by Samantha Nelson October 3, 2023

OCEANSIDE — A majority of the Oceanside City Council, including the mayor, sent the governor a signed letter objecting to recent state laws limiting local jurisdictions’ control over land use decisions.

The letter, addressed to Gov. Gavin Newsom, states the council members “vehemently object to the litany of legislation passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor that removes control away from local jurisdictions and places land-use decisions solely in the hands of the super-majority in Sacramento.”

“Land-use policy is one of the most critical roles of local government and for a handful of politicians on the opposite side of our great state to pass laws that affect 40 million residents without consideration of the unintended consequences has been an unmitigated disaster for the city of Oceanside,” states the letter drafted by Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim.

The subject of local control over land use, zoning and housing decisions has been a hot-button issue across the state over the last few years, including last year’s Our Neighborhood Voices initiative that aimed to re-establish local control over land use matters by repealing state housing laws via over referendum.

While that collaborative referendum effort failed to make the 2022 ballot, some cities, like Huntington Beach, continue to push back against the state.

Earlier this year, Huntington Beach rejected adopting a new housing element, a requirement for every California city that details how cities intend to meet their mandated housing numbers as determined through the Regional Housing Needs Assessment. The city has also banned the processing of Senate Bill 9, a state law that allows homeowners to create up to six housing units on existing single-family lots.

The state has since sued Huntington Beach for violating state housing laws.

Oceanside already approved its housing element for the 2021-29 cycle in 2021. The city must provide a total of 5,443 homes this cycle: 1,268 for very low, 718 for low, 883 for moderate and 2,574 for above-moderate income households.

In the letter, Keim pointed out that although the city will be able to meet its mandated RHNA numbers without rezoning any single-family neighborhoods by focusing on “smart and sustainable corridors,” laws like Senate Bill 9 are counterproductive to that goal.

“Despite this responsible planning, devastating one-size-fits-all bills such as SB 8, SB 9 and AB 2097 have been forced onto the entirety of the most populous and diverse state in the Union,” the letter reads. “The unnecessary and increased density dictated by these bills in all areas of the city without consideration of our general plan, housing element and development standards will undoubtedly affect the quality-of-life of everyone in our city without addressing the lack of affordable housing.”

The letter further asserts that state housing laws intended to increase housing and decrease homelessness have had the opposite effect.

“Ironically, housing prices have only climbed alongside the population of unsheltered homeless as more ‘housing production’ bills are passed each year,” the letter states. “To compound the situation, law enforcement has had their hands tied by misguided bills that prevent them from protecting their communities from crime associated with the homeless crisis.”

The letter is referring to Proposition 47, a ballot measure passed in 2014 that made some non-violent property crimes (not exceeding $950) and drug possession offenses into misdemeanors.

According to the letter, the state is at a “tipping point” where it could lose “the qualities that make California one of the most wonderful areas in the world to live.”

“Together, as the governing body of the third largest city in San Diego County, we ask you to return local control to our city, empower us to plan our own future development, address the rise in crime, and continue to protect our residents’ quality of life,” the letter ends.

Mayor Esther Sanchez, Councilmember Peter Weiss, Councilmember Rick Robinson and Keim signed the letter.

Councilmember Eric Joyce refrained from signing the letter at the Sept. 27 council meeting due to its “needlessly inflammatory language” and “false or unsupported claims,” such as the suggestion that new state laws are causing housing prices to rise and homelessness to increase.

“Because two things are happening near the same time, that’s a correlation, that’s not an effect,” Joyce said. “Claiming that one is an effect is a false claim, so I can’t support that.”