By PAUL ANDERSON
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – Attorney General Rob Bonta Monday warned Huntington Beach City Council members to not pass an ordinance against a state law allowing more freedom to sidestep city zoning when a municipality lacks a housing plan and a project includes at least 20% affordable housing.
A bare majority of the City Council signaled their intent in a Dec. 20 meeting to take on the state’s builder’s remedy law. The city’s planning commission is set to discuss the proposal on Tuesday and the next City Council meeting is on Feb. 21.
“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 news release. “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.”
The builder’s remedy provision is triggered if a city fails to enact a state-mandated affordable housing plan. As long as a developer has a project that includes 20% for low-income or 100% for moderate-income then the builder can ignore local zoning laws. That does not give developers license, however, to ignore state environmental laws.
The city’s ordinance would aim to prohibit any projects under the state’s builder’s remedy law, which was signed into law in 1990 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian.
Mayor Tony Strickland and Councilman Casey McKeon will join City Attorney Michael Gates for a meeting with reporters Tuesday afternoon on the issue, but declined any comment until then.
Councilman Dan Kalmick, who voted against the council majority’s plans in December, told City News Service that Bonta’s letter concerned him.
“I’m really worried that we got a letter from the Department of Justice threatening to sue us,” Kalmick said. “I was against filing suit (against the state) and passing an ordinance to make state law illegal. What’s the next step? Are we going to try to make motorcycle helmets illegal in Huntington Beach? Allow people to smoke inside? It’s disappointing. I’m worried about the path this new council majority wants to take. It’s wild.”
Kalmick said he pushed the council to pass a housing element law and then go to court and battle the state.
“The best position is to pass a housing element and then sue instead of being out of compliance and suing,” Kalmick said.
At the December meeting, McKeon said the ordinance would challenge state law by citing the fact that Huntington Beach is a charter city, which allows a municipality to pass its own laws that differ from the state’s. But a charter city cannot pass an ordinance that is more strict than state law.
Huntington Beach sued and lost an attempt to ignore California’s sanctuary state law regarding the enforcement of various immigration laws. Appellate court justices in January 2020 overturned a lower court judge’s ruling siding with the city.
“The state wants to urbanize Huntington Beach,” Strickland said in the December meeting.
Strickland said residents “want us to fight as much as we can to protect our suburban coastal community. If you want to live in an urban area you can move to San Francisco or live in LA… We will fight with every fiber of our body to preserve this coastal community.”
Kalmick said the city is dealing with high density with so many more multi-family dwellings. High rents, taxes, inflation and rising debt make it difficult for younger generations to buy a home, he said. Also, with inflation and rising interest rates to counter it there isn’t much of a market for developers to build right now, he added.
“For five years nothing has been built” in Huntington Beach, Kalmick said. “Land in Huntington Beach is so expensive and the cost of labor is so expensive. Building materials are up 50%.
“I don’t see a lot of these projects being built that people are worried about. It’s a big bogeyman for a lot of people who are scared about something I don’t see coming to fruition, or that it will immediately… People worry about high density? Look around, we already have that. These homes are not designed for multiple families to live in them.”
Kalmick said he prefers more townhouse-style developments as a middle ground that would satisfy affordable housing requirements without creating the kind of density large apartment complexes do.
If the city keeps pushing this agenda it runs the risk of having the state take over its planning and building departments.
“He’s going to sue us which is taxpayer money going out the door, and they can shut our planning department down so anybody wanting to remodel a bathroom can’t get a permit,” Kalmick said.
I totally agree with the city, it’s a beautiful city and they want to keep it that way.. if we just start letting low income people in every nice area there will be no nice areas left where would someone go who wanted to get their family away from ghetto? Why urbanize a ocean city when some regular working class citizens can’t get a house there, but homeless can? No.. if u are gonna make low income housing it should stay in low income areas. And I’m coming from a place of poverty once myself, who have many friends that are still homeless. And low income. I can’t afford a place in Huntington Beach but I wouldn’t want to be living in the only section 8 place in the city either. How embarrassing 😬
Wow what an ignorant and disgusting comment. Pathetic. You should be publicly humiliated and shamed until you cry and beg for forgiveness