Thursday, January 23, 2020

SB50 Opposition Letter

Below is the letter that the city is distributing in opposition to SB50:



I'm glad the Council was able to move quickly on my request to oppose this bill that is bad for Clayton and bad for California.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

1.21.20 Meeting Summary

There were a few significant items discussed at last night's meeting:
  • Three Trails and Landscape Committee (TLC) members decided not to reapply for another term, and one member resigned.  The TLC can have up to 11 members, and three are required for a quorum.  Currently the TLC has two members.  The TLC is the citizen oversight body for the special district established by voters to fund trails and landscaping in the community.  More on this at the bottom.
  • We set the date of February 4, 2020 to hear four appeals for the Olivia on Marsh Creek project that was previously heard at the Planning Commission.  This is the three separate three story senior apartment units that have been proposed near the post office.
  • We received the annual audit report from our external auditors.  They identified several material weaknesses and significant deficiencies in internal control during the course of their audit.  City staff will be working diligently to address these items.
  • We discussed SB50.  I've written about this legislation previously, as well as posted a video from the bill's author, Senator Wiener, describing the potential impacts.  As part of the agenda packet, I prepared a draft letter of opposition to this bill for a number of reasons.  The substance of that letter is as follows:

We write to you in regard to SB50 that was recently reintroduced in the legislature. With minor changes that merely that pay lip service to local control – dramatically increased density and fourplexes by right - the worst parts of SB50 from the prior legislative session - are still in full effect. An extension of time only delays the poor outcomes that SB50 hopes to achieve. If SB50 were to pass, fourplexes would be allowed by right on any single family zoned property - that means that anyone could build a fourplex in any neighborhood that is currently zoned for single family. This would eliminate single family zoning everywhere in the state.

SB 50 is poor public policy for several reasons:
Undefined critical terms: Any location that is determined to be job rich or near transit could receive waivers on parking, density, height, size, etc. And this would be on top of any waivers received as a result of the CA Density Bonus law which already undermine local control. The definitions of being near transit would mean that a city’s zoning rules could change at the whim of outside transit authorities adjusting the timing of the buses. In addition, the definition of “job rich” is sufficiently nebulous that most populated areas in the state could be included, even if they are nowhere near transit. This is also true of “transportation efficiency” and “feasibly housing capacity”.

Carve out Counties: Exempting cities of populations less than 50,000, but only if they are in a county with a population of less than 600,000 makes no sense. This provision would see cities of similar size be treated dramatically differently. Carve outs for counties to secure votes is poor public policy.

Duplicative processes: It is unclear how the “local flexibility plan” that SB 50 contemplates interacts with the Housing Element process. Creating parallel rubrics for measuring housing is inefficient and will lead to duplicative work for cities and HUD.
Ultimately, housing production requirements must target areas with greater job growth and should not take a one size fits all approach across California. Housing shortages in CA will not be solved by forcing small cities like Clayton to upzone with limited to no parking, increased density, and little consideration for commutes. SB50 is a one size fits all cudgel to be used against small cities forcing them to subsidize the lack of housing being produced where jobs are being created.
After discussion, it was clear that all members of the Council were opposed to SB50 in its current form.  The discussion was mostly about how we should oppose the bill, and what would be most effective.  I advocated for the strongest possible opposition - there is nothing that can be done to this bill that would change my view about its efficacy.  It's a bad bill and I wish Senator Wiener would stop trying to push what's good for San Francisco across the entire state.  Others on the Council wanted to take a less absolute position - 'Oppose unless amended', as well as make reference to materials published by the League of CA Cities.

Because I think the City of Clayton already has a small voice due to our size, I didn't want to dilute our message by adding conditions or opportunities to quibble about details.  In the end, time is of the essence as action on this bill needs to be taken by the end of the month.  Taking this position is better than not, and we all agreed to send the letter of opposition stating that the city is opposed unless amended.  When the final letter is placed on city letterhead and signed, I'll post a copy.

