Given the thread by which this bill continues to hang, we’d be remiss if we didn’t first reiterate the status report we issued immediately after last Wednesday afternoon’s Assembly Local Government Committee meeting, followed by a verbatim transcript of the comments issued during that meeting that formed our initial assessment and the questions raised by both.
INITIAL ASSESSMENT (Condensed from last Wednesday’s “Update”)
With 5 members voting aye, 2 members voting nay, and 1 member abstaining (Boerner-Horvath; D-Oceanside), the Assembly Local Government Committee moved AB 1910 out of committee Wednesday. Sort of. The 5th member and deciding vote, Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who had expressed skepticism throughout, made clear that his deciding vote to move the bill out of committee was contingent on a pledge from bill author Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) to significantly reduce the scope of the bill by amending it in three (3) areas to his satisfaction before it reaches Appropriations; otherwise he has Ms. Garcia’s pledge to drop the bill in the 2022 session.
In addition to maintenance of 100% local control over any decision to repurpose a parkland golf course as affordable housing per a requirement that the resultant housing be at least 25% of the finished development and the finished development be at least 15% open space, the only publicly-owned golf properties subject to qualification under the program must meet the following limiting conditions: 1) The subject golf property must be deemed “underutilized;” 2) the subject golf property must be in a community that rises to a certain level of “population density;” and 3) the subject property must be in a community deemed “park poor,” albeit it is not entirely clear what Bloom meant by the “park poor” admonition. And per Wednesday’s discussion, all three limiting conditions or criteria are to be “objectively measured” in order to pass muster.
TRANSCRIPT OF ASSEMBLY MEMBER BLOOM’S COMMENTS
“Thank you Madam Chair and I apologize for being late and I apologize for walking in on the middle of this important discussion. But as I think Assembly Member Garcia has already mentioned she and I have been discussing this bill and I want to thank her for working with me and listening to my concerns. I expressed concerns about singling out golf courses, in fact I think I voiced those concerns at the last hearing on this issue, especially municipal golf courses that serve as important recreational areas for the public, something that I completely understand. But as I hope all of you know one of my great priorities and abiding priorities since I was elected in 2012, and I think one of the reasons I was sent to Sacramento was to work on the housing crisis and try to find ways which by necessity have to be creative ways to solving the housing crisis. So, I want to again thank the author for her willingness to narrow the bill based on three criteria that we’ve agreed on. But I want to point out we’ve agreed on a broad set of criteria we now need to agree on the metrics for those criteria, and that’s not going to be easy, but I’m committed to doing that in good faith and I know that the author is as well. The three criteria we’ve agreed upon are to one limit the consideration of golf courses to areas that exceed a certain population density - we have to determine what that density will be. We would also limit this to golf courses that are underutilized or underused and again that’s a term of art and we will have to determine what that means. And finally, we would limit it to areas that are considered park poor and exactly what that means again is something we need to work out. I do hope that we’ll be able to work these criteria out and the metrics along with them and I expect that we will hopefully be able to do that before the Suspense Hearing, and I appreciate your commitment that if we’re not able to work out those criteria that you will park the bill. If and when we do work out the criteria the amendments would be taken in the next committee - the amendments that we agree to, and the author is nodding. Again, I want to say that housing is a critical need in the state of California and my thinking on this is that if we have golf courses, there may be none, if we have golf courses that are being underutilized however we end up defining that, then perhaps there is a better and greater purpose that we can put that land to. It’s not that I want golf courses to be underutilized, but if they are then I think we should consider them for this use. The LA Times ran an editorial as you, for those of you who are interested in this issue probably know, encouraging us to think creatively about a creative bill. This is the author’s attempt to find a way to provide for more housing and to the extent that we can honor that direction and not have a significant impact on the golfing public that’s something I think we should do.”
What do “underutilized,” “population density,” and “park poor” mean in concrete terms? What are the metrics of each? How are they to be “objectively measured?” Those are the devils of these particular details – devils to be hashed out between now and the Appropriations Suspense hearing. Who or what will serve as the final arbiter of whether real meat can be put on the bones of these three vague admonitions? That’s not entirely clear. What is clear is that at least in terms of what might constitute an “underutilized” or “underperforming” publicly owned golf course, that is an area of specific subject matter expertise that is not likely to be found among the staffs of Assembly Member Bloom, Assembly Member Garcia, or the Assembly Local Government Committee.
And if these “questions” are not answered to the satisfaction of either Mr. Bloom or Assembly Appropriations in the compressed time frame available (May 27 is the deadline for bills to pass out of their houses of origin), what does that mean in terms of Ms. Garcia’s pledge on the Assembly record to “park” the bill for 2022?
The next 3 weeks promise to be as impactful as they are interesting. Stay tuned.
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