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Huntington Beach City Council votes against suing the state over mandated housing numbers

The Elan Huntington Beach luxury apartments were completed in 2016.
The Elan Huntington Beach luxury apartments, at the southeast corner of Beach Boulevard and Ellis Avenue in Huntington Beach, were completed in 2016. The City Council on Monday night elected not to pursue legal action over the state’s mandate to zone for more than 13,000 units during the current cycle.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach City Council on Monday night decided not to move forward with legal action challenging its state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment requirements for the next cycle, which runs through October 2029.

Huntington Beach is required to zone for 13,386 residential units, according to the Southern California Assn. of Governments, during the upcoming sixth cycle of the housing element that starts this October. That number includes nearly 6,000 units deemed to be either very low income or low income.

Huntington Beach was one of several cities in the county — including Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Fountain Valley and Laguna Beach — to appeal its RHNA housing requirement as too high last fall. City Atty. Michael Gates filed the appeal on Surf City’s behalf, but it was denied by SCAG, as were all of the appeals.

Councilman Erik Peterson’s agenda item Monday night sought to continue to fight the SCAG assessment by filing a challenge in state court. During a closed session last month that Peterson missed because he said he was stuck in traffic, the council voted against taking further action.

“I think it was a missed opportunity,” Peterson said. “Filing this appeal is the next logical step in trying to maintain a semblance of local control.”

However, it quickly became clear Peterson’s item Monday didn’t have the votes to move forward. A substitute motion by Councilman Dan Kalmick to postpone the item indefinitely passed 5-2, with Peterson and Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz voting no.

Kalmick brought up the substitute motion quickly, noting the Council had already discussed the matter in the March closed session. Councilman Mike Posey quickly concurred.

“I can’t help it that Mr. Peterson couldn’t get here on time,” Posey said. “If it wasn’t important then, it’s not important now, so we move on.”

Councilwoman Barbara Delgleize said she appreciated the appeal request, but the city had already appealed and lost the RHNA allocation numbers. She also concurred with Peterson that the state’s mandated numbers are “unattainable and wrong.”

“There’s enough cities out there that feel just like we do,” she said. “We are not the only people in this area of Southern California that are having issues with these numbers, but we have to participate in planning of some kind...We’ve sued already, we’ve sued a lot, and we’ve lost. And guess what else? It costs a lot of money.”

Posey, who is on the regional council for SCAG, said he doesn’t like the prospect of zoning for 13,386 units either. “But you’re never going to go from 13,386 to zero,” he said. “You’re not even going to go from 13,000 to 10,000 ... we’re going on a fool’s errand [by suing].”

The council listened to several callers during public comment who were in favor of Peterson’s item, and also received dozens of emails in support of the item. A petition online decrying the state’s mandatory housing requirements, started by Huntington Beach finance commissioner Casey McKeon, has more than 700 signatures.

“The path forward is through litigation, not through legislation, as others have suggested,” McKeon said while calling into Monday night’s meeting. “In 2019, former mayors Jill Hardy and Lyn Semeta warned how dangerous and unconstitutional this RHNA allocation is, and directed our city attorney to draft a letter outlining the supported facts. What has changed since then, that you no longer want to take up this fight for our city through the appeal process?”

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