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Solimar Research

Newsom Chides Deadbeat Cities, Pledges CEQA Reform to Promote Housing

Josh Stephens on
Feb 13, 2019
In yesterday’s state of the state address, Gov. Gavin Newsom elaborated on his aggressive plans to promote housing statewide in his first term. 

Newsom had already pledged some $1 billion in subsides and planning support in an announcement a few weeks ago. And, two weeks ago, he sued the City of Huntington Beach for allegedly flouting its Regional Housing Needs Assessment allocation. In that suit, he gets an assist from Senate Bill 35, which significantly increases cities’ obligations under RHNA and gives the state the power to impose penalties.
 
Diplomatically, Newsom insisted that "as a former mayor, the last thing (he) wanted to do was start my term by suing a city. But they left (him) no choice.” Newsom proposed what will certainly be an excellent piece of political theater: a meeting of all 47 cities (plus, possibly, Huntington Beach, unless their lawyers advise otherwise) for a “candid conversation.” Newsom noted that he doesn’t intend to sue all 47 of them. It’ll be interesting to see how Newsom injects “political courage” into cities that have, in many cases, deliberately suppressed new housing/
But Newsom continues to do events around the state designed to highlight his desire to cooperate with cities. On Tuesday, Feb. 19, he planned to tour affordable housing projects in Long Beach with the local mayor.
Potentially fulfilling a decades-old dream of infill developers, Newsom pledged to loosen California Environmental Quality Act requirements that often impede the development of high-density urban housing. In doing so, he took an implicit jab at his predecessor and the legislature for approving CEQA exemptions for sports stadiums. Newsom’s strategy is, rather than decry exemptions outright, to essentially level the playing field for housing. A canny move — especially when paired with support from the trade unions that will, presumably, built a great deal of the hoped-for infill housing. 

Finally, Newsom made vague commitments to uphold "commitments many of us made after Prop 10 failed last year.” He referred to eviction controls and regulations that don’t hurt small landlords (meaning he may soak large landlords), but he didn’t explicitly refer to rent control. To be sure, Newsom will likely do whatever he can to avoid a repeat of Prop. 10 and, therefore, will surely call on the legislature to reform of Costa-Hawkins, lest voters strip it of that power once and for all.

(See prior CP&DR coverage of Newsom's announcements about high speed rail.) 
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