Larchmont Heights, La Brea-Hancock and South Hollywood Neighbors Review New Neighborhood Conservation Zones

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At a public meeting and hearing at the Claude Pepper Senior Center last night, Department of City Planning representatives presented the latest versions of new “Neighborhood Conservation” zoning options for three local neighborhoods currently under an Interim Control Ordinance to help govern the size and massing of new homes while the city re-works its Baseline Mansionization Ordinance.

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City Planner Christine Saponara answers questions about the proposed new R1 zoning choices for La Brea-Hancock, Larchmont Heights and South Hollywood

About 50 people from the Larchmont Heights, La Brea-Hancock and South Hollywood neighborhoods attended last night’s meeting, where planner Christine Saponara gave a brief overview of the latest plans for a variety of new R-1 single-family zones that ICO neighborhoods will be able to choose from.  The new zones are designed to provide individual neighborhoods with more neighborhood-specific guidelines for the scale, mass, character and proportions of new buildings than the one-size-fits-all BMO.

A few months ago, when drafts of the new R-1 single family zones were first presented, there were six choices, labeled R1-A through R1-F, which specified various building configurations (bulk of mass in rear vs. bulk of mass in front), lot coverage, wall articulation and other features.  After extensive discussions with the current ICO neighborhoods, however, city officials revised the offerings and came up with a new set of just three basic zones:

  • R1F (which requires the majority of a home’s mass to be at the front of the building)
  • R1R (requires most of the home’s mass to be at the rear of the building)
  • R1V (massing is variable; bulk can be either at the front or rear of the building, at the owner’s discretion)

(There is also an additional R1H designation for hillside homes, but that didn’t figure into last night’s discussion with the three non-hillside neighborhoods.)

Also, after hearing from a great majority of the neighbors in the affected neighborhoods over the last few months that garage placement for new homes should be standardized to existing neighborhood patterns, said Saponara, the city is now also offering an RG designation that can be added to the other R1 zones, which would require detached garages at the rear of the property.

And finally, because community discussions have also shown that different neighborhoods have different preferences for ratio of lot coverage for new homes, each zone offers a choice of four different scales for floor area ratio, second story setbacks and total height within the R1R, R1F or R1V zones.

For example, within the R1R (single family, bulk of mass at the rear of the building) zone, houses on lots up to 6,000 square feet could have a floor area ratio of .65, .55, .45 or .40, depending on which of the four scales neighbors choose as most compatible with their neighborhood.  The full range of choices for this zone looks like this (with similar scales available within the R1F and R1V zones):

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Click to see larger version of chart

After the presentation of the proposed new R1 zone options, a public hearing was conducted, which revealed that the city’s close work with the involved neighborhoods over the last few months has definitely paid off.  Among 11 speakers from the La Brea-Hancock neighborhood, there was unanimous support for the R1R2RG option (bulk at the rear of the building, with FARs from .45 on small lots to .35 on larger lots, a total front height of 20′, total rear height of 28′, and detached rear garages), with many of the speakers thanking the Planning Department staff for their efforts.  Several speakers also asked that the new zone be extended to apply to several vacant lots in the neighborhood (which currently are not zoned R1, but do have [Q] conditions limiting their use and density).

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Larchmont Heights neighbors review and discuss the new R1 options before the public hearing

Thanks were also expressed by most of the 17 speakers from the Larchmont Heights neighborhood.  One called the city’s collaborative effort on this issue “unprecedented,” and another said it was an “amazing achievement.”

There was a bit more disagreement, however, among the Larchmont neighbors about which zone designation would be the best for that neighborhood.  While a straw poll at a June meeting showed most neighbors at that gathering in favor of placing most of a home’s bulk at the front of the building, many at last night’s meeting said there may have been some confusion or mistakes in the previous tally and that they, too, now prefer a pattern that moves building bulk to the rear.  In all, 11 of the 17 Larchmont speakers favored the R1R2RG option also selected by La Brea-Hancock, while five said they’d prefer the R1RVRG option that would let individual homeowners choose their own massing pattern.  One speaker said she would support either rear or variable massing patterns, but not the exclusively front-bulk option.

Of the three neighborhoods under discussion last night, South Hollywood had the smallest representation, with only two speakers during the public hearing, and both favored the rear bulk pattern as well.

Finally, several speakers from both Larchmont Heights and South Hollywood, which contain a great number of multi-family properties as well as single-family lots, noted that they would like to see the city come up with similar protections for R2 and R3 properties, to prevent over-building in multi-family zones too.

Planning Department staff will continue to collect public comments on the new R1 zone options until September 25, and then will submit a staff report to the City Planning Commission, which is tentatively scheduled to conduct its own hearing on the proposed ordinance on October 13.  Comments can be submitted to NeighborhoodConservation@lacity.org or to Christine Saponara at (213) 978-1363.

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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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