' Sac'to Enacts SB 35, Can Give Developers Near Automatic City Approval Of Housing Projects (Including Subsidized "Affordable" Rental Bldgs.) Without Public Input, Or Neighborhood Impact Analysis, Or Local Parking Reqts; Will Also Amplify Density-Increasing Power Of LB City Staff Proposed Land Use Changes '


Sac'to Enacts SB 35, Can Give Developers Near Automatic City Approval Of Housing Projects (Including Subsidized "Affordable" Rental Bldgs.) Without Public Input, Or Neighborhood Impact Analysis, Or Local Parking Reqts; Will Also Amplify Density-Increasing Power Of LB City Staff Proposed Land Use Changes

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(Sept. 15, 2017, 9:05 a.m.) -- As flashed and followed LIVE last night on LBREPORT.com's front page and Facebook and pages, the Assembly voted 48-26 in the 11 p.m. hour on Thursday Sept. 14 to approve SB 35, a bill that with few exceptions erases public input, neighborhood impact (CEQA) review, local parking requirements and City Hall discretion on developer desired housing projects.

Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell voted "no," but the bill (part of a package of housing-related bills) was backed by Sac'to Dem leadership including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D, NLB-Lakewood-Paramount) and Governor Brown. The bills give developers financial incentives and enable (and in some cases require) fast-track City Hall approval for new housing, including below market subsidized ("affordable") housing. SB 2 imposes a number of new fees on real estate transactions; SB 3 authorizes a 2018 ballot measure that, if approved by voters, would float a debt-bond to finance below market rental projects for homeless individuals and veterans. In addition, SB 166 requires cities to find enough development sites to meet "unmet" housing needs and SB 167 requires "substantial evidence" in the record if the city wants to disapprove or render infeasible a housing project for very low, low or moderate income households or emergency shelters.)

SB 35 is the most sweeping, providing developers with what supporters labeled "streamlined" approval that amounts to near automatic City Hall approval for multi-unit residential buildings and enables incentives for "affordable"/low-rent subsidized units) without the type of public input currently required for large projects. SB 35 erases the requirement for an EIR to examine a large proposed development's impacts and eliminates parking required under LB laws.

The net result enables such projects without city staff or City Council approval at nearly all locations [exceptions include in coastal zone, flood zones, etc.] where city zoning allows residences IF the city hasn't issued sufficient permits (not merely adopted "plans" or "goals") for new housing in numbers decided by a regional body (So Cal Ass'n of Gov'ts) [LBREPORT.com coverage here.] (The City of LB's Director of Development Services, Amy Bodek, confirmed to LBREPORT.com that the City of Long Beach would be subject to SB 35's mandates at this time.)



SB 35 also prevents the city from requiring locally required minimum parking for new housing built within half a mile of "public transit" and in other circumstances; for proposed residential projects in other areas, SB 35 prevents the city from requiring more than one parking space per residential unit [although many residential units might have two or more residents who drive.] [LBREPORT.com coverage of parking aspects of SB 35, click here.]

SB 35's full text can be viewed is at this link. Numbered pages 11-23 show how, with few exceptions, SB 35 would effectively end most LB City Hall decision making, current public input and local parking requirements.

SB 35 could be especially impacting in Long Beach, where 1980s city officials allowed developer-desired "crackerbox" apartments to displace single family residences in downtown-adjacent neighborhoods, and now coincides with current City Hall staff's proposed re-write of the city's entire Land Use Element in ways that would enable increased density in multiple areas citywide.

When combined with SB 35, the LB Land Use rewrite arguably invites a perfect density storm, since SB 35 would in many cases prevent public input and City Hall decisional authority in areas designated for residential or "mixed (commercial + residential) uses."


Earlier this year, the City Council's State Legislation Committee (Austin, Gonzalez, Mungo) and the full Council approved a "State Legislative Agenda" that recited City policies including "oppose legislation that preempts the City's existing control over local matters." These included "oppose policies and legislation that preempts the current authority possessed by the City and delegates that authority to the State or other government jurisdiction" and "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."

But the City of Long Beach didn't oppose SB 35. On Aug. 29 and re-confirmed on Sept. 5, the City's Manager of Government Affairs, Diana Tang, said the City's official position was "neutral" on SB 35 while "working with the author on amendments, consistent with the City's state legislative agenda as it relates to local control."

On June 1, SB 35 cleared the state Senate on a 25-12 vote...with the support of both members of LB's state Senate delegation (state Senator Ricardo Lara (D, LB-Huntington Park) and state Senator Janet Nguyen (R, SE-LB/West OC). LB Mayor Robert Garcia and City Councilmembers remained publicly mum as SB 35 advanced, supported by development interests and sweetened for organized labor/building trade unions by including a mandatory "prevailing wage" provision (normally applicable to governmental, not private projects.)



