California suing Huntington Beach for violating State housing laws

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California Construction News staff writer

Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) have announced the filing of a lawsuit and a motion for preliminary injunction against the City of Huntington Beach for violating state housing laws.

Huntington Beach’s actions directly “threaten statewide efforts to increase the availability of low- to middle-income housing opportunities in the midst of a statewide housing crisis,” the lawsuit states.

Huntington Beach is required to plan for 13,368 new housing units over the next eight years and follow state housing law.

“Huntington Beach elected officials are the poster child for NIMBY-ism, and my Administration will take every measure necessary to hold communities accountable for their failure to build their fair share of housing,” Newsom said in a statement. “The housing crisis facing families across the state demands that all cities and counties do their part, and those that flagrantly violate state housing laws will be held to account.”

Huntington Beach City Council declined to reverse its Feb. 21 action banning the processing of applications for Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) projects and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) projects, in violation of multiple state housing laws.

The city also introduced, “but has not yet adopted, an ordinance purporting to exempt the city from the Builder’s Remedy provision of the state’s Housing Accountability Act (HAA), which streamlines approval of affordable housing projects in cities that do not have a compliant Housing Element,” according to the lawsuit.

“As our state faces an existential housing crisis, we won’t stand idly by as local governments knowingly flout state law meant to protect our communities and bring much needed affordable housing to the people of California,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Huntington Beach’s latest moves fly in the face of the law, stifle affordable housing projects, and infringe on the rights of private property owners in their own community.

“Today’s lawsuit seeks to hold Huntington Beach accountable for their knowing disregard for state housing law, and put a stop to their unlawful attempt to obstruct crucial projects that bring much needed additional housing to our communities.”

In the complaint, the state argues that the city’s ban on approval of certain affordable housing projects is illegal under the HAA, SB 9, the ADU law, and the Housing Crisis Act, and must be struck down. “By banning these projects, the city chose to ignore laws passed by the California State Legislature specifically to address California’s housing affordability crisis and stripped private property owners of their right to build additional units on their own property.”

The suit asks the court to block enforcement of the ban while litigation is ongoing.

At a recent city council meeting, Huntington Beach also introduced a proposed ordinance that, if adopted, would illegally exempt the city from the so-called Builder’s Remedy of the HAA. Attorney General Bonta and HCD have both separately sent letters warning the city that the proposed ordinance violates the HAA and would harm the public by illegally blocking affordable housing projects for low- and middle-income residents.

A copy of the complaint is available here. A copy of the motion for preliminary injunction will become available here when the filing process is complete.

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