A key test is on the horizon for the first of numerous "Builder's Remedy" projects to hit Beverly Hills.
On February 6, the Beverly Hills City Council is scheduled to vote to set a hearing date for an appeal from 9300 Wilshire Boulevard, LLC challenging an incomplete letter issued in October 2023 relating to a proposed 19-story mixed-use development at 125-129 S. Linden Drive. The project, backed by Builder's Remedy pioneer Leo Pustilnikov, calls for the construction of an approximately 200-foot-tall building featuring 165 apartments (20 percent of which would be rented to lower income households) with a 73-room hotel.
Ottinger Architects is designing the proposed high-rise complex, which would rank among the city's tallest buildings if completed.
While the project far exceeds zoning limits on density and height, Pustilnikov is relying on state law in the hopes of forcing the city's hand. Under the Housing Accountability Act, cities which fail to obtain state certification for its housing element lose the ability to block certain developments from bypassing those zoning rules. The state's Department of Housing and Community Development has rejected multiple drafts of the Beverly Hills Housing Element already, citing an insufficient inventory of potential housing development sites among other shortcomings.
Complicating issues further is a recent legal decision in which a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that Beverly Hills had failed to comply with housing element law. A final judgment issued on December 21, prohibits Beverly hills from issuing any building permit - save for those relating to adding bedrooms or new housing units - until it adopts a compliant housing element.
However, the appeal letter to the city contends that Beverly Hills has proceeded without regard to the ongoing troubles surround its housing element. Correspondence between Planning officials and representatives of the developer indicate that the Beverly Hills has instructed the project team to apply for a general plan amendment and zone change, rejecting any attempts to make use of the Builder's Remedy. Attorneys with Rand, Paster & Nelson LLP, who represent Pustilnikov, argue that the city lacks discretion to do so under state law.
A staff report recommends that the City Council set a March 11 hearing date for the appeal - the latest allowable date under state law.
While the ongoing dispute may pertain to a single project on Linden Avenue, the result of the appeal and any subsequent legal action will have impacts on several other pending applications in Beverly Hills. The city has received more than a half-dozen Builder's Remedy applications to date, including a proposal from Crescent Heights which could bring a 20-story building to a site on Burton Way.
Although Beverly Hills continues to find itself at odds with state housing officials and applicants over the Builder's Remedy, other Southern California jurisdictions have already blinked when put into a showdown. That includes Santa Monica, which settled last year with developer WS Communities on applications for roughly one dozen different projects.
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