I recently wrote about the issue of “mansionization” in a November blog post. The concern has been simmering for some time, and members of the Los Angeles City Council have been hearing from a number of their constituents – mostly from those who are upset by the impact these large homes are having on their neighborhood. Anti-mansionization laws have been in place for years (see the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance), but homeowners are still concerned about some of the loopholes and are demanding stricter rules. In addition, some neighborhoods have experienced vandalism due to frustrated residents who reject these giant homes.
The City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee has approved additional temporary measures, and this new Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) may ultimately be adopted by the full council. These measures could be in effect for up to two years while the city fully updates the old ordinance. In the specific zip codes mentioned in the ICO, the allowable home size is 50% of the lot size for residential lots less than 7500 sf. With the size of new homes reduced, the resulting property value may decrease as well. The value of an older home that is purchased with the intention of either building new or enlarging its size is most often a home that is priced at the lower end of the market in a neighborhood, and those homes will likely suffer a reduction in value. That is because the home size that can be built on that site will be reduced dramatically. What is a home worth? A home is worth is what a buyer will pay for it, and a buyer will generally take a look at the neighborhood comparables to see what similar homes in the area have sold for and they’ll also likely look at the price per square foot valuation of those homes. The multiple of the price per square foot times the home’s size is a standard measurement of a homes value and is a formula that appraisers use.
One neighbor of mine who is in escrow with a developer on the sale of her property recently informed her neighbors that if the new ordinance passes, the developer/buyer she is in escrow with said he will cancel the escrow. The loss of the potential home size he could build there directly affects the price he will pay for the property.
There is an excellent article in the Argonaut that I invite you to read. I was quoted in the article, and it should provide some additional perspective. I have written about the building of large unflattering box homes that have little charm and dwarf everything on the block. Where are the “style police”? These types of homes have a negative effect on neighborhoods, especially to an adjoining property. But how do you legislate this? Some larger homes manage to fit in, others don’t. This what the City Council is pondering.
Finally, I want to share with you a letter I received from Councilman Mike Bonin’s office (you can read the text below). It describes the IOC ordinance and has links to a survey he is conducting. If you live in the 11th district or know someone who does, please forward them this post so that they can complete it.
Yesterday, the City Council’s Planning & Land Use Management Committee took action to curb the proliferation of “mansionization” in Los Angeles. The committee directed the Planning Department to begin revising city wide rules, known as the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO), which govern the amount of residential floor area that can be developed on a single family lot. At the same time, the committee recommended immediate but temporary restrictions in certain specific neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles, including Mar Vista, the Kentwood section of Westchester, and parts of Venice east of Lincoln Boulevard.
As many of you know, the existing BMO restricts the size of a house to a “base floor area” that is equal to half the size of the lot area except for lots 7,500 square feet or greater, which are limited to 45 percent of the lot area or 3,750 square feet (whichever is greater). But, there are big loopholes. Under current rules, significant exemptions and bonuses often allow much larger buildings. The Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) recommended for approval yesterday would immediately end most of those exemptions and bonuses, and keep the maximum size of a house at the base floor area set by the BMO. It’s important to note that the exemption for the first 400 square feet of garages would remain intact, and that 400 square feet of garage area will not count towards the total floor area for a house under the new ICO.
If the City Council approves the committee’s recommendations, these temporary restrictions will more stringently limit the size of houses built in the specified neighborhoods for 45 days. At the end of that 45day period, the City Council would consider whether to extend the ICO to a maximum of 2 years while the permanent citywide rules are being written.
This is a very controversial item, and I’ve heard from many of you on both sides of this issue. On the one hand, longtime residents and homeowners who cherish and value their neighborhoods are upset when existing houses are demolished to make way for large structures, often out of proportion with the rest of the block and out of sync with the neighborhood’s character. On the other hand, some property owners feel such rules diminish their property values by preventing them from building suitable homes for their growing families or by restricting their investment or their right to build as they see fit on their property.
Given the clear importance and impact of this issue to so many people, I believe the process for public input prior to the committee action was not robust enough. So, before I make any decision about extending the ICO past 45 days for your neighborhood, I want to hear from you. I will soon announce public hearings in the district, on evenings or weekends when it is convenient for most to attend, and I have created an online survey to hear your thoughts.
This is a decision that will impact local residents and neighborhoods deeply, and it hits literally close to home for all of us. I won’t make a decision on whether to extend the ICO for our Council District 11 neighborhoods until I hear from you. If you sign up here, I will be sure to contact you about the hearings and other opportunities to provide feedback. You can also share your thoughts with me at that link.