The Problem With OCCORD

Yesterday Norberto Santana of the Voice of OC (EA) did a post on a report by a group called OCCORD that accused the cities of Santa Ana and Anaheim of “rubber stamp” planning. Among other things the planning commissions in these towns were identified as living preponderantly in small enclaves and  it notes the undue influence of out-of-town developers.

I’m having a little trouble separating the message from the messenger. See, the troubles are real all right. We’ve seen the same operation in Fullerton, as with the creeps who are trying to ram Amerige Court and the hideous Jefferson Commons down our throats. Our electeds got their drinkies, and their boat rides and their thirty pieces of silver from slimers like Steve Sheldon; and we got the shaft. Yet while I can’t disagree with thing the obvious OCCORD conclusion that development in Anaheim and Santa Ana is all tied up by goons with financial ties to people like Kurt Pringle and Miguel Pulido, I have to wonder what it is OCCORD is really promoting.

A quick trip to OCCORD’s website rewards visitors with a list of boardmembers and contributors that reads like a veritable who’s who of leftist, labor, and low-income housing advocates. Here’s what they say they are about:

In Orange County, California, top-down economic development policy and institutionalized anti-immigrant sentiment have served to exclude low income, immigrant communities from government decisionmaking processes, and in many cities, rapid demographic changes have created a political environment in which people are increasingly disconnected from their elected representatives. As a result, income inequality is growing faster in our region than in the nation as a whole, and our sense of community is declining.

I notice with satisfaction the name of Lorri Galloway who not only has approved just about every developer-wet-dream megaplex put in front of her in Anaheim, but also supported SunCal’s mammoth project on Anaheim Boulevard with its sham veneer of  “affordable housing.” And that may be a telling.

What else will she pull out of her cookie?

So what’s the real deal? OCCORD seems to be promoting authentic, popular participation in land use decision, of the sort promised by Pam Keller when she first ran for Fullerton City Council in 2006. Pam ended up voting for a bunch of megaprojects, herself, so maybe the whole thing is just some sort of make-people- feel-good-about-looking-like-they’re-trying-to-do-something-anything, scam. Or maybe they actually want “immigrant communities” to have input into decision making land use processes – especially the development of subsidized housing projects.

I think the mistake of swapping “top-down” development policy driven by developers, and that driven by the professional houseacrats and do-gooders, and social conscience hand wringers is a distinction without much of a difference. Overbuilt, overbearing, subsidized, architectural monstrosities built on public debt are bound to follow either way. Will OCCORD ever come out against the idiotic Redevelopment housing policies and ethnic cleansing pogroms? Not likely if there’s a jaw-droppingly expensive “affordable” project of some kind, any kind, at the end of the bureaucratic rainbow.

29 Replies to “The Problem With OCCORD”

  1. “I’m having a little trouble separating the message from the messenger.”

    I applaud Norberto for impugning the general nature of OCCORD and their pattern of facilitating big $ developers to buy off politicians to build tombs that don’t fit a community and ultimately undermine the value of a community’s character, cohesiveness and organic enterprise that springs forth from its local entrepreneurs.

    And I think you hit it right on the money here, “…maybe the whole thing is just some sort of make-people- feel-good-about-looking-like-they’re-trying-to-do-something-anything.

    “… Or maybe they actually want “immigrant communities” to have input into decision making land use processes – especially the development of subsidized housing projects.” I think you got it right in the former statement, and this immigrant thing is pandering and feel good pap that gives cover to the sellout politicians, gives land for cheap or free to the out of town developers and enriches the well connected “minority” representatives who rubber stamp the seal of approval for “including minorities in the process.” The director of the minority group that got the “low income housing” deal included in the project makes out like a bandit, and the housing is nowhere affordable to the minorities who may have had a business or an affordable home that was destroyed and they removed in the process.

  2. free the invisible hand of capitalism from its politically correct shackles and sense of community will be restored to all people. If many people in our community cannot afford housing then rent/sales of houses will decrease to where more people may afford it. turning the issue of affordable housing into a government sponsored enterprise skews the cost of housing by forcing private sellers and lessors to increase their rents,sales price to compensate for less competition or to decrease sales/rents to where they run a loss and eventually walk away from house/apartment building. for those in the middle class who would not qualify for affordable housing, we either pay more or lose more of our money

  3. Labor has money, but wastes it mostly on a party that really doesn’t care about it. (Democrats)

    Anyway, to suggest that there is parity between labor unions and REAL special interests (developers/corporations) is to play fuzzy with mathematics.

    That being said, I want to read the OCCORD report in full and draw my own conclusions. At the end of the day, there isn’t a viable political option or candidates to counter act a rubber stamp process at the electoral level.

