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We, the Tustin Planning Partnership, strongly oppose SB-719, which was commissioned by the City of Tustin and is carried by Senator David Min (D-37).  This bill would subvert the legal responsibility of the City to prioritize affordable housing at Tustin Legacy (the old Marine Corps Base) as prescribed by the Surplus Land Act.  The surplus Tustin Legacy land serves as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the City to create vitally needed affordable housing at a scale that could substantially impact the current and future housing needs of Tustin’s low-income residents and workers.  Passage of SB-719, as it is written, would be a major step backwards in the efficient and equitable stewardship of our city’s land and resources.

Countless vulnerable members of our community – including low-income workers and families, seniors, students, and people with special needs – are paying unaffordable rents that put them at risk of traumatic evictions, homelessness, and serious negative health and economic effects. 

More than 400 Tustin students are currently homeless.  Hundreds of adults and children are sleeping in local homeless shelters.  Affordable housing would transform the lives of many of these members of our own community who are suffering, but SB-719 removes the incentive to build it on the vast expanse of City-owned land at Tustin Legacy.

We are dismayed that Tustin City leaders and Sen. Min have chosen to squander the full opportunity of this gifted federal land via SB-719, especially during an unprecedented and worsening housing crisis that is thrusting so many Tustin families and individuals into homelessness.  The bill specifically aims to prioritize the development of expensive market-rate housing at Tustin Legacy ahead of critically needed affordable units.  By delaying affordable development at the Legacy, the bill could also deepen Tustin’s existing racial/ethnic segregation.  In fact, there is no guarantee that affordable units would ever be built, given SB-719’s complete lack of meaningful oversight and enforcement mechanisms.  Struggling Tustin households need affordable housing NOW, not delays and empty promises.

The lack of transparency and public engagement on SB-719 is particularly concerning.  Are the City Council members who reside at Tustin Legacy putting their own self-interests before the vital housing needs of their constituents?  Will certain housing developers gain improper advantages and/or be unfairly excluded if the bill passes?  Had the City thoroughly considered other avenues (e.g., proposals from qualified developers, current and upcoming state/federal funding opportunities, etc.) before seeking this significant exemption to current law? 

Tustin taxpayers have a right to answers and a right to call their elected city and state representatives and demand that they throw out or substantially amend this dubious bill. 

Responsible development of the remaining Tustin Legacy land must include:

  • higher percentages of units restricted to low and extremely low income households,
  • inclusion of vulnerable groups in the decision-making process (i.e., lived expertise of homelessness, low-income, etc.),
  • demonstrated good faith communications with nonprofit developers,
  • a shorter timeline for affordable housing development, and
  • stronger oversight and accountability measures.

While we are opposed to SB-719 as it is currently written, we hope to work together with the City of Tustin to ensure that affordable housing remains a priority for our city.

The Tustin Planning Partnership is an affordable housing advocacy group founded by a diverse mix of concerned Tustin residents and stakeholders working to increase affordable housing development and access in our city.  We believe housing is a human right and that affordable, equitable housing for Tustin’s lowest-income families and individuals must be prioritized in order to fulfill the City’s stated mission to “provide effective, high-quality services that foster safety, quality of life, and economic vitality throughout our community.” 

Signed,

Tustin Planning Partnership:

Kimberly Adams – Tustin Resident / Nonprofit Housing Advocacy Program Manager

Lisa Talmage – Tustin Resident / Nonprofit Grant Writer

Jonathan Abelove – Tustin Resident / Trustee, Board of Education, TUSD

Cesar Covarrubias – Kennedy Commission

Sheena Innocente – Tustin Resident / Medical Social Worker

Scott Spitzer – Tustin Resident / Associate Professor, Political Science

Yvonne Su – Tustin Resident / People’s Action Organizer

Rabbi Marcia Tilchin – Tustin Resident / Executive Director, O.C. Alliance for Just Change

Questions regarding this letter or inquiries about joining or collaborating with the Tustin Planning Partnership may be directed to tustinpp@gmail.com.

Link to Senate Bill 719 text and status: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220SB719

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