Oak Rose lessons: From Foe to Friend & Hypocrisy - SB 35 will shield Elk Grove to opposition of relocated housing project

In just a few days, the complexion of the Oak Rose controversy engulfing Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and her city council went from agony to ecstasy.

When a hearing notice was released last week, followed by the January 10 Elk Grove City Council agenda, it was agony for Singh-Allen and her four councilmen. Both official documents stated the city's professional staff, presumably including the legal opinion of city attorney Jonathan Hobbs, recommended that the city council reverse their denial and approve the Oak Rose supportive housing project in Old Town-Historic Downtown Elk Grove.

However, not long after those documents were released, the mayor and city council's confidante, Randy Bekker, released information that, as we now know, correctly said that a rabbit would be pulled out of the hat and a "land swap settlement" was imminent. Hours later, Mr. Bekker's prognostication, or more likely information leaked to him by the mayor, city council member, and or city hall employee, was accurate.

After a hastily scheduled closed session meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the mayor announced that a "settlement in principle" for a land swap with the Oak Rose proponents had been reached. Although Oak Rose developer Excelerate Housing has not confirmed the "settlement in principle" announcement, unless the city wants egg on their face, we will take them at their word and look forward to learning how much the settlement will cost taxpayers when it is revealed at the city council's January 24 meeting. 

One noteworthy detail will be what land is being swapped. It has been suggested that the two parcels described here are the bartered items.

Nonetheless, when the city consummates the deal, what happens when the project lands in another Elk Grove neighborhood? Will there be Old Town-like resistance, and more significantly, how will the city react to similar fears?

Those who have followed the items will note legal guidance from city attorney Hobbs during the July 2022 hearing. One of the pillars of Mr Hobbs' tortured justification for denying the Oak Rose project (see video below) was the city was not obliged to follow SB 35 mandates. As groundbreaking legislation, SB 35 dictates conditions where the city has to grant streamlined approval of multi-family housing units.  

Hobbs slew an SB 35 approval during his presentation, saying the Old Town special planning area made it exempt. With Hobbs' legal counsel, Mayor Singh-Allen could deny the project, thereby pacifying vocal opponents, who frequently spread lies (see second video below) about the project. 

Not surprisingly, after being scrutinized by California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta, Hobbs has changed his song and dance. As noted in the recent agenda, the report recommended approval of the Old Town Oak Rose project site, saying, "Finding the Oak Rose Apartments Project eligible for the Senate Bill 35 (SB 35) ministerial review process and approving the Project with concessions/ incentives;..."

When the settlement is complete, and the city reveals where the project is being moved, what happens if those residents rebel? The city's foe, SB 35, will now be its best friend.

Hobbs, Singh-Allen, and her city council can now use SB 35 as their shield if opposition coalesces in the alternate site. The mayor and her four city councilmen can throw up their hands and say, "We have no choice because of SB 35," and they'll be right.  

It is not without irony the timing of these events as we approach the annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Undoubtedly, many of our local officials will be participating in various events and honoring the man who fought and gave his life in pursuing the dignity of all.

The most significant lesson from this imbroglio is if you are opposed to something that helps vulnerable people seeking to lift themselves out of homelessness, simply spread lies and misinformation, call them pedophiles and other unflattering things, and just wait for the conditioned response. As we've learned, Mayor Singh-Allen, Vice Mayor Rod Brewer, and Councilmember Sergio Robles, Kevin Spease, and Darren Suen, in their pursuit of political preservation, will respond to fear, lies, and hysteria that would make Pavlov proud.  

Unfortunately, as Mayor Singh-Allen and her councilmen pose for group pictures and selfies in the coming days, they are too obtuse to comprehend their hypocrisy. Singh-Allen and crew - all five of you have made it clear who you are and what you stand for.     


Photo by Couleur via Pixabay

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1 comment

Juan Trippe said...

I'd disagree about them being obtuse. While they aren't the sharpest tools in the shed, they know exactly what they are doing.

Oak Rose residents would do nothing for them politically, while that group of loudmouth Old Town MAGA rednecks has them shaking in their boots, particularly Rod Brewer. The bigger sin, from the perspective of the city council, is the Oak Rose developers haven't paid them their honorariums.

If you want to get something done with our city, it's all about greasing the wheels and rounds of golf. Lunch anyone?

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