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Huntington Beach will decide behind closed doors if they want to go to court over a push by the state to build more housing across California.

Meanwhile, Santa Ana officials, in a report for next week, are touting their progress in surpassing the state’s expectations over the last year. 

Cities all over the county next week will be meeting to discuss issues around housing.

Cypress, Fountain Valley and Placentia officials are set to tackle the role of housing in their long-term urban planning documents and strategies covering the next few decades — largely known as General Plans. 

Brea will mull over the role of accessory dwelling units — known more commonly as granny flats — in helping officials there meet the housing goals imposed on them by the state, mandating that cities everywhere have generally decried as overly onerous and burdensome. 

The agenda for the Huntington Beach City Council’s next meeting Monday has scheduled in closed session discussion on whether to file a lawsuit over the methodology used by a regional association to distribute state mandated housing goals in Southern California.

That association is known as the Southern California Association of Governments, or SCAG. 

In the current cycle of SCAG’s requirements of local cities, which spans this year through 2029, Huntington Beach will have to zone for over 13,000 new homes — over 5,800 will have to be for very low income and low income families.

Council members there, like in other cities, have publicly taken issue with this, and are now considering going to court over it. 

On the other hand, Santa Ana officials say they’re having no trouble meeting those goals in a report attached to the agenda for their next meeting on Tuesday, which reflects their progress in 2020 under the previous cycle.

In 2020, Santa Ana built 452 units of very low-income housing; 1,116 units of low-income housing; 65 units of moderate income housing; and 3,274 units of above moderate housing. 

Each of those numbers exceeded their respective regional housing requirements. 

Last year, officials cited that progress when they slashed affordable housing requirements on development projects in the city — essentially making it easier for luxury housing to spring up in the densely-populated section of the county. 

Yet critics of their move at the time pointed out that while Santa Ana had indeed exceeded its affordable housing goals, it was exceeding its luxury housing goals at a much higher pace. 

[Read: Santa Ana Moves Forward With Reduced Affordable Housing Requirements

This was in a city where some say the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout made clear that many residents face a housing affordability crisis — so much so that during the pandemic, officials enacted eviction protections, and at one point a rent freeze, for many low-income renters.

In the current cycle, Santa Ana is tasked with zoning for close to 3,100 new homes — over 900 of which will have to be for very low income and low income families.

Irvine, Newport Beach, Garden Grove and Yorba Linda all tried to move a portion of their allocation to Santa Ana.

Santa Ana has 10,000 new units city council members approved or have under review, while only being required to zone for a little over 3,000 units, according to a letter sent from Newport Beach last October to the Southern California Association of Governments.

[Read: Newport Beach and Garden Grove Set to Tackle Where New State-Mandated Housing Should Go]

A couple years ago, the state sued Huntington Beach over for what they described as a failure to allow enough affordable homes to be built

The city agreed to settle the lawsuit last year.

The state assigned the Southern California Association of Governments — made up of city council members across the region — to come up with zoning for 1.3 million homes across six counties, including more than 180,000 in Orange County by Oct. 2029.

Sixteen cities in the county, including Huntington Beach, filed appeals with the regional board to try to bring down the number of homes they have to zone for by the 2029 deadline. 

The regional board denied all of the appeals. 

They did, however, partially approve two appeals – one for the city of Pico Rivera and one for the county of Riverside, meaning over 3,000 units will be redistributed to all the cities in the region.

Uproar from city officials started when the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) approved a draft plan in 2019 to distribute the homes across the region. 

The board argues the draft plan was approved by state officials and that it fairly distributes new homes in a way where OC’s requirements are still less than its share of the region’s population.

[Read: Could New State Housing Rules Force OC Cities to Zone for More Than 100,000 Homes?]

City councils in Orange County have publicly criticized methodology used to distribute the homes as unfair, unvetted and failing to take into account the County’s concerns and input, with some city officials accusing Riverside and Los Angeles County for conspiring to “thwart” the process.

[Read: Newport Beach Joins Other Cities in Battle With State for Greater Local Control on Land Use]

City council members all over California are calling for greater control on zoning and housing issues within their own borders in response to various state bills that officials say usurps local governance. 

A battle with the state over the issue is brewing in cities across California.

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @photherecord.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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