State to Approve the Beverly Hills Housing Element

The state of California is ready to approve Beverly Hills’ Housing Element, which will ensure the city retains control over local zoning and put an end to a three-year struggle to meet Sacramento’s ambitious housing demands.

On March 18 the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) informed the city that its latest version of the Housing Element—a plan to create capacity for 3,100 new housing units by 2029—requires no further changes.

Council unanimously adopted this version during its Regular Meeting that evening, and the document will now be sent back to HCD for final certification.

“HCD is pleased to find the revised draft Housing Element meets the statutory requirements,” said HCD Senior Program Paul McDougall in a March 18 letter to the city. “The Housing Element will substantially comply with State Housing Element Law when it is adopted, submitted to, and approved by HCD.”

“HCD appreciates the hard work and dedication the housing element team provided throughout the Housing Element review and update process,” he added.

This news was met with great relief by city staff, planning commissioners and council members who have been laboring to meet the state’s rigorous requirements for Housing Element approval for years.

“I want to thank staff for working so hard,” said Councilmember Lili Bosse at the meeting. “I know that there were many revisions and many back and forths, but it’s very exciting that we finally have a compliant Housing Element, so I really have a tremendous amount of gratitude.”

Beverly Hills first submitted its Housing Element to HCD in October 2021. HCD rejected four formal versions of the Housing Element between January 2022 and December 2023 and requested amendments to dozens of drafted revisions.

“It’s been a long haul and I think we’ve answered some of the unrealistic demands of HCD,” said Vice Mayor Lester Friedman. “I’m certainly supportive of submitting this.” The latest version of the document, submitted to HCD for feedback in February, differs significantly from previous versions. Major changes include committing city owned or controlled sites for the construction of 557 low-income housing units, increasing the number of Accessory Dwelling Units allowed on large properties, incorporating accountability measures if the city falls behind on housing goals, and lowering fees and regulatory barriers to construct new housing.

“What I think is really important, which I know is something that HCD wanted, is our commitment to action [for building affordable housing],” said Bosse. “We’re committing to a timeline and if we can’t keep up with the timeline, then we will find another location [to build the housing].”

Without a certified Housing Element, the city was at risk of being forced to approve projects that significantly exceed local height and density limits, per a law known as the “builder’s remedy.” The city has received 13 builder’s remedy applications with more than 1,000 units in total.

In addition, the city was facing a Superior Court lawsuit ruling that would limit its ability to issue new building permits until HCD certifies the Housing Element.