San Bernardino and the state Department of Justice have an agreement in place to absolve the city of violating California housing law so long as it updates a plan by February 2024 to build 8,123 additional housing units over the next six years.
Announced Tuesday, Aug. 29, by state Attorney General Rob Bonta, the settlement must still be approved by the court.
The pact is the state’s first related to its sixth “housing-element update cycle” for the 2021-2029 time period, according to a news release.
According to the state Department of Housing and Community Development website, 195 California cities, or 36%, are currently not in compliance with their respective housing element, be they the fifth or sixth planning period.
Noncompliant San Bernardino County cities include Adelanto, Barstow, Chino, Colton, Grand Terrace, Hesperia, Loma Linda, Montclair, Rialto, Upland and San Bernardino.
“The City of San Bernardino has been moving forward with our Housing Element for some time,” city spokesman Jeff Kraus wrote in an email Tuesday. “There is nothing in the settlement that is outside of the process we were already following.”
State Housing Element Law requires every city and county to periodically update its housing plan, or its roadmap for housing development, to satisfy its share of regional and statewide housing needs.
San Bernardino failed to meet the Oct. 15, 2021 deadline for this latest cycle.
The state housing agency wrote City Hall in April 2022 to alert officials of its noncompliance. City representatives responded a month later, saying a draft Housing Element would be submitted in October. City and state housing officials then convened in June, July and September to discuss the progress being made toward that goal.
At some point, however, state housing officials learned the city would not meet its target date.
The state housing agency issued San Bernardino a violation notice in late September, warning City Hall of possible consequences for noncompliance, including referring the matter to the state Attorney General’s Office for enforcement.
In February 2023, a coalition of nonprofits sued the city on behalf of several residents for failing to submit a draft Housing Element and therefore, failing to carry out its duty.
“Our state’s Housing Element Law is in place to ensure that all cities build their fair share of housing,” Bonta said in the release. “No city is spared from that legal obligation. It is not a choice. It is the law.”
Tuesday’s announcement comes more than three weeks after San Bernardino leaders agreed to submit a revised 2021-2029 draft Housing Element to the state, a decision reached at the Aug. 2 City Council meeting.
That initial draft was received Aug. 4, according to the state’s Housing Element Compliance Report, and is presently under review.
“We hope HCD responds to our submission in a timely manner,” Kraus wrote, “so that we can meet the terms that they agreed to in the settlement.”
The deal, which appeases the state and resolves current litigation, requires San Bernardino to take a number of actions. Among them:
- Adopt a compliant housing element by no later than Feb. 7, 2024.
- Modernize its zoning code by April 17, 2024, to meet the housing targets set by the state.
- Amend its emergency shelter ordinance to conform with state law.
The city is subject to escalating penalties for failure to comply with the terms of the settlement, according to the state.
San Bernardino has a Regional Housing Needs Assessment, or RHNA, requirement of 8,123 additional housing units across all income levels, as determined by the state housing agency.
Of those 8,123 units, approximately 30% must be for low- to extremely low-income families.
While the housing element process takes time, the city will meet the expediated timeline without muting public participation, according to the news release.
“Cities that fail to follow the law and plan for their fair share of housing will be held accountable – the status quo will not be tolerated,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in the release. “The state is providing incentives, resources and when necessary, taking legal action to ensure that communities do their part to meet the housing needs of Californians.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)