Council Greenlights New ADU Ordinance

The Beverly Hills City Council has approved a new set of rules to incentivize the production of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and help Beverly Hills meet Sacramento’s ambitious goals for housing growth.

ADUs, also referred to as granny flats, are small, self-contained units located on the property of a single-family home. They can take many forms including a converted garage, attic apartment or backyard cottage.

They are a key part of the city’s strategy to increase housing availability as nearly 75% of the land in Beverly Hills is developed with detached single-family homes. Better enabling the production of ADUs will help the city gain state approval for its Housing  Element plan, which outlines how the city…” to “Better enabling the production of ADUs will help the city gain state approval for its Housing  Element plan, which outlines how Beverly Hills will create capacity for 3,100 new units by 2029.

Without a state-approved Housing Element, the city risks losing control over local zoning. 

The ordinance considered in a March 11 City Council meeting had already been closely reviewed by city planning staff and the Planning Commission. 

It updates the city’s ADU rules to align with recent changes in state legislation and, in some cases, goes above and beyond the new state requirements to incentivize residents to build ADUs on their property. 

For example, the city’s size limitation for larger ADUs exceeds the state’s requirement by 350 to 550 feet depending on the single-family area of the city. In addition, while the state sets a 16-foot height maximum, the city allows for ADU heights up to 25 feet in certain neighborhoods.

At the same time, the ordinance has special rules for the Trousdale neighborhood in an effort to prevent new ADU production from infringing on hillside views. As a result, ADUs in this neighborhood are not allowed to exceed the state limits for height or size.

These protections were added to the ordinance following Planning Commission’s Jan. 25 meeting when many Trousdale residents expressed their concerns about unintended consequences of the new ADU rules.

Representatives from the Trousdale Estates Homeowners Association also attended the March 11 City Council meeting and expressed gratitude for the updates made to the ordinance.

“I want to thank the Planning Commission. They really spent time with us and they tried to do what they could and make accommodations to address unintended consequences, which is exactly what happens when the state decides for everybody with a wide brush that this is what we want,” said Shahram Melamed.

Melamed and his fellow homeowner’s association member Karen Platt then asked the council to take additional action to further ensure new ADUs do not disrupt neighborhood views.

In particular, they requested regulations around ADU height requirements and for planning staff to push homeowners to locate ADUs on areas of their property that would have the least impact on their neighbors’ view. Planning staff expressed concern with these proposed changes, noting that they would likely run afoul of the state and potentially jeopardize Housing Element approval. 

“I think that the issue with a subjective action like that is when it comes to housing projects, we have to apply objective standards,” said City Planner Masa Alkire. “It would be very hard for us to assess two different locations and then push homeowners into one particular location.”

While Councilmembers were sympathetic to Trousdale residents’ concerns, they noted that they need to get the ordinance passed as soon as possible. 

Mayor Dr. Julian Gold advised Platt and Melamed to work with staff to see if it was possible to develop an amendment that could address their concerns and then bring it back to council in a future meeting.

“I think we need to get this ordinance done tonight, but if you want to work with staff and see if you can find some language that would be acceptable, I wouldn’t have a problem having that come back for an amendment at a later date,” he said. 

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