Our Neighborhood Voices
Brentwood City Council member Jovita Mendoza stands on the street at the Brentwood Farmers’ Market every Saturday looking for signatures. She is leading the way in a fight to keep our local government exclusively in charge of its growth. One million petition signatures are necessary to put her initiative on the November 2024 ballot, and she is making her voice heard.
After moving to Brentwood from Oakland in 2000, Jovita and her family settled into a neighborhood adjacent to the Shadow Lakes community.
The golf course setting was a beautiful, green landscape that brought many buyers into the area. Once the golf course ceased to exist, developers looked toward the space with the intent to create an apartment complex. When Jovita came across a Facebook post in 2018 regarding those plans, she became irate. Says Jovita, “People were sold a home situated within a golf course community.
Changing the structure of the neighborhood after the fact was not fair.”
Jovita jumped into action and created door hangers to let everyone in the area know what was about to occur. Soon after that, Measure L made its way onto the 2019 ballot. Jovita went down to the Brentwood Planning Division to study the book for the measure, to get a better idea of what it entailed. The book was an inch thick. Brentwood resident Kathy Griffin and a group of others online who were opposed to allowing the city limit sprawl, helped with deciphering exactly what was going on. She would go over each piece of political marketing that went out, fact-checking and analyzing what was true or false. She took to the Farmers’ Market, created door hangings, and talked to anyone who would listen, “I work in the consumer-packaged-goods industry. I know the value of having large amounts of people on your side. All the campaigning worked, and we shot down that initiative 71-29 after spending just $24K. The developers had spent over 1 million,” said Jovita.
“Money should not be allowed to buy voices.”
A win behind her and her interest in politics peaked, Jovita decided to run for city council when an opening came up in July 2020. She was voted in and represents Brentwood’s Northwest corner. During her campaign, Jovita is proud to attest to only taking monetary donations from friends and family. Says Jovita, “I am trying to change the effect special interest monies have on politics. I won’t even take calls from special interest groups. They are not used to politicians not wanting to meet with them. All the elected council members and the mayor should represent the needs of the people who voted for us. We should not be subjected to outside influences. Money should not be allowed to buy voices.”
In January 2022, Senate Bill SB9 passed. Our state representatives allowed the laws of cities and local jurisdictions to be bypassed in favor of this new bill. What this paves the way for is unplanned population impact, parking and traffic concerns, school overcrowding, emergency resources stretched, and infrastructure stress. Now, your neighbor or property investor can bulldoze the house next to you and build a multi-unit dwelling without any ramifications. The city has lost control of the rules that would stop this. Depending on the size of their property, so long as the indicated 1200-square-foot dimension is adhered to, an owner could subdivide until they ran out of room and plop an ADU on each plot of land.
Jovita dislikes that the bill was created under the guise of creating affordable housing. The state of California mandates how many homes need to be built to meet the needs of homebuyers at all income levels. It’s termed as Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). This mandate allows for the proper planning of communities, providing a strict ratio for incorporating affordable residences. All structures and the population resulting from them are accounted for, the city can plan for their impact. SB9 does not allow for cities to plan for additional residents. A property owner must only possess the will and a way to create many structures for inhabitants to occupy. Jovita also finds it deceptive that the officials involved with writing SB9 are deeply involved with developers and received campaign financing from them.
“A NECESSARY 1 MILLION SIGNATURES NEEDED WILL ALLOW THE INITIATIVE ONTO THE NOVEMBER 2024 BALLOT.”
To combat the ills that would result from uninhibited building, Jovita, in conjunction with other concerned elected officials, has begun campaigning for the Brand-Huang-Mendoza Tripartisan Land Use Initiative #21-0016A1. Her involvement with The California Alliance of Local Electeds (CALE) has helped boost her efforts to rally interest and votes enabling the repeal of bill SB9. CALE is a network of mayors, councilmembers, and other elected officials who advocate in Sacramento on significant issues that contribute to the betterment of California’s cities, including preservation of local control and support of forward-thinking legislation. Every Sunday night, there is a Zoom call, and the group discusses how they can effectively draw in the reins of the Sacramento legislators and put them back into the hands of local government leaders. They share ideas on grassroots efforts and ways to gain support.
Jovita recently called into a KGO 810-AM radio show to confront Senator Wiener as he spoke about SB9 on air. She called him out on some nontruths the bill purports. She knows that exposing the truth to the public is the only way to gain support for her initiative. A necessary 1 million signatures needed will allow the initiative onto the November 2024 ballot. Citizens will then have a chance to ease the discomfort that allowing uncontrolled growth would bring.
Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi from Torrance, California is going against his party to endorse Jovita’s initiative. He has a very different frame of thought and believes in the benefits of local government control. Brentwood City Council has also taken a stand to support Jovita’s initiative, even as they would profit from the additional property taxes that come from additional buildings. Taking away quality of life, stretching vital resources that keep our city functioning at optimal capacity, losing the ability to manage our own city—our local elected representatives are ready to stop SB9 from letting this happen. They encourage your input and hope you will go to www.ourneighborhoodvoices.com for more information on this important issue.
Photos By Melissa Van Ruiten & Cheryl Puglisi