A Recap of the SB 4 Info Session, Hosted by The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange

On Tuesday February 26, People for Housing OC participated in the SB 4 Info Session for Faith Leaders hosted by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Orange with the goal of connecting  faith leaders and housing experts to explore potential opportunities to build housing on faith community lands.  This info session consisted of a panel of both Faith Leaders and Affordable Housing Developers to discuss their experiences in light of recent legislation of SB 4 in California. Panelists shared  the opportunities, challenges, and successes of building  affordable housing on church lands in Orange County, and discussed the future of such development using the “by-right” streamlining process under SB 4. 

Providing the context and details of SB 4, Cesar Covarrubias, Executive Director of the Kennedy Commission, opened the panel to explain SB 4 and the opportunity for the production of more affordable housing on church land. 

SB 4 allows religious institutions and non-profit colleges (exempting the CSU and UC college campuses) to build affordable housing projects on their lands, treating them as “by-right” developments. SB 4 considers these projects “by-right,” meaning they can skip the lengthy CEQA review, but only if they meet some key criteria:

  1. Housing units are not located within 1,200 feet of a site that is currently or formerly involved with any sort of industrial use.
  2. Housing units are not located within 1,600 feet of a site that is currently or formerly involved with Title V industrial use.
  3. Housing units are not located within 3,200 feet of a natural gas or oil refinery. 

Developments must also be compliant with local zoning ordinances and regulations and approximately 171,000 acres of land in California will be eligible for affordable housing development. Read more at California YIMBY.

In attendance for the faith leader panel were The Reverend Lucinda Voien from Rector of St. Joseph Episcopal Church in Buena Park, The Reverend R Barrett Van Buren, Sr. Warden Ned Bergert, and Jr. Warden Tom Johnson from Blessed Sacrament Episcopal Church in Placentia. Their panel theme consisted of their gratitude to developers such as National CORE (Community Renaissance) who were instrumental in the success of their Santa Angelina development which will be a vibrant senior community adjacent to the church, providing affordable apartment homes to seniors. 

Their partnership with National CORE ensured that they were not only following the proper building regulations,  but also facilitated a transparent and robust community outreach while listening to the needs of the neighbors in the surrounding area and responding to their concerns with changes to the project. Overall, the faith leaders highlighted the importance of building housing for the unhoused and their surrounding neighbors as a fulfillment of their congregation’s mission. While the pushback both internally within the church and externally from the community will exist, this congregation believes it is essential to serve those who are in need and open the doors to new housing on their congregation’s land.  

The developer panel consisted of Alexa Washburn from National CORE; Todd Cottle, of C&C Development; Michael Massie, of Jamboree Housing; and Ed Holder, from Mercy Housing. The featured panelists described how vital it is to have a transparent and flexible relationship between the congregation and the developer because the development process is long and challenging.  Construction has its own set of regulations and timelines that need to be fulfilled, as noted by Todd Cottle of C&C Development. Still, it is essential to build for the needs of the community and listen to the needs of the congregation and surrounding communities. 

Alexa Washburn from National CORE reiterated the importance of open communication in the  relationship between the developer and congregation, to make sure both parties have shared priorities to build a strong internal foundation by garnering support from church leaders and congregation members. The strategy extends outward to collaborate with city officials, staff, and elected representatives with a key emphasis placed on educating church congregation members, empowering them to become advocates for housing initiatives within the broader community. The ultimate goal is to create a multi-tiered system where church members serve as “cheerleaders” for the project and to promote positive change in the surrounding community.

The presentation concluded with our Co-Founder, Elizabeth Hansburg, who facilitated the Q&A panel with both the faith leaders and the invited representatives from development partners.  We at People for Housing believe SB 4 is a transformative tool in facilitating the much-needed production of affordable housing in Orange County. We urge faith leaders and developers to continue to foster these necessary relationships to be a part of the necessary solution to our county’s housing crisis.

Antonia Castro-Graham

Antonia Castro-Graham

Director of Energy Policy and Strategy, Americas for BayWa

Antonia is the Director of Energy Policy and Strategy, Americas for BayWa, a leading renewable energy project developer. Prior to this position she served as Vice President of a Public Affairs firm and spent more than twenty years working in local government. She served as the Deputy City Manager for the City of Fullerton and as the Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Huntington Beach. Ms. Graham led regional efforts and created the Orange County Recycling Market Development Zone and created a working group of cities to study community choice energy, eventually forming the Orange County Power Authority. She holds a BA in Political Science and American Studies and an MPA with a concentration in Public Finance from Cal State Fullerton (CSUF) as well as a a Master’s degree in Sustainability from Arizona State University. Ms. Graham also teaches courses focused on sustainability policy at CSUF and Cal Poly Pomona. Ms. Graham recently had a case study published in the book, Sustainable World: Approaches to Analyzing & Resolving Wicked Problems and was selected as the Arizona State University School of Sustainability Alumni of the Year (2018) and the 2022 CSUF MPA Alumni of the Year.

