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SB 35 Text, Impacts On Proposed Land Use Element/Increased Housing Density, City Hall Record As It Advanced To Enactment

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SB 35 is state legislation introduced in Dec. 2016; progressed to enactment in September, 2017; becomes effective Jan. 1, 2018) that in circumstances where it applies eliminates significant public rights under CEQA (another state law) to public notice, environmental impact reports, Planning Commission, Council appeals and court challenges if necessary to developer-sought large multi-unit residential projects.

SB 35 is complex (full text, HTML, click here or PDF, click here.).

On Nov. 27, the City Attorney's office sent a memo to the Mayor, City Councilmembers, the City's Development Services Director and Manager of Government Affairs, regarding SB 35. To view it, click here.

Reduced to its essentials, SB 35 provides "streamlined" approval, requiring that cities grant clerk-type ("ministerial") approval to developers that seek to build multi-unit residential projects if the location isn't otherwise exempt (coastal zone, flood zones, and some others) and if the proposed development meets "objective standards" in the city's General Plan (which includes a city's Land Use Element).

Long Beach's non-elected city staff is currently seeking to have LB's non-elected Planning Commission recommend, and ultimately LB's elected City Council approve, changes to the city's Land Use Element that would enable greater density and building heights in varying amounts in various parts of the city. Related zoning changes (that a Council majority would then be asked to enact) would follow to implement the Land Use Element changes.



SB 35 says that if a city's land use documents (such as LUE and zoning) aren't consistent, the General Plan prevails for purposes of "streamlined" approval for multi-unit housing developers. In that circumstance in Long Beach, the new Land Use Element would be the most recent and arguably the document most reflective of the city's objective land use standards.

SB 35 applies in cities (like Long Beach) that (LB city staff says) can't show permits issued for new housing (in various income categories) in numbers that meet forecast housing "needs" decided by a regional entity ("Southern CA Ass'n of Governments" or "SCAG.") SCAG's governing board is comprised of elected officials from dozens of southland cities (LB has two reps: Vice Mayor Richardson and Councilwoman Gonzalez), meaning SCAG's decisions on LB housing "needs" (and other matters) aren't accountable to LB voters.

LB's Mayor and City Councilmembers let SB 35 advance to final passage without discussion by the Council's State Legislation Committee (Austin, Mungo, Gonzalez) or by the full City Council at the same time city staff was and is simultaneously advancing a major revision to the city's Land Use Element with accompanying density increase maps.

SB 35 was opposed by dozens of CA cities and by the League of CA Cities, but the City of Long Beach remained "neutral" on SB 35, despite a "2017 State Legislative Agenda" (a list of 2017 policies) approved by the Council's "State Legislation Committee" (Austin, Mungo, Gonzalez) on Jan. 10, 2017, and approved by the full Council on April 4, 2017 (7-0, Price and Andrews absent) reciting that the following would be City of Long Beach policy toward state legislation: "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."

Instead, the City of Long Beach took a "watch" position as SB 35 advanced to passage, despite SB 35's content in applicable circumstances preempting local control and diminishing the city's decision making over land use, parking and other development issues.



Citing loss of local control, multiple CA opposed SB 35 (including Lakewood and Signal Hill) as did the League of CA Cities (advocacy group for over 400+ dues paying cities, including LB.) the LB City Council voted earlier this year to oppose Sacramento legislation that could reduce local control, the City of LB remained officially "neutral" on SB 35 and working with the author on amendments consistent with the city's policy on local control.

On June 1, SB 35 cleared the state Senate with "yes" votes by LB-area State Senators Ricardo Lara (D, LB-Huntington Park) and Janet Nguyen (R, SE LB-west OC).

About a week before final Sac'to votes, Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell (D, LB-SP) announced his opposition to SB 35 (citing LB's history of "crackerbox" density and loss of local control)...but by this time Sac'to's Democrat majority legislative leadership already had sufficient supportive votes in line for SB 35's passage. At an early September community meeting, 3rd Councilwoman Suzie Price indicated that like O'Donnel she also opposed SB 35 based on local control. About the same time, Mayor Robert Garcia quietly Tweeted to an individual that he also opposed SB 35.

In the days prior to the final legislative vote, Mayor Garcia flew to Lima, Peru for a photo-op (his presence not legally required) related to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics (at which organizers have scheduled some Long Beach events) instead of traveling to Sacramento to try to stop or gain some amendments protecting LB's interests. Instead, Councilman Al Austin (chosen by Garcia to chair the Council's "State Legislation Committee") flew to Sacramento in the final days of the legislative session for an event held by the League of CA Cities. (Austin's office hasn't responded to LBREPORT.com requests for information on what, if anything, Councilman Austin did re SB 35 during the trip.)

Councilman Austin has previously indicated to LBREPORT.com that he is considering a possible run for the state Senate seat that would become vacant if state Senator Ricardo Lara (D, LB-Huntington Park) is elected statewide Insurance Commissioner in November 2018.


On November 21, 2017 the Council's "State Legislative Committee" -- which held no meetings between Jan. 10 and Nov. 21 while the state legislature was in session and advancing SB 35) received a report from city management's Manager of Government Affairs, Diana Tang on what took place during the legislative year. Ms. Tang indicated that Long Beach along with some other cities had managed to have some text inserted in SB 35 that acknowledges the applicability of certain city land use documents, and candidly acknowledged that the amendment wasn't as much as some might have liked. [No Committee members mentioned the verbiage they'd approved in January, and the Council approved in April, by which the City stated it would oppose legislation affecting local control.]

SB 35 was supported by Sac'to Dem leadership, including Governor Brown, and was also supported by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Below (in reverse chronological order) is salient LBREPORT.com coverage of SB 35:

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