Coronado Settles State Housing Lawsuit, Agrees to Zone for More Units

Coronado Settles State Housing Lawsuit, Agrees to Zone for More Units

Housing units in a gated community in a file photo. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

10/24/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

Officials of the island city of Coronado in San Diego County recently settled a lawsuit with the California attorney general and its housing department and agreed to follow the state’s recommendations, after two years of resistance to a state-mandated housing plan.
California cities are required to zone for new housing—in an effort to create more affordable housing. Cities that fail to comply can face financial penalties or lose local control over their ability to deny housing projects that go against local zoning regulations.
“Every single city and county in the state will be held accountable for building their fair share of housing. The state is doing more than ever to streamline construction, and we will continue working with communities to build more housing, faster in order to support Californians,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in an Oct. 20 joint statement with Attorney General Rob Bonta and Gustavo Velasquez, director of the state’s housing department, that announced the settlement.
Mr. Bonta said that if Coronado can do it then anyone can.
“Today should serve as a valuable lesson to counties and cities across the state: no matter your situation, state leaders are willing and able to help you deliver housing for all of your residents,” he said. “If we could get it done in Coronado, an island city where a military base and a port sits on more than half of it, we can get it done elsewhere, too.”
As part of the settlement, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), agreed to count 374 of the city’s planned homes on the island’s naval base toward its mandated goal, which is 912 units between 2021 and 2029.
“We are glad to see the City of Coronado commit to bringing their housing element into compliance with Housing Element Law. HCD will continue to work with the City, and monitor them, to ensure compliance and hold them to the commitments they have made in this settlement,” Mr. Velasquez, the department’s director, said in the same statement.
U.S. Navy sailors prepare to take down the flag on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier in Coronado, Calif., on Jan. 18, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

U.S. Navy sailors prepare to take down the flag on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier in Coronado, Calif., on Jan. 18, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Last year, Coronado legally challenged the state mandate, arguing that zoning for more than 900 units was unrealistic. They were joined in the legal action by the cities of Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, and Solana Beach, which were also suing over their mandated plans, as reported by The Coronado Times, an online news outlet. Coronado lost in that case.
In an interview last year, Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey told the publication that after the state’s last mandated plan for the years 2013 to 2020, during which they were told they had to zone for 50 more units, the city actually zoned for 600 and built 350 units.
“This ... cycle, we are required to allow for more than 900 units. Our zoning does not allow for that many new units, so we would have to change our zoning if that ... number holds,” he said.
Previously, the city—which has a population of about 20,000 according to 2022 estimates by the U.S. Census and where the current median price for a home is $3.65 million and studios rent for $4,000 a month, according to the most rent data from the California Association of Realtors and Zillow, respectively—was also denied using the planned housing on its naval base to count toward its most recent plan but was able to get that approved in the settlement, Mr. Bailey said in the governor’s press release.
The state mandates are known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, or RHNA, and they come in eight-year cycles.
“Grappling with a RHNA allocation that is much greater than in prior cycles, the combined creativity of the City and State was brought to bear for this workable solution. With a shared goal of developing a meaningful and achievable plan to reach compliance, we’ve found resolution to a years-long challenge,” he said.
Under the settlement, the city—specifically its city council—must adopt a compliant housing plan by April 2024 and rezone by May, three years past the original deadline.
Under the settlement, the city also agrees not to deny housing projects that don’t comply with either the city’s general plan or its zoning regulations until an approved housing plan is adopted.
Cities without an approved plan must allow developers, whose projects meet certain affordability requirements, to bypass local zoning regulations or city-mandated rules such as density limitations.
The settlement also rules that the city will begin to receive fines if the terms of the settlement haven’t been fulfilled within 12 months.
Huntington Beach city officials gather with residents to discuss housing issues with the state in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Feb. 14, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Huntington Beach city officials gather with residents to discuss housing issues with the state in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Feb. 14, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Huntington Beach is another coastal city that recently challenged the state over its mandated housing objectives.
It filed a lawsuit in March arguing that the more than 13,000 units of housing they’re required to zone for is the largest allocation in the state and disproportionate to those of other jurisdictions, such as San Bernardino, which has a similar population to Huntington Beach’s 200,000 and is five square miles larger. That city, according to Huntington Beach’s lawsuit, is being asked to plan for only 8,000 units.
City leaders also cite Huntington Beach’s status as a charter city, which follows its own charter instead of general law, allowing more self-governing, as a reason for not following state housing laws.
California is using “unconstitutional legislative and administrative means ... stripping Charter cities of their ability to make their own land use decisions,” the city stated on Facebook on March 9.
The state is countersuing the city, seeking full compliance.
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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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