Legislature Extends Statute of Limitations to Challenge Housing Elements

October 11, 2013—The Governor signed AB 325 (Alejo) extending the statute of limitations to challenge a housing element.  The bill partially restored the exception to the short 90 day limitations period to challenge a general plan element or zoning ordinance, which had been severely limited by an appellate court decision.  The legislation provides that members of the public and other interested groups have up to three years to file a suit attacking an element found out of compliance by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Litigants will have up to 17 months to attack the adoption of an element that HCD finds substantially complies with the Housing Element Law.  The legislation was sponsored by Western Center on Law & Poverty and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and PILP provided drafting, negotiation assistance and research.  Here’s a link to the chaptered bill:  Assembly Bill No. 325

Similar legislation had been passed by the Legislature twice before, but the first was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger and the second was vetoed by Governor Brown.  The version adopted this year was the result extensive negotiations with all the stakeholders.  For housing elements found out of compliance by HCD, advocates have two years to send a 60 day notice to the local government explaining the deficiencies in the housing element.  After the 60 day period there is an additional one year period to bring suit.  For elements found in substantial compliance by HCD, advocates have 270 days to send a 60 day notice, followed by a six month period to file suit.

The bill also sets up to a 14 month period for challenging a zoning action, growth caps that lack adequate findings or the adoption of density bonus ordinance that violates state Density Bonus Law (Government Code §65915).  Finally, the legislation provides that the remedy for failure to adopt an adequate general plan element cannot abrogate or impair rights already vested pursuant to a development agreement or vested subdivision map.

For more information, contact Michael Rawson, mrawson@pilpca.org or 510-891-9794, ext. 145.

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