Huntington Beach Pier
Surfers at the Huntington Beach Pier. File photo via Pixabay

A federal judge in Santa Ana Tuesday rejected Huntington Beach’s bid for a temporary restraining order preventing the state from enforcing affordable housing laws.

U.S. District Judge Fred Slaughter ruled that the city would not have any chance of winning on any of the constitutional challenges it filed against the state’s requirements for an affordable housing plan. The emergency restraining order was sought because the City Council had the issue on its agenda at Tuesday night’s regular meeting.

“Plaintiffs state that these issues will be decided at the City Council’s March 21, 2023, meeting,” Slaughter wrote. “However, plaintiffs do not sufficiently explain why this meeting date, which plaintiffs appear to have known about for some time, necessitates emergency relief or why the application could not be heard according to regular noticed procedures.”

Local officials sought to prevent the state from imposing fines or penalties, but Slaughter said the city has “not sufficiently demonstrated the existence of a crisis justifying emergency relief.”

City officials said their planners have been working with the state for months, the judge noted.

“Accordingly, because plaintiffs have had knowledge of this dispute for several months but did not act until the eleventh hour the court concludes that plaintiffs are not without fault in creating the crisis,” Slaughter wrote.

The judge also found that the three declarations filed by city officials “repeat the allegations of the complaint rather than asserting facts that demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits.”

Slaughter also noted that the federal lawsuit was filed March 9, a day after the state sued the city in Orange County Superior Court. That raises the issue of what is known as an “abstention doctrine,” which requires federal courts to refrain from legal action that would intrude on a state court’s interpretation of state law.

The judge also questioned whether the city has legal standing to bring the lawsuit.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Local governments don’t get to pick and choose which state laws they want to follow,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. “Huntington Beach’s lawsuit is another baseless and obstructionist attempt by the city to defy state housing laws.”

“I applaud the court for today’s decision denying Huntington Beach’s latest attempt to block their city’s residents from accessing crucial housing opportunities afforded by state law. The California Department of Justice will continue to fight to increase housing supply throughout the state, and hold Huntington Beach accountable to state law.”

Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland has argued that the state’s law would mandate 13,368 more units of “high density housing in just the next few years” in a move that would “nearly double” the city’s population.