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Beverly Hills News – Planning Commission to Discuss Basement Ordinance Pipeline Thursday Evening

Posted: Tuesday, January 9, 2018 – 11:46 AM

By Victoria Talbot

An ordinance to amend the definition of basements citywide that is expected to be implemented in the next months will go before the Beverly Hills Planning Commission Thursday evening seeking a recommendation on cut-off criterion for projects in the pipeline.

The meeting, Thursday evening at 7 pm in Council Chambers at City Hall, is expected to draw public comments from proponents who seek implementation and those with properties that are in the planning stages which could be affected by the ordinance. The agenda is available online here. Other items will be heard at the regular meeting of the Planning Commission on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. The Basement Ordinance is Item 8.

The draft ordinance came to the City Council on Dec. 5 last year with a discussion on the potential impact on projects that are currently under review by the City (in the pipeline). At that time, the City Council kicked the decision back to the Planning Commission, preferring to let the responsibility for developing the criteria that will establish what gets through and what does not get through the pipeline – rest firmly on their shoulders.

The draft ordinance amends the Beverly Hills Municipal Code (BHMC) to address concerns about grading and retaining walls in the Hillside Area of the City and basements in single family areas of the City, garnering unanimous support from the Council.

In addition to the pipeline issue, the Council directed the Planning Commission to develop an R-1 permit process to allow applicants to seek relief from the wall height and location regulations through discretionary review by the Planning Commission. 

Changes in the draft ordinance include:

-The definition of “basement” and the calculation of floor area (FAR) (BHMC 10-3-100 and BHMC 10-3-2502)

-The definition of “Light Court”, “finished grade” and “natural grade (BHMC 10-3-100)

-Height of walls and tiered walls (retaining walls) (BHMC 10-3-2516)

-Traffic and truck trips (BHMC 10-2-2550)

-Clarification on soil calculations (BHMC 10-3-2550)

-Amended formula for maximum landform alteration on a site (BHMC 10-3-2521)

The amended ordinance defines the absolute maximum height of a wall to 12 feet as measured on any side of the wall, prohibiting an uphill measurement of 7 feet when the downhill slope is over 12 feet, to limit excessive alteration of landlforms. The cumulative height limit on all retaining walls within a 50-foot perpendicular section is 12 feet, limiting the ability of an applicant to propose a series of walls that may be less than 7 feet each, but cumulatively, could be more than 12 feet. The amendments also include a requirement that a 10-foot landscaped are be included between each retaining wall in a series of wall if the total height exceeds 7 feet (currently set at 3-feet distance). This increase would limit the ability of an applicant to significantly tier a slope to obtain additional flat pad area.

Staff has thus added language to the draft ordinance that will allow deviation with an R-1 permit.

The Pipeline Projects include those submitted for entitlement review (7), submitted to building plan check (32), and those who have previously received entitlements such as R-1 permits but have not yet submitted for plan check (2).

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