HomeCity NewsAfter Ruling, La Cañada Flintridge Considers Next Steps at 600 Foothill Blvd

After Ruling, La Cañada Flintridge Considers Next Steps at 600 Foothill Blvd

The city of La Cañada Flintridge may not be done in the ongoing battle over the 600 Foothill Boulevard property and the proposed development there, after the Los Angeles Superior Court determined that the city violated the Housing Accountability Act, or HAA, when it refused to move the development’s application forward under the California builder’s remedy in May 2023.
The California Housing Defense Fund, or CalHDF, finished its court hearing earlier this month after first filing a lawsuit against the city over the 600 Foothill project in July 2023. At the March 4 hearing, the city was instructed to set aside their initial decision rejecting the 600 Foothill project under a builder’s remedy legal provision, and to process the application in accordance with HAA.
The updated, proposed project by Cedar Street Partners would now have 80 mixed-income residential dwellings units, 16 hotel units and 7,260 square feet of office space. Sixteen of the 80 units will also be reserved for affordable housing.
The builder’s remedy is a legal provision of the HAA that prohibits cities from denying development proposals that are inconsistent with local zoning and general plan requirements while the city does not have a state-certified Housing Element. LCF did not have a compliant housing element at the time it denied the 600 Foothill project in May 2023.
CalHDF is a nonprofit with a mission to increase the affordability and accessibility of housing in California by using legal advocacy and education to ensure cities comply with their own zoning ordinances and state housing laws.
Since 2015, CalHDF has successfully sued 16 California jurisdictions to defend housing, including Berkeley, Cupertino, Calabasas, Los Altos, San Mateo, San Francisco, Lafayette, Huntington Beach and Rancho Palos Verdes.
In December, leaders from the state, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta and the Department of Housing and Community Development intervened in the lawsuit filed by the CalHDF.
In a statement, the state leaders spoke about the city not doing its part to address the housing crisis and not having a compliant housing element when the 600 Foothill project came through the city using the builder’s remedy application.
Those officials and the Executive Director of the CalHDF, Dylan Casey, also an attorney on the case, said they are pleased with the court’s decision.
“We’re very happy that the court ruled in our favor in almost every respect,” Casey told the Outlook Valley Sun.
In a statement from CalHDF, Casey also said he hopes that the court’s decision and this case brings awareness to the builder’s remedy legal provision.
“After this decision, cities can no longer pretend that the builder’s remedy doesn’t exist,” Casey said.
Casey also said that, to his knowledge, this is the first court decision in favor of the builder’s remedy development.
“From my organization, we are hoping that this case will set an example to cities around the state that they can’t just make these applications go away, and we want to get the housing built,” said Casey. “Hopefully this case makes that clear.”
Meanwhile, the city of LCF said it has the choice to appeal against the decision. It also highlighted that the ruling affirmed that the city did not act in bad faith.
In a statement, the city said it is committed to supporting statewide efforts to tackle the high cost of housing and that it has demonstrated its willingness to work with the community, stakeholders and the state to ensure that the city can fulfill its share of the state’s much-needed housing.
“While I believe that our housing element complies with every request made by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, we respect the legal process and we will now consider our next steps,” said City Manager Daniel Jordan in the statement.
The city said it also will continue to keep residents informed about the developments in the legal matter.
Mayor Rick Gunter also commented on the matter in the statement: “I am proud of the work done by our City Council and city staff to implement a housing element which zones for 689 additional units, including 482 low-income housing units. We have acted as a partner to the state to be a part of the solution to the housing crisis, and while I disagree with the court’s decision in relation to this particular development, I respect the legal process and our City Council will work with city staff and legal counsel to decide on next steps.”
The City Council held a closed, special meeting on Tuesday to review the existing litigation they have with the CalHDF, the 600 Foothill owners and Californians for Homeownership.
Newsom also issued a statement after the court’s decision.
“La Cañada Flintridge is the latest community that has failed in their effort to override state housing laws,” said Newsom. “Today’s favorable ruling should serve as a warning to other NIMBY jurisdictions that the state will hold every community accountable in planning for their fair share of housing.”
Bonta also released a statement on the March 4 court decision.
“We are pleased that the court agrees with us that La Cañada Flintridge must follow state housing laws to facilitate affordable housing and alleviate our housing crisis,” said Bonta. “The California Department of Justice is committed to enforcing state laws that increase housing supply and affordability.”
Casey said that CalHDF welcomes the state to intervene in cases like this. He said it was the second time that both Newsom and Bonta intervened in a lawsuit from the organization, the first being a lawsuit involving the city of San Mateo in Northern California.
“I think both Gov. Newsom and Attorney General Bonta made it a priority to promote new housing laws and also enforce the ones we have on the books already,” said Casey.
He also spoke to the importance of affordable housing and the lack of multifamily housing developments in LCF.
“The development [in LCF] would provide new homes, and about 16 should be for affordable to low-income families, and that’s in a city that has really not seen much, if any multifamily housing development in the last decade,” said Casey. “On a broader level, the whole housing element process is designed to address the state shortage, and provide affordable housing development, especially in exclusive communities. And when a city fails in that process, or is late, the builder’s remedy in my mind is a sort of alternative process that can step in and help cities produce some affordable housing.”
Jonathan Curtis, former LCF mayor and partner of Cedar Street Partners, along with Alexandra Hack and Garret Weyand, said that they are happy with the court’s decision.
“We’re very pleased, if not ecstatic, about the court’s decision,” said Curtis. “It’s been a long time coming, but we certainly appreciate the nonprofits, as well as the state of California and the attorney general, stepping in to correct a wrong that was done. Regardless of how the City Council has treated this project, this project is something that will be welcomed and very beneficial to the community. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback after the decision came out.”
The partners said they are hopeful with the project going forward, and the court’s decision sets an example for other cities and the state in the middle of a housing crisis.
“We’re looking forward to hopefully taking the next steps to really see this project through to fruition,” said Hack. “And we also hope that that’s true for many other projects that are involved in lawsuits across the state. We’re just happy to be one of the flagship ones, and in particular, we’re happy to be a priority issue to the attorney general, the state of California and Gov. Newsom.”

First published in the March 14 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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