Mansionization Arguments Take Center Stage as BMO Comment Deadline Nears

La Brea -Hancock
A Spanish style bungalow is dwarfed by its new neighbor in the La Brea – Hancock area, just to the north east of the Miracle Mile.

As previously reported in the Buzz, the City of Los Angeles has released a new draft of its Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO), designed to close loopholes in the previous version of the law that have allowed over-sized replacement homes (a.k.a. “McMansions”) to proliferate in older, established single-family neighborhoods.

A public comment period is open on the new draft until January 11, and as it nears, discussions of the issue continue to take center stage in community meetings, neighborhood groups and local blogs.

The latest point/counterpoint arguments, which nicely highlight the two major positions groups have staked out on opposite sides of the issue, have been playing out on the local watchdog blog Citywatch this week.

On December 24, self-described homeowner Charles Tarow authored a piece called “The Other Side of the Mansionization Debate,” in which he argued that “the proposed zoning changes will do nothing to enhance the quality of life in our city. ” Tarlow further claims that the whole fight is being manufactured by city officials, including City Council Member Paul Koretz, to “impose their idea of a proper single family home on their neighbors” and says “it is irresponsible and heartless to prevent families from building or expanding their homes to meet their needs.”

Yesterday, however, La Brea-Hancock Homeowners’ Association officer Robert Eisele published a rebuttal in the same space, effectively arguing for “Quality of Life vs. Mansionization: The Real Issue.”  In his essay, Eisele points out that, in his neighborhood (and others nearby) “houses of 4,700 square feet have been built on 6,700 square foot lots, spanning almost to the back fence of the property. These monstrosities not only peer into nearby backyards and destroy their neighbors’ right to privacy, they are also out-of-scale in terms of height, and their shadows often rob enough sunlight to kill portions of their neighbors’ gardens.”

Eisele further points out that mansionization is almost always conducted by developers and real estate speculators, not by individual families who want to live in the homes they purchase.  People who buy smaller, older homes, he says, take advantage of existing options for expanding those homes – within the established scale of older, single-family neighborhoods.  Those properly scaled homes can, in fact, accommodate more modern lifestyles without disrupting the physical fabric of their surroundings.  Eisele suggests that people who want larger homes than small lots can comfortably contain without impinging on neighbors’ privacy, sunlight and other elements should look for and build in neighborhoods with larger lots that can accommodate such buildings.

Local residents who would like to add their voices to the chorus that the City is soliciting on the BMO revisions should do so soon, before the January deadline.  Comments can be submitted until January 16 to Planning Department staff via hagu.solomoncary@lacity.org

 

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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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