[author: Nicholas Sypherd]

The appeals court ruled that the Housing Responsibility Act (HAA) does not apply to a set of single family homes. Reznitskiy v. Marin County, 79 Cal.App.5th 1016 (2022).

The plaintiff applied to the Marin County Planning Commission to build a 4,000 square foot single family home on land in San Anselmo. The Board denied the application on the grounds that the proposed project would harm the existing neighborhood due to its relatively large size and environmental effects. The plaintiff sued, arguing that the project was wrongly denied under the HAA.

In review, the court considered the structure and purpose of the HAA, observing that the term “housing development project” had appeared in the HAA since its inception, but had never been fully defined. He concluded that other references in the law reflected the intention of the legislature that the law should apply to a project to build a “housing complex”, and not to any “housing development” project. . Additionally, the HAA’s stated goal is “to dramatically increase the approval and construction of new housing for all economic segments California communities by significantly and effectively limiting the ability of local governments to deny, de-densify, or render infeasible housing developments and emergency shelters. Neither the wording of the LHA nor its legislative history allowed the term “housing development project” to be interpreted as including a single-family, single-unit dwelling. One of the main goals of the HAA is to meet the housing needs of low-income populations by reducing the ability of local agencies to refuse higher density projects – “a scenario that would never apply to a housing project unique”. The court held that it was therefore unlikely that the HAA’s intention was to give those who could afford to build their own homes stronger protection against rejection of a development application on the basis of subjective criteria. .

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