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Huntington Beach Sued While Marin County Exempted from Affordable Housing Requirements

Did Govs Brown and Newsom play favorites over affordable housing laws?

By Katy Grimes, January 31, 2019 1:05 am

Gov. Gavin Newsom. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

While Gov. Gavin Newsom has sued the Orange County city of Huntington Beach for failing to provide enough additional “affordable housing,” his own home county of Marin is enjoying a moratorium on affordable housing building requirements until 2028.

“But 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.”

Sneaky language inserted into a in 2017 budget trailer bill allowed Marin County to maintain its extra restrictions on how many homes developers can build, giving the finger to the California Anti-NIMBY Statute, which says:

  • “The lack of housing, including emergency shelters, is a critical problem that threatens the economic, environmental, and social quality of life in California.
  • According to reports and data, California has accumulated an unmet housing backlog of nearly 2,000,000 units and must provide for at least 180,000 new units annually to keep pace with growth through 2025.
  • It is the policy of the state that a local government not reject or make infeasible housing development projects, including emergency shelters, that contribute to meeting the need determined pursuant to this article without a thorough analysis of the economic, social, and environmental effects of the action and without complying with subdivision.”

NIMBY Marin County

In 2017 Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) let Marin County, one of the wealthiest regions in the state, maintain extra restrictions on how many homes can be built, extending the Marin exemption until 2028.

Marc Levine. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Levine had already authored a bill in 2014 that gave Marin a house building exemption until 2023, and argued that the smaller buildings Marin is allowed would result in more housing production by lowering construction costs. But a report on the first measure’s impacts isn’t due until 2019, and SB 106, the budget trailer bill gave the county a further extension now, the Los Angeles Times reported.

With the language quietly tucked into the 2017 budget trailer bill, this allowed the legislation to bypass public hearings and the normal legislative process.

Republicans argued against the housing exemption in the trailer bill, and asked why Marin was allowed to ignore its own housing needs, and instead export its housing obligations to neighboring counties.

“But Democrats who posture as fierce advocates for more housing, even those carrying high-profile housing bills, such as Sens. Toni Atkins and Jim Beall, voted for it and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it,” Dan Walters reported. “For at least another decade, therefore, Marin’s residents can smugly assume that their bucolic lifestyles will not be marred by having more neighbors who don’t make as much money and, you know, just don’t fit in.”

What’s good for the goose…

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.

With Huntington Beach being singled out by the Governor and Attorney General for its lack of affordable housing, many in the state say they should instead focus on the regulatory barriers to new housing developments. Nearly every attempt to reform the California Environmental Quality Act, CEQA, has been met with a wall of resistance. Instead, lawmakers simply vote to exempt powerful and wealthy development projects from CEQA: Sacramento’s Golden1 Center for the Kings basketball team; San Francisco’s Warriors arena; and the Inglewood Chargers/Rams Hollywood Park stadium, to name just a few.

Meanwhile, infrastructure projects, affordable housing, and even transportation projects come under extreme “environmental” scrutiny.

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 has appealed the ruling.

The Department of Housing and Community Development reports that most of California city’s housing plans are in compliance, while 51 cities and counties are 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 are listed in compliance.

Jerry Brown Signs Exemption, then Closes Loophole

While former Gov. Jerry Brown signed the 2017 bill allowing Marin County to remain exempted from affordable housing requirements, he also signed SB 1333 in 2018 to eliminate a “housing loophole” that allows charter cities to reduce sites zoned for affordable housing, even if the action is inconsistent with the cities’ adopted general plans. SB 1333, authored by Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), was drafted in response to the Appellate Court’s Huntington Beach charter city decision. Expect to see SB 1333 legally challenged, because it not only runs contrary to the state Constitution allowing charter cities authority over their municipal affairs, but also by subjecting numerous charter city land use actions to regulation by the state.

AB 72, also signed by Brown, took effect January 1, 2018, and allows the state to revoke a city or county’s existing housing plan compliance and to refer potential cases to the state Attorney General’s Office for litigation. The suit against Huntington Beach is the first such case.

California Globe has filed a California Public Records Act request of Huntington Beach and the California Department of Housing and Community Development for records leading up to the decision by the state to sue the City of Huntington Beach.

