New Year, New Regulations: Are You Ready for 2019?
Katie Almand, CALBO’s Government Relations Manager
As the new-year approaches, it is important to remember that legislation signed into law by Governor Brown will go into effect on January 1, 2019. CALBO prioritized dozens of bills this past year and many were signed into law. Here is a summary of California’s new laws along with the actions CALBO’s Legislative Team took on behalf of our members.
AB 2485 (Chau): Code enforcement: financially interested parties
Early in the legislative session, CALBO engaged on AB 2485 by Assemblymember Chau (D – Arcadia). This bill was introduced in response to an incident in the Legislator’s jurisdiction in which local officials unfortunately abused their position while acting as enforcement officers. AB 2485 was signed into law, and as of January 1, 2019 will prohibit a local official who inspects a commercial property or business for compliance with a state statute or regulation or local ordinance from being accompanied during the inspection by a person with a potential financial interest in the outcome of the inspection. In introducing this bill, the author hoped to eliminate financially interested individuals from the permit processes in order to discourage illegal behavior.
CALBO opposed an earlier version of AB 2485 (Chau) as it excluded important subject matter experts i.e. engineers and Certified Access Specialists, from accompanying them on job sites. Building Officials and Inspectors often benefit from subject matter experts such as these, and conveyed this to the author via letters and verbal testimony. After making these objections to the original language, the author’s office made amendments to add experts such as these. Ultimately, CALBO did not move to a support position on this bill, but removed our opposition.
AB 2913 (Wood): Building standards: building permits: expiration
AB 2913 (Wood) was another highly contentious bill in which CALBO’s Legislative Team actively engaged with the author’s office. Initially, this bill hoped to extend building permits from 180 days to three years. CALBO actively opposed an early version of this bill since this extension concerned our members. CALBO argued that leaving work zones and construction sites abandoned for extended periods of time could lead to security concerns for property owners, and individuals in the surrounding community. CALBO joined a local government coalition that shared the same concerns. Along with the coalition, CALBO leadership was able to negotiate amendments with the author’s office that limited this extension to 12 months instead of three years.
As on January 1, 2019, this bill will require that a permit would remain valid for purposes of the California Building Standards Law if the work on the site authorized by that permit is commenced within 12 months after its issuance, unless the permittee has abandoned the work authorized by the permit. The author and sponsors of this bill hope that permit extensions alleviate the pressure put on areas that are affected by disasters such as fires.
AB 3002 (Grayson): Disability access requirements: information
CALBO leadership was also able to negotiate significant amendments on AB 3002 (Grayson). As introduced, this bill hoped to increase awareness of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at the initial building permit phase. By providing owners with this information early in the permitting process, AB 3002 would help applicants better understand the requirements of the ADA. CALBO supported the idea of streamlining this process, but was concerned the building permit phase was too late for many applicants to make any modifications if necessary. CALBO was able to negotiate with the author’s office and have this process moved to the building-licensing phase. Alternatively, this would give applicants more time in the initial planning phase to implement any necessary ADA requirements.
On January 1, 2019, this bill will require local jurisdictions issuing building permits for commercial construction or business licenses to make available a notice containing specified information regarding disability access. The bill will also require a local agency to provide the informational notice to an applicant for a commercial building permit or a business license. Instead of this burden falling to local governments, AB 3002 will require the State Architect to develop a model notice for local agencies to use in order to comply with this law.
SB 721 (Hill): Building standards: decks and balconies: inspection
As this was the second year of a legislative session, many bills carried over from 2017 into 2018. One of these bills was SB 721 by Senator Jerry Hill (D – San Mateo). CALBO was actively engaged in this bill from its inception, and offered expert opinions on the language. This bill was introduced in response to the 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse. The balcony collapse, due to decayed wooden joists, killed six young adults and injured seven others, mostly Irish citizens, visiting California as part of a summer exchange program. The incident occurred near the University of California, Berkeley campus.
CALBO worked on many variations of this bill, as it would require Building Officials and Inspectors to increase inspections on exterior elevated elements. Initially, CALBO was concerned with the scope of this bill, but was able to negotiate amendments with the author’s office which removed our opposition.
As of the new year, this bill will require an inspection of exterior elevated elements and associated waterproofing elements, including decks and balconies, for buildings with 3 or more multifamily dwelling units by a licensed architect, licensed civil or structural engineer, a building contractor holding specified licenses, or an individual certified as a building inspector or building official.
SB 1226 (Bates): Building standards: building permits
Another bill, which had origins in 2017, was SB 1226 by Senator Bates (R-Laguna Niguel). The original bill, SB 431, did not meet the necessary deadlines in 2017 and failed passage. Senator Bates reintroduced the bill earlier this year, and it was signed into law. SB 1226 was introduced in response to a concern of the City of Encinitas, which is in Senator Bates’ jurisdiction. The local Building Official did not feel they had the authority to permit existing structures such as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).
ADUs are becoming more popular in densely populated areas since they are an existing source of affordable housing. This kind of housing was commonly added over the last several decades to existing houses and buildings without any proper permits. Because of this, the safety of these units is often called into question. CALBO shares the concern for public safety, but believes this authority to permit such structures is in current California Building Code, section 104. Therefore, CALBO opposed this measure, and actively lobbied against it.
Although CALBO representatives were in communication with the sponsors and author of this bill, we could not reach a resolution and the measure was ultimately passed. As of January 1, 2019, this bill will authorize, Building Officials to determine when the residential unit was constructed and then apply the State Housing Law, when a record of the issuance of a building permit for the construction of an existing residential unit does not exist. With this law in place, Building Officials can issue a retroactive building permit for buildings such as ADUs.
AB 565 (Bloom): Building standards: live/work units
Another bill that addressed public safety was AB 565 by Assemblymember Bloom (D – Santa Monica). It was introduced as a response to the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. This bill will require the Department of Housing and Community Development to develop clarifications in the California Building Code and the California Residential Code pertaining to the requirements for the construction of live/work units. On December 2, 2016, a warehouse known as the “Ghost Ship” in Oakland burned down killing 36 individuals. Local artists, without any proper permits, had turned this warehouse into mixed-use housing. Although the cause is not known, the electrical wiring and highly flammable materials inside are to blame for the fire. This bill hopes to enforce standards for live/work units such as the Ghost Ship, and prevent future disasters. CALBO did not take a position on this bill as it was amended later in the legislative session.
Finally, CALBO was happy to support an Assembly Concurrent Resolution that would annually designate the 2nd week of October as Code Enforcement Officer Appreciation Week. The California Association of Code Enforcement Officers sponsored this measure, and CALBO plans in promoting this event in the future.