City Council Approves Ordinance Limiting Unit Size

On Sept. 19, the Beverly Hills City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that provides objective standards for housing developments. The council approved an amendment to its municipal code in an effort to comply with state Senate Bill 9 (SB 9), which, known as the “California HOME Act,” was designed to address the state’s affordable housing crisis.

SB 9 requires local agencies in California to ministerially approve urban lot splits and development of up to two residential units per single-family residential lot. Per state law, a maximum of four units are allowed on the two parcels, with an urban lot split that allows for two units to be constructed on each parcel or the development of two units plus an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and a junior ADU on a lot that is not subdivided into two.

Council voted to limit the size of new dwellings to 800 square feet, including basement space.

SB 9, which was written by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), took effect on Jan. 1, 2022. While the city has been compliant with the state law via an interim ordinance—the interim ordinance, adopted Dec. 2021, would have expired this year on Dec. 6—council approved an ordinance during its latest meeting that permanently codifies the regulations that created objective standards for SB 9 projects.

During the council meeting, city staff said that no SB 9 projects have been submitted yet to the city. SB 9 does not apply to high fire-hazard zones in the city, including Trousdale Estates and homes north of Sunset Boulevard.

The state law requires the owner to live in one unit on the property for at least three years in the event of an urban lot split. The owner must sign an affidavit saying they intend to live there for at least three years—but there is nothing the city can do in enforcing what Council referred to as the “owner-occupancy provision.”

Councilmember Sharona Nazarian was among those who said limiting the size of new dwellings to 800 square feet was fair. Councilmember John Mirisch used the discussion as an opportunity to denounce the “financialization of housing.”

“The owner-occupancy provision was, as we see, performative and meaningless nonsense on the part of a venal state legislature that’s only interested in market fundamentalists, deregulation and the financialization of housing and developer profits,” Mirisch said.

During the meeting, much of the public comment revolved around the continuing controversy over the removal of Ficus trees on Robertson Boulevard. According to a city staff person, there were 17 emailed comments about the trees on Robertson Boulevard.

About 35 minutes into the meeting, it was suddenly disrupted after someone in the audience began shouting at the council.

The interruption occurred while City Clerk Huma Ahmed was reading a summary of letters from public commenters regarding the removal of the trees on Robertson Boulevard. The person, whom the Courier was not immediately able to identify, appeared to be upset with the “editorializing” of the public comments. The person appeared to want the comments read in their entirety. Mayor Dr. Julian Gold called for adjournment as the person was escorted from the room.

The meeting also included the announcement of those selected as Team Beverly Hills 2023-2024 members. City Council selected 30 resident members, six for each councilmember, as well as four business members, and Beverly Hills High School selected two student participants. An additional 18 members were selected through a random lottery process.

Resident members selected for the initiative—which nurtures civic and community participation in the city—include Rebecca Starkins, Jonah Nazarian, Allison Geller and Allison Padilla.

Near the close of the meeting, council highlighted the upcoming Innovation’s Day event, which will be held on Oct. 9 at the Wallis Annenberg Bram Goldsmith Theatre. The theme this year is “Workplace Wellness: Strategies to Build Resilience, Beat Burnout, and Accelerate Performance.”

Before adjourning the session, Gold took a moment to acknowledge the memory of a L.A. County Sheriff ’s Department officer who was killed in Palmdale on Sept. 16.

In recognition that California communities continue to face rising crime, the Office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Sept. 14 it was awarding more than $267 million to 55 cities and counties to increase arrests and prosecutions for organized retail crime. The Beverly Hills Police Department is slated to receive more than $4 million in state funding.

City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 3.