• No Judicial Review for Regional Housing Needs Allocation
  • August 6, 2009 | Authors: Cecily Talbert Barclay; Marie A. Cooper
  • Law Firm: Bingham McCutchen LLP - San Francisco Office
  • Courts have no jurisdiction to review the substantive validity of a city’s regional housing needs allocation. City of Irvine v. Southern California Association of Governments (June 30, 2009)

    The Government Code requires that the housing element of each city and county’s general plan be updated, generally every five years, to accommodate that jurisdiction’s fair share of regional housing needs. The Code sets forth an intricate process for assigning shares of housing needs to each jurisdiction. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) allocates needs to each region within the state. The councils of government within each region then engage in an extensive process to allocate that region’s assigned need among the jurisdictions within that region. The process includes opportunities to object, administrative appeals to challenge the allocations, and extensive input from local governments and the public.

    In City of Irvine, Irvine sued the Southern California Association of Governments (the Council of Governments for Southern California), claiming that Irvine had been allocated too large a share of the region’s affordable housing needs. There was no dispute, however, that the various agencies had followed the required procedures. The court rejected Irvine’s claim, ruling that courts have no jurisdiction to review the allocation determination. Instead, the administrative procedure established under the Government Code is the exclusive remedy for a municipality to challenge that determination.

    The court focused on the nature and scope of a general plan’s housing element and the lengthy and intricate process for allocating housing needs, finding a clear legislative intent to immunize the allocation process from judicial review. “The structure and scope of the RHNA [regional housing needs allocation] statutes reflect a clear intent to vest in HCD and the respective council of governments, along with the extensive input from local governments and the public, the authority to set the RHNA allocation for each local government.”

    The court also reasoned that because a reduction in one jurisdiction’s allocation would require that the excess be reallocated to others in the region, all local jurisdictions would have to be joined in the lawsuit. This would “essentially bottleneck the process” and delay the allocation for the entire region, thereby nullifying the statutory provisions related to completion of housing element updates. The court also cited 2004 changes to the law, which eliminated language that had previously referenced judicial review of allocation determinations. It concluded that courts have no jurisdiction to review the propriety of a city’s housing needs allocation.