within the Southern California Association of Governments region is on. At least two cities have filed lawsuits and numerous others are reportedly considering their legal and political options.