2018 Legislative Year in Review: Spotlight on housing and transportation

Joshua Stark Headshot

State capitol and busWith the end of the 2017-2018 Legislative Session comes the end of an era. Governor Brown, California’s longest serving and perhaps most influential governor ever, recently signed hundreds of bills into law for the last time. These past two years have been a whirlwind, with major legislation and administrative decisions around issues central to TransForm’s work: climate change, transportation, housing, air quality… the list is impressive, it’s no wonder I’m tired!

You might expect this legislative session to end with a splash, but a governor’s last year usually isn’t the one to go big (since he doesn’t have as much leverage over the Legislature). With a couple of exceptions, the major action happened in 2017 (we get into those at the end of this post after the wrap-up of newer legislation). But the story of Brown’s legacy is still being written, as some of these issues will continue to play out at the ballot box this November.

Here’s a recap of our major legislative wins and losses in the second half of the 2017-18 session:

Finally starting to tackle the housing crisis

The housing crisis has been getting worse for years. But apart from the wise investments of cap and trade dollars in affordable housing, it took until this legislative session for the legislature and Governor to start making big moves to address it. Much more is needed, as the housing shortage and resulting unaffordable prices hurts the whole state, especially the most disadvantaged families and communities.

TransForm has always worked at the intersection of housing and transportation, from our GreenTRIP program to supporting the use of cap-and-trade dollars for affordable housing.

SB 827 (Weiner) started a very deep, at times contentious, and important conversation. The bill would have dramatically changed zoning codes for denser development near transit. Though it didn’t make it out of committee, SB 827 catalyzed a (nationwide!) much-needed debate about how to build more housing near high-quality transit. The bill itself evolved quite a lot before it died. We look forward to moving the debate forward in the upcoming session, where we expect to see plenty of action on this vital topic.

SB 961 (Allen) will provide funding for infill development — including affordable housing — in a less controversial manner, and it passed and was signed into law by Governor Brown last month. This bill allows use of the “infrastructure finance districts” concept to generate revenues from development near high-quality transit, and requires, among other things, that 40 percent of funds generated by these revenues go toward affordable housing. Learn more from our friends at MoveLA who sponsored the bill.

SB 893 (Nguyen) sought to roll back the good parking ratios we’d won in previous years. Thankfully, it died in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, but it is a reminder that forces in this State conspire to roll back our wins -- we can never become complacent.

Advancing Transportation Equity and TOD

Among the dozens of transportation-related bills that ran the gauntlet of the legislative process, we were following a few especially closely.

We were proud to see AB 2923 (Chiu), the bill allowing BART to design and build transit-oriented developments on some of its properties, passed and signed by the Governor! AB 2923 will allow BART to act on its admirable plan to use a small portion of its land to make a big positive impact on the housing crisis. BART is creating affordable homes with transit benefits for families who most need them. Thanks to outgoing BART Board Director Nick Josefowicz for his leadership on this.

We look forward to working with BART to maximize the equity, and traffic and transportation benefits of its upcoming developments.

We’re glad AB 2006 (Eggman) was signed into law. It codifies a successful pilot project funding farmworker vanpools, ending its pilot status and ensuring it will continue to be available in farming communities throughout California. Currently, farmworkers tend to spend a higher percentage of their income on transportation than many others, even other low-income workers.

AB 2304 (Holden), TransForm and Move L.A.’s latest attempt to fund transit passes for students, failed again. The concept remains popular among legislators, and would be a great win for low-income students, as well as reducing traffic congestion and air pollution. We’ll work to persuade the new administration to look more favorably on our students’ needs.

2017 actions with 2018 reactions

California passed a sweeping law last year – SB 1 (Beall) – that fundamentally changes how we pay for transportation infrastructure. Here's our analysis if you want more details. Soon after it passed, opponents of the bill launched a cynical and politically motivated effort (Proposition 6) that would do away with vital new revenues, but keep a dirty trucking loophole that harms already disadvantaged communities! Learn more about why it’s so important to Vote NO on Prop 6.

SB 3 (Beall), the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018, passed back in 2017. Passage authorized the bill to be placed on the ballot this November as Proposition 1. If passed, it will generate $4.5 billion for various affordable housing programs, projects, loans and grants, including housing grants for veterans. Learn more about why you should vote Yes on Prop 1 (and 2 and 10).

We’ll follow up after the election with a retrospective on Governor Brown’s legacy in transportation and related issues.

Until then, don’t forget to vote Yes on Props 1, 2, and 10, and NO on Prop 6! See our full voter guide with all our recommendations for statewide propositions and Bay Area housing and transportation measures.

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About This Blog

TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.