Nonprofit professional Osvaldo Sotelo on Monday threw his hat into the ring for Santa Maria’s 1st District council seat, calling for expanding job opportunities and local laws to promote the development of affordable housing and protection for renters.
Standing beside supporters during a press event at Oakley Park, Sotelo said his experience as the son of farmworkers has helped him understand the issues that matter to families living in District 1, which encompasses the northwest quadrant of the city.
“I believe that our experiences influence the values we develop as adults,” said Sotelo, who works as a youth services coordinator for Goodwill Industries of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. “Like so many others, my parents immigrated to this country to pursue the ultimate American dream.”
“From my parent’s example, I learned not to shy away from hard work,” he said. “When I was young, my parents had to share housing with close relatives in order to make ends meet. I lived in crowded spaces like other residents here in District 1.”
The 28-year-old candidate said he would work to strengthen tenant protections and campaign for the implementation of an inclusionary housing ordinance to expand affordable housing.
Inclusionary housing programs generally use zoning to ensure that developers are required to set aside a percentage of units in new residential projects for use as affordable housing.
“We must embrace bold and innovative solutions to solve the housing crisis,” Sotelo said. “For example, I think that landlords should be required to offer long-term leases to renters, which would reduce unfair evictions.
Rent stabilization ordinances and tenant displacement assistance ordinances would reduce homelessness among families, he said.
Other speakers who spoke in support of Sotelo’s candidacy on Monday included Santa Maria High School senior Lizeth Guzman, Councilwoman Gloria Soto, who represents residents in the city’s 3rd District, and 1st District resident Sarah Jackson, who spoke about her struggle to find affordable housing after moving to Santa Maria as a young single mother.
“When I think about the world today, and hearing the struggles of everybody here, it reminds me of the importance of electing the right officials into office,” Soto said. “We need representatives who understand our community's unique issues, who have clear values and who will stand up and fight for underrepresented communities.”
If elected, Sotelo would be the city’s first council member to represent the 1st District.
The 2020 council elections — which will be held Nov. 3 — will be the second city elections based on the new district system and the first for the 1st District.
No incumbent council member is eligible for the 1st District seat under the new system, which requires council members to live within the district they represent.
Councilman Mike Cordero, who lives in the 2nd District, the other district seat up for election this year, has filed a candidate intention statement to run in 2020.
Sotelo, who holds degrees from CSU Los Angeles and CSU Northridge, said the expansion of higher-wage jobs will be a major focus of his campaign.
“As a professional who works for Goodwill Industries of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties as a workforce service supervisor, I know the challenges many in Santa Maria here face,” he said.
Sotelo said he would support the use of community workforce agreements, which often involve targeted hiring of low-income workers on construction projects that are publicly-funded or subsidized.
“Such policies, which are already established in other cities across California, can help to ensure quality job training, local jobs and higher wages for Santa Marians,” he said.
Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @razisyed
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