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C.A.R. nonprofit sues City of Coronado to enforce property owners’ housing creation rights

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For release:
January 21, 202

Housing group sues City of Coronado to enforce property owners’ housing creation rights

LOS ANGELES (Jan. 21) – Californians for Homeownership, a nonprofit organization sponsored by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.)that aims to address California’s housing crisis through impact litigation, today announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the City of Coronado, Calif. The lawsuit seeks to protect the rights of property owners to develop accessory dwelling units (ADUs) with new single-family homes throughout the state.

ADUs, often called “in-law units” or “casitas,” are additional units usually built alongside single-family homes, within existing residential neighborhoods. They are fully self-contained, with bathrooms and kitchens, and are built to modern building codes. Under state laws passed in 2019, anyone building a new single-family home in the state can elect to build an ADU at the same time, without the need for additional hearings or discretionary approvals.

The lawsuit follows a nine-month investigation of the City of Coronado’s ADU practices. The investigation revealed that although the city has valid written ADU policies, its senior planning staff privately adopted a practice of refusing to accept any joint application to build an ADU with a new home. Confronted with evidence of staff’s misconduct, an attorney for the city admitted that staff were violating the law but refused to correct them. Unable to submit joint applications, some Coronado property owners have moved forward with applications to develop new homes without ADUs.

“What is happening in Coronado is particularly concerning because it is happening behind closed doors," said C.A.R. President Dave Walsh. “Because Coronado’s policies look good on paper, it is difficult for state housing regulators to address this problem. And because Coronado is refusing to even accept these applications, its property owners have no obvious way to challenge the city’s conduct. That is why Californians for Homeownership is taking decisive legal action to support the development of housing in Coronado.”

ADUs are a key element of California’s strategy for addressing the state’s housing crisis. California has a housing deficit of 2 million to 3.5 million homes, and it ranks 49th out of the 50 states in the number of housing units per capita. This need has become particularly pronounced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the number of Californians who are forced to live in overcrowded housing units due to the state’s inadequate housing supply.

To address the housing crisis, California needs to build homes quicker and at a lower cost than traditional ground-up construction allows. Building ADUs with new single-family homes is a particularly cost-effective approach. It also minimizes impacts to neighbors and encourages ADUs that are well integrated into their surroundings.

“California’s property owners are rolling up their sleeves and answering the call to build new, high-quality housing,” Walsh said. “California’s cities should be welcoming these efforts, but some are actively working to block them.”

Coronado is an oceanfront community a short commute from downtown San Diego, with a median household income above $100,000. “It’s especially incumbent on high-opportunity cities like Coronado to comply with state laws intended to increase housing affordability,” said Matthew Gelfand, the in-house litigator for the Californians for Homeownership nonprofit.

“Our investigation revealed that Coronado is shirking that duty.” Gelfand said. “What we found was disturbing. Not only are City of Coronado staff breaking the law, but they have developed a coordinated system for doing so. Internal communications show that the city developed a process for routing certain ADU applications to high-level city officials, presumably to ensure that they would be turned away. We tried for months to get this resolved without litigation, but the city forced our hand.”

Californians for Homeownership has been investigating and monitoring local compliance with the new ADU laws statewide. Since the laws were passed in late 2019, the nonprofit has reviewed the ADU policies of over 200 cities and demanded changes in over 140, resulting in widespread changes to local ADU policies to conform to state law. This is the organization’s second lawsuit to enforce state ADU laws.

The lawsuit is Californians for Homeownership v. City of Coronado, San Diego County Superior Court Case No. 37-2021-00002339-CU-WM-CTL. A copy of the filing is available at caforhomes.org/coronado


Californians for Homeownership is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization sponsored by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® devoted to using legal tools to address California's housing crisis. For too long, California's cities have treated compliance with state and federal housing law as optional. The organization seeks to change that attitude by proactively enforcing the law, on behalf of the important public interest in having additional housing available to families at all income levels. Californians for Homeownership was established by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.), and it receives financial support from C.A.R. and private donors. To make a tax-deductible charitable contribution today, visit caforhomes.org.

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