Redondo acts to stop State from allowing “single-family home lot becoming six on a lot”

Redondo wants to protect single family zoning to preserve single family homes such as this refurbished Victorian-style home built in 1918. Photo by Bruce Hazelton

by Rachel Reeves

The Redondo Beach City Council is continuing to push back against state lawmakers’ efforts to determine the city’s zoning and housing allocation. At its Tuesday meeting, the council unanimously agreed to advocate for the city’s right to judicially review state-mandated housing requirements and to oppose decisions about zoning made in Sacramento.

Mayor Bill Brand said at the meeting that state lawmakers are “on a mission to basically strip communities of their local control over housing and land use,” he said.

“The belief, really, and the overriding theme in Sacramento right now is that it’s local communities’ fault why we have a housing shortage in California. Most communities would argue it’s not so much a shortage as it is an affordability crisis, so many communities are pushing back … This goes back to the Willie Brown days where it’s very centralized control in Sacramento at the legislature,” Brand said. 

“The state is micromanaging what we’re doing with our zoning,” Councilmember Nils Nehrenheim added, “and it’s not good at all.”

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) determines the housing needs in cities and towns through a Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), which takes into account such factors as demographic and economic trends. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) then determines how the number of needed units will be distributed. SCAG has instructed Redondo Beach to plan for 2,490 additional housing units. The city lost an appeal filed in opposition.

“HCD determines the overall amount,” Brandy Forbes, the city’s community development director, explained at Tuesday’s meeting. “The Southern California Association of Governments determines the methodology.”

Until 2004, state law allowed for judicial review of RHNA-based allocations, but those provisions were later removed. In 2009, the California Court of Appeals ruled that the state clearly intends to make the allocation process “immune from judicial intervention.”

The City of Redondo Beach appealed its RHNA allocation in October, but lost. 

“So what is a single-family home lot will become six on a lot,” Brand said. “That’s very attractive to investor groups. So what you’re seeing now is investor groups outbidding your new neighbor.”

On Tuesday, the council approved a letter to state lawmakers in support of Assembly Bill 1258, which allows for judicial review of the California Department of Housing and Community Development’s assessment of housing needs. The letter, addressed to Assembly Member Janet Nguyen, states: “Given the significant impact that a housing element has on local governments’ planning and development, it seems reasonable that there should be the opportunity for judicial review of these decisions.”

Forbes explained that reinstating the ability to judicially review state lawmakers’ decisions would “give back a little bit of local control.”

“What this would do is allow for municipalities to challenge the methodology and have independent review and analysis in the courts,” she said. 

Resident Daniel Elder wrote in support of the letter, calling the judicial review provision “desperately needed.”

He wrote that the current process “doesn’t appear to be equitable and often unfairly punishes cities that have already greatly increased housing density.”

“We need oversight of this process to ensure it is fair and transparent,” Elder wrote. 

Harbor Commissioner Jim Light phoned into the council meeting to express his support. He read from a SCAG report that shows Redondo Beach is the only one of the Beach Cities with more mixed residential or multi-family home zoning (65 percent) than single-family home zoning (35 percent). He said the closest city is Hermosa, 59 percent of which is zoned for single-family homes and 41 percent for multi-family. He added that 92.5 percent of working Redondo residents commute out of the city every day, resulting in 30,000 car trips.

“So we have a workforce and jobs imbalance — we don’t have a lack of housing for the workforce,” he said, adding that he hopes the council “continues to push back, because this RHNA allocation is a joke.” 

“El Segundo has the biggest job center for [workers] in the South Bay and has a RHNA number that’s much less,” he said. “They have more land they could convert to multi-family high-density dwellings and they have more RHNA allocations, so the process is flawed and it does not consider the impacts on a community.”

Muratasuchi at bat

Also on Tuesday’s agenda was discussion of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 7 (ACA 7), introduced by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, which states that a city charter (or an ordinance or regulation adopted pursuant to a city charter) prevails over a conflicting state statute.

City staff prepared a resolution expressing its support for ACA 7, which the council adopted on Tuesday. The resolution notes that the city is opposed to the current process because it is “interfer[ing] with the ability of cities to control their own destiny through use of the zoning authority that has been granted to them.”

“What this constitutional amendment [ACA 7] does is it really gives the power back to municipalities …  this constitutional amendment would [mean] that those ordinances we put into place would have the power over our land use and our housing,” Forbes said.

Councilmember Zein Obagi encouraged residents watching Tuesday’s meeting to contact state lawmakers, particularly California State Senator Ben Allen, with concerns over zoning.

“We’re all against this new density, but we’ve also got to push Senator Ben Allen onto the right side of this issue,” he said.

“Momentum is building,” Brand said. 

The council has also adopted a resolution that states recent bills “usurp the authority of local jurisdictions to determine for themselves the land use policies and practices that best suit each city and its residents.” ER

 

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Written by: Kevin Cody

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