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The Recodification of the California Public Records Act (CPRA); A Quick Reference Guide For Code Enforcement Teams

by | Jun 12, 2023 | Legislation, Receiverships

The California Public Records Act (CPRA) was passed by the California State Legislature and signed by then-governor Ronald Reagan in 1968. The CPRA was meant to provide the public the right to request and access government records as long as disclosing such materials does is not exempt. The Act was enacted to balance the competing interest of “individuals’ rights to privacy” with the competing “right to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business.” Over the years since its passing, sections of the CPRA have been revised numerous times, which has resulted in an ironically disorganized document that made it difficult for the public to understand.

Most public agencies—and their code enforcement departments—are familiar with the CPRA, in gathering records for disclosure to the public upon request and also, knowing key exemptions for records that are not to be disclosed, by law.

For these teams, it is important to know that the California legislature recently reorganized the CPRA, moving it to a new part of the Government Code and renumbering the sections in what is called a recodification. This was done to
address the gap between the true goal of the CPRA and how it has evolved to be cumbersome for the public to navigate (as well as the public agencies that must know its terms).

Under Assembly Bill 473 (AB473), the recodified CPRA took effect on January 1, 2023. From the former Government Code Section 6250 and all pertinent sections that followed, to Government Code section 7920.000 and the sections that follow, the recodified CPRA covers the same ground, but in a more easily understandable organization.

As a quick reference for public agencies that are navigating the new codes, here are a few of the key provisions of the recodified CPRA:

CPRA Requests and Procedures For Agency Responses: Part 3, Sections 7922.725

This provision outlines the general principles, procedural requirements, information on electronic format records, and duty to assist in formulating requests of information by the public from the government entity.

Exemptions to Disclosure:

To balance the public right to public documents and the legitimate safety and health concerns of the community, the California Public Records Act includes numerous exemptions from the disclosure obligations of public agencies.  Some of the key exemptions local code enforcement teams may use include the following three provisions:

This includes complaints to, investigation reports, records of intelligence information, security procedures of the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Justice, Office of Emergency Services, or any state or local police/law enforcement agency, security agency, correctional agency, or licensing agency. In addition, disclosure of customer lists that an alarm or security company provides state or local law enforcement agencies is exempted from the CPRA for public safety reasons. 

This includes preliminary drafts, notes, or interagency/intra-agency memorandums. This exemption is reflective of the Act’s aim to preserve the interest of public safety. 

This includes records concerning pending litigation. In the interest of justice and equality, the following documents are not subject to CPRA-protected right for public access: 1.) those that pertain to a pending litigation that lists the public agency as a party until the said litigation has reached final adjudication or settled; and 2.) if the records pertain to a claim made under Division 3.6, against public entities and public employees until the said litigation has reached final adjudication, or settled.

Enforcement Procedures, including challenges to the CPRA response: Part 4, Sections 7923.000-500

This provision outlines the general principles and process for enforcement and challenges under the California Public Records Act.

Most jurisdictions are aware of this major shift in the organization of the CPRA, but of course it takes time to remember the new law sections as a result of the recodification. Over time the new codes will be second nature, but for now, helpful guides like this one can be a quick reference.

Click here to view the full code


Civica Law regularly advises clients on CPRA requests, responses, and disclosure obligations and its attorneys defend public agencies in CPRA litigation. Contact Civica Law Partner Valerie Escalante Troesh for more information.

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  • Civica Law

    With over 75 collective years of experience, Civica Law has helped cities and counties abate thousands of dangerous and substandard properties, improve housing conditions, and effectively deal with a wide range of quality-of-life issues, from homeless encampments to cannabis, drug, and gang dens to illegal gambling (or tap-tap) facilities, illegal business operations, human trafficking and massage, land use, and zoning, and virtually every other conceivable quality of life and safety issue a public agency may face.

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