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McMansions Blocking Mr. Tarlow’s View from the Cheap Seats

TALK BACK - Charles Tarlow’s latest post “There’s Something Very Wrong Going On In My Neighborhood) [link] slams a recent survey conducted by Paul Koretz.

The subject of the survey is a proposed overlay district that would reset limits on home size in one Beverly Wilshire neighborhood.  Evidently the same McMansions that block the sun also obstruct Mr. Tarlow’s view “from the cheap seats.”  Where to start?

How about his allegation that Councilmember Koretz is being hoodwinked by a cabal of local homeowners and his own evil planning deputy.

In fact, Mr. Koretz attended a presentation on the proposal at a public meeting last September.  He commented at that time that when he ran for office he heard again and again from voters that they wanted to stop the McMansions.  (Mr. Tarlow was also present at that meeting, where he aired his own views on the subject.)  Mr. Koretz’s survey is consistent with his demonstrated regard for neighborhood character throughout his years of public service.

Then there’s the claim that the proposal is deceptive, designed to trap unwary homeowners into supporting draconian restrictions.  

In fact, it is presented as simply and clearly as possible, in an effort to make the subject accessible to people who may not be fully fluent in “floor area ratios,” “LEED certification,” and other complexities of the zoning code.  The proposal serves as a starting point to set reasonable limits on home size.  And Mr. Koretz’s survey form offers respondents the chance to (1) endorse current zoning with no additional limits, (2) endorse new limits in general, (3) endorse the specific proposal, and/or to offer additional comments.

He trots out the threadbare claim that reasonable limits on home size threaten property rights and property values.

In fact, zoning codes limit property rights in order to promote compatible development.  You can’t have a horse on a modest city lot because it would create a nuisance for neighbors.  The same should apply to oversize houses that crowd their neighbors and spoil the character of established neighborhoods.

Throughout Southern California and all across the country, communities with consistently high property values ban McMansions, in large part because reckless development detracts from property values in the long run.

Astonishingly, Mr. Tarlow insists that the law requires signatures from 75 percent of all households to establish an overlay district.  

In fact, Section 12.32 S of the Municipal Code authorizes the City Council, the City Planning Commission, or the Director of Planning to initiate an overlay district without signatures of the property owners.  But, far from taking a high-handed approach on the issue, Councilmember Koretz started by conducting a survey to gauge community sentiment.

Elections are not determined by eligible voters, they are determined by actual voters who submit valid ballots.  Similarly, survey results are determined by actual respondents, who submit valid forms.  

The city created overlay districts that limit home size “to enhance the existing scale of homes and help to preserve the existing character of the neighborhood.”   That is the intention of the proposal, and it deserves a civil and constructive exchange of views, not a campaign of misinformation.   

The many, many homeowners and residents who support such a measure deeply appreciate the efforts of Mr. Koretz, his planning deputy Christopher Koontz, and the entire CD-5 staff in undertaking his survey.  

(This article was co-written by Shelly Wagers, Kari Bower, Susan Collette, Nora Holtz, Barry Karas, Roseanne Keynan, Gayle Levin, Jason Neidleman, Greg Nise and Dick Platkin, AICP. The authors are longtime Beverly Wilshire homeowners and neighborhood activists.  One (Richard Platkin) is also a veteran planning professional.) -cw

Vol 9 Issue 42
Pub: May 27, 2011