Thu, Aug

Asking for Public Input is Not a Crime

MCMANSION DEBATE - When I walked precincts as a candidate for the City Council 5th District, I heard a common complaint in the Beverly-Grove neighborhood: new, boxy, out-of-scale McMansion homes were ruining the neighborhood.

I didn’t just hear about it – I saw the problem for myself, time and again, as I walked the historic streets of this great neighborhood. In light of what I saw and heard, I set out to make a difference and provide this neighborhood with the protections it deserves.

I could have unilaterally sought changes to zoning rules in this neighborhood -- the law and City Council system certainly allow me to do so -- but I did not. That’s because I firmly believe in dialoging and working with constituents and constituent organizations in order to maximize public input and grassroots involvement.

In other words, I am a proponent of having a process in which people from the community are invited to participate and be heard. The fact is public-participation leads to better proposals and better results.  

What I did in this instance was consult with the area homeowners association, attended public meetings and ultimately sent out a survey to property owners throughout the area, asking what they thought of the homeowners association’s proposal to add additional protections against mansionization.  

While I recognize we have a mansionization problem I also take changes to zoning and property rights very seriously and feel that public input is not only important but a necessity.  

Bizarrely, one of the opponents of placing any limits on McMansions attacked me in this very publication (CityWatch) for the audacity of asking homeowners their opinions!  (Link)

I am proud of the survey we sent out and I will never apologize for asking my constituents their opinion and asking them to be engaged in the process that shapes their neighborhood’s future.

We sent out our survey and received a great response.  In fact over 50% of households returned the survey -- a significantly higher participation rate than we see in most elections.  Of those that returned the survey, over 60% supported the homeowners association’s proposal to further limit home size.  

This number demonstrates the prevailing view in the community that something needs to be done about home size.  Still, the homeowners association’s current proposal does not have overwhelming consensus support.  I hope to work with both sides to forge a compromise that can garner even higher rates of support.

To that end I recently invited leaders on both sides of this issue to sit down with me and go over the survey results.  I am glad that Mr. Tarlow and other leaders attended this meeting but was disappointed to hear no real discussion but rather a prepared statement by Mr. Tarlow, who also showed no willingness to work with the fellow members of his neighborhood that may have views contrary to his.  

In this neighborhood dispute – like so many issues facing our city and nation -- we need more discussion between opposing viewpoints, not less, and we need more collaboration and consensus building, not less.

I will continue to work with all community members to address the issues facing our neighborhoods.   

I will be working with all sides and any interested Beverly-Grove stakeholders to craft a carefully shaped, new proposal in response to the feedback our survey produced – a proposal that I would move forward so that we can effectively address mansionization in the Beverly-Grove neighborhood.

I hope we can reach a broad consensus because we are taking the time to engage the community and really listen to the community’s input.  Public input, careful deliberation and consensus building are integral to how I work as a Councilmember – and frankly, I think it’s the way to do things in neighborhoods across the 5th Council District.  

Despite calls from one person in the community who wants me to ignore the views of his neighbors, that’s not my vision or my approach for creating a better Los Angeles.


● “McMansions Blocking Mr Tarlow’s View from the Cheap Seats”

(Paul Koretz is Councilman for Los Angeles’ 5th District. He can be reached at: [email protected]) -cw

Tags: Paul Koretz, 5th District, McMansions, homeowners, zoning rules, Beverly-Grove

Vol 9 Issue 47
Pub: June 14, 2011