Clovis loses appeal, ordered to zone for more low-income housing

Clovis has found itself in hot water over California’s RHNA requirements for affordable housing.

A state appellate court ruled last week that Clovis needs to take more action to provide higher-density affordable housing in the city. 

The ruling comes in part to compel Clovis to meet the state’s housing requirements under the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) program


The backstory: The appeal came in response to a 2021 ruling from the Fresno County Superior Court that found that Clovis was not providing enough affordable housing and multi-family housing. 

  • Initially, Clovis resident and homeless advocate Dez Martinez sued the city in 2019 alleging that its housing plan for the 2015-2023 period did not meet the RHNA standards. 
  • Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan honed in on Clovis not meeting the state’s minimum density requirements and ordered the city to adopt a housing plan that complies with RHNA, which included zoning for over 4,400 affordable housing units. 

The big picture: In its appeal, Clovis argued that it had already complied with RHNA, yet the court of appeal agreed with Culver Kapetan’s ruling and ordered the city to comply with the state requirements and provide enough zoning to meet the RHNA standards. 

  • Martinez also alleged that the city’s policies have been discriminatory against low-income families. Culver Kapetan ruled that Clovis did not necessarily discriminate, the appellate court said Clovis needs to be more proactive than simply refraining from housing discrimination. 
  • Clovis did win one part of the appeal as the court found that the city did not violate statutory provisions for analysis of sites larger than 10 acres or vacant properties, as initially ruled by Culver Kapetan. 

What they’re saying: In his ruling, appellate judge Donald Franson explained that RHNA affects how cities zone, but it cannot require local governments to actually build, finance or contribute public funds to construct low-income housing. 

  • “These requirements for a municipality’s housing element have statewide importance because the housing elements of all cities and counties must include compliant zoning that accommodates the municipality’s need for lower income housing,” Franson wrote. 
  • Franson added, “We find as a matter of law the City violated its duty to ‘administer its programs and activities relating to housing and community development in a manner to affirmatively further fair housing.”
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