Governor's heavy-handed litigation tactics on City of Huntington Beach will divert resources from housing needs

Friday, January 25, 2019

Over the 4 years I have served in the State Senate, I have labored diligently to reduce the cost of housing in California so every person and family could afford a roof over their heads. That includes attempts to reform the California Environmental Quality Act, address infill constraints, and create opportunities for denser housing near transit centers. However, the state government continues to erect more burdensome obstacles in the form of higher taxes on real estate transactions and more regulatory hurdles, rather than houses. Additionally, the dark cloud of litigation hangs over the heads of developers who want to make good on the idea of affordable housing.

So that is why I am befuddled that Governor Newsom – a former mayor of a city and county with astronomical housing costs and multitudinous problems – would try and make an example out of my constituents, the City of Huntington Beach, and sue them for not having enough affordable housing.

From my vantage point, Huntington Beach is doing its best to comply with applicable state housing and zoning laws and continues to work on meeting its housing goals and has consistently prevailed in court on this very issue.

I thought that Governor Newsom understood how difficult building more affordable housing was going to be and hoped that he would engage in some goodwill gestures to help cities reach their goals. In one fell – and very awkward – swoop, he made things worse and single-handedly exacerbated the housing crisis by unilaterally announcing a lawsuit on the City of Huntington Beach.

The State of California filing a lawsuit against one of its 482 cities is the first clash between the philosophies of local control versus centralized control out of Sacramento. The issue should be in striking a balance. If the Governor thinks that using heavy-handed litigation tactics that will divert the city’s time, energy and resources to respond to obstructive and otherwise frivolous lawsuits will help them achieve their goals, then he needs to reevaluate his priorities.

Once this approach is started, then it must be applied to all other cities not in compliance. He should have a policy of no better, no worse. Otherwise, these are strong-arm tactics