After long nights spent boxing the state over local housing goals, Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland goes home to a condo on Breezy Lane.
It’s part of a residential community built in 1999, and there’s a reason that Strickland’s residing there has been of interest to his critics:
It’s affordable housing.
Known as Cape Ann, the 146-unit development has an affordable housing covenant, according to the City of Huntington Beach.
Its income eligibility is listed as ‘moderate,’ with a price set not by market conditions, but by the city, to ensure buyers spend no more than a certain amount of their income toward their housing expenses.
While living there, Strickland and his Republican council colleagues have fought against state-mandated goals to increase the town’s housing stock, including affordable homes, through lawsuits and news conferences outside of City Hall.
Critics say the majority’s effort will threaten efforts to house people, but the majority says Sacramento’s unfairly burdened the city with unrealistic goals.
The city has been tasked with zoning for 13,368 new homes – over 5,800 of which have to be for very low income and low income families.
It’s a quota the city’s now fighting in court.
And against this backdrop, Strickland’s own home has come into focus.
In a phone interview, Strickland acknowledged the affordable condo as his primary residence, after an online critic of Strickland and the council’s Republican majority, @LarryTenney, posted property and campaign records to Twitter showing the mayor’s listed address.
“I do live there,” said the 53-year-old whose address is also listed on his voter registration. “My wife, with her ex-husband, bought the home together in 2000. And when she and I got married, we agreed to put all our assets into a family trust … Her name’s on the mortgage.”
Twenty years ago, he said he would have supported a project like this, because “it fits within” his and other locals’ vision for a “suburban coastal community.”
“I just don’t want to urbanize Huntington Beach.”
Strickland calls the condo a source of security in the face of the unknown.
“God forbid something happened to my wife – this whole thing goes to her children.”
It’s the same type of security – or the desire for it – that’s driven statewide outcry over a fundamental need: Homes, and cheaper ones, amidst a public camping and homeless crisis and sky-high coastal cost of living.
One tool to make inroads is state-mandated housing goals over eight-year cycles for local jurisdictions. They’re set by a regional governing board and there are penalties for not going along. The most recent and famous example: Builder’s Remedy.
But whether the housing gets built all depends on local zoning, which depends, in turn, on the political attitudes of a given City Council.
And recent months have shown that Surf City is all about local control, questioning Sacramento’s process used for assigning the mandated number of homes for cities to build.
As of last week, city officials and Attorney General Rob Bonta were suing each other as a result.
In February, Strickland and three of his council colleagues voted to direct the elected city attorney, Michael Gates, to challenge two state housing laws aimed at forcing local cities to allow granny flats on existing residential properties.
The next month: They voted to block the state penalty, Builder’s Remedy, for not complying with their share of regional housing construction goals.
“There is a war on the automobile and there is a war on suburbia and they want to urbanize California,” Strickland said that night.
He again made the contention over the phone on Wednesday.
“If people in Huntington Beach don’t want to live in a suburban community … they’d move to Los Angeles or San Francisco.”
Speaking into Strickland’s phone, his wife Carla said she bought the house for around $319,000 with $70,000 back in the year 2000.
She said their monthly impounded mortgage payments – which typically include insurance and property taxes – fall around “$1,400.” With everything: “$2,300,”
After Strickland and his allied colleagues’ March 8 vote, Newsom in a Tweet called the move “selfish” – making “our homeless crisis worse.”
“The city has tried these antics before. They lost then and they will lose now.”
Then the state came down.
On March 9, Governor Gavin Newsom and other state leaders announced a against the city, over the council’s action regarding granny flats.
Later that day, Strickland stood alongside other leaders like Gates and announced their own lawsuit against the state to shut down affordable housing mandates altogether, claiming overreach by Sacramento and an infringement on local zoning authority.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job as mayor, as a councilman and as an individual if I didn’t push back on that,” Strickland said. “Because I do not believe that.”
This article was updated at 3:42 p.m. to clarify an error on Strickland’s quote about residents wanting to live in a suburban community and the price for which the home was purchased.
Noah Biesiada and Hosam Elattar contributed reporting to this story.