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Regarding ‘Beverly Hills has poor record on city planning,’ Letters to the Editor, Nov. 2 issue
I am responding to S.R. Willen’s letter to the editor. I agree with its premise – that Beverly Hills has a poor record on city planning, and that with the exception of Councilmember John Mirisch, the City Council is uninterested in preserving what makes Beverly Hills a wonderful place to live. Not only is the council majority clueless in that respect, but its members do not even care what residents think or want.
But I disagree with the writer’s proposed solution that neighborhoods other than the writer’s should be ruined and rezoned for mixed-use, including the suggestion that Wilshire Boulevard should be rezoned for mixed-use. In fact, it already was. And as a result, residents who live near Wilshire are having to face the prospects of new seven-story buildings where there once were very nice two-story buildings.
The problem isn’t mixed-use per se – it is the fact that once property was foolishly rezoned to mixed use by our City Council majority (or is zoned for multi-family use), the state density bonus program allowing for much greater height, density and less parking applies and requires developers to be given additional incentives, concessions and waivers requested by developers. Although our planning commissioners, who were not even elected, have discretion to deny what is requested, they grant much more than they should.
City officials like to pretend that they didn’t make a big mistake because there has not yet been a load of new mixed-use developments, but it is only a matter of time.
The planning commissioners and council majority believed that if they re-zoned to mixed-use to increase building height and density, without adequate parking, in neighborhoods where they did not live, the Housing Element plan to provide additional housing would be accepted by the state. Instead, the state expected the city to actually engage in public outreach and to identify properties where additional housing would actually be built.
This could have been achieved had the city reached out to the owners of existing large buildings to encourage adaptive reuse and conversion from office space to housing. Also, additional housing could have been provided through accessory dwelling units. But city personnel dragged their feet on promises to the state that they were going to make it easier for residents to build ADUs, and the city fulfilled none of its promises.
The city failed its residents, and unless and until our Housing Element plan is approved by the state, developers are entitled to ignore our zoning laws and build high rises in residential neighborhoods.
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