City Hopes New Housing Element Will Protect Local Zoning Control

After two years of trying, and failing to meet the state’s ambitious housing requirements, the city of Beverly Hills is hoping that its recently updated Housing Element plan will finally satisfy Sacramento.

Every city in California is required to submit a Housing Element outlining how it will create capacity for a state-mandated number of housing units by 2029.

The city is eager to have its Housing Element certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) so that it can retain control over local zoning. 

Without a compliant Housing Element, the city is at risk of being forced to approve all housing developments that meet certain affordability requirements, per a law known as the “builder’s remedy.” So far, the city has received seven builder’s remedy applications for projects containing over 700 units in total. 

Beverly Hills is required by the state to demonstrate capacity for 3,104 units, of which 1,688 must be affordable. The city first submitted its Housing Element plan to accommodate these units in October 2021.

HCD declined to certify the original plan as well as an updated version submitted in March 2023, both times requesting that revisions be made.

Now, the city is hoping that the third time’s the charm. 

“I am cautiously optimistic that this will be certified, perhaps with some minor modification required,” Planning Commissioner Peter Ostroff told the Courier. “I think that it is the result of a very careful, inch-by-inch examination of various potential sites.”

Thus far, HCD’s concerns have centered around how realistic the city’s “suitable sites inventory” is. The inventory contains a list of all possible sites that can accommodate the state’s housing requirements. 

The latest Housing Element contains more specific details on existing buildings, such as offices or retail stores, that are suitable for conversion into housing as well as existing sites that are underutilized, meaning they could accommodate larger buildings. 

The new Housing Element also contains more detail on the criteria and process for converting buildings into housing units. 

Other sites listed in the inventory include potential Accessory Dwelling Units, a 252-unit city planned affordable housing project, projects submitted for city review, projects in development, and projects developers have expressed interest in.

HCD is required to provide feedback on the new Housing Element within 60 days.

The city posted the updated Housing Element online on Oct. 10 and will submit it to HCD on Oct. 17, following the one-week public notice requirement, City Planner Masa Akire told the Courier. Once HCD has reviewed the update, the city anticipates bringing it to the Planning Commission and City Council for formal adoption, Akire added. 

In the first two rounds of submissions, the Planning Commission and City Council discussed and voted to adopt the Housing Element before submitting it to HCD. This time around, the city is first waiting to hear back from HCD on whether additional revisions are necessary.