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Huntington Beach mayor, a fierce critic of state housing mandates, lives in affordable housing

Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland, who is leading the charge against a lawsuit accusing the city of ignoring California’s affordable housing mandates, lives in an affordable housing development himself on the city’s west side, but insists that doesn’t make him a hypocrite.

Strickland, a former state senator and assemblyman who owns a political and business consulting firm, has since 2018 resided in an 1,800-square-foot condominium on Breezy Lane in the upscale Cape Ann community, which was built for those who qualify to purchase units based on family income limits.

But Strickland said his connection to the four-bedroom condominium where he lives is tenuous. His wife, Carla D. Strickland, bought the unit in 2000, 19 years before they were married. Although the couple placed the condo into a joint living trust following their marriage, Strickland said the mortgage remains in his wife’s name.

However, Strickland lists the property in his statement of economic interests, placing its value at $100,000 to $1 million. In an interview, Strickland said that even though his wife owns the condo, he included the property on his state-required Form 700 in the interest of transparency. “If I didn’t do that, I would be attacked on that, too,” he said.

Strickland also individually owns a home in Moorpark in Ventura County that also was placed into the living trust, according to public records.

In Huntington Beach, affordable housing applicants are prohibited from owning other residential properties. However, that restriction apparently affects those applying to live in an affordable housing unit, not those who already have purchased one.

For all his bluster about the need for Huntington Beach to resist state housing mandates, Strickland maintains there’s a place for affordable housing in the community, just not at the risk of losing its seaside suburban identity.

“I am supportive of suburban affordable housing,” he said. “But I am very much against mandating urbanized high-density for anything that guts our suburban coastal community. People in Huntington Beach don’t want high-rises.”

Huntington Beach officials declined to comment on Strickland’s affordable housing residency.

Additionally, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed last week against Huntington Beach, did not respond to requests for comment.

California alleges in the suit that Huntington Beach isn’t processing applications for property owners to build accessory dwelling units,  commonly known as ADUs or granny flats, in violation of state law.

“Huntington Beach elected officials are the poster child for NIMBY-ism, and my administration will take every measure necessary to hold communities accountable for their failure to build their fair share of housing,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “The housing crisis facing families across the state demands that all cities and counties do their part, and those that flagrantly violate state housing laws will be held to account.”

Huntington Beach is required to plan for 13,368 new housing units over the next eight years, according to state officials.

Last week, a day after California sued Huntington Beach, the city fired back with a lawsuit against the state.

The 60-page complaint cites violations of the United States and California constitutions, saying that if allowed to proceed, the state “will continue with an unbridled power play to control all aspects of the City Council’s land use decisions to eliminate the suburban character of the city and replace it with a high-density mecca.”

That urban mecca would be achieved through “forced rezoning,” allowing developers to build high-density projects and leave the council with “no discretion to deny or condition invasive high-density development,” the complaint argues.

Huntington Beach leaders argue that as a charter city, it has greater autonomy and, therefore, is not subject to state housing laws.

“People don’t want an urban community,” Strickland said. “They want Huntington Beach to remain the suburban community that it is. It’s my role to make decisions for Huntington Beach, rather than Gov. Newsom.”

Staff writers Erika Ritchie and Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.

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