Logo horizontal ruler

Council Bans "Monster Mansions" in Two More Neighborhoods

By Erica Williams

Jan. 29 -- In an effort to further stem the spread of "monster mansions," the City Council Tuesday night approved an emergency ordinance that imposes restrictions on the size of homes in the Sunset Park and North of Wilshire neighborhoods.

The temporary restrictions -- which will remain in place until revisions to development standards are complete -- mirror those approved by the council for the North of Montana neighborhood in 1998.

As was the case four-and-a-half years ago, the council took action after residents complained that the looming two-story structures were threatening the quaint nature of their neighborhoods.

Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McKeown argued that the emergency ordinance was "needed now to reverse permanent changes to the charm and character" of the neighborhoods.

But Councilman Herb Katz worried that the council was acting too hastily.

"I think we are definitely rushing to judgment if we don't consider some of these issues now," said Katz, urging the council to delay the ordinance for another month in order to address his concerns about restrictions on narrow lots.

Katz voted for the emergency ordinance after the council agreed to push back the effective date to February 24. The delay will not only give staff time to address Katz's concerns but also will give homeowners with plans in the works time to file for a building permit.

To address concerns about excessive building mass relative to lot size, the ordinance would:

  • Reduce lot coverage to a maximum of 35 percent in most cases while promoting the use of basements to obtain additional square footage.

  • Reduce the building mass above 14 feet by limiting the size of the second floor to 26 percent of the parcel.

  • Allow existing structures to maintain their 40 percent lot coverage on the first floor and limit second-story additions to a maximum of 21 percent.

  • Encourage development of single-story houses or expansion of existing homes by increasing the maximum lot coverage allowance to 50 percent for structures up to 18 feet high.

  • Reduce the impact of structures over 18 feet in height on adjacent properties by increasing side yard setbacks to an additional 10 percent of lot width.

"The idea is to try to minimize height and mass which is what is troublesome to most people," said Planning Manager Jay Trevino. The ordinace also will "encourage people to build one-story homes because they fit more easily into neighborhoods."

Prior to the Council's 6-to-0 vote (Coucilman Ken Genser abstained because he arrived late), Architect Joan Swarz said the new restrictions were unfair to people with plans already underway and presented a burden to her client, Nora Vasquez.

"It's just too flippant for me that the client is expected to absorb this burden," Swarz said.

Vasquez said she was about a month away from submitting plans for a new 3,700 square-foot home on her lot at 31st Street in Sunset Park. She added that she had already invested about $20,000 in fees for her home's design.

In the end, both client and architect left the meeting appeased, giving the council the thumb's up when it voted to delay implementation of the law for another month.

The ordinance also provides for limitations on garages aimed at improving streetscapes and the pedestrian character of these neighborhoods.

Street-facing garage doors must now be set back an additional five feet from the front setback of the property and cannot exceed 16 feet in width. Garages that are perpendicular to the street would be allowed to project up to 6 feet into the front yard setback but cannot be closer that 20 feet to the street.

Lookout Logo footer image
Copyright 1999-2008 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.
Footer Email icon