The Chino Hills City Council is changing its code to allow residents, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status, to serve on a city commission, as mandated by Gov. Gavin Newsom in a senate bill he signed into law in October.

The new law (Senate Bill 225) eliminates the voter registration requirement to serve on city commissions and boards and will go into effect in January.

This does not apply to the city council but to appointed members.

For residents to qualify to serve on a commission, they must be 18 and a resident of Chino Hills, but they do not have to be citizens of the United States.

The removal of the voter registration requirement eliminated the tool the city used to establish residency, so the city will need to come up with another proof of residency, said city clerk Cheryl Balz during the Nov. 12 city council meeting when the matter was being discussed.

Domicile expands

In addition to the voter registration change, another bill signed into law by Gov. Newsom in July (Assembly Bill 679), will also impact the city code by defining the term “domicile” to include residents who legitimately live at a business address.

AB 679 clarifies that a domicile may include non-traditional living situations for voting purposes so that election officials do not inadvertently exclude eligible individuals from voting if they legitimately live at a business address, according to a city staff report.

“We felt we needed to make sure we included the definition of that term (domicile) since that will be one of our only requirements, other than being 18, to serve on the commissions,” Ms. Balz told the council.

Following the meeting, Ms. Balz explained that a person’s residency, or domicile, is defined as that place in which a person’s habitation is fixed, where the person has the intention of remaining, and to which the person has the intention of returning.

She cited the California Elections Code that states a person may have only one domicile.

Under Assembly Bill 679, domicile could include the person’s business. 

Ms. Balz emphasized, however, that living in a business may be prohibited by other laws.

According to community development director Joann Lombardo, there are several provisions in the Chino Hills residential building code, the building code and the development code that define “residential construction” and “dwelling unit” that are intended to provide safe living places, and to reduce fire and health risks associated with improper electrical wiring, plumbing, sanitation and ventilation.

The building code, for example, defines dwelling unit as a single unit providing complete independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.

The City of Chino is aware of the two bills but has not scheduled any related items for council consideration at this time, according to Chino spokesperson Vivian Castro.

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