California legislators have been busy this month approving and reviewing legislation to help support Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan to focus on addressing California’s homelessness issue. In regards to creating more housing, Assembly Bill 101 involves stronger incentives to encourage more housing production throughout the state. Whereas, Assembly Bill 516 focuses on alleviating the stress of low-income individuals who are unable to pay parking tickets and registration fees. AB 516 also coincides with other bills such as AB 891 and AB 302 which aim to set policies that require safe and overnight parking spaces for individuals who are living in their vehicles.
Assembly Bill 101 (formerly Senate Bill 48) passed through both the Senate and the Assembly floor. This bill allows navigation centers to become CEQA exempt as well as CEQA related litigation. The process of building a navigation center usually encounters a moratorium as a result of litigation from groups opposing the project and citing the need for environmental reviews. This bill approves “Low Barrier Navigation Centers” as a “use by right” which would surpass certain processes that attempt to stop the building of navigation centers due to the lengthy process of environmental reviews. Along with speeding up the process to build more navigation centers, Assembly Bill 101 also sets aside $650 million to address homelessness. With shorter timelines, more shelter can be provided at a faster rate. Along is access to a faster process, AB 101 will also allow the state to reward cities that support more housing policies and punish cities that do not meet state requirements by fining them up to $600,000 per year. These strong incentives will require cities to take action to get behind the state’s pressing need for more affordable housing. Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 101 into law at the end of July.
Another legislative piece, AB 516, is centered towards relieving low-income individuals from the burden of having their cars towed for various actions such as unpaid parking tickets and unpaid registrations. Assembly Members David Chiu and Miguel Santiago introduced this bill to address the collected debt of towing fines which are seen as punishment for individuals who are already unable to afford parking fees. Continuous fines cause strain on an individual who may be unemployed and are actively job seeking but do not have access to transportation due their car being towed or booted. The bill’s specific language states that towing will not apply to individuals with 5 or more notices of parking violations, a vehicle that has been parked for more than 72 hours, and if the car registration is expired for more than 6 months. Towing for traffic flow and public safety reasons will still apply. On August 12th, the bill passed the Senate Appropriations committee and will now move to the Suspense file.
As the California legislature begins to reconvene from summer recess, it is important to stay up to date with bills such as AB 101 and AB 516. With the continuing trend of more pro housing bills to look forward to in the future we can expect a higher priority to be placed on creating more affordable housing in Santa Cruz County. While we have no position on AB 516, we are supportive of AB 101 as a stepping stone towards solving California’s homelessness crisis. We look forward to seeing more pieces of legislature that address the need for affordable housing.