Less than one year into his first term, Sacramento City Councilman Sean Loloee was the subject of a recent hit piece in the Sacramento Bee. The accusation was that Loloee is “not a fan of affordable housing,” and doesn’t understand what his job is.
The Bee calls Loloee “a business-friendly newcomer,” as a put-down.
“Sacramento’s City Council was minutes away from approving a deal that will convert a Best Western motel into supportive housing for the homeless when Councilman Sean Loloee made a stunning revelation. ‘As much as I’m not a fan of affordable housing, this is a slam dunk,’ the first-year councilman said last week before the unanimous vote.”
The opinion article, written by a member of the Bee editorial board, intimated that Loloee is listening to “residents who may be averse to a new homeless shelter,” as well as “the privileged class or a stereotypical NIMBY.”
Sean Loloee made one issue very clear in a discussion with the Globe Monday: “I never said I’m against affordable housing. But when it is the only choice offered to my district, I’m not a fan of the lack of balance of housing.”
“My argument since day-one has been the need for a balance of housing: affordable housing, workforce housing, and market rate housing,” Loloee said. “The lack of balance is not a very healthy lifestyle for the residents.”
“Residents and business owners in North Sacramento acutely face every economic challenge in California. Folks here are working-class or poor, consumed by the rigors of simply surviving day-to-day life,” the Bee said. “They’ve been here for generations but lack generational wealth.”
Loloee said District 2 “has been overlooked and underfunded” for decades. “‘What is the best for the district?’ is my focus,” Loloee said. “And we need market rate housing to help improve the district economically.”
“That’s right. Not a fan of affordable housing. It’s the sort of statement that can get you condemned in a liberal city such as Sacramento, where local housing policies like ending single-family zoning, easing accessory dwelling unit regulations and streamlining low-income developments are widely celebrated,” the Bee said.
Loloee put it in perspective: “Today, market rate rentals in my district are lower cost than ‘affordable housing’ rentals in downtown Sacramento. And a 3 bedroom/2 bath, 1,800 square-foot home sells for the high $300,000’s to low $400,000’s in District 2.”
“’Affordable housing has become a political buzzword,’ said Ross Hendrix, president of the Del Paso Heights Neighborhood Association,” the Bee said. “You can call it affordable housing, but when it’s all said and done, it’s not affordable. It’s really a bunch of B.S. I agree with (Loloee) on that point.”
“This is where Loloee horribly misses the mark. Effective representatives don’t just repeat the concerns of their districts,” the Bee said.
Loloee said the neighborhood associations in his district represent the people. “How can you downplay their concerns?” There are 21 neighborhoods in Loloee’s District 2.
“I called and emailed Loloee to offer him a chance to explain, but he didn’t respond,” the Bee writer said. “That doesn’t reflect well on him considering that he ran for public office, and being accessible and accountable comes with the job.”
“I have no idea who he is,” Loloee said. “He never tried to contact me. We went through all emails, including my staff’s, and spam folders, just to make sure. There were no cell or phone calls either that we could find.”
“The greatest thing I love about this country… anyone can put something in writing as an opinion,” said Loloee, an immigrant from Iran. “But he’s missing a lot of facts. I wish he would have called me and spent 30 minutes with me. I would have offered to drive him around the district for two hours. He doesn’t know my district, or live in my district.”
“This was purely one individual’s opinion,” Loloee said. “He didn’t take extra steps to see our community, drive around, and see the businesses still boarded up from the pandemic.”
“What’s it going to take to get the boards off those windows?” Loloee asked.
Loloee said he has supported new developments of market rate housing coming into his district. “If we just allow affordable housing to come in, we don’t get the additional fees that support the parks, and other projects. If we don’t have the income, we can’t spend it on our community.”
“Just because my calling for balanced housing doesn’t fit with your ideology, doesn’t mean I’m out of touch with my community,” Loloee said. “The community is not exclusively for ‘affordable housing.’ Just because they fall within a certain income range, he says they all want affordable housing.”
“Just because a community has been struggling economically, and is in a certain income bracket… we literally are discriminating against this community,” Loloee added. “He’s saying ‘let’s keep District 2 as poor as possible.'”
The Globe met with Loloee in early October and discussed the issues afflicting the City of Sacramento – most notably he said his district and one other within the city are the most overrun with homeless, and also have the highest cultural disparities. And Loloee said his district is being targeted for the most marijuana dispensaries – an issue not unique to Sacramento.
Loloee has rebuffed loading up his district with the bulk of the marijuana dispensaries. “In the name of ‘equity,’ we’re going to normalize marijuana for black and brown kids,” Loloee ironically said.
“I’m not a big corporate business guy,” said Loloee, an entrepreneur who owns and runs Viva Supermarkets in North Sacramento, Del Paso Heights, and Folsom. “I support small business. But the writer alluded to the cannabis business. That’s a very racist comment – is the only business the black and brown community wants to get into is cannabis business? That’s just not the case.”
“The City of Sacramento has also not created any services to assist black and brown people to get into the cannabis business, anyway” Loloee said. “Why is it when it comes to weed, we make this exclusively about black and brown ‘entrepreneurs?’ It’s an insult and condescending to my entire community.”
“Why is it cannabis business doesn’t exist in certain other Sacramento districts? There would be your equity,” Loloee said. “District 6 has the most cannabis businesses, District 2 is second.” Loloee said he asked the City Council to consider a moratorium on cannabis dispensaries in his district, but was told “no.”
“Why is it we are trying to normalize weed for black and brown youth, without the proper education?” he asked. “Why is it the writer thinks I don’t know what they want?” Loloee asked, referring to his community. “I received hundreds of emails and text messages saying ‘we support you’ from people in my district after the article ran. That made me happy and proud.”