The Reporter (Vacaville)
Housing laws prompt dueling lawsuits
California's attempts at forcing its wealthy coastal cities to build more affordable housing spawned two lawsuits Thursday, showcasing tensions around solving a crisis that has contributed to a surge in the homeless population in the nation's most populous state.
Attorney General Rob
Bonta sued Huntington Beach on Thursday morning, accusing the seaside city known for its surf culture and iconic pier of ignoring state laws requiring it to approve more affordable housing and to build more than 13,000 new homes over the next eight years.
State housing officials say California needs an additional 2.5 million homes by 2030 in order to keep up with demand. But the state currently builds about 125,000 houses each year, which leaves California well short of that goal. California has about 170,000 homeless people on any given night, accounting for nearly onethird of the nation's unsheltered population, according to federal data.
Bonta's lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, asks a judge to order the city to comply with the law and to impose a fine.
“This is the colossal challenge that California is confronting,” Bonta said. “The message we're sending to the city of Huntington Beach is simple: Act in good faith, follow the law and do your part to increase the housing supply. If you don't, our office will hold you accountable.”
Hours later, defiant city officials announced their own lawsuit, asking a federal judge to block the state from forcing them to build a wave of new homes they said would transform the suburban community into an urban one.
“I am committed to defend the city and its wonderful property owners who enjoy this quiet suburban beach town,” Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland said.
Huntington Beach, dubbed “Surf City USA,” has a largely suburban feel with residential neighborhoods of single-family homes flanked by busy main roads linked with strip malls and office buildings.
Last year, four new councilmembers won election with a politically conservative bent.
Since taking office, the four-member council majority has taken on state housing mandates and limited the flying of flags on city property, including removing the LGBT rainbow flag that has flown in the city the past two years.
The dispute with the state centers on the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, a process that requires cities to formulate a plan every eight years on how they will meet housing demands — demand that is set by the state.