California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Bonta are once again hectoring Huntington Beach in conservative Orange County over state affordable housing requirements.
The Voice of OC reported:
“The City of Huntington Beach continues to attempt to evade their responsibility to build housing, but they will simply not win,” Newsom said in a Tuesday press release.
“City leaders have a choice – build more housing or face very real consequences – including loss of state funds, substantial fines, and loss of local control.”
I am reminded when, as one of his first acts as governor, in 2019, Gov. Newsom sued the Orange County city of Huntington Beach for failing to provide enough additional “affordable housing,” while his own home county of Marin enjoyed a moratorium on affordable housing building requirements until 2028, the Globe reported.
Newsom vowed that because “some cities are refusing to do their part to address this crisis and willfully stand in violation of California law,”Newsom said. “Those cities will be held to account.”
Only, left-leaning Marin won’t be held to account the way conservative Huntington Beach will.
“The State’s housing laws in recent years have become incredibly onerous and burdensome to cities, including fully developed cities like Huntington Beach,” wrote Councilman Pat Burns, who called for the challenge.
“The City has a duty to protect the quality and lifestyle of the neighborhoods that current owners have already bought into.”
“Radical redevelopment in already-established residential neighborhoods is not only a threat to quality and lifestyle, but to the value of the adjacent and neighboring properties,” Burns wrote in his memo.
“Huntington Beach should not have its Charter City zoning rights provided for by the California Constitution trampled by the State.”
The Huntington Beach Council then voted 4-3 to direct City Attorney Michael Gates to challenge the housing state laws aimed at forcing local cities to allow granny flats, (Accessory Dwelling Units).
As we reported in 2019, the California Department of Housing and Community Development is the state agency charged with overseeing local governments’ housing plans. “Since 1969, California has required that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community,” the agency says on its website.
Also on the website of the Housing agency are links to “Status and Copies of All Housing Elements.” Only, “all” cities are not included in the report, “Copies of all housing elements.”
Notably absent are cities in Marin County.
Huntington Beach is a charter city which has more local controls, exempting it from some state zoning laws, according to a panel of the California 4th District Court of Appeal. The appeals court ruled in 2017 that charter cities like Huntington Beach can approve plans that don’t meet the state’s housing requirements and can eliminate sites zoned for affordable housing. The state appealed the ruling.
The Department of Housing and Community Development reported in 2019 that most of California city’s housing plans are in compliance, while 51 cities and counties were not, including Huntington Beach… and Selma, Orange Cove, Holtville, Lake County, Bradbury, Claremont, La Puente, Maywood, Montebello, Paramount, Rolling Hills, South El Monte, Westlake Village, Atwater… while all Marin County cities were listed in compliance.
That report is no longer available on the housing department website.
“California’s Housing Element Law acknowledges that, in order for the private market to adequately address the housing needs and demand of Californians, local governments must adopt plans and regulatory systems that provide opportunities for (and do not unduly constrain) housing development. As a result, housing policy in California rests largely on the effective implementation of local general plans and, in particular, local housing elements.”
Huntington Beach has an extensive list of affordable housing on its website, as well as Affordable Ownership Housing.
A recent report in the Marin Independent Journal updated the county’s issues with affordable housing requirements:
Marin County and its municipalities have been mandated by the state to allow more than 14,000 new residences by 2031, but less than half the housing will meet the county’s definition of affordable.
Marin supervisors raised the issue in July 2021 when they unsuccessfully appealed the county’s assignment to allow 3,569 new dwellings. Of that total, just 1,734, or 48.56%, are required to meet the affordability standard.
Neither Marin County nor Huntington Beach should not be forced to comply with the state’s one-size-fits-all housing mandates – even granny flats behind the main house. Cities and counties are much better suited to determine housing needs – and if they even want more housing built in their region. Water requirements, roads and bridges, are impacted, as are public schools, hospitals and medical facilities, and even grocery stores, and these are all issues the governor and legislators constantly badger cities and counties over.
Even “affordable” housing is very expensive in California, and that is because of state and local zoning and permitting, making it progressively harder to construct new housing. The median home price in California is approximately $800,000, more than double the national average of about $350,000. To even build apartments in California, unit costs are also as high as $800,000.
And California has beautiful weather, and many very desirable areas to live: the coast, the mountains, desert, and picturesque rural areas. Supply and demand are at work in California, but that’s not all.
“No amount of upzoning will make low- and very-low-income housing financially feasible to build without subsidies,” Matthew Lewis, a spokesman for California YIMBY, told the Marin Independent Journal. Lewis indicates that people who cannot afford to live in Marin County should be able to.
Yet, People make decisions every day where to live and work, usually based on what they can afford.
City leaders have repeatedly said they will not stop challenging the state’s mandated housing laws, promising to “unleash” city attorney Michael Gates.
“The City of Huntington Beach is right to challenge these State housing mandates,”said Mayor Tony Strickland said in a letter responding 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.”
On Tuesday, Newsom said HB officials won’t win that fight.
This sounds intensely personal with the governor, and an abuse of power.
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