AG Xavier Becerra Joins Legal Battle Over San Mateo Condos to Defend State Housing Law

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

6 Comments

  1. “The state has a fundamental interest in helping Californians access affordable housing,”

    Then enforce Federal Immigration Laws and deport the more than 2,000,000 Illegal Immigrants in CA.

    https://www.ppic.org/publication/undocumented-immigrants-in-california/

    At four people per unit, that would free up 500,000 overnight. This would drop rents 30% or more.

    And according to the above article, 9% of the California Labor population are Illegal Immigrants. Imagine the labor wage rate increase if 1,750,000 jobs opened up.

    Consider as well the decrease in CO2 emissions if 2M people moved back to countries with 85% less emissions per capita?

    AG Beccera, is it not in the states interest, our Constitutional and moral duty to lower rents, increase working class pay, save the world from climate change, and enforce Federal Law?

    Then do your job and crack down on Sanctuary Cities and illegal immigration instead of chipping away at property rights.

  2. As mentioned yesterday in your article about Corporations buying out the land
    while today on Democracy Now

    https://www.democracynow.org/2020/1/14/oakland_california_moms_4_housing

    Wedgewood Properties has approximately 96 subsidiaries. And they are the real estate speculator that is holding the deed for Moms’ House. They are in the business of buying homes at rock-bottom prices and flipping them. And that is part of the problem why housing is so unaffordable in cities like Oakland. They buy houses by bulk, so 100 to 200 properties per month, if not more, in distressed neighborhoods — their words — and then they flip them and sell them to the highest bidder. So it puts home prices out of reach for many working-class people. So they drive up the cost of rents and the cost of actually purchasing a home, which is why homeownership levels are so low.

    Keywords: Corporate Speculation and 30 percent and more of person’s Income goes to RENT.

    • or to summarize, buy something no one wants, invest labor and money into, then sell it to someone who does want it…

      Thats called America, and why so many people come here.

  3. The ruling in the lawsuit makes sense. A charter city is to govern under local authority rather than state rule. So if San Mateo wants to govern and approve or deny a project according to its local authority, the state has no jurisdiction. While its sounds nice, the Bay Area Renters is actually a real estate developer group. Now the state comes in to support the developers and challenge local authority. Pure Fascism.

  4. The current mindset for solving the housing crisis is akin to carpet bombing – indiscriminately place high density housing anywhere. This no-planning approach without consideration of a range of locale and site specific circumstances is the simple minded answer to producing more housing.

    A more strategic approach to development would look at an area and assess available sites for development and tailor and incentivize solutions which meet future needs while respecting existing residents as much as possible.

    In San Jose, there is A LOT of land still undeveloped or underdeveloped. And these sites should be priority locations for new housing, well before unleashing a Developer free-for-all where a ten unit condo suddenly pops up in the middle of an R1 neighborhood.

    Let’s start with some accountability from Santa Clara County who holds hundreds of acres of land in the undeveloped category that could be used for housing.

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