SCAG Rejects Cities’ Appeals, Upholds Santa Ana Housing Allocation

By Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.
January 18, 2021Updated: January 18, 2021

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has rejected an appeal by four Orange County cities to shift state-mandated housing allocation requirements to Santa Ana.

The cities of Irvine, Yorba Linda, Newport Beach, and Garden Grove contested the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) quotas, arguing that Santa Ana should be required to build an additional 10,000 housing units.

The SCAG RHNA Appeals Board on Jan. 15 voted unanimously to deny all four appeals and upheld previous quotas requiring Santa Ana to zone land to accommodate 3,087 new housing units. The group is currently meeting to decide where affordable housing will be built in the region through October 2029.

Anaheim City Councilman Trevor O’Neil, a SCAG regional councilmember, told The Epoch Times he disagrees with Santa Ana’s “low allocation when compared to other Orange County cities,” but was not surprised by the decision based on the association’s methodology that determined the county’s allotment.

“The time to argue that most Orange County cities are now forced to shoulder an unfair burden of Southern California’s new housing was in November 2019, before that methodology was approved,” he said via email.

“Argue we did, but Orange County was simply outvoted by progressive interests in other counties with an agenda of urbanization, densification, and the erosion of single-family zoning.”

In its appeal, the city of Irvine asked SCAG to “revise the methodology that resulted in the city of Santa Ana’s RHNA allocation being capped,” requesting a new allocation of 13,087 for Santa Ana.

According to a city of Santa Ana press release, the methodology “includes the inclusion of the disadvantaged communities (DAC) process, whereby housing units are reallocated from cities such as Santa Ana that are designated as ‘disadvantaged communities’ to cities with high-opportunity areas. This helps meet the goal of affirmatively furthering fair housing by increasing access to high-opportunity areas.”

Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento said his city “cannot solve the housing crisis alone” and that “every Orange County city must do its part.”

“Santa Ana will continue to do the right thing by building much-needed affordable housing and supporting access to a variety of residential options and for people of all income levels,” he said in the Jan. 15 release.

Irvine Vice Mayor Mike Carroll, a SCAG regional councilmember, told The Epoch Times that Santa Ana should be held responsible for its “fair share of this unrealistic housing allocation dictated by the state.”

“Santa Ana admitted at the hearing that they have already approved an additional 5,000 units, yet they are unwilling to assume responsibility for those units. Instead, some 23,000 units that would have been Santa Ana’s are now the responsibility of other cities in Orange County,” Carroll said via email on Jan. 18.

“Irvine’s appeal of Santa Ana’s numbers was never an attempt to send our housing to Santa Ana. In fact, of all the jurisdictions in Orange County, the City of Irvine has constructed the most, with over 37,000 units in the past 13 years, with 15 percent of these units affordable.”

Carroll said SCAG “has essentially conspired to order Irvine to build 24,000 housing units,” through the RHNA process. “Our local land-use decisions are being essentially stolen from us in Sacramento,” he said.

According to the Santa Ana press release, the RHNA Appeals Board determined that Santa Ana’s Draft RNHA number was consistent with SCAG RHNA methodology approved by the Department of Housing and Community Development and statutory housing objectives.

Councilman O’Neil and Yorba Linda Mayor Peggy Huang both told The Epoch Times previously that other Southern California cities worked to get wealthier areas to take on more housing units than initially allocated.

They both accused Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey of orchestrating a shift of tens of thousands of housing units from Riverside to Orange County cities by manipulating a last-minute change in methodologies used to divide the 1.34 million RHNA regional allocation.

Garcetti’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment by The Epoch Times.

SCAG is the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization, representing 191 cities and more than 19 million residents in Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Imperial counties.

Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, and Mission Viejo are among the cities that have launched appeals being heard by SCAG this month.