Governor Signs Several Bills, Complete Streets Not Among Them

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Note: We messed up. If the governor takes no action on a bill that has passed both the Senate and the Assembly, it automatically becomes law, rather than expiring as we believed as long ago as Friday. We stand corrected.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has given no hint about his plans for S.B. 127, the Complete Streets For All bill authored by San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener. He has three choices: sign it, veto it, or ignore it and let it become law when his deadline to act expires on October 13.

The bill shouldn’t be controversial, since it calls for Caltrans to follow its own policies and incorporate safety considerations for everyone when they do maintenance and repairs on state highways that are not freeways–which are frequently main streets through many cities, large and small. The bill is also an important first step in ensuring that state transportation funding is spent wisely and in line with climate and environmental goals, which Newsom called for in an executive order that was released just before he attended the U.N. Climate Summit in New York.

The right thing to do would be to sign it, but there is a hard push from Caltrans for that not to happen. The department stated that it would “not comment on pending legislation” after it produced exaggerated estimates of what the bill would cost.

If the governor decides to veto the bill, he would need to defend his reasoning, since over seventy organizations have voiced their strong support for the bill. For some reason, several labor organizations oppose it, although you would think they would realize there is still work for them whether a street is built solely for car drivers or also for everyone else.

Even if Caltrans’ absurd cost estimates were true – but someone would need to explain them – there would still be the question of what price is worth paying for people’s safety.

CalWalks and CalBike, two of the bill’s sponsors, are not kidding around when they ask people who support the bill to call and let the governor know they want it passed.

Other bills still awaiting Newsom’s attention – they have passed but not been signed, yet –  include:

One bill that got stuck along the way is Senator Allen’s S.B. 59, which would merely have created an advisory committee to help formulate policy on autonomous vehicles. Given the rapid, untested deployment of bits and pieces of autonomous capabilities in cars, this should be a much higher concern than it seems to be. At the very least safety considerations of features like Tesla’s “summon your car” – now live, in a neighborhood near you- should have the legislature’s attention, but no one seems to want to take charge of these issues.

The following bills have already been signed:

  • Transparency in Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund Allocations: A.B. 1237 from Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) requires programs receiving money from cap-and-trade to post guidelines for how funding is allocated.
  • Environmental Justice: A.B. 1628 from Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) refines the definition of the term Environmental Justice as currently used by several state agencies to include “the meaningful involvement of people of all races, cultures, incomes, and national origins… to ensure a healthy environment for all people.”
  • Transformative Climate Communities Program: S.B. 351 by Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) makes unincorporated areas eligible to receive grants under this cap-and-trade-funded program.
  • Parking Ticket Payment Plans for Low-Income People: A.B. 833 by Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) clears up an earlier law allowing cities to offer payment plans when people can’t afford to pay off parking tickets. It’s only available to people who owe less than $300, and cities can waive late fees. Sacramento was including the cost of the waived fees when it determined who could take advantage of the program, which was reducing the number of people eligible, and, according to the author, not the original intent of the law.

The governor has also signed a slew of bills on homelessness, including:

  • Helping People at Risk of Homelessness: A.B. 1188 from Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-San Fernando Valley) creates a legal framework to allow a tenant, with approval from their landlord, to take in a person who is at risk of homelessness.
  • Local Housing Plans: A.B. 139 from Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) requires the need for emergency shelters and housing to be assessed at the regional level and accounted for in the Housing Element of a city’s General Plan.
  • Shelter Crisis: A.B. 143 also from Quirk-Silva adds Alameda County, Orange County, and the City of San Jose to the list of jurisdictions that can declare a shelter crisis, which allows them to suspend some state health, planning and zoning, and safety standards with the adoption of a local ordinance for the design and operation of homeless shelters and plans to address the shelter crisis and transition residents to permanent supportive housing.
  • Using Caltrans Property: S.B. 211 from Senator Jim Beall (D-Campbell) authorizes Caltrans to lease its property to local governments for an emergency shelter or feeding program.
  • CEQA Exemptions:
    • A.B. 1197 from Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) provides a CEQA exemption for supportive housing and shelters in the City of Los Angeles. See Streetsblog’s coverage.
    • S.B. 450 from Senator Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) provides a CEQA exemption until January 2025 for hotels converted to supportive housing.
    • S.B. 744 from Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) provides a CEQA exemption for supportive housing and No Place Like Home projects.
  • Education Rep on Homeless Council: A.B. 58 from Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) and S.B. 687 from Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) both require the Governor to appoint a representative from the state’s educational system to the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council.

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