More than 60 elected officials and community leaders fanned out during the week of October 16-20 in Catalysts’ first statewide In-district Lobby Day Campaign. Eleven groups, each with its own Team Leader, and ranging in size from two to 11 constituents, called on six Assemblymembers and five Senators who represent Marin, San Francisco, East Bay, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, San Diego or other California districts.
The purpose of the campaign was to persuade legislators to talk to their colleagues about the need for and benefits of a full audit of the state Housing and Community Development (HCD) agency’s methodology that has produced inflated, unreachable, and dangerous Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) quotas.
Teams started their 30-minute meetings clarifying that we have an affordability crisis, not a housing crisis. Constituents are not getting what’s been promised. Instead of building housing that is affordable, legislators are passing bills that promote market-rate housing. They give the green light to builders who demand their projects "pencil out" while recklessly coercing communities to zone for housing in high-risk fire and flooding areas and burdening them with unfunded mandates.
Lobby Day Coordinator Leon Huntting (Sausalito) recruited a first-rate group of team leaders who assembled and prepared teams and arranged meetings.
Legislator, district, county, team leader(s), # of team members
Damon Connolly, A-12, Marin/Sonoma, Amy Kalish & Stefanie Cho, 5
Phil Ting, A-19, San Francisco, TL Charles Head, 6
Liz Ortega, A-20, Alameda, TL Shirley Lewandowski, 11
Gail Pellrin, A-28, Santa Clara/San Jose, TL Lira Filippini, 3
Chris Holden, A-41, LA/Pasadena, TL Cynthia Gabaldon, 5
Al Muratsuchi, A-66, LA/Torrance, TL Joan Davidson, 10
Mike McGuire, S-02, Marin/Sonoma, TL Rick Johnson & Tief Gibbs, 5
Scott Wiener, S-11, San Francisco, TL Renee Lazear, 4
Josh Becker, S-13, San Mateo, TL Tom Weissmiller, 9
Dave Cortese, S-15, Santa Clara, TL Ted Stroll, 2
Catherine Blakespear, S-38, San Diego, TL Linda Koelling, 3
Everyone did a great job! The teams were prepared and professional. Materials were sent in advance. Legislators were gracious. This report could be 60 pages long, but instead, it focuses on the two Marin meetings and includes a sampling of comments from a few of the other groups.
Marin Assemblymember Damon Connolly met with constituents from Marin. Leading up to the meeting, co-team leader Amy Kalish (unincorporated Mill Valley), emailed her team. “We are fortunate to have elected an Assemblyman to represent us who has actually done so.” Kalish credited Connolly for being one of the few lawmakers who voted no on the catastrophic SB 423, which overrules the Coastal Commission and enables huge development on the coast.
Marin Assemblymember Damon Connolly met with constituents from Marin. (L-R: Ray Lorber, Stefanie Cho, Damon Connolly, Linda Rames, Amy Kalish, and Charles Ziegler)
The Marin team, similar to the other teams around the state, raised local issues as well as state-wide concerns. For example, co-team leader Stefanie Cho, Tiburon, pointed out, “The coercive requirements to build in very hazardous areas without evacuation routes is frightening to many constituents.”
Charles Ziegler added, “Cities and communities are stressed by incredibly expensive and time-consuming housing element requirements and deadlines… The state is pressuring cities into making bad decisions, especially where safety and the environment are concerned.”
Ray Lorber, San Rafael, described Catalysts’ communication with HCD over the Department of Finance’s revised population projections. Planning for the 6th cycle RHNA was based on the 2013 estimated population of nearly 63M residents in 2060. Revised estimates released in 2023 reduce the population to 39.5M, a drop of 13.5M units and an indication California's population is predicted to be flat for the next 35 years. A reasonable person or agency would expect that would be cause for revised planning, but not HCD.
On behalf of Catalysts, Lorber sent an email to HCD. “Since the DOF has projected that the population growth will be flat through 2060, will HCD adjust the 6th cycle RHNA mandates?” HCD replied:
Current RHNA numbers will remain in place for the remainder of each region’s 6th Cycle Planning Period. The 7th Cycle planning period begins in 2027. When calculating RHNA numbers for the 7th cycle, HCD will be using the most current DOF population projections.
But jurisdictions can’t wait. Team member Linda Rames, unincorporated Mill Valley, elaborated. “There is growing anger in communities when they find out their voices have literally been silenced by the new laws, and their local government is led to believe their “hands are tied” when it comes to approving projects out of scale, in hazard areas, and in areas with unmitigated traffic congestion.”
Senator Mike McGuire met with the Marin team on Zoom. (L-R: staff, Tief Gibbs, Senator McGuire, Susan Kirsch, Leon Huntting, Bruce Corcoran, Rick Johnson)
The Marin team meeting with Sen. McGuire covered similar issues as the Connolly team with one significant addition. Team member Bruce Corcoran, Strawberry, described the unlawful actions of county planning staff that prompted him to file a lawsuit to counter a staff proposal that would facilitate the development of up to 5,197 new housing units, greatly exceeding the RHNA requirement. Corcoran's point was that individuals and jurisdictions throughout the state are turning to litigation to get relief from the overreach of aggressive housing legislation.
The in-district Lobby Day Campaign is the brainchild of Catalysts for Local Control. Catalysts is a statewide nonprofit organization comprised of current and former elected officials and community leaders. It focuses on housing policy with a goal to educate, engage, and empower constituents to have a knowledgeable and influential say about how their communities grow and are governed.
Prior to the meetings with legislators, Team Leaders participated in Orientation Trainings. Teams studied the bogus state housing quotas and the housing developers and investors who profit while constituents are stuck with the bills.
Other team leaders, like those in Marin, reported positive responses from the legislators.
Shirley Lewandowski, whose team met with Asm. Liz Ortega, wrote in her meeting report, “Best of all, Assemblymember Ortega agreed to be our “catalyst” to start discussing the HCD audit with her legislative colleagues.”
Team leader Tom Weissmiller, whose team met with Sen. Josh Becker, said, “Becker agreed the 2021 audit had flaws and that housing was turning into a threatening situation for cities.” He asked the team to send him examples of what is going on in their communities.
Ted Stroll and Irene Smith met with Sen. Dave Cortese. They reported, “Sen. Cortese seems to understand the need to preserve neighborhood character and he is opposed to unbridled, unplanned residential development. He used the term “right-size,” not oversize, for development."
Renee Lazear, who organized the meeting with Sen. Scott Wiener, described the meeting as going “as well as was expected, in some respects better.”Although he was running late, Sen. Wiener spent a full 30 minutes listening to constituent concerns. When team member Eileen Boken, Coalition of San Francisco Neighbors, suggested an audit of the RHNA numbers, the Senator asked, “What if they come back higher?”
We should be prepared for that, but evidence is emerging that challenges the validity of the RHNA methodology. Learn more!
Catalysts Town Hall w/Marc Verville
The Housing Supply Crisis: A False Narrative That Supports Investor Profits
Marc Verville - C.P.A. (Inactive); Retired 25-year VP and holding business unit CFO positions with both Warner Brothers Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company
Wednesday, November 15 – 5-6:30 pm on Zoom