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Union-Owned Non-Profit Affordable Housing Development Active in San Diego County Politics

A non-profit affordable housing complex located in National City, California has become a major political force in San Diego County.

Since 2010, the “San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments” has donated about $800,000 directly to campaign committees, most of them based in San Diego County. It has been a top donor in 2016 to campaigns to pass bond measures for San Diego County community college and school districts where construction contractors are required to sign Project Labor Agreements (PLAs).

For example, this “low to moderate income apartment community” in National City has given $50,000 to the campaign to pass Measure X, which authorizes the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District to borrow $348 million via bond sales to investors. In addition, it helped to pay for polling services on behalf of the college administration. (The polling results had to be obtained from the college through a public records request.) It also gave $50,000 to the campaign to pass Measure Z, which authorizes the Southwestern Community College District to borrow $400 million via bond sales to investors.

National City Park Apartments

National City Park Apartments

This money is obtained through rental payments of apartment tenants. Built in 1968 with US Department of Housing and Urban Development funds, the National City Park Apartments have apparently been owned and managed by the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council since their construction. The head of the Trades Council – Tom Lemmon – is chairman of the Board of Directors for the San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation and receives some compensation from the Corporation. He also lived there as a boy. In 2008, the Trades Council paid off the loans from its purchase of the apartment complex.

The payoff of those loans may have triggered the decision to start getting the affordable housing complex involved in politics in 2010. Another inspiration may have been the Citizens United decision issued on January 22, 2010 by the U.S. Supreme Court. That controversial decision extended certain political speech rights to non-profit organizations classified under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4) as “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare . . . the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to chari­table, educational, or recreational purposes.” The San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation tells the IRS that its purpose is “to provide affordable rental housing for low to moderate income families.”

Below is a list of ways that the National City Park Apartments are providing “affordable rental housing for low to moderate income families.”

Political Contributions of San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments and Affiliated Entities, 2010-2016

Election Recipient of Contribution Amount
2010 Yes on Prop J (San Diego Unified School District parcel tax) $50,000
2011 No on Prop A and Prop B (City of San Diego Project Labor Agreement ban and pension reform) $5,000
2011 Californians Against Identity Theft and Ballot Fraud (radio ads to discourage people from signing petitions for PLA bans and pension reform) $25,000
2012 A Better San Diego Issues Committee, a Sponsored Committee of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO $100,000
2012 Kids First/Yes on Prop Z (San Diego Unified School District bond measure) $85,000
2013 David Alvarez for City of San Diego Mayor (after Bob Filner resignation) $75,000
2014 San Diego County Democratic Party (for David Alvarez for City of San Diego Mayor, after Bob Filner resignation) $12,500
2014 Yes on Prop 41 (Coalition for Veterans Housing, to pass California Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Bond Act) $5,000
2014 San Diego County Democratic Party (for November 2014 Election) $47,500
2014 Escondido Taxpayers Association (opposing ballot measure to enact charter for City of Escondido) $10,000
2014 Chula Vista Voters Against Corruption (committee formed to oppose John McCann for Chula Vista City Council) $25,000
2015 San Diego Works! sponsored by San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO $15,000
2016 Contribution to independent expenditure committee primarily formed to support Proposition I, Barbara Bry, and Justin DeCesare, sponsored by Alliance San Diego Mobilization Fund (preserve San Diego High School in Balboa Park, elect Bry and DeCesare to San Diego City Council) $25,000
2016 San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council Political Action Committee $25,000
2016 San Diego County Democratic Party $10,000
2016 South Bay Parents and Community for Quality School Construction (Sweetwater Union High School District bond measure)* $73,650
2016 Rendon Ballot Measure Committee to Keep California Competitive (committee under control of California State Assembly Speaker) $10,000
2016 San Diego County Democratic Party $7,000
2016 Educators & Parents for Great Schools to Support Whitehurst-Payne for School Board 2016, sponsored by San Diego Education Association (independent expenditure committee primarily formed to support Sharon Whitehurst-Payne; Board Member; San Diego USD) $10,000
2016 Teachers and Parents Putting Kids First Supporting Kevin Pike 2016 (independent expenditure committee primarily formed to support Kevin Pike; Board Member, Sweetwater Union HSD) $8,000
2016 South Bay Families for Affordable College – Yes on Z (Southwestern Community College bond measure) $50,000
2016 Rodriguez for City Council 2016 (Jose Rodriguez, National City Council) $1,000
2016 Rodriguez for City Council 2016 (Jose Rodriguez, National City Council) – office space $2,700
2016 Irene Lopez for San Ysidro School Board 2016 $1,000
2016 Tremper for Chula Vista School Board 2016 (Glendora Tremper for Chula Vista Elementary School District board) $2,000
2016 Careers & Affordable Education for East County – Yes on X (Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District bond measure) $50,000
2016 San Diegans for Full Voter Participation, Yes on K and L, Sponsored by Community and Voter Rights Organizations (City of San Diego ballot measures to shift election significance from June to November, when more people vote) $75,000
2016 Careers & Affordable Education for East County – Yes on X – polling (Grossmont/Cuyamaca Community College District bond measure) $1,875
TOTAL 2010-2016 $807,225
Political Contributions - San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments

