New California task force focused on housing laws

By Louis Hansen, Mercury News, November 4, 2021

“California Attorney General Rob Bonta on [November 3] announced a new strike force to enforce housing laws, seeking to put teeth into long-ignored regulations that restrict local authority over residential development.

“State lawmakers earlier this year gave the attorney general’s office more power to enforce housing laws. The new strike force will consist of 12 lawyers and staff members with experience in land use and development, environmental law and civil rights. It will work with the state Department of Housing and Community Development, get input from community groups and public hearings and address certain tenant-protection issues.

“More than one-quarter of Bay Area cities, towns and counties — mostly wealthy communities — have appealed new, higher development goals set by regional planners this year. Some are also pushing back against a key measure, SB 9, before it takes effect Jan. 1. It allows homeowners to develop duplexes on their single-family properties, splitting their lots to build and sell new units.

“Pro-housing groups have challenged cities that reject development. In September, a California appeals court upheld the state’s Housing Accountability Act, which limits the reasons a municipality can reject a development proposal.

“Developers have been reluctant to sue cities over developments, fearing repercussions on future projects, [Michael Lane, state policy director of regional think tank SPUR] said. …The attorney general’s office backing pro-housing groups with experienced lawyers ‘can be very powerful,’ Lane said.”

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