After 12 arduous years, the 315-unit Terraces of Lafayette apartment project is finally clear to be constructed now that the California Supreme Court rejected Save Lafayette’s request for review. The Court also rejected Save Lafayette’s request that the California Supreme Court depublish the Court of Appeal’s unanimous opinion affirming the Contra Costa Superior Court’s ruling that the City of Lafayette validly complied with both the Housing Accountability Act and the California Environmental Quality Act in finally approving the project.Continue Reading Epic Battle over Lafayette Housing Project Finally Ends as California Supreme Court Refuses to Review Unanimous Court of Appeal Opinion Upholding Project Approvals
Bryan W. Wenter, AICP, is a shareholder in Miller Starr Regalia’s Walnut Creek office and co-chair of the firm’s Land Use Department. For nearly 20 years, his practice has centered on land use and local government law, with a focus on obtaining and defending land use entitlements for a wide range of complex development projects including, in-fill, mixed-use, residential, retail/commercial, and industrial. His areas of expertise include general plans and specific plans, planned development zoning, vested rights, subdivision maps, development impact fees and exactions, conditional use permits, variances, initiatives and referenda, RLUIPA, CEQA, Ralph M. Brown Act, and Public Records Act. He previously served as City Attorney and Assistant City Attorney for the City of Walnut Creek.
On January 26, 2023, in Save Livermore Downtown v. City of Livermore, __Cal.App.5th __ (2021) (Case No. A164987), the First District Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court decision rejecting a local NIMBY group’s challenge to an affordable housing project in downtown Livermore on the grounds that the project is inconsistent with state and local planning and zoning laws and that the project was not exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act. The Court also affirmed the trial court’s decision to require the NIMBY group to post a bond as security for costs and damages the developer would incur as a result of litigation-related project delays.Continue Reading Court Rejects Meritless Challenge to Livermore Affordable Housing Project
The Terraces of Lafayette is a 315-unit housing development project in Lafayette, California that is perhaps the poster child project under the state’s most important housing production law, known as the Housing Accountability Act (Gov. Code 65589.5’ “HAA”). The project gave rise to the YIMBY movement and the notion of “suing the suburbs.” Intensely opposed for years by an uncompromising local NIMBY group known as Save Lafayette, as well as by a longtime member of Save Lafayette who ran for office to oppose the project and became a councilmember in 2018, the project has been referred to in the press as many things, including “the project that started a housing war.” The project has also twice been a direct catalyst for additional legislative strengthening of the HAA (see Senate Bills 167 and 330). Miller Starr Regalia represented the developer, O’Brien Land Company, in the entitlement and litigation process and on November 30, 2022, two weeks after oral argument, prevailed in a landmark decision, Save Lafayette v. City of Lafayette, __Cal.App.5th __ (2021) (Case No. A164394), rejecting all of Save Lafayette’s claims attempting to thwart the project.
Continue Reading Miller Starr Regalia Prevails in Landmark Housing Accountability Act Case
On January 1, 2023 Assembly Bill 2234, an important new post-entitlement accountability and streamlining law that amends the Housing Accountability Act and adds new sections to the Planning and Zoning Laws, takes effect in California.
Continue Reading New California Law Addresses Delays by Public Agencies in the Post-Entitlement Permitting Process
California is in the midst of the 6th Regional Housing Needs Allocation cycle known as RHNA, a state-mandated process that requires all cities and counties to timely update the housing elements of their general plans to plan for their fair share of California’s housing needs to people of all income levels. Many cities have failed to timely adopt an updated housing elements in substantial compliance with state housing element law and more are expected to follow, giving rise to the viable use of the colloquially-named “Builder’s Remedy” in the Housing Accountability Act.
Continue Reading “Builder’s Remedy” Provides Key Housing Production Opportunities in California
NIMBY project opponents rely on an ever-shifting array of flimsy arguments to challenge new housing developments, especially those with affordable housing components. Among the most frequently stated concerns is the notion that building new affordable housing will reduce local property values and/or increase crime. Many studies have been conducted that show the fallacy of these assertions. The latest comes from the Livable Cities Lab at UC Irvine, which studied the effect on local housing values and local levels of crime following the construction of affordable housing in the County of Orange, California.
Continue Reading New UC Irvine Study Debunks NIMBY Claims That New Affordable Housing Development Reduces Local Property Values and Increases Crime
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is an extremely well-funded Los Angeles-based non-profit that now engages in some of the most pernicious anti-housing activities in California. The organization recently challenged the approval by the City of Los Angeles of a 26-story mixed-use building within the area covered by the Hollywood Redevelopment Plan. The project includes 200 dwelling units, of which 5% would be reserved for very-low income households, and 7,000 square feet of commercial space.
Continue Reading Court Holds that the Legislature Really Did Dissolve Redevelopment Agencies and Rendered the 15% Affordable Housing Requirement Inoperative
In late 2020, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the creation of a “Housing Strike Force” within the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to enforce state housing laws by beginning to put teeth into often-ignored laws that restrict local authority over new housing development.
Continue Reading California Attorney General Continues to Enforce State Housing Laws
On February 2, 2022, in Bankers Hill 150 v. City of San Diego, __ Cal.App.5th __ (Case No. D077963), the Fourth District Court of Appeal relied on fundamental provisions of California’s Density Bonus Law in rejecting a challenge by local NIMBY’s to a 20-story mixed-use project in San Diego on the grounds that the project is inconsistent with the neighborhood because it is too dense, too tall, and too close to the street. The Court recognized that the NIMBY group sidestepped the implications of the Density Bonus Law, which shapes and limits a city’s discretion in reviewing a project.
Continue Reading State Housing Law Again Preempts Subjective Local Development Standards
On January 12, 2022, in Old East Davis Neighborhood Association v. City of Davis, __ Cal.App.5th __ (Case No. C090117), the Third District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court decision that granted a writ petition in favor of project opponents on the basis that the record did not support the City’s decision. In so doing, the Court applied a deferential standard of review and affirmed the City’s general plan consistency determination, holding that the decision was not unreasonable and that substantial evidence supported approval of a mixed-use project.
Continue Reading Court Affirms City’s Determination That Substantial Evidence Supports Approval of Mixed-Use Development Project