Mansionization Action Alert

Sometime in the next few weeks, the City Council will adopt amendments to the flawed citywide mansionization ordinances (BMO and BHO), and we need all hands on deck.  This is an opportunity for you to talk to your Council office before that vote.

As they stand, the amendments make real improvements on the current ordinance.  But one last loophole remains – they still don’t fully count attached garages as floor space. This is the single most damaging feature of the ordinance.  Attached garages add hundreds of square feet of bloat, do away with driveways that put a buffer between houses, and disrupt the look and feel of many LA neighborhoods.

We’re not asking for a ban on attached garages — we’re even shrugging off the exemption for garages attached at the back of the house.  But we are asking that garages attached at the front count as part of the house.

Mansionization is part of a bigger picture.  Across the city, all kinds of people are pushing back against all kinds of reckless development.  Amendments to the BMO and BHO are the tip of the spear, and demanding sensible limits on home size helps set the tone for many of the fights that follow.

Three councilmembers favor closing the loophole for attached garages:  Council Pres. Herb Wesson (CDs 10 and 7), Paul Koretz (CD 5), and David Ryu (CD 4).  A few councilmembers seem to be opposed: Gil Cedillo (CD 1), Mike Bonin (CD 11), and José Huizar (CD 14).  The decision will depend on lining up votes among the remaining councilmembers – and maybe even turning Cedillo, Bonin, and Huizar around.

That’s where you come in.  Especially if you live outside of Districts 4, 5, and 10, your Council office needs to know that (1) you want to stop mansionization, (2) you want the city to close the last serious loophole in the mansionization ordinance, and (3) you want to know where your Councilmember stands.

  • Please jump on this just as fast as you can — the Council vote could come anytime in the next few weeks.
  • Contact made by phone or face-to-face will have more impact than email.
  • If you’ve got the pull, please try to speak directly with your Councilmember.  If not, then the Planning Deputy or whichever staffer you know best.
  • If you get feedback that gives some sense of where your Councilmember stands on the issue, please pass it along to me.

Thanks so much for standing with us. 

Best regards, Shelley Wagers

Here are some crib notes, in case you find them useful.

A message for your councilmember, in a nutshell:

  • You will vote very soon on amendments to the mansionization ordinances.
  • One serious loophole remains:  The ordinance does not count the full square footage of attached garages.
  • Council Pres. Wesson and CMs Koretz and Ryu are trying to close the loophole and count all the square footage of garages attached at the front of the house.
  • I am asking you to support that position.

If you’re told that mansionization isn’t a problem in your area:

  • Mansionization reduces affordable housing.  That makes it a citywide problem.
  • When high-ticket McMansions price buyers out of Westwood or Sherman Oaks, they turn to Leimert Park or Van Nuys, and bid up properties there.  And so on …
  • If we don’t stop mansionization, we’re just squeezing the balloon.

If you’re told that we should do the fair thing and split the difference:

  • A mansionization ordinance should count the real square footage of the house, whether it gets used for cars or storage of a ping-pong table.  That’s what’s fair.
  • Excluding attached garages from floor space is like weighing yourself with one foot off the scale — nothing “fair” about it.
  • And trying to split the difference between reasonable and ridiculous is what made a mess of the ordinance the first time around.

If you’re told the garage issue should be handled as part of the Variation Zones:

  • That’s a separate issue.
  • Re:Code may include an option that actually bans attached garages entirely in neighborhoods that choose a particular “variation zone.”
  • We’re not asking for a citywide ban.  But a mansionization ordinance should be based on the real square footage of the house, whether the space is used to park cars, store stuff, or put a ping-pong table.

If you’re asked why garages are such a big deal:

  • Attached garages add hundreds of square feet of bloat.
  • They do away with driveways that put some air between houses.
  • Front-facing attached garages disrupt the look and feel of many neighborhoods.
  • CPC president David Ambroz, City Planning Commissioner, put it best: “Square footage is square footage.”

If you’re told that one size doesn’t fit all:

  • That’s true.  That’s why the ordinance already sets different limits for different kinds of neighborhoods and why all of them limit house size based on lot size.
  • And people who want front-facing attached garages can still have them.  But attached garages should count as part of the structure – because they are part of the structure.  And a pretty big part, at that …

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