McMansion law revised; ‘compromise’ reached

| July 28, 2016 | 0 Comments
THE ORIGINAL Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, passed in 2008, had loopholes that allowed out-of-scale homes, or McMansions, to be built. Above, homes in Larchmont Village that are too large for their lots and that overwhelm their neighbors.

THE ORIGINAL Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, passed in 2008, had loopholes that allowed out-of-scale homes, or McMansions, to be built, such as the one above in Larchmont Village.

The City Planning Commission moved one big step forward last month to protect neighborhoods from more McMansions by approving amendments to the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance.

A major part of the plan — counting the number of square feet of attached garages in allowable total floor area  — was the subject of a compromise. Proponents of counting garage square footage say that doing so will better protect neighborhoods from oversized homes built on lots too small.

Seven homeowners from La Brea-Hancock and more from other neighborhoods attended the hearing July 14 to support the stronger amendments to the BMO ordinance and to lobby for the exclusion of the 400 square foot exemption for attached front garages.

“The City Planning Commission president was impressed by our speakers’ commitment and passion, so a compromise was struck,” vice president of the La Brea-Hancock Homeowners Association Bob Eisele told the Chronicle.

After hearing demands to count the attached garages as floor space from about 50 residents and homeowners as well as the Los Angeles Conservancy, the Commission approved the compromise: Up to 200 square feet of attached garage space at the front will be exempt from floor area calculations and up to 400 square feet of attached garages at the back of the house will be exempt from such calculations.

“The 400 square foot exemption for rear garages still stands, but that’s acceptable since it encourages garages that can only be reached by extending the driveway, thus creating more space between homes,” Eisele said.

“I believe the CPC realized ours were voices from the grassroots, from homeowners under siege by McMansion developers who’re just out to make a quick buck without regard to the impact their monstrosities will have on their neighbors,” he added.

The original Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, passed in 2008, had loopholes, such as bonuses that allowed out-of-scale homes to be built and causing much outcry from residents citywide.

Bonuses eliminated

Most bonuses are eliminated under the amended BMO.

Other amendments include limiting the floor area ratio to 45 percent of lot size as opposed to 50 percent in single-family zones.

Covered porches, patios, and breezeways count as floor area, and upper-story decks, balconies and terraces must be set back at least an additional three feet on the side.

Issues that remain include bonuses that still apply on larger lots and design standards like “encroachment planes” and “articulation” that can be easy to manipulate. “Adjustments granted by Zoning Administrators will be more transparent, but why do we even need them on top of variances? questioned Shelley Wagers, of

“As they stand now, the amendments strengthen our citywide mansionization ordinances in some important ways, especially for the R1 zones that make up about 75 percent of Los Angeles’s single-family neighborhoods,” she told the Chronicle.

“The amendments are far from perfect, but they promise significant improvement, especially for the neighborhoods hardest hit by mansionization.”

The City Planning Commission approved the Planning Department’s recommendation report, modifying it only to reflect the way attached garages are counted.

“We are in the process of preparing a revised ordinance that will be submitted to the City Clerk for consideration, first by the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee of the City Council, and then by the City Council,” said city senior planner Phyllis Nathanson.

Opposing the restrictions were the local chapter of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California and residents who seek to build large homes as others have been permitted to do.

The PLUM hearing will be sometime in August at the earliest. Then the full Council will vote on the amendments.

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