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CA pursues legal action against Huntington Beach for violating affordable housing mandates

CA pursues legal action against Huntington Beach for violating affordable housing mandates
CA pursues legal action against Huntington Beach for violating affordable housing mandates 02:14

The State of California is pursuing legal action against the city of Huntington Beach for its refusal to comply with affordable housing state requirements.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta held a  joint press conference Thursday announcing the suit. Newsom called Huntington Beach the poster child for NIMBY-ism -- advancing "not in my backyard" policies.

Huntington Beach was ordered by the state to build 13,368 affordable housing units.

"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," said Newsom.

The Huntington Beach City Council just recently voted to ignore homebuilding applications filed under the "builder's remedy." This provision allows developers to sidestep zoning restrictions in cities without a state-approved housing plan. This has not been officially adopted by the council but is on the council's agenda once again in late March.

The council also voted not to accept any new applications for backyard housing units -- ADUs, or granny flats. 

The state had put the city on warning after these actions, saying they would hold the city accountable for trying to circumvent state requirements. The newly filed state lawsuit says Huntington Beach can't violate state housing laws.

In the complaint, Attorney General Bonta and Housing and Community Development argue that the city's ban on approval of certain affordable housing projects is illegal under the HAA, SB 9, the ADU law,     

Senate Bill 9, also called the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency ("HOME") Act, was signed into law on September 16, 2021. The so-called "duplex bill" is part of an initiative to address California's housing crisis. SB 9 provides a legal, streamlined process for homeowners to subdivide their urban single-family residential lot and/or build additional residential units on their property. 

"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," said Attorney General Rob Bonta. "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."

In the filings, the Attorney General and HCD further ask the court to block enforcement of the city's ban on ADUs while litigation is ongoing, arguing that in addition to exacerbating the state's housing crisis, the policy harms homeowners who lawfully seek to build in-law units, or other additional units on their properties.

The city has defended its decisions based on the fact they are a charter city, which they say gives them greater autonomy and is not subject to state housing laws.

This is a developing story. The city of Huntington Beach is planning a news conference in response to the filing.

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