Assemblymember Miguel Santiago Introduces Legislation to Protect Growth & Development in California

Thursday, February 16, 2017

(Sacramento, CA) – This morning, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) introduced Assembly Bill 943 to increase the vote threshold for approval of local initiatives intended to curb, delay, or deter growth and development throughout California.  The measure is sponsored by the California Apartment Association and supported by a broad coalition including the California Building Industry Association, the California Council on Affordable Housing, the California Building and Construction Trades Council, the Central City Association, the Downtown Women’s Center, the Valley Industry & Commerce Association and others.

"By all accounts, the state is in the middle of a housing crisis; in many areas, our firefighters, police officers, and teachers cannot afford to live in the cities in which they work.  I fought hard throughout my first term to emphasize and further the development of housing in California,” said Assemblymember Santiago.  “To see those efforts thwarted by local governments and residents who are more concerned about their scenic views than the quality of life for all Californians, is frustrating, to say the least.  It’s time for us to ‘walk the walk’ on our priorities.” 

A March 2015 report by the state’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office concluded that the state would need to build millions more homes – including more than a million in Los Angeles County alone – to keep housing prices in line with the rest of the country.  Those million construction starts would only just meet the population’s demands for housing.

An additional, compounded problem is that of housing for families. A report in Governing magazine from November 2015 found that in California’s largest urban areas, less than 5% of rental units being constructed consist of 3 or more bedrooms.  Furthermore, in many cities, vacancy rates have dropped dramatically due to the lack of new construction, making it difficult for individuals, students, seniors, and families to find a place to live close to their schools or jobs.

"Laws that curtail the development of housing threaten efforts to solve our housing crisis. Such moves carry heavy consequences for all Californians and warrant a higher approval threshold from voters," said Debra Carlton, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for the California Apartment Association.

While many local governments are devoting energy and attention to the issue of increasing housing production, there are others who been unable to do so – due to either a lack of will by the local legislative body or by constituent groups within those localities.  In some areas, attempts have even been made to block future housing developments of various kinds.  Examples include 2015’s Measure A in Buena Park and Measure I in San Francisco, Santa Monica’s Measure LV in 2016, and Measure S which is slated for the Los Angeles City ballot in March of 2017.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times noted that “in some ways, state lawmakers’ hands are tied on boosting housing supply because cities and counties primarily control building and permitting.” AB 943 attempts to loosen those binds on legislators some by limiting the abilities of those at the local level to implement development moratoriums or to further stymie statewide efforts to lift Californians out of poverty and into better socio-economic circumstances. 

There is precedent in California for a different vote threshold for local measures on issues where the State, as a whole, has developed a specified interest.  These issue areas include education bonds, parcel taxes, and general taxes levied by school districts and special districts.

AB 943 will likely be heard in policy committee(s) within the Assembly in late February or early March.

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago is the Chair of the Assembly’s Communications and Conveyance Committee. He represents the 53rd District composed of the cities of Los Angeles, Huntington Park, and Vernon.