Speaker Rivas’ Committee Shake-Up Boosts Pro-Housing Advocates

Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas makes key leadership changes and committee appointments, signaling a pro-housing agenda for the 2024 legislative session.

Late Tuesday, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas announced a series of committee chairperson appointments and changes, sparking discussions about winners and losers in the Sacramento political scene. While some lawmakers saw their positions elevated, others experienced demotions. However, one group emerged as a significant victor in Rivas’ reorganization: pro-housing advocates, also known as YIMBYs (Yes In My Backyard). With the appointment of aggressively pro-housing members and the demotion of those less supportive, Rivas appears to be setting the stage for an aggressively pro-housing legislature in the upcoming year.

Pro-Housing Advocates Gain Momentum

Over the past year, YIMBY activists have been making strides in their efforts to promote legislation that facilitates the construction of all types of housing, even if it means sacrificing local control over development decisions. The opposition to the idea that California faces a housing shortage or that the state should not intervene has dwindled significantly. Under Rivas’ leadership, the Assembly passed several bills in the last legislative session that streamlined the process for building affordable housing. The recent committee appointments further solidify this pro-housing trend heading into the 2024 session.

San Diego Democrat Chris Ward to Chair Housing Committee

One notable change that pro-development activists are likely to appreciate is the appointment of San Diego Democrat Chris Ward as the new chairperson of the Assembly’s housing committee. Ward replaces Oakland Democrat Buffy Wicks, who has been a reliable pro-housing legislator. However, Wicks’ support for Rivas during his bid for the speakership last year made her promotion to a higher position expected. By appointing Ward, Rivas signals his commitment to maintaining a pro-density course for the committee. Ward’s previous of an ambitious bill prioritizing dense urban development further suggests that Rivas supports his vision.

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks Takes Charge of Appropriations Committee

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, a staunch pro-housing advocate, has been given the top spot on the powerful appropriations committee. This committee plays a crucial role in reviewing bills with a price tag and has significant power in passing, amending, or killing legislation. Wicks’ promotion is good news for YIMBYs and their allies, as she is expected to continue championing their cause. Her predecessor, Chris Holden, although supportive of labor and tenant rights, has been more inclined to protect local control over development decisions. Rivas’ decision to remove Holden from the committee highlights his commitment to advancing a pro-housing agenda.

Transportation Committee Signals Support for Dense Development

The elevation of first-term Suisun Democrat Lori Wilson to the transportation committee is a positive sign for proponents of dense development near public transit hubs. Wilson’s previous role as the director of finance for a national homebuilding company suggests her understanding of the importance of transit-oriented development. Her appointment aligns with Rivas’ commitment to promoting housing options near public transportation.

Assembly Majority Leader Isaac Bryan’s Demotion and Implications

Assembly Majority Leader Isaac Bryan’s shift from his position to chairperson of the Natural Resources committee carries significant implications for state housing policy. The previous chairperson, Luz Rivas, used her position to moderate density-boosting bills and limit legislation that facilitated religious institutions’ housing development. Bryan’s expected support for bills that promote affordable housing makes him less likely to oppose pro-housing measures. Although Bryan’s demotion may seem like a setback, it aligns with Rivas’ overall pro-housing agenda.

Other Leadership Changes and Their Impact

The leadership shuffle in the Assembly Democrats also saw Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer lose his position as chairperson of the Public Safety committee. Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat known for his work in education committees and support for Rivas during the speakership transition, will take over the committee. Rivas thanked Jones-Sawyer for his efforts in reforming the justice system but emphasized the importance of ensuring Californians’ safety. Additionally, Assemblymember Mia Bonta of Oakland, who faced conflict-of-interest concerns due to her husband’s position as Attorney General, was reassigned from the Budget subcommittee on public safety to chair the Health Committee.


Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas’ recent committee appointments and changes indicate a clear focus on advancing pro-housing policies in the upcoming legislative session. By selecting lawmakers who have consistently supported housing development and demoting those who may hinder progress, Rivas is laying the groundwork for an aggressively pro-housing legislature. The appointment of San Diego Democrat Chris Ward as the new housing committee chairperson and the elevation of Assemblymember Buffy Wicks to the appropriations committee are particularly noteworthy. These changes signal a continued commitment to promoting dense development, streamlining the housing construction process, and addressing California’s housing crisis. As the 2024 session approaches, it will be interesting to see how these appointments shape housing policy in the state.






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