The Huntington Beach City Council voted on March 21 to resume processing homeowner applications for expanding their properties to include ADUs – Accessory Dwelling Units (aka “mother-in-law suites”), but the measure was a little too late.
The state of California had already sued the city of Huntington Beach on March 8 in Orange County Superior Court alleging violations of state housing laws.
“It is necessary and appropriate for the Court to render a declaratory judgment that sets forth the parties’ legal rights and obligations with respect to whether the City is subject to the state’s housing laws,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta wrote in the complaint. Download compliant here.
The lawsuit was filed in response to the city banning Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) construction and accessory dwelling unit (ADU) projects, also known as granny flats or mother-in-law suites.
“For ethnic families, like Hispanic and Asian families, it’s not uncommon to have grandma and grandpa living in the house and they take care of the grand kids when people go to work,” said Ty Youngblood, a licensed real estate broker who lives in Corona (website). “It’s a whole system and it works. Because housing is so unaffordable, these are some of the options that are available to us as homeowners.”
Youngblood, 55, was initially deterred by city officials at Huntington Beach City Hall when he applied to add more space to his 82-year-old mother’s Huntington Beach home so he and his family could be close as she ages.
Reports were completed, the architects were ready to submit plans, Youngblood had taken out a $253,000 mortgage to finance the ADU unit, and he had paid taxes on a $40,000 grant received from the California Housing Finance Agency.
“I was just not pleased with what they were doing,” Youngblood told OrangeCountyLawyers.com. “It felt politicized and I’m a registered independent who has voted for Republican presidents and Democratic presidents. I’ve done the same at the city and the regional level after carefully researching the candidates.”
In response to the delay, Youngblood wrote a letter on Feb. 27 to the attorney general and the governor’s office highlighting his experience with the state “builder’s remedy law“, which the Huntington Beach city council voted to ban on March 7.
The builder’s remedy law allows affordable housing development without a California city’s approval when local officials don’t have a state approved housing plan in place.
Currently, Youngblood, an only child, drives to Huntington Beach on an as-needed basis.
“I would never live in my mom’s house,” he said. “I’d rather live in a separate ADU where we can maintain our independence, have some privacy, but also be close to each other. There’s always something going on that needs attention whether it’s dog food or water carried in or just the littlest everyday things.”
Although the city council has since rescinded its prohibition and the Youngbloods are being allowed to proceed with their ADU project, on April 4, the city council failed to adopt a Housing Element, which was due on Oct. 15, 2021, and is required by state law.
As a result, on April 10, AG Bonta amended his original complaint against the City of Huntington Beach citing the California’s Housing Element Law.
Housing Elements submitted by California cities must include a housing needs assessment, an inventory relevant to meeting housing needs, and a program to implement the policies, goals, and objectives of the assessment.
“The City’s refusal last week to adopt a Housing Element in accordance with state law is just the latest in a string of willfully illegal actions by the city – decisions that worsen our housing crisis and harm taxpayers and Huntington Beach residents,” Bonta said in a statement online. “We won’t stand idly by as Huntington Beach continues to flagrantly violate state housing laws designed to bring crucial affordable housing opportunities to our communities.”
Juliette Fairley covers legal topics for various publications including the Southern California Record, the Epoch Times and Pacer Monitor-News. Prior to discovering she had an ease and facility for law, Juliette lived in Orange County and Los Angeles where she pursued acting in television and film.