Some may roll their eyes at the idea that a coalition of mostly well-off homeowners might qualify as “grassroots,” a term more commonly associated with social justice movements. But they’d be wrong: Throughout his four-decade reign, Close and SOHA consistently over-organized, shoved and outwitted their political opponents.
In the 1980s, Close and SOHA joined dozens of other homeowners’ associations to form the “slow growth” movement in the valley, which sought to hamper new housing construction, retain single-family zoning, and, in many cases, to wrest control from the City of Los Angeles or any interfering municipal official.
Close, for example, was a major supporter of the San Fernando Valley’s 2002 failed attempt to separate itself from the rest of Los Angeles, citing, among other reasons, a lack of services commensurate with its tax base. He worked to push through the monumental U-Proposition of 1986, which limited the amount of square footage that could be built on land in Los Angeles and which still dominates residential and commercial real estate.
Some SOHA members also played a major role in unsuccessful efforts in the late 1970s to stop the bus transportation of black students from south Los Angeles to schools in the valley. SOHA took no official position in this fight, but people who had witnessed its organizing power brought their knowledge to the campaigns, prompting an anti-bus member of the Los Angeles Education Council to say :. “
Close’s network still exists and he continues to practice the coalition policy that has protected his neighborhoods for the past half century. Although the demographics of the valley have changed – Latinos now constitute a plurality of the population according to the Census Bureau – SOHA and its network are still active. They still circulate petitions and meet every month to come to an understanding.
In 2015, Close and SOHA were bold in the municipal elections by supporting David Ryu in his victory over the candidate backed by the Los Angeles Times. The credit, both public and private, went to Close and SOHA. A scene described in a 2017 Los Angeles Magazine article shows the influence of Close:
“Ryu is one of the few poles in Close’s glow, and he’s the guest speaker at tonight’s reunion. As the 41-year-old former director of community health approaches the cafeteria scene, Close bellow, “He wasn’t supposed to win primary; he was supposed to be gone. How many advisors have you approved? Zero, Ryu replies. “How many developer dollars did you take?” ” Nothing. “So how did you win? Ryu motioned to the room. ‘Because of you.'”
In 2015, organizations like SOHA could have a significant effect on city council elections for the simple reason that odd-numbered year elections, which do not coincide with national and state competitions, typically have very low turnout. The 2020 election against Raman was the first in years to be held concurrently with a presidential race, which meant SOHA’s voice bloc wouldn’t go that far.