L.A.’s Mansionization Ordinance Is about Fairness

By Sue Pascoe

I’ve been obsessed with fairness since I was little. Maybe it has to do with growing up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota or maybe it has to do with being one of six kids in a family fighting for parents’ attention. Or maybe it has to do with cod liver oil.

So many kids in my first grade class had health issues that it was decided all had to line up at recess time to take a tablespoon of the vile tasting ointment—unless your parents could afford to buy vitamins. Mine couldn’t and I choked the cod liver oil down. Unfair.

How I feel about mansionization doesn’t have a lot to do with this Viewpoint. If you want to read an opinion piece about that challenge, I’d suggest Ryan Bradley’s essay in the Los Angeles Times (“L.A.’s Growing Mansionization Problem,” July 28, page A-13). He cites a study which found that even with added space in a house, families tended to use the kitchen and family room all the time, but the living room, porch and more than 50 percent of the rest of the first-floor communal spaces remained almost entirely unused. He notes that the average size of a house has grown from 983 sq. ft. in 1950 to more than 2,660 sq. ft. today.

How I feel about house size, view rights, lack of green pace around a home and even property values has nothing to do with my current anger.

The two paragraphs below, inserted by Councilman Mike Bonin’s office on page 6 in the proposed 179-page zoning ordinance that was passed by the City Planning Commission on July 14, makes me ill with its inherent privilege.

“In the course of introducing the proposed changes of the BMO/BHO to the public, the Department encountered varying opposition to the prospect of more restrictive single-family development provisions, especially in the Pacific Palisades area of the city. As a result, a range of zones from re:code LA will be considered for portions of Pacific Palisades as if they were one of the Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) neighborhoods.

“This will provide residents a choice of more permissive or more restrictive regulations. The portions of Pacific Palisades covered by the new re:code LA zones will not be subject to the BMO/BHO development standards addressed by the new zones; however, residents of specific sections of Pacific Palisades could opt to retain the BMO/BHO regulations or to become part of a different re:code LA zone from the rest of Pacific Palisades. In addition, specific plans that regulate single-family development are not subject to BMO/BHO development standards.”

This means that while families in the San Fernando Valley and other areas of Los Angeles will have to observe the new ordinance regarding home sizes, we, the people of privilege in the Palisades, will be exempt.

Many of you were probably required to read George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The book, published in England in 1945, was the tale of how animals, led by the pigs, take over the farm. In liberating themselves from the drunken farmer, all animals were initially created equal.

I remember thinking, what a cute little story about the animals. But as I read, I became more and more horrified about the treatment of those who were not defended or could not stand up for themselves.

I later learned that this “cute” story was written to reflect events leading up to the 1917 Russian revolution and into the Stalin era.

One quote in the book has stuck with me: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” In political terms, as Orwell implied then, and as we see today, while some governments might proclaim the equality of their citizens, they actually give power and privileges to a small elite.

Yes, Palisades residents, here in Los Angeles we are “more equal than others.”

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