(L-R) Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland, City Attorney Michael Gates, and Councilman Casey McKeon gather with residents to announce challenges to state housing laws in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Feb. 14, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
After its lawsuit against California over the state’s mandated affordable housing plan was dismissed in federal court in November, Huntington Beach has filed an appeal of the decision, arguing the judge who ruled in their case misapplied the law.
According to the ruling, United States District Judge Fred W. Slaughter argued that the charter city—which sets its own law unlike “general law” cities which only operate under the laws of the state—is still a political subdivision of the state and therefore cannot challenge state law.
In an interview at the time, Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates told The Epoch Times that the judge also argued his federal courtroom wasn’t the proper forum for the conflict to be resolved.
The city now contends, according to a Jan. 11 press release
, that the judge’s dismissal relied on a case between the City of South Lake Tahoe versus a state agency, but that city is a general law city, not a charter city like Huntington Beach.
In its filing, the city asked the Ninth Circuit Court to instead refer to other cases that involved charter cities over similar conflicts. Mr. Gates said in the recent press release that other cases “hold that Charter Cities ‘are distinct individual entities and are not connected political subdivisions of the state,’” referring to a recent ruling regarding the City of San Diego.
He added that in another ruling involving Redondo Beach, a judge found that charter cities “are not creatures of the State, they are creatures of the state constitution, formed by the authority of the people.”
Mr. Gates told The Epoch Times the city intends to continue their fight against the state over local control, or else face state mandates that would “completely redevelop” Huntington Beach.
“If we don’t fight this fight now it'll be too late ... the heavy mandates that we’re facing now, doesn’t even reflect the new state mandate that the state will issue in the next planning cycle beginning in 2029,” he said.
Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland (C) conducts a city council meeting at the Huntington Beach Civic Center in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The city, in its lawsuit, is seeking exemption from the state’s current housing mandate, which demands it zone for 13,368 housing units by 2029.
The required zoning is part of a mandatory housing plan, called a “housing element,” which the state updates every eight years.
But the city argues in its lawsuit that its requirement is “disproportionate to other jurisdictions” and if measured by square mileage is the most of any city in the state.
Huntington Beach officials say that of the more than 13,000 units it must zone for, some 8,000 must be set aside as “affordable” for individuals earning very low, low, and moderate incomes. Developers usually include around 20 percent affordable units in new projects to maintain profitability.
To meet that number, according to city officials, the affordable units would have to be spread out over multiple developments—meaning each new development would only include a quarter of units deemed affordable—which could result, they say, in having to plan for as many as 40,000 units overall.
They say such would increase the amount of housing in the city by 50 percent and would drastically change its makeup.
According to the Southern California Association of Governments, in April of 2021, Huntington Beach had a little over 76,000 units of housing.
California cities were required to have an approved housing plan, including a signed declaration stating the need for housing overrules unavoidable environmental impacts, by Oct. 15, 2022. Huntington Beach still does not.
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)
A plan was nearly approved during a city council meeting last March, but ultimately delayed, after a presentation by city staff said the impacts of approving it would create “significant and unavoidable,” environmental impacts, such as exceeding thresholds for air quality, greenhouse gases, noise, hydrology, and water quality, as well as have a negative impact on utilities and services systems.
Ultimately, the council voted 4–3 against the plan in April.
In the same recent press release, Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark called the city’s fight for local control over housing “imperative” and beneficial to the city.
“These housing mandates are a prime example of State overreach and I applaud our City Attorney and his staff for not only protecting our city, but also our City Council’s First Amendment Rights,” she said.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development also filed a lawsuit against Huntington Beach for failing to follow some of the state’s housing laws, with a hearing set for Jan. 19.