Beverly Hills residents can park their cars in their driveways, carports and garages, and even on some streets in front of their homes with a permit. But they cannot park their cars under a porte-cochere.
A porte-cochere is found on most of the older, Mediterranean-style homes throughout the city. It is attached to the side of the house and was originally intended to serve as a pickup and drop-off point leading usually into the kitchen, according to Planning Director Irwin Moss Kaplan. Cars were then driven out of view to the back of the house.
But as some residents enlarged their homes--in some cases building over their driveways--the available parking space on their property has dwindled.
The city requires at least 38 feet of parking space for single-family homes, and homeowners have complained that they cannot meet the requirement unless they use the space under the porte-cochere.
The City Council next month will consider relaxing the parking ban. Last month, the Planning Commission decided to recommend that parking be allowed under porte-cocheres if they meet fire safety requirements.
The commission, concerned about density, also decided that any new porte-cocheres built for use as a carport would have to be at least three feet away from the property line on the side of the home. Existing porte-cocheres can extend to the side property line.
The parking ban is based on an interpretation of the city code, which defines a porte-cochere as a "roofed structure covering a driveway which leads from the public street to a garage or carport." It can be no longer than 24 feet in length and must be open on three sides.
The Planning Department is recommending that the City Council eliminate the reference to garage and carport because garages or carports have not been required on homes since 1976.
Kaplan said the time has come to allow parking under porte-cocheres.
"Technically, there is not a whole lot of difference between a porte-cochere and a carport," Kaplan conceded. "Traditionally, porte-cocheres have been more of a design feature of homes built in the 1920s and '30s, but now people are using them as carports."
Planning Commission Chairman Richard Carroll said the ban is a "bureaucratic oversight."
"When people hear about the ban they say, 'Why shouldn't we be allowed to park under it. What's the big deal?' " Carroll said. "And they are right. That's why we are doing something about it now."
City planner Robert Sherwin said requiring a porte-cochere to meet fire safety requirements is needed to protect the city from potential liability. He said adding a fire wall or sprinklers would probably meet these requirements.
Some homeowners have complained to the city that if their porte-cocheres cannot be used for parking space, they may have to remove them and alter the original architecture of the homes.
In a letter to the Planning Commission, Robert and Yvonne Perlberg said they are remodeling their 60-year-old home on South Bedford Drive but would like to maintain the original Mediterranean architectural design, including the porte-cochere. Losing it would "significantly detract" from the original design of the house.
Resident Gary Nardino is considering enlarging his home to add a bathroom to the single-story structure on Chevy Chase Drive. Unless he is allowed to use the porte-cochere for parking, Nardino's attorney Dante Amato said, he may be "compelled to build upwards," changing the character of the neighborhood.