Huntington Beach’s city attorney Monday refuted claims made by a nonprofit organization in a lawsuit alleging the city rejected a condominium project because of complaints by nearby residents.

The organization, Californians for Homeownership, said that the lawsuit is its first under the state’s Housing Accountability Act, which is also known as the anti-NIMBY law, referring to the acronym for the phrase “`Not In My Back Yard.” The law prevents cities from denying housing projects if they comply with zoning rules.

“Huntington Beach put the anti-housing views of its residents over the region’s urgent need for more housing, rejecting a project that would have helped 48 families realize their dreams of California homeownership,” said Californians for Homeownership President Jared Martin.

“Cities like Huntington Beach need to understand that there are consequences for violating state housing law.”

Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates said the lawsuit “mischaracterizes Huntington Beach” as opposed to affordable housing.

“The city’s decision to decline or deny the 48-unit project had nothing to do with the anti-NIMBY act,” Gates said. “The decision was made by the council because it was a very tall project in a very small space and based on public health and safety, including emergency access and other related issues.”

Gates said since 2013 the city has granted permits and zoning to 3,000 new additional housing units.

“So not only did the city do its job, developers have stepped up to develop,” Gates said.

The number of approved new units “is far more than any of our neighbors in the region,” Gates said.

“And of those 3,000 new units, 900 were for affordable housing,” Gates said.

The project at issue is a 48-unit condominium project in a four-story building with five units set aside for affordable housing. The project would replace a liquor store, a single-family home and part of a car wash near Ellis Avenue and Beach Boulevard, according to Californians for Homeownership.

City officials recommended approval to the City Council, but neighbors opposed it at a planning commission meeting, according to Californians for Homeownership.

“The complaints from neighbors and the Planning Commission weren’t focused on the specifics of this project, but on the very idea of allowing more people to live along Ellis Avenue even though that’s exactly where the city is telling developers to build,” the nonprofit organization’s attorney Matthew Gelfand said.

“At the end of the day, the Planning Commission came up with vague reasons that could be used to deny any zoning-compliant housing development on the site. The city’s findings are internally inconsistent and don’t pass the most basic ‘smell test,’ let alone the high bar set by the Housing Accountability Act.”

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