Reviews | California homeowners flex their political muscle
Some may roll their eyes at the idea that a coalition of mostly well-off homeowners might qualify as “grassroots,” a term more commonly associated with social justice movements. But they’d be wrong: Throughout his four-decade reign, Close and SOHA consistently over-organized, shoved and outwitted their political opponents.
In the 1980s, Close and SOHA joined forces with dozens of other homeowners’ associations to form the “slow growthMovement in the valley, which sought to hamper new housing construction, retain single-family zoning and, in many cases, wrest control from the City of Los Angeles or any intrusive municipal agent.
Close, for example, was one of the main supporters of the 2002 failed attempt of the San Fernando Valley to separate from the rest of Los Angeles, citing, among other reasons, a lack of services commensurate with its tax base. He worked to pass the monumental 1986 Proposition U, which limited the amount of square footage that could be built on land in Los Angeles and still has a hold over residential and commercial real estate.
Some SOHA members have also played a major role in the unsuccessful efforts of the late 1970s to stop the bus transportation of black students from south Los Angeles to schools in the valley. SOHA took no official position in this fight, but people who had witnessed its organizing power brought their knowledge to the campaigns, prompting an anti-bus member of the Los Angeles Education Council to to say, “We learned our political positives and negatives within the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. “
Close’s network still exists and he continues to practice the coalition policy that has protected his neighborhoods for half a century. Although the demographics of the valley have changed – Latinos now constitute a plurality of the population according to the census Office – SOHA and its network are still active. They still circulate petitions and meet every month to come to an understanding.
In 2015, Close and SOHA were strong in the municipal elections by supporting David Ryu in his victory against the candidate approved by the Los Angeles Times. The credit, both public and private, went to Close and SOHA. A scene described in a 2017 article in Los Angeles Magazine shows the influence of Close:
“Ryu is one of the few poles in Close’s glow, and he’s the guest speaker at tonight’s reunion. As the 41-year-old former community health director approaches the cafeteria scene, Close bellow, “He wasn’t supposed to win primary; he was supposed to be gone. How many advisors have you approved? Zero, Ryu replies. “How many developer dollars did you take?” ” Nothing. “So how did you win? Ryu motioned to the room. ‘Because of you.'”
In 2015, organizations like SOHA could have a significant effect on city council elections for the simple reason that odd-numbered year elections, which do not coincide with national and state competitions, typically have very low turnout. The 2020 election against Raman was the first in years to be held at the same time as a presidential race, which meant SOHA’s voice block wouldn’t go that far.