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Irvine to be flooded with affordable housing?

Orange County Register -- July 8, 2009



by Erika Chavez, Staff Writer

Despite lawsuits and appeals, the City of Irvine is stuck with a mandate to build more than 35,000 housing units by the year 2014, 21,000 of which must be deemed “affordable.”

My colleague Sean Emery reports that the directive from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) still stands, even though Irvine city officials have called the requirement “unfair” and “impossible.”

“We have about 6 percent of Orange County’s population and 8 percent of the total land area, yet SCAG has allocated to us more than 40 percent of the county’s housing needs,” Mayor Sukhee Kang said.

Irvine leaders are particularly frustrated that neither the original trial court nor the court of appeals actually weighed in on the fairness of the SCAG mandate. Instead, the courts ruled that they have no jurisdiction over SCAG itself.

I covered SCAG’s ruling when it first came down in 2007, and that’s the bit that has always puzzled me: the agency apparently answers to no one. Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice William Rylaarsdam pretty much confirmed that in his ruling, writing that California lawmakers have essentially made SCAG not only the “executive decision-maker for housing allocations,” but also the “final judge, jury and appellate tribunal.”

Irvine leaders say they have a longstanding committment to providing affordable housing in the largely affluent city. There are currently 4,100 affordable units in the city, and the goal is to provide 9,700 such units by the city’s buildout in 2025.

More than 20 other cities, including Cypress, Laguna Beach and Yorba Linda, backed Irvine in its lawsuit against SCAG, and it’s hard to argue with city leaders’ perception that Irvine is being picked on:

Irvine leaders argue that they are burdened far more than Orange County’s other major cities under the SCAG allocations. By comparison, Anaheim is required to build 9,498 new housing units, Santa Ana is required to add 3,393 and Huntington Beach must add 2,092.

It’s unclear how SCAG will enforce the ambitious housing mandate, though a SCAG spokesman told me that the state and affordable housing advocates can sue cities if they don’t comply.



Last Updated: Aug 22, 09

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