Click the chart to download an Excel version of “Political Contributions 2010-2016 from San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments”

* Campaign reports from South Bay Parents and Community for Quality School Construction indicate two $22,500 contributions on February 1, 2016 from the San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation that are not in the Corporation’s own campaign reports. Those contributions are included in this amount.

Lobbying and Policy Activity

The San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation also provides funding and support for labor union activism and allied causes. Some examples:

  • Since 2011 the San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation has employed Murtaza Baxamusa as Director of Planning and Development. Baxamusa is a union-oriented economist involved in many policy debates in San Diego County going back to his previous position with a San Diego-based union-oriented think tank called the Center on Policy Initiatives. He is a leader of the Middle Class Taxpayers Association, a union front group that is displacing traditional fiscally-conservative taxpayers associations as the statutorily-required taxpayers representative on local government bond and tax oversight committees.
  • It provides grants to organizations such as the Center for Policy Initiatives, Cesar Chavez Service Club, and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
  • It sponsored a lunch in 2016 at the San Diego Housing Federation 25th Annual Affordable Housing and Community Development Conference. The San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council is among the highest-status members in this organization.
  • It uses the legal services of Ricardo Ochoa, a union lawyer. Ochoa represented the San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation No. 1 for its defense of a civil rights lawsuit for housing and accommodations (Gash v. San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation No. 1). Ochoa also represents school and community college district faculty unions in San Diego County. Recently he filed a lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of unions and other groups called “Quality of Life Coalition” – with the political director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569 as lead plaintiff – to challenge the ballot arguments in support of a transportation investment plan and sales tax (Measure A) on the November 2016 ballot. During the development of the transportation plan, unions had demanded that the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) mandate a Project Labor Agreement on construction contracts funded by the tax.

It’s all about providing affordable rental housing for low to moderate income families.

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS – SOURCES

2010 Election Political Campaign Contributions – San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments

2011 Political Contributions – San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments

2012 Political Election Campaign Contributions – San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments

2013-2014 Political Special Election Contributions for San Diego Mayor – San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments

2014 Primary Election Political Contributions San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments

2014 General Election Political Contributions San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments

2015 Election Political Contributions San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments

2016 Primary Election Political Contributions San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments

2016 General Election Monetary and In-Kind Contributions San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments (as of October 26, 2016)

OTHER SOURCES

IRS Form 990 2014  San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments Nos. 1 2 3

The Local Affordable Housing That Labor Built – commentary by Tom Lemmon – San Diego Union-Tribune – June 3, 2011

San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation dba National City Park Apartments website

2013 “San Diego Housing Video” posted by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and featuring the National City Park Apartments

San Diego Housing Federation 25th Annual Affordable Housing and Community Development Conference

Building Trades’ Family Housing Corporation Re-Elects Board MembersSan Diego Reader – February 8, 2012

San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation Hires Policy Director for Redevelopment – February 16, 2011


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

College Board in Orange County Lets Unions Take Over Taxpayer Oversight

Unions continue to undermine the independence and effectiveness of citizens bond oversight committees at California school and community college districts.

In December 2015, the elected board of trustees for the Rancho Santiago Community College District voted 4-2 to reject an application from the President & CEO of the long-established Orange County Taxpayers Association to serve on the college district’s Measure Q bond oversight committee. For two years, the obviously-qualified applicant had sought an appointment from the board to a vacant position on the committee.

