LA City Council Gets Last Shot at Fixing Mansionization, Saving Your Neighborhood … Wednesday is ‘D’ Day

AMENDMENTS WILL REDUCE HOME SIZE LIMITS--Despite citywide ordinances to stop mansionization, Angelenos from Venice to Boyle Heights have seen their neighborhoods blighted by spec-built McMansions that loom over their neighbors and violate the character of established neighborhoods. Remedies have been in the works for nearly three years, since Councilmember Paul Koretz initiated amendments to the ineffectual ordinances.

This coming Wednesday, January 18, the matter will finally enter the home stretch with a hearing by the City Council’s PLUM (Planning & Land Use Management) Committee. The amendments will reduce size limits for homes in single-family zones throughout the City of Los Angeles and provide the framework for a slew of related zoning measures.

What had been a routine, slow-moving process gained drama and speed last month. After a surprise vote by the PLUM Committee to weaken the amendments on November 29, Council President Wesson took things in hand. Barely a week later, the Council voted unanimously to reverse the PLUM decision.

Now the amendments are coming back to PLUM for what should be the last hearing before a full Council vote. Councilmember Koretz, who played a key role in getting the amendments back on track, is pressing for one more fix: to count front-facing attached garages as floor space.  

The treatment of attached garages figured prominently Koretz’s original Council Motion and has been a rallying cry among homeowners and residents since Day One. They contend that the exclusion of attached garages from floor space adds 400 square feet of bloat, eliminates the buffer a driveway provides, and rewards a design feature that disrupts the look and feel of many LA neighborhoods.

At the City Planning Commission hearing last July, Commission President David Ambroz underscored the logic of counting attached garages when he commented, “Square footage is square footage.”

In advance of the hearing on Wednesday, supporters of reform are expected to again take aim at this 400 square foot “freebie” with messages drawn from the campaign website.  They are also expected to turn out in force at the hearing.

Wednesday’s specially-scheduled PLUM session should be lively. The agenda also includes the hotly-contested development that Rick Caruso wants to build on La Cienega Boulevard, which would be much bigger than city code allows. As our elected officials grapple with the fallout from the “Sea Breeze” development scandal and brace for an initiative on the March ballot to stop spot zoning (Measure S), the votes taken on Wednesday will offer this year’s first glimpse of things to come.  

  • ACTION INFO (How you can help by calling or speaking)

Phone script

“The amendments to the citywide mansionization ordinances are finally is good shape, but one key issue still needs work: We must count attached garages as floor space.”

Here are phone numbers for the PLUM Committee members:

José Huizar (Committee chair) – 213-473-7014

Gil Cedillo – 213-473-7001

Mitchell Englander – 213-473-7012

Marqueece Harris-Dawson – 213-473-7008

Curren Price – 213-473-7009

Speaker’s notes

Last month the City Council reinstated sensible floor-area ratios for single-family homes, and the amendments to the citywide mansionization ordinances are finally in good shape.   But one core issue still needs work: We must count front-facing garages as floor space.

They disrupt the look and feel of neighborhoods, eliminate the buffer provided by a driveway, and add a whopping 400 square feet of bloat to a house.

Allow front-facing attached garages, but count every square inch as part of the floor space of the house.

Half-baked compromises ruined the mansionization ordinances the first time. We cannot make the same mistake again.  

(Shelley Wagers is a homeowner, community activist, an expert on Los Angeles’ mansionization crisis and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.