MOORLACH UPDATE — Really Addressing Housing Goals — January 29, 2019

In his swearing-in remarks, Gov. Newsom quoted from my favorite speech, the Sermon on the Mount, exhorting the need to build on a solid rock and not sinking sand.

Watching Sacramento’s salvo shot at Huntington Beach, it reminds me of a question that Jesus asked in Matthew 21:28-31 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — RHNA Retribution — January 26, 2019).

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

I believe many in Sacramento are getting a little tired of cities that say they are going to do what the law requires, but only provide lip service. If Huntington Beach had not changed its original housing plan in 2013, Newsom’s lawsuit would not have presumably occurred. But, when you look at what is actually happening in this city, there is plenty of building occurring, inasmuch as they can accommodate it. At least its leadership was honest in that it was reexamining its official documents.

Cities just giving the minimum on housing and homelessness issues, but not the follow through, is where the legislature and Governor should focus. Let me provide an example. California has numerous cities that have not complied with the requirements of SB 2, to establish a zone where year-round homeless shelters can be built. Many other cities have declared an SB 2 zone, but it is just to satisfy the state requirement. The possibility of an actual shelter being built there is next to zero.

I found this out the hard way with the city of Santa Ana. I watched intently as its city council selected their preferred SB 2 zone. Then I, along with my Supervisorial colleagues, opened escrow on a commercial building in that zone for a 200-bed shelter. What happened next? The Santa Ana City Council went apoplectic and killed the deal.

Were they guilty of lip service? Were they meeting the requirements with no intention of following through? I guess.

So, which is worse? The city that says it’s going to do something and doesn’t? Or the city that tells you the truth and then, after a little reflection, actually does what it is demanded to do?

MyNewsLA provides the City News Service piece below on the latest developments in this saber rattling exercise to get cities to do what they are demanded to do, versus just providing the lip service that is superficial but doesn’t meet the true spirit of the law.

Also, now that we’re on the subject of housing elements, I’ve been enjoying both questions and praise for my co-authorship of Senator Wiener’s bill, SB 50, which tries to incentivize housing being built near transit stations (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2019-20 Session Underway — December 4, 2018). Providing housing or governmental facilities alongside transit lines, in my opinion, has not fared well in Orange County.

We need to encourage cities to move their development processes along inasmuch as they can do so and eliminate barriers to entry that are so difficult to overcome that little new housing actually gets built in a timely fashion and without additional costs. SB 50 is an attempt to go after the low hanging fruit, but it’s not a perfect alternative.

I’m co-authoring the bill with the understanding that it doesn’t increase prevailing wage requirements. Some question my willingness to address a massive problem through a public, deliberative, legislative process. I find that this is a distinctly different – and I would argue – better way to find housing options rather than by fiat or litigation.

If the bill moves a direction I am not comfortable with or does things that I have consistently opposed, I’ll pull my support to the bill. And Senator Wiener is aware of this. Until then, if any of my constituents have a better idea on how to deal with this problem, you know where to find me.

OC Lawmakers Hope to Settle State’s Suit with Huntington Beach

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.


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