At the end of the meeting, and in light of the lack of quorum for the TLC, I requested a future item to discuss the expected roles and responsibilities of the TLC to ensure it aligns with the public expectation, as well as the ballot initiative that was passed by the voters.  That will come at a future meeting.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 1.21.20

There are a couple significant items on the agenda for the upcoming meeting:
  • On the consent calendar, we are accepting the resignations of several members of the Trails and Landscape Committee (TLC). The TLC is the citizen oversight committee of the Citywide Landscaping Maintenance District. This is a special district established by Clayton voters to maintain certain parks and public rights of way. With these resignations, there are only 2 members remaining of the potential 11 members. If anyone would like to apply, please see here:   https://ci.clayton.ca.us/our-city/vacancies/
  • Setting the date of the appeals of the Planning Commission’s Decisions Regarding the Olivia at Marsh Creek Project.  The appeals are scheduled to be heard at the meeting on 2.4.20.
  • The annual audit report for the fiscal year ended 6.30.19 is being presented by our external auditors.
  • At the last meeting I asked for an agenda item to discuss SB50 and the adoption of a position in opposition of this bill that would remake zoning within California.

If you have any thoughts or questions about any of these items please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

SB50 - Senator Wiener's Comments

State Senator Scott Wiener recently did an interview with LA Times and CALmatters reporters about SB50.  Here is a clip of that interview and what Wiener said:

 

"SB 50 goes beyond identifying sites where you're going to build housing, which is what the Housing Element process is for.  SB 50 is about all existing parcels.  It's not just about what is going to happen in the next 8 years.  Frankly, it's what's going to happen in the next 50 years.

And so you have a parcel that right now has a single family home on it.  There's no plan that anyone has to change that.  All the sudden becomes zoned for, let's say, 10 units, depending on the size of the parcel.  And, nothing may happen in the next 8 years. But in 20 years, maybe that will become a 10 unit building.

So SB 50 isn't just about what we're doing immediately right now.  It's about long term, structural change, for how we do land use in the State of California."

This is a bad bill and should be opposed by anyone who values local control and the character of Clayton.  This bill is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  

Contact them and ask them to vote no on SB50

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

1.7.20 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council took only one significant action and that was appointing Terri Denslow to the vacant Planning Commission seat.  After a 15 minute interview and with such little discussion that the result seemed preordained, the vote to appoint Ms. Denslow was 4-1. I was opposed.

Back in March when the Council was discussing Parolee Housing and various available restrictions, several ideas were offered from the community and from Council.  At the next meeting, Ms. Denslow came to the podium and likened that discussion to the enactment of Jim Crow laws, literacy tests, and poll taxes - effectively labeling myself, the Council, and those that would oppose parolee housing, as racists.  Casual accusations of racism may be de rigueur, but it does nothing to advance discourse.

Of the three candidates who applied, one had many years of construction litigation experience, one had multiple decades of experience as an architect working with local Planning Commissions, and Ms. Denslow who is a chemical engineer whose professional career has been focused on change management.

For these reasons I found Ms. Denslow to be unsuitable for the role of Planning Commissioner.  The rest of the Council disagreed. Mayor Pierce specifically identified Ms. Denslow's gender as a reason to support her appointment.


Separately, I asked to include on the agenda for the next meeting a request for Clayton to take a position in opposition on SB50 which I recently wrote about.  This bill has until the end of the month to make it out of committee so the next meeting is the only opportunity the Council will have to discuss it prior to that deadline.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

SB 50 is Back and Its Authors Want More Density and No More Single Family Zoning

Back in May of 2019, I wrote about SB50 being tabled in the CA legislative session until 2020.  It's now 2020 and it's back.  With various edits, the bill now has until the end of January to make it out of committee.  It's being pushed by State Senator Scott Weiner from San Francisco.

Though there are some minor changes, the worst parts of SB50 are still in full effect.  Fourplexes would be allowed by right on any single family zoned property - that means that anyone could build a fourplex in any neighborhood that is currently zoned for single family.  This would eliminate single family zoning everywhere in the state.

In addition to that, any location that is determined to be job rich or near transit could receive waivers on parking, density, height, size, etc.  And this would be on top of any waivers received as a result of the CA Density Bonus law.

This is a bad bill and should be opposed by anyone who values local control and the character of Clayton. Senator Weiner doesn't accept communication from folks outside his district. Please contact your State representatives to make your voice heard. In Clayton those representatives are Assembly Member Tim Grayson and State Senator Steve Glazer.

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 1.7.20

For the first meeting of 2020, there is one significant item on the agenda:

  • The Council will interview candidates for the vacant Planning Commissioner position.  It is a shorter term since it is filling a vacancy and is from January 2020 - June 2020.  During the public meeting the Council will seek to appoint a candidate to fill this slot.
Unrelated to the meeting, there are also a few spots open on the Trails and Landscape Committee.

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