Kalnel Gardens, LLC v. City of Los Angeles

Facts: A developer submits a project proposal to the city to demolish an existing single-story building and construct a new three-story, multi-unit residential complex near the coast. Though the project exceeds local density and height restrictions, the city approves it since the project designates units for very low income households — a density bonus permitted by the Housing Accountability Act (HAA), Density Bonus Act and Mello Act, which seek to increase affordable housing in the state. The city also grants the project a coastal development permit under the California Coastal Act, which protects and governs land use planning for the state’s coastal zones. Local residents contest the approval, claiming the project violates the Coastal Act due to its height, density and other visual features that conflict with the existing character of the coastal neighborhood. The city retracts its approval of the developer’s project.

Claim: The developer seeks re-approval for the project, claiming the city’s retraction of its approval is a violation of the HAA, Density Bonus Act and Mello Act, which supersede the Coastal Act since these laws permit density bonuses and zoning exemptions to provide much-needed affordable housing.

Counter claim: The city claims it did not violate state housing affordability law by rejecting the developer’s project proposal since protecting the state’s coastal regions under the Coastal Act takes precedence and does not conflict with the intent of the housing and density acts.

Holding: A California court of appeals holds the city is not required to approve the developer’s proposed project since the state’s housing affordability and density bonus laws, by their language and intent, do not supersede the Coastal Act, and zoning exemptions only apply when projects also abide by the Coastal Act’s protective provisions. [Kalnel Gardens, LLC v. City of Los Angeles (September 29, 2016)_CA4th_]

Read the case text here.