While the city’s planning department works on long-term zoning plans and regulations, property owners and developers are more encouraged to tear down houses and replace them with “McMansions” – residential structures that city staff describe as out-of-scale for the lot sizes and out-of-character for the neighborhood. City leaders and planners agree with neighbors that mansionization poses a threat to the public welfare – degrading neighborhood character, loss of privacy and other negative impacts to aesthetics and general quality of life.
“I’m honored to have delivered on a commitment I made over a year ago during the campaign to protect our neighborhoods from over-development,” said Councilman David Ryu, 4th District.
To limit the size of new family dwellings, the city attorney will prepare the ICO to temporarily prohibit building permits for structures in residential zones in Sycamore Square and Brookside unless the structure conforms with the Beverly Grove Residential Floor Area District. The ICO will be in effect for 16-18 months.
The Brookside neighborhood consists of residential lots bordered by Wilshire and Olympic boulevards, and Highland and Muirfield avenues. The Sycamore Square neighborhood is bordered by Wilshire and Olympic boulevards, and by La Brea and Citrus avenues, inclusive of residences abutting both the east and west sides of Citrus Avenue.
Residents from each neighborhood said they were concerned about developers tearing down 1920s buildings. Many feel the neighborhood’s charm and history are at stake as “McMansions” take over.
Ann Eggleston, the Sycamore Square representative on the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (GWNC), said neighbors in the area have been hoping to establish an ICO for a long time. Two years ago when ICOs became popular tools around Los Angeles, Eggleston said Sycamore Square residents were told ICOs wouldn’t work in their neighborhood because different zones are more mixed than in other neighborhoods.
“Sycamore Square is a wonderful and unique place with a lot of character. Even though there are mixed zones, most of the structures were built in the 1920s,” she said.
After Ryu was elected, Eggleston said the councilman’s staff informed the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association that an ICO was possible in the neighborhood. Owen Smith, president of the GWNC, said the ICO was proposed at the neighbors’ request. The neighborhood councils brought the ICO option up at meetings, and when council members talked to residents, they found “overwhelming” support.
Eggleston said in the meantime, the neighborhood will continue efforts to establish a historic preservation overlay zone (HPOZ) for more permanent solutions while the baseline mansionization ordinance is approved. Eggleston said she expects a draft from city staff soon.
“Ultimately, we need to expedite efforts to revise the baseline mansionization ordinance. The need for consistent and fair rules on mansionization laws throughout the entire city is urgent and past due,” Ryu said.
Eggleston said when she first moved into the area 17 years ago, many people were not interested in an HPOZ.
“All these years later, we’re seeing these neighborhoods lose their character and size and scope. I think that changed neighbors’ minds,” she said.
The Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association will host educational meetings to inform neighbors how the HPOZ process works and how much it will cost.
“Once the neighborhood fully understands and is willing to commit to the process, then we will start fundraising,” Eggleston said. “We have the percentages in our favor for the structures contributing to an HPOZ. Right now, it’s really getting everyone on board.”
Ryu said earlier this month that he plans to fight for more city planning staff and to help expedite the ICO application review process.
“I understand that these communities are under siege,” he said