Beverly Hills Appeals Judgment in Housing Element Lawsuit

Beverly Hills is appealing a Los Angeles County Superior Court judgment that would restrict the city’s ability to approve new building permits until it meets the state’s ambitious housing requirements. The judgment and writ of mandate was entered by the Hon. Curtis A. Kin on Dec. 21 in a lawsuit filed by Californians for Homeownership, a nonprofit sponsored by the California Association of Realtors, which alleges that the city has failed its legal duty to plan for future housing needs.

“The city has appealed the trial court’s decision, and therefore the trial court’s judgment has not yet taken effect,” Beverly Hills City Attorney Laurence Wiener told the Courier.

If the ruling takes effect, it will temporarily suspend Beverly Hills’ ability to issue building permits—except for permits that create new residential bedrooms or units—until the city’s Housing Element plan is deemed substantially compliant with state law. 

This means the city would have to put the brakes on permits for any new buildings, or even kitchen and bathroom remodels, that don’t add to the city’s overall housing stock. 

Beverly Hills, like all other cities in California, is required to submit a Housing Element plan to Sacramento outlining how it will create capacity for a state-mandated number of housing units by 2024. Beverly Hills’ plan for its required 3,104 units has yet to receive state approval. 

“The city of Beverly Hills is over two years late in developing a compliant Housing Element, even as most Southern California cities have achieved compliance,” said Matt Gelfand, an attorney for Californians for Homeownership, in a statement provided to the Courier. “We are optimistic that the penalties imposed by the court will get the city on the right track toward adopting a compliant housing element in early 2024.”

The deadline for all cities in the state, including Beverly Hills, to have their Housing Element approved by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) was October 2022. As of Dec. 27, 2023, approximately 66% of California’s 539 municipalities had compliant Housing Elements, according to HCD’s dashboard. 

Beverly Hills has submitted three versions of its Housing Element to HCD over the last three years, all of which have been rejected. The city is continuing to work with HCD to attain HCD certification of the document, Wiener told the Courier.

Californians for Homeownership filed its lawsuit against the city in January. The complaint alleges that the city developed an unrealistic Housing Element that relies on directing new housing development into commercial corridors and overestimating how many units can be built there.

On Sept. 12, Kin ruled that the city had indeed failed to comply with its legal duty to develop a compliant Housing Element. The following month, the city submitted a revised version of its Housing Element to HCD, but HCD rejected it on Dec. 15.

“The city has continued to focus its plans on the unlikely conversion of thriving retail, religious, medical, and office spaces into housing without zoning changes,” said Gelfand. “It has continued to do so even after the court initially ruled in September that its approach was internally inconsistent and lacked evidentiary support, providing a clear roadmap for the city to come into compliance.”

The city, for its part, has stood by its Housing Element. 

“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 last week.