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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, January 30, 2002

A mandate without teeth A mandate without teeth (January 30, 2002)

Bill seeks to penalize cities that don't meet housing element requirement

A pproximately 30 percent of the cities and counties in California fail to draft a housing element, according to the author of a proposed bill that would levy sanctions against cities that do not meet the state mandate.

Last year, state Sen. Joseph Dunn, D-Santa Ana, proposed SB 910, which holds the monthly payment of various fuel tax laws to any city or county that does not adopt a housing element. The law would also apply to municipalities that failed to meet earlier deadlines for housing elements.

Currently, there are no laws requiring cities to draft a housing element.

The bill proposes to withhold up to 20 percent in fuel tax revenue after an initial six-month grace period. The amount of the penalty will increase up to 60 percent if a municipality has not been found in compliance within two years.

The withheld funds would be placed in an escrow account until the Department of Housing and Community development determines a municipality has complied with the law.

However, there has been no action on the bill since June 2001. At that time the Senate voted 22-12 to pass SB 910. State Sen. Byron Sher, D-Stanford, did not participate in the vote.

At the request of Assembly members, Dunn held up the bill to allow for continued negotiations on the bill specifics.

Palo Alto City Manager Frank Benest said the state should look at incentives instead of penalties for cities to complete a housing element.

"I find it quite ironic that the state has not looked at its policies which undercut our efforts to promote housing. By ripping off all our property tax dollars we have been unable to fund infrastructure, services, and other efforts to support production of housing," he said.

Taking away or withholding transportation funds would also be counter-productive, particularly with the current transportation crisis, Benest added.

-- Geoff S. Fein


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