State of California Sues Huntington Beach for State Housing Laws Violations

Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) have jointly announced the filing of a lawsuit and a motion for preliminary injunction against the City of Huntington Beach for violating state housing laws. 

This legal action follows multiple official warnings issued over the past month by the Newsom Administration and Attorney General Bonta, urging the Huntington Beach City Council to abandon their unlawful and deliberate actions that contradict state housing regulations. The City’s actions pose a direct threat to the statewide initiatives aimed at enhancing the availability of affordable housing for low- to middle-income individuals during a critical period of housing crisis.

Huntington Beach must prepare for the construction of 13,368 new housing units in the coming eight years, while adhering to state housing laws, as mandated for all other regions in California. However, the City is currently declining to fulfill both of these obligations.

The Huntington Beach City Council, in violation of several state housing laws, rejected a proposal to revoke its February 21st decision to cease processing applications for Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) projects and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) projects. Additionally, the City has introduced an ordinance that claims to exempt them from the Builder’s Remedy provision of the Housing Accountability Act (HAA) of the state, which simplifies approval for affordable housing projects in cities without a compliant Housing Element. However, the City has not yet adopted this ordinance.

The state, in its complaint, asserts that the City’s prohibition on endorsing specific affordable housing projects is unlawful, as it contradicts the HAA, SB 9, the ADU law, and the Housing Crisis Act, and must be invalidated. By implementing this ban, the City has chosen to disregard the laws passed by the California State Legislature, which were designed to tackle the state’s housing affordability crisis, and has deprived private property owners of their right to construct additional units on their land.

The Attorney General and the Newsom Administration have also urged the court to prevent the enforcement of the ban during the ongoing litigation process. They contend that aside from worsening the state’s housing crisis, the policy also damages law-abiding homeowners who intend to construct in-law units or other additional units on their land.

Huntington Beach proposed an ordinance that, if passed, would unlawfully exclude the city from the Builder’s Remedy provision of the HAA. Both the Attorney General Bonta and HCD have separately cautioned the city that the proposed ordinance breaches the HAA and would have an adverse impact on the public by unlawfully obstructing low- and middle-income housing projects. The Attorney General Bonta and the Newsom Administration are carefully monitoring the development of the proposed ordinance and are prepared to pursue legal action if it is approved.

State officials are firmly dedicated to safeguarding and expanding affordable housing in California. In 2021, Governor Newsom unveiled a Housing Accountability Unit, which implements more rigorous enforcement and oversight at the local level to expedite the construction of housing throughout the state. Additionally, in 2021, Attorney General Bonta announced the establishment of a Housing Strike Force within the California Department of Justice, which is dedicated to promoting housing access statewide. Members of the public are urged to visit the Housing Portal on the California Department of Justice’s website and HCD’s website for additional resources and information aimed at supporting housing accessibility.