Californians for Homeownership, a nonprofit organization sponsored by the California Association of Realtors, has prevailed in its lawsuit against the City of Beverly Hills to enforce state housing planning laws. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge granted the organization’s petition for writ of mandate, finding that Beverly Hills had not complied with its legal duty to plan for housing under the regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) and housing element system.
In the RHNA assessment, state and local governments work together to identify regional housing needs and distribute them among a region’s cities and counties. Each city and county must then develop a “housing element” that identifies sites available for future housing development sufficient to meet the city’s RHNA allocation. If the city cannot identify adequate sites, it must change its zoning to allow additional housing development.
As we previously reported, Californians for Homeownership alleged that the City of Beverly Hills chose to identify broad swaths of the City’s commercial corridors as potential sites for housing, even though most of these sites contain established office, medical, and cultural uses that have little potential for residential development by 2029. The city also allegedly overcounted the realistic development potential on these sites, using a calculation method that assumed that the existing buildings on all of the sites will be razed and replaced with ground-up residential developments, at the maximum density allowed by law.
Beverly Hills was assigned a 2021-2029 RHNA of 3,104 units, including 1,688 units of housing for low- and very low-income households.
“This is a milestone decision in state housing law,” said CAR President Jennifer Branchini. “For far too long, cities and counties have used unrealistic and underdeveloped housing plans to skirt around state planning rules. This case proves that the Legislature’s recent improvements to housing element law go a long way toward solving this problem, so long as these new laws are vigorously enforced.”
The judge’s decision against Beverly Hills is expected to lead to a final judgment that will require the city to revise its housing element on an expedited basis. Additionally, the ruling should give needed certainty about the applicability of the so-called “builder’s remedy” to housing developments in the city. The “builder’s remedy” refers to provisions in state housing law that ease development of projects in cities and counties that have not complied with their housing element obligations.