Dirty Little Secrets about Mansionization in Los Angeles

PLANNING WATCH-After two years of research and public meetings, the Los Angeles City Council adopted the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) in 2008.  It was supposed to stop the mansionization of all single-family neighborhoods in LA’s flats, but the ordinance has been a total dud.  It contains so many loopholes that the teardown of thousands of older homes and their replacement with McMansions never missed a beat.

While three dogged neighborhoods (Sunland-Tujunga, Studio City, and Beverly Grove) managed to successfully stop mansionization through small overlay areas, called Residential Floor Area Districts (RFA’s), the rest of the city has been left out in the cold.  As a result, many Los Angeles neighborhoods are now furiously fighting to stop their slow destruction through mansionization.  

In the summer of 2014 they thought they finally had succeeded in stopping the citywide mansionization process when Councilmember Paul Koretz submitted a City Council motion directing the Department of City Planning to remove the BMO’s loopholes.  His motion was simple and straightforward, clean-up this demonstrably ineffective ordinance by removing the bonuses and exemptions that permit McMansions. 

But simple and straightforward has, so far, not prevailed at City Hall.  The Department of City Planning’s response to the City Council’s BMO amendment motion was to replace the Councilmember’s immediate approach with a long, labor intensive work program that will take over two years to complete.  Along the way, it will leave most Los Angeles neighborhoods open to the mansionization process that the Council Motion intended to stop.  Furthermore, no one knows what the end product will look like, or, for that matter, if the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance will be effectively repaired. 

So what exactly does the Department of City Planning propose to do over the next two years to address mansionization? 

First, they propose to create about 17 Interim Control Ordinances (ICO’s) for the L.A. neighborhoods that have been most vocal in their opposition to mansionization.  The adoption of these ICOs was first promised for December 22, 2014, and a month later no one has even seen a rough draft of these ordinances. 

This means that in the nine months since Councilmember Koretz first submitted his BMO amendment motion to the City Council, approximately 1000 older homes have been torn down to make way for what Clark Carlton, an anti-mansionization activist in North Beverly Grove, calls “Kleenex boxes.” 

When these 17 new, interim overlay districts are finally prepared and adopted, City Planning stated it would then require another 18 months to remove the loopholes from the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance.  At first they stated the reason was time-consuming environmental, legal, and Neighborhood Council reviews.  

Within a month though, and despite its own staff report to the City Council, City Planning offered a new rationale for their extended work program.  They would address Councilmember Koretz’s uncomplicated motion by rewriting all of the sections in the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) related to single family homes through their long, complex, five year re-CODE LA program. 

So how have local communities responded to this convoluted work program?  The communities targeted for an ICO remain skeptical because they assume that the City Hall’s real agenda is to chill them out with stopgap relief from McMansions. Once the vocal neighborhoods get short-term relief to stop the bulldozers, the mansionizers and their allies at City Hall are hoping that mounting political pressure for strong, citywide changes to the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance will fade away.  

Beverlywood:  But, one community, Beverlywood, has taken a different course since it was included in the list of 17 communities qualifying for an RFA district.  Not only are there current local anti-mansionization activists hard at work in Beverlywood, but also six years ago former Councilmember Jack Weiss submitted a Council motion to begin the RFA process in Beverlywood.  The motion passed, but was automatically cancelled two years later because City Planning failed to take any action to implement it. 

Despite this history of anti-mansionization activity, a select group of Beverlywood homeowners have begun a campaign to be “carved out” of the impending Interim Control Ordinances.  Of course, this would not be possible without a covert plan cooked up by a long standing Beverlywood Homeowners Association (BHA) Board Director, Scott Krieger.  He took it upon himself to notify selected BHA members via email on Christmas Day of his proposal.  His email urged the recipients, most of whom share his support for McMansions, to bombard Councilmember Paul Koretz’s office with emails, letters, and phone calls to make sure Beverlywood does not receive protection from mansionization through an ICO.  

His actions are disturbing on many levels.  Despite his fiduciary responsibility to the entire Beverlywood community, this elected HOA Board Director used his power and influence to manipulate an entire community comprising 1,355 homeowners to support his personal business interests.  

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Oh, it gets worse.  When confronted by HOA members at a recent community meeting conducted by Council District 5 Planning Deputy, Shawn Bayliss, he and his supporters claimed there was nothing wrong with his self-serving actions.  In fact, these pro-mansionization homeowners are hoping their business interests will prevail over Beverlywood’s strict Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs).  

n other words, they want to build whatever enriches themselves, which in this case are McMansions opposed by most Beverlywood residents. 

Last November Beverlywood’s HOA members elected several new Board Directors.  Much to our surprise, one of the newly elected Board Directors, Risa Dauer, neglected to inform voters that she resides in a Beverlywood rental property owned by a McMansion developer.  It also appears that this newly elected Board Director also has close business ties to an influential, pro-mansionization real estate firm.  Making matters worse, the November election was postponed for over a month, which not only violated the Beverlywood HOA’s By-Laws, but also provided the right window of opportunity for our newly elected Board Director to close escrow on a recently acquired Beverlywood property.  

This is one time when the paranoids are right.  When a pro-mansionization Board Director resides in a rented home with close business ties to other pro-mansionization business interests while overseeing the approval process of new construction in Beverlywood, including her own home, we’ve got a local problem that compounds citywide efforts to stop mansionization. 

 

(Pam Roberts welcomes questions and comments on this article. She can be reached at pamroberts@ca.rr.com. Dick Platkin can be reached at rhplatkin@gmail.com.)

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 9

Pub: Jan 30, 2015