City May Sue Over Housing Allocation From the State

Proposed lawsuit challenges Sacramento decree that Santa Monica build 8,895 new units, 2/3 to be"affordable"

By Alyssa Erdley

News with Attitude

Spurred on by Santa Monica City Councilmember Phil Brock, the City Council on Tuesday voted 5-2 to ask a Westside city association if they should join a lawsuit challenging the number of units they've been ordered to build by the state.

The lawsuit, already filed in June by the Orange County Council of Governments (OKKOG), disputes the number of units decreed by California's Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), saying the population growth data used was inaccurate.

In 2019, the HCD delivered a Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) of 1.34 million new housing units to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), a semi-governmental agency given the authority to apportion this number among the 191 cities in its purview. SCAG ordered Santa Monica to build 9,118 new units, which was later reduced to merely 8,895, two thirds of which had to be "affordable." While several beach cities appealed their allotment, Santa Monica did not.

Non-Santa Monicans for Renters Rights candidates Phil Brock, Oscar de la Torre, and Christine Parra were then elected to the City Council in November of 2020. With no ties to development interests, Phil Brock followed through on his slow-growth promise by pushing the council on Tuesday to ask the Westside Cities Council of Governments (WSCCOG) to join the Orange County lawsuit as a way to fight to reduce the state's order to increase the city's housing stock by 17% in 9 years. Other cities in WSCCOG include Beverly Hills, Culver City, West Hollywood, and Los Angeles Districts 5 and 11, and the County of Los Angeles. Severe financial penalties are assessed any city not meeting their housing allotment.

The United States Census determined California will lose representation in congress due to the state's relative decline in population. It seems unlikely 1.34 million more housing units will be necessary.

Opposing the move to join the lawsuit, Councilmember Gleam Davis expressed concern over how the HCD would react. The city is currently negotiating with the state agency to reduce its housing allotment. "Even suggesting this...has the potential, pardon my French, to piss [HCD] off," she said, and added it showed "bad faith."

Brock countered that "bad faith would be ignoring the residents." He added he did not think the city should act on the basis of fear. "I want us to do what's right."


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