Huntington Beach Fights State Housing Laws
In March, State Attorney General Rob Bonta filed suit against the City of Huntington Beach to require that the city comply with State housing laws that require cities to plan for and approve housing and provide new affordable options. The lawsuit challenges the city’s action to circumvent Senate Bill 9, which allows for modest-density housing on single-family lots, and to stop processing any applications for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Following the lawsuit, there was a series of back-and-forth legal filings, including a State request for a preliminary injunction to require City compliance with State law while the lawsuit is ongoing and a city request for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to halt enforcement of State housing laws, including the Housing Accountability Act and Housing Element Law. The United States District Court for the Central Division of California issued a quick decision that denied the city’s request for a TRO.
In addition to its actions around ADUs and SB 9, the city took action to ban applications filed using the Builder’s Remedy, a law that allows developers to bypass local zoning laws when a city does not have an approved Housing Element. The Attorney General has indicated that this would result in an additional lawsuit.
While only impacting the City of Huntington Beach, the State’s lawsuit shows that it is serious about enforcing recent laws to require that local jurisdictions address their housing needs and meet their fair share obligations. The city could be subject to penalties for its noncompliance, including fines of $10,000 a month or the potential for the appointment of an overseer with the powers to force the city into compliance.