A pedestrian bridge crosses Pacific Coast Highway at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort And Spa in Huntington Beach, CA, on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Huntington Beach is at the center of the housing fight for a reason: we dared to stand up to Governor Gavin Newsom’s outrageous mandates and stand up for our Surf City values.
We remain pro-housing, but we insist on housing that reflects our community and the reality on the ground. What we will never be are rubber stamps for Gavin Newsom’s vision of turning every California community into his failed experiment in San Francisco, America’s worst city, whose decline began when Newsom was mayor there.
For starters, little about the governor’s housing math has made sense or been realistic.
too much too fast: Over the past eight-year period, California’s statewide housing goal was 1.2 million new homes. Not even half of it was built. But this time, the goal has been set at 2.5 million, five times what has been shown to be possible in this state. There is simply no way to meet this mandate, given the anti-housing walls the governor and his allies have been putting up for years.
No updated research: Studies have shown that net over 750,000 people have moved out of California in recent years, but the underlying data behind these lawsuits has not been updated at all. Which will soon grow to nearly a million fewer Californians, fed up with Newsom’s failures but just as stubbornly clinging to a flawed plan.
Impractical Urban Utopian Dream: It’s simply unrealistic to expect Southern California to add 1.34 million new homes in the next few years, with barely 300,000 of those planned coming out of the entire Inland Empire, where land is plentiful and less expensive, and many communities are desperate . for growth. Insider political dealings killed any hope of real growth, none of which Huntington Beach is doing.
The Governor is all too familiar with the abuse of emergency powers to shove the state down the throats of local governments and the people, while failing to meet any of those responsibilities himself. During the pandemic, he closed Surf City beaches, schools, churches and restaurants, while dining himself at French Laundry. But he has done little to alleviate the housing shortage other than level the threats.
Here are the facts:
If they were serious about housing, they wouldn’t spare your backyard. Marin County, the hometown of Gavin Newsom, has a waiver from state housing fees. Wealthy Silicon Valley communities like Atherton have applied for waivers. Those communities are not being sued, criticized, and smeared in the media because they vote for and fund Gavin Newsom’s campaigns. But Huntington Beach stands out. Ask yourself why.
If Sacramento were serious about providing housing, it would reform CEQA, labor law, remove mandates, invest in real transportation infrastructure, and allow housing to be built wherever you want to go.. About 95% of Californians live on 5% of our land, and we have enough space for new housing. Instead of allowing home construction to thrive where it can, the Governor continues to halt dozens of development projects in the Inland Empire with outrageous environmental rules.
Attacking multi-family homes: Perhaps nowhere are Gavin’s mandates more clearly hypocritical than when combined with his ongoing attack on landlords, making California the worst state to own multi-family homes.
The root causes of our housing shortage and affordability crisis are extreme environmental regulations, unreasonable labor demands, and Sacramento’s ridiculous and expensive mandates on how and where housing can be built.
California must release our homebuilders, who successfully built the homes that supported California’s growth from 10 million to 35 million people in the 50 years after World War II, from these mandates. That should be our housing policy. But the governor, as always, is more concerned with the press and politics than good public policy. And that shows us.
This is not a matter of being pro-housing. We want and without a doubt we will build more good projects in the coming years. It sure as hell won’t be above 13,000 units though, because Huntington Beach is nearly built, aside from areas like our prized wetlands. We will do what is right and proper to grow Huntington Beach and build our future, but not what Gavin Newsom tries to order from hundreds of miles away.
That’s what local control is to me. Fighting for my city. Not bowing to the opinion of an out-of-control governor hell-bent on doing to Huntington Beach what he did as mayor of San Francisco. Huntington Beach is iconic as a suburban beach community, and that deserves protection.
Tony Strickland is the mayor of Huntington Beach.