November 2020 marked People for Housing OC’s very first election cycle! We endorsed 18 local candidates across 13 cities, and weighed in on 5 ballot prop initiatives. Here’s what we learned - and what’s next in our fight to win Orange County elections for the pro-housing movement. Get involved today!
Our endorsements and candidate forums put housing on the map as a key electoral issue.
In previous cycles, candidates weren’t widely talking about their stances on housing. This election was different. Our housing candidate forums, which drew collectively more than 50 candidates between our North OC forum and South OC forum, called on candidates to publicly declare their views on affordable housing, density, and other key YIMBY issues. Our endorsement process served as an additional forcing mechanism for candidates, with the 60 candidates who completed our questionnaire called to explain and defend their perspectives on housing. Our candidate forums and endorsements shifted the discourse even beyond these candidates, with other opponents in the race publicly declaring their own housing stances in response (for better or for worse).
Our work illuminating candidates’ positions on housing met a need in the electorate. Our candidate forums drew more than 250 participants collectively and attracted a diverse coalition of partners, including affordable housers, business groups, and both the OC Young Democrats and the OC Young Republicans. Our endorsements were viewed or shared hundreds of times.
Now newly elected leaders have put their positions on housing on the record, and we are ready to hold leaders accountable to approve projects and enact pro-housing policies. Up next: we will be hosting forums with several of our winning candidates, calling on them to lay out their vision for housing in their communities. We will also be ramping up our organizing around the Housing Elements and individual housing projects, and asking City Councils to enact new pro-housing legislation, such enabling housing on religious properties and redeveloping underperforming commercial properties into housing.
Cities that are now on a new path.
Electoral victories, particularly in North and Central County, mean that some key cities have political climates that are now much more favorable to housing. Some highlights:
Costa Mesa: Mayor Katrina Foley, who has led the city’s response to homelessness, was reelected. Two newly elected council candidates-- Loren Gamerous and Jeff Harlan -- also both bring a commitment to affordable housing and streamlining development. This means that Costa Mesa City Council now has a pro-housing majority. The city is facing the competing pressures of its significantly up-sized RHNA number and its existing ballot-box-zoning Measure Y, which requires developments of 40+ homes to be approved by voters. With the pro-housing majority in place, we have high hopes that this council will circumvent or dismantle Measure Y to make room for more housing in Costa Mesa.
Huntington Beach: Both of our endorsed candidates won-- Dan Kalmick and Natalie Moser. Huntington Beach also has a high RHNA number and strong constituent demand to address homelessness in the city. We are hopeful that Councilmembers Kalmick and Moser can translate this energy into wins for housing.
Garden Grove: Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Nguyen was reelected in a landslide. Garden Grove has one of the highest RHNA numbers in OC, and Councilwoman Nguyen has been vocal about her commitment to affordable housing. In addition, the new OC Streetcar light rail goes through Garden Grove, representing an opportunity for new, creative housing plans.
Santa Ana: Our endorsed first-time-councilmember Thai Viet Phan won Ward 1. She is the first Vietnamese person elected to the Santa Ana city council, a municipal lawyer by trade, and strongly pro-housing. In Santa Ana, we are also excited about the election of Vicente Sarmiento to the Mayor’s office.
Tustin: In Tustin, our endorsed candidate and first-time-councilman Ryan Gallagher won. He has a commitment to seeing more housing redeveloped at the city’s major opportunity site, the repurposed Tustin airbase, renamed Tustin Legacy. On a council that has heretofore been reluctant to approve new housing, Councilman Gallagher’s addition will change the tone and open up pathways for new housing in Tustin.
We are also happy to see the reelection of our several endorsed Councilmembers Sandy Rains (Laguna Niguel), Tim Shaw (La Habra) and Rhonda Shader (Placentia), all of whom have shown past commitments to housing, and in cities all have opportunities for infill redevelopment of under performing commercial properties. None of these cities appealed their RHNA numbers; they appear ready to start planning for new housing, and these leaders can make that happen.
We still have a lot of work to do.
