Monday Morning Thoughts: Charter City Is Probably Not a Mechanism to Avoid State Housing Laws

Minimalist modern apartment buildings with large windows and balconies

Photo by Wiktor Karkocha on Unsplash

Can Cities Avoid Housing Laws By Going Charter?  Article Suggests Don’t Count on It

Yesterday, the Vanguard reported that AG Rob Bonta announced his office would appeal a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling that invalidated SB 9 for Charter Cities.

As CalMatters reported last week, “The late April opinion from Los Angeles County Judge Curtis Kin held that a 2021 state law letting homeowners split up their houses into as many as four separate units regardless of local zoning restrictions had no effect in Redondo Beach, Carson, Torrance, Whittier or Del Mar”.

The reason: those jurisdictions are “charter cities.”

“The April ruling opened up a new potential strategy,” the article continued.

Just don’t count on it.

CalMatters explained, “Many legal experts are skeptical that the ruling will hold — and if it does, whether that would be the death blow to state land use authority that many local control advocates hope it will be.”

“If I were looking to become a charter city in order to avoid (the state’s duplex law), I would not waste my time,” said UC Davis law professor Darien Shanske. “This decision will be overturned.”

While the constitution does not “actually specify what Municipal affairs” are, the article notes, in general, the courts have allowed the pro-housing laws to apply to all cities regardless of status.

“The courts generally have not been very receptive to charter city arguments given the housing crisis,” Barbara Kautz, a land use attorney who regularly represents cities and counties, told CalMatters.

While the April ruling is a notable exception to that trend, Kautz believes “it’s also exceedingly narrow one and not something on which to hang a legal revolution in land use policy.”

She told CalMatters, “As a long term strategy to avoid (state housing law), I just don’t know if it would have any effect.”

So for those thinking they might be wanting to go charter city to avoid housing laws—watch this case but, again, probably not.

UC Davis Unlikely to Provide More Money to the City

Once again a commenter suggested that UC Davis could alleviate the need for the city to raise its sales tax.  Once again, that seems very doubtful.

One person writes: “If UCD were a for profit company inside the Davis City limits the City of Davis would be a very wealthy municipality. Instead Davis get’s nothing directly from UCD and only a very small amount of secondary sales tax revenue. It’s time the UC’s start contributing financially directly to their host cities to help cover their impacts.”

First of all, as I pointed out last week, that doesn’t seem likely to occur.

But second of all, if it did occur, it is likely that UC Davis would transfer the costs to the students in the form of increased tuition.

So are we really going to argue that students should subsidize our lifestyle here in Davis?  I don’t see that as a viable solution.

Advocate Argues Building More Doesn’t Fix the Housing Crisis

Michael Weinstein, the president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the largest global HIV/AIDS organization, and AHF’s Healthy Housing Foundation, puts forth an argument in the Hill this week that we need to do more than just build housing.

Here’s the crux of his argument: