Local Government Approval ProcessSeptember 13, 2006Housing Opportunity Committee Legislative CommitteeThe following is for study only and has NOT been approved by the Housing Opportunity, Legislative or Executive Committees or the Board of Directors.Issue: Should C.A.R. sponsor a bill next year that will require local governments to provide an applicant a written disclosure stating the inconsistencies with their ordinances, approved ballot initiatives, regulations and policies concerning applications for: 1) Conditional use permits (CUP’s); 2) Zoning code variances; 3) General and specific plan amendments and; 4) Subdivision maps within a reasonable time from the date the application is deemed complete?Action: If C.A.R. is to sponsor a bill next year, the Board should authorize sponsorship at the October 2006 meeting.Options: 1. Sponsor a bill requiring local governments to disclose in writing conflicts or inconsistencies with local law concerning applications for CUP’s, zoning and building code variances, general and specific plan amendments and subdivision maps prior to a public hearing on the application.
2. Support legislation as specified in OptionOne.
3. Monitor legislation as specified in Option One.
4. OtherStatus/Summary: In an on going effort of sponsoring housing legislation and a recognition that a number of new and current members of the Assembly are becoming stronger advocates for local control, readjustment of the Associations sponsored housing bill package may be appropriate. This presents an interesting paradox: How does one reconcile members of the Legislature prefer local growth control efforts balanced against substantial pressure to accommodate the needs of an ever increasing population boom of 400,000 people per year? While C.A.R. has successfully sponsored bills to require local governments to think that their actions have a profound impact oncities and counties beyond their border, it may be appropriate for the Association to consider legislation that would strengthen certainty, understandability and accountability of government requirements by requiring local governments to disclose in theirstaff reports inconsistencies or conflicts of existing local law and policy concerning applications for a subdivision map, CUP, general or specific plan amendment or a zoning code variance. Applicants would be able to effectively respond and resolve the issues more quickly. Local governments could observe that they are not prepared to respond to an applicant until the date of: 1) a hearing or; 2) the meeting date. They may also object on the theory that the local government is too short staffed to meet the law as proposed. It could also drive up application costs. Time is money on the other hand. Even applicants for a lot line adjustment or a general plan amendment would be prepared walking into a meeting or hearing. Should C.A.R. sponsor a bill as described, C.A.R. could anticipate exempting sparsely populated or small jurisdictions. DiscussionFor over thirty years the CA Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has required a “project” as defined by that act which is inconsistent with a local governments’ general plan to be deemed to have a significant adverse environmental impact which therefore requires an environmental impact report (EIR). Thus, statutory precedent demonstrates that local government has become accustomed to preparing analytical reports for development applications. Part of the report must include statements, facts, and conclusions concerning the inconsistencies of the application when an amendment is being sought to the local governments’ general plan. That analysis must also list mitigating factors.Many local governments prepare staff reports concerning applications for development or variances to existing development. This is another indicator that local government has become accustomed to analyzing real estate related applications.Those reports, however, are not generally made available to an “applicant” in advance of a hearing or meeting. Unquestionably, this places the “applicant” at a competitive disadvantage and sometime forces the hearing or meeting to be continued because the applicant is not prepared to properly respond to the local government analysis in those situations.When a thorough report is not prepared, one usually finds changes to the application are made on the “fly” during the hearing or meeting. Confusion reigns, costs increase, consistency of law, regulation and policy is challenged.REALTORS® should decide if this issue is important to the members, housing affordability, is significant enough to sponsor a bill next year.Should C.A.R. decide it that it is appropriate to sponsor a bill it should expect opposition from local government. Cities and counties cannot object on the basis of changing state planning law, loss of local control, or increasing regional planning. The primary arguments will include it will be overly burdensome, costly to implement; and a loss of the ability to change law, regulation and policy easily and at a moments notice.