Newsom Vs. the NIMBYs of Huntington Beach

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Huntington Beach officials are taking their battle over state housing laws to court.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court and a motion Thursday to stop the City of Huntington Beach from preventing affordable housing development, arguing that local officials are exacerbating California’s housing crisis and violating homeowners’ right to build additional units on their properties under state laws approved in 2021. The city quickly returned the volley and sued the state for forcing it to approve thousands of new homes and violating local authority.

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Huntington Beach in February banned building applications for projects allowed under Senate Bill 9 — which effectively eliminated single-family-only zoning by allowing homeowners to create up to four homes on one parcel — as well as accessory dwelling unit projects. The city also introduced, but has not yet adopted, an ordinance banning the Builder’s Remedy provision of state law, which streamlines approval of affordable housing projects in cities that do not comply with the state’s housing production requirements.

Huntington Beach is required to plan for nearly 13,400 new housing units over the next eight years under state laws that require cities to meet housing demand, opening the door for developers to get fast-tracked approval under the Builder’s Remedy provision. Additionally, a state law passed in 2019 allows a judge to impose fines starting at $10,000 per month for cities that refuse to comply.

State officials said Huntington Beach’s actions directly threaten efforts to increase low- to middle-income opportunities in the midst of a statewide housing crisis. The lawsuits come after Newsom and Bonta issued several warnings over the past month.

“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 Thursday.

Bonta said California officials won’t stand by while local governments “knowingly flout state law” meant to increase affordable housing while the state faces an existential housing crisis.

“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,” Bonta said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When it comes to building affordable housing, we all have a part to play, and Huntington Beach is no exception.”

Gregory Cornfield can be reached at gcornfield@commercialobserver.com.