If These Sacto Bills Pass, You Could Feel It

Bill Pearl

These Sacramento bills, approaching final votes in the coming weeks, could override aspects of Long Beach’s Land Use Element (LUE) and preempt local zoning in ways that could impact ELB neighborhoods.

AB 1279 (by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D, Santa Monica) would require Sacramento’s Dept. of Housing and Community Development to designate areas statewide as “high resource areas” if there are areas of high opportunity and low residential density. Parts of ELB Council Districts 3, 4 and 5 would likely fit within that definition. In such areas AB 1279 would require City Hall review “upon the request of a developer” of a housing development project as a use “by right” in the following circumstances.

In areas zoned only for single family homes, the bill would allow buildings with up to four residential units and a height of up to 20 feet. That density would apply if the units are “affordable” (subsidized/below market rent) or if the developer pays a fee to promote affordable housing.

In residential zoned areas, parcels of at least a quarter acre located on a major street and/or central business district could become sites for housing projects with up to 40 residential units and a height of up to 30 feet.

And if a parcel is over a half acre in these areas, a housing project with at least 25% of its units for low income and 25% for very low income could have up to 100 residential units and a height of up to 55 feet. Such a project could also receive a density bonus if it includes additional affordable units

On May 29, 2019, the Assembly approved AB 1279 on a 46-20 vote with 14 Assembly members (including Patrick O’Donnell) recorded as “no vote recorded.”

On June 12, 2019 – two weeks after the Assembly vote sent the bill to the state Senate – then-Long Beach City Manager Pat West sent a letter opposing AB 1279. The letter went to Assembly members (who’d already voted) and to state Senator Tom Umberg (D, SE LB-west OC) but not to state Senator Lena Gonzalez (who took office a few days later.)

AB 1279, amended slightly in the state Senate, is awaiting a vote in the state Senate’s Housing Committee (chaired by state Senator Scott Wiener (D, SF) with Senator Umberg as a Committee member.) The Committee is scheduled to discuss Assembly bills on August 6.

Although the City of Long Beach is on record opposing AB 1279, it has taken no position on two other neighborhood impacting bills:

SB-1385 would allow housing in certain commercial zones. The bill’s principal co-authors include state Senator Lena Gonzalez (D, LB-SE LA County). SB 1385 would deem a housing project an authorized allowable use on a neighborhood lot zoned for office or retail commercial uses. Allowable density must meet or exceed that deemed appropriate for lower income housing (and in metropolitan L.A. County the density would be at least 30 thirty units per acre.) The housing project could consist of entirely residential units or a mix of commercial retail, office, or residential uses, but not hotel uses and rental terms for the units would have to be for longer than 30 days.

The State Senate floor analysis for SB 1385 included these concerns: “A fundamental principle of zoning … has been that allowing some uses in one area but prohibiting others can be integral to protecting the public welfare. Local governments have historically separated uses to avoid siting incompatible activities, such as production agriculture and residential activity, near one another. It also mitigates potential public health issues, such as air pollution impacts from heavy industrial uses on nearby residents. SB 1385 allows residential use on properties that are zoned instead for office and retail uses, and thereby contravenes this principle. It also undermines the planning decisions made by local officials, who established which uses are allowed and at what intensity. In addition, SB 1385 allows relatively intense residential uses – up to 30 units an acre in some jurisdictions – on parcels that may have been set aside for lower intensity retail activities that don’t bring many customers to an area … Finally, SB 1385 establishes housing as an allowable use on many parcels through state legislative action, which doesn’t require CEQA analysis. However, if local agencies were to enact an ordinance accomplishing the same rezoning as in SB 1385, that ordinance would likely be considered a project under CEQA and therefore undergo environmental review that won’t occur under SB 1385.”

Despite these issues, the state Senate passed SB 1385 on June 24 on a 39-0-1 vote. It’s now awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Local Government Committee.

“The city has taken no position on SB 1385 despite the City Council approved 2020 “State Legislative Agenda” which states it is city policy to “Oppose legislation that preempts the city’s existing control over local matters” and specifically “Oppose policies and legislation that diminish 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.”

And there’s SB 1299, titled “Housing Development. Incentives. Rezoning of Idle Retail Sites.” This bill would require Sacramento’s   Housing/Community Development Dept. to administer a program to provide incentives in the form of grants to local governments that rezone idle sites used for a big box retailer or a commercial shopping center to instead allow the development of workforce housing. On June 24, SB 1299 passed the state Senate on a 39-1 vote with LB area state Senators Gonzalez and Umberg voting “yes.” It cleared the Assembly Housing & Community Development Committee on July 29 and heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, one step from the Assembly floor.


Bill Pearl is the publisher of lbreport.com, an online news source since 2000.


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