Despite these significant wins, NIMBYism is still formidable in Orange County. This election, Measure X passed in La Habra, requiring that voters approve any housing project that would redevelop privately owned land zoned open space. Measure X will, as we’ve argued, depress housing production while also burdening cities with new costs and potential legal action. Indeed, in Orange, the defeat of Measure AA demonstrates what happens when we require voters to approve individual housing development projects at the ballot box: they say no, and much-needed housing doesn’t get built.
The good news is that if our movement continues to grow, these NIMBY victories will be the last gasps of a dying era. This election showcased the appetite for pro-housing messages and the momentum behind pro-housing candidates. More and more voters are appalled by Orange County’s homelessness crisis, stifled by their inability to own a home, and ready to say “yes” to more housing.
We can parlay this energy into real pro-housing reform in Orange County - but we need you to get involved. Between this election and next, we will be recruiting new activists and building bigger pro-housing communities in all parts of the county. We will be mobilizing to speak up at project hearings, advocate for more housing in cities’ Housing Elements, and push elected officials to pass pro-housing legislation. We need your voice and your skills. Become a member today!
Costa Mesa City Council District 2, Loren Gameros
Costa Mesa City Council District 6, Jeffrey Harlan
Costa Mesa Mayor, Katrina Foley
Costa Mesa Mayor, Wendy Leece
Dana Point District 5, Benjamin Tyler Bebee
Huntington Beach, Amory Hanson
Huntington Beach, Dan Kalmick
Irvine, Farrah N. Khan
Irvine, Christina Dillard
Irvine, Luis Manuel Huang
Irvine, Diana Jiang
Irvine, Lauren Johnson-Norris
Irvine, Tammy Kim
Laguna Hills, Nick Wood
Laguna Niguel, Stephanie Oddo
Laguna Niguel, Sandy Rains
Laguna Niguel, Rischi Paul Sharma
Laguna Niguel, Michael Fair
Mission Viejo, Pauline Hale
Orange, District 2, Martin Varona
Orange, District 2, Caroline Alatorre
Rancho Santa Margarita, Beth Schwartz
San Clemente, Zhen Wu
San Clemente, Donna Vidrine
San Clemente, 2 year term George T. Gregory
San Clemente, 4 year term Chris Duncan
Register to Watch!
We are pleased to announce that we have built a broad coalition of organizations concerned about the shortage of new housing opportunities in Orange County. Together, we are co-hosting a candidate forum focused on creating, approving, and building new housing in Orange County. All candidates and incumbents in city council races in OC are invited to participate.
Development approvals are local government decisions; therefore we want to hear from candidates and incumbents how they will ensure that an adequate supply of new housing is made available across the full spectrum of affordability, from affordable housing for low-income families and individuals experiencing homelessness to market-rate apartment buildings, townhomes, and condominiums.
This is an informational forum. The coalition of co-hosting orgs will not be making collective endorsements as a group. Each individual org may make endorsements based on their own criteria. People for Housing OC will be making endorsements. Information on the format of the event can be found here. Candidates wishing to participate are strongly encouraged to complete the People for Housing OC candidate questionnaire.
For Interested Public:
There are 34 cities in Orange County; therefore we are dividing the county in half and will host a forum for North / Central OC on Thurs., Aug 27th and for South / Coastal OC on Thurs., Sept 3rd.
People for Housing OC is a member of the YIMBY Action Network, a non-partisan 501(c)(4) org. We are inviting all city council and county supervisor candidates and incumbents in Orange County to respond to our candidate questionnaire. We will be holding candidate interviews / forums focused on housing, homelessness, and related issues. If you are are interested in participating in our candidate forum(s) or speaking to our members, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will make some endorsements based on the votes of our members. Members must join on or before July 31st, 2020 to participate in the endorsements vote, which will take place in September 2020. If you are interested in participating in our endorsements process, you can become a member here.
It's been 2 years since the trail was cleared. Now we have to build the housing. To do that, we must elect leaders who will say, "Yes!"
