Press Release
September 13, 2021

Holland & Knight Wins Major Victory for Affordable Housing in California

SAN FRANCISCO (September 13, 2021) – Holland & Knight has won another precedent-setting housing victory in California with the September 10 decision by the First District Court of Appeal affirming the enforceability and constitutionality of Housing Accountability Act (HAA). Holland & Knight partner Daniel Golub led the Holland & Knight team and argued on behalf of client, California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA), before the Court of Appeal. He was assisted by partner Jennifer Hernandez and associates Emily Lieban and Emily Warfield. The California Department of Justice intervened in the case as well.

Holland & Knight represented CaRLA in a suit against the City of San Mateo after the City Planning Commission and City Council declined approval of 10-household apartment building claiming that the development violated the city's discretionary design guidelines. The project was previously deemed fully code-compliant by the city's staff, but neighbors vocally opposed it.

When CaRLA sued to enforce the law, the trial court deferred to the city and even concluded that the HAA, which was enacted to prevent cities from arbitrarily and subjectively dismissing housing developments, was beyond the constitutional authority of the legislature to enact. This appellate ruling reverses that decision and affirms that the HAA's "mandates are to be taken seriously." For more information about the ruling, click here.

"This decision is a home run for housing," said Mr. Golub. "The opinion makes it clear that cities cannot just adopt plans for housing - they must also approve the housing for which they have planned. California ranks 49th out of 50 states in homes per capita, and legal victories like this one are necessary to begin to stem the state’s historic housing supply and affordability crisis."

"We built a superstar team to defend housing, but it shouldn't take CaRLA, Holland & Knight, the Attorney General, and three years of litigation to force cities like San Mateo to obey state housing law," said Dylan Casey, CaRLA’s executive director. "Cities have grown accustomed to blatantly ignoring the mandates of state housing law, but this case shows that that era is coming to an end. This victory adds much needed enforcement to years of advocacy and legislation, and it cements the constitutionality and legitimacy of the California legislature’s limits on local control of housing policy."

CaRLA is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to increase the affordability and accessibility of housing in California by using legal advocacy and education to ensure cities comply with their own zoning ordinances and state housing law.

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