SoCal cities get reprieve from looming housing deadline

Legislation allows three years to rezone land for new homes


Photo via: Times of San Diego

Article via: The Real Deal


Nearly 200 cities and counties across Southern California that failed to meet a state deadline to rezone land for housing have been granted a three-year extension.


Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation to extend the deadline for 191 out of 197 cities and counties that had failed to adopt a new housing plan by early February, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. The final deadline had been Oct. 15.


By law, governments must update the “housing element” of their general plans to meet future housing goals determined by the state. They then must rezone land to meet those goals.


The half century-old process, which occurs every eight years, is known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment.


Jurisdictions in the six-county Southern California Association of Governments region needed to have their new housing elements approved by the state by Feb. 11. The region includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and Imperial counties.


But just five cities and one county in the region managed to meet that deadline. Those failing to do so were required to complete the needed rezoning by Oct. 15 or face a host of potential sanctions, including lawsuits, fines, a cutoff of housing grants and a loss of local control over planning decisions.


Numerous cities — including the city of Los Angeles — said it would be impossible to complete the time-consuming rezoning process on such a massive scale since it includes public hearings and environmental reviews under the California Environmental Quality Act.


Los Angeles was almost certain to bust its deadline to rezone by fall to build 250,000 new homes. Without the extension, it and other SoCal cities could have lost access to billions in state affordable housing grants, hampering construction of new homes for low-income and homeless residents.


The legislation, tucked into the annual state budget, acknowledged L.A. didn’t have time to complete its housing element.


The city had submitted a plan to reverse historic development trends and rezone wealthier, lower-density neighborhoods in areas such as the Westside and the San Fernando Valley for more low-income housing.


But state housing regulators rejected the plan, saying it didn’t provide enough new parks or economic development in poorer neighborhoods.


That triggered the October deadline – a date that even state officials admitted was impossible, considering the lengthy community outreach and environmental reviews required for rezoning.


The new legislation gives cities that get state approval for their housing plans by this October until February 2025 to complete the required rezoning. The three-year extension also applies to jurisdictions in San Diego and Sacramento counties.


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