State intervenes in San Mateo housing case that could have major implications

California’s top cop is siding with housing advocacy groups in a Bay Area lawsuit that stands to have major implications for control over where and how new homes are built.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that he, along with Gov. Gavin Newsom, had filed to intervene in a dispute over a condominium proposal in San Mateo as part of a bid to defend a statewide housing law.

A couple of years ago, the Peninsula suburb’s city council rejected a proposal for a 10-unit development at W. Santa Inez Avenue and busy El Camino Real. The council said the proposal violated the city’s design guidelines aimed at limiting height differences with nearby properties.

But housing advocates have argued that a longstanding law that limits when cities can reject proposals that comply with state building codes should apply, particularly given the state’s current housing crisis. And, they worry, if an initial ruling in San Mateo’s favor is allowed to stand, the case could give opponents of multi-family housing proposals ammunition to fight other legislation aimed at increasing housing production across the state.

“We’re concerned that the reasoning from this decision could be used to undermine efforts like SB 50,” said Dylan Casey, the executive director of the California Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA), a lead plaintiff in the case, referencing a controversial proposal from state Sen. Scott Wiener to force cities to allow denser housing development.

Casey said his organization was pleased to hear about Becerra intervening, meaning his team will have the ability to argue the case like a co-plaintiff.

“I think it’s important to defend the ability of the state legislature to legislate housing issues,” Casey said.

San Mateo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CaRLA filed its appeal of the ruling in San Mateo’s favor several days ago, but it could take months to get a hearing.

The case centers around whether the state can regulate housing issues in charter cities like San Mateo that have more control over some local issues than what are known as general law cities. According to the attorney general’s office, 58 percent of the state’s residents live in charter cities.

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

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Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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