AG Warns Huntington Beach Proposed Ordinance Violates State Housing Law

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Oakland, CA – It’s a direct warning to Huntington Beach, but a shot across the bows of the state.  The city of Huntington Beach has a proposed ordinance that would exempt it from the Builder’s Remedy provision of the state’s Housing Accountability Act (HAA).

Attorney General Rob Bonta is not having it.

He fired off a letter that puts the City on notice that adoption of the proposed ordinance, Zoning Text Amendment No. 2023-001, would violate the HAA by attempting to circumvent state law designed to ensure access to affordable housing.

In the letter, the Attorney General Bonta urges the City of Huntington Beach to abandon this misguided and unlawful proposal.

“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,” said Attorney General Bonta.

He said, “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. With today’s letter, we’re putting the City on notice that adopting this ordinance would violate state law. I urge cities to take seriously their obligations under state housing laws. If you don’t, we will hold you accountable.”

The HAA works to increase access “to affordable housing throughout the state by limiting the ability of local governments to restrict the development of new affordable housing projects.”

Meanwhile the Builder’s Remedy “is triggered only if a locality has failed to submit a substantially compliant Housing Element.”

It allows project developers to submit housing projects with deed-restricted 20% low-income or 100% moderate-income without regard to local zoning and general plan standards.

Under the Builder’s Remedy provision, “localities must approve these low- and moderate-income projects as long as they conform with objective building and design standards and comply with CEQA and the Coastal Act.”

These laws “allow localities to address any specific, legitimate environmental concerns on a project-by-project basis.”

In Huntington Beach, the Planning Commission’s proposed Zoning Text Amendment No. 2023-001 would prohibit the processing or approval of any and all applications to build affordable housing under the HAA’s ‘Builder’s Remedy’.

On January 9, 2023, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) sent a “Notice of Potential Violation” to the City, notifying the city that such a proposed ordinance would “likely violate state housing and permitting laws.”

On February 7, 2023, the City Attorney transmitted the proposed ordinance, along with a legal memorandum, for the city’s Planning Commission to review.

On February 14, 2023,  in coordination with the Attorney General, HCD sent another letter to the city’s Planning Commission reiterating its position after reviewing the proposed language of the ordinance.

Both letters warn the City of Huntington Beach that adopting the proposed ordinance and restricting housing production under the Builder’s Remedy would violate the law.

Attorney General Bonta’s letter specifically highlights that:

  • An affordable housing project’s inconsistency with zoning codes and/or general plan, by law, does not constitute a specific, adverse impact on public health or safety;
  • To the extent the City of Huntington Beach has legitimate environmental concerns, those can be addressed on a project-by-project basis, in accordance with state laws; and
  • The City of Huntington Beach should be proactively seeking to permit for more affordable housing projects, not restricting and stigmatizing them.

A copy of the letter can be found here. A copy of HCD’s letter can be found here.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Don Shor

    Their city attorney apparently believes that Huntington Beach’es status as a charter city “supersedes state law.” That’s a rather novel legal theory, I’d guess.

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