Seeking to piggyback on the State of Emergency Governor Gavin Newsom declared on March 4, 2020 as part of the state’s response to address the global COVID-19 pandemic, California cities filed a letter with the Governor asking him to “pause” various important statutory timelines that apply to twelve parts of state law, including several that play a central role in the ongoing housing crisis. In the six-page letter, dated March 22, 2020, the League of California Cities explains that
“[c]ity resources and personnel are stretched thin as they navigate the response necessary to contain the COVID-19 outbreak while complying with the requirements for social distancing and self-quarantining. Many city employees who would normally assist in ensuring that cities comply with certain statutory requirements have been pulled from their regular assignments to work on emergency response efforts.”
The League thus requests “immediate action to pause certain statutory requirements” by 120 days from when the deadline would otherwise expire if the deadline would have otherwise expired during the State of Emergency, including but not limited to all of the following:
- Permit Streamlining Act (Gov. Code § 65920 et seq.).
- Housing Accountability Act (Gov. Code § 65589.5).
- Subdivision Map Act (Gov. Code § 66410 et seq.).
- Accessory Dwelling Units (Gov. Code § 65852.2).
- California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Res. Code § 21000 et seq.).
- CEQA Guidelines (14. Cal. Code Regs. § 15000 et seq.).
And the League requests the Governor to state that the phrase “unusual circumstances” found in Government Code section 6253(c) includes the State of Emergency and to suspend the provision in that section of the Public Records Act putting a 14-day limit on cities’ obligation to respond to public records requests unless the request seeks records created during, and relating to, the State of Emergency.”
The League’s request follows numerous Executive Orders, including N-25-20, N-29-20, and N-35-20. Acting under the authority of the California Emergency Services Act (Gov. Code § 8550 et seq.), the Governor has already waived laws and regulations, through those Executive Orders, in a broad range of subjects including meetings of local legislative bodies under the requirements of the Ralph M Brown Act (Gov. Code § 54950 et seq.).
The League’s request has had a low profile thus far, which is perhaps by design. We note that the League issued a short press release on February 19, 2020, the date Governor Newsom provided his annual State of the State address in which the Governor acknowledged the need to “eliminate roadblocks to housing and shelter” and that”[w]e need more housing, not more delays.”
Headlined “Cities Stand Ready to Partner with Gov. Gavin Newsom to Address Housing and Homelessness,” the press release asserted that “The League is eager to work with the Administration in the coming months to address the housing crisis that is currently gripping our state and has been decades in the making.” No press release accompanied the League’s March 22 letter seeking to “pause” statutory timing requirements essential to resolving the well-documented housing crisis.
As he considers the League’s request we hope the Governor should remember the staunch opposition the association waged against numerous key housing production bills such as Senate Bills 827, 50, and 330. Moreover, the Governor ought to be skeptical of this request and the stated basis for it. While working remotely, in compliance with “shelter-in-place” orders, many California cities, if not most, are continuing to receive and process development applications during this trying time. Now is not the time to exacerbate the housing crisis by hitting “pause” on development applications.
Questions? Please contact Bryan W. Wenter, AICP of Miller Starr Regalia.
For more than 50 years, Miller Starr Regalia has served as one of California’s leading real estate law firms. Miller Starr Regalia has expertise in all types of real property matters, including full-service litigation and dispute resolution, transactions, acquisitions, dispositions, leasing, financing, common interest development, construction, management, eminent domain and inverse condemnation, exactions, title insurance, environmental law, and land use. Miller Starr Regalia attorneys also write Miller & Starr, California Real Estate 4th, a 12-volume treatise on California real estate law. “The Book” is the most widely used and judicially recognized real estate treatise in California and is cited by practicing attorneys and courts throughout the state. For more information, visit www.msrlegal.com.