Huntington Beach deserves to be sued.
California has a crippling housing shortage that has driven up home prices and rents, fueled homelessness and pushed residents and businesses out of the state. And yet, city leaders somehow think their wealthy Orange County coastal enclave should be exempt from producing its fair share of housing.
Of course, the city should not be exempt. It is good news that Governor Gavin Newsom and Esq. General Rob Bonta sued Huntington Beach for violating state housing laws. The lawsuit should be a warning to other communities: California is cracking down on cities that try to evade new laws meant to encourage homebuilding.
Huntington Beach and other cities sincerely complain that state legislators trample on their local control. In fact, the state has adopted ambitious new laws that, among other things, require cities to approve backyard and duplex housing in single-family neighborhoods and enact enforceable plans that identify where new affordable and market-rate housing can be built.
However, those laws were adopted for a good reason: Cities failed to build housing. For decades, local elected leaders leaned on Not In My Backyard demands to block or restrict housing in the name of preventing traffic or protecting the neighborhood’s character. As a result, the state has not built enough housing to keep up with population growth.
To alleviate shortages and lower prices, California will need a 2.5 million households by 2030. But the state builds only about 125,000 units a year. All cities will have to facilitate the construction of more housing. Even Huntington Beach.
Despite numerous warnings from state officials, the Huntington Beach City Council recently voted reject applications to build accessory dwelling units or duplexes in single-family zones, prohibiting projects that are legal under state law.
The council also plans to ignore applications filed under the “builders’ remedy,” a provision of state law that says homebuilders can ignore local zoning and propose whatever they want in cities that haven’t drafted a development plan. housing that meets state requirements. Builder solution projects only need to ensure that 20% of the units are affordable. Huntington Beach, not surprisingly, does not have a compatible home plan.
Hours after Newsom and Bonta’s announcement, Huntington Beach filed its own demand in federal court, challenging a state requirement that the city make room for more than 13,000 new units over the next few years. The lawsuit accused the state of playing an “unbridled power play” to turn Huntington Beach into a “high-density mecca.”
The coastal city’s leaders seem more interested in preserving an idealized vision of the suburbs than helping people who live and work in Huntington Beach and want more housing options. People like Ty Youngblood, who planned to build an accessory dwelling unit in the home of her 80-year-old mother so her family could live with her and take care of her. After paying for the engineering and architectural plans, Youngblood said, his project is now on lockdown.
Although Huntington Beach is the most openly resistant to complying with state housing laws, there are other galling examples of cities trying to evade their obligations. Officials in Sausalito have proposed putting new housing in places that are underwater. Woodside leaders infamously attempted to declare the Tony’s Bay Area community a mountain lion sanctuary to foil duplex developments. And in La Cañada Flintridge, a pastor agreed to include his church as an “imaginary” site where affordable housing could be built so the city could claim its housing plan met state standards.
California’s housing crisis is too serious to tolerate filibuster. So Newsom and Bonta, continue the fair fight against the NIMBY cities.