The October Surprise? Elk Grove-based candidates could now face political consequences about their homeless rhetoric with new lawsuit

Today a lawsuit was filed against the City of Elk Grove for rejecting a proposed supportive housing project in the city's Old Town Special Planning Area. As a result of that rejection and the approval of a nearby Old Town market-rate apartment project, the proposed and rejected Oak Rose Apartment project proponents are seeking legal remedies against the city.

The Oak Rose supportive housing project was unanimously rejected this summer by Elk Grove's five-member city council. Aside from kowtowing to residents' unsubstantiated claims, the city council claimed they were compassionate and wanted to help people regain dignity while they also repeated the oft-heard mantra this is the wrong project in the wrong location.  

While the lawsuit will probably take years to resolve, it has more immediate implications. Those implications are for Elk Grove-based candidates seeking higher offices this November.  

Most notable are Elk Grove City Council members Pat Hume and Stephanie Nguyen. Both are in closely watched races where homelessness is the main issue.

Hume, who has voiced opposition to a housing-first approach to homelessness, is battling Cosumnes Community Services District Director Jaclyn Moreno for the District 5 seat on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. Moreno has stressed mental health services as part of the solutions to resolving homelessness.  

With Hume's no vote on the Oak Rose project and the lawsuit, Moreno can now scrutinize any position he has taken on homelessness and characterize them as empty promises and possibly illegal. 

The stakes are even higher for Nguyen, who is battling Sacramento City Councilmember Eric Guerra for California Assembly District 10. During the primary election, Nguyen pillared Guerra for one particular encampment in the district he represents.

Now that Elk Grove has been sued, Guerra has any number of ways to punch back hard. The most obvious way is to call her out for bragging about Elk Grove's lowest-in-the-region homelessness by saying that the low rate results from illegalizing homelessness, rejecting projects meant to help people regain dignity, and just plain heartlessness. 

Or Guerra could say Nguyen's solution is to wish it away, which is what the Elk Grove City Council has done. 

While Hume will face fallout, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisor's District 5 is more conservative and possibly more amenable to Hume's position. However, Assembly District 10 is a different beast.

While Nguyen's position will play well in Elk Grove City Council District 2 and portions of Elk Grove, in more liberal enclaves of District 10, as well as liberal voters in Elk Grove, it hurts. Nguyen's support in areas already more favorable to Guerra could evaporate and tilt the balance in what is considered a tight race. 

For Hume and Nguyen, the lawsuit will provide headaches if their opponents, or more specifically, independent expenditure committees, play hardball. If deftly handled by the opposition, Hume and Nguyen could be in the unenviable position of explaining their rejection of the project, and to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, if you're explaining in politics, you're losing.

As for other Elk Grove candidates, the implications are not as consequential. In the District 2 City Council race, the top contenders, Felipe Martin and Rod Brewer, both objected to the Oak Rose project, so in their by-district race, it should not affect their prospects.

As for Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen, she is facing a little-known, underfunded opponent, so she should win the election, albeit by a smaller majority. However, the implications for Singh-Allen lie in the future when she makes her next move - this whole episode, for a good reason, will be an albatross hung around her neck. 

It will take a few weeks past the closing of voting on November 8 to learn the fate of Hume and Nguyen's candidacies, but if either loses, this October surprise could have been a factor. 

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1 comment

Randy Bekker said...

A 10 buck lunch an a beer and all to do about nothing. Get familiar with the OTSPA. The applicant offers nothing but smoking mirrors or look over here but not over here. You see these 4 rooms are for the public but really they are conference rooms for our residents. O and the use of public property to reach a private property for their parking lot how does that work? Moreno 1st needs to understand Old Town and the OTSPA to fully understand this project. This is a great test for her but given her comment about homeless in the American River Parkway she would have homeless camping out in Elk Grove Park if she could. Guerra can’t even open his mouth as he don’t dare to as this exact project could be put in Old Sacramento or the Sacramento Council’s handling of the homeless that business owners threaten the council with action. You see 2 can play at this game it just depends on how much mud you want to throw or how dirty to you want to get.

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