California’s lawsuit against Huntington Beach: What to do about housing?


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California AG Xavier Becerra is suing Huntington Beach for breaking promises on affordable housing.  (PDF here.)  Huntington Beach is suing California for trying to force them to make some affordable housing.

The Attorney General’s 11-page complaint demands a court force Huntington Beach change its 2013 plan to make it comply with California law.

Everything involving housing boils down to the simple fact each city wants “few rich people with few children” but not “poor people with many children.”  Rich people buy big houses, finance superior schools, and because there aren’t many of them, they cost little to support.  Poor people have many children, do not pay enough in property taxes to give their kids requisite perks, and since there’s a lot of them, they cost a lot. Since every city faces the same incentives, 95% or more of Californian cities refuse to build sufficient ‘low income’ housing to meet their legally defined goals.  Add supply/demand to this simple reality, and home owners in much of California get a windfall from this system: their homes are worth a lot on paper.  Renters and non-owners get screwed.  Yet renters and non-owners don’t vote in the ‘little elections’ like city council (or the upcoming March 12 special election), who cares what they want?

Why target Surf City?  Some attorney schmuck in Huntington Beach did try to circulate the ‘Sodomite Suppression Act’ (aka ‘Shoot the Gays’ proposal) in 2016, so some backlash was probably imminent…and in 2017, Huntington Beach did sue California to challenge the Sanctuary Laws (“we’re exempt because we’re a charter city! We want the freedom to extort/exploit foreigners!”).  Ample ground for grudges there…

But really, the California claim against Huntington Beach looks to have arisen largely from the Kennedy Commission’s lawsuit against Huntington Beach.  In that claim, the Kennedy Commission convinced a lower court in 2015 that Huntington Beach had cheated on ‘low/very low’ income housing, cutting that from its plans in response to community outcry.

[Note: our own Vern Nelson’s screed against “high density development” in 2014 Huntington Beach  may have expressed part of the pretext some folks in Huntington Beach sought to cut out the ‘low income’ portion from the projects they’d planned.  High density is bad? OK, those poor people can move elsewhere…]

Huntington Beach lost at the lower levels in the Kennedy Commission lawsuit, but won on appeal because as a charter city, they’re exempt from several of these laws – or at least, exempt from nonprofit groups like the Kennedy Commission suing them for breach.  Perhaps only the California Attorney General has the means to challenge those sorts of actions…

Which brings us to January/February 2019.  The CA Attorney General is annoyed that Huntington Beach broke promises they made to a judge in 2016, and cut out the ‘low income’ housing plans.  Tyler Diep (Assembly District 72), Cottie Petrie-Norris (Assembly District 74), and Tom Umberg (Senate District 34) have all weighed in, urging negotiations rather than ‘expensive’ litigation.  Yet when a city council repeatedly breaks the law, promises to rectify that, then breaks their promise in response to a few comments from mere bloggers and attendees at their city council meetings – who is to say that negotiations in good faith are even feasible?  Who can enforce the law if not the California Attorney General?

Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, Irvine, Santa Ana, and Seal Beach are also ‘charter cities’ in Orange County, so each enjoys roughly the same position as Huntington Beach in terms of legal stature.  Yet honestly, what are we to do in Orange County, where no one without a household income of $200,000/year can afford a house?


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