City takes positions on housing, environment, justice bills

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on Feb. 26. Watson/The Signal
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The Santa Clarita City Council considered issues of the environment, housing and justice when it took positions on several pieces of state and federal legislation Tuesday night. 

Council members cast their votes on the legislation as part of their agenda’s consent calendar, which features a variety of business items. 

Of the four state Senate bills opposed by the council, two – SB 12 and SB 778 – seek to eat into local control of land use. 

SB 12 proposes to use the very high fire hazard severity zone designation to restrict development in those areas.  

A local government, like the city of Santa Clarita, wouldn’t be allowed to approve new residential construction or occupancy-increasing construction in very high fire hazard severity zones unless the city could show compliance with “wildfire risk reduction standards” established by the proposed law. 

Though the bill passed out of the Senate, its house of origin, it failed to clear the Assembly Housing and Community Development committee in a vote held July 12.  

That committee did unanimously vote to reconsider the bill at a later date. 

SB 778 would require “local governments to ministerially approve, within 60 days, the conversion of any commercial space, industrial space, retail space, or other vacant space within an existing mixed-use structure or multi-family residential structure to an accessory dwelling unit (ADU),” according to a city staff report. 

The bill is awaiting a committee referral in the Assembly after winning the approval of the Senate. Similarly, SB 679, which would form the Los Angeles County Affordable Housing Solutions Agency, received a no vote from the council. 

The proposed 18-member body would have the power to issue bonds and tax county residents to fund affordable housing construction. The proposed bill also requires that 70% of the funds raised by the agency would be allocated to the four most populous cities in the county, which includes Santa Clarita. 

On the matter of justice, the City Council voted to oppose SB 262, which “waives monetary bail for all misdemeanors and specific felonies, as outlined in the legislation,” a city report explained. 

Serious and violent felonies, domestic violence offenses and other specific felonies would still require bail under this proposed law. However, trespassing, public intoxication, fraud, shoplifting property not exceeding $950 and some other misdemeanors would not require bail.  

The bail bill is nearing its final approval as it heads to the Assembly Appropriation Committee. 

Council members did support for SB 619. The bill delays when the state can penalize local governments for not complying with regulations to help the state achieve the goal of setting methane emission reduction targets to reduce landfill disposal of organic waste by 75% of 2014 levels by 2025.  

Instead of Jan. 1, 2022, the state will have the authority to issue penalties starting on the first day of 2023. 

SB 619 recently received unanimous approval from the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. It will be heard by the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee next. 

The council also voted to support the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, a federal bill authored by Diane Feinstein, D-California. 

The bill would more than double in size the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which includes mountains surrounding the city. 

In Santa Clarita, lands between the Angeles National Forest and State Route 14 would be part of the 191,000 acres joining the existing 154,000 acres. 

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources heard the bill last month and will meet again to consider changes and approval at a later date, according to a city report. 

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