Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state leaders announced they were expanding their lawsuit against Surf City on Monday afternoon, seeking to penalize the city for failing to adopt a new housing plan.
“Huntington Beach continues to fail its residents,” Newsom said in a Monday news release. “California will continue taking every step necessary to ensure everyone is building their fair share of housing and not flouting state housing laws at the expense of the community.”
While Huntington Beach has been mulling a new state-mandated housing plan since their last one expired 16 months ago, city leaders shot down the proposed plan at their meeting last Tuesday in a 4-3 vote, leaving the city without a plan for how they’d meet the state imposed goals for development.
[Read: Surf City Cans Housing Plan, Sets Up Another Legal Fight With Sacramento]
Now, state leaders are amending their lawsuit to go after Huntington Beach for that decision.
The new Republican majority on the Huntington Beach City Council has repeatedly fought with Newsom, a Democrat, over those mandates, arguing that the 13,368 units imposed on Surf City are unrealistic.
At last week’s city council meeting, Mayor Tony Strickland said the government closest to the people is best for the people.
“He’s not here. He doesn’t live here. We represent – we’re out in the community. He shouldn’t make those decisions, we should make those decisions,” Strickland said about Newsom at the meeting.
In a statement on Monday evening to the city’s website, Strickland pointed out that well over 200 other cities still don’t have approved housing plans and questioned why the state was singling out Huntington Beach.
“These regular State press releases announcing legal actions against Huntington Beach may grab headlines, but they do not intimidate or deter the City, and they have no effect in the court of law, where these conflicts of law will ultimately be decided,” Strickland said.
The legal wars between the City of Huntington Beach and the state formally launched last month, when they sued one another simultaneously under different portions of the state housing code.
[Read: California’s Battle With Huntington Beach Over Housing Goals Heads To Court]
In Huntington Beach’s federal lawsuit, City Attorney Michael Gates argued that the state had no right to mandate how much housing Huntington Beach zoned for, and requested the courts intervene to stop any penalties from the state until the issue was decided.
But a judge denied the request, adding that the city had failed to prove they would likely win the case as it played out in court.
“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,” wrote US District Court Judge Slaughter.
[Read: Federal Judge Denies Huntington Beach’s Requested Injunction Against State Housing Law]
The state of California’s lawsuit, filed in state courts, argued the city’s ban for new accessory dwelling units, also known as granny flats or ADUs, violated state laws because the issue hadn’t yet been decided in court.
After that announcement, Huntington Beach leaders reversed course, and pledged to continue accepting applications to build new units while the issue was worked out in court.
But on Monday, Attorney General Rob Bonta added a new claim in the lawsuit: the city’s failure to adopt a state-mandated housing plan.
And they want Huntington Beach to feel some penalties.
“Time and time again, Huntington Beach has demonstrated they are part of the problem by defiantly refusing every opportunity to provide essential housing for its own residents,” said Bonta in a news release. “We won’t stand idly by as Huntington Beach continues to flagrantly violate state housing laws.”
Not having a compliant housing plan can have various consequences, including millions in fines and losing local control when it comes to zoning.
Read: What Happens To Cities That Defy California’s Housing Mandates?
It can also result in a state penalty known as builder’s remedy – an obscure law that could allow developers to sidestep city approval for housing development projects where 20% of the homes are affordable.
“As Huntington Beach remains non-compliant with the state Housing Element Law, the Builder’s Remedy is in effect, and the city must approve Builder’s Remedy projects that meet the legal criteria,” reads a Monday news release from the Governor’s office.
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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