Planning Commission Discusses ADU Draft Ordinance

The Beverly Hills Planning Commission held a lengthy hearing that weighed regulations pertaining to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in single-family residential areas of the city.

A future ADU-focused draft ordinance could, among other things, allow for an increase in the allowable height for ADUs–which are commonly known as “second units,” “granny flats,” or “mother-in-law units”–in Beverly Hills.

The three types of ADUs are Junior ADUs, which are created inside an existing single-family dwelling; attached ADUs; and detached ADUs. While they cannot be sold separately from attached or detached main residences, ADUs can be rented. In Beverly Hills, ADUs are allowed on any property zoned for single-family or multi-family development. 

“The whole reason that the state has been fooling around with ADUs and making them easier and easier and easier is the policy they are working in aid of is creating more housing units,” Commissioner Peter Ostroff said during the Feb. 23 meeting. “That’s the point of this–to address the housing crisis, and I don’t think we should lose sight of that. That’s the point of the new ADU rules.”

Increasingly, statewide elected officials view ADUs as a viable source of housing due to low barriers to production. The California Department of Housing and Community Development calls ADUs an “innovative and effective option for much-needed housing in California.” 

In Beverly Hills, the Planning Commission has examined the topic of ADUs several times since 2021. In 2022, the city began drafting an ordinance. 

Meanwhile, ADUs are growing in popularity. In 2018, there were seven ADUs citywide. In 2022, 25 ADUs were permitted in Beverly Hills. The majority are located within the central area of the city. Of those, the majority are located south of Santa Monica Boulevard. 

If trends continue, the city is on track to meet its target of permitting 150 new ADUs by 2029, city staff said.  

Beverly Hills residents have expressed a desire for regulations permitting ADUs at least 20 feet high. The current statewide height restriction–of 16-20 feet for a detached ADU–does not typically allow for the construction of a two-story ADU. If a property owner wants to build an ADU on top of a garage or carport, which can be 10 feet high, a 16-foot-tall ADU isn’t a practical option, residents say.

Current ADU regulations in Beverly Hills change depending on where the property is located. Areas outside transit proximity areas, including parts of Trousdale Estates, have different regulations than those south of Santa Monica Boulevard in the city’s flats.

In Beverly Hills, ADUs are either by-right or discretionary.  By-right developments fit certain standards and can receive a building permit without review. Properties categorized under the discretionary process include those located north of Santa Monica Boulevard, and they are allowed larger ADUs given their larger lot sizes.

Toward the end of the Feb. 23 meeting, Planning Commissioners proposed that by-right ADUs be allowed a height closer to 26 feet. Setbacks–the distance between the ADU and the side and rear of the property line–ought to remain at the state standard of 4 feet, Commissioners said.

During the public comment section, real estate attorney Murray Fischer urged the Planning Commission to consider regulations governing ADUs for multi-family buildings. There was great opportunity in that area, he said. 

Additionally, Fischer said ADUs provide living opportunities for young adults in college or who recently graduated.

“The Planning Commission is trying to find a solution to provide ADUs that are meaningful and will meet the requests of the residents of the City of Beverly Hills,” Fischer told the Courier in a phone interview after the hearing.

Longtime Beverly Hills resident Kamyar Mahboubi spoke of wanting to develop an ADU for his elderly in-laws. Accustomed to living in a 6,000-square-foot home, they would not be comfortable in an ADU that was “a bit larger than a garage,” he said.

Homes Founder Florentine Christian spoke about ADU aesthetics. A nationally recognized ADU expert, Christian said there’s need for design consistency between the primary property and the ADU. 

Planning Commission members requested that city staff–including Cindy Gordon, a principal planner for Beverly Hills, and Timothea Tway, director of community development for the city–consider what was said during the meeting and return with a draft ordinance at a later date.