Governor Gavin Newsom and Esq. Gen. Rob Bonta announced Thursday that the state has filed a lawsuit against Huntington Beach, alleging that the city’s ban on approving applications for certain types of housing projects is a violation of California law.
The state is also filing a preliminary injunction motion, which would prohibit the ban from taking effect while litigation is ongoing. Bonta said he was “disappointed” that the state had to sue.
“California faces an existential housing crisis, one that we should all act in unison to solve,” Bonta said at a news conference. “Instead, the Huntington Beach City Council has chosen to crack down on affordable housing projects, infringe on the rights of homeowners, and knowingly violate state housing law.”
The lawsuit is the latest episode in an ongoing housing standoff between the state and the Orange County beach community, which has been a thorn in the side of Newsom since he took office. Newsom called Huntington Beach an example of “what’s wrong with housing in the state of California.”
“They are Exhibit A, what NIMBYism looks like, and they don’t represent the people they claim to represent,” Newsom said, referencing a term used to describe people who oppose new housing in their neighborhoods. “This is a waste of time and they are wasting taxpayer money.”
A spokesperson for the city of Huntington Beach did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The city, which announced its intention to hold its own press conference on Thursday afternoon, has argued that the Newsom administration is unfairly targeting it.
The lawsuit centers on a ban Huntington Beach has placed on project applications under Senate Bill 9, a new state housing law that makes it easier for homeowners to divide up their single-family lots and build a duplex on each side for a possible total of four units on one parcel.
The law is part of a broader effort the state has undertaken in recent years to bolster California’s housing stock and pave the way for more affordable units. The Huntington Beach City Council also reaffirmed its policy Tuesday to stop accepting applications for accessory dwelling units, also known as casitas, in-law units or granny apartments.
Newsom wired the lawsuit last month when he called Huntington Beach at a news conference and said he would not hesitate to hold cities accountable for doing the right thing and providing housing for people of all income levels.
The lawsuit marks the second time the state has taken its housing battle with the city to court. Just weeks after Newsom took office in 2019, the state filed a lawsuit against Huntington Beach, alleging that the city violated a state law that requires cities and counties to set aside enough land for new residential development.
“The city had enough notice and time to correct course,” Bonta said Thursday. “Instead, they chose a path that led us right to where we are today. They have asked for this and they have earned it.”
Bonta also warned that the lawsuit could be modified to challenge the Huntington Beach lawsuit. proposed ordinance prohibit the approval of any application for a housing development project that does not conform to the city’s zoning and general land use plan, regardless of state law.
pretty previously sent a letter warning the city that the ordinance would violate the “builders’ remedy,” a state law intended to crack down on cities that fail to plan meaningfully for new housing and provide a path toward building more affordable units.
The law allows developers more freedom to build projects in cities that have not adequately planned for more housing and therefore do not meet state requirements. Developers are required to reserve at least 20% of their projects for affordable housing, or 100% for middle-income units, but it is only triggered when local governments fail to submit house plans detailing realistic plans for further development.