New California Governor Follows Up Tough Housing Rhetoric with Action

Gov. Gavin Newsom, only weeks into his new office, had warned cities that his office would hold them accountable for failing to meet their housing requirements. On Friday, he directed Attorney General Xavier Bacerra to sue Hungtinton Beach.

3 minute read

January 30, 2019, 12:00 PM PST

By Irvin Dawid


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Gov. Gavin Newsom talked tough on housing in his Jan. 7 inaugural address. Three days later, in his 2019-20 budget proposal, he warned municipalities that he was considering withholding gas tax funding if they fail to meet their required housing targets. While he has yet to make good on that particular threat, he clearly showed his resolve in his announcement Friday that he would "hold cities accountable for standing in the way of new housing."

The Governor approved legal action against the City of Huntington Beach for willfully refusing to comply with state housing law, even after extensive attempts to offer partnership and support from the California Department of Housing and Community Development [HCD]. The Attorney General will file suit against the city today.

“The state doesn’t take this action lightly," said Governor Newsom. “The huge housing costs and sky-high rents are eroding quality of life for families across this state. California’s housing crisis is an existential threat to our state’s future and demands an urgent and comprehensive response.”

“The time for empty promises has come to an end,” state Attorney General Xavier Becerra wrote in the complaint, which was filed in Orange County Superior Court," reports Alexei Koseff for the San Francisco Chronicle. "California is seeking an order that would compel Huntington Beach to set aside additional sites for low-income housing."

The action is the first use of a new law, Assembly Bill 72, signed as part of a 15-bill package by former Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2017 to address the state's housing crisis. According to Jason Rhine, a legislative representative for the League of California Cities, the law "provides HCD broad new authority to review any action by a city or county that HCD determines is inconsistent with an adopted housing element and allows HCD to decertify an approved housing element."

AB 72 also allows HCD to review and refer to the attorney general alleged violations of state law, including the Housing Accountability Act, No Net Loss, Density Bonus and anti-discrimination housing statutes.

The bill's co-authors, Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco), applauded Newsom's action. 

“That’s why I authored and passed AB 72 in 2017, to shine a light on cities and counties that dig their heels in and refuse to meet their housing goals," said Santiago in a statement. "The legal action today by the Governor and the Attorney General is a direct product of that law, and is an important first step in alleviating a housing crisis that threatens our way of life.”

Hat tip to Ethan Elkind.

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