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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Beverly Hills broker abandons effort to overturn ‘Basement Ordinance’

Luxury homes agent Branden Williams had sought to repeal a local measure that limits the size of homes
By Dennis Lynch | April 06, 2018 04:00PM

9560 Cedarbrook, a 97-acre development property in Beverly Hills and Branden Williams (Credit: Hilton & Hyland)

Hilton & Hyland luxury broker Branden Williams’ brief foray into Beverly Hills politics has come to an end, at least for now.

Williams had been campaigning to repeal the city’s “Basement Ordinance,” a local measure that essentially limits the size of future home developments in the tony city. Proponents say it curbs overdevelopment and preserves the city’s hillsides. Williams organized a team that went door to door for signatures to force a referendum to overturn the ordinance. The Beverly Hills City Council unanimously approved the ordinance last month and it took effect Friday.

Williams directed a group that hired roughly 2,000 signatures needed to put the ordinance to the voters in a referendum later this year. It’s unclear whether or not the group will continue to pursue a referendum vote without Williams — a lawyer listed as the group’s assistant treasurer did not return requests for comment.

The ordinance tweaks local laws to incorporate square footage of basement spaces into the overall square footage of a home.

Before that, basements were not counted in total square footage. A builder could skirt size limits by building full floors into a hillside that legally counted as a “basement” because it went no higher than a few feet above grade on the side of the home facing the street.

In a statement, Williams said he would step down from the “Beverly Hills Residents for Preserving Property Values,” the advocacy group he led last month to campaign for the referendum. Williams said he regretted “any misunderstanding related to my opposition to the Basement Ordinance” and decided to resign when he “became aware that my efforts were a concern to some homeowners.” He said he opposed the ordinance because he believed it was “misguided [and] will harm homeowners and negatively impact property values in the city.”

Williams has sold numerous luxury and undeveloped properties in his hometown that could take or may have already taken advantage of the loophole. He’s currently listing two multimillion-dollar undeveloped properties in Beverly Hills and a handful of potential teardowns that could stand to lose value to potential buyers under the new rules. One of the properties he is the broker on is a massive 97-acre property whose asking price is $250 million.

Articles on the issue that appeared in the local newspaper, the Beverly Hills Courier, showed that Williams had a financial interest in overturning the measure. It linked him to developer Francesco Aquilini and a development project at 1193 Loma Linda Drive that would be affected by the ordinance.