Huntington Beach fighting state over affordable housing issue

David González Image
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Huntington Beach fighting state over affordable housing issue
The city of Huntington Beach is looking to approve a housing ordinance that state officials say violates California law.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- The city of Huntington Beach plans to fight for local control over the future development of affordable housing in the city.

The city's Planning Commission on Tuesday evening plans to approve an ordinance that would ban so-called "builder's remedy" projects.

"This is all about whether the state controls local zoning or whether cities controls local zoning," said Michael Gates, city attorney for Huntington Beach.

Builder's remedy is a state provision under the Housing Accountability Act that is triggered if cities and counties fail to submit state-mandated housing growth plans.

It would allow developers to bypass local zoning code if 20% of the units in the project are designated affordable housing or 100% are moderate-income housing.

Huntington Beach councilmember Casey McKeon said, "This is a reckless, blank check for developers that if allowed to occur beyond the reach of local zoning controls will create permanent, potentially disastrous effects for the city."

He said the city has submitted its housing elements growth plan and is negotiating.

California Attorney General Ron Bonta warns Huntington Beach officials that the ordinance would violate state law and those who don't comply would be held accountable.

"California is facing a housing crisis of epic proportions, and it's going to take all of us, doing our part, to ensure that Californians have access to affordable housing," Bonta said.

In a statement Gov. Gavin Newsom said, "When Californians ask why there isn't enough housing, why the cost of renting continues to increase or why there are so many people experiencing homelessness, I tell them to look at Huntington Beach - another city where elected officials are resorting to cheap political stunts to avoid their responsibility to build desperately needed housing."

Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland pushed back.

He said, "I think it's pretty clear that Sacramento wants to urbanize Huntington Beach. People of Huntington Beach don't want this to an urban community."

Also, McKeon said the city plans to sue the state to stop a current housing mandate that would require the city to build a minimum of 13,368 new high-density housing units.

"Trying to find the land available in a city that's 95% built out for 13,368 units is very challenging," McKeon said.

Local governments who don't comply can face consequences from the builder's remedy provision which range from loss of funding to fines.