Councilmembers Austin, Mungo, Gonzalez ("State Legislation Committee") Don't Ask, City Staff Doesn't Tell, Why City Didn't Follow Committee/Council Voted Policy To Oppose Bills Threatening Local Control And Didn't Oppose SB 35 (Offers "Streamlined" Approval Of Certain Developer-Desired Multi-Unit Housing Projects, Erases Key Public CEQA Appeal Rights And Undermines Local Control)
|(Nov. 22, 2017, 10:20 a.m.) -- At midafternoon Nov. 21, the three-members of the City Council's State Legislation Committee -- Councilmembers Al Austin, Stacy Mungo and Lena Gonzalez -- failed to ask city staff to explain why the City didn't carry out the Committee/Council's publicly voted policy (text below) to oppose legislation threatening local control to oppose (SB 35, a measure that as of Jan. 1 lets developers use a "streamlined" process offering "ministerial" (clerk checklist type) approval of developer-sought multi-unit housing projects, erases key public CEQA appeal rights and undermines local control. SB 35 text here
City Hall's failure to oppose SB 35, which was supported by Sac'to Dem leadership, is particularly significant locally as it could amplify the effects of housing density increases sought in city staff's proposed Land Use Element/LUE).
A few hours later at an evening community meeting organized by her office, Councilwoman Mungo (seeking re-election in April 2018) sought to downplay the impacts of SB 35 and offered an explanation for City Hall's failure to oppose SB 35 inconsistent with City Hall's opposition to other bills (details below.)
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City staff materials accompanying a Nov. 21 State Legislation Committee agenda item recapped 2017 Sac'to matters but didn't mention SB 35 [with the exception of a summary by the City's-hired Sac'to lobbying firm on multiple bills]. However City Hall's Manager of Government Affairs, Diana Tang did discuss SB 35 verbally and told the Committee what she told LBREPORT.com in late August and we reported at that time: that the City took a "watch" position on SB 35 [consistent with what she told us in August: neutral while working with the author on local control issues.] Ms. Tang said the City had conferred with staff in the office of SB 35 author, Sen. Scott Weiner [but apparently not with the Senator himself] resulting in the inclusion of verbiage on the applicability of certain city planning documents. Ms. Tang indicated the text inclusion was favorable to retaining some local control, but candidly acknowledged it's less than some might have wanted.
Neither Councilmembers Austin, Mungo nor Gonzalez asked why the City didn't oppose SB 35 despite clear language in the Committee's January 2017 "State Legislative Agenda" text, enacted by the full Council in April 2017, that stated the City would "oppose legislation that preempts the City's existing control over local matters"..."oppose policies and legislation that preempts the current authority possessed by the City and delegates that authority to the State or other government jurisdiction"..."oppose policies and legislation that diminishes the City's local control over land use, planning, zoning and development decisions, and oppose legislation in conflict with the City's adopted General Plan or other Council adopted land use policies."
When asked about SB 35 a few hours later at the first of three community meetings she's now holding on the LUE, Councilwoman Mungo downplayed its impacts, repeating a claim previously offered by some city planning staffers (after SB 35 became law) that it requires developers to take a number of prerequisite steps to qualify for "streamlined" approval of developer-desired multi-unit housing projects.
Councilwoman Mungo also told her meeting audience (estimated at between 60-100 people) that the City didn't oppose SB 35 because of Sacramento's "gut and amend" procedure that can erase language in one bill that resurfaces in another bill. This claim wasn't offered by city staff at the State Legislation Committee hours earlier and is inconsistent with the fact that the City of Long Beach (like other cities) routinely opposes bills, as Long Beach did this year on bills with considerably less significance to residents than SB 35. Dozens of CA cities, plus the League of CA Cities, opposed SB 35 while Long Beach remained "neutral" for list, click here.
Applying a technique she's used in other meetings she's held on other topics, Councilwoman Mungo invited audience questions to which she then offered the answers without an opportunity for the audience to follow-up or rebut her statements. When resident Janet West, a taxpayer knowledgeable about details of SB 35 who first tried to alert the Council to its impacts at a July 2017 City Council meeting, shouted that Mungo's statements regarding SB 35 were untrue, Councilwoman Mungo indicated that if Ms. West could be asked to leave her meeting if she persisted.
