Hoping to streamline an often acrimonious process, Beverly Hills has decided to eliminate its Hillside Review Board and look for other ways to deal with neighborhood disputes about overbuilding in the high-priced residential area north of Sunset Boulevard.
While the city's Planning Commission feels strongly that regulations are needed to control overdevelopment, the current procedure "just didn't work," commission Chairwoman Meralee Goldman told the City Council.
Under existing rules, a Hillside Review Board, made up of one planning commissioner and two city staffers, meets in formal session, looks over the plans for a project and listens to testimony from all sides. It then decides whether to refer proposals for new houses or major additions to the Planning Commission for public hearings.
The commission reviewed 26 cases last year, in meetings that sometimes went past 2 a.m. because of the large numbers of neighbors waiting to be heard. Some cases took as long as eight hours.
"It's hard to do your best thinking at that hour of the morning," Goldman told the council at a meeting earlier this month.
She also said that neighbors sometimes "got a sense of false power, that a project could be stopped . . . and what ended up was that instead of preventing acrimony, we were seeing acrimony develop."
The Hillside Review Board was established a year ago in response to public outcry against a trend of building large houses on the odd-shaped and steeply sloped lots that often command broad vistas of city and canyon.
Much of the outcry came from neighbors who said their own views would be blocked or that the architectural style of their neighborhood would be violated.
Although Goldman said, "We do have the right to require that you not create an adverse situation in a neighborhood," she told the council that most of these proposals should be worked out informally.
A few residents spoke against the proposal for modifying the hillside ordinance, which was extended by 5-0 vote of the council.
'Back to Square One'
"This takes us back to square one, where we were two years ago," said hillside resident Mary Cutler. "Lawsuits are proliferating, because the people who are coming in don't care what the people who live there want. They (newcomers) want what they want. Maybe they're from the Dr. Spock generation."
But the City Council decided to eliminate the review board and substitute an informal review process under which applicants would discuss their plans with city staff and only the more ambitious projects would require full-scale review.
City Councilman Allan L. Alexander warned that regulation should not go too far.
"Areas are evolving," he said. "It's a question of considering that evolution but making sure it's not out of scale. We shouldn't go to architectural considerations in the hillside area, just as we haven't in the flat area."
The revised hillside ordinance, which will be in effect until December, 1989, does not affect the Truesdale district.