CAR housing group sues six Southern California cities for non-housing planning

For release:
April 20, 202
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A housing group is suing six Southern California cities for failing to plan housing.

LOS ANGELES (April 20) – Californians for Homeownership, a nonprofit organization sponsored by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REAL ESTATE AGENTS® (AUTO)which aims to address California’s housing crisis through impact litigation, announced today that it has filed lawsuits against six Southern California cities for violating state laws that require cities to plan housing development. The cities are Bradbury, La Habra Heights, Laguna Hills, Manhattan Beach, South Pasadena, and Vernon.

“The Housing Element process is a unique opportunity to create strong housing plans across the state,” said CAR Chairman Otto Catrina. “The purpose of these lawsuits is to fundamentally change the way California cities and counties approach their housing planning obligations. For too long, cities have treated compliance with these laws as optional, and we hope to end this approach.

The litigation seeks to enforce the requirements of California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) and Housing Elements laws. Under the RHNA system, state and local governments work together to identify regional housing needs and allocate them among cities and counties within a region. Each city and county must then develop a “housing component”—a component of the city’s overall plan that identifies available sites for future housing development sufficient to meet the city’s RHNA allocation. If the city cannot identify suitable sites, it must re-zoning to allow for the development of additional housing.

Housing items in the Southern California region were scheduled to be delivered on October 15, 2021. Some Southern California cities have embraced the process, but the six cities targeted for litigation have missed the law’s deadline. ‘State.

“Three of the cities we are suing had not even submitted a housing element project for review by state regulators when we approached them in March – which they were required to do in August of the last year,” said in-house counsel Matthew Gelfand. for the non-profit organization. “Time is running out, because we are already more than six months into the eight-year period that these cities are planning. Developers are waiting for those plans to be finalized, and every month these cities delay is another month of working with outdated land use rules that make housing development difficult.

Enforcing these laws has been a major focus for the organization over the past year, and it has approached about 50 Southern California cities to discuss their compliance with the law. Later in 2022, the focus will shift to the Bay Area and other parts of the state as these areas complete their housing elements. The nonprofit generally offers to waive litigation against cities that are willing to recognize state law penalties for not adopting a housing feature.

The organization’s lawsuits in Bradbury, La Habra Heights, Laguna Hills, South Pasadena and Vernon allege those cities for failing to pass updated housing elements within state deadlines. These cities were chosen for being far behind their peers in the housing element process, having shown hostility to adequate housing planning or both.

In previous housing element cycles, without litigation, some cities have let the process of developing their housing elements drag on for years after state law deadlines. For example, the city of La Habra Heights did not develop its 2013 housing element until 2020. Many Southern California cities have prioritized other non-emergency issues, including the implementation of policies aimed at limiting the production of housing, while postponing the process of the housing element.

“There are stiff penalties for not adopting a housing item under state law,” Gelfand said. “These penalties are designed to encourage cities to prioritize housing planning, which is a critical statewide issue, over less critical work.”

The organization’s lawsuit against the City of Manhattan Beach focuses on issues related to the city’s recently adopted housing element. State law requires housing components to identify sites suitable for development into housing over an eight-year planning period – by 2029. For sites with existing uses, such as shopping malls or office buildings, cities must provide evidence that existing uses will be discontinued during this time. The requirements are even stricter for sites identified for social housing.

Manhattan Beach’s housing element relies on a number of sites that have little or no chance of redevelopment by 2029. For example, the city has included the Manhattan Country Club as a site likely to be developed with 149 low-income housing units. But the club was bought in 2017 by a national operator for $73 million, and the city has cited no reason to believe it will close soon. With these inappropriate sites excluded, the city’s housing component falls far short of meeting its RHNA allocation.

Each lawsuit seeks an order requiring the city to adopt a compliant housing item on an expedited basis, as well as a court declaration that the city is subject to certain state law penalties for noncompliance. Among other penalties, cities without a conforming housing feature are prohibited from using their ordinary zoning rules to reject certain types of subdivisions. The court also has the discretion to control certain aspects of a city’s land use approvals – for example, halting the issuance of all non-residential building permits or judicially approving housing development projects that have been blocked. by a city.

The lawsuits are:

Californians for Homeownership v City of BradburyLos Angeles County Superior Court Case No. 22STCP01381.

Californians for Homeownership vs. City of La Habra HeightsLos Angeles County Superior Court Case No. 22STCP01394.

Californians for Homeownership v City of Laguna HillsOrange County Superior Court Case No. 30-2022-01255365-CU-WM-CJC.

Californians for Homeownership vs. City of Manhattan BeachLos Angeles County Superior Court Case No. 22STCP01417.

Californians for Homeownership vs. City of South PasadenaLos Angeles County Superior Court Case No. 22STCP01388.

Californians for Homeownership c. City of VernonLos Angeles County Superior Court Case No. 22STCP01397.

Copies of the documents are available at caforhomes.org/housingelements.

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Californians for Homeownership is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization sponsored by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® devoted to the use of legal tools to solve the housing crisis in California. For too long, California cities have treated compliance with state and federal housing laws as optional. The organization seeks to change this attitude by proactively enforcing the law, in the name of the important public interest in having additional housing available for families at all income levels. Californians for Homeownership was created by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (CAR), and it receives financial support from CAR and private donors. To make a tax-deductible charitable contribution today, visit caforhomes.org.

Bernard P. Love