We are simultaneously disappointed in and surprised by a trial judge’s ruling last week to deny 48 units of desperately needed and zoning-compliant housing in Huntington Beach on the grounds that the project is not protected by the Housing Accountability Act. This ruling flies in the face of court precedent elsewhere in the state and is a blow to housing, potential tenants, and the Housing Accountability Act that was created specifically to prevent spurious disapprovals of housing such as this. It is a complete misinterpretation and misapplication of a statute intended as much as possible to facilitate the approval of housing developments.
The 48-unit housing development, which includes affordable housing, was denied by the city because of bogus ‘health and safety’ impacts made up shortly before the vote. Cases like this are blatant examples of cities trying to skirt laws meant to address the decades-long housing shortage and shows why we have the shortage in the first place. The HAA requires courts to put the burden on the city to justify denials of housing. Instead, the judge completely failed to carry out this mandate, and accepted the city’s bogus findings without any questioning despite the state legislature’s numerous reforms to the law that explicitly bar courts from doing so.
Even UC Davis Law Professor Chris Elmendorf weighed in:
The superior court in CARLA v. Huntington Beach made hash of CA's Housing Accountability Act last week, after several good HAA decisions from other courts.— Chris Elmendorf (@CSElmendorf) August 9, 2021
This very bad decision was, I think, an artifact of CA's very dumb rule disallowing citation of superior court cases. 1/10 pic.twitter.com/lPy77FgC6T
We are disappointed but not deterred from holding cities responsible for the well-being of Californians up and down the state suffering from the housing shortage and the affordability crisis. Legal appeals like this can easily cost up to $200,000, and there is no doubt this case should not go unchallenged and remain on the books. Before we can appeal this ruling, however, we must first appeal to pro-housing supporters everywhere; your financial support of CaRLA is crucial if we wish to uphold the rule of law and hold cities accountable. If this ruling is left unchallenged, years of housing reform legislation will become meaningless and unenforceable.
We brought the suit in June 2020 with the support of co-plaintiffs Californians for Homeownership and THDT Development after the city disapproved this zoning-compliant housing after three public hearings and years of consultation with city staff. The City Council tried to fabricate a basis for denial just days before the final hearing, but fell far short of its burden under the HAA. If we want to build enough housing for all Califorinians, the courts cannot allow cities to get away with this type of behavior.
We are also gearing up for the appeal of San Mateo’s illegal denial of zoning-compliant housing where the ruling was so bad, California’s Attorney General Xavier Bercera had to intervene on behalf of California housing laws, and we need your help!
See our press release below: