Good News! SB 1 Dies (For Now)

Just days ago, the “Sustainable Communities Investment Authority” bill (SB 1) died in the California state legislature, for now. It was ordered to the inactive file at the request of its author State Senator Darrell Steinberg.

The Independent Institute tracked this bill closely and I worked to educate the public on its dangers with an op-ed in Flash Report and a national podcast interview with the Heartland Institute. Also, The Independent Institute’s senior editor Carl P. Close featured SB 1 in the institute’s e-newsletter The Lighthouse.

SB 1 would have allowed any California city or county to create a “Sustainable Communities Investment Authority,” governed by unelected bureaucrats selected by the city or county officials themselves. Each newly created Authority would be permitted to build development projects in designated geographic areas to ostensibly relieve “blight.”

SB 1 defined blight legislatively, avoiding the need for each Authority to make a separate finding. The measure defined blight as statewide problems such as air pollution, high water consumption, high energy consumption, reduced farmland, habitat destruction, fewer affordable housing units, traffic congestion, and the high combined cost of housing and transportation. This ridiculously broad definition is a long way from the common sense understanding of blight as abandoned buildings in a local area.

SB 1 would have permitted unchecked access to the power of eminent domain in every project area created under the bill without the Authority making any formal determination, or requiring any action, regarding blight. The measure thus threatened the property of every California resident and would have lowered property values.

SB 1 would also have permitted each Authority to increase local sales taxes within their geographic project area, extract property taxes using property tax increment funding, and issue bonds without voter approval to fund the redevelopment projects.

The Independent Institute is overjoyed that SB 1 died, and hopefully it stays dead. If it is reactivated next year, we’ll continue to educate the public, the media, and lawmakers regarding why they should oppose this truly awful piece of legislation.

Lawrence J. McQuillan is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation at the Independent Institute. He is the author of the Independent book California Dreaming.
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