  4. Dear Mr. Peabody…

    I think that, as long as we’re not on the verge of electing OCCOOP to take the place of our current politicians and run things for us, it doesn’t make much sense to dismiss their findings (or even their prescriptions necessarily) just because of “who they are.”

    (And by the way, only 15% of their funding comes from labor.)

    From my experiences in the two cities I’m most familiar with, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa, their findings ring true as a bell:

    – Bulk of campaign contributions coming from outside development interests.
    – Development projects going full speed ahead despite public opposition.
    – Wealthier neighborhoods over-represented on planning commissions.
    – Process mainly hidden from public until the last minute (when it’s a fait accompli.)
    – Nearly every bright Development idea a “rubber-stamped” done deal

    You would dismiss out of hand such a recognizable portrait of most of our cities?

  5. Vern,

    I am sure you did not mean to be disingenuous. Did you look at their staff or their board? Mostly labor. Regardless of where their funding comes from, they are labor-dominated.

    No wonder they did not include labor on their list of special interests.

    BTW, how much do you think these people make per year? It is funny how much they cry about the poor while no doubt they each pull down six figures…

    1. I guess the “disingenuous” part was my parentheses?

      I mainly said that what these people wrote, whoever they are, is a faithful representation of what I’ve seen in the cities I know. I don’t want to argue with you about Santa Ana.

  6. Gabriel,

    You must be joking. Did you see how much labor spent to elect Jerry Brown? Labor controls Sacramento. To say otherwise is to bury your head in the sand.

    1. Vern,

      That’s right. I was indeed referring to your comment in parentheses.

      I already dissected their lame arguments on my own blog. But apparently you did not read my post, so let me recap my rebuttal:

      1. It is not illegal to accept donations from outside your own city. Failed Santa Ana Mayoral candidate Alfredo Amezcua recently set up a PAC that calls itself the Santa Ana Coalition for Better Government, and it is run by three people who DO NOT LIVE in Santa Ana. Amezcua is of course a “champion” funder of OCCORD, according to their website.

      2. So what if people oppose a development? If they don’t own the land, then they have no right to it. In the case of the One Broadway Tower, the voters in Santa Ana approved the development, and Amezcua’s pals sued to stop it anyway. It should be noted that Amezcua supported that measure, before he opposed it after the fact.

      3. So what if planning commissioners don’t live in every part of their city? They are appointed by City Council Members who do live in each part of the city. It would be nice if each ward had a Planning Commissioner, but that is not the law. As such this is a non-issue.

      4. The process is NOT hidden. Due do the Brown Act it is in fact very open. But don’t complain if you don’t want to put in the time to go to Planning Commission meetings, or to read their agendas and minutes.

      5.Developments are carefully engineered, and fully vetted by city planning agencies. Then they are reviewed by the Planning Commissioners and then by the City Council. I don’t call that a rubber stamp. Residents have a chance to scrutinize the entire process.

      This entire study is just another lame attempt by Amezcua to attack the successful City Council members in Santa Ana. It is not objective. It is in fact a joke.

      Lastly, OCCORD promotes Community Benefit Agreements that are nothing more than extortion. Developers would be wise to ignore these self-important interlopers.

      1. There you go again, talking about Santa Ana and Failed Mayoral Candidate Alfredo Amezcua, when I am not.

        I WAS planning to look at your article, I still will, unless this was the whole of it.

        I think you should avoid the “it’s not illegal” line, though, most people find that really distasteful. Many things are generally considered to be wrong or immoral, or just even unhelpful to democracy, that are still legal.

        Can you hear me? I’m not talking about Santa Ana to you???

  7. Vern, I do care who they are. That determines what they want. What they want is more subsidized housing projects of the sort that we have seen make zero sense. And the higher the ridiculous subsidy the happier they appear to be.

    As I noted in the post, of course they are right about developers manipulating staffs and pliable councils. They were no doubt thinking oh Harrah and his obscene tower, or any one of a number of Pringle’s clients.

    I just don’t seem much benefit in swapping them our for a gaggle of overpaid housecrats manipulating pliable councils.

    1. See, what I missed was the part where “OCCOOP” was trying to take over our government, rather than just asking us to take some of their critiques and ideas seriously. (Yes, I realize there are a couple of “failed” politicians in their ranks, but just don’t vote for them then.)

      1. They are not “trying to take over the government.” At least not immediately. This issue is taking over municipal development land use; and as I see it, replacing one kind of bad process for another – different perhaps, but just as bad.

        The promotion transparency and popular empowerment is pure bullshit, I believe. These people want government subsidized housing projects – the exact sort of nonsense we have seen played out at Richman. The kind that costs three times what a market rate unit would cost.

  8. Vern,

    Whether or not you are talking about Amezcua or Santa Ana is immaterial. The OCCORD study is obviously something that benefits him, while once again attacking our City Council.