Exactly two years ago, the OC Public Works Department finished clearing the Santa Ana River Trail after the dismantling of homeless encampments. Since then, the Orange County United Way has rallied, partnering with the private sector, to get the word out about the causes of homelessness and to provide tenant assistance through their United to End Homelessness efforts. The Association of California Cities, Orange County successfully sponsored AB 448 to create the OC Housing Finance Trust (ochft.org) to apply for public funding for affordable housing development. The Orange County Business Council and NeighborWorks Orange County have championed donations to a separate, private trust (ochousingtrust.org) to collect private dollars to fund affordable housing. Over the past two years, we've seen leadership from the non-profit sector, the business community, the faith community to move the needle on getting homeless people housed and gathering resources to fund affordable housing. Orange County has a lot to be proud of. The next chapter of our housing story begins today. This next chapter is about creating actual housing -- STICKS & BRICKS -- and building that new housing in our existing Orange County communities. There will be prominent roles from affordable housing developers like Jamboree Housing Corporation and National Community Renaissance. But the real stars of this next chapter are our elected officials and those running for office in 2020. These are decision makers who can give new development the green light or stop a project from moving forward. The story has not changed. California, including Orange County, STILL has a housing shortage. We need more subsidized, affordable, attainable, missing middle, and market-rate housing. In this next chapter, we YIMBYs will be playing the role of narrator, asking, "What are your elected leaders doing to see that a good supply of affordable housing is built? What are your elected leaders doing to assure the end of homelessness in your community?"* The answers to those two questions will be the foundation of our endorsements process for the 2020 city council elections. If you are interested in asking those questions, consider becoming a member of our org. Go here to join-- https://www.peopleforhousing.org/membership.html There will be some cameo appearances from yellow-shirted NIMBYs in this next chapter, so we need Housing Champions to join us in advocating for homes for all of Orange County and in electing leaders who will #SayYesToHousing!
* Questions put forward in this opinion piece in the OC Register on March 3rd, 2018 https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/03/whos-really-to-blame-for-ocs-housing-affordability-crisis/
As of January 1, 2020, People for Housing OC joined the YIMBY Action Network. We have expanded the scope of our work from an education and advocacy org to now leveraging our members' voices to drive political change, enabling more housing construction in Orange County. Joining this larger network of YIMBY allies was both a strategic decision and a personal one. This is my story and why I joined YIMBY Action. I hope you will join, too! In doing so, you will join YIMBY allies across the state in building the social and political infrastructure needed to #BuildMoreHousing and end the shortage. JOIN TODAY!
I feel lucky. My family was able to buy a home during the last recession. Before the recession, I was a stay-at-home-mom, and my husband is a teacher, and there were few-if-any condos in the area where we needed to live. When the recession hit, suddenly housing became “affordable.” While other people were losing their jobs, my husband’s public sector position was somewhat buffered from the downturn in the economy. Even with the paycut all teachers were taking, we could finally afford a home in our town. I felt like I won the lottery. We were lucky.
Luck is not based on merit; it doesn’t come to you because you did all the right things, got a college degree, a good job, played by the rules. Luck means that you can lose it. Luck means that you’re kids can’t rely on it. Luck can be cruel and destabilizing. We won the lottery of time in the recession. But now that times are better, our school district struggles to hold on to teachers just like my husband.
In October 2016, I went to the SCAG Housing Summit and for the first time grasped the scale of the housing shortage. I heard wonky terms that described what I saw was missing in my community-- “Workforce Housing," "Attainable Housing," and "Missing Middle Housing." I heard Sonja Trauss talk about the YIMBY movement, and I decided that someone needed to bring this to Orange County.
The following month, I went to a planning commission meeting and saw for myself the ugly face of NIMBYism. I was trained as an urban planner, but I had worked on state and regional projects; never local government. People came out with petitions and t-shirts to fight a much-needed apartment building. They sent spit flying when they spoke because they were so angry that someone would dare turn acres of asphalt on a closed car dealership into new homes. Preserving the status quo was better than having more people, more cars, and more traffic.
Armed with my new information about the housing shortage, I stood at the podium and made an argument about why the city council should approve this project. California has a housing shortage; this is a good location for density; it revitalizes the area. Because of voices like mine, the city council approved it, and it is under construction today.
I keep fighting because I am lucky to have stable housing. My family is insulated from the rising costs of housing, and so are most of the opponents of housing. Most bought years ago, or maybe during the recession. How can those of us 40+ tell the younger generations they need to “work harder?” It is we who need to make room for future generations, for the people who work in our communities, for people who are unhoused. We need to make room, and we can, and our communities will be better for it. That means saying yes to tall buildings; yes to density; yes to missing middle housing; and yes to more neighbors.
