Every year, the League of Women Voters of San Francisco interviews our state legislators. This is an opportunity for legislators to share their priorities with League members and to learn about League positions and priorities. League of Women Voters of San Francisco members can learn more about how some state legislative actions are going to affect their communities.
Question 1: Eliminating Cash Bail
Question 2: California Environmental Quality Act CEQA
Question 3: Sea level rise
Question about Prop 13 reform
Question: Money Bail Reform
Currently, release pending trial is based on an arrestee’s capacity to post money bail. Do you support legislative changes to a risk-assessment based system, so that release is contingent on preventing violence in the community, rather the arrestee’s finances?
I voted in favor of Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s legislation (AB 42 Pretrial Release) and would have voted for Senator Bob Hertzberg’s bill (SB 10 Pretrial Release). This is the first time that judges have dealt with the equity issue. Public safety is key, but currently, if you have money for bail, you can be let out. We should align our goals with public safety and not with the ability to pay.
Question: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Reform
What is your view regarding the use of CEQA to delay affordable housing projects? While recent legislative changes have streamlined the CEQA process for in-fill projects, do you think other legislative changes to CEQA are needed?
It’s an urban myth that if we get rid of CEQA, we can build housing and not have a housing problem. It is neighborhood and city opposition that is the primary driver in curbing housing; not CEQA. CEQA does not testify at city councils. Streamlining is appropriate because we have significant neighborhood challenges. We should look at a policy and see if it is doing its job. Because of CEQA, we have a better environment. When entities sue for reasons not related to environment, then that is a problem. We should look at each situation case by case. You cannot legislate with a thousand “what ifs.” Take a look at a situation and adjust; try to find compromise. Housing is complicated as neighbors living there have a voice but not the neighbors who will move in.
Question: Sea Level Rise
We need a regional, coordinated effort of several state agencies. And since the threat is swift in terms of typical infrastructure projects, we need to coordinate now. What is the path forward to assure continuity of infrastructure as we approach 2050 and beyond? What can be done legislatively?
We have to go back to the cause of sea level rise; have to attack the problem, which is climate change, as was done in AB and SB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. We need a regional body to address the problem. We have ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) and MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission). However, we need to spend the bulk of our time figuring out how to control greenhouse gases to reduce sea levels. San Francisco would have to spend billions of dollars to reinforce the Bay but the challenge is to work on a regional basis. Some legislators in areas like the Central Valley are not interested in sea level rise but they have their own pollution problems and they too are concerned about greenhouse gases and water.
In regards to waste management, we need to look at the Bay and see what is under water. It’s waste water and a variety of other things as well.
We do have legislation to make change. I have a bill to ban combustion engine cars in 2040 (AB 1745, Clean Cars 2040 Act).
The California Coastal Commission is in charge of the coast and we probably don’t want another bureaucratic agency involved. Wetlands restoration is one of the best ways to deal with sea level rise.
Question: Major Issues and Personal Priorities
What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2018? What are your personal priorities?
Assemblymember Ting referenced the following issues and priorities:
Question 1: Bail Reform
Assemblymember Chiu supports bail reform. As a former prosecutor he never thought the system was fair. We could probably release more people with no harm to the community. He is co-author of the Hertzberg bill SB 10 and is now hopeful that it will pass. The Governor is on board with the concept. There is push back from many in the law enforcement community as well as the bail bond industry.
Question 2 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Reform
This is a very important environmental law. It is very complicated and there have been abuses. Challenges can drag on for years. Nonetheless we have to protect the intent of CEQA. There have been some bills trying to give it more accountability but it can be a difficult conversation to have because environmentalists are very protective. He considers himself to be an environmentalist. Time limits to challenges using CEQA would help. It has been used by NIMBY communities to avoid more housing. Cupertino and Brisbane are good examples of this. He introduced a bill that would require BART to rezone some of its parking lots to enable housing above the parking.
Question 3 Sea Level Rise
Assemblymember Chiu served on Bay Conservation & Development Commission (BCDC) and is well aware of the problems with sea level rise. He has a bill rethinking how to finance infrastructure around the waterfront. He says we need state agencies to coordinate these efforts and set goals. We also need to work on the causes of sea level rise. Regional Measure AA was a good example of the importance of a regional approach and financing to this issue.
A San Francisco concern: Bike safety. The SF Board of Supervisors passed a resolution last week urging San Francisco’s State Legislative Delegation (Senator Scott Weiner and Assembly Members David Chiu and Phil Ting) to sponsor state legislation to enable San Francisco to impose an Infrastructure Impact Fee on TNCs (Transportation Network Companies).
Assemblymember Chiu’s priorities: