Each year Leagues across California conduct interviews with their local state Assemblymember and Senator. These Local League legislative interviews are an opportunity for us to connect with our district representatives, expand our League’s presence, and heighten our collective impact. They are also an excellent chance to cultivate new leaders and build new relationships.
Our interview with Assemblymember Berman addressed land use and climate change; housing, homelessness, zoning, and affordability; and an equitable recovery from COVID-19.
The Assembly District 24 includes most of San Mateo County and the northern section of Santa Clara County. As such, it includes urban, suburban, and rural/coastal areas. Its population is diverse economically and ethnically. The area within this district has the highest cost of living in the state.
Assemblymember Berman’s legislative agenda is well aligned with League priorities: Fair elections, voter protections, inequity caused by housing shortage and the impacts of COVID on low-income workers. He was the Assembly’s lead for the 2020 Census and for the state to mail ballots to all registered voters in 2020.
At the end of the interview, the Assemblymember commented that the issues raised during the call are interrelated. They all must be addressed to accomplish overall goals of mitigating climate change, housing supply and inequities in our communities. We need solutions to reduce carbon emissions, expand local denser housing, improve regional transportation while addressing inequities in our communities.
Question 1: Land Use and Climate Change.
What do you see as the most important considerations and priorities in the effort to reach net drawdown from natural and working lands? How do we balance the many considerations? What are the funding priorities?
Summary of Assemblymember Berman’s response: The efforts to convert natural and working lands to lands that remove and sequester CO2 from the atmosphere is an area that the Assemblymember has not focused on. He is supportive of the developments underway to sequester CO2. These efforts could be implemented on San Mateo County coastal working farm lands.
Encouraging infill affordable housing in urban areas would preserve carbon sinks in the edges of urban growth. He sponsored a law a few years ago which allowed infill development in unincorporated county land to be exempt from CEQA to achieve this purpose (AB 1804.)
Question 2: Housing and Homelessness, Zoning and Affordability.
What can be done to reform exclusionary single-family zoning in California? What reforms do you support to legalize and incentivize more affordable housing (both naturally occurring, and deed restricted) in high opportunity neighborhoods?
Summary Assemblymember Berman’s response: Housing, homelessness and the relationship and impact of zoning regulations is a topic that we need to address. Much can be done to increase California’s overall housing supply. He is following the work of cities such as Sacramento, Minneapolis, Los Angeles that have changed policies to allow denser housing. The changes needed include changing single family residence zoning laws, encouraging accessory dwelling units, and allowing lot splits in R1 zoning areas.
For his district, AD24, more housing is needed for homeless, low income and moderate-income residents. This year’s state budget is able to provide more funding for building affordable housing and homeless shelters, but that is not enough.
To increase the housing supply takes multiple approaches. The state has passed several laws to address bottlenecks in the development and permitting process for denser housing. Tax credits can incentivize affordable housing development. We need to ensure that local governments approve denser housing. We need to look for underused properties that can support temporary housing or even RVs and cars. He continues to look for more ideas and approaches.
Berman is interested to learn more about alternative financing approaches to expand housing. He commented that “we aren’t going to publicly fund our way to affordable housing by building subsidized housing alone, but we need to encourage the market to build housing and encourage partnerships of public funding, private funding, philanthropic funding.” All methods should be explored to determine how to locally expand affordable housing.
Question 3: Equitable COVID-19 Recovery.
What can be done to ensure that California’s COVID-19 economic recovery is equitable and focuses on the needs of those most impacted?
Summary of Assemblymember Berman’s response: “Everything we do needs to be done with an equity lens.”
Our region with its high cost of living driven by a housing shortage that has long suffered from inequities, which have been exacerbated by COVID. The Legislature is working on the multiple areas to address equitable relief to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on our communities.
- Extend eviction moratorium from end of January to at least the end of June
- Expanding and prioritizing access to COVID 19 vaccine:
- Expand child-care resources:
- Address food insecurity:
- Ensure that basic needs are met for community college students
- House homeless college students and priced-out faculty
Question 4: Personal Priorities for Assemblymember Berman
- Election reforms to expand voter participation.
- increasing voter participation by under-represented groups by promoting voter education, awareness, and support for multiple languages. More state funding is needed to support these efforts.
- Ban on sales of gas-powered small appliances
- Additional Local Issue discussed: Wildfire prevention and mitigation. Need for affordable fire insurance.