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Toothless Mansionization Ordinances Won’t Stop Reckless Development

VOICES-The Department of City Planning recently unveiled its second draft of amendments to the city’s toothless mansionization ordinances, the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) and Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BHO.) Consternation ensued. 

Their first draft of amendments, put forward for comment late last year, drew more than 600 responses. By almost 4 to 1, people asked for tighter limits on home size. But the latest draft seems to address developers’ demands, not the needs of our communities.

We asked for meaningful reform. Instead, it preserves loopholes that undermined the ordinance in the first place. To name just two, these include the exemption for attached garage space (even in “the flats”) and bonuses in non-R1 zones that increase house size by 20 percent with no public notification or oversight. 

The exemption for attached garages adds a whopping 400 square feet of bloat to houses, and the bonuses add hundreds of square feet more with no transparency or accountability whatsoever. And hillside neighborhoods are understandably concerned about inadequate conditions applied to grading and hauling, as well.

The Council Motion provided the blueprint for a simple, effective fix. Instead, the latest draft borrows elements from Re:Code LA that make the ordinance harder to understand and harder to enforce. These include “encroachment planes” and “side wall articulation.” 

City planners note that neighboring communities like Pasadena employ design standards of this type. Adopting best practices of other communities is great. In fact, LA should do much more of that – if and when we have the resources to implement them properly. Angelenos who have seen the inability or unwillingness of the Department of Building and Safety to enforce even simple floor area ratios may be excused for having their reservations.

The city sought input on the first draft of amendments and then ignored the concerns of an overwhelming majority. Six months have passed, and reckless development continues to threaten neighborhoods all over Los Angeles. We need to stop mansionization in the simplest, most effective and timeliest way. That’s what residents and homeowners want and what the Council Motion calls for. 

It’s time for Los Angeles to put stable communities and neighborhood character ahead of real estate speculation.  

 

(Shelley Wagers is a homeowner and community activist in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.