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        Governor Newsom Signs Groundbreaking Law Promoting Affordable Housing for Artists Working in Cultural Districts

        Press Release

        October 12, 2023 | Eduardo Robles

        Eduardo Robles
        Senior Manager of Communications
        Californians for the Arts 
        (916) 520-6049 ext. 102

        12 October 2023

        Governor Newsom Signs Groundbreaking Law Promoting Affordable Housing for Artists Working in Cultural Districts, Helping Set Protections for the State’s Cultural Treasures and Greater Economic Opportunity for Artists.

        Yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 812 which was authored by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner and allows local governments to reserve affordable housing in cultural districts for artists at risk of being displaced by rising housing costs. The first of its kind in the state, AB 812 provides a tool for local governments whose jurisdictions include either a state or locally-designated cultural district and who recognize the need to retain the artists and cultural workers who make these neighborhoods unique. 
        “Artists are the lifeblood of our cultural communities and help preserve the cultural footprint of the region,” says Assemblymember Boerner. AB 812 authorizes local governments to set aside up to 10% of deed-restricted housing units within a locally-designated cultural district and up to one-half mile from a state-designated cultural district for eligible creative workers whose households qualify as moderate-income, lower income, very low-income, or extremely low-income. “This prevents artists from having to move away from the neighborhoods they contribute so much to, simply because they can no longer afford to live there,” continues Boerner. AB 812 establishes that the need for this tool is a state level concern but leaves control and implementation within the authority of California cities and counties. 

        “The passage of AB 812 is a groundbreaking win for California’s arts and culture sector,” says Julie Baker, CEO of California Arts Advocates, which sponsored the bill. While the creative economy generates over 7.25% of the state’s economy, California ranks 32nd in the nation in per capita state investment in arts and culture. A significant number of California’s creative workers and self-employed qualify for affordable housing and often lack access to traditional social safety nets. A 2021 survey by the city of Berkeley found that while most working artists and cultural workers are highly educated, 60% have low, very low, or extremely low income, and many are experiencing displacement pressures due to increasing housing prices in cultural communities. While California recognized its artists as “essential” and declared them the state’s “second responders” in 2019, this new law helps educate state and local decision makers that many artists are part of the vulnerable class of low-earning California workers that should be considered when producing workforce housing.

        This is especially true in cultural districts where a density of artists and cultural activities vitalize a neighborhood, often leading to physical and social improvements that increase property values and costs. Cultural zones are increasingly becoming a go-to strategy for local economic development, as they are found to promote cultural equity, boost tourism dollars, encourage more local visitors, increase property values, and generate more money for the region and state. The state has fourteen districts formally designated through the California Cultural District Program and administered through the California Arts Council and there are an estimated hundreds of locally-designated cultural districts. Nationwide, artists are rent-burdened in 80% of cultural districts, which threatens to push out the very core of a cultural district itself. “Keeping neighborhoods affordable to the culture bearers in our local communities and avoiding the displacement of artists protects our cultural heritage, and it creates robust economic zones,” says Baker, “without them, the special culture of the place leaves with them, dispersed and diluted and a cultural district is no longer a cultural district if those people who made it cannot afford to live and work there themselves.”

        AB 812 does not prioritize artists over other Californians needing access to affordable housing. The law allows local agencies who are requiring a residential development in a cultural district to provide a certain percentage of affordable housing units to reserve up to 10% of those units for artists who are verified and eligible, as long as the agency is also meeting the conditions required by local tenant and anti-displacement protections. AB 812 was passed by the Senate on September 13th and the Assembly on September 14th.

        About Californians for the Arts (CFTA)

        Californians for the Arts is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary advocacy service organization focused on building resources and public awareness of the value and impact of arts, culture and creativity across California.


        About California Arts Advocates (CAA)

        California Arts Advocates is a 501c4 that provides direct lobbying to ensure the arts are prioritized in the budget process and there is legislation to serve and protect the creative industries and arts workers.

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