For months, LBREPORT.com had detailed the advance of maps showing areas where city staff proposes that the Council allow increased Land Use density. The density issue escalated in August when city staff, following public testimony and Planning Commission colloquy, released revised maps proposing to allocate greater density in parts of ELB and basically retain proposed density in the Wrigley area (LBREPORT.com coverage here.) To view the August 2017 proposed maps by Council districts, click here.

At an August 17 Planning Commission meeting, nearly 30 residents turned out to testify against the latest proposed density increase maps (coverage here). Mayor Garcia -- who only hours earlier had spoken in favor of increased density in parts of LB that he called appropriate for it (coverage here) scrambled to urge city staff not to bring the maps to the City Council without first conducting more "public outreach" on the maps. (Garcia and five Council incumbents face re-election in April 2018.)

During the Aug. 17 Planning Commission meeting, ELB resident Janet West raised the issue of SB 35, and Development Services Director Amy Bodek publicly commended her for raising the bill's potential impacts along with other Sac'to mandates. In response, LBREPORT.com began reporting in detail on SB 35, in a series of articles (here and here among others) and word spread via the newly revived Council of Neighborhood Organizations/CONO) and independent coverage by a well-read 4th district blog, further amplified by NextDoor.com.


In response to the gathering storm over the maps, 5th district Councilwoman Stacy Mungo made statements to the effect that she doesn't support the type of density proposed in the August maps and seemed to suggest (without clearly stating) that she favored February or June released maps that proposed increased density albeit at lesser levels.

On Sept. 7, Assemblyman O'Donnell publicly announced his opposition to SB 35, an action effectively breaking with his party leadership but unlikely to seriously upset them, since Assembly Dems wield a super-majority and by this point knew they had a majority to pass SB 35. Also on Sept. 7, Mayor Garcia (who declined to respond during an Aug. 31 "Ask Me Anything" Twitter when asked if he opposed SB 35 (and whose office didn't respond to LBREPORT.com inquiries seeking examples of when the Mayor had publicly opposed SB 35) quietly informed a Tweeting resident that he opposed SB 35.

At a Sept. 9 community meeting, O'Donnell reiterated his opposition to SB 35, and 3rd dist. Councilwoman Suzie Price joined him in stating her opposition to the loss of local control. (LBREPORT.com VIDEO coverage here.)

At a Sept. 11 meeting organized by her office (on another topic), Councilwoman Mungo at one point said that SB 35 was a Sacramento matter while she is a Long Beach elected. When some in the audience noted that she's part of the Council's State Legislation Committee, Mungo said she supported local control but declined to answer when asked why the City of LB's position was "neutral" on SB 35. At one point, Councilwoman Mungo tried to reassure residents by saying Mayor Garcia doesn't support the type of density proposed in the August maps, and said whatever maps are ultimately adopted will still require proposed projects to undergo public input, city and Council approval...without mentioning that SB 35 (then days away from passage) could effectively erase much of that process.

During the week before the final vote, Mayor Garcia didn't go to Sacramento to publicly oppose SB 35; instead, he traveled to Lima, Peru with organizers of the 2028 L.A. Olympic games ("LA2028") for an event that didn't require his presence (since a decision to give the 2028 games to L.A. was a foregone conclusion. (L.A.'s game organizers have allotted a few venues to Long Beach.)

Two groups of ELB residents are now taking steps to organize themselves. One group -- Density Watch Long Beach -- held a meeting over Labor Day weekend that drew nearly 60 people (coverage here. A separate group -- The Eastside Voice -- is focused on organizing a neighborhood group spanning ELB Council districts 4 and 5.

The Eastside Voice has announced its inaugural meeting on Sunday afternoon Sept. 17 at the El Dorado Library, 2900 Studebaker Rd. from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Density Watch Long Beach will hold its second neighborhood group meeting on Saturday Sept. 16 Sept. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at 2909 Ostrom Ave.

LB residents citywide now face more than city staff's proposed density increase maps. Under SB 35 (and other bills in the "housing package"), whatever maps are ultimately adopted can now carry "streamlined" (arguably near mandatory) approval powers. SB 35 gives developers the ability to receive near automatic approval for their desired housing projects (including subsidized "affordable" housing") without public input, CEQA neighborhood impact reports or LB-required parking requirements.

One Bay Area website writer has opined that SB 335 amounts to "taking power from the people." History will record that it became law without meaningful opposition by the City of Long Beach and those currently running it.

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