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Huntington Beach prepares more lawsuits over state housing laws, including one targeting charter cities

Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates
Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates says the city’s planned lawsuits challenging two new state laws “are about asserting the city’s constitutionally protected charter city authority to zone and plan for housing at the local level.”
(Steven Alfano)

Huntington Beach is preparing to sue California over two more housing laws, including one that removes charter cities’ ability to opt out of certain housing regulations.

The City Council voted 4-3 during a closed session Monday night — with members Barbara Delgleize, Kim Carr and Mike Posey dissenting — to challenge Senate Bill 1333 and Assembly Bill 101, according to City Attorney Michael Gates. The new lawsuits will bump Huntington’s tally of housing-related legal challenges against the state to five.

“These lawsuits, like the other lawsuits we filed against the state, are about asserting the city’s constitutionally protected charter city authority to zone and plan for housing at the local level,” Gates said. “These state laws are the state’s overreach and interfere with our ability at the local level to zone and plan for housing. We are looking forward to this being resolved in the courts and feel strongly that the city will prevail.”

The governor’s office and state attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

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Before SB 1333, charter cities were allowed to opt out of some state housing mandates as long as they had a planning commission, complied with a general housing plan, reported to the state Department of Housing and Community Development and provided low- and moderate-income housing in the coastal zone. The new bill, approved by the governor in September 2018, requires all 121 charter cities to comply with state housing laws.

AB 101, approved by the governor in July, requires the attorney general to request a court order telling any cities in violation, including charter cities, to bring their housing plans into compliance with specified provisions. The bill also requires a status conference with cities that haven’t complied with the order. Cities that continue to defy the order could be fined.

A legal battle between the state and Huntington Beach erupted earlier this year as California sued the city — alleging it was defying a state law that requires cities and counties to set aside sufficient land for housing development — and Huntington Beach filed lawsuits against the state, challenging its housing mandates. Those cases are ongoing.

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