Wednesday, April 17, 2019

4.16.19 Meeting Summary

Last night there were a few things discussed, the largest of which was housing related to the CASA compact.  A brief summary of what transpired:

A second reading of a new sign ordinance regarding non-commercial signs following a previous discussion on 2.5.19 and 4.2.19.  I reiterated my previous opposition restricting speech  and didn't see a need to rehash previous arguments.  The ordinance passed 4-1 with me voting no.

I gave a presentation regarding the CASA Compact:

CASA was formed to address the housing crisis in the Bay Area. Through a series of proposals, CASA recommends raising money in all the ways that governments can raise money, except for actually printing it. If executed, CASA would:
  • Create a new unelected quasi governmental body that could
  • Levy and collect additional taxes
  • Issue debt
  • Impose fees on just about everyone.
With this money, the unelected regional quasi governmental body would seek to:
  • Override local zoning eliminating single family zoning in many Bay Area neighborhoods
  • Provide financial incentives to builders
  • Push for public land to be used for affordable housing
  • Reduce environmental review for new developments
  • Impose rent control
  • Fund tenant litigation
  • Force landlords to pay for tenant relocation
After much discussion, and because many of these things would be implemented through state legislation, the Council agreed that we should draft a letter addressed to all of our state and local representatives.  This letter would communicate our guiding principles stating our position as a city, what we are in favor of and provide constructive commentary on what we are opposed to.  

I will take point on drafting this letter for Council discussion and present it at our next meeting.

The Council also agreed to engage with an executive search firm to replace our City Manager who announced his upcoming retirement.  Mayor Catalano and Vice Mayor Pierce sought to create an a sub committee to shepherd that process.

More detailed thoughts below:

When I asked for this item to be placed on the agenda so we could discuss, I simultaneously asked if we could have a representative from ABAG or MTC join us and share information about this important topic.  At the time, I was told that there either wasn't time, or that they are doing outreach through other channels.  So when I learned that Vice Mayor Pierce invited Brad Paul, the Deputy Executive Director, Local Government Services of MTC, I was pleasantly surprised.  Mr. Paul gave an update on the current status of many items, and encouraged the Council to make their voice heard so as to influence upcoming legislation.  The only unfortunate thing was that the Council did not take action sooner - CASA has been in the works for nearly 2 years.

There was also the implication that the information presented may have contained errors.  Granted the material is quite complex with many moving parts, it's entirely possible.  Because the outreach by MTC and ABAG was insufficient as they characterize it, much of the information presented needed to be obtained by reading through the hundreds if not thousands of pages of presentation material, news articles, watching committee meetings, reading proposed and pending legislation.  If there are actually any errors, I welcome the feedback so that I can update anything that warrants correction.

The problems I identified with CASA took three main flavors:

  1. Loss of local control
  2. Applying a one size fits all approach to large and small cities
  3. Lack of attention around transit and other infrastructure related to increased housing

Each member of the Council expressed their support for local control, and spoke against a one size fits all approach.  Other comments from the Council alleged that the presentation was meant to be divisive, however with the overall agreement on the main ideas above, it's hard to see the division.  In the marketplace of ideas, disagreement is not divisive.   It certainly is not divisive to seek to understand where our elected officials stand on issues that matter to the community.  And given the scope of what is being proposed I think a presentation on this important matter is long overdue.

These proposals that are in front of the legislature right now have the potential to impact everyone in Clayton, the Bay Area, and the state.  Things like increasing sales taxes, parcel taxes, gross revenue taxes, are serious matters and should be discussed as information is available.  We should not wait until a final bill is presented or even passed to have that conversation.

The effort to override local zoning, encouraging 75 and 85 foot towers in single family residential zones that could be adjacent to existing homes could have a dramatic impact on neighborhoods.  Providing an exception to environmental review for development projects could have significant unintended consequences of the sort that environmental protections are supposed to guard against.  Making things more expensive for homeowners with increased parcel taxes, more expensive for businesses with gross receipts and head taxes, and more expensive for everyone with increased sales taxes and issuing debt - could have significant downstream impacts that are difficult to address after the legislation is enacted.

As is always the goal, mine is transparency, engagement, and making sure our elected leaders hear and listen to their constituents.  To that end, after I draft a letter that describes the city's overall position, I will offer it here and seek input.  Look forward to a future post with a draft and please subscribe via the link on the left to receive updates as they are published.