Council Considers Housing Element

Following a second rejection letter from the state’s Department for Housing and Community Development (HCD), amendments to the Beverly Hills General Plan Housing Element for the 2021-2029 period were reviewed and supported by the City Council at its Feb. 21 meeting. To combat a statewide affordable housing crisis, HCD requires that all California cities submit the document, charting out the next eight years of housing policy. According to a Nov. 28 letter from the department, if the housing element is not certified, Beverly Hills risks losing state housing monies, including from the Senate Bill 1 Sustainable Communities grant. Under the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), Beverly Hills must add 3,104 units of affordable housing between 2021 to 2029 to account for and meet the needs of low-income residents. After a few iterations, city staff maintain that the adopted housing element, and subsequent versions, to be in “substantial compliance” with the state Housing Element Law.

In response to comments from the HCD requesting more detail regarding site inventory, staff conducted a site-by-site review of each parcel of land that had been identified as available for residential development. After examining inventory based on how recently the building has been updated or built, building height, and the ratio of improvement to land value, city staff revised their initial estimate of affordable housing sites.

“We made a scheme to either include sites in this inventory or to remove them if we thought they were not likely to develop into housing,” said Timothea Tway, the city’s Director of Community Development. “And that’s where the number got funneled.” In the latest version of the document, site inventory has been revised from 7,930 to 5,758, which still exceeds the RHNA number of 3,104.

To show the city’s commitment, staff amended many of the housing programs to provide measurable goals, action items and committing language. “We firmly believe that the originally approved housing element, that was approved and adopted before the state deadline, is substantially compliant with state law and this is an enhanced version of that,” Tway added.

“I think we’ve substantially met the state requirements,” City Attorney Larry Wiener said.

“So we’re here tonight for a substantial compliance determination, but we will continue to work to get HCD certification and the advantages that come with that,” Wiener added.

According to the staff report, as of Feb. 13, 89 out of 197 jurisdictions have been certified by the state in the Southern California Association of Governments region.

“I do think that the tweaks that have been made are substantial enough,” Mayor Lili Bosse said. “I hope that you’ll come back, and we will hear that it was adopted.”

City staff will keep working with Tam and her team on additional changes to site inventory with more detailed analysis before bringing it back to the Planning Commission in April or May for the adoption of the Amendments to the Housing Element. Then, staff will submit the amended 2021 to 2029 Housing Element to the HCD for review to determine its compliance with state law before being certified.