Another City Sued by California for Not Building Its ‘Fair Share of Housing’

Another City Sued by California for Not Building Its ‘Fair Share of Housing’

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announces a lawsuit against Amazon during a news conference in San Francisco on Sept. 14, 2022. (Eric Risberg/AP Photo)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

12/19/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

Another California city has been called out by the state after affluent La Cañada Flintridge—about 15 miles north of Los Angeles—denied an 80-unit multifamily housing development earlier this year, without the authority to do so, according to officials.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta requested Dec. 12 a Los Angeles Superior Court judge “uphold California’s housing laws” and reverse the city’s denial in a lawsuit the developer filed in July against the city after its action.
Pro affordable housing advocate and nonprofit, the California Housing Defense Fund, filed its own suit also in July over the same issue, requesting the city’s denial be overruled for violating state housing laws.
“Since California strengthened its housing laws, cities have attempted, unsuccessfully, to skirt these rules. La Cañada Flintridge is another community making excuses rather than building their fair share of housing,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a joint press release with Attorney General Rob Bonta also Dec. 12.
The city was late on having an approved state-mandated housing plan that shows zoning for a specific amount of new housing. Such are required every eight years. The most recent deadline was October 2021, with La Cañada Flintridge only getting its approval last month.
Cities that don’t have a plan are prone to what is known as “builders remedy,” which allows developers, like the one in this case—Cedar Street Partners—to ignore certain local zoning, density, or land-use regulations for proposed developments that include 20 percent “affordable” units sold below market rate.
“The City of La Cañada Flintridge is legally required to process this affordable housing project under California’s builder’s remedy because they did not adopt a compliant housing element on time. Far too many Californians struggle to access affordable housing, and cities have a duty to facilitate, not block, affordable housing to alleviate our housing crisis,” Mr. Bonta said in the press release.
The project, located at 600 Foothill Blvd., was co-purchased in 2019 by former La Cañada Flintridge Councilman Jonathan Curtis with plans for a three-story building on land that’s currently zoned for two stories.
The project would include 47 housing units for seniors—16 of which will be sold to low-income earners, per builder’s remedy requirements—as well as a small hotel and office space.
Current La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Rick Gunter said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times he was surprised and disappointed to learn of intervention by state officials, after the city has already complied with state law by submitting an approved plan.
“I am proud of the work done by our City Council and City staff in crafting a housing element that zones for 689 additional units, including 482 low-income housing units. Throughout this process, we have partnered with the State to be part of the solution to the housing crisis and will continue to do so,” he said.
City Manager Daniel Jordan said the city’s current housing plan was adopted thanks to resident engagement and the hard work of city staff, making the recent news come as a surprise.
“It was therefore unfortunate to read a press release from the Attorney General’s office of their intent to join an existing lawsuit against the City over the details of a single development project,” he stated in the same email.
The developer, according to legal filings by Mr. Bonta, submitted an application for the project in November 2022, which the city said was incomplete and requested additional information.
The developer filed an amended plan in January. But the city wrongly self-declared it had an approved housing plan in February, according to the request to the court by Mr. Bonta, before hearing back from the state’s housing authority and the city council ultimately voted to deny the project in May.
A woman checks a mailbox in front of homes with green grass lawns on the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in northern Los Angeles County, in La Canada Flintridge, Calif., on April 8, 2015. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman checks a mailbox in front of homes with green grass lawns on the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in northern Los Angeles County, in La Canada Flintridge, Calif., on April 8, 2015. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

“[La Cañada Flintridge’s] attempt on February 21, 2023, to declare that its housing element was in substantial compliance with state law is invalid, because [the Department of Housing and Community Development] is the only entity authorized by statute to declare that a housing element substantially complies with state law,” Mr. Bonta wrote.
The city has been home to many celebrities over the years—including actors Vince Vaughn and Angela Basset, filmmaker Kevin Costner, and singer and songwriters Miley Cyrus and Billy Ray Cyrus, among several others.
Earlier this year, the City of Huntington Beach voted to ban the processing of applications for accessory dwelling units, better known as ADUs or “granny flats, which prompted a lawsuit by the state. The city has since resumed taking such applications.
The lawsuit—which additionally alleges the city has ignored state law that requires zoning for affordable housing—is still ongoing.
The city additionally counter-sued the state arguing its requirement that it zone for 13,368 units by 2029 is disproportionate to other cities, and the largest allocation in the state based on a city’s size and population. The suit also alleges data used by the state to determine such allocations was flawed. A federal court dismissed the lawsuit in November.
City officials have said they plan on appealing.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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