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New restrictions on L.A. residential development

Los Angeles City Council has approved temporary restrictions on the alteration or development of homes in areas where residents have expressed frustration with home builders demolishing existing houses and replacing them with much larger structures that neighbors believe are at odds with the character of the neighborhood.
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March 27, 2015

Los Angeles City Council has approved temporary restrictions on the alteration or development of homes in areas where residents have expressed frustration with home builders demolishing existing houses and replacing them with much larger structures that neighbors believe are at odds with the character of the neighborhood.

The new regulations on “mansionization” are intended to be a temporary solution as the city undertakes a longer process of reviewing and tightening current rules across the city. A city council committee approved the temporary restrictions a week before the full council took up the issue March 25.

In recent years, mansionization has grown increasingly controversial as home developers have sought to capitalize on rising home prices in some of Los Angeles’ most desirable housing markets.  In the race to succeed Councilman Tom LaBonge in District 4, for example, both candidates set to appear on the May ballot — Carolyn Ramsay and David Ryu — have made promises of new restrictions on mansionization campaign centerpieces. 

The new regulations, known as interim control ordinances, are intended to prevent new buildings that are greatly larger than other homes in their neighborhoods, walling those houses in and potentially decreasing their values. 

In 2008, Los Angeles lawmakers passed the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, tying the permitted square footage of new homes to the size of the lots they occupy. In the years since, those rules have come under scrutiny for perceived loopholes that allow developers to build outsized, boxy homes.   

The new rules, authored by Councilman Paul Koretz, last just 45 days, though council can extend them for up to two years — by which point planning officials say they should be done reviewing the codes that regulate single-home development. Council passed the stopgap measures unanimously.

“With these temporary protections in place, we can begin addressing the permanent fixes, and create a more tailored effort to these varying problems,” Koretz said, addressing the rest of council.  

In five neighborhoods currently under review for historic preservation — including Sunset Square and Holmby — the new rules temporarily ban all demolitions of single-family homes. In other neighborhoods around the city, the new rules vary widely. 

In La Brea Hancock, Miracle Mile and Larchmont Heights, for example, new homes cannot be more than 20 percent larger than those being demolished. In the Beverlywood and Fairfax areas, bonus space for green building and architectural features is limited to 15 percent under the new measures, while in other neighborhoods, including Kentwood, Mar Vista and East Venice, the ordinances temporarily end all such bonuses. 

Some critics argue that the interim ordinances unfairly punish all homeowners for a problem created by a relatively small number of builders. 

“I, for my family, hope that this goes away so the value of my home does not plummet, as I anticipate happening,” Robert Silverman, who lives in Koretz’s District 5, said at the committee meeting, expressing opposition to how the interim rules would affect those neighborhoods not under historical review. 

Silverman also said that the new regulations adversely affect homeowners in his neighborhood who are currently trying to sell their homes and are now in limbo because no one knows what kind of home they will be able to build on that property.

Councilman Gil Cedillo promised at the council meeting that permanent rules would address the needs of a “new American household,” in which millennials move back home in their early 20s, sometimes bringing significant others with them. These families should be able to renovate and expand their homes to accommodate their needs, said Cedillo, stressing that the new ordinances are only temporary.

The other affected neighborhoods are Valley Village, South Hollywood, Old Granada Hills, the Oaks of Los Feliz, Lower Council District 5, Faircrest Heights and Bel Air.

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