State Rejects Beverly Hills’ Housing Element for a Third Time

The city of Beverly Hills remains at risk of losing local control over zoning as the state, once again, rejected its attempt to comply with Sacramento’s ambitious housing goals. 

Beverly Hills is required to demonstrate its ability to make room for 3,104 new units, of which 1,688 must be affordable, by 2029. Its plan to do so, known as a Housing Element, was rejected by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in a Dec. 15 letter.

This is the third time that the state has deemed the city’s Housing Element insufficient. The deadline for all cities in the state, including Beverly Hills, to have their Housing Element approved was October 2022.

“The city of Beverly Hills has adopted a sixth cycle Housing Element that is substantially compliant with state law, and we are disappointed that HCD has not yet certified the document,” Director of Community Development Michael Forbes told the Courier. “The city has been working with HCD in order to attain HCD certification of the document. The city will have a better sense of next steps after it further studies HCD’s recent letter.”

The Community Development department, members of the Planning Commission and City Council members have worked diligently to develop and repeatedly revise the city’s Housing Element in line with HCD’s demands over the past three years. The city had hoped that this latest version, which was submitted on Oct. 10, would be approved. 

“I thought that this response (from HCD) was a minus three on a 10-point scale and was very disappointing,” Planning Commissioner Peter Ostroff told the Courier. 

Without a compliant Housing Element, the city is at risk of being forced to approve proposed housing developments that meet certain affordability requirements under a law known as the “builder’s remedy”.

As of Dec. 19, there were 13 builder’s remedy project applications with 1,262 total units pending city approval, according to a list provided by Public Information Officer Lauren Santillana. 

Several of these applications are for mammoth buildings including a 210-unit development at 211-217 S. Hamilton Drive, a 199-unit development at 8844 Burton Way, a 165-unit development at 125-129 S. Linden Drive and a 116-unit project at 8800 Wilshire Blvd. 

Beverly Hills is not alone in failing to meet the state’s rigorous housing requirements, but it is in the minority. Currently, 65% of all California municipalities—or 349 of 539—have compliant Housing Elements, according to HCD’s database. 

HCD informed the city of its continued noncompliance in a Dec. 15 letter signed by Senior Program Manager Paul McDougall. 

In this letter McDougall highlights four broad areas in which the state would like to see further revisions. These are promoting fair housing opportunities, identifying an inventory of sites suitable for housing development, removing restraints to housing production and preserving existing low-income housing.