The fate of a pro-rent control police union critic on the Santa Ana City Council hangs in the balance.

After signature-gathering for the recall of Councilmember Jessie Lopez qualified for an election in July, Santa Ana City Council members today could set a date for a special election.

One in which voters will ultimately decide whether Lopez should be unseated. 

Depending on whether council members set a date at today’s meeting or at the next one, on August 15, a special election could happen anywhere between October 31 and December 12, according to a report prepared by city staff for today’s meeting. 

It may be a referendum on whether residents think the city’s headed in the right direction, with Lopez among the ‘Yes’ votes for Santa Ana’s historic citywide rent control policy – just one cited reason for recall proponents’ efforts.  

Lopez has also joined some colleagues in ringing alarm bells about the power of the city’s police union under president Gerry Serrano, who departed City Hall in what city officials on Monday called “a pending retirement pursuant to a confidential personnel matter.”

Serrano’s departure comes after a publicized quest for a pension boost in recent years has fueled a – so far – largely unsuccessful legal battle with top City Hall officials. 

And a police department loyalty battle with Police Chief David Valentin.

The police union has sponsored – and spent heavily on – the recall efforts against Lopez, who voted alongside a majority of City Council members in December in support of a police labor contract that fell short of the police union’s own pay raise demands. 

Council members approved a 3% pay raise for police officers and slashed the arrangement for Serrano to get a full-time release from police work while he steered the association

Now, Serrano has to put in police work for half his time. 

It comes after a prior, police union-backed City Council approved $25 million in police raises over two-and-a-half years in 2019, without the ability to actually pay the $4.3 million cost for the initial fiscal year.

One council member that year, Cecilia Iglesias, raised public objections to the raises alongside former council member Juan Villegas, a Sheriff’s special officer. But both fell in the minority on the issue, and both were subsequently subject to a police union recall effort. 

It was successful in Iglesias’ case. 

Meanwhile, current police union recall efforts are also aimed at another council member, Thai Viet Phan, though signatures have yet to be submitted with City Hall in Phan’s case by the August 7 deadline.

Recall proponents needed at least 5,274 signatures on their petition for Lopez’s recall to go up for election. The total number of signatures filed was 6,617. About 1,333 of them were found “invalid,” with 395 of them being duplicates, according to the OC Registrar of Voters. Additionally, 129 signatures were withdrawn.

A special election in Ward 3 cost between $607,403 and $666,990, according to estimates from the City Clerk’s office. 


Since you’ve made it this far,

You obviously care about local news and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford, but it’s not free to produce. Help us become 100% reader funded with a tax deductible donation. For as little as $5 a month you can help us reach that goal.

Since you've made it this far,

You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.