Pier in Huntington Beach
The pier in Huntington Beach. Photo by Regina Wilkerson via Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a lawsuit Friday against the city of Huntington Beach, accusing the Orange County surfing haven of blocking the production of affordable housing and thus exacerbating the statewide housing crisis.

“The state doesn’t take this action lightly,” Newsom said in a statement. “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 and urgent and comprehensive response.”

Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael E. Gates said the governor’s statement “contains inaccuracies” and said the move would slow down efforts to negotiate a legal settlement regarding housing issues.

According to Newsom’s office, the city has refused to comply with state housing law, “even after extensive attempts to offer partnership and support from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.”

The state argued that cities are required to enact housing plans that meet “the needs of the broader region and its economy.” The state Department of Housing and Community Development found Huntington Beach’s housing plan to be deficient in 2015. According to Newsom’s office, the city was in compliance two years earlier, but it then amended its housing plan “and significantly reduced the number of new housing units able to be built.”

The city later rejected a proposed amendment that would have added the ability for more units to be built, according to the governor’s office.

“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.”

State Senate President Toni Atkins, a San Diego-area lawmaker who has sponsored affordable housing legislation, praised the governor’s action.

“For too long, cities that refuse to plan for adequate new housing have flouted their legal and ethical obligations, directly contributing to the housing affordability and homelessness crisis that we now have statewide,” Atkins said. “While we acknowledge the importance of community input in planning decisions and want to provide adequate state support for those communities looking to meet their housing targets, we need to hold bad actors accountable.”

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.