This vacant position was designated in state law (California Education Code Section 15282) for someone “active in a bona fide taxpayers’ organization.” The board had never filled it.

Eventually the board found its champion for the taxpayers. On February 22, 2016 – exactly three years after the deadline for people to apply for the bond oversight committee – the board appointed a taxpayers’ association representative. The lucky appointee claimed to be active in the “Middle Class Taxpayers Association,” an organization founded in 2011 that is closely connected to labor unions. This board action is another example of the continual union-instigated chipping away of checks and balances at California local governments.

California Proposition 39 55 Percent Approval of School BondsIndependent citizens bond oversight committees for school and college bond measures were once portrayed as a taxpayer protection. They were established in state law in 2000, when Governor Gray Davis signed into law Assembly Bill 1908, the “Strict Accountability in Local School Construction Bonds Act of 2000.” This requirement for independent oversight was promoted during the successful fall 2000 campaign to convince voters to approve Proposition 39, which reduced the voter threshold for passing certain school and community college bond measures from two-thirds to 55 percent.

Sixteen years later, the appointed and elected leadership of school and community college districts in California has shifted to a new generation. Many of these leaders (and the special interests that support them) don’t appreciate legal restrictions meant to assuage the ancient concerns of a dwindling demographic of fiscal conservatives.

In some districts, bond oversight committees are regarded as time-wasting meddlers that interfere with how bond finance and construction has to be done nowadays in California (keeping the politically-powerful happy with favoritism and payoffs). And among all the activities of bond oversight committees, none is more irksome to these school and college districts than the demand to study and make a recommendation on the fiscal impact of a proposed Project Labor Agreement. It’s embarrassing and even politically threatening when independent citizens dare to evaluate the cost of a board mandate lobbied for by unions.

Rancho Santiago Community College District, based in Santa Ana (in Orange County) is an example of one such district. In November 2012, voters authorized the district to borrow $198 million by selling bonds. In April 2014, after a year of negotiations with unions, the board voted 4-2 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for most work funded by that borrowed money.

2015 Rancho Santiago Community College District Citizens Bond Oversight Committee - Taxpayers Association Representative - VacantIn February 2013, separate from this process, the President and CEO of the Orange County Taxpayers Association applied for the taxpayers’ association position on the college’s new Measure Q Citizens Bond Oversight Committee. The board appointed the other members but left the taxpayers’ association position vacant, in violation of state law.

Almost two years later, a couple of board members pushed for an agenda item for the board to finally fill the vacant taxpayers’ association position. The board responded on December 7, 2015 with a 4-2 vote to reject the Orange County Taxpayers Association applicant.

It was rumored that construction trade union officials had told their allies on the board to reject the Orange County Taxpayers Association applicant because of the group’s past criticism of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements. A few months later, on February 22, 2016, the board finally complied with state law by appointing a former site representative and Political Action Coordinator for the California School Employees Association Chapter 41.

In her very brief application submitted to the district on February 16, 2016, the victorious appointee declared “I am a member of the Middle Class Taxpayers Association, and with so many middle class families in Santa Ana, I look forward to being considered for the Measure Q Oversight Committee.” The board appointed her to the position.

The Middle Class Taxpayers Association is a union front group. For more information on it, see the May 30, 2012 article posted on www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com entitled Don’t Be Fooled! Meet Some Sneaky Fake Taxpayer Groups In California and the April 5, 2015 article from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association entitled Look for the Union Label.

Sources

Minutes of December 7, 2015 Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees (Item 6.6 – rejection of Orange County Taxpayers Association applicant as taxpayer association representative on the Bond Oversight Committee)

Minutes of February 22, 2016 Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees (Item 6.9 – approval of Middle Class Taxpayers Association applicant as taxpayer association representative on the Bond Oversight Committee)

Orange County Taxpayers Association

Middle Class Taxpayers Association

Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees

Rancho Santiago Community College District Project Labor Agreement – Measure Q

California Education Code Sections 15278-15282 – Citizens’ Oversight Committee

Strict Accountability in Local School Construction Bonds Act of 2000 (Assembly Bill 1908)

Proposition 39 (2000)


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.