Huntington Beach appeals housing mandate decision in federal court

OC city maintains the state’s requirement that it build 13K homes violates its rights

Huntington Sends Housing Mandate Decision to Appeals Court
Huntington Beach Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark (City of Huntington Beach, Getty)

Huntington Beach has dug in its heels against a state requirement to plan for thousands of homes.

The Orange County city has appealed a federal judge’s decision to toss its challenge to a state requirement that the city plan to build nearly 13,400 homes by the end of the decade, the Daily Pilot reported.

The city filed its case with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, hoping to reverse the November decision by U.S. District Judge Fred Slaughter to dismiss the case. 

In March, the state sued Huntington Beach, accusing it of knowingly violating state housing laws. 

Hours later, “Surf City USA” filed a 59-page lawsuit against the state, alleging state housing laws, including an eight-year housing plan known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, violate the city’s right to zone property. 

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, argued that Huntington Beach was a charter city and therefore  wasn’t subject to state housing allocation laws.

Then Mayor Tony Strickland accused the state of trying to “urbanize California” by mandating an amount of housing that would turn suburban communities like Huntington Beach into dense urban landscapes like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

California has for decades required cities and counties to plan for enough housing to meet future needs, with allocations that include affordable housing to help meet demand. In recent years, state lawmakers have given the process more teeth.

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The state wants Huntington Beach to adopt zoning for 13,368 new homes by 2030, nearly 6,000 of which must be affordable to low- or very-low-income households.

Slaughter ruled that Huntington Beach lacked standing to bring federal constitutional claims challenging state housing allocation laws. Slaughter also wrote that the City Council’s personal objections to state housing mandates were insufficient to have standing.

His decision came despite claims by City Attorney Michael Gates that the state requirement Huntington Beach change its zoning to accommodate more homes violated Surf City’s First Amendment protection for compelled speech and 14th Amendment due process protections.

“The city’s ongoing fight against the state for local control of our city’s development is imperative,” Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark said in a statement this week. “These housing mandates are a prime example of state overreach, and I applaud our city attorney and his staff for not only protecting our city, but also our City Council’s First Amendment rights.”

The City Council has not adopted a compliant Housing Element, putting it at risk of losing millions of dollars in state funds. 

It also opens it up to the builder’s remedy provision in state housing law that allows developers to bypass zoning rules in cities without state-approved plans.

— Dana Bartholomew

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