Leano targets homelessness, affordable housing in assembly bid
by Steven Felschundneff | email@example.com
Jed Leano hardly needs an introduction to readers of the Courier. Many are aware of the outspoken Claremont City Council member’s voting record, and that he is running for a California State Assembly seat.
So it will come as little surprise that Leano’s top priority if elected will be tackling the growing problems of homelessness and affordable housing.
“I’m running for this seat for the exact same reason I decided to run for city council in 2018, because we are in the grip of a crippling housing crisis,” Leano said. “I feel like everybody says we are in a housing crisis, but very few people act like it. And I want to be the leader that acts like it, and I think it’s time.”
His experience on council, as well as serving as the chair of both the San Gabriel Valley Regional Housing Trust and Tri-City Mental Health, illustrated the limitations one could have on big regional and statewide issues from city hall. He felt compelled to seek a higher seat.
That seat is the 41st Assembly District, which spans all the way from Pasadena along the foothill communities, across the San Gabriel Mountains to the high desert. Chris Holden has represented the district since 2012 but will reach state-mandated term limits next year.
“Working on the issues that I care about: housing, homelessness, mental health [and] sustainability — working on these issues I have seen the limits of city halls,” Leano said. “I have seen the lack of capacity for us to immediately make change on these things. It’s a combination of resources and political will, but I think that in order to make the impact that I want to make we have to move on to a higher level of government with better opportunities and resources to leverage.”
According to Leano, the lack of adequate housing supply and resultant dramatic spike in the cost of a home has become so acute that even people who are well into a lucrative career and are stably housed still list addressing housing as a top priority. The reasons are clear: “Where are they going to retire? Can their kids afford to live in the community where they raised them?” Leano asked.
“I wanted to work aggressively to come up with solutions to these problems, but I also wanted to guide and steer the dialog because I thought the dialog was missing something,” Leano said. “It was badly missing some very basic empathy and compassion for the crisis that we are in.”
Leano sees a tie-in between housing policy and a host of other important issues facing California: it has a direct impact on climate change because the long commutes many workers must endure add to greenhouse gas emissions; it’s a hindrance to the economy because even a modest raise in pay is absorbed by the corresponding increase in rent, so workers can’t buy products to spur growth; and it has also made it difficult for employers to find qualified workers, even for good paying jobs, when homeownership in our biggest cities is just a pipe dream.
Creating affordable housing is not just building high density buildings for below market rate tenants, Leano said. It’s also preservation and protection of existing affordable housing units, making accessory dwelling units cheaper and easier to build, and zoning for duplexes in single family neighborhoods.
“It’s also opportunities for new home ownership so that young people have a way into the middle class,” Leano said.
To achieve that goal, Leano envisions creating financial incentives that could be tied to new jobs for young professionals, college students, and workers to help them buy homes near where they work.
Leano is a first generation American whose parents came from the Philippines. His experience growing up in Anaheim as the son of immigrants inspired him to become an attorney fighting for refugees, working families and immigrants just like his parents.
In 2008 he launched a law practice in Pasadena and two years later moved to that city with his wife Liz. Shortly afterward, following the birth of their son Welles, the couple wanted to buy a home but found Pasadena too pricy. Like so many prospective homebuyers before and since, they searched a few miles further east and eventually purchased a home in Claremont.
Leano was elected to the Claremont City Council in 2018 and four years later, following the districting process, was re-elected to represent the 4th District.
Leano credits the Claremont Courier with helping him grow in his journey of public service. From our initial endorsement of his council candidacy (the newspaper is now a nonprofit and no longer endorses candidates), to the many news articles about tough issues the council has addressed, he said there is no question that he would not be running for assembly if not for the Courier.
“There are so many things that make Claremont so remarkable as a public official, you see it all. The fact that we have a local paper is incredible,” Leano said. “The Courier was front and center highlighting my pathway in public service, and that pathway had a lot of opportunities to show my abilities that I am proud to share with the community.”
Asked about the many people, including some of his constituents, who don’t want change and in particular don’t want more housing in Southern California, Leano said he understands their concerns but that the housing crisis is at a tipping point.
“If we are serious about leaving a planet that is not on fire or freezing cold and is affordable for our children, some things have to change and that’s just the facts,” Leano said.
“One of the things I am most proud of in my time in public service is that whether people vote for me or don’t, whether people support me or don’t, they know exactly where I stand, and they know I vote with my values. They know that I don’t pander. I don’t shift my positions just to score political points. I stick to what I believe and I do what I think is right. And I fundamentally do not accept the premise that we can preserve the status quo and leave for our children a sustainable and affordable future. That is just not possible.”
For more information on Leano’s campaign visit jedforassembly.com.
Last week the Courier profiled 41st Assembly District candidate Phlunté Riddle, this week Leano. Next week we will focus on Felicia Williams.