‘McMansion’ Law Will Not Apply to Pacific Palisades

By Sue Pascoe

The City Planning Commission voted on July 14 to support the new Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO/BHO), which now goes to the City Council for final approval.

But thanks to Councilman Mike Bonin, Pacific Palisades homeowners will be exempt from the new law, if it passes.

On page 6 of the 179-page report on the ordinance, the following paragraphs were attached:

“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 L.A. will be considered for portions of Pacific Palisades as if they were one of the Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) neighborhoods.

A typical house in the Alphabet Streets that occupies the property from lot line to lot line. Photo: Sawyer Pascoe
A typical house in the Alphabet Streets that occupies the property from lot line to lot line.
Photo: Sawyer Pascoe

“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.”

(Currently, there are 15 neighborhoods that have an ICO that establishes temporary restrictions on the size of new single-family dwellings—and are more restrictive than current regulations. The ICO’s end in 2017 and at that time those areas will fall under the new law.)

This means that residents from San Pedro to the San Fernando Valley will be required to observe the ordinance if passed, Pacific Palisades will not.

The Palisades will not have to observe the new BMO/BHO ordinance that drops the “green building” exemptions, which allow for larger residences when resource-efficient materials are used. Critics said the practice resulted in out-of-scale houses, negating a favorable environmental impact.

Palisades residents also would not have to observe the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) that would go from .5 to .45. For example, in- stead of a 5,000-sq.-ft home on a 10,000-sq.-ft. lot, the maximum house size would be 4,500-sq.-ft.

Oversized garages that many used for home studios or gyms, rather than for parking cars, would go unchecked. For other L.A. residents, the first 200 sq. ft. of an attached front garage would be exempt, while a 400-sq.-ft. garage at the back of the lot would ALSO be exempt.

Covered porches and patios would now count toward the FAR, rather than being exempt—but not in the Palisades.

The Los Angeles Times reported in a July 14 article that some homeowners complained their families would be penalized: “Steve Mayer, a father of three who lives in Rancho Park, said that his home would be limited to 2,600 square feet, even though 4,000- square-foot mansions abounded around him. ‘They got their mansions,’ Mayer said in an interview with the Times shortly after he testified at City Hall. ‘At least give me a chance to expand adequately.’” Not a Palisades problem.

Bonin’s office was contacted but had not responded by press time.

Even though City Councilman Paul Koretz first proposed new zoning ordinances two years ago, and City Planning has held 15 meetings on the Westside over the past year, many Palisades residents argued they hadn’t been adequately notified. Koretz’s office was also contacted for a statement about the Palisades exemption, but had not responded by press time.

On July 13, about 140 people attended a meeting on the BMO/BHO at Palisades High School.

L.A. City Planner Christine Saponara gave a presentation to a vocal audience about possible zoning steps in Pacific Palisades that might be taken.

“Property value is not just about square footage,” she said, noting there are views, neighborhood character and parking, among other amenities. “Hancock Park and the Miracle Mile have imposed rules, but property values haven’t gone down there.”

Residents were then broken up into smaller groups according to the neighborhood where they resided. The two largest groups represented were the Marquez Knolls and the Alphabet Streets.

The News sat in on the Alphabet Streets/ Mesa Bluffs group.

Architect and Civic League President Richard Blumenberg told the planners that much of the Palisades is in the 9300 tract and that this area already had a zoning plan in place that works. The problem, according to Blumenberg, is “nobody enforces the rules.”

Other residents chimed in. “A lot of builders don’t follow the rules” and “If the city fines them, they just take it as a loss on the building,” and “Even if the city fines them, no one makes them take the building back down.”

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