Is another Oak Rose-like affordable housing conflict brewing in Elk Grove? Bekker sets down marker for mayor, city council

Randy Bekker, speaking to Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and the city council, is the city's leading Old Town-Hostoric Downtown Elk Grove land use policy influencer. | 

Even though Elk Grove's Oak Rose affordable housing conflict will soon be resolved, another one could be brewing in the Old Town-Historic Downtown neighborhood. That new conflict could be over an affordable senior citizen housing project that the Elk Grove City Council recently approved. 

During their Wednesday, February 14 meeting, Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and her four city councilmen approved a letter of intent with Mutual Housing California to develop a city-owned parcel in Old Town-Historic Downtown Elk Grove. Those parcels will facilitate 89 low-income senior citizen apartments in the city's special planning area.

This approval comes as Mayor Singh-Allen will announce settlement details at their February 28 meeting with a different developer of another Old Town low-income supportive housing facility, the so-called Oak Rose project. Proposed by Long Beach, Calif.-based Excelerate Housing, that project was denied by the city council in July 2022. 

Since then, Excelerate and California State Attorney General Rob Bonta have separately sued the city over that denial, claiming it violated several laws. To resolve the Excelerate lawsuit, Singh-Allen will announce details of a multi-million dollar land swap at the February 28 city council meeting to move that project out of Old Town.

That land swap and the city's steadfast refusal to approve the supportive housing project, notwithstanding the Attorney General's lawsuit, resulted from citizens who opposed the project, saying it would attract unsavory people to the city's crown jewel, Old Town. The person who emerged as the leader of that effort, Randy Bekker, addressed Singh-Allen on Wednesday night, telling her and the city council their expectations for the project. 

As the de facto leader of the Old Town advocates, Mr. Bekker offered tepid support for the project. Bekker finished his comments by telling the mayor, "I'm gonna bring my pink eraser," suggesting he and others will remove or add things from the development they find objectionable (see the video below for his entire commentary).

In a brief time, the Old Town advocates have developed tremendous influence and sway over the mayor and Old Town's city council representative, Vice Mayor Rod Brewer, and all of her city councilmen. Nonetheless, like the Oak Rose project, this project offers affordable housing, one of the elements Old Town advocates found objectionable with the Oak Rose project. 

By offering only tepid support for the project, Bekker and the Old Town advocates are playing their cards close to the vest. Given Mayor Singh-Allen's desire for their approval and votes, short of state intervention, Bekker's group has effectively wrested control of Old Town's evolution. 

If Singh-Allen does not follow Bekker and Old Town advocates commands, don't be surprised to see this same small but mighty handful of people press hard on Singh-Allen and Brewer to get what they want. Expect vocal and pointed opposition if the mayor and city council don't meet their expectations. 

In a display of democracy in action, Bekker and his group have shown how to control the mayor and city council to meet their expectation. First, there was the Oak Rose multi-million dollar land swap settlement, and now this. 

If Mr. Bekker and others are unhappy with the newest affordable housing proposal, expect reverberation. Bekker has put down his group's marker and will whip out that pink eraser without hesitation.  


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D.J. Blutarsky said...

There seems to be some interesting things brewing in Old Town, no puns intended.

First, why hasn't Vice-Mayor Brewer stood out publicly in front of these housing issues in the district he represents? Remember when former Old Town Council Member Sophia Scherman used to have monthly coffee meetings in Old Town to hear from her constituents? That was leadership. Brewer seems to have gone deep-cover and uses Bekker as his surrogate to run interference for him.

Second, why haven't we heard anything about this updated Old Town master plan that was supposed to have been completed over a year ago that will transform Old Town into the "Gaslamp District"? My hunch is the Plan is so radical that it would wear out Bekker's pink eraser faster than a brewpub can ring their Happy Hour bell.

While driving, er, should I say put-putting through Old Town I sense something is happening that we aren't being told. It's like the Manhattan Project, where everyone only knows a piece of the plan but no one has the full story. Residents react to projects on a piecemeal basis; retailers come and go; and meanwhile, the long-time property owners who collect the rent and stand to profit from tax dollar invest in their area--run silent, run deep.

Unless the City stops piece-mealing Old Town and not showing us the full plan, I'm goin' over to see our Old Town psychic to get the scoop!

Sid Vicious said...

Or put another way, the mayor and city council have kowtowed to a classic group of NIMBYs. Good luck with that in your political future.

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