The Last Word on McMansions?

KORETZ PERSPECTIVE - The Beverly Grove community, situated between the Fairfax district and the Beverly center, is an oasis of Spanish Revival homes on tree-lined streets, all within close proximity to shopping, dining and activity centers.

Over the 75 years since this community was developed, so much has changed in Los Angeles and the world, but what has mostly remained are the architecturally significant, unpretentious homes and tight sense of community that make Beverly Grove one of Los Angeles’ most desirable neighborhoods.

The Beverly Grove neighborhood includes residential structures on R1 zoned ("single family") properties bounded by Colgate Avenue on the north, Fairfax Avenue on the east, Lindenhurst Avenue on the south, and San Vicente Boulevard on the west.

During the past decade, this neighborhood has faced a new challenge, one faced by many neighborhoods in Los Angeles: mansionization.

The threat of mansionization occurs when a neighborhood is comprised primarily of smaller historical homes that are then torn down by developers and replaced with very large structures that do not fit in with the neighborhood.

While architectural taste and housing certainly change over time, the problem with these oversized structures is not one of taste – these structures provide very little space for yards, tower over their neighbors and deprive abutting property owners of air, light and privacy that should be part of their ownership experience and property rights.

While this issue is not unique to Beverly Grove, it has been more pronounced in this neighborhood for a few reasons: most of the small historic homes are still intact, the lot sizes are somewhat deeper than those found elsewhere in the City allowing for very large homes under prevailing regulations, and for whatever reason the area has been a target for developers who wish to build very large fortress-like homes.

Recognizing this problem in 2006, then-5th District Councilmember Jack Weiss proposed a set of restrictive regulations that were eventually replaced by citywide mansionization regulations in 2008.

Those citywide regulations, known as the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, recognized that individual neighborhoods may need further restrictions due to the unique nature of Los Angeles’ many neighborhoods.

In 2011 Councilmember Koretz surveyed residents of the Beverly Grove neighborhood about their desire for a Residential Floor Area (RFA) overlay to further restrict mansionization.  (An RFA is a neighborhood-specific tool that allows communities to craft rules that they feel protect their homes and quality of life.)  The survey showed a supermajority (in this instance, more than 60%) supporting a Beverly Wilshire Homes Association proposal to limit house size to 2,628 square feet.

The survey, while generating important data, was simply the starting point of a process aimed at achieving the fullest understanding of the community and its needs, so the Councilmember held a series of meetings with community members and received hundreds of letters, emails and petitions regarding proposed changes to the neighborhood and its building regulations.

Ultimately, in August of 2011 the Councilmember introduced his own motion instructing the Planning Department to study an RFA that would limit home size to 3,000 square feet in lieu of the current restriction of 3,660 square feet.

Councilmember Koretz’s proposal allows for homeowners to make appropriately scaled additions to existing homes as well as permitting spacious but sensibly sized new homes while still protecting the neighborhood from the most outrageously oversized, impactful and inappropriate developments.

This motion was adopted by the City Council on November 1, 2011 and the Planning Department will begin work on the study and RFA once staff is available, likely this summer.

(This perspective on the McMansion issue was provided by Paul Koretz’ 5th District Council Office.)

Tags: McMansions, Fairfax, Beverly Grove, Beverly Center, Planning Department

Vol 10 Issue 29
Pub: Apr 10, 2012