The California Legislature just sent another “stop me before I vote again” bill to the Governor. Assembly Bill 890 proposes to limit severely the scope of voter-sponsored, pro-development land use initiatives. The Governor has until October 15th to decide whether to sign the bill into law. The actual effect of AB 890, if enacted, may need to be resolved in litigation.
*** Update: On October 15th, Governor Brown vetoed AB 890 ***
The bill would enact new provisions of the Government Code that delegate exclusive authority to city councils and boards of supervisors to determine certain general plan, specific plan and zoning decisions. Courts have determined that when the legislature delegates authority over an issue exclusively to councils and boards, voter action regarding those issues is precluded. However, AB 890 also purports to preserve to the voters their power of referendum, and to allow councils and boards of supervisors to place pro-development measures on the ballot. AB 890 also proposes to prohibit the approval or amendment of a development agreement by initiative, while retaining provisions of existing law which state that a development agreement is a legislative act subject to referendum. AB 890 states that it applies to charter cities as well as general law cities.
The general plan, specific plan and zoning decisions that would be exclusively delegated under AB 890 (and therefore could not be pursued in a voter-sponsored initiative) are those that would:
- Convert a discretionary land use approval necessary for a project to a ministerial approval.
- Change a land use designation or zoning district to a more intensive designation or district, with the most intense use defined as industrial uses, followed by commercial uses, office uses, residential uses, and then agricultural or open-space uses.
- Authorize more intensive land uses within an existing designation or district.