Katy Grimes

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of "California's War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?"
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9 thoughts on “Huntington Beach Sued While Marin County Exempted from Affordable Housing Requirements

  1. EXCELLENT news that the Globe is filing a records request that will provide information leading up to the decision to sue the anti-SB54 City of Huntington Beach as first on the Affordable Housing Sinner List. Doubt we’ll see “REVENGE!” written in red crayon in the State’s records but whatever is turned over should be interesting nonetheless…

  2. In early 2014 I lived in HB & I was no longer working and learning to live on Social Security. I more than qualified for affordable housing, I went looking in HB, Filed forms and pounded the pavement to find housing, I signed the list for Emerald Cove Senior apartments in 2014 & was it would be 3 to 5 years.!!!, well I got a call from them last week asking if I was still interested and woman wanted to update my paperwork, After that was done I asked about the Wait List because I am now 75 and she told me it would be another 3 to 5 years!!! I just waited 5 years!!!!! I was told this is just the way it is in HB for senior affordable housing!!!! UNBELIEVEABLE and Discriminating!!

    1. The photo is a total lie. Simple to fact check. But people who spread this trash don’t care whether it’s true or not. They are only too happy to cooperate with Vladimir Putin in fostering divisive hate.

    2. That “black face” photo is a total and complete LIE. Easy to fact check. But people who share this type of trash don’t care if it’s true or false. They are only to happy to cooperate with Vladimir Putin in dividing our country.

  3. Gavin Newsom is an Existential threat to California. Look in the Mirror Newsome the Problem looks back at you every morning. I find this morons speech at the state of the state absolutely ironic , Suing Cities for not creating Affordable housing when it is your (Democrats) lame policy and over regulation that create this issue! You plan on raising taxes, what will that do for Homelessness? I know create more Homeless, and weaken more laws because we cant afford to prosecute crime. California for all? I say enjoy more poverty and stay at the worst cost of living in the Nation. How can Democrats even defend this idiot.

  4. HCD and state law care nothing about transportation and infrastructure. HCD also ignores any environmental concerns. . More to the point – why are some cities mandated a total of two housing units of low income to build?
    The state housing law is a scam by the state government and HCD. Over
    and over again the state is determined to destroy local control as they
    destroy low income housing and cry crocodile tears.
    The state and HCD are certifying other cities’ housing elements that only have an HCD
    required mandated RHNA of 2 low income housing units.
    For reference – one housing unit is one apartment in a building or one house.
    If HCD can approve a housing element that requires a city to build only 2
    very low and low income housing units, why can’t HCD lower Huntington
    Beach’s RHNA to the 2 very low and low income housing units requirement
    of other cities.
    Newport Beach has an housing element RHNA of 5 housing units which
    includes 1 very low and 1 low income housing unit.
    Huntington Beach is penalized with building 533 low income housing
    units. Not fair for Huntington Beach.
    Investigate how many other cities were given lower numbers on the RHNA
    allocations. Shame on HCD and the rest of state government for the RHNA scam to
    ruin cities by court action and demanding higher densities leading
    to overcrowding and failure of infrastructure.
    SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) has a document listing all the
    allocations of housing units numbers for all cities in the SCAG region. The
    required 5th cycle RHNA low income housing units for some other cities in SCAG:
    Beverly Hills = 2 housing units
    El Segundo = 29 housing units
    Malibu = 2 housing units
    Manhattan Beach = 16 housing units
    Newport Beach = 2 housing units
    Palos Verdes Estates = 7 housing units
    Rancho Palos Verdes = 13 housing units
    Sierra Madre = 23 housing units
    Costa Mesa = 2 housing units
    Laguna Beach = 2 housing units
    Dana Point = 129 housing units
    Huntington Beach = 533 housing units
    Hermosa Beach = 2 housing units
    Huntington Beach and the other cities should be suing the state and HCD
    for unfair, unequal, and unjust mandates. Will the Mayors stand up to Gov. Newsom?
    Will all the California cities stand up to the state representatives and demand
    that the housing law be immediately rescinded and removed from the government books.

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