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Huntington Beach duels over local control as it files legal complaints against state housing laws

Jeff Boerboon flying a Yak-110 passes over the Huntington Beach Pier during day one of The Great Pac
A Yak-110 passes over the Huntington Beach Pier during the Great Pacific Airshow in 2018.
(File Photo)

The city of Huntington Beach is dueling with the state over housing laws and local control through two legal complaints, the latest of which was filed Friday in the California Supreme Court.

City Attorney Michael Gates is now challenging Senate Bill 166, a law that governs local land use and zoning by requiring cities and counties to identify and provide sites for lower- and moderate-income housing within 180 days if they are out of compliance with the state’s housing requirements.

The lawsuit is the second Huntington has filed against the state this year over housing. On Jan. 17, Gates sued over Senate Bill 35, which forces cities that are behind on their housing goals to streamline certain housing projects by eliminating some steps in the approval process.

About a week after that, the state, at the request of Gov. Gavin Newsom, hit back with its own lawsuit accusing Huntington Beach of defying a state law that requires cities and counties to set aside sufficient land for housing development. It said it has tried to work with the city the past four years.

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In the city’s latest lawsuit, Gates is again arguing for Huntington’s local control as a city run by a charter adopted by local voters. He contends SB 166 strips the city’s authority over local zoning by immediately forcing it into compliance. He is asking the court to deem the law unconstitutional as applied to charter cities.

The law, Gates contends in the complaint, “unconstitutionally purports to vest and exercise authority in the state to ‘rezone’ established … land designations in a city for the state’s one-size-fits-all (ill-conceived) political purposes.”

Local government officials, not state legislatures, should make decisions regarding local housing solutions, Gates said in an email Friday.

Nathan Click, a spokesman for Newsom, and Rishi Khalsa, press secretary for the state attorney general’s office, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

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Earlier this week, state Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris said she is trying to negotiate an end to California’s suit against the city. She said the city should get more time to comply with state requirements.

The Laguna Beach Democrat’s position put her in disagreement with the approach pushed by Newsom, a fellow Democrat who said the lawsuit was necessary to address rising housing costs that threaten economic growth and deepen inequality.

Huntington Beach’s high-profile legal wranglings — including a successful challenge to the state’s California Values Act, which expands protections for undocumented immigrants — have magnified the city’s efforts to exert authority over Sacramento.


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