Sends letter notifying the City of Huntington Beach that adoption of Zoning Text Amendment No. 2023-001 would violate the California Housing Accountability Act
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today sent a letter to the City Attorney of Huntington Beach regarding the city and City Planning Commission’s consideration of a proposed ordinance that would seek to exempt the City of Huntington Beach from the Builder's Remedy provision of the state’s Housing Accountability Act (HAA). In the letter, Attorney General Bonta puts the City on notice that adoption of the proposed ordinance, Zoning Text Amendment No. 2023-001, would violate the HAA by attempting to circumvent state law designed to ensure access to affordable housing. In the letter, the Attorney General Bonta urges the City of Huntington Beach to abandon this misguided and unlawful proposal.
“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,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The City of Huntington Beach’s proposed ordinance attempts to unlawfully exempt the City from state law that creates sorely needed additional housing for low- and moderate-income Californians. With today’s letter, we’re putting the City on notice that adopting this ordinance would violate state law. I urge cities to take seriously their obligations under state housing laws. If you don't, we will hold you accountable.”
The HAA works to increase access to affordable housing throughout the state by limiting the ability of local governments to restrict the development of new affordable housing projects. The so-called Builder's Remedy provision of HAA is triggered only if a locality has failed to submit a substantially compliant Housing Element. It allows project developers to submit housing projects with deed-restricted 20% low-income or 100% moderate-income without regard to local zoning and general plan standards. Under the Builder’s Remedy provision, localities must approve these low- and moderate-income projects as long as they conform with objective building and design standards and comply with CEQA and the Coastal Act. These laws allow localities to address any specific, legitimate environmental concerns on a project-by-project basis.
The Huntington Beach Planning Commission's proposed Zoning Text Amendment No. 2023-001 would prohibit the processing or approval of any and all applications to build affordable housing under the HAA’s 'Builder's Remedy'. On January 9, 2023, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) sent a "Notice of Potential Violation" to the City, notifying the city that such a proposed ordinance would likely violate state housing and permitting laws. On February 7, 2023, the City Attorney transmitted the proposed ordinance, along with a legal memorandum, for the city's Planning Commission to review. Today, in coordination with the Attorney General, HCD sent another letter to the city's Planning Commission reiterating its position after reviewing the proposed language of the ordinance.
Both letters warn the City of Huntington Beach that adopting the proposed ordinance and restricting housing production under the Builder’s Remedy would violate the law. Attorney General Bonta's letter specifically highlights that:
Attorney General Bonta is committed to advancing housing access, affordability, and equity in California. In 2021, Attorney General Bonta announced the creation of a Housing Strike Force within the California Department of Justice and launched a Housing Portal on DOJ’s website with resources and information for California homeowners and tenants. The Housing Strike Force encourages Californians to send complaints or tips related to housing to email@example.com. Information on legal aid in your area is available at https://lawhelpca.org.