As he prepares for California Assembly candidacy, Elk Grove City Councilmember vexed by affordable housing conundrum

Elk Grove District 1 Councilmember Darren Suen during the May 26 city council meeting. | 



At the Wednesday night Elk Grove City Council meeting, Councilmember Darren Suen addressed an affordable housing project proposed in District 1. Though in its early stages, that housing project has already generated substantial opposition in the district.

During his comments (see video below) at the city council meeting, Suen discussed a hastily organized meeting to address constituents' concerns. As reported by the Sacramento Bee, many residents expressed concern with the project citing the possibility of increased crime, blight and other unfavorable developments from a supportive services housing component. 

As been his practice when confronted with controversial in-district issues, Suen did not stake out a clear position. True to form, as constituents saw with the California Northstate University proposed hospital, Suen avoided a stance on what he said would be a first-of-its-kind affordable housing development offering supportive services for homeless individuals in Elk Grove.

While Suen's rope-a-dope on the CNU hospital turned out well for him - to this point at least - given the project's state of dormancy, the affordable housing issue could be more complex. The complexity comes from Suen's desire to run as a Democratic candidate in the primary election for the 9th District California Assembly seat one year from now.

One of the pressing issues facing California and, by default, the Assembly and Senate are affordable housing and housing the homeless. Avoiding a stance in Elk Grove, which Suen did with the CNU project, is one thing, but deflecting a stance in a higher profile office with one of the state's most pressing issues is quite another. 

If Suen opposes the housing development and its supportive services, it will hurt his prospects with a large swath of District 9 Democratic primary voters who tend to be more activist than during the general election. While the support of the proposed affordable housing project would help with primary Democratic voters, should Suen fail to advance to the November general election, his future as the District 1 representative will be tenuous under by-district voting.  

Suen has some political calculus to make. He can be courageous and stand for the project even though it is locally unpopular and be part of solving homelessness and affordable housing, or bury his head in the sand and acquiesce to the demands of his irate constituents. 

Ultimately, Suen cannot avoid addressing this vexing situation. His political future may depend on it. 



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