California City Forced to OK Housing After State Intervention

California City Forced to OK Housing After State Intervention

600 Foothill Boulevard in La Canada Flintridge in February 2023. (Google Maps/Screenshot via California Insider)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

3/11/2024

Updated: 3/11/2024

The affluent California city La Cañada Flintridge must approve a housing project against its zoning regulations, after a recent Los Angeles Superior Court ruling—backed by the state’s attorney general, governor, and housing department—found the city in violation of state housing law.
“La Cañada Flintridge is the latest community that has failed in their effort to override state housing laws. Today’s favorable ruling should serve as a warning to other NIMBY jurisdictions that the state will hold every community accountable in planning for their fair share of housing,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a March 5 press release.
The city was sued by the California Housing Defense Fund, a nonprofit affordable-housing advocate, and the developer over its rejection of a three-story project that proposed 80 units of housing—including 47 units for seniors—a small hotel and offices, on a lot zoned for two stories.
Under state housing law, cities are required to plan how they will build affordable housing every eight years. If they miss a mandated deadline for such plans, as did La Cañada Flintridge in 2021, they’re subject to penalties including what’s known as “builder’s remedy,” which allows a developer to bypass certain local zoning, density, or land-use regulations for proposed developments that include 20 percent “affordable” units sold below market rate.
The developer in this case filed an application for its project under those rules, which the city denied. The court ruling means the city must reverse that denial.
Under the proposed project, 16 of the housing units for seniors are to be sold to people with low incomes—per builder’s remedy requirements—which made the project eligible to bypass the city’s zoning regulations under state law.
Gov. Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta supported the housing defense fund’s lawsuit. Mr. Bonta wrote in an amicus brief to the court that the judge should “uphold California’s housing laws,” and reverse the city’s denial.
When denying the project, the city alleged it had a “substantially compliant” housing element prior to the developer submitting the project. But according to the request to the court by Mr. Bonta, the city wrongly self-declared it had an approved plan in February 2023, because it wasn’t officially approved by the state’s housing department until November 2023, two years past the required deadline.
The City Council will consider whether it should appeal the recent ruling, or “evaluate other legal options,” according to a statement emailed to The Epoch Times on Friday.
La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Rick Gunter said in the statement that he was proud of the city’s work zoning for 689 housing units, of which nearly 70 percent were deemed for low-income people.
“We have acted as a partner to the state to be a part of the solution to the housing crisis, and while I disagree with the court’s decision in relation to this particular development, I respect the legal process and our City Council will work with city staff and legal counsel to decide on next steps,” he said.
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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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