In Orange County’s Lingering Conservatism, a Lesson for S.F.

County leaders backed out of a plan to address increasing homelessness before joining a Trump administration lawsuit against California’s sanctuary policy.

The results of the 2016 election were jarring not only because Donald Trump won the presidency but because Orange County — known as the Orange Curtain — went blue for the first time since 1936.

As Democrats pick up the pieces, keeping the county blue during the midterms has emerged as a strategy to take Congress back.

But this week’s decision by Orange County leaders to abandon its only real plan to deal with homelessness busting at the seams and to formally oppose the state’s sanctuary policy show that the evolving political atmosphere is far from settled.

First, an author’s note: This focus on southern California is not meant to just add to the one-sided rivalry led by northern California that I’m generally happy to join. This is someone who spent a long 18 years growing up in the often frustrating county looking at how it addresses issues similar to ours — and that it should serve as a wake-up call to our own lack of compassion.

After months of rising complaints directed at an encampment along the Santa Ana River that came to symbolize the homelessness crisis, the Orange County Board of Supervisors developed a plan for shelters in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel. But after a protest of nearly 2,000 people with signs like “No homeless in Irvine” and “Protect our neighborhood,” supervisors rescinded the plan on Tuesday, the Orange County Register reports.

A U.S. District Court judge — who is overseeing a civil rights lawsuit filed against the county by displaced encampment residents — requested a plan to house hundreds of people.

As someone who frequently rode along the freeway by the Santa Ana River, I can say the visibility of a massive homeless encampment did not exist just a few years ago. Like other San Franciscans, I regularly come into contact with people suffering from homelessness but seeing those tents still shocks me.

The Bay Area, though, still can’t perch on a high horse. In February, the disdain for a growing number of people on the streets in Upper Haight came out during what SF Weekly described as a meeting filled with hate-filled complaints and devoid of actual solutions to ease human suffering.

And in 2016, an Oakland recycling plant at the center the must-watch documentary Dogtown Redemption — which followed homeless individuals finding an honest, back-breaking way to survive — closed after prolonged neighborhood complaints.

Through another questionable action by Orange County, San Francisco can feel good about itself in comparison.

Also on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to join the federal government’s lawsuit against its own state over the sanctuary policy. Yorba Linda — the birthplace of President Richard Nixon — and Los Alamitos each took action to support the move last week, The Register reports.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the lawsuit earlier this month to scores of supportive law enforcement individuals — another pillar of the state’s conservatism that stands tall, as East Bay Express outlined.

California may be the self-appointed home of #TheResistance but Orange County has established its own — and in ways we can still learn from. But if the county is slow to vigilantly address this crisis like San Francisco was, it will only spin farther out of control while people suffer from the increasingly high cost of living. 

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