    To say he is wallowing in sour grapes is inadequate.

  9. Art —

    I’ll just echo the words of Vern Nelson regarding OCCORD:

    “by the way, only 15% of their funding comes from labor”

    Now, look at that! Actual number crunching instead of hyperbole!

  10. I have my own critique of labor and such can still be searched on OJB.

    I see some people on the membership page linked the post that I have a favorable opinion of and some that I have a not so favorable opinion of.

    Despite that, I’m not engaging in the knee-jerk obfuscation of the message with an attack on the messenger — the institution.

    The sentiment echoes Vern’s again. Most of the bullet points on ‘Santanaheim’ are valid — in fact, they’re bona fide “no shits” that are applicable to other cities.

    There can be arguments about the institution, who is behind it, what it may advocate as solutions to its findings…but the findings themselves — valid points.

    Yours? In the words of Borat “not so much…”

  11. Gabriel,

    No, the points are not valid – I took the time to rebut them and the best you could do was mention Borat? Weak.

    Very well then. Let’s have a closer look at OCCORD. Their major funders include:

    Unite Here (Labor)
    Tefere Gebre (Labor)
    Teamsters Union Local 396 (Labor)

    Their Board of Directors includes:

    Ada Briceño, Chair – Secretary Treasurer, UNITE HERE Local 11 (Labor)
    Rob Penney, Treasurer – Organizing Director, United Nurses Associations of California (Labor)
    Rick Eiden, Director – Executive Vice President, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324 (Labor)
    Tefere Gebre, Director – Executive Director, Orange County Labor Federation (Labor)

    And their Staff includes:

    Eric Altman, Exec. Dir., Before joining OCCORD as its founding Executive Director, Eric spent fifteen years as a leader of UNITE HERE’s Strategic Affairs Department. (Labor)
    Alejandra Ponce de León, Community Organizer, Alejandra gained much of her organizing experience with UNITE HERE! (Labor)
    Ana Urzua, Community Organizer, Locally, she interned with SEIU-UHW (Labor)

    You see? OCCORD is totally dominated by labor. No wonder their bogus study does NOT mention that labor in the O.C. is indeed a special interest that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaigns, directly and as independent expenditures, and they also field hundreds of precinct walkers.

    Go ahead and rebut that Gabriel, if you can.

  12. I don’t deny that labor is a political force, but to pretend as if there is parity is nonsense. (one we saw in the citizen’s united case)

    Neoliberalism has been killing labor’s influence for the past couple of decades and to suggest that labor is powerful in OC of all places?!?! A fantasy illusion.

    The fact that money was spent on Leos and Sidhu tells me all I need to know about the slim pickins!

    Mr. Peabody at least wrote this: “As I noted in the post, of course they are right about developers manipulating staffs and pliable councils. They were no doubt thinking oh Harrah and his obscene tower, or any one of a number of Pringle’s clients.”

    El Paso’s got a nice alternative:

  13. Gabriel,

    Again, the point is that OCCORD put out a lame study that noted special interests in local politics, but failed to mention labor at all. Ridiculous!

    That labor often backs losers and rarely wins is a sidebar issue. It is not for a lack of trying.

  14. Gabe & Vern. Art is right. Sort of. And of course he is wrong.

    The issue here isn’t how much influence Labor has in politics or, more precisely, in land development issues. The issue is they evidently want MORE.

    It’s very clear that this operation is front for expanded Labor presence in developing “affordable” housing. You know, the virtually unaffordable kind that only government can produce and that generally ends up dislocating more people (generally “people of color”) than it houses.

    I have no doubt that Art wants to attack this operation as a way to defend the indefensible in Santa Ana. But this stuff is beside my original point.

  15. “Not likely if there’s a jaw-droppingly expensive “affordable” project of some kind, any kind, at the end of the bureaucratic rainbow.”

    Sheer poetry.

  16. Mr. Peabody,

    Actually I believe we are in agreement. I oppose redevelopment because it takes property away from one set of owners and hands it to another – and then uses tax money to pay for what are often dubious developments.

    The OCCORD study is NOT about opposing redevelopment. They are just pissed because they want to be the ones calling the shots. If they were in charge they would still be abusing property rights.

    Indeed a look at their Community Benefits Agreements are nothing more than extortion – an attempt to force developers to do what they tell them to. Developers would be wise to tell them to take a hike.

    The OCCORD study is really just part of Amezcua’s bitter war on our City Council. It should be noted that our current City Council is not responsible for most of the redevelopment that has happened in our city – those projects happened under previous Councils.

  17. Kind of funny when it comes to affordable housing all you get is “Jesus Christ why does government have to ram this down our throats” but when it involves gated communities and million dollar houses it’s arms open and go right ahead do what you want & well will give you money to do it.

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