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Coronado agrees to support more affordable housing after state pressure

After more than two years of resistance, the city of Coronado, a wealthy island city in San Diego County, has agreed to follow a state affordable housing law by setting aside more land for development, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta announced Friday.

In a legal settlement with the state, the city will allow for the construction of more than 900 homes, more than 70% of which should be accessible to low- and moderate-income families.

“There’s no question that this moment is long overdue — I want to thank the current Coronado City Council for finally doing the right thing,” Bonta said in a news release. “The housing crisis we are facing in California is enormous, and the only way we can tackle it is if every local government follows the law and builds its fair share of housing.”

State law requires all communities in California to plan for a set amount of new homes through a complex formula that resets every eight years based on projected population increases and residents’ proximity to jobs and mass transit. The law doesn’t mandate that cities build or approve new housing, just that they zone for it.

Few, if any, communities in California have been more resistant to the law than Coronado, a resort destination where the median home value, according to real estate website Zillow, tops $2.4 million. The city began fighting its 912-unit allocation four years ago, including filing a failed lawsuit against the process.

City leaders had openly flouted the law, complaining that its requirements didn’t take into account the island’s geography and that military installations cover large stretches of the community, leaving little vacant land. Residents also have argued that more affordable housing would bring crime and lower property values.

The legal settlement requires Coronado to adopt a state-approved housing plan by mid-April and then complete its rezoning by early May. If it doesn’t, the city may lose some local control over development decisions and ultimately face fines. The city took its first steps to approve the plan earlier this week, according to the Coronado Times.

“With a shared goal of developing a meaningful and achievable plan to reach compliance, we’ve found resolution to a years-long challenge,” said Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, who had been opposed to the state mandates, in Friday’s statement.

Coronado’s plan was originally due in April 2021. At the time, according to a Los Angeles Times report this spring, a city council member told residents not to worry about complying with the law because the city would “probably have a few years” before the state cracked down.

Bonta cited The Times’ reporting in his statement Friday, saying that the settlement shows housing regulators ultimately will act. Statewide, 78 communities — roughly a quarter of those with plans already due in the current eight-year period — are currently out of compliance, according to data from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

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