California’s top cop says Anaheim city leaders illegally blocked
“The City of Anaheim’s effort to limit Grandma’s House of Hope’s ability to provide much-needed housing opportunities to this vulnerable group of women is a clear violation of California law,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta in a Monday news release announcing a lawsuit against the city.
State officials are putting other cities on notice that they’re going to be keeping a closer eye on city approval processes for housing for homeless people.
California Department of Housing and Community Development Director Gustavo Velasquez said officials will hold cities accountable to provide much-needed housing to homeless people.
“The barriers that people with disabilities face daily are only compounded by discrimination. The state will take legal steps necessary to ensure that housing discrimination against people with disabilities and all Californians ends. Cities and counties across the state will be held accountable for attempts to evade fair housing and anti-discrimination laws,” Velasquez said in the news release.
“The support and assistance that transitional housing providers like Grandma’s House of Hope deliver are essential in addressing California’s homelessness crisis and the shortage of housing for people with disabilities.”
State housing officials said city officials violated housing law by forcing the shelter to undergo a conditional use permit process only to deny the application to house 20 women and a site supervisor – an increase from the six or fewer currently housed.
The Monday news release said housing laws “require cities and counties to both refrain from discriminating against individuals or groups based on disabilities and to affirmatively further fair housing. The Attorney General is asking the court to allow HCD to intervene in a lawsuit that Grandma’s House of Hope filed against Anaheim earlier this year.”
During a public hearing last October, residents who live close to the shelter told city officials they were concerned about the safety of their neighborhood and said the Colony District neighborhood was saturated with commercial businesses being run out of houses – like daycares and drug rehabs.
“Unfortunately, local communities often oppose the creation of these facilities that serve people experiencing homelessness, due to stigma against this population and the mistaken perception that the opening of housing opportunities for this population will lead to increased rates of crime, litter, traffic, and disruptive behavior,” reads the housing department’s court filing.
City spokesman Mike Lyster said the city’s committed to the type of housing Grandma’s House of Hope provides.
“Anaheim’s track record and commitment to transitional and supportive housing is clear and unmatched in Orange County, as seen with our longstanding partnership with Grandma’s House of Hope,” Lyster said in a Monday email. “Anaheim is proud of its work with nonprofit Grandma’s House of Hope, which has 10 approved transitional homes in the city.”
But the city also needs to find balance, he said.
“At the same time, we must also look at concentration and proximity, not just for those already living in a neighborhood but for those in need of healthy, recovery housing in a neighborhood setting,” Lyster said. “While that is a delicate, challenging balancing act that falls to local governments such as ours, we look forward to a resolution and moving forward.”
Lyster said the house is currently housing six women or less.
Grandma’s House of Hope appealed the permit’s denial by city planning commissioners in a Oct. 26 council meeting last year. Council members unanimously denied their request, according to meeting minutes.
“The Council’s action came after considering an existing 12 group homes for transitional housing, elderly care, adult special needs and others within 2,000 feet of the proposed women’s home,” Lyster said Monday.
State housing officials are looking to end Anaheim’s “special conditions on transitional and supportive housing and from discriminating aginst housing based on its intended occupants disabilities or incomess,” according to the news relase.
This isn’t the first time the City of Anaheim has been at odds with officials from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
Earlier this year, the city came under fire from state housing officials for illegally selling Angel Stadium under the beefed up Surplus Land Act.
State officials imposed a $96 million fine – restructured on the back end of the $150 million cash deal – that would’ve required Anaheim to build affordable housing throughout the city.
Former Mayor Harry Sidhu said the fine would’ve been paid by “new cash” from the team’s owner, Arte Moreno.
But city documents showed that money was slated to be taken out of the $170 million in “community benefits credits” officials were shaving off the stadium price – reducing the cash price from $320 million to $150 million.
At the 11th hour, an FBI corruption probe put a halt to the sale.
In a sworn affidavit attached to a last-minute court filing from Bonta, federal agents alleged Sidhu tried ramming through the stadium sale for a $1 million campaign contribution.
Sidhu has denied any wrongdoing and hasn’t been publicly charged with a crime.
An OC judge put the deal on hold for 60 days and the city council eventually killed the land sale deal a day after Sidhu resigned.
Spencer Custodio is the civic editor. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.