TUSTIN, Calif. — Lisa Talmage lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Tustin.

"I feel like I'm really lucky to have a home that I can afford, for now at least," said Talmage, who has lived in Tustin since 2009. "Even I am considered low-income."

What You Need To Know

  • The Tustin Planning Partnership group is advocating for more affordable housing units

  • The city of Tustin is discussing the development and building plans for its Tustin Legacy community

  • Senate Bill 719 involves plans to develop the Tustin Legacy community and address the Surplus Land Act

  • Tustin Planning Partnership wants to work with the city of Tustin leaders to address affordable housing

Talmage moved to Tustin after graduating from the University of California, Irvine. With a college education and stable job, she says she relies on each paycheck and doesn't have enough to save, leaving both marriage and buying a home out of the question.

"That dream is a pipe dream right now, honestly," she said. "It's not even close."

Despite this, Talmage said she decided to use her voice to advocate for more affordable housing options through a group called Tustin Planning Partnership, even though she knows she wouldn't be approved to move into an affordable housing unit.

"I just feel really passionate about housing," she said. "I believe and my group believes that housing is a human right just like food, water and health care."

Talmage is worried about Senate Bill 719 making its way through the state Legislature, as it could allow the city to build more market-rate homes in the Tustin Legacy neighborhood if approved.

"This bill, if it passes, is setting a dangerous precedent for other communities across the state," she said.

Tustin neighbors the city of Irvine, which is the fastest-growing city in the state, according to the U.S. Census. The opportunities in Irvine are also showing up in Tustin through new businesses, schools and homes, which according to Zillow, on average, cost just under $900,000.

The city would like to build a regional park, schools and housing developments at the former Marine Corps base. The federal government gave the land to the city with exceptions, including setting aside affordable housing units. SB-719 plans to set aside 20% of the residential units for low or moderate-income households.

"There's still a lot of open space left," Talmage said. "Let's use that and maximize it to meet the needs of our community."

A few weeks ago, the bill was withdrawn.

An email from Stephanie Najera, the city of Tustin's communications manager, stated:

"The State Building and Construction Trades Council (Trades) intervened on SB 719 with amendments that would have resulted in substantial additional costs to affordable and market-rate housing builders. The Trades' proposed amendments would have limited the ability to construct affordable and market-rate housing without a sizeable infusion of additional funds to subsidize units. Many more Tustin and Orange County residents would be priced out of the market if affordable and market-rate developers were forced to comply with the Trades' amendments. Many articles have been published on the Trades' unreasonable demands that would greatly increase the cost to develop affordable and market-rate housing.

The city and Sen. Dave Min worked diligently to attempt to reach a compromise with the Trades to meet their goals and intent to provide additional work on future projects at Tustin Legacy. Despite good faith and reasonable offers by the city to forge a compromise and expand Trades' participation, ultimately, the Trades were unwilling to compromise and rejected all city offers.

Consequently, SB 719 was withdrawn by Sen. Min before it could be heard in its first Assembly policy committee, and the bill is no longer moving forward in 2021. To date, almost 20% of residential units built at Tustin Legacy have been affordable, in addition to the city providing 400 homeless beds, public schools, streets, water, electrical and over 90 acres of public parks."

Talmage said she is relieved the bill isn't moving forward but isn't letting her guard down.

"We have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here with this land, and once it's built out, once it's gone, it's gone," she said.

Talmage said she believes Tustin, the city which she considers her own, can set aside more than 20% of its new units for people in need of a place to call home. She said her group, Tustin Planning Partnership, wants to partner with the city of Tustin to find ways to address the housing crisis.

For more information on the Tustin Legacy Specific Plan, visit here.