Reduced to its essentials, SB 35 provides a mechanism letting developers avoid CEQA environmental (neighborhood) impact hearings/appeals and can require cities to grant approval to certain large multi-unit residential buildings, regardless of community or city staff or City Council concerns or opposition, in specified circumstances. Those circumstances are triggered if a City hasn't produced enough new housing units to satisfy the So. Cal. Council of Gov'ts, a separate body whose majority you and I don't elect (LB has two reps out of several dozen on SCAG's governing board) and City Hall doesn't control. (And no, LB hasn't met SCAG's dictated housing numbers, meaning SB 35 is applicable here.) To view SB 35 in full, (click here..
Apart from the City's "State Legislative Agenda," nothing prevented the City Council (if Mungo or others had agendized it) from taking an explicit position opposed to SB 35. The Council took explicit positions on other bills (including supporting SB 54 [the "sanctuary state" bill], LBREPORT.com coverage here.)
During the Nov. 21 meeting of his State Legislation Committee, chair Austin (who indicated months ago he's mulling a possible run for a state Senate seat in 2020) praised the Sacramento-enacted gas tax increase...although no language in the State Legislative Agenda mentions a tax increase (and it wasn't the subject of any publicly voted Council action where LB taxpayers could object.) Councilman Austin also boasted that LB has Sacramento clout, commended LB's mainly Democrat Sac'to legislators and said the City and his Committee continue to be transparent in their actions.
Councilman Mungo (who took office in mid-July 2014) didn't oppose the 5th district density/height increases of the advancing LUE maps released for public review in May 2015 and updated in August 2016 that reached the Planning Commission in Feb. 2017...when they were one step away from Council voted approval. (The Feb. maps were derailed by Wrigley residents who objected to increased density in their area.)
On April 24, 2017, Councilman Mungo denied and tried to disparage accurate information on the advancing LUE offered by Plaza area resident Corliss Lee [LBREPORT.com coverage with audio here]. Ms. Lee has since gone on to form the The Eastside Voice and has filed paperwork indicating she intends to challenge Councilwoman Mungo in the April 2018 elections. (Rich Dines, a former Harbor Commissioner who contributed to Mayor Garcia's 2018 re-election campaign, has also entered the race against Mungo.)
Councilwoman Mungo voiced no publicly stated opposition when city staff released widely opposed (and now rescinded) June and August density increase maps until after 5th districts residents began organizing grassroots meetings to oppose the LUE. Instead, she sought to disparage some of their information was inaccurate. Councilwoman Mungo claimed at one grassroots meeting that she couldn't express an opinion on the LUE, a statement that the City Attorney's office indicated was legally untrue.
When orange lawn signs began popping up ("Say NO to the LUE") in her 5th district (distributed by LB's grassroots non-governmental Council of Neighborhood Organizations), and residents effectively forced city staff to agree to hold "Town Hall" type meetings on the LUE, Mungo revised her public messaging and now says -- in general non-specific terms -- that she [banner text displayed at various meetings states that she "will not support increased density in the 5th district" and adds "Let's work together to protect the character of our residential neighborhoods."
On November 10, city staff released revised LUE maps, which reduced, modified and/or retained LUE density and height increases previously sought by city staff. Fourth dist. Councilman Daryl Supernaw swiftly stated why he wouldn't support the revised 4th district proposed map, citing specific height and density increases in specific areas. In contrast, Councilwoman Mungo hasn't said exactly what mixed-use density and/or height increases in the revised maps she opposes or could support.
At her Nov. 21 community meeting, she asked residents to indicate what density increases they oppose and urged them to communicate their views to the Planning Commission (which isn't elected) and to other Councilmembers (not accountable to 5th dist. residents), y leaving open what Mungo might try to change or ultimately agree to (after which she might say it was the best that could be done.)
Several meeting attendees remarked that Councilwoman Mungo's explanations, friendly demeanor and resident-supportive-sounding statements appeared to impress audience members.
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