California Policy Corner: Leadership from Sacramento | U.S. Green Building Council
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See the latest in California policy news.

Things moved quickly in Sacramento once the legislature concluded its summer recess. After a spring that was consumed with narrowing down a list of nearly 2,500 bills, and then focusing legislative attention on the budget, a transportation package and the extension of the cap-and-trade program, there were a number of important issues left on the table for action this month.

Addressing the state’s housing crisis

Among the biggest legislative priorities was a concerted effort to address the state’s housing crisis (read last month’s article and this draft statewide housing assessment from the Department of Housing and Community Development for more). An important package did pass, which includes the following bills:

  • SB 2, the Building Homes and Jobs Act, will collect a $75 fee, and up to $225 on some real estate transactions, that will feed into a fund for affordable housing statewide.
  • SB 3, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act, authorizes the issuance of $4 billion in bond measures for affordable housing ($1 billion of which is carved out to support veterans specifically).
  • SB 35 creates a streamlining process for affordable housing projects, urban infill and transit-oriented development.

USGBC distributed a memo at the end of August to help steer legislative efforts on housing toward taking full advantage of green, affordable and decent-quality housing. The bills that did pass are far from a remedy to the housing crisis, but they do offer a good first step (see Southern California Public Radio's article for more).

Nine out of 14 ain’t bad

It wasn’t until after midnight on September 15 that the legislature finally wrapped up its work for the year. Here’s how the Los Angeles Times summed it up.

USGBC batted over .600, with nine of the 14 bills we prioritized making it over the outfield wall. Our partnership with Ecoconsult in 2017 has helped make it another fruitful and productive year for green building in California.

A last-minute replacement bill for AB 246, initiated by the State Building and Construction Trades Council, ended up adding a 14th bill to our support list this year. The bill builds on AB 900 of 2011, which offered expedited environmental review for large, priority projects, as determined by the governor and certain parameters. Among other things, the new law increases the LEED requirement to Gold certification under LEED v4, and extends the program by two years (to 2021).

See also the most recent article in our series on green building and California’s cap-and-trade program, which focuses on the interaction between subsidies, mandates and markets in driving down greenhouse gas emissions.

Below is a helpful review of the 14 bills we supported during the 2017 legislative session.

On the horizon

Even as the legislature closed for official business until next January, state agencies and the governor’s office continue to labor on in the development and administration of programs that support and expand green building in the state. Indeed, Governor Jerry Brown’s continued focus on climate action, particularly through the Under 2 MOU, provides promising avenues for green buildings to be a key part of any solution.

This fall, we look forward to continuing conversations with relevant agencies, and to connecting with USGBC members about this year’s policy and advocacy work as we gear up for 2018.

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