Cities Face Growing Legal Action over Housing

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Cities are coming under increasing legal fire to take action on the housing crisis. The latest example came this week when the state Department of Housing and Community Development threatened to sue the city of Cupertino over its resistance to a Bay Area Council-endorsed project that would convert a dilapidated old shopping mall into a vibrant residential and commercial development. Council member Sand Hill Property has been battling the city to move forward on a project to build a mixed-use development that would deliver 2,400 new homes. However, like too many cities across the region and state, Cupertino has flouted state requirements to meet housing demand. The state earlier this year sued Huntington Beach on similar grounds. Los Altos also has come under legal fire from pro-housing activist group California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA) over a 15-unit project the city rejected. CaRLA successfully sued Dublin over its failure to meet its housing obligations, reaching a settlement that resulted in the approval of a 220-unit apartment building near BART. While these lawsuits may generate some new housing, Council Senior Vice President Matt Regan told the Mercury News that “the bigger impact they’re having is that cities are now on notice that they can’t be scofflaw cities and not face any consequences.”

With the state and Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) groups like CaRLA pushing the legal front, the Council is continuing to work on the legislative and advocacy fronts to win badly needed structural reforms that can streamline local approvals, increase accountability and ease onerous fees and other regulatory barriers. Council CEO Jim Wunderman talked about some of those solutions during a recent town hall discussion hosted by ABC7 News and anchor Dan Ashley. The Council’s Housing Committee meets Aug. 21 with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary to Gov. Newsom Jason Elliott, Assemblymembers David Chiu and Phil Ting and Senators Bob Wieckowski and Nancy Skinner to discuss housing solutions. And the Council’s Housing Endorsement Subcommittee will be meeting Aug. 30 to consider endorsing a 196-unit project in Los Altos. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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