People for Housing Orange County
A YIMBY Action Network Organization
We are excited to share our op-ed published in the LA Times Daily Pilot on the potential of the 2019 ADU laws to help us #BuildMoreHousing in Orange County.
Commentary: Sweeping new laws will provide the gift of 'granny flats'
By Elizabeth Hansburg, Cassius Rutherford
With the arrival of the new year, new housing laws are taking hold in California, effectively ending the long-protected sanctity of single-family zoning.
Red tape has been cleared for homeowners to build not just one, but two accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, under ministerial approval from local governments.
ADUs, also called “granny flats,” offer cities an opportunity to develop new housing units that are not disruptive to the look and feel of single-family neighborhoods. ADUs are small by design and share a lot with the existing residence — often making them more affordable to renters than an apartment of comparable size. According to a 2017 report released by UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, 58% of homeowners rent their ADUs below the market rate.
Until today, there has been a patchwork of state and local laws regulating ADUs, but nothing before has been so bold and comprehensive as Assembly Bills 68 and 881 — which passed in 2019 and took effect Jan. 1.
Every local government in California must now follow a new regulatory framework that includes these provisions and more:
These laws supersede non-compliant local ordinances. In preparation, some cities took the initiative to embrace reform while preserving what little local control remains. On Dec. 17, the Costa Mesa City Council unanimously passed an urgency ordinance amending city code to include the full spectrum of changes required by new statewide ADU laws.
In making its ordinance compliant, Costa Mesa preserves its ability to control the implementation of these reforms, since otherwise the city “loses its ability to regulate ADUs,” as city Economic and Development Services Director Barry Curtis noted in December.
This break from California’s status quo on single-family housing was met with debate in Costa Mesa. Councilwoman Sandy Genis recounted the image of a nice house with a backyard and orange trees.
“That was the California dream” she said. “You could live in a single-family house. Now, we’re being told, ‘You need to cram more and more in.’”
Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens, however, voiced support for ADUs. He noted that while canvassing neighborhoods during election season, he was struck that “the majority of [Costa Mesa] residents and registered voters live in alternative living arrangements ... That’s the norm in Costa Mesa.”
For homeowners considering an ADU, regulatory barriers are reduced and fees lowered. For renters, these new laws can spur the development of more affordable housing opportunities. For cities, ADUs offer the possibility of creating new housing stock without the NIMBY push back that plays out in public hearings.
ADU residents also would add to the critical mass needed to support walkable, lively downtowns and activate key city corridors.
The magnitude of change needed to truly end our housing shortage exceeds what builders can produce in the short term. ADUs are an integral piece of the solution as Orange County grapples with a regional housing shortage, rapidly rising housing costs and increasing homelessness.
The 2020s are here and the ADU floodgates are open.
The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is the regional planning organization for entire SoCal region minus San Diego County. One of SCAG's major roles is to develop a regional housing needs assessment (RHNA)-- an estimate of how many housing units the LA Metro area will need in the next 8 years-- and then distribute those homes over the cities in the region. There are methodologies and formulas and... Yes, it is complicated and dry, but...
A market-driven approach to workforce housing is coming together in Anaheim. Serrano Center, proposed by a long-time local landowner in Anaheim Hills, would revitalize a chronically underutilized strip mall into 12 moderate-income, for-sale townhomes alongside 46 market-rate units. All the homes will help fill the #MissingMiddle housing gap!
The project needs our support! A vocal group of anti-housing NIMBYs have come out in opposition to this moderate income townhome project (in their million-dollar neighborhood) despite the owner working closely with the community for more than 18 months. The project is undergoing a full EIR. Early traffic studies show that daily car trips in and out of the site would be reduced traffic by 50% less than what it is today as a strip mall.
It's important that the City of Anaheim hear that market-driven, missing middle housing is desperately needed in North OC. Where else do you see for-sale homes for middle class people? ? Or moderate-income units being built as part of a new community? We invite you to read this and write in to show your support!
Where do your city council candidates stand on housing? Ask your favorite candidate take our survey and tell them you're an advocate for housing! You can download the questions as a PDF below.