Attorney General Bonta follows through, files lawsuit against Elk Grove on Oak Rose supportive housing project

As promised in March, California Attorney General Rob Bonta has filed a lawsuit today in Sacramento Superior Court against the City of Elk Grove over its rejection of a supportive housing project in the city's Old Town Special Planning area. 

Along with the attorney general, Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) filed the suit against the city, challenging the city’s denial of a proposed supportive housing project. The project was rejected on July 27, 2022, by a unanimous vote of the Elk Grove City Council.

The city council at that time included Sacramento County Supervisor Pat Hume and California Assemblymember Stephanie Nguyen. Hume and Nguyen won their respective offices last November and were replaced by Rod Brewer and Sergio Robles.   

The lawsuit filed asserts Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and her city council violated state laws, including Senate Bill 35 (SB 35), the Housing Accountability Act (HAA), and fair housing laws intended to prohibit discriminatory land use practices, including the Nondiscrimination in Land Use Law and the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing statute (AFFH). 

The proposed project, known as the Oak Rose Apartments, would add 66 units of supportive housing on Elk Grove Boulevard in Old Town Elk Grove for lower-income households at risk of homelessness. The press release noted Elk Grove is "a jurisdiction in dire need of low-income housing opportunities."  

“Our state is in a housing crisis, and local governments must do their part to allow for affordable housing options for all members of our communities, regardless of their income level,” Attorney General Bonta said in the announcement disclosing the lawsuit. “Everyone deserves to have a place to call home. California has critically important laws designed to combat housing discrimination and increase affordable housing opportunities. Today’s lawsuit against Elk Grove sends a strong message to local governments: if you violate fair housing laws, we will hold you to account.”   

The city has taken a somewhat conciliatory approach but has tried shifting blame, saying they are trying to negotiate an agreement with the project proponents. The city is also trying to deflect attention by noting they have approved other affordable housing projects. 

“The City of Elk Grove is not a bad actor,” Singh-Allen said in a statement defending her and the city council's position. “Elk Grove has a strong track record for supporting affordable housing projects and continues to engage in good faith discussions with the Oak Rose Apartments applicant in hopes of reaching a mutually agreeable solution.”

The press release noted soon after Singh-Allen and her city council rejected the Oak Rose project, it approved a market rate project also in the Old Town Special Planning Area. The attorney general argues the Oak Rose project was denied because it had ground-floor apartments that are contrary to the SPA, while the market rate project, the Elk Grove Railroad Courtyards Project, also had ground-floor apartment units contrary to the SPA but was approved.   

In announcing the lawsuit, Gov. Newsom also scolded cities like Elk Grove for trying to usurp state law. Elk Grove now joins Orange County's Huntington Beach as two municipalities being sued for allegedly violating state housing laws  

“Communities that fail to build their fair share of housing, including those refusing to develop desperately needed affordable housing, will be held to account,” Newsom said. “Under my Administration, the state has provided unprecedented support, including billions in funding and resources to help guide communities as they work to meet their housing needs. However, when local governments repeatedly fail to uphold their obligations and blatantly look for ways to skirt state law, we will use every tool available, including legal actions, to ensure that Californians have access to needed housing.”

The 237-page filing can be viewed here

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

Assuming the City Attorney is smart and privately warned the Mayor and City Council that their denial would be illegal, then the "not bad actors" purposely put the City in a costly and embarrassing lawsuit.

Conversely, if the City Attorney is not so smart and truly believed the public justification he gave for supporting the denial, then he is a bad attorney and must go. Either scenario is troubling.

I would think the tag team hit by Newsom and Bonta will be devastating to the future political careers of the Democratic Mayor and her Fab Four, unless they plan to stay planted in Elk Grove and the local voters give them a pass.

Welcome to Elk Grove: "Proud Tradition, Bright Litigated Future"?

Randy Bekker said...

By caving to the complaint of the state AG this land grab it will devastate every inch of Elk Grove and surrounding area. Any empty land owned privately or the city will become future for profit homeless housed businesses. You see we have around 150 homeless about 100 that would easily want housing and around 40 that would accept housing if they could use their addiction. So Elk Grove could become Sacramento counties new homeless housing city. The thing is if the city caves and allows the state to become land use management the for profit homeless housing businesses will smile with delight as Elk Grove will have numerous homeless housing around the city and nothing our local elected officials could do to stop it but businesses will leave, no zoo, no project elevate, Old Town night life will no longer exist. This could even happen in neighborhoods so those that say never, not in my neighborhood. You better take notice the state is wanting to become land management. Otherwise they would sit down be arbitrators between the city and Oak Rose. They would clearly understand what the city has done and planned to do. Then realize that what is best is to come to an understanding that a different location is better. So those that may laugh be very careful because this could seriously get out of hand if the state has there way.

Renegade said...

DJ is right again. Our hard earned tax dollars are being spent to fund a law suit that we likely have little chance of winning. The winners will likely be the owners of the proposed Oak Rose Apartments, Jonathan Hobbs's law firm, who will undoubtedly charge the city a fortune to defend it's position because Hobbs and his staff can't do it despite his enormous salary and the homeless who desperately need the help.
Keep in mind the city of Elk Grove will likely also be ordered to pay the legal fees of the plaintiff's should they win the suit. That's a huge chunk of our money. Should we lose, I say it's time to find a new city attorney that can represent us in-house and who can offer better legal advice. Hobbs, like his predecessors, has cost us too much money and embarrassment to retain his position.

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