Palisadians Lash Out at City Planners

Alocal June 2 meeting with three members of the L.A. Planning Department was intended to offer homeowners a chance to ask questions about the proposed changes to the City’s baseline mansionization ordinance (BMO) and the baseline hillside ordinance (BHO).

Instead, many of the 60 people attending the meeting (hosted by Coldwell Banker at Palisades High) used it as an opportunity to vent anger at the planners.

Some of the comments included: “You’re trying to penalize us in Pacific Palisades” . . . “Twenty-seven thousand people here did not even know this was being proposed” . . . “How many City Council members are ar- chitects? . . . “We’re a unique area” . . . “Is thereanywaytostopthis?”…“They’re like Nazis [City Council], they’re crazed about anti-mansionization and want to impose it ontherestofus”…“If you don’t listen to me, just remember I’ll be voting in the next election” . . . “Why didn’t you let people know about this?” . . . “Why wasn’t a feasibility study done?”

The current building code pertaining to the square footage of new and remodeled homes in relation to the lot size was passed in 2008. Still, “McMansions” continued to proliferate across the city of Los Angeles and many residents began advocating for tighter anti-mansionizing amendments in the code. In 2014, City Councilman Paul Koretz intro- duced a motion to address oversized houses.

City planners, who were working on revisions (“Recode LA”) that would more specifically fit different neighborhoods, were told to drop everything and work towards a shorter-term fix for the BMO/BHO for the entire city.

The first draft of a new code was pre- sented for public comment last December. Subsequently, revisions were made.

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The next draft was completed in April and public comments were taken through June 10. City planners will tentatively present their pro- posals to the City Planning Commission at a public hearing on July 14, and Pacific Pal- isades residents may attend and comment.

At the June 2 meeting, the City planners were asked if they had even considered Pacific Palisades when the BMO/BHO drafts were written. Phyllis Nathanson, Tom Rothmann and Nick Maricich stressed that this was a citywide ordinance and no specific neigh- borhood was considered over any other.

The planners agreed with speakers who argued “one size does not fit all,” but ex- plained that the prevailing attitude (within the City) is that a “baseline ordinance,” which will set sensible limits, needs to be passed first. The flexible new zone options (there are six under development) will let neighborhoods“customize.”

Currently, there are 15 neighborhoods (including Kentwood, Mar Vista, East Venice and Bel-Air) that have a higher concentration of construction than the rest of the city and those areas have an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) that establishes temporary restrictions on the size of new single-family dwellings—and are more re- strictive than current regulations.

Planner Maricich said that residents of Bel-Air specifically asked for the ICO be- cause of the extensive grading and hauling on the narrow, winding roads in their area.

The planners were asked if the Palisades, which does not have an ICO, could have one implemented in order to allow larger homesthanthebaselineregulations.“No,” was the answer. The ICOs were established in March 2015 because of concerns regard- ing overbuilding and grading. They expire in 2017, and those areas will then fall under the new code.

Homes in the Coastal Zone which are not in a designated hillside area (see map) in Pacific Palisades will not be affected by the new BMO/BHO. Visit: The Pacific Palisades Community Council adopted a motion on May 26 that was sent to Councilman Mike Bonin. It read in part: “As currently drafted, the ordinance fails to take into account the unique aspects and character of our community particularly with respect to design, grading and effect on property values.”

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Marquez Knolls Property Owners Association (representing about 1,250 homes), sent a June 1 letter to Councilman Bonin that noted: “Contrary to PPCC’s position, MKPOA endorses amendments to BMO/BHO which would further restrict the mansionization, over-building and excessive grading/hauling in the Marquez Knolls community . . . MKPOA applauds the efforts that have been taken by the Department of City Planning to restrict mansionization with its latest amendment.”

Many other vocal opponents of the proposed code changes live in the Alphabet Streets (the neighborhood bordered by Sunset, Via de la Paz, Bestor and Chautauqua), outside the coastal zone. “Fifty percent of the homes are already big,” one person argued. “Those of us with small

homes don’t want to be penalized [when they go to sell]. There are a lot of seniors who will use the money from sales to help with retirement.”

Under the BMO, homes in the R1 Zone on lots 7,500 sq. ft. or larger are currently allowed a base FAR (the ratio of a building’s total floor area to the lot size) of 45 percent of lot area (3,375 sq. ft.), plus a 20 percent bonus for a total home size of 4,050 sq. ft.

Under the new ordinance, the base FAR would remain the same at 45 percent of lot area, but the 20 percent bonus option would be removed for R1 zoned properties in the BMO area. One of the proposed new customized zones, the R1-A Zone, would allow larger home sizes that the baseline. Under that proposed zone, home sizes would be restricted based on a sliding scale from 55 to 65 percent of the lot area (e.g., 4,575 sq. ft. on a 7,500 sq. ft. lot).

Homes in the BMO area which are on lots smaller than 7,500 sq. ft. in the R1 Zone currently have a base FAR of 50 percent, plus an allowable 20 percent bonus.

Under the proposed ordinance, the base FAR would remain the same at 50 percent, but the 20 percent bonus would be re- moved. With the R1-A Zone, the building percentage would range from 55 to 65 percent depending upon lot size.

For example, if the lot were 5,200 sq. ft., the proposed BMO code would allow 50 percent, or a 2,600 sq.-ft. house; the current code allows an additional 20 percent bonus for a total of 3,120 sq. ft., while the R1-A Zone would allow 65 percent or a 3,380 sq. ft. house.

Councilman Mike Bonin’s Planning Director Tricia Keane attended the meeting and said, “The Councilman is listening. Our office will be working with planning to see what the right solution is. We recognize that one size doesn’t fit all.”

Visit:, click on ordinances.


By Sue Pascoe


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