Remote Meetings Under the Brown Act
Under the Brown Act, legislative bodies must conduct their business in open, public, and noticed meetings. Before COVID-19, decisionmakers, staff, and the public almost always attended meetings in person. Infrequently, public agencies invoked a narrow provision of the Brown Act to allow one or more members to “teleconference” into a meeting from a remote location, […]
Constitutional Limits to Abating Homeless Encampments, and Best Practices for a Cooperative Approach
California is home to nearly one-fourth of the nation’s unhoused population, and homelessness in California continues to rise. For example, according to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, from 2019 to 2022, California’s unhoused population increased from approximately 151,000 to 171,000. Of the 171,000 unhoused individuals counted in 2022, 67%, or 115,000 persons, […]
Vacant House Taxes: One Tool to Ease Housing Pressures
Housing affordability – whether buying or renting – remains a critical challenge for California cities and their residents. An April 2022 report from UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation found that a record number of Californians are housing cost burdened. State housing cost burdens have surged over the last two decades, with home value […]
Staying on Top of the Surplus Land Act – Practice Tips After Recent Updates
When local agencies sell or lease their surplus land to others, California’s Surplus Land Act (SLA) (Government Code sections 54220 to 24234) requires them to prioritize that land for affordable housing, open space, and school use. Agencies must let affordable housing developers, local park and recreation districts and departments, and school districts know that the […]
Planning for Environmental Justice: Implementing SB 1000
A Valuable Tool for Equity Due in part to a long history of unequal land use planning and discriminatory housing and industrial policies, communities of color and low-income communities bear a disproportionate burden of environmental harms. Large polluting industries tend to be sited in or near these communities, leading to higher rates of long-term health […]
With FPPC Enforcement on the Rise, Public Agencies Navigate Gray Area in Use of Public Funds for Election Communications
Local agencies walk a fine line when producing effective informative materials for ballot measures without inadvertently ‘campaigning’. This article reviews current FPPC rules around spending public money to inform the electorate, how to steer clear of enforcement gray areas, and opportunities for the Legislature to authorize limited public agency electoral campaigns.
SB 244: Focus on Disadvantaged Unincorporated Communities in Land Use Planning
Systemic issues in land use planning have historically plagued small, low-income, unincorporated communities on the urban fringe. SB 244 took a first step to address the legal, financial, and political barriers affecting disadvantaged unincorporated communities in California. This article describes SB 244 requirements and looks at implementation progress.
How Public Agencies Can Support Beneficial Fire Use
California’s recent fire seasons have been staggeringly destructive, and are poised to worsen over upcoming decades as the impacts of climate change increase. Yet, we are not helpless. The use of beneficial fire—at the right times and in the right locations—can increase forest resiliency and reduce wildfire risk. California’s pending Strategic Plan for Expanding the Use of Beneficial Fire points public agencies in the right direction.
Residents Can Play a Vital Role in Establishing Funding Streams for Local Programs
Cities and counties face significant challenges in raising funds for basic services and special programs. Chief among these, local governments must receive two-thirds voter approval before imposing a tax to fund designated programs. However, under a series of recent court rulings, voter-sponsored initiatives for special taxes need only be approved by a simple majority. This article discusses this new revenue opportunity, and how courts have thus far viewed local officials’ involvement in these efforts.
Recent Housing Legislation and the Initiative Power: What You Need to Know
The State Legislature’s burst of new housing legislation has significant implications for use of the initiative power. Find out more about SB10’s explicit shift of power to local legislatures and other ways in which the new laws may complicate planning and zoning initiatives.