By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sacramento makes it clear: Beverly Hills is part of the affordable housing problem
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt

Beverly Hills has a median home selling price of $3,162,000.

It is also the proverbial beachhead for California’s “get tough” approach to affordable housing.

In January, following a court order that sided with the State of California, the wealthy enclave of 32,000 was forced to cease issuing building permits for all but new residential projects.

Even bathroom or kitchen remodeling projects — that can surpass the $600,000 median price of homes sold in Manteca — are a no go.

That is, until, they get an affordable housing plan in place that satisfies Sacramento.

Residents that have walk-in closets larger than two-bedroom apartments that the unwashed  masses rent are livid.

They contend the state’s affordable housing mandate that the City of Beverly Hills has given lip service to for years would undermine efforts to “preserve the city’s character.”

It is really just a more elitist way of saying NIMBYism — not in my backyard.

They also contend the affordable housing crisis is not of their making.

Au contraire.

The clerks and waiters that man exclusive Rodeo Drive stores to the workers that care for massive estates can’t afford to live in Beverly Hills.

As such, Beverly Hills has created a textbook example of jobs and housing being out of balance.

A little background may be in order.

After years of the state just saying cities needed to essentially color some areas on a map where they would allow affordable housing and essentially do nothing else to make it a reality, the California Legislature finally adopted affordable housing mandates with teeth.

This came after California over the years racked up a housing shortfall of between 3 million and 4 million units depending on which state guesstimate you use.

It’s a concession that the weaponization of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to torpedo housing developments is a significant contributing factor to both the state’s housing crisis and it’s off-the-hook housing costs.

The CEQA process has been used for years to block affordable housing endeavors in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

And while the state has gone toe-to-toe with other well-off cities such as Huntington Beach, where affordable housing is a farce entrenched by local government actions, Beverly Hills was asking to be targeted.

One of the affordable housing plans that Beverly Hills advanced the state rejected as being insufficient called for three affordable housing units.

That is not a misprint.

The powers that be believe Beverly Hills should make it possible for 3,104 housing units to be built over an eight-year period. Of those, three quarters need to qualify as affordable or low income based on the area’s median income.

Keep in mind, in the case of Beverly Hills that it is not a mandate to have housing for farm workers. It is simply low income and affordable based on the economic dynamics of the community.

Rest assured, there are plenty of workers making $20 or less an hour that aren’t undocumented domestic staff being paid under the table.

The retort, of course, is allowing housing to be built that such people could afford to rent would ruin Beverly Hills’ neighborhoods.

Sound familiar?

It’s the argument used for years to undermine projects that have smaller homes and higher density.

But what is unspoken, most of the time anyway, at public hearings is alluding to the “type of people” who supposedly typically inhabit such dwellings.

Besides the “gypsies, tramps, and thieves” reference being so wildly inaccurate that it doesn’t come close to a realistic generalization, it ignores the fact the ranks of those who occupy larger and “nicer” homes have their share of criminals and those that can be classified as the dregs of society.

Instead of slinging around words that eventually mean “undesirables” many fighting nearby development that doesn’t mirror their neighborhoods have resorted to other tactics so as not to trigger a full scale civil rights investigation.

The most prominent vernacular of choice to dismiss housing that is of higher density is that it “threatens the character” of established neighborhoods.

It’s a charge that is tossed about no matter the design of a development — even if it is large enough to include a transitional buffer of median priced housing.

More than a few in Beverly Hills have asserted that the housing crisis is not of their making.

But their very argument of how Beverly Hills has labored for years to create a certain character confirms the problem is indeed of their making.

With a median housing price of $3,162,000, it is clear that the men and women who protect Beverly Hills in the police and fire departments or teach in the schools can’t afford to rent, let alone buy in the community.

Yes, affordable means workforce housing.

The anti-affordable housing sentiment in many communities is basically often telling police officers, firefighters, teachers, health care employees and such that you’re good enough to work here but not good enough to live here.

As for the state, playing hardball by suing Beverly Hills in court for what has been basically long-term open defiance of California’s affordable housing laws was an option they had to pursue.

No city is above the laws that Sacramento imposes to govern California.

Even one that has one of the most exclusive ZIP Codes on earth, Beverly Hills 90210.