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April 9, 2003

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SACRAMENTO - Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) announced that his bill to expand child care opportunities passed out of the Assembly Local Government Committee today.

Assembly Bill (AB) 51 is designed to address the shortage in affordable child care that has plagued the South Bay and Midpeninsula for the past several years.  The bill would require that the Land Use Element of future General Plans address the need for child care.

“It’s a simple idea,” said Simitian. “We just don’t have enough licensed spaces for the kids who need child care. If we want more child care, we need to make a place for it. And we should make it easier for child care operators to know where they can site new facilities. AB 51 will help do just that.”

Jan Stokley, Executive Director, Child Care Coordinating Council of San Mateo County, said, “The child care providers I know face great challenges finding the right place to locate a new facility. Having the interests of children and the need for child care addressed from the start is absolutely essential.”
According to the Child Care Coordinating Council of San Mateo County, only 39% of San Mateo County children who need childcare are in licensed facilities. Other regions in the State face similar challenges.

“Child care facilities are exactly the kind of thing we should be looking at in our General Plans,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Blanca Alvarado. “As a public official responsible for approving the County’s General Plan, I support Assemblyman Simitian’s bill 100%.”

Child care facilities often present a challenge to city planners when it comes to siting. Business owners in commercial districts have concerns about children being located next to a business that could later be considered a hazard to the children. And local residents in residential neighborhoods often express concern about traffic and noise impacts that may be associated with some facilities.

Margo Dutton, Executive Director, Palo Alto Community Child Care, said, “AB 51 is a great step forward in creating more child care openings. I’m pleased that Assemblymember Simitian is thinking about his youngest constituents.”

AB 51 would amend the list of required items a city or county must address in its Land Use Element to include distribution of child care facilities. Examples of other items that currently must be addressed include housing, business, industry, open space, and education.

AB 51 is modeled on a similar bill Simitian carried last year, AB 2954. That bill made it through the Legislature, but was vetoed by the Governor due to cost concerns. “The veto message [from the Governor] suggested it would cost a small fortune to implement this law. That simply isn’t the case,” said Simitian. “The bill has no cost whatsoever. This year we have a statement in the bill to that effect, and I’m hopeful we’ll have the opportunity to give the Governor another chance to sign the bill – this time with better results.”

AB 51 is supported by the Child Care Coordinating Council of San Mateo County, the California Chapter of the National Organization for Women, and the Junior League of California.