(May 23, 2012) The California Chamber of Commerce removed the “job killer” designation on a bill that increased the cost of development and created project delays by requiring that general plans incorporate concepts related to healthy food access and urban agriculture, after it was amended on May 17. CalChamber remains opposed to the bill.
Before the May 17 amendments, AB 1897 (Campos; D-San Jose) sought to address the lack of access to healthy and fresh food for low- to moderate-income families in California by allowing the Office of Planning and Research to add a healthy food element to a city or county general plan.
Although the intent of the bill was commendable, the bill stated it will expedite the local and state residential process locating new or rehabilitated grocery stores in “food deserts,” but did not address how the process will be expedited.
AB 1897 also stated it would have ensured that local governments zone sufficient land to include grocery stores, but it didn’t address how that would be done when an area is already developed. Additionally, the bill stated that local governments would make a diligent effort through land use and development controls to significantly reduce barriers to grocery store development by regulatory concessions and incentives, but did not address how.
Created a Hook for Litigation
AB 1897 indicated a link between residential development with the location of a grocery store. This gave the impression that it is OK to place a condition of approval on a residential project. Anyone may question whether the condition was met and sue, thereby creating delays or halting a project.
CalChamber Remains Opposed
In its amended form, AB 1897 seeks to address the lack of access to healthy and fresh food for low- to moderate-income families in California by allowing the Office of Planning and Research, in consultation with the Department of Food and Agriculture, to add healthy food guidelines to a city or county general plan. While the intent of the bill is commendable, there are already efforts being made to address the issue of access to healthy foods without adding guidelines to a general plan.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) authored AB 581 (Chapter 505, Statutes of 2011), establishing California’s own Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which will be providing recommendations to the Legislature this July on how to address “food deserts,” or a lack of access to healthy food. AB 1897 inappropriately steps in front of that process and tries to address the issue through land use planning rather than waiting for the results of the study.
AB 1897 is awaiting a vote on the Assembly Floor.