Attorney General Bonta: Court Rightfully Denied Huntington Beach’s Latest Attempt to Exempt Itself from State Housing Laws

Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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The Court denied the city’s request for TRO in Huntington Beach’s lawsuit against the State, which claims state housing laws infringe on free speech rights, due process 

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today applauded the decision by the United States District Court for the Central District of California denying the city of Huntington Beach’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in Huntington Beach v. Newsom, which attempted to halt enforcement of state housing laws in the city while litigation is ongoing. Attorney General Bonta filed opposition to Huntington Beach’s TRO on behalf of the State yesterday, arguing that Huntington Beach has no standing to sue in federal court, and that the city’s lawsuit is baseless on its face. California’s housing laws are not only legally sound, but crucial to addressing California’s ongoing housing crisis. Today’s decision denies Huntington Beach’s request to temporarily block enforcement of state housing laws.   

 “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Local governments don’t get to pick and choose which state laws they want to follow. Huntington Beach’s lawsuit is another baseless and obstructionist attempt by the city to defy state housing laws,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Our state housing laws are a crucial tool for bringing much needed affordable housing to our communities. I applaud the court for today’s decision denying Huntington Beach’s latest attempt to block their city’s residents from accessing crucial housing opportunities afforded by state law. The California Department of Justice will continue to fight to increase housing supply throughout the state, and hold Huntington Beach accountable to state law.”

In the lawsuit filed on March 9, Huntington Beach brought claims in federal court, alleging that the state’s Housing Accountability Act and Housing Element laws violate federal constitutional law, including the right to free speech and due process. In the State’s opposition brief, Attorney General Bonta defended the state laws and argued that not only are the city’s claims baseless, but that Huntington Beach is facing neither imminent nor irreparable harm, and does not have standing to bring the lawsuit in federal court. California has the explicit right to oversee and govern conduct of its cities and counties. In fact, the Supreme Court has expressly held that municipal governments do not have federal constitutional rights vis-à-vis state governments.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Bonta, Governor Gavin Newsom, and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) filed a lawsuit against the City of Huntington Beach for violating state housing laws. The lawsuit followed a decision by the Huntington Beach City Council declining to reverse its February 21 action banning the processing of applications for SB 9 projects and ADU projects, in violation of multiple state housing laws.  

California’s lawsuit came after Attorney General Bonta and HCD each issued multiple letters last month under their separate enforcement authorities, urging the Huntington Beach City Council to reject these unlawful and willful attempts to flout state housing laws, which directly threaten statewide efforts to increase the availability of low- to middle-income housing opportunities in the midst of a statewide housing crisis. 

State leaders stand united in their commitment to defending and increasing access to affordable housing in California. In 2021, Attorney General Bonta announced the creation of a Housing Strike Force within the California Department of Justice aimed at advancing housing access across the state. The same year, Governor Newsom launched a Housing Accountability Unit to increase stringent enforcement and oversight at the local level to create more housing, faster across California. Members of the public are encouraged to visit the California Department of Justice’s Housing Portal and HCD’s website for more resources and information aimed at supporting access to housing.

A copy of the state’s opposition brief is available here. A copy of the decision is available here.

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