The Torrance City Council voted unanimously to leave the League of California Cities this week, saying the organization is failing in its mission to expand and protect local control of cities.
The motion, proposed by Councilman Mike Griffiths, was prompted by Cal Cities’ rejection of a petition to support a ballot measure that would strengthen the local planning authority. Griffiths said his frustration had been building for several years and called the organization’s advocacy efforts lackluster.
Cal Cities representatives said they disagreed with the board’s assessment; the organization, they said, was fighting hard for local control of land use and zoning, and urged Torrance to remain a member.
“One of my top priorities as president of Cal Cities is maintaining local control and I can’t do it alone; I need your help, I need your input,” said the President Ali Taj.”Torrance is a full member of Cal Cities and is a key voice in the South Bay. Our fight is not over.”
On the rejection of the ballot measure, Jeff Kiernan, regional public affairs manager for Cal Cities, said several Cal Cities committees had looked at it closely, but were concerned about its language.
Torrance, the largest city in the South Bay, has been a member of Cal Cities since the city’s incorporation in 1921 and currently pays $33,565 in annual dues. In return, Torrance gets opportunities to work with other cities to protect local interests in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., discounted tickets to Cal Cities meetings and conferences, and detailed information on proposed legislation and its potential effects, among other benefits.
But, council members said, the organization is failing to deliver on its key promise to advocate for city independence in Sacramento.
“It’s not even a financial question, it’s (dues) $33,000, and we have a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars; this is the principle of it all, ”said city councilor Aurelio Mattucci. “Quite honestly, we need to take a closer look at all the organizations we support and send them a message that either you do what you promised or you won’t get our money or our support.”
The particular incident that prompted Torrance to break with the statewide organization took place during the Sept. 9 general meeting of the Cal Cities annual conference.
More than 100 Cal Cities members have signed a petition for the organization to support the “Our Neighborhoods Voices” initiative, a proposed ballot measure for the 2024 general election that would allow local laws to override conflicting state laws on this that can be built on a given site. piece of land.
The move would effectively allow cities to ignore several recently passed statewide zoning reforms that are meant to encourage more housing development. Many of these housing laws received backlash from cities, including Torrance, who felt they were removing local control over the character of their neighborhoods.
Torrance, Carson and Redondo Beach, for example, are currently pursuing State Senate Bill 9, which Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law in September 2021 and authorizes construction of up to four units on plots of land formerly zoned for a single .
Griffiths said at the Tuesday, Oct. 11, council meeting that he didn’t feel Cal Cities was advocating enough to preserve local control in the face of these new laws.
The petition in support of the Our Neighborhood Voices initiative qualified for review by the Cal Cities General Resolutions Committee, which voted to refer it to other Cal Cities committees for further study later this year. next year. As a result, it was not discussed at the general meeting, much to the chagrin of petition supporters.
“I found the deflating and dishonest experience of all these members coming together to try to get something on the ballot, on time, in all requirements,” Councilwoman Bridgett Lewis said, “and then to be invalidated and not even heard after all the conditions have been met to pass it to the general meeting.
Kiernan, however, defended the decision not to discuss the petition based on the vote of the General Resolutions Committee – 98 in favor of debate and 167 against, he said.
“Frankly,” Kiernan said, “there wasn’t enough majority support to continue the discussion.”
The ballot measure had already been reviewed by the housing committee, the environmental policy committee, a task force focused on possible amendments to the initiative and the Cal Cities board of directors, he said. added.
“Ultimately, all of these bodies decided not to support this measure,” Kiernan said. “Part of that reasoning is that our legal counsel believes that the flaws in the drafting language may not actually accomplish what Our Neighborhood Voices supporters say it will.”
But that explanation was not enough to appease the council, with its members saying they needed to take a tougher stance.
“It’s time to vote with our members and make a statement, ‘Stand up for your mission statement to protect local control, which is so important to our city and our council as a community,'” Griffiths said. “We can join the league at any time. But now is the time to make that statement.