Santa Monica’s representatives have been busy in Sacramento drawing up environmental and housing bills this legislative session, a number of which apply to the Coastal Zone (which covers nearly all of California’s coast from Oregon to Mexico). 

Every month, the California Coastal Commission staff present a report to the 12-member commission on the latest pieces of legislation introduced in Sacramento that may affect their jurisdiction along the California coast; this month, three potential new laws drawn up by State Senator Ben Allen and one written by Assemblymember Richard Bloom appeared in the 28-page report. Alongside them were bills introduced by other state lawmakers including two LA County Supervisorial candidates: Henry Stern (of Calabasas) and Bob Hertzberg (of the San Fernando Valley), both current CA senators.

One of Stern’s pending bills, SB 1292, seeks to allow local jurisdictions — cities and/or counties — to restrict housing developments in “moderate, high and very high fire hazard severity zones,” while agreeing to double the development of housing elsewhere in the community outside the fire danger areas. 

Hertzberg’s SB 989 “would seek to establish a new program, beneath the Strategic Growth Council, which would require the council “to fund grants for multi-benefit, community-level, climate-beneficial projects to support community and landscape resiliency and workforce development. Joint Powers Authorities, Tribes, Special Districts, and NGOs would be among the entities eligible to apply for competitive grants.”

SB 1078

The first of Allen’s draft pieces of legislation put before the Coastal Commission, SB 1078 proposes the establishment of a “Sea Level Rise Revolving Loan Fund.” The fund is designed “to provide low-interest loans to local governments for the purchase of coastal properties vulnerable to sea level rise in communities of color, low-income and tribal communities, and other disproportionately affected communities and populations who bear the brunt of impacts from climate changes,” according to Coastal Commission staff’s legislative report. 

Funding would be allocated by the California Coastal Conservancy and the Ocean Protection Council. The California Senate Committee on Appropriations analysis anticipated ongoing costs of nearly $1 million annually for additional staffing to support the pilot program, “as well as unknown costs to retain outside specialist expertise.”

An analysis from the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee provided this argument in favor of the bill: “We know the impacts of climate change, ranging from fire to flood to extreme heat, are already straining local budgets. The longer we fail to act, the greater the chance that coastal communities will be left without insurance options, banks will refuse to provide mortgages, and taxpayers will be further burdened. California must develop proactive strategies to support at-risk homeowners and give local governments the tools they need to address impending crises.” That Committee did not receive any arguments against the bill.

SB 54

Currently before the Assembly Rules Committee, Allen’s Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act would ban the sale or distribution of non-recyclable single-use packaging beginning in January 2031.

“Existing law makes a legislative declaration that it is the policy goal of the state that, annually, not less than 75% of solid waste generated be source reduced, recycled, or composted,” the text of the bill, SB 54, states.

“This bill would establish the Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act, which would prohibit producers of single-use, disposable packaging or single-use, disposable food service ware products from offering for sale, selling, distributing, or importing in or into the state such packaging or products that are manufactured on or after January 1, 2032, unless they are recyclable or compostable.”

The bill, introduced by Allen, Stern and San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener, has received wide support from progressive communities and organizations including the City of Santa Monica, according to Senate Floor Analysis.

Questions remain about how the proposed law may be implemented and enforced, according to the analysis document.

AB 2762

Richard Bloom’s AB 2762, focuses not on coastal resources but on the housing and homelessness crisis seen up and down the California coast. It “is an intent bill that would authorize local governments to build affordable housing on parking lots that serve parks and recreational facilities,” per the California Coastal Commission staff. 

As an “intent bill,” it is designed to express legislative objectives; in this case, that the California State Assembly intends to draft laws that “allow local agencies to build affordable housing on parking lots that serve public parks and recreational facilities,” “specify that nothing in the act would be interpreted to allow housing to be built on open space and active recreational spaces or as changing the zoning of parks and recreational facilities,” and “authorize a local agency to require that surface parking is provided for public access to parks or recreational activities,” according to the bill’s text.

In other words, it supports the idea of constructing housing in parking lots, but not other areas and not to the detriment of the normal uses of parks and recreation centers.