Court green lights suit on La Cañada Flintridge builder’s remedy project

"Developers are punching back and winning,” says Cedar Street Partners principal

Court Green Lights Suit on Builder’s Remedy Project

From left: Cedar Street Partners’ Alexandra Hack and La Cañada Flintridge mayor Rick Gunter along with 600 Foothill Boulevard (Getty, Cedar Street Partners, Together La Cañada, La Cañada Flintridge, LinkedIn)

An L.A. County judge has ruled developer Cedar Street Partners can move forward with a suit against the City of La Cañada Flintridge over a project proposed under the state legal provision called builder’s remedy. 

Cedar Street Partners filed its suit in July, alleging the city violated state housing law by failing to approve an 80-unit project at 600 Foothill Boulevard that the developers claim is subject to builder’s remedy. The development firm asked the court to compel city officials to approve the project. 

Under state housing law, builder’s remedy is a legal provision that allows developers to bypass typical approval processes for housing projects if a city does not meet its deadline to secure a state-approved housing plan. Those projects must include a certain percentage of affordable units. 

In the court’s ruling on Nov. 22, Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff rejected a demurrer from the city — a formal objection that attempted to dismiss some of Cedar Street Partners’ original claims. 

Cedar Street Partners principal Alexandra Hack called the ruling a “glimmer of hope.” 

“Developers are punching back and winning,” she said.

The City of La Cañada Flintridge had made a number of objections, including arguing the project had not been fully reviewed under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. 

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Mayor Rick Gunter declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation. 

In its demurrer, the city also argued that it never denied Cedar Street Partners’ preliminary application — rather, just deemed the project did not qualify under the builder’s remedy provision and was, therefore, incomplete. Builder’s remedy-qualified projects only need to submit preliminary project applications, not full ones. 

Cedar Street Partners had requested to appeal that city decision, though the city denied the request.

Cedar Street Partners “sufficiently alleged” that the City Council’s “denial of the appeal constituted a disapproval of the housing development project,” according to the court’s ruling.

La Canãda Flintridge is mostly home to large, single-family homes, rather than rental units. According to Zillow, only 14 homes and apartments in the city, home to more than 20,000, are currently available for rent. 

Unlike the City of Santa Monica, which came to a settlement with Neil Shekhter’s WS Communities in May over 14 builder’s remedy applications, the La Canãda Flintridge has not proposed a settlement over the case, according to Hack. A trial for the lawsuit has been set for March 1.  

With Santa Monica, WS Communities agreed to pull most of its builder’s remedy applications. In exchange, the city granted expedited processing and additional incentives on potential new projects that fit with an updated zoning code.