Today, the City of Huntington Beach filed an important Appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals requesting the reversal of the lower, federal district court’s ruling dismissing the City’s legal challenge of the State’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) mandates imposed on the City. In that federal suit, the City alleged that the State’s RHNA Laws are unconstitutional for many reasons, including that they violate the First Amendment rights of the City’s Council Members who are charged with exercising their independent judgment in their duties as local legislators. Additionally, the State Defendants and RHNA Laws impose certain aspects of “compelled speech” on Huntington Beach Council Members while in the process of making policy and land use decisions.
“The City’s ongoing fight against the State for local control of our City’s development is imperative,” said Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark. “These housing mandates are a prime example of State overreach and I applaud our City Attorney and his staff for not only protecting our City, but also our City Council’s First Amendment rights.”
On April 4, 2023, the City Council refused to adopt both the State’s RHNA mandate of 13,368 new units of high-density housing development and the formal Statement of Overriding Considerations as required by the RHNA Laws, i.e., having to say that the “benefits of high-density housing development outweigh the known negative impacts of that development on the City.” The City commenced its lawsuit in federal court on March 9, 2023, which presents various violations of both the federal and state constitutions in the court of law.
On November 13, 2023, the federal court dismissed the City’s entire lawsuit on the basis that the City, as a “political subdivision” of the State did not have standing to sue in federal court. As City Attorney Michael Gates explains, “the federal court relied on a case presented by the State’s attorneys known as City of S. Lake Tahoe v. California Tahoe Reg’l Plan. Agency, 625 F.2d 231 (9th Cir. 1980). The problem there is that the City of South Lake Tahoe is a general law city, not a Charter City. The City’s Appeal, filed today, asks the Ninth Circuit to rely on other, applicable cases that hold that Charter Cities ‘are distinct individual entities and are not connected political subdivisions of the state.’ Haytasingh v. City of San Diego, 66 Cal. App. 5th 429, 459 (2021) and, found in City of Redondo Beach v. Padilla, 46 Cal. App. 5th at 910, that Charter Cities are not creatures of the State, they are creatures of the state constitution, formed by the authority of the people (Cal. Const., art. XI). As the Appeal Brief explains, the City of Huntington Beach does in fact have standing to bring its lawsuit in federal court.”
City Attorney Michael Gates continues, “The City’s Ninth Circuit Appeal is very compelling. The issue presented is a novel and important question of law that strikes at the heart of the relationship between Charter Cities and the State of California, and it explains important federal questions of various constitutional violations that need to be resolved – we believe best suited for federal court. We are pleased with this Appeal and look forward in great anticipation to the hearing on this matter. We enjoy every day we can fight for this great City – especially to protect it from the unconstitutional overreach of Sacramento.”