This week, as the legislature wrapped up its 2015-2016 legislative session, the Assembly passed two bills authored by Assembly member Richard Bloom (D – Santa Monica) that will increase access to funding for energy efficiency and watershed infrastructure projects.

AB 1330, which passed on a 49-28 vote, enables the state to secure additional funding to meet California’s goals of doubling energy efficiency, which were established by California’s Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015. Despite California’s growing population and expanding environmental goals, its funding for energy efficiency programs and activities has remained unchanged for over a decade. This bill will address that dearth in funding and also protect ratepayers by requiring the CPUC to demonstrate the need for funding before increasing rates.

AB 2480, which passed on a 49-25 vote, redefines source watersheds as integral components of California’s water infrastructure, ensuring that they are eligible for water infrastructure financing. California’s watersheds are important natural resources that are directly connected to this state’s water and reservoir supply. The simple statutory change made by this bill will ensure that watersheds are eligible for the same types of financing as other water infrastructure projects and will also unlock access to federal financing programs.

“AB 1330 and AB 2480 address different issues, but share the common goal of unlocking valuable funding for necessary infrastructure projects,” said Assemblymember Bloom. “Neither of these bills appropriate state funds to these projects, but by making slight modifications to existing law, will help these projects tap into state and federal funds.”

The Assembly also passed two affordable housing bills authored by Assemblymember Bloom, which will help remove barriers to the creation of affordable housing. These two bills, AB 2501 and AB 2299, were both passed with bipartisan support and are backed by a broad coalition of social justice and housing organizations

“California is facing a housing crisis that is only intensifying,” said Assemblymember Bloom. “AB 2501 and AB 2299 target barriers that have discouraged the creation of affordable housing.”

AB 2501, which passed on a 34-3 vote, clarifies state Density Bonus law to facilitate the construction of affordable housing units. California’s Density Bonus Law was developed to provide incentives to housing developers who agree to make a certain percentage of the units in their developments affordable to low and moderate-income households. That law, however, contains a number of ambiguous provisions that discourage developers from utilizing it or are used by some local governments to prevent developers from accessing its benefits. AB 2501 does a number of things including clarifying the legislative intent of the density bonus law, limiting the ability of local government to impose additional requirements on developers, and increasing certainty regarding the number of additional units that developers can build in exchange for providing affordable units.

AB 2299 requires local governments to adopt accessory dwelling unit ordinances. Accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as second units or “granny flats” are a creative affordable housing option often used by college students, elderly parents, or disabled individuals who need to live close to their families. Unfortunately, individuals who want to build these units are often caught in a web of cost-prohibitive local regulations that discourage the construction of ADUs. AB 2299 will ease and streamline current statewide regulations for ADUs by permitting local governments to adopt ADU ordinances and by adding specifications for what is required of those ordinances. These specifications include prohibiting the need for a passageway, increasing the permissible size of the units, and eliminating some parking requirements.

“These bills make meaningful steps towards addressing California’s growing housing crisis and providing critically needed units affordable to the lowest-income Californians,” said Anya Lawler of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, which sponsored AB 2501 and supported AB 2299. “We thank the Assemblymember for his leadership and dedication on these issues and look forward to continuing this effort in the coming years.”

“California’s affordable housing crisis is a complex problem that demands creative solutions,” said Assemblymember Bloom. “AB 2501 and AB 2299 will reduce the barriers to, and the costs of, constructing affordable housing. These measures help chip away at the problem.”

Governor Brown highlighted and expressed support for both bills in his revised budget proposal, which was released in May. AB 2501 and AB 2299 now await his signature.

Richard Bloom represents California’s 50th Assembly District, which comprises the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.

Submitted by Nardos Girma, Office of Assemblyman Richard Bloom