Hoping to spare some residents from taking their dream house designs to a review board, the Beverly Hills City Council put off action on a new zoning code intended to stop the building of bigger houses in the city.
Instead, council members at their meeting Tuesday night asked planners to come up with new guidelines that would allow some Colonial-style homes or others with flat facades to be built without review board permission.
"The sense of the council is to come up with standards to eliminate the subjectivity (of a review board), so someone will be able to understand that there's some rationale for acceptance or denial," Mayor Robert K. Tanenbaum said.
"It may be repugnant to some people to go before some government board for permission to build what they have had a time-honored right to build," he said.
The original proposal would have required the review board's approval for flat-front houses, unless they were built lower than other residences or placed further back on the lot, concessions that could mean less space inside.
MeraLee Goldman, chairwoman of the city Planning Commission, argued against the change, saying some people would take advantage of a Colonial-style exemption to build bulky homes that led to the original revision of the zoning code.
The commission suggested instead that houses designed with so-called facade modulations be encouraged. This type of design, with part of the house set back farther from the street, would have a less bulky look, planners said.
"We've been working on this for three years. This will undermine what we're doing," Goldman said. "The last time this was done, it gave us one cookie-cutter house that was built all over this city."
But council members responded to appeals from residents, such as Tricia Moore, who said the establishment of a review board would discourage "traditional styles of architecture that have been around for centuries: Cape Cod, French Provincial. . . . There is a whole category of architecture that's being removed from the city."
Moore said she was speaking as an individual, not in her capacity of executive vice president of the Beverly Hills Board of Realtors.
After hearing from several residents, some of whom made similar remarks at previous sessions, the City Council debated the changes for more than an hour, prompting Vice Mayor Max Salter to call for action. He said further discussion would mean that "you're not going to have a horse. You're going to have a camel."
But the council concluded by asking staffers to come back with a new version by March 7.
"We're saying that we need protection for the neighbors, and at the same time we don't want to be overly restrictive with regard for what anyone can do with his own property," said Councilman Allan L. Alexander. "It's difficult to achieve because there are varying interests."