Two Orange County legislators Monday said they were working to help settle a legal dispute between the state and Huntington Beach over affordable housing.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a lawsuit Friday against the city, accusing it of blocking the production of affordable housing and worsening the statewide housing crisis.
Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Beach, said she spent the weekend “connecting with members of the Huntington Beach City Council and the governor’s office.”
“My objective is for us to find a resolution for outside of the courts,” Petrie-Norris said. “I think that having this go into litigation is not an efficient or productive way for us to solve this problem.”
Petrie-Norris said meetings with Newsom’s office continued Monday.
“Hopefully, we have more to share tomorrow,” she said.
Newsom spokesman Nathan Click, said the governor is open to a settlement.
“Our goal has always been for Huntington Beach to amend its housing plan to allow for more housing,” Click said.
“The governor supports and encourages all efforts to help the city come into compliance with state housing law, and the state will gladly drop its lawsuit once it does so. California has made repeated attempts to work with the city to bring their housing plan into compliance over the last four years and stands ready to do so once more.”
State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said he was “in the process of writing a letter to the governor saying, hey, let’s work together.”
“We’ve got to get everybody to calm down and let cooler heads prevail, and we have to look at the bigger picture,” Moorlach said.
Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates said the lawsuit would bog down efforts to negotiate a settlement.
Newsom’s office accused the city of amending its housing plan– which was in compliance with affordable housing mandates in 2013 — to “significantly” reduce “the number of new housing units able to be built.”
City officials then later rejected a proposed amendment that would have added the ability to build more affordable units, the governor’s office claimed.
“Cities and counties are important partners in addressing this housing crisis, and many cities are making herculean efforts to meet this crisis head-on,” Newsom said. “But some cities are refusing to do their part to address this crisis and willfully stand in violation of California law. Those cities will be held to account.”
Gates responded that the city has been “complying with all applicable state housing and zoning laws and has been, and will continue to, work with the California Department of Housing and Community Development regarding meeting the city’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment.”
Gates said proof of that “is evidenced by the city’s recent court victories in lawsuits challenging the city’s actions to zone for additional housing, including affordable housing.”
Efforts by city officials to improve its zoning “has been caused by the city fighting lawsuits and court appeals filed by plaintiffs such as the Kennedy Commission.”
Gates said the lawsuit was “timed poorly as it now interrupts recent months of discussions with both (Housing and Community Development) and the Kennedy Commission with regard to a resolution to the remaining outstanding disputes.”
Since 2014, the city has “issued permits and filed inspections for over 2,500 new housing units, including approximately 100 very low-income and low-income deed-restricted units,” Gates said.
“Moreover, the city has also permitted or entitled all of its moderate-income (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) target,” Gates said. “The city has also established programs, such as our Tenant Based Rental Assistance program, dedicated to providing assistance to extremely low income and at-risk homeless households.”
Gates said it was “noteworthy” that Huntington Beach has been singled out “while over 50 other cities in California have not yet met their RHNA targets. That raises questions about the motivation for this lawsuit filed only against Huntington Beach.”
The city also is embroiled in a legal battle with the state over the so-called “sanctuary state” law that the city has claimed doesn’t apply to Huntington Beach because it is a charter city.