Judge bans home upgrades in Beverly Hills without housing plan

Celebrity projects could end up on waiting list until city figures out affordable development

Judge Puts Moratorium on Home Upgrades in Beverly Hills
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Curtis Kin (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty, Pepperdine Caruso School of Law)

A court has determined that the penalty for Beverly Hills failing to plan for affordable housing is a moratorium on home improvement permits for such residents as Jeff Bezos, Leonardo DiCaprio and Taylor Swift.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Curtis Kin has blocked the city from issuing all building permits except for new residential development because the city failed to approve a sufficient blueprint for affordable housing, the Los Angeles Times reported.

That means no more pool grottoes and bowling alleys in Beverly Hills’ Flats neighborhood mansions. No more basement spas and exterior upgrades in Trousdale Estates. No more commercial remodels in the Golden Triangle.

The ruling has put the city’s world-famous celebrities and other well-heeled residents under siege until the city confronts its legal housing shortfall.

Under state law, Beverly Hills must plan for 3,104 homes, three-quarters of them affordable to low- and middle-income residents, by the end of the decade. But state housing regulators have rejected five housing blueprints from Beverly Hills since summer 2021, including one last month.

The city has tried to wall off its residential neighborhoods — those with the mega-mansions and apartments buildings — and focus on growth in commercial areas through mixed-use development. It hasn’t worked. 

By failing to certify its “housing element,” Beverly Hills leaves itself open to state penalties as well as the builder’s remedy that allows developers to bypass local zoning rules with projects with a sufficient number of affordable homes.

While Beverly Hills battled the state, the nonprofit Californians for Homeownership funded by the California Association of Realtors sued the city last January. It’s goal: convince a judge to compel officials to pass a compliant housing plan.

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The Los Angeles judge agreed that Beverly Hills’ blueprint was deficient, citing similar issues as the state — which has accused the city of overestimating how many of its commercial properties could add residential development, while taking issue with its plan for not allowing more affordable housing in the city’s whiter and more affluent areas.

Kin said Beverly Hills counts on medical office buildings and car dealerships to convert to housing, despite the city’s concession that it’s unlikely to happen. In its plan, the city says a newly renovated Audi dealership on Wilshire Boulevard could turn into 41 apartments.

Beverly Hills plans to appeal the court ruling.

City officials also plan to submit more information about the housing blueprint to the state in the next few weeks hoping to win approval soon, City Attorney Larry Wiener said in a statement.

Matthew Gelfand, an attorney representing Californians for Homeownership, praised Kin for the permit moratorium, saying the decision could lead to pressure within Beverly Hills to cut a deal with the state.

Gelfand said the permit moratorium should now be in effect, but said he’s open to negotiations to pause it while the case is under appeal.

An August legal settlement involving state Attorney General Rob Bonta and the City of San Bernardino calls for a permitting moratorium if the city doesn’t pass a state-approved housing plan this year.

— Dana Bartholomew

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