Claremont Insider: Con Law 101

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Con Law 101

Good morning, Class. This morning we are going to take up the California Constitution, Article 34. Now before you nod off, or worse, click away to a more interesting website, you have to realize that this constitutional provision may have some applicability to affordable housing in Claremont when "developed" by the City.

Mayor Peter Yao gave away the game with his statement to the Daily Bulletin, reproduced here that, "[Enhanced Affordable Development] is a contractor. He does what we tell him to do. If he won't do it, we'll find someone else. He's not a key link in this project." Off with his head!

In other words, the City is developing this project and Enhanced Affordable Development is simply hired on to carry out certain aspects of the project.

Now, stay with us, Class, because this this is where it gets interesting.

Article 34 of the California Constitution puts a requirement on California cities before they build low-income rental housing in the community:

Section 1. No low rent housing project shall hereafter be developed, constructed, or acquired in any manner by any state public body [this includes the city of Claremont] until, a majority of the qualified electors of the city, town or county, as the case may be, in which it is proposed to develop, construct, or acquire the same, voting upon such issue, approve such project by voting in favor thereof at an election [emphasis added] to be held for that purpose, or at any general or special election.
The section quoted goes on to say this applies to "low-rent housing...financed in whole or in part by...a state public body [such as the city of Claremont]." Section 2 of the provision goes on to say, "The provisions of the Article shall be self-executing..." This means no additional legislation is really required. Low rent housing project plus state public body (Claremont) equals vote of the electors.

The Insider fails to see how this cannot apply to Claremont, given the Mayor's statement. Even if the key concept is "financing", how could the plan survive without a vote of the people if financed by the County (another state public body) through City of Industry Funds, the State (as has recently been bruited), or even from Claremont's own treasury? We understand there is a structure of legislation (Health and Safety Code sections 36000-36005 and sections 37000-37002, and possibly others) that narrows Article 34. There is also an edifice of case law built by tricky attorneys like Sonia Carvalho attempting to circumvent the clear meaning of this article.

It's pretty simple. If the City of Claremont is developing a low-rent housing project in Claremont, an Article 34 referendum is required. Why hasn't an election been scheduled? Think about it, Class, and we will meet again on Monday.