Huntington Beach City Council is expected to ramp up their fight against Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California housing department over state housing laws.
On Tuesday, Surf City leaders are slated to discuss a new law that would ban new development imposed by state mandates Newsom and other state officials warned they will be sued if they move forward.
The state law in question is called “builder’s remedy,” which allows developers to ignore zoning codes in order to build their projects but only if those 20% of the project’s units are affordable housing and if the city does not have a state approved housing plan.
[Read: Will Builder’s Remedy Create Housing Without Local Approval in Orange County?]
Most cities in Orange County don’t have approved housing plans, including Huntington Beach after the council rejected the city’s proposed housing plan at the end of last year.
Huntington Beach’s proposal would stop any attempt at using builder’s remedy within the city, with council members arguing at their past meetings they should have the power to approve or deny projects.
“The City of Huntington Beach is right to challenge these State housing mandates,” said Mayor Tony Strickland in a letter 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.”
The council is expected to discuss their proposed ban on builder’s remedy at tonight’s 6 p.m. city council meeting, which can be viewed here.
Last year, Huntington Beach elected a new Republican city council majority – all of whom ran on a campaign of fighting the over 13,000 homes the city was assigned to zone for as part of the state’s housing goal.
[Read: Republicans on Track to Retake Huntington Beach City Council]
Meanwhile, state officials including Gov. Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta have called out Surf City officials and have warned them that the proposed ordinance banning builder’s remedy violates state law.
“I urge cities to take seriously their obligations under state housing laws. If you don’t, we will hold you accountable,” Bonta said in a news release last month.
The move to challenge the state has picked up concern from the Orange County Register’s Editorial Board.
“Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland has apparently forgotten that he no longer serves in the state Legislature given his plan to defy state laws,” the board wrote in an editorial on Mar. 1. “Strickland and his allies ought to spend more time tending to the city’s problems and less time pretending to be state legislators.”
While the council is set to approve a ban on builder’s remedy applications, there’s limited information on how they plan to do that.
As of Monday March 6, staff had no report prepared for the issue, with the city’s only discussion coming at a planning commission meeting on Valentines’ Day.
Commission members recommended an amendment that would ban Builder’s Remedy in a 4-2 vote.
Some planning commissioners pointed out that this was what voters asked for by electing a city council majority who ran on fighting mandated housing, and that by shooting back against state mandates, they were following the will of the voters.
“The builder’s option is bullying by the state to either pass a housing plan that they’ll approve,” said Commissioner Butch Twining at the Feb. 14 meeting. “Or they’ll put their builder option on us and that’s what I don’t like.”
“I don’t want to see developers just come in here and build wherever they want, whatever they want.”
Others pointed out that the current proposal from city staff lacks many details, since the rules are just one page.
“The City expressly prohibits the processing or approval of any application for a housing development project or any project not in conformance with the zoning and General Plan land use designation … regardless of the so-called “Builder’s Remedy,” staff wrote in the proposed rules.
When commissioners tried to ask questions about it, they didn’t get very far.
“In a hypothetical situation, when an application comes in does that mean the planning department is going to deny that application?” asked planning Commissioner Kayla Acosta-Galvan.
“I don’t want to get into hypothetical situations,” said Mike Vigliotta, chief assistant city attorney. “When the ordinance is adopted we’ll implement it how we determine the ordinance should be implemented.”
Acosta-Galvan then asked about the history of lawsuits challenging builder’s remedy in California, a question Vigliotta declined to answer.
“I’m not going to discuss lawsuits or the legal efficacy of the ordinance,” Vigliotta said.
Noah Biesiada 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 @NBiesiada.
Hosam Elattar 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 @ElattarHosam.
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