Huntington Beach legislator: Newsom housing lawsuit “seemed like selective prosecution”

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A conservative Huntington Beach legislator called a state lawsuit aimed at compelling the Orange County city to build more housing a “literal cannonball” from Gov. Gavin Newsom—adding that it “seemed like selective prosecution” when dozens of other California cities could be blamed for not doing their share to alleviate California’s housing shortage.

On “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” state Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican who represents about half of the seaside city of 200,000, wouldn’t go so far as to call the state lawsuit politically motivated. But he repeatedly called out what he perceived as the hypocrisy of the Newsom administration for targeting Huntington Beach when places in Northern California like Marin County—Newsom’s former home—are spared from litigation.

“To shoot a literal cannonball at one city who is presumed to not have met its requirements when there are fifty others seemed like selective prosecution or a different variety of the same,” said Moorlach. “I felt it was ‘brother, heal thyself’ first before you start hammering on a city in Orange County.”

Moorlach and three other state lawmakers—two of which are Democrats— who represent portions of the city are trying to broker a compromise between Huntington Beach and the Newsom administration that would avert further litigation.

Announced two weeks ago, the first-of-its-kind lawsuit alleges that Huntington Beach significantly reduced the number of housing units allowed in its local housing plan, and repeatedly declined to work with the state housing department to bring the city’s housing plan back into compliance with state law.

“My frustration as it related to (Huntington Beach) is not that they’re not building housing—they’re not,”  Newsom told CALmatters. “Not that they’re not entitling housing—they’re not. It’s that they’re not even planning. They refuse to plan, and that just seems to me a basic, fundamental responsibility that we all have.”

On this episode of the podcast, CALmatters’ data and housing reporter Matt Levin and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon explain everything you need to know about the Huntington Beach case, including how it fits into Newsom’s broader strategy to circumscribe local control over housing decisions. They interview Sen. Moorlach, as well as Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, the Los Angeles Democrat who authored the new law the Newsom administration invoked to sue Huntington Beach.

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