A state Senate committee heard complaints last week about the special assessments imposed by some local governments, including a levy in Port Hueneme tied to property owners' view of the Pacific Ocean.
The Senate Local Government Committee held the hearing because of growing dissatisfaction among some residents over assessments imposed under the Landscaping and Lighting Act of 1972.
In Port Hueneme, for example, home owners have filed a lawsuit over their assessments, charging that they are being unfairly singled out to fund beach maintenance costs by virtue of having an ocean view.
Assessments are charges imposed upon land that receives a special benefit from a public improvement.
Port Heuneme officials have argued that home owners in the oceanside district benefit from having a well-maintained beach.
Home owners elsewhere in the state also recently challenged efforts by school districts and other entities to use the 1972 act to fund services previously financed by general tax revenues.
Some legislators are concerned that localities are stretching the intent of the 1972 assessment act.
Sen. John R. Lewis, R-Orange, plans next year to introduce a bill requiring two-thirds approval in a referendum before a locality can levy an assessment under the 1972 act.
Under existing law, a local governing body can overturn a majority protest by home owners and impose the assessment.
Local governments in California have relied more heavily on assessments and special taxes to fund improvements and services in the wake of Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that limited property taxes.