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 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.