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Monday, September 16, 2019
Local Lawmakers Tout Rent Control, ADU Reforms, School Later Start, and Teacher Raises, in Town Hall Meeting
State Senator Anthony Portantino (D-25) touted his bill to start the California school day a little later, and Fifth District County Supervisor Kathryn Barger pledged to look at more ways to minimize the impact of the Hahamongna “Big Dig” sediment removal project.
Both politicians appeared before a packed auditorium Saturday morning at a joint “Town Hall” meeting at Altadena Elementary Arts Magnet school to discuss a wide variety of subjects ranging from parking to the Dodgers.
Portantino, battling a cold, had just left a long “last day” session of the State Legislature at three a.m. hours before, and boarded a 6:15 am flight to Burbank. But he was also eager to discuss his bill to deal with the 710 Freeway “stub” in Pasadena.
His bill, SB 2, provides a specific provision to allow Pasadena to claim and develop the portion of the freeway near California Boulevard. The bill would also give the City the ability to negotiate with Caltrans the fate of a number of nearby houses and properties, originally purchased to make way for the freeway extension, and will now never be built.
“When I negotiated the final (bill) language with Caltrans,” Portantino explained, “I ran it by Pasadena, and Pasadena said, “If we lock ourselves into that language, we can’t develop the stub.”
Portantino acknowledged, “Pasadena is ready to move, and if we can help them do what they need to do, then that sets the tone for the southern cities to show that the process works.”
Meanwhile, the Town Hall began with a pressing demand—could either of the legislators make the local cable company broadcast Dodger games? While both agreed with the sentiment, neither would commit to such a move. Portantino also let it slip that because he was born in New Jersey, he was actually a Mets fan.
In more serious matters, Barger acknowledged the impact of the “Big Big” sediment removal project at Devil’s Gate Dam in the Hahamongna Watershed, and emphasized that a more regular monitoring program at the dam would ensure that a project the size of the current project would not be necessary next time.
“Let’s not wait another 45 years,” said Barger. “We will be constantly monitoring and cleaning out the dam, so that we don’t have to do this again.”
Portantino also added that he had added a $3.5 million request for stream restoration to a $40 million state park bond, which he hoped to place on the ballot next year.
Asked about Cost-of-Living raises for teachers, Portantino explained that such an automatic raise of 3% now exists in the State’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCCF).
“Last year we put that into local funding for schools and this year we will try to double that rate,” said Portantino, but added that he didn’t think Governor Newsom would focus on the subject this year, because “he has been focused on (funding for) early education.”
A question about parking in Altadena circuitously brought up the issue of homelessness and the lack of affordable rental housing.
Supervisor Barger told the crowd that the state-wide and local homelessness issue had also prompted many cities to allow the addition of “Granny Flats,” home additions that would increase local housing stock, as well as provide rental income for Airbnb properties.
But, “No good deed goes unpunished,” she said. “With that came a whole new set of problems. And Altadena is ground zero for much of that impact in terms of parking. We are very much engaged with trying to come up with some sort of solution, but we recognize that there is no easy answer.”
Barger also mentioned the problem of Airbnb homes being used as party locations.
“This is unacceptable,” said Barger, “and we are also looking at the impact that has on the fact that we don’t have enough rental properties as it is.”
Barger also told the group that the County is looking at permit parking for residents in Altadena, but said that the idea “would need buy-in from the community first.”
Portantino then happily announced the passage of his school late start bill, SB 328, which he said came “after thirty years of research.” The bill would mandate that no middle school or high school in California could begin the school day earlier than 8:30 a.m.
“This will cut down on traffic accidents, drug use, poor attendance and a host of other problems that are the result of sleep deprivation,” said Portantino.
Both legislators also discussed the pressing issue of rent control and housing, on State and County levels.
Portantino told the crowd that he was currently working on creating a “dedicated funding stream” for affordable housing. Specifically, he touted SB 5, which authorizes the creation of enhanced infrastructure financing districts, affordable housing authority, transit village development district, or community revitalization and investment authorities for supporting infrastructure, affordable housing, and economic revitalization throughout the state.
Barger also said that she was a long-term opponent of rent control for many years, but said, “after hearing so many horror stories, especially in low-income areas,” she recently voted in favor of a motion sponsored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to create an 8 percent rent increase cap in L.A. County and unincorporated areas.
“It’s about compromise,” said Barger. “It’s a balance between tenants’ rights, and landlord’s rights. But we heard stories about rents going from $1,200 to $2,400, and we’re talking about people who can barely make the $1,200. I look at the homeless numbers going up, and I couldn’t, in good conscience, allow that to continue.”