Court looks to green light builder’s remedy project in La Cañada Flintridge

LA court ruling signals tilt in favor of developer Cedar Street Partners

LA Court Looks to Validate Builder’s Remedy Project in La Cañada Flintridge
Alexander Hack at Cedar Street Partners, Gov. Gavin Newsom and 600 Foothill Boulevard (LinkedIn, Getty, Google Maps)

Builder’s remedy is inching towards its first legal win. 

Mitchell Beckloff, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, issued a preliminary ruling on Friday in a case involving a project in La Cañada Flintridge, suggesting the court is prepared to rule in favor of the builder’s remedy provision.

The preliminary court decision looks to order the City of La Cañada Flintridge to “set aside” a decision from May 1, which rejected the 600 Foothill Boulevard project and said it did not “qualify” as builder’s remedy, according to the text of the tentative ruling.

If finalized as is, the city would be ordered to “process the application in accordance with the [Housing Accountability Act],” the ruling said.

Cedar Street Partners filed a lawsuit in July 2023, following a yearlong back-and-forth with the city and repeated denials.

The project at the heart of the case is located at 600 Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge. Cedar Street Partners, the developer behind the project, is among the first batch of firms testing the viability of builder’s remedy applications.

While this is still a tentative ruling, the final decision will reverberate beyond this case and help determine the future of builder’s remedy applications in the state of California. 

Builder’s remedy, essentially a penalty for California cities that fail to get state-approved housing plans in order by a certain deadline, has been rippling through the court system for the last couple of years, though no project has been actually built yet through the provision. 

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

The court’s final decision, which is expected within weeks, will serve as a precedent for other cases as the first local court decision on the matter. 

“It strongly signals the direction, and so the city now has its work cut out for them to try to turn this around, when the tentative appears to be clearly in favor of the petitioners and in favor of the builders,” Dave Rand, an attorney at Rand Paster Nelson, said. Rand is not involved in the case, but has worked on over a dozen other builder’s remedy cases.

“It is a shot across the bow that this builder’s remedy penalty is real.” Rand said. “This is not just a concoction of a couple of aggressive developers and land use lawyers, that has real basis in law.”

The case is closely watched by other builders, especially since Governor Gavin Newsom and the state’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, weighed in on the case in December.

The governor’s comments on the case seemed to have played a role.

“The City of La Cañada Flintridge is legally required to process this affordable housing project under California’s builder’s remedy because they did not adopt a compliant housing element on time,” Newsom said in December. “Far too many Californians struggle to access affordable housing, and cities have a duty to facilitate, not block, affordable housing to alleviate our housing crisis.” 

Rand sees the governor’s decision to speak out on the subject as a critical factor in the case’s momentum.

“Probably the biggest dynamic shift in favor of the builder’s remedy against the city in this case came when the governor and the Attorney General decided to intervene — that lended huge credibility and legal heft in favor of builder’s remedy,” he said.

The developer behind the lawsuit hopes the tentative ruling will be upheld.

“We won on big items in the tentative and still feel confident that the final decision will retain those findings,” said Alexandra Hack, a principal at Cedar Street Partners.