Oakland, CA — The California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA) is pleased to announce a precedent-setting victory in the fight for more housing and a more equitable California. In a much anticipated decision released Friday afternoon, the California Court of Appeals found San Mateo’s defense of their disapproval of a modest 10-unit building “unpersuasive.” This decision also reaffirms the constitutionality of the Housing Accountability Act, a law enacted to prevent cities from arbitrarily and subjectively disapproving of housing developments.
“This is not only a significant victory for CaRLA, but also for all Californians who feel the effects of a housing crisis that people acknowledge, but no one wants to fix in their own backyards,” says Dylan Casey, CaRLA’s Executive Director. “San Mateo tried to deny the creation of new homes by reinterpreting its own vague and subjective design review standards at the last minute. This is exactly the type of behavior that the Housing Accountability Act was enacted to prevent. Cities cannot be allowed to misuse their permitting process to prevent housing that is supposed to be allowed under their own existing rules and general plan.”
“We are here because of pure NIMBYism. We’ve gotten to a point where the NIMBYism is so bad that it takes the entire state government apparatus — legislative, executive, and judicial — to get cities to finally abide by the rules they’ve set for themselves,” says Greg Magofña, CaRLA’s Director of Outreach. “The people making decisions for these cities forget that they have kids who also want to live where they grew up but basically can’t afford to live anywhere in the state because of the compounding effects of saying no to new neighbors.”
“This decision is a home run for housing,” said Daniel Golub, a partner at Holland & Knight LLP, who briefed and argued the case on behalf of CaRLA. “The opinion makes it clear that cities cannot just adopt plans for housing – they must also approve the housing for which they have planned. California ranks 49th out of 50 states in homes per capita, and legal victories like this one are necessary to begin to stem the state’s historic housing supply and affordability crisis.”
“The Housing Accountability Act gives voice to future residents that are normally never heard from in public hearings that decide the fate of housing,” says Victoria Fierce, a named plaintiff in the suit and Director of Operations at CaRLA. “If I hadn’t shown up to that particular late night meeting, this project could have died like so many others. Now, thanks to this ruling, we are one step closer towards eliminating the use of sparsely attended late night meetings as a veto on much needed housing.”
This ruling is another victory for CaRLA, future residents, and the Housing Accountability Act. “We built a superstar team to defend housing, but it shouldn’t take CaRLA, Holland & Knight, the Attorney General, and three years of litigation to force cities like San Mateo to obey state housing law. Cities have grown accustomed to blatantly ignoring the mandates of state housing law, but this case shows that that era is coming to an end. This victory adds much needed enforcement to years of advocacy and legislation, and it cements the constitutionality and legitimacy of the California legislature’s limits on local control of housing policy,” emphasizes Casey.