La Brea-Hancock Neighborhood Considers Single-Family Zoning Options

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As we reported earlier this week, the City of Los Angeles is working on a new set of single-family zoning options for neighborhoods currently covered by an Interim Control Ordinance (which helps to protect against teardowns and the construction of oversized replacement homes while the City’s Baseline Mansionization Ordinance undergoes a big rewrite).

The ICO expires in 2017, and at that point neighborhoods currently covered by it will have a choice to be governed by the BMO or one of several new “R1” single family zones, which will include requirements for building size, envelope shape, lot coverage, floor area ratio and garage placement. The La Brea-Hancock neighborhood (between La Brea and Highland, and Wilshire and Third Street) is one of two local ICO areas (the other is Larchmont Heights) now being asked to weigh in on which of several possible new single-family zoning designations it would like to adopt after the ICOs expire.

Last night, at a meeting of the La Brea-Hancock Homeowners Association, the group reiterated its support for a possible new “R1-E” zone, which would specify a maximum floor area ratio less than or equal to the BMO’s specified maximum FAR, require detached garages at the rear of the property, and encourage locating most of a new home’s mass toward the back of its lot.

In general, the LBHHA directors, in a phone conference with city planner Christine Saponara, clarified how the new zones can be customized for a specific neighborhood, how they will relate to the city-wide BMO, and the specific provisions Association members would like to request for their own neighborhood.

First, on the subject of customization, according to Saponara, the neighborhood will be able to customize key provisions of the R1-E zone it adopts…and those provisions would take precedence over those of the newly enacted BMO.  Also, in response to board members’ questions, Saponara clarified that the city’s goal is to make the new R1 zones’ square footage limits “all inclusive,” with no complicating calculations for exemptions or bonuses. (This means that square footage of garages, rec rooms, Accessory Dwelling Units and porches with three walls and a ceiling would all count toward the overall allowed square footage of new homes.)

Next, the board also discussed possible specifics of a customized R1-E zone for La Brea-Hancock.

On the topic of overall floor area ratio for homes in the area, everyone present at the meeting agreed that the neighborhood’s maximum FAR should be less than or equal to (and certainly no greater than) the maximum Floor Area Ratio allowed by the new BMO.  LBHHA Vice President Bob Eisele noted that allowing a FAR greater than the BMO’s could make the neighborhood an attractive target for developers looking to exceed the BMO requirments. (He also noted that the speculative development of large new homes in the neighborhood has definitely been curtailed – as intended – by the current ICO, which includes fairly restrictive FAR calculations.)

The current proposed draft of the BMO specifies a .50 floor area ratio for new homes – meaning they can cover no more than 50% of their lot – but Ms. Saponara said the City Council may eventually favor an even lower FAR.  (City discussions on that point are currently ongoing.)

The second major discussion point at last night’s meeting was a possible requirement for detached rear garages, a pattern that most closely matches that of most original homes in the La Brea-Hancock neighborhood.  Again, the board’s support of such a provision was both emphatic and unanimous.  (Rear garages would also have to adhere to standard setback requirements, as well as maintain the standard 10-foot turnaround space between the house and garage.)

Finally, the group addressed the the question of Accessory Dwelling Units, which the city has said will likely be allowed on single-family lots.  Saponara clarified, however, that with an all-inclusive new zoning designation, ADU footage would have to be subtracted from the overall footage allowance for a main house, and lots would have to be large enough to maintain all the required setbacks for additional buildings…which means there would be few real opportunities for such structures in the La Brea-Hancock area, where lots tend to be on the small side (under 6,000 or 7,000 square feet).

Although the LBHHA board members generally supported the terms discussed above, they acknowledged that the discussion is still preliminary and will continue until the city nails down the specific terms of the new BMO.  Saponara said the city, too, will not move forward with approving the new R1 zoning options – or the specific provisions for any one neighborhood’s new R1 zone – until after the new BMO has been approved by the City Council, which will likely happen later this summer.

The city’s original presentation of post-ICO zoning options for the La Brea-Hancock neighborhood, which were first discussed at a June 4 community meeting and which were the basis for last night’s continued discussion, are available at http://preservation.lacity.org/sites/default/files/La%20Brea%20Hancock-%20Neighborhood%20Conservation%20Presentation.pdf

 

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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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