Laguna Hills Opposes California Bill Forcing Cities to Build More Housing in Commercial Zones

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
May 26, 2022 Updated: May 30, 2022

The Laguna Hills City Council unanimously voted on May 24 to oppose California’s Assembly Bill 2011, which would allow affordable housing units to be built on properties zoned for office, retail, or parking use.

The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks in February, would require the city to approve affordable housing projects regardless of inconsistencies with the city’s general plan and exempt these projects from undergoing environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act, according to city officials.

“This is just one more attempt by Sacramento to erode our sovereignty as cities and our ability to govern ourselves,” Mayor Pro Tempore Janine Heft said ahead of the vote. “Affordable housing is a need, but shoving it down our throats and giving us no ability to make our own decisions is just something that is dead wrong.”

After Mayor Dave Wheeler requested earlier this month to put the bill on the council’s meeting agenda for more discussion, city staff prepared a report recommending the council oppose the bill.

The bill would establish two streamlined, ministerial review processes for these development projects—one for 100 percent low-income housing projects and one for mixed-income housing.

Additionally, the bill would prohibit cities from increasing fees on projects under these ministerial review processes.

Councilwoman Erica Pezold said she thinks California should focus on developing affordable housing on state-owned land instead of pushing this bill onto cities.

“We aren’t against having low-income housing in the city. In fact, entry-level homeownership is extremely important in our city.

It’s a shame that California is trying to push the bill onto existing cities instead of opening up new land,” Pezold said.

On May 10, the Association of California Cities–Orange County (ACC-OC) also penned a letter to Wicks opposing the bill on the grounds that the bill would disrupt local governments’ processes of facilitating housing production—including planning, zoning, incorporating public input and engagement, conducting environmental reviews, and ensuring compliance with state housing requirements.

“While we recognize the significant need for the development of new affordable housing units, we feel that providing incentives for doing so is a more effective approach than removing local input and authority through a by-right process,” the letter read. “Cities, not the State, are best suited to make local land-use decisions.”

The bill passed the state Assembly on May 19 and now heads to the state Senate.

“Today’s vote brings us one step closer to streamlining production of a huge amount of much-needed affordable housing, and in turn creating tens of thousands of well-paying, high road construction jobs in every community,” Wicks said in a statement after the bill’s passing.