3 Orange County Cities Vote to Exit League of California Cities Over Its Support for Prop. 1

3 Orange County Cities Vote to Exit League of California Cities Over Its Support for Prop. 1

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks before signing off on the two major pieces of legislation that became Proposition 1, in Los Angeles on Oct. 12, 2023. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

3/29/2024

Updated: 3/31/2024

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In March, three Orange County cities held discussions on leaving the League of California Cities after its board voted to support a statewide measure that they say will proliferate sober living homes in their neighborhoods.
“This is unforgivable. ... We can no longer be part of an organization that’s supposed to be advocating for us and did the exact opposite, in such a high-profile way,” Huntington Beach Councilman Casey McKeon said during a March 19 City Council meeting.
Orange voted March 26 to immediately leave the league—if the city can be refunded this year’s $40,000 in membership dues—or leave no later than next year. Newport Beach was the first to leave after a majority vote by its council on March 12.
Representatives from each city said they were concerned about the league’s support for Proposition 1, which is currently winning in the March 5 primary with 50.2 percent of the vote. The ballot measure would divert funds from mental health facilities and programs to facilities that include both mental health and substance abuse services, according to city officials.
The $6.4 billion bond also creates more than 11,000 new mental health treatment beds and mandates a so-called “by right” approval process for mental health and substance abuse facilities proposed in areas zoned for multifamily, office, parking, and retail zones. Some cities worry they would have less say in approving such facilities in their communities.
“I want to send a message that they shouldn’t have been on board with Prop. 1 in the first place because it does limit our ability at the local government,” Huntington Beach Councilman Tony Strickland said before the council voted to exit the league.
Newport Beach left before their annual membership fees of $24,000 were due. Huntington Beach recently paid its 2024 dues and will seek reimbursement for the $35,000, they said during the meeting.
In Orange, Councilwoman Kathy Tavoularis said she supported exiting the league to save the city unnecessary costs.
“In the city of Orange we’re grappling with a huge budget. ... I think it’s smart for us to look at charges and memberships that I think are sort of a luxury right now,” she said.
Orange Councilman John Gyllenhammer said during the recent meeting that he supports the idea of a collaborative organization advocating for the local municipalities it represents, but it hasn’t done that.
“What becomes problematic for me is a body that represents local governments is giving up more and more control from themselves to the state,” he said.
Proposition 1 was backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and its campaign raised $24.7 million, while those opposed raised just $1,000.
According to its website, the League of California Cities currently has 476 members out of 482 cities.
Proposition 1 consists of two pieces of legislation: Senate Bill 326 and Assembly Bill 531. At one point, the league withdrew its support for Proposition 1 due to last-minute legislative changes, according to a December 6 press release.
The changes included amendments to allow the “by right” approval for mental health and substance abuse facilities in office, retail, and parking zones, which previously was allowed only in residential areas.
But later the league’s board in a two-thirds vote went ahead with supporting the ballot measure, angering some city officials.
“The reason that it’s been so hard to stomach and accept, as we’re working this through, is because the League of Cities knew that Prop. 1 was bad,” Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill said.
But Connor Medina, the Orange County representative for the league, said during the recent Orange meeting that the board only temporarily withdrew its support to give board members time to review the changes.
“Cal city staff did not feel comfortable, given how late those changes happened, continuing to support the measure based off of that language without the board’s input,” he said.
He advocated for the league, which continues to support legislation favorable to cities, including bills proposed this year that would target the proliferation of sober living homes.
The bills are proposed in a package by four assembly members based in Orange County, where a grand jury studied the proliferation of group homes and local governments’ ability to regulate them.
A homeless man in Huntington Beach, Calif., on March 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A homeless man in Huntington Beach, Calif., on March 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The 2023 report said “the state wields a large club” when it comes to approving a state-mandated plan for housing, which can be denied when cities have ordinances in place regulating sober living homes.
“Cities are then vulnerable to a loss of control over zoning and permitting, as well as loss of state and regional funding,” the report reads.
The grand jury recommended the county and cities work together to create ordinances regulating the homes and pool resources to defend against lawsuits from the state, while raising awareness for the needs for such regulation.
The recent legislation backed by the League of California Cities included one bill sponsored by state Sen. Tom Umberg, a Democrat based in Santa Ana, that would give cities the ability to regulate sober living homes, which are also considered group homes, in residential neighborhoods, according to Mr. Medina.
Assemblywoman Laurie Davies, a Republican in Laguna Niguel, introduced a bill in February that would require licensed substance-abuse treatment centers to post online any state violations they have incurred.
Assemblyman Avelino Valencia, a Democrat from Anaheim, also introduced a bill last month that would exempt some unlicensed sober living homes from being considered a residential use. Under it, unlicensed homes proven to be an “integral part” of licensed substance abuse facilities—such as those that rely on licensed centers to transport their clients—could be banned from residential neighborhoods.
And Assemblywoman Diane Dixon, a Republican in Newport Beach, introduced a bill in February that would prevent substance-abuse treatment homes from operating within 300 feet of each other.
“We are fighting for you with four sponsored bills providing additional accountability and regulations for sober living facilities,” Mr. Medina told the Orange City Council during its recent meeting.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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