A federal judge denied Huntington Beach’s requested injunction against state housing laws in the city council’s fight against Sacramento on Tuesday, arguing Surf City was unlikely to prevail in the case. 

To read a copy of the judge’s decision, click here

It’s the first decision from a judge in the months-long fight between Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and Surf City’s Republican City Council majority over what the future of housing mandates in California will look like. 

That fight escalated to the courts earlier this month when city leaders sued the state in federal court, arguing the state had no right to mandate where – and how much – they develop housing.

Conversely, Newsom announced the state would be suing the city in state court for violating California’s housing laws.

All on the same day. 

[Read: California’s Battle With Huntington Beach Over Housing Goals Heads To Court]

In their federal filing, Huntington Beach city leaders argued they needed a restraining order to stop the state government from enforcing any penalties or fines on the city until the issue was settled in court. 

But U.S. District Judge Fred Slaughter disagreed. 

“The court finds plaintiffs (Huntington Beach) have not adequately established a likelihood of success on the merits for each of the eleven causes of action in the Complaint,” Slaughter wrote. 

“Although Plaintiffs have submitted three declarations in support … the court finds that each declaration appears to repeat the allegations of the complaint rather than asserting facts.” 

Slaughter also said the city failed to show they would be punished for continuing their case against the state. 

“Given that there is insufficient evidence in the record of any imminent fines, penalties or other punitive measures against plaintiffs, the court finds Plaintiffs have not adequately demonstrated that they will suffer ‘immediate threatened injury.’” Slaughter wrote. 

He also pointed to several other issues with the filing, and said the federal court may need to abstain until it was sorted out in state court. 

Attorney General Rob Bonta praised Slaughter’s decision in a news release on Tuesday. 

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Local governments don’t get to pick and choose which state laws they want to follow. Huntington Beach’s lawsuit is another baseless and obstructionist attempt by the city to defy state housing laws,” Bonta said. “I applaud the court for today’s decision.”

Huntington Beach city leaders haven’t yet issued any statement on the judge’s ruling, but have been publicly calling out the state’s rules for housing rules as overreach for months. 

“It’s the first major step to taking the Governor and state to task over their faulty narratives about housing and unconstitutional legislative and administrative means of stripping charter cities of their ability to make their own decisions,” said Mayor Tony Strickland at a news conference at City Hall where they announced the suit against the state on Mar. 9.

City Attorney Michael Gates, who filed the suit against the state, argued that Huntington Beach was doing more to fight homelessness than any other city in Southern California at that same conference. 

“Quite frankly, stacked up against our neighbors here in the region, we’re doing far more for homelessness and affordable housing,” Gates said. 

Newsom, Bonta and other Democratic state leaders have been publicly trading barbs with the new Republican majority of the Huntington Beach City Council ever since they came into office last year, swearing to fight state mandated housing rules. 

[Read: ‘Poking the Bear’: Surf City Challenges State Housing Laws and Halts Granny Flats]

“This is one of the biggest threats facing our city,” said Councilman Casey McKeon at the council’s Dec. 2022 meeting. “We have to fight this with every fiber of our being.” 

At the city council meeting on Tuesday night, Councilman Pat Burns compared the state government’s housing mandates to Nazi Germany invading his mother’s hometown in France when she was a child. 

“One day the Germans came marching into town and they took it over,” Burns said. “It’s not so different what Sacramento is trying to do to us … it’s gross and I don’t agree with it.” 

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

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