Nearly two-thirds of cities and counties in Southern California missed the state housing plan deadline on Saturday, Oct. 15, costing them a 2.5-year extension needed to rezone land for the future construction of houses.
Now, the rezoning deadline for those jurisdictions reverts to last Saturday, as opposed to February 2025 for cities and counties that met the deadline.
As a result, the remaining 124 governments have two hurdles to overcome in order to comply with national housing laws and avoid a host of possible penalties.
First, they need to get state approval for a new “housing feature” that outlines how local communities will meet state-mandated housing construction goals by 2030. Next, they need to rezone enough plots to give developers the power to build these new homes.
Governments without an approved housing plan and completed rezoning can lose access to state subsidies for housing and transportation, have less control over future developments, and face the risk of lawsuits and fines.
“This is entering a new phase of the process,” said Matthew Gelfand, attorney for Californians for Homeownership, a realtor-backed nonprofit that has sued nine Southern California towns that failed to obtain the state approval for their housing elements. “If you want to achieve housing element compliance, you now need to do both your housing element and rezoning at the same time.”
LISTING: Southern California Cities and Counties with Approved Housing Plans
As part of the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment, Southern California municipalities must revise the housing component of their master plans once every eight years to ensure adequate housing for low-income residents. and middle as well as wealthy households.
Housing plans, which can be hundreds of pages, outline where and how new housing can be built, creating an inventory of sites where developers can build new homes. Once the housing element is adopted, governments must rezone land to ensure there is enough land for new affordable, market-priced housing.
State lawmakers voted in late 2021 to punish those who missed the February deadline for housing feature approvals, cutting the rezoning deadline from three years to one. Their goal was to encourage more cities to complete their plans on time. But the plan backfired when 97% of local governments in Southern California missed the February deadline anyway.
So the legislature reinstated the three-year rezoning schedule — but only for jurisdictions that had their housing items approved by Oct. 15.
Now, 121 cities and the counties of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino “are doubly non-compliant,” according to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
“What that means in large part is a couple of things,” said David Zisser, HCD’s deputy director leading a new housing responsibility unit. “There are currently real consequences for jurisdictions that are non-compliant, including ineligibility for a handful of state funding programs. That’s why there are there are many reasons for jurisdictions to continue working to bring their housing elements into compliance, and HCD is here as a partner to help them in this regard.
On the plus side, the 73 jurisdictions that have won state approval represent 65% of the 1.3 million new homes the state wants Southern California to build by 2030. They include some of the most major cities in the region, such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Riverside, Fontana, Ontario, Moreno Valley and Irvine. And they include Los Angeles, Ventura, and Imperial counties.
“We have the majority of RHNA numbers in compliance, so it’s a good place to be,” said Kome Ajise, executive director of SCAG, which represents municipalities in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura counties. and Imperial.
Still, the consequences of remaining non-compliant can be severe for the remaining 124 jurisdictions, which have been ordered to plan 474,210 new homes by 2030.
“Obviously there are concerns,” Ajise added. “We know there will be potential impacts for cities that are not in compliance, primarily due to not having access to (state housing) funds. Which is ironic, because these are the same funds they need to do the work of updating their housing elements. »
The cities of Redondo Beach and Santa Monica have recently felt the effects of missing last February’s deadline for housing items, even though they both met Saturday’s deadline to get their housing plans approved. .
Developers there are seeking approval for new housing in those cities under the so-called “builder’s remedy,” a rule giving developers more leeway under the state’s Housing Accountability Act. Under this rule, cities without an approved housing element often must approve projects that violate planning and zoning rules, such as height limits, as long as they include low- or moderate-income housing.
The builder’s remedy still applies to Redondo Beach and Santa Monica, as developers sought approval when those cities were still not in compliance with the housing component law.
Some jurisdictions, such as San Bernardino County and the cities of Garden Grove and Beverly Hills, claim that they do not need to rezone the land or have already completed the required rezoning.
But for other communities that still have rezoning work to do, missing Saturday’s deadline increases their exposure to penalties.
Costa Mesa has submitted its plan for state approval twice, city spokesman Tony Dodero said. Each time, “the state required additional changes,” Dodero said in an email, adding that a third submission should be ready soon.
Riverside County has also undergone two rounds of reviews and is working on its third submission, county spokesperson Brooke Federico said.
The state’s housing department “has increased its focus on housing production and housing-related programs during this … cycle,” Federico said in an email. “As a result, the state requires all counties and cities in California to intensify programs and annual reports related to all types of housing, but especially affordable housing.”
Pasadena city leaders said they passed a series of revisions to loosen government restrictions on development — such as removing development caps — and took steps to promote fair housing.
“We’ve worked really hard,” deputy city manager David Reyes said in a phone interview. “We certainly want to have a certified housing element.”
— SCNG Editor Roxana Kopetman contributed to this report.