Santa Ana, CA - The Public Law Center's successful representation of two formerly homeless veterans who challenged the Huntington Beach City Council's efforts to block the development of affordable housing was recognized during yesterday's CLAY Awards Ceremony in San Francisco. Petitioners, whom also include the non-profit Kennedy Commission, were represented by PLC's Ken Babcock and Sarah Gregory, Jones Day's Roman Darmer and Chris Waidelich, and the Public Interest Law Project's Michael Rawson and Craig Castellanet.
"This CLAY Award is truly a recognition of the importance of affordable housing in our communities and the power that comes from lawyers, community members and advocates working together to counter injustice," said Gregory.
Presented by the Daily Journal and
, the 21st Annual California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year (CLAY) Awards recognize lawyers licensed in California for achievements with a significant impact on public policy, the law, the profession, or a particular practice area. In the Huntington Beach Case, the two veterans and the Kennedy Commission successfully sued to void an amendment to the Huntington Beach Housing Element that was designed to block development of affordable housing.
Despite months of efforts by the Petitioners, the Huntington Beach City Council adopted an amendment on May 4, 2015 blocking low-cost housing by imposing a development cap, burdensome parking, setback, height, and use restrictions, and costly and time-consuming discretionary permit requirements in the Beach-Edinger area of the city. Petitioners sought to require Huntington Beach to implement its own General Plan Housing Element, which relied upon the Beach-Edinger sites to meet the need for low and very low income housing development within the city. The Housing Element was approved by the California Department of Housing and Community Development in 2013 and allowed for the development of high-density low-cost housing by-right along the city's Beach-Edinger commercial corridor.
On April 15, 2016, the Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled the City of Huntington Beach must "immediately comply with the judgment and writ of mandate and to cease enforcing, administering or implementing the [May 4, 2015 amendment]." The City had refused to comply with previous court orders, continued to enforce the amendment, and appealed a January 20, 2016 judgment in favor of the Petitioners.
On June 27, 2016, the Los Angeles County Superior Court granted the petitioner's motion for full attorneys' fees. In his ruling granting the attorneys fees, Judge Michael L. Stern noted the case presented "a controversial matter of significant public concern" and also acknowledged that "few attorneys possess the skill or knowledge of the law in this area [and] even fewer would agree to immediately drop other legal work to represent the petitioners in such a case." The City of Huntington Beach has appealed this ruling. PLC staff attorney Michelle Kim-Kotval joined the Petitioner's legal team on appeal.
An event honoring the 2017 recipients of the CLAY Awards was held on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 at The City Club in San Francisco. PLC Housing Unit Directing Attorney Ugochi Anaebere-Nicholson attended on behalf of the organization.
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