Governor Newsom, Attorney General Bonta Take Legal Action Against La Cañada Flintridge to Enforce California’s Housing Laws

What you Need to Know: La Cañada Flintridge, an affluent community with 20,000 residents in Los Angeles County, refuses to comply with California’s housing laws and has denied the approval of an 80-unit, mixed-use, mixed-income housing project. Now the state is taking legal action to hold La Cañada Flintridge accountable.

Sacramento – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, along with the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), announced a request that the court allow the state to intervene in the case of California Housing Defense Fund v. City of La Cañada Flintridge to uphold California’s housing laws, and reverse the City of La Cañada Flintridge’s denial of a mixed-use project that would create 80 mixed-income residential dwelling units, 14 hotel units, and 7,791 square feet of office space.

“Since California strengthened its housing laws, cities have attempted, unsuccessfully, to skirt these rules. La Cañada Flintridge is another community making excuses rather than building their fair share of housing. La Cañada Flintridge will learn, as other communities have, that the status quo is no longer acceptable, and ultimately, they will be held accountable.” Governor Gavin Newsom

“Local governments must do their part to build housing and address our state’s housing crisis,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “The City of La Cañada Flintridge is legally required to process this affordable housing project under California’s builder’s remedy because they did not adopt a compliant housing element on time. Far too many Californians struggle to access affordable housing, and cities have a duty to facilitate, not block, affordable housing to alleviate our housing crisis. The California Department of Justice is committed to enforcing California’s housing laws, and that’s why we are asking the court to allow us to intervene in this case and ensure that the people of La Cañada Flintridge, and all our communities, can access the housing that they critically need.”

The state is also seeking a declaratory judgment that the City did not have a compliant housing plan in place when they denied approval of this housing project. State law requires local governments to adopt a housing plan, otherwise known as a housing element, as part of their general plan. A housing element is a crucial tool for building housing for moderate-, low-, and very low-income Californians.

If a local government fails to implement or update their housing element, then a provision of the Housing Accountability Act (HAA) known as the “builder’s remedy” prohibits the local government from denying a housing project that includes affordable housing based on inconsistency with zoning or land use designation. The housing project at issue in this case was originally submitted on November 14, 2022, well before the city had a compliant housing element, and is thus legally required to be processed under the builder’s remedy.

“The facts and the law are clear. La Cañada Flintridge failed to adopt a substantially compliant housing element, and then unlawfully blocked mixed-income housing proposed under the builder’s remedy,” said HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez. “Cities and counties cannot pick and choose the rules that apply to them. When communities defy their obligation to promote housing production at all income levels, HCD will continue to take decisive action and hold them accountable to state housing law.”

In the filings, the state argues that the city’s denial of the mixed-income housing project violates both Housing Element Law and the HAA and shows flagrant disregard of the state’s goals of addressing California’s housing crisis, and asks the court to grant the state intervention in the case to enforce California’s housing laws.

A copy of the application to intervene is available here. A copy of the proposed petition for writ of mandate is available here.