Newsom signs farmworker bill

Robert Rivas

State Assemblymember Robert Rivas’ long awaited Farmworker Housing Bill was signed into law Oct. 10 by Gov. Gavin Newson.


The law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The Farmworker Housing Act of 2019 passed the Assembly with a concurrence vote of 57-16 and the state Senate with a vote of 27-10.


Newsom signed the bill just three days before his signing deadline. In the press release sent by Rivas’ office, the Hollister freshman assembly member said, “I am thrilled the governor signed my bill, AB 1255, opening the door to new opportunities to build housing on sites that may have been overlooked or unknown.”

Rivas is the grandson of an immigrant farmworker.


In his state of the state address, Newsom said that housing would be one of his biggest priorities during his first term as governor.


Rivas’ bill will create a streamlined process for farmers to build worker housing on their properties.


Currently, if a farm owner wants to build worker housing on farm property, it is a long process of zoning changes, with smaller farm owners unable to provide the kind of housing their workers need. Rivas’ bill provides exemptions to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for farmworker housing, and does not require property owners to apply for a zoning change.


The federal government currently provides a program known as H-2A that allows farm owners to sponsor temporary workers from foreign countries. Rivas has said that the Farmworker Housing Act would provide an option for the 75 percent of farmworkers who are US residents and for the small farm owners who cannot afford to participate in H-2A.


One of the amendments made to the bill before its passage capped the number of units allowed in each development at 36.


“Local cities and counties own thousands of parcels of land throughout the state, many of which exceed their foreseeable needs,” Rivas said in a press release.


“By simply identifying these overlooked, underdeveloped areas, there is tremendous potential for local leaders and developers to collaborate and build smart affordable housing to better serve the needs of their communities.”

The Democrat’s 30th Assembly District includes Morgan Hill, Gilroy and San Benito County.