Realtors’ rep sues six cities for failing to adopt state housing plans

Group tied to California Association of Realtors accused cities of breaking laws requiring plans to create new housing

California Association of Realtors President Otto Catrina (GAOR, iStock)
California Association of Realtors President Otto Catrina (GAOR, iStock)

A nonprofit group tied to the California Association of Realtors has sued six Southland cities for failing to meet state housing plan deadlines.

Californians for Homeownership filed the lawsuits under new rules that boost penalties for local governments that don’t comply with state laws requiring they plan for their fair share of housing, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

The group sued the Los Angeles County cities of Bradbury, La Habra Heights, Manhattan Beach, Vernon and South Pasadena, and the Orange County city of Laguna Hills.

The lawsuits asked the courts to require each city to expedite and adopt a compliant housing element. The state housing department would be required to review them within 45 days, with a court order to get them approved.

Under state law, cities must revise the “housing elements” of their general plans every eight years to zone enough land to accommodate state-mandated housing targets at all income levels. In the six-county Southern California Association of Governments region, 197 cities and counties were supposed to complete those revisions by Oct. 15 of last year.

Those that didn’t within 120 days were technically out of compliance and could face penalties, including litigation.

By the end of the grace period on Feb. 11, the state Housing and Community Development Department had approved housing elements for just five cities and one county. Four others have been approved since. At 112 local jurisdictions have completed housing elements now under state review.

The cities included in the Californians for Homeownership complaint were accused of dragging their feet to avoid increased housing targets. Three cities hadn’t submitted draft housing elements for review.
“The goal of these lawsuits is to fundamentally change the way that California’s cities and counties approach their housing planning obligations,”

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

By signing up, you agree to TheRealDeal Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

California Association of Realtors President Otto Catrina said in a statement. “For far too long, cities have treated compliance with these laws as optional, and we hope to put an end to that approach.”

Officials in South Pasadena and Laguna Hills declined to comment to the newspaper, while Bradbury and Vernon did not respond. A La Habra Heights attorney said the city submitted a draft housing element “fully compliant with the law.” A Manhattan Beach spokesperson declined to comment because the city hadn’t been served the complaint.

Faced with rising rents, soaring home prices and high rates of homelessness, state lawmakers start drafting laws in 2017 to address California’s housing crisis. Gov. Gavin Newsom won office in 2018 after vowing to dramatically boost homebuilding across the state.

The state determined the six-county SCAG region must plan for 1.34 million new homes by October 2029 – triple the housing goal for the previous 2013-21 planning cycle.

New rules require greater study of how proposed housing sites could be redeveloped by 2030, especially for low-income housing. New penalties for not complying include withholding a city’s or county’s ability to issue building permits or enforce their zoning laws, with the possibility of litigation and daily fines.

Non-compliant jurisdictions also face the loss of federal and state grants for programs ranging from parks to assistance for building affordable housing.

[Los Angeles Daily News] – Dana Bartholomew