Planning Commission to Hear Latest Versions of BMO and Paramount Master Plan

Site Plan from Paramount Pictures Masterpan
Site Plan from Paramount Pictures Master Plan

On Thursday, July 14, the City Planning Commission will hold hearings on two issues that will have great impact on our local community.

Paramount Pictures Master Plan

The first of these issues, scheduled for “after 8:30 a.m.” at the meeting, is a discussion of a portion of the Paramount Pictures Master Plan, which lays out a very long-range major redevelopment of the historic entertainment production facility.

The hearing this week will deal specifically with an application for a Tentative Tract Map for one section of the development, and the approval of a recently released Environmental Impact Report for the larger project.

Major concerns for residents of the adjoining Larchmont Village neighborhood have been the size of a 15-story office tower that could potentially loom over the low-density residential area, the request for a special Sign District that would allow electronic signs, and the removal of the historic Paramount globe at the corner of Melrose and Gower.

The City Planning Department, in a recent staff report, did recommend that the sign district not be approved, but suggested that, instead, similar signage regulations be written into the text of an overall Paramount Pictures Specific Plan.

In a letter to other neighbors a few days ago, residents Mary Ann Biewener and Karen Gilman wrote about a number of residents’ concerns and recommendations, including:

  • Opposition to either the originally-proposed Sign Supplemental Use District or the newly incorporated sign regulations for the Paramount Pictures Specific Plan, which would include illuminated supergraphics, a scrolling digital sign, projected signs up to 150 ft. tall, and “a bank of digital signs to be active 20 hours a day.”
  • Cumulative effects in the neighborhood of all of Paramount’s combined proposed light sources, including building lighting, billboards, digital signs, scrolling lights and supergraphics, which could – cumulatively – exceed allowable commercial lighting regulations near residential neighborhoods.
  • Building height and massing that is incompatible with the lower-scale, historic and predominantly one and two story structures in the nearby neighborhood.  Biewener and Gilman say they oppose zoning that would allow buildings up to 240 feet tall, and which would “nearly double the total permitted floor area to 3.3 million square feet.”
  • The tallest proposed building (240 feet high), to be located at the north end of Plymouth Blvd., which would have lighted multi-level supergraphics, viewable from all directions, and which would block neighborhood views because it is located at the end of a street, and not at the end of a block.
  • The proposed new Plymouth gate, which would provide a vehicular access point near Plymouth and Melrose, and which the letter writers fear would encourage Paramount employees to use (even more than they already do) residential streets as a cut-through alternative to Melrose Ave.
  • A 45-ft plus rooftop parking structure on South Bronson Ave., which would also bring more traffic to the residential area.  Biewener and Gilman said they would prefer that all employee parking be located on the Paramount lot, not in the nearby neighborhood.

The Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association met on Tuesday night to discuss the current proposals, and will likely present its formal position at Thursday’s hearing.

Baseline Mansionization Ordinance

mansionizationheader

The second major agenda item at tomorrow’s Planning Commission meeting, scheduled for “after 10:30 a.m.,” is the proposed revisions to the city’s Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, which governs the size and shape of replacement homes in established neighborhoods.

Last week, the Department of City Planning issued a staff report recounting the major provisions of the most recent draft of the revised BMO:

  • Reduction of the existing Residential Floor Area exemption for covered
    porches/patios/breezeways from 250 to 150 square feet;
  • Elimination of the existing 100 square foot Residential Floor Area exemption for
    over-in-height ceilings;
  • Elimination of the 20 percent green building Residential Floor Area bonus option
    across all single-family zones;
  • Elimination of all R1 Zone 20 percent Residential Floor Area bonus options;
  • Modification of the R1 Zone building envelope to include an angled
    encroachment plane limit that directs taller building mass toward the interior of
    the lot, as well as articulation requirements for long side walls to visually break up
    the mass on the sides of larger homes;
  • Limits on driveway width in the R1 Zone (in non-hillside areas such as ours); and
  • Removal of the grading and hauling exemptions for cut-and-fill underneath
    structures, in conjunction with establishing higher overall limits for non-exempt
    grading and hauling.

The report also, in a new “Appendix B,” recommended several further changes to the BMO draft, including:

  • Reduce Floor Area Ratio in the R1 Zone from 0.5 to 0.45, regardless of lot size, as
    proposed in the October 30, 2015 draft of the proposed ordinance.
  • Fully eliminate the Residential Floor Area exemption for covered porches, patios,
    and breezeways.
  • Require upper-story decks, balconies, and terraces to be set back at least three
    feet from the minimum side yard.
  • Require articulation of the front façade.
  • Exempt deepened foundation systems, such as pile foundations and caissons (common in hillside properties), from maximum grading quantities.
  • Exempt one-half of fill resulting from non-exempt cut underneath the footprint of
    the main building from maximum grading quantities. (This is another provisions specifically applicable to hillside properties.)
  • State that existing driveway width may be used in lieu of the 25 percent maximum
    in the R1 Zone.
  • Additional technical edits and clarifications.

Most of the additional changes, as explained in the Appendix, came in response to specific comments and recommendations from the public.

City-wide preservation groups, such as the Los Angeles Conservancy, have applauded several of the recommendations, particularly the newest reduction in overall Floor Area Ratio, and the elimination of exemptions for covered patios and porches…but they also say the new proposals still don’t go far enough in other areas.

One big point of contention, throughout the revision process, has been whether or not the floor space in attached, front-facing garages should be counted in the overall Floor Area Ratio of a residence.  Developers tend to favor an exemption of that space, which adds to the overall allowable size of a dwelling…while neighborhood activists, especially those in older neighborhoods with established patterns of detached garages at the rear of the property, would prefer that attached garage space be include in overall FAR.  Including attached garages in allowable FAR reduces overall building size and tends to discourage the construction of those kinds of garages, which can be greatly out of character with surrounding homes.

Another point of contention has been the addition of recommendations for building articulation and “encroachment planes” in the most recent draft of the ordinance, which some activists feel complicate instead of simplifying city rules.  Shelley Wagers, of NoMoreMcMansionsInLosAngeles, wrote on that group’s Facebook page this week that “We all asked the city to keep the ordinance as straightforward and enforceable as possible. But city planners recommend encroachment planes, side wall articulation, and a bonus for front façade articulation – complicated, hard-to-enforce design standards borrowed from re:code LA.”

“The new draft must get rid of the loopholes that got us in this mess in the first place,” says an alert on NoMoreMcMansions’ website. “It should abandon design standards like ‘encroachment planes’ and ‘side wall articulation.’ They make the ordinance harder to understand, harder to enforce, and easier to game.”

The conversation will continue at tomorrow’s meeting. Members of the public concerned about either of these issues are welcome to attend, and public comments will be allowed at the hearings.  The full meeting agenda is available at http://planning.lacity.org/InternetCalendar/pdf.aspx?Id=54094

City Planning Commission Meeting
Thursday, July 14, 8:30 a.m.
Los Angeles City Hall
100 N. Spring St., Room 350
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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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.

4 thoughts on “Planning Commission to Hear Latest Versions of BMO and Paramount Master Plan

      1. Why are we just learning about this meeting with less than 24 hours notice?
        Most of us work & have not enough time to reschedule our
        Appointments to be able to attend!
        Jane Ruggles

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