Council Takes No Position on "Transit Rich" Housing Density Dictating
|(Feb. 14, 2018) -- As seen LIVE: the City Council voted
Instead, the City Council voted to send the issue to its State Legislation Committee (Austin, Mungo and Gonzalez) with no position taken on the bill (avoiding the politically-stinging "oppose unless amended") until Senator Wiener makes amendments he's indicated are forthcoming later this month but hasn't yet disclosed publicly.
No Councilmembers mentioned SB 827's potential impacts on density increases sought by city staff in Land Use Element maps coming to City Council voted actions on March 6. However candidates seeking to replace incumbents in Council districts 3 and 5 (Gordana Kajer and Corliss Lee) raised the issue in an afternoon press availability outside City Hall and said the City should seek amendments to last year's SB 35 (also authored by Sen. Wiener) which the Council allowed to proceed to enactment without opposition.
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Councilmembers Mungo, Austin and Supernaw had agendized an item to oppose SB 827 (LBREPORT.com coverage here) calling it a usurpation of local restrictions. A common form of legislative opposition in such circumstances would have been to "oppose unless amended" but the Council's action didn't do so, taking no position on SB 827 for now, effectively letting Sen. Wiener (a Democrat) avoid the political sting of having one of CA's largest cities (with a Democrat majority Council and a Democrat Mayor) oppose his bill.
[UPDATE, Feb. 14, 11:25 a.m.: Senator Wiener's office has provided LBREPORT.com of the two paragraph letter he sent to the full City Council dated February 13. No Councilmembers quoted from it during the Feb. 13 Council meeting. Sen. Wiener's letter stated:
First to speak during the Council session was Councilwoman Mungo (a Republican), who said "we" (didn't say who) had received a call earlier that day (Feb. 13) from Senator Wiener who had "agreed" to make "changes" but said she didn't know what the changes would be (as the Senator "has not opened the door on that yet.") Councilwoman Mungo said she appreciates that the work has been communicated and called it a "step in the right direction" and said she'd wait to hear from her colleagues deciding whether to hear the amendments or making a firm disapproval immediately with the option to reconsider if the amendments were appropriate.
Councilman Austin (a Democrat who chairs the Council's "state legislation committee" and has indicated he's considering seeking a state Senate seat that may open up after November 2018 elections) said he had a letter from Senator Wiener asking the Council to hold over a decision until he can make amendments to SB 827. Councilman Austin said Senator Wiener anticipates making "significant amendments" to SB 827 bill in late February (but likewise didn't say what they were) and said Senator Wiener had asked the City Council for more time.
Councilman Austin said that in his telephone conversation with Senator Wiener, the Senator was emphatic in indicating that he's heard not only from the City of Long Beach but many other cities throughout the state and Councilman Austin said "local control is something we're extremely interested in." Councilman Austin recommended that the Council wait in "good faith" for Sen. Wiener to make his amendments and refer the issue of the City's position on SB 827 to the Council's state legislation committee (that Austin chairs).
Councilman Supernaw waved a copy of the letter from Senator Wiener but didn't quote from it.
Prior to the Council vote, Councilman Austin said he'd heard from his constituents on the issue. [LBREPORT.com reported SB 827 the day after it was introduced and has published follow-up stories on SB 827, coverage that other LB media outlets haven't provided.] Councilwoman Mungo said Sen. Wiener's contact with the City shows LB is a player in this state and on legislative matters. Incumbent Mungo (currently facing three opponents in her bid for a second term) she said she would make Senator Wiener's letter available in her next newsletter to her constituents.
Mayor Garcia was absent from the Feb. 13 Council meeting, and Vice Mayor Richardson (presiding) didn't disclose why; LBREPORT.com believes Mayor Garcia was attending a meeting of the L.A. County Democratic Party at which local and regional political endorsement recommendations would be made.
[Shortly after the Council meeting, LBREPORT.com requested a copy of the letter from the offices of Councilmembers Austin and Supernaw. As of 11:20 a.m. Feb. 14, neither had responded.]
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, SB 827 has encountered stiff opposition from (among others) L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz (saying it would harm historic single family neighborhoods), the League of CA Cities (arguing it would undermine local control) and a number of usually left-of-center groups and elected officials (including Berkeley's Mayor) who've charged it would encourage gentrification and fails to address affordability. The Mungo-Austin-Supernaw agendized item focused on the bill's impacts on local decision making control.
During Council discussion, LB Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce said that in addition to local control, she is concerned about the lack of affordability and community benefits lacking in the bill.
A few hours before the Council meeting, 3rd district Council candidate Gordana Kajer and 5th district Council candidate Corliss Lee held a press availability outside City Hall to urge Councilmembers to do more than oppose SB 827 and said the Council should also seek amendments to SB 35 (authored by Senator Wiener, enacted in 2017) to restore aspects of local land use/housing decision making and the public's CEQA rights that SB 35 erased or curtailed.
Ms. Kajer and Ms. Lee noted that SB 35 as enacted and SB 827 as proposed could impact city staff's proposed Land Use Element (LUE) density increases, currently scheduled to come to the City Council on March 6 for a decision on density-increase maps. A number of Councilmembers (including Mungo) have urged "tweaks" in the maps, while Council candidates Kajer and Lee have urged that the Council pause the LUE's advance until the impacts of SB 35 (and a number of other 2017 Sacramento housing/land use related bills) had been fully discussed.
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, despite general policies in City Hall's 2017 "state legislative agenda" that recited the City would oppose legislation weakening or restricting local control, the City of LB didn't oppose SB 35 as it advanced to passage. Instead, the City remained officially "neutral"/"working with the author" on "local control" aspects and during this period, the Council's "state legislation committee" (Austin, Mungo and Gonzalez) didn't meet from Jan. 10, 2017 until November 21, 2017 (as SB 35 advanced to passage by mid-September.)
Also during this period, any Councilmembers) could have agendized SB 35 for opposition...but none did. SB 35 received "yes" votes from LB area state Senators Ricardo Lara (D, LB-Huntington Park) and Janet Nguyen (R, SE LB-West OC) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D, NLB-Lakewood-Paramount); Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell was one of a handful of Democrats voting "no" on SB 35. .
In August 2017, LB resident (4th district) Janet West raised SB 35's impacts at a pivotal Planning Commission meeting on density increases sought by city staff as part of a proposed LB Land Use Element (LUE) revision. On September 12, 2017 Ms. West explicitly advised the Council of SB 35's effects during public comment for non-agendized items, with no audible response from Councilmembers or the Mayor,
A few days earlier in September 2017, Councilwoman Suzie Price indicated at a 3rd district community meeting that she opposed SB 35, and Mayor Robert Garcia Tweeted that he opposed the bill, both citing loss of local control.
Senator Wiener contends that SB 35 doesn't remove local control, saying it retains local control by requiring "ministerial" (city clerk type) approval for housing projects consistent with the city's locally approved general plan (including land use element.)
SB 35 became an issue raised by multiple members of the public in Town Hall meetings in October 2017 regarding the city staff's proposed Land Use Element density increases. City planning staff (which didn't publicly mention SB 35 until the public raised the issue) have since tried to downplay the impacts of SB 35 as enacted. In November, 2017, the City Attorney's office issued a memo summarizing SB 35's terms. At a Feb. 9 forum (Q & A style) for 5th district Council candidates (presented by LB's Commercial Real Estate Council) Councilwoman Mungo indicated that the City Attorney's office is preparing some type of memo on the effects of SB 35 (and perhaps other housing-related bills.)
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