Squad Goals

Elected officials are embarking on a tour of each other’s councils and boards to promote a regional housing authority. Members include, from left, Wendy Root Askew, Jon Wizard, Alison Kerr and Jeff Baron.

During the 2018 election on the Monterey Peninsula, a group of candidates running for city councils and education boards – most for the first time – got to talking with each other about one issue all of them were focusing on: building more affordable housing. With a shared sense of urgency to a regional solution, the candidates agreed that even if they weren’t elected, they would continue working on housing as a group past Election Day.

“Luckily, most of us got elected,” Monterey City Councilmember Tyller Williamson says. It was Williamson who organized the initial meeting before the election, and along with Jon Wizard, who won a seat on Seaside City Council, kept the momentum of the group going as they created the Monterey Peninsula Housing Coalition.

The newly elected officials from Monterey, Seaside, Del Rey Oaks, Carmel, Pacific Grove and Marina, as well as Monterey Peninsula College and Monterey Peninsula Union School District, were joined by council veterans in some of those cities, plus Sand City. They invited Monterey County supervisors Jane Parker and Mary Adams, who represent parts of the Peninsula, creating a 13-member coalition.

The group held a day-long retreat in April during which they solidified an action plan. Del Rey Oaks Mayor Alison Kerr played host inside the Old Town Hall at Del Rey Oaks Park. “It was exciting to finally be figuring out what our priorities are,” she says.

Four main objectives emerged that day: completing a study of employee and student housing needs; exploring the creation of a joint powers authority between Peninsula cities and districts; identifying and prioritizing water allocations for affordable and workforce housing; and leveraging federal, state and local dollars. Working groups were formed around each objective.

The proposed study is similar to a 2018 farmworker housing study of the Salinas and Pajaro valleys financed by multiple cities, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments and nonprofits. The results provided hard data that will be used to seek funding for future housing projects. Williamson expects a Peninsula study pulling together existing data from sources like the U.S. Census, AMBAG and others will help fill information gaps and similarly lead to future funding.

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Forming a JPA is one of the more ambitious goals of the group, since it would mean getting buy-in from economically and geographically diverse cities, each with their own state-mandated housing goals. It also might mean each giving up some decision-making authority for the good of the region, Williamson says. It could position the area for designation by the federal government as a “micro-region,” which would in turn allow it to compete for funding. Further incorporating as a nonprofit would allow the group to accept contributions from private sources.

The buy-in is getting started with a tour of the seven Peninsula city councils and two education boards. DRO’s council meeting on Oct. 22 is the first stop.

“The main goal is to get feedback from our colleagues before we move too much further,” Williamson says. “If there is any care or concern for affordable housing, this is the time to step up and attend city council and say you support what we’re attempting to do.”

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