At the June 10 Livermore City Council meeting, an update of state housing legislation revealed that the Tri-Valley cities of Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon and the town of Danville had a voice in deciding the outcome of bills in the State Senate and Assembly affecting their cities’ future. The main bills of concern, SB 50, SB 330 and AB 1487, dictate how cities need to respond to the housing crisis in California.

Introduced by Christine Martin, deputy city manager, advocates hired by the Tri-Valley cities, Nicolo DeLuca, senior director and Alex Gibbs, senior associate consultant from Townsend Public Affairs discussed meetings with legislators in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

Gibbs related that earlier this year, he and DeLuca met with all the Tri-Valley mayors and legislators to discuss housing as a prime issue. DeLuca described bills at the state level and future meetings concerning proposed changes to better serve the needs of communities impacted. When redevelopment was dissolved, this altered the ability to build housing throughout the state. There are nine Bay Area counties who will be voting on revenue measures in November 2020 to determine “backfill funding” and look at ways to address their housing needs.

Vice Mayor Bob Carling questioned what changes might be coming with SB 50. Gibbs replied that since Senator Weiner was taking the housing crisis “head on” there will probably be changes on how many units need to be built, greater specificity on the definitions of jobs rich areas and focus on rail and other forms of transit state wide.

Mayor John Marchand replied that everyone talks about the housing crisis. In the Bay Area, 97,000 jobs were added last year. In Santa Clara, the plan is to bring in 25,000 new jobs, while supplying 1680 housing units. “If the legislature is serious about solving the jobs-housing imbalance, they need to create housing where the jobs are being created. Then, I will believe that the legislature is serious about the problem.”

Councilmember Bob Woerner asked about introducing logic into the conversation. Since Silicon Valley is really causing the problem, how do we speak to that when we see their impact on the entire region. The actions they are taking add enormous numbers of jobs with indifference to housing. “They are causing this problem and are not addressing it. Are we going to have a balanced approach or not?”

Deluca stated that Townsend, on behalf of the Tri-Valley cities, has stressed the need for a balance involving jobs, housing and transportation, and working together as a region. The legislature is starting to listen. Neighboring cities are beginning to work together on these problems, just as you have been.

Councilmember Trish Munro mentioned that somehow this all has to be funded. Many cities cannot afford to pay for the infrastructure and amenities these bills might require. People will still end up in housing far away from jobs unless transportation issues are solved. Concerning Livermore, she noted the collaboration involved in moving the downtown plan forward. Seven groups with seven different goals started out. Getting together made this a winning project. “Can we as a region, or as a state, find a systemic approach that addresses all those moving parts? We have a great opportunity to do that. We need to find a way to fund what takes place in the cities”.

Woerner observed, “Presently the plan seems to be taking local control away and have us bear the costs. Tell them you can’t add jobs locally if you can’t add appropriate amounts of housing.” Working on transportation and housing are treating the symptoms, but not the problem. The conversation around SB 50 is talking about forced housing.

During the public hearing, Andrew Barker remarked that it was not appropriate for the city to pay for lobbyists. “Your responsibilities are within the City of Livermore. We have a housing crisis right here. You can approve housing. You are not doing it at a sufficient rate. That is hurting your constituents.”

Mayor Marchand noted that as a council, “We are elected to serve the best interests of Livermore”. The reason we have lobbyists is we do not believe that measures such as SB-50 are in the city’s best interest.

SB 50 PROVISIONS STILL IN PLAY

According to several stories in area newspapers, provisions in SB 50 have been incorporated into SB 592. On Thursday, June 13, Senator Scott Wiener gutted and amended SB 592 so that it now is a “housing accountability act.” The action occurred after the council meeting.