Natalia Hernandez

Natalia Hernandez

Housing Advocacy Community Organizer at People for Housing OC.

Natalia Hernandez serves as the current Housing Advocacy Community Organizer at People for Housing OC. She is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in Political Science and Professional Writing Minor in Civic Engagement which became the foundation of her desire to promote equitable opportunities for marginalized populations. Natalia’s professional history consists of serving as an intern at nonprofit organizations such as The Learning Rights Law Center and The Santa Barbara Public Library Foundation as well as a published writer/editor for The Bottom Line Newspaper in Santa Barbara, CA.

Leonel Velazquez

Leonel Velazquez

Community Liaison at People for Housing OC.

Leonel Velazquez Rodríguez serves as the current Community Liaison at People for Housing OC. Leonel was educated at Cal State University Long Beach through its Community Scholars Program: Policy & Systems Change. Leonel believes that in order to be emphatic with the community, you must learn the community languages. He is a passionate advocate for bringing about systematic change from a culture of oppression to a culture of equity and firmly believes in the power of community voices coming together collectively to work towards a common good.

Jeff Gibson

Jeff Gibson

Communications and Campaign Consultant

Jeff Gibson is a Communications and Campaign Consultant with his firm Occidental Communications Group. Jeff has spent his career fighting to improve the lives of everyday employers, employees, families, and residents in California and across the country. As a longtime non-profit and corporate board member, the organizations he has helped found, lead, and serve have cared for children with cancer in over 200 hospitals globally, expanded physical education programs in more than 100 Southern California schools, and provided more than 1,000 holiday meals to homeless families in Costa Mesa through a door-to-door food drive.

David C. Smith

David C. Smith

Partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

David C. Smith is a Partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, providing legal counsel to land developers, conservation companies, for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and individuals at the intersection of law and government on land use entitlement, real estate development and regulatory compliance. His practice includes California’s climate change law (SB 375, AB 32, et al.) and water supply law (SB 211, SB 610), and state and federal endangered species acts. Other specific areas of focus are the McAteer-Petris Act, the federal Clean Water Act with the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, the National Environmental Policy Act with the California Environmental Quality Act, and California’s planning and zoning laws.

Nishtha Mohindra

Nishtha Mohendra

Chief Program Officer, Families Forward

Nishtha Mohindra is the Chief Program Officer at Families Forward, a nonprofit based in Irvine. Families Forward is dedicated to helping families in crisis regain financial stability and self-sufficiency with resources such as food, housing, counseling, education and other support services. Nishtha has a master’s degree in Social Work and more than 10 years of experience working with adults and families on issues related to homelessness, health, violence against women, mental health and addiction, oppression, and family crises in diverse settings such as the United States, Canada, and India. She currently serves on the Continuum of Care Board for Orange County, recently received the 2022 40 under 40 award from the Irvine Commerce Chamber, and was included on the OC Register's 125 Most Influential list for 2022.

Rona Henry

Rona Henry

Retired, Lingnan Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Chairperson (Volunteer), Welcoming Neighbors Home, an Initiative of Tapestry Unitarian Universalist Congregation

Rona Henry retired from a 30-year career in philanthropy after serving in a variety of roles with including grant management and operations, national program management, program officer, financial officer and staff development. She now works nearly full-time as a volunteer advocate focusing on homelessness and affordable housing through the Welcoming Neighbors Home Initiative, a ministry of Tapestry, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Lake Forest, CA. Through service, education and advocacy, this ministry is striving to end homelessness in South Orange County. Rona is also an advocate for women's reproductive rights.

Daniel Gehman

Daniel Gehman

Principal Architect, Danielian Associates Architects + Planners

Daniel Gehman is the Principal Architect at Danielian Associates Architects + Planners, an architecture and planning firm dedicated to planning and designing trend-setting, forward-thinking homes and sustainable residential communities. Daniel is passionate about multifamily housing, loves working in dense urban and transit oriented environments, is sensitive to attainability, and is a big fan of modular construction solutions.

Ryan Aeh

Ryan Aeh

Senior Vice President, City Ventures

Ryan Aeh is the Senior Vice President, Land Acquisition for City Ventures in Irvine, CA as well as a Board Member on the Irvine Community Land Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to creating permanent and affordable housing in Irvine and Orange County. Ryan’s career over the past 20 years has been dedicated to the development of more than 2,500 homes in Southern California’s supply constrained coastal infill markets with experience in residential and retail real estate development. Notably, Ryan was named “40 Under 40” in Orange County by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce in 2019.