Huntington Beach is gearing up to sue state officials over mandated housing rules, with council members focused on regaining local control for zoning decisions on residential development.
Surf City Councilmembers at their Tuesday meeting voted 4-3 to direct City Attorney Michael Gates to challenge two housing state laws aimed at forcing local cities to allow granny flats, also known as Accessory Dwelling Units in development jargon.
It’s setting the stage for a courtroom showdown between HB’s newly elected Republican city council majority and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration.
“This is just poking the bear, the California bear, if you will. And I think that this is just absolutely not needed,” City Councilman Dan Kalmick said Tuesday night, warning his colleagues that lawsuits could hurt city coffers.
Newsom lambasted city council members over the move and also criticized their new flag policy introduced Tuesday.
“Tonight, Huntington Beach leaders decided that their residents don’t need affordable housing. This is a pathetic pattern by politicians more focused on taking down pride flags than on real solutions. CA needs more housing. Time for Huntington Beach to start acting like it,” Newsom tweeted out Tuesday night.
But city council majority members say the move is about local officials and residents deciding what their skyline will look like.
“Really the issue is a matter of local control. It should be incumbent on the residents who live here to decide how they zone their city, and if they want to allow ADUs,” said Councilman Casey McKeon at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We’re pushing back against the state mandates that are piercing our local control to allow us to protect our property rights.”
Council members also directed staff to stop processing developer permits for granny flats under the laws, which allow the small buildings to be constructed regardless of local zoning ordinances or city approval.
“The State’s housing laws in recent years have become incredibly onerous and burdensome to cities, including fully developed cities like Huntington Beach,” wrote Councilman Pat Burns, who called for the challenge.
“The City has a duty to protect the quality and lifestyle of the neighborhoods that current owners have already bought into.”
It remains unclear what exactly the city is going to sue the state for, with Gates declining to publicly comment on the issue at the meeting and saying he would talk with the council behind closed doors at a later date.
Councilmembers Dan Kalmick, Natalie Moser and Rhonda Bolton were the dissenting votes.
Kalmick submitted his own memo against Burns’ request.
“Radical redevelopment in already-established residential neighborhoods is not only a threat to quality and lifestyle, but to the value of the adjacent and neighboring properties,” Burns wrote in his memo.
“Huntington Beach should not have its Charter City zoning rights provided for by the California Constitution trampled by the State.”
Kalmick pointed out how the city has yet to receive any applications under SB 9 and that the council’s decision was “a solution looking for a problem,” that could lead to the city not zoning for enough new housing.
“It sounds like we’re trying to set up more lawsuits with the state so that we can go to war with the state on this,” Kalmick said Tuesday. “We’re going to not be able to certify our housing element.”
The new Republican council majority has repeatedly picked fights with Sacramento over housing laws since their inauguration, with Newsom and the state’s department of Housing and Community Development repeatedly warning them their actions would land them in court – including hours before Tuesday’s meeting.
“We’re racking up the fastest number of letters we can get from the state threatening to sue us and violate state housing law,” Kalmick said.
The council majority has shown no sign of backing down, with Mayor Tony Strickland issuing multiple statements criticizing Newsom.
“The City of Huntington Beach is right to challenge these State housing mandates,” said Mayor Tony Strickland in a letter responding to state officials on Jan. 12. “We don’t need to hear a lecture from Governor Newsom. Gavin Newsom left San Francisco in shambles as Mayor and is doing the same thing to our state.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.