Facing an expensive hard-to-defend fair-housing lawsuit, Elk Grove to reconsider Oak Rose supportive housing project

Faced with expensive litigation that they are unlikely to win, the Elk Grove City Council will reconsider their denial of the Oak Rose supportive housing project. | 

Confronted with the power of the California Attorney General and Governor, along with expensive litigation, Elk Grove announced this morning they will reconsider the Oak Rose supportive housing project during the September 27 Elk Grove City Council meeting. 

The Elk Grove City Council denied the Oak Rose project in July 2022. At the time of the denial, Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and District 2 representative Darren described their body as compassionate. 

It resulted in a lawsuit filed by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, with the full-throated support of Gov. Gavin Newson, alleging their action violated state fair housing laws. 

In their announcement, the city said after unsuccessfully identifying alternate sites for the project, it determined with "litigation deadlines, dates and expenses on the horizon, Elk Grove officials announced today that they will ask the Elk Grove City Council to reconsider the Oak Rose Apartments project."  

The 67-unit permanent supportive housing project on Elk Grove Boulevard in Old Town Elk Grove/Historic Downtown Elk Grove generated vocal opposition from city council District 2 residents and merchants. Kowtowing to those fears in an election year, the five-member city council unanimously denied the applicants, saying it was inconsistent with the Old Town Elk Grove special planning area requirements. 

As the state pointed out, the same city council members approved a nearby market-rate apartment complex that was granted similar planning requirement variations. Two of the 2022 city council members, Pat Hume and Stephanie Nguyen, have respectively assumed newly elected positions as Sacramento County Supervisor and California Assembly member. 

Rod Brewer replaced Hume as the District 2 representative and, as a 2022 candidate, supported the denial of the project. Nguyen's replacement for District 4, Sergio Robles, has not publicly discussed the controversy. 

In the statement, the city said, "Having considered the applicable law, the current allegations in both lawsuits, the uncertainties, risks and costs of litigation, and having explored options for alternative locations with the Applicant and the State without success, City staff intends to return the project to the City Council for reconsideration. Staff anticipates making a recommendation at that meeting to approve the project. Should the City Council approve the project on reconsideration, the issues in the pending lawsuits would likely be narrowed to a resolution of attorneys' fees, costs, and damages, awardable to the claimants, if any."

Typically, an item appearing before the city council with a staff recommendation is approved. 

Democratic Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and her four colleagues, three of whom are fellow Democrats - Suen, Brewer, and Robles - have tried defending the city council's denial. However, given the Democratic party's statewide stance on housing and equity issues, all have become political pariahs.

Politically, the resolution could assist the Democratic city council members, especially Singh-Allen. The two-term mayor is rumored to be positioning herself to run for the U.S. House of Representatives when current Rep. Doris Matsui, who will be 80 if she runs for reelection in 2024, decides not to seek reelection.

As of this posting, Bonta nor Newsom have issued statements on the development. Led by Bonta and Newsom, the state has aggressively pursued municipalities and school districts violating state housing and education laws. 

Interestingly, Elk Grove has also announced plans to temporarily use the former Old Town/Historic Downtown Elk Grove drug store it purchased adjacent to the Oak Rose project to relocate the Elk Grove Library as a winter homeless shelter. That matter, which has also created a maelstrom of controversy in District 2, will be heard at the September 27 city council meeting.  

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

Don't believe all that static about not being able to find an alternative site. When the State Attorney General files a lawsuit against you, you're gonna lose! To save face (and not necessarily dollars), the Council and their puffy press releases will get a mulligan.

I think the taxpayers deserve a full accounting of the staff and legal consulting costs incurred to-date on this flawed decision. I also think it is high time to reevaluate the City's legal team, starting with the top.

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

Given the homeless shelter update and reconsideration of the Oak Rose project are both on the 27th, it looks like the city council wants to endure only one meeting facing the MAGA people with their pitchforks'. Good luck with that crew Mr. Brewer.

Josie said...

Looks liked all this political posturing and wrangling got our city no where except perhaps a big dent in the peoples bank account.  Now we're back at Step 1 again. Bring the popcorn and get ready for a big night at the Peoples House!

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