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McMansion Law Toothless, Scourge Continues Unabated

LA NEIGHBORHOODS - The Mayor recently signed a new ordinance adopted by the Los Angeles City Council to halt the construction of McMansions on small hillside lots.  These elected officials vow that this ordinance will stop the mansionization process in hillside areas.  But will it?


If the Hillside McMansion ordinance is filled with loopholes similar to those of the Baseline McMansion ordinance enacted several years ago for non-hillside areas, hillside residents should be very wary.  This is because the Baseline ordinance still allowed McMansions to be constructed -- as long as they were less than about 4,500 square feet.  Since this provision effectively green-lighted nearly all McMansions, especially in the R1-1 zone, the Mansionization process has continued unabated in Los Angeles.

To begin, McMansions are those boxy, massively oversized, suburban-style spec houses appearing in older neighborhoods, such as Beverly Grove, where I live.  They are all two stories and built by house flippers to the maximum height limit of 33 feet.  They are almost always fortified with tall hedges and walls, painted bright white, and designed with an attached two car garage seldom used for cars.  

There are now two efforts in Council District 5 to finally pull the plug on the mansionizers.  One is an overlay zoning ordinance for Studio City, whose adoption is stalled.  The other is a similar ordinance proposed by the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association (BWHA) for the Beverly Grove neighborhood.  This is an area north of Wilshire Boulevard, sandwiched between The Grove and Beverly Center shopping centers, which has been targeted by the mansionizers.  

The residents of the Beverly Grove area believe it is now time for Council District 5 to support the BWHA proposal and finally side with local residents, not the spec builders.  

Unless the Baseline McMansion ordinance is tightened up, the entire character of the Beverly Grove neighborhood, many other parts of the Council District 5, and eventually all of LA’s older residential neighborhoods will be permanently transformed by real estate speculators.  They will continue to buy and bulldoze smaller homes, in order to replace them with McMansions that are quickly placed on the market and then flipped every two years.

Furthermore, during the nearly two years since the Beverly Wilshire proposal was first presented to Council District 5, many more McMansions have been built despite the real estate recession.  Local residents assume this is because the mansionizers do not depend on bank financing to quickly get their behemoths to market.  Until the code amendments presented to CD 5 in Studio City and Beverly Grove are adopted, these trends will continue and will probably get worse.   When the dust finally settles, few traditional Spanish revival and Tudor homes will remain.  

As a result, the tipping point for much of Los Angeles is at hand, and this is the time to act, to share your views with Council District 5.  It is better to do something now rather than point fingers later.

(Dick Platkin is city planning consultant on the board of the Beverly Wilshire     Homes Association.  Please send questions or comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )    -cw




CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 31
Pub: Apr 19, 2011



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