by Garth Meyer
A state-required Redondo Beach housing plan took effect in time to stop a proposal by AES site owners to develop the property by “Builder’s Remedy,” L.A. County Superior Court ruled last week.
Judge Ronald Frank found in favor of the City of Redondo Beach, over AES co-owner Leo Pustilnikov, who contended in a lawsuit that the city got state approval for its eight-year housing plan too late in 2022. The judge said the plan, known as a housing element, took effect the day the Redondo Beach city council voted on it, July 5, as opposed to two months later when it was approved by the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
If the housing element was deemed official on the later date, Pustilnikov may have used what is known as the “Builder’s Remedy” to sidestep Redondo zoning, and build 2,700 units of residential and commercial space at the power plant site.
“This is a big victory (for the city), in one of the biggest cases we have,” said City Attorney Mike Webb.
The win also likely stops future challenges to Redondo zoning on new housing until at least 2029, when the housing element expires.
“It means we’re not vulnerable to Builder’s Remedy for the rest of this housing cycle,” Webb said.
The Builder’s Remedy is a previously obscure part of state law which exempts property owners from certain zoning rules if the city they intend to build in does not have a state-certified housing element – and the proposed project includes a certain amount of affordable housing.
Pustilnikov has promised to appeal.
“We completely disagree with the judge’s ruling,” he wrote Tuesday in a statement to Easy Reader. “As a local of the South Bay, (the judge) seems to have formulated his opinion on development and not the law. We will be immediately appealing this decision and look forward to winning on appeal.”
Webb disputes this assessment.
“The parties can always, as a matter of right, recuse a judge,” said the city attorney. “I completely disagree with that, and I think it’s unwise to use language like that just because you are unhappy with the decision.”
The city council filed two versions of its housing element that the state rejected before it approved the third version in September 2022.
“Go pound sand, Leo,” said City Councilman Zein Obagi, Jr. “We had a housing element as soon as the council approved it.”
“The judge’s ruling rewards the city for its efforts to come up with a fully compliant housing element…” Webb said, crediting former Community Services Director Brandy Forbes for leading the work in 2019-2022.
Pustilnikov and his owner’s group filed an application to build in Redondo Beach on August 10, 2022, after the city council voted on the housing element and before the state evaluated it.
Five legal cases remain open between Pustilnikov and the City of Redondo Beach, related to the AES site and the ownership group’s plans to develop it. ER