The California Apartment Association has expanded its public affairs and compliance staff to better protect the rental housing industry from legislative threats and to help members navigate a growing number of complicated laws and regulations.  

CAA’s new hires include Stephanie Shirkey, senior policy and compliance counsel; Ninder Grewal, policy and compliance counsel; and Victor Cao, vice president of public affairs in Orange County.  

Stephanie Shirkey

After CAA led the defeat of Proposition 10, the statewide rent control initiative on the November ballot, lawmakers returned with a deluge of negative proposals, including a statewide rent cap on all rental units, statewide limits on evictions, and the right for tenant unions to withhold rent without penalty. These proposals also come as Democrats have secured a super majority in both houses of the state Legislature.  

“California is a consumer state, and it is very blue,” said Tom Bannon, chief executive officer of CAA. “Legislators, though well-intended, are introducing legislation that they think is going to help tenants, when in reality, it won’t.” 

Ninder Grewal

Bannon said the association’s new attorneys bring a variety of important experience that will prove useful both in statewide government advocacy and in helping CAA members comply with a growing number of complex rental housing laws at the state and local level.  

Shirkey spent more than a decade in the California Legislative Counsel’s office, drafting legislation and writing legal opinions for members of the Legislature, covering a variety of topics, from state and local government to business and taxation.  

Grewal came to the association from one of the largest landlord-tenant law firms in the state — Kimball, Tirey & St. John, where she represented property owners and managers in all areas of the residential landlord-tenant relationship. 

Shirkey’s and Grewal’s duties include advising CAA’s state and local public affairs teams, providing education and compliance materials, and helping staff the member helpline. They are also registered lobbyists. 

“Both of them have tremendous expertise, and they have already testified in the state Legislature on a variety of different bills,” Bannon said. 

Shirkey’s and Grewal’s government affairs work will complement that of Debra Carlton, CAA’s senior vice president of public affairs, and Tony Bui, vice president of public affairs, as well as CAA’s contract lobbyists: Keith Dunn of Dunn Consulting, and Jim DeBoo of DeBoo Communications. Having six state lobbyists working in Sacramento leaves CAA’s members well-represented, Bannon said. 

Victor Cao

In Orange County, Cao brings wide-ranging experience in the public policy arena, Bannon said, adding that Cao most recently served as chief of staff for the chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and has also led government affairs for the Building Industry Association of Orange County. 

Bannon said Cao’s experience with the building industry will prove especially helpful in advocating for the construction of more rental housing, a key to solving the housing crisis. 

“There is a serious problem out there. And until we get the supply where it needs to be, you are going to have this scarcity of rental units,” Bannon said. “You can’t bring in 1,000 jobs, and only build 100 units. Common sense tells you that’s not going to work.” 

The addition of Cao helps foster an ongoing expansion of CAA’s public affairs staff in Southern California. Cao takes over public affairs responsibilities in Orange County from Matthew Buck, who will now focus on government advocacy in Los Angeles, where CAA has tripled its public affairs presence.  

CAA also has expanded its statewide advocacy efforts at the local level. Until this year, CAA’s 10 local vice presidents have focused exclusively on local issues. Now, they’re also engaging with Assembly members and members of the state Senate at their district offices. 

“This is about politics and about educating the public about the importance of adding new affordable housing units quickly,” Bannon said. “There is this propensity not to build because people don’t want their communities to change. But that’s not going to work for a vibrant California and a vibrant economy.”