City committee reviews housing, public safety bills 

Santa Clarita City Hall
Santa Clarita City Hall

The Legislative Committee for the Santa Clarita City Council reviewed bills that council members have described as taking aim at local control and addressing rising crime, two of the city’s legislative priorities. 

The committee met Wednesday afternoon to give its recommendations of support or opposition on a handful of state bills currently being considered by the state’s lawmakers. 

The committee adopted positions of opposition to the four bills that looked to weaken local control and supported the two that addressed public safety. 

The city’s intergovernmental relations officer, Masis Hagobian, curates a list of bills for discussion by the committee members, Mayor Cameron Smyth and Councilman Jason Gibbs, based on a council-approved list of legislative priorities. The committee makes recommendations for support or opposition passed to the full council for a final review. 

The committee’s main concerns for the current slate were different ways that local authority is changed or removed to address the housing crisis. 

“A common theme is an attempt to expand existing laws related to housing and local land use,” Hagobian said, starting with Assembly Bill 1886. 

The bill from David Alvarez, D-San Diego, states a city’s housing element — a mandated plan that shows an existing and future housing potential for an area — is only complete once the state Housing and Community Development Department, or a court, finds it in compliance.  

“This comes from what we’ve experienced in the last two to three years, and really across the state, many cities have experienced, where HCD has required significant revisions to housing elements that have been approved by local governing bodies,” Hagobian said, “And in doing so has kind of prolonged or delayed whether or not a housing element is considered compliant.” 

While awaiting compliance for its housing element last year, for example, the city saw a plan submitted that would have put more than 1,000 apartments on Newhall Avenue at Sierra Highway.  

Ultimately, the plans were not completed in time, but the city could have been required to approve the project, regardless of whether it was in compliance with local zoning ordinances, because the city was awaiting approval of its housing element, due to recent state laws. 

Hagobian said giving final say to an understaffed state agency would be a “recipe for disaster” the next time the city needs to approve its housing element. 

AB 2243 and Senate Bill 937 similarly expand state authority with respect to housing projects, with the first looking to streamline the approval procedures for affordable-housing and mixed-income projects and the second making it so a local government can’t collect developer fees for affordable housing projects until a certificate of occupancy is issued. 

The idea is to speed up the completion of housing projects, but Hagobian mentioned an important use for the fees. 

“Development fees are applied by local governments, really to ensure that any increase to a population in any area that comes with a new development, that there’s public infrastructure that would withstand that increase in population,” he said, adding denying cities access to those fees would not only impact the residents of the project but also those in surrounding areas. 

SB 1037, which was written by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, “would authorize the attorney general to seek civil penalties in court against local governments for failure to adopt a compliant Housing Element or if the local government does not follow state laws that require ministerial approval of certain housing projects.” 

The criminal justice bills involved retail theft, which has been a priority for state legislators during this session. 

AB 1990 “would authorize a law enforcement officer to make a warrantless arrest for shoplifting even if the crime is not committed in their presence, provided there is probable cause,” Hagobian said. 

He said currently there’s a handful of crimes that are categorized under this area where an officer can make a warrantless arrest without witnessing the crime take place in front of them, such as domestic violence-related crimes, and this bill would add shoplifting to that list. 

The second criminal justice-related bill involved an additional sentencing enhancement for charges involving thefts greater than $50,000, which is related to another bill that allows law enforcement officers to add up the values from other thefts for cases involving serial incidents. 

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