Every year the California League asks local Leagues to interview their California legislators to better understand their positions on certain key issues. The virtual interview of District #3's senator, Bill Dodd, took place on February 10th. In attendance were members from six Bay Area Leagues located within the sprawling boundaries of District #3. Bernie Brooks and Robyn Orsini represented Napa County. Other League participants represented Diablo Valley from Contra Costa county, Davis and Woodland from Yolo county, and Sonoma and Solano counties.
Question 1: Land Use and Climate Change
What do you see as the most important considerations and priorities in the effort to reach a net drawdown of greenhouse gases from natural and working lands? How do we balance the many considerations? What are the funding priorities?
Dodd: Climatic conditions are creating the big problems we have, including the large number of fires started by lightning strikes, drought, and atmospheric rivers. Everything I'm doing is aimed at stopping wildfires, which emit CO2. I am working with other advocates like the Nature Conservancy to do controlled burns. We know everything is climate driven. We have to get involved with the rest of the world and make sure we are a leader.
Follow-up question: What about carbon sequestration?
Dodd: I am not involved with this issue; however, I believe it looks promising. There are efforts to grow wetlands off of Highway 37, and the Sonoma Land Trust and other groups are working on solutions to sea-level rise along this corridor. In fact, this project might be the first one in California to address sea-level rise. Work on Highway 37 could present a great opportunity for us to combine good transportation planning with climate resiliency planning, considering the vulnerability of this corridor to sea-level rise.
Follow-up question: Do you see any opportunities regarding Ag policy?
Dodd: Some crops require a lot of water, but it is hard to regulate water usage on private property. The market is driving crop choices, but that does not always drive good agricultural or sustainable practices.
Follow-up question: What are the funding priorities in this area?
Dodd: Cap and Trade is being used as a fund to provide for projects that are not in the general fund. It allows companies to perpetuate what they are currently doing. I would like to see stricter regulations and guidelines based on science. We need to have metrics, guidelines, and best practices on how to effectively reduce CO2. We are stewards of money that is being collected from companies that are not adequately reducing their emissions; these funds should be used for effective CO2 mitigation.
Question 2: Housing and Homelessness, Zoning and AffordabilityWhat 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?
Dodd: Despite the housing shortage, when people like Scott Wiener tried different things to get more regulations to promote housing, they got pushback from the League of Cities and local governments. Legislators tried to promote good bills, but the bills did not make it through the process. Labor unions are part of the issue. I support good jobs for union workers, but I also support bills that help us make gains in affordable housing, and some of them might not include project labor agreements. We need to solve two problems: the cost of labor and the excessive fees charged by local governments. Perhaps the state will need to fund support for local governments in order to help reach our goal for more affordable housing.Follow-up question: Do you think any redevelopment money will be available?Dodd: Right now redevelopment funds are going to education, and we still aren’t funding education adequately, so we cannot take money away from the schools. We need to find another source for the funds.
Follow-up question: Is it possible to help Black, Indigenous, and people of Color (BIPOC) gain home ownership as a way to generate wealth?
Dodd: This is important, especially for BIPOC and low-income folks. We need to place more controls on banks so they cannot get “creative” with mortgages, like they did with the derivatives that caused problems. I do not see any bills on the way for this, but I would definitely support them if they came along.
Question 3: Equitable COVID-19 RecoveryWhat can be done to ensure that California’s COVID-19 economic recovery is equitable and focuses on the needs of those who are the most impacted?
Dodd: While we had a digital divide before the advent of COVID-19, the pandemic really highlighted the issue. The people most impacted are those who cannot afford internet service. Without an online connection, employees cannot work from home and students cannot do distance learning. I am working with Cecilia Aguiar-Curry to get broadband to rural areas. I also support help for low-income communities and businesses.
Follow-up question: How do we get the vaccine to the homeless?
Dodd: I know several counties are working to get funding for this. I believe that Governor Newsom is trying hard to find a way to reach the disadvantaged.
Question 4: Legislator’s Personal PrioritiesWhat other major issues do you think the legislature must deal with in 2021? What are your personal priorities?
Dodd: I am working with the insurance industry so that those in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) can obtain insurance. I have introduced several bills regarding this issue. I have also introduced several bills to address the impact of wildfires, including rules for home hardening and defensible space. Hopefully, if passed, they will improve the situation and there will be less damage and loss of life. Certainly, no new housing should be built without fire-resistant materials/design in fire-risk areas. Why build huge subdivisions in areas we know will burn? Home hardening should be required everywhere in the state that is prone to fire.I am also working on water policy for low-income households. In particular, I do not want water shut off because folks cannot pay their bill. However, nonpayment impacts the utilities; California has more than $1 billion in water bill debt. So, I am trying to find funds to alleviate the burden on both low-income consumers and the utilities.In addition, I am working on reducing the reliance on single-use plastic, improved recycling, and product stewardship. After visiting Portland and other locations to see what they were doing, I decided to support SB 54, Solid Waste: Packaging and Products (Allen). I also want to look at a new recycling bill for wine and spirits bottles. Today we only recycle 70 percent of our waste.
Follow-up question: What about reducing local control over zoning in high opportunity zones?
Dodd: It is a big issue if the state tries to take over local control; however, a large number of housing units are needed. We should give counties and cities the right to control their own zoning, but when they cannot do it, the state should come in and take some control. Often, if a lot of people show up at a board of supervisors or city council meeting objecting to housing in their neighborhood, the local officials are reluctant to go ahead with a project. One example that concerns me is the Napa Pipe project, which originally was to have 3,000 units but now only includes 800 units. There may be times when the state should step in.
Follow-up question: What about controlling urban sprawl?
Dodd: We have to find a way to legally control sprawl, but we have to work around private property rights and general plans, etc. There is still a lot of open space in California. The state has the authority to step in if local governments are not making good planning decisions, but there is understandable pushback when the state reduces local control. It is difficult to limit sprawl when it is already included in city and county general plans. Single-family development is perfectly fine in some areas, but it is not acceptable when it just leads to lengthy commutes and high costs of living. There is adequate land in our cities to facilitate needed housing development. For information on legislation submitted by Senator Dodd and others, visit LegInfo
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