Newsom’s Housing Battle Persists as Huntington Beach Rejects Building Requirements

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Huntington Beach Pier on April 5.
Huntington Beach Pier on April 5. Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta are extending their battle against the anti-housing development leaders of Huntington Beach, and looking to take permitting authority from city officials in retaliation for their rejecting the state’s housing requirements.

The state leaders filed a motion Monday to amend California’s lawsuit against Huntington Beach for “brazenly” violating state housing laws by again voting against adoption of the state Housing Element Law, commonly called housing elements. State officials are also now seeking to suspend City Hall’s ability to grant building permits. The state first filed the lawsuit on March 9 to stop the city from preventing affordable housing development, arguing that local officials were exacerbating California’s housing crisis.

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“Huntington Beach continues to fail its residents,” Newsom said in a statement Monday. “Every city and county needs to do their part to bring down the high housing and rent costs that are impacting families across this state. California will continue taking every step necessary to ensure everyone is building their fair share of housing and not flouting state housing laws at the expense of the community.”

Since California filed its lawsuit, Huntington Beach rescinded its ban on applications to build a duplex or to split a current residential lot, or applications for accessory dwelling units. But, on April 4, the City Council declined to adopt a housing element that the state says is 16 months overdue. It calls for construction of 13,368 new homes, including 5,845 affordable units in Huntington Beach.

Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, and said the state needs to file a new lawsuit over Housing Element violation, and that amending is not an option. 

“Bonta has over 240 other cities in the State of California that do not have certified Housing Elements,” Strickland said in a response to the amended lawsuit. “The fact that the attorney general is singling out Huntington Beach only strengthens the city’s arguments in court that the state is not following the law with these housing mandates.”

Additionally, housing elements are subject to the so-called “Builder’s Remedy,” which allows developers to submit projects with 20 percent low-income units or 100 percent moderate-income units without regard to local zoning and general plan standards. And city officials in municipalities that don’t meet their required housing goals, like Huntington Beach, must approve Builder’s Remedy applications.

Huntington Beach previously proposed an ordinance to ban Builder’s Remedy projects, but it has not been advanced to a vote. Bonta said the state is closely monitoring the progress of the proposed ordinance, as well as the city’s actions on any Builder’s Remedy project applications.

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