State officials are wading into a legal fight over a planned San Mateo condo complex in hopes of protecting a law meant to prevent cities from blocking multi-unit housing.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Gov. Gavin Newsom this week announced that they’re appealing a case in which a San Mateo County judge ruled to weaken the Housing Accountability Act, a 1982 law that bars municipalities from rejecting dense residential developments that satisfy local planning laws.
Last year, the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation filed sued San Mateo to challenge its denial of a proposed 10-unit condominium complex in an otherwise single-family-home neighborhood. Developers and new-housing advocates feared the latest court decision in San Francisco Bay Area Renters v. City of San Mateo limiting the reach of the landmark 1980s legislation would undermine the state’s authority to pressure cities into building up their housing stock.
Becerra called the decades-old law a critical tool for spurring housing construction as California faces a multi-million-unit shortfall of places to live. The California Department of Housing and Community Development estimates that the state needs to double its residential supply to meet enough demand to lower overall housing costs.
At issue in the case is whether the state can regulate housing policy in charter cities, which encompass 58 percent of California’s population. Becerra called the Housing Accountability Act a “constitutional exercise of the state’s authority” to ensure that residential protections are consistently applied from one community to the next.
“The state has a fundamental interest in helping Californians access affordable housing,” Becerra said in a news release issued Tuesday morning. “We all have to work together to take on this challenge and that starts with having the units we need to meet demand. This is about upholding our state’s laws and doing our part to ensure that all Californians have a place to live.”
Newsom echoed the AG’s statements, saying he urged Becerra to intervene in the San Mateo case because of its implications for the rest of the state.
“California will defend our ability to tackle the cost crisis by holding all cities accountable to statewide housing policy,” he said.
San Mateo’s attorneys didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The filing announced this morning by Becerra reflects a broader effort by his office to defend the Housing Accountability Act, which was enacted nearly 40 years ago to address concerns about a housing shortfall threatening the economic, environmental and social quality of life in the Golden State.
To read the AG’s filing in its entirety, click here.