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San Bernardino city’s housing plan will be set according to a settlement reached Aug. 25.

The local lawyer’s nonprofit Inland Counties Legal Services filed the case with the Public Interest Law Project Feb. 18, arguing the city failed to update its housing plan by the statewide deadline of Oct. 15, 2021.

The city says the settlement only locks down the process they were already following, and is not a change of course.

“The City of San Bernardino has been moving forward with our Housing Element for some time. There is nothing in the settlement that is outside of the process we were already following,” city spokesperson Jeff Kraus said by email.

He said that the city is currently reviewed by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, and that it’s up to the state to respond to the submission in a timely manner.

The ICLS said the settlement will help build affordable housing in the city.

“Housing Element law is designed to make building affordable housing more attractive to both City planners and housing developers alike,” ICLS attorney Anthony Kim said in a press release. “Submitting a Housing Element that complies with California law puts San Bernardino on track to be a more attractive place to live for all residents of California.” 

Under the settlement, San Bernardino must bring a compliant housing element by Feb. 7, 2024.

The timeline to do so has been expedited by the settlement. The city must also update its zoning code by April 17, 2024, to meet housing targets. It must also amend its local density bonus ordinance to streamline the permitting process for the construction of new homeless shelters and the emergency shelter ordinance to permit increased density for housing projects that contain affordable housing. Failure to meet the settlement’s agreement would result in fines.

The ICLS is a nonprofit that provides free legal services for Inland Empire residents. They had previously represented the plaintiffs in this case, Promise Gracia, Nadine Fierro and Sibylle Bartz, on other housing matters.

The plaintiffs agreed to bring the case forward because they have a continuing interest in San Bernardino’s lack of affordable housing, Kim said.

One of the biggest impacts of the settlement is the removal of the mandatory crime-free agreement in leases, Kim said. The city had required renters to include a crime-free agreement in their leases, which would grant them the ability to evict tenants if they allow or take part in crime.

Hesperia, which had a similar crime-free requirement, ended theirs last December after being sued by the federal government. Federal attorneys said tenants were being evicted without just cause. In one case, a woman was evicted because she reported domestic abuse.

The settlement also ends the city’s policy of requiring universal background checks.

Although the ICLS brought the suit, it was resolved by Thomas Kinzinger of the Attorney General’s Office.

A state report says that 307 of 539 cities have adopted housing plans that are in compliance with the standard. Ninety cities have housing plans that are out of compliance with state law. One hundred and thirty-two cities are still adopting their plans, and of those, 106 plans are out of compliance.

Kim said ICLS is already bringing suit to another city, although he declined to name it, and that they are considering bringing suits to other cities.

San Bernardino Superior Judge Khymberli Apaloo presided.

Case No. CIVSB2301828

Read the petition here.

Read the settlement here.

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