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Loeb Secures Victory for California Housing Advocates

Based on evidence developed by Loeb & Loeb, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) disapproved the City of Orange’s Housing Element update on April 14, 2023. HCD is the oversight agency charged with ensuring that all 539 localities in California make provision for accommodating their fair share of California’s housing need, which is known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). In light of California’s housing crisis, California has adopted stringent housing targets and in 2017 strengthened the law to require that localities adopt an inventory of sites where housing can “realistically” and “demonstrably” be developed during the planning period for the Housing Element update, which ends in 2029.

Our client in Orange is seeking to develop a 158-unit senior housing project, including a low-income set aside, on an eight-acre vacant property. The City of Orange has been resisting the development of the property for decades and refused to add the property to its RHNA Sites Inventory.

In its Housing Element, the city claimed it had no vacant sites suitable for the development of housing, and exclusively identified non-vacant sites — primarily developed with busy shopping centers — as the locations where 90% of the city’s RHNA (approximately 3,000 units) could be accommodated. In response, the Loeb team demonstrated that — contrary to the city’s claims — covenants and easements of public record precluded the development of the claimed 3,000 units. After it received the evidence developed by the Loeb team, HCD rejected the City of Orange’s Housing Element update, rescinding its prior tentative approval of the plan.

The Loeb team believes that HCD’s decision has statewide implications and importance, in that it will send a message to the hundreds of localities now updating their Housing Elements that evasion of their state law responsibilities will not be tolerated.

The Loeb team that represented the housing developer in the matter was led by Real Estate partner Allan Abshez and included partner Connie Pak and associate Chelsea Maehara.