Update on 12/3/2015: A version of the new proposed citywide Baseline Mansionization Ordinance has been drafted and is currently the subject of public hearings. While I haven’t yet taken a deep dive into the proposed BMO, my preliminary read finds it to be similar but more restrictive than the ICO. The arguments in my original post below still apply. 🙂
I love Westchester. My family has called Kentwood our home since my daughter was born almost 13 years ago. We love our home and we love the sense of community here. I don’t want to see oversized houses ruin the character of our neighborhood, but my family opposes the Kentwood ICO.
This view is going to be unpopular with some of our neighbors, but let me explain.
First, by way of background, I am an attorney and I practiced law for almost 20 years. I can read a municipal ordinance at least as well as the next person. More recently, I’m a Coldwell Banker realtor focused on the beach cities, including Westchester. I fully understand the changes brought about by the growth of “Silicon Beach” and why our community is a target for developers. In fact, I understand the evolution of Silicon Beach better than most.
Also, my husband is a 30-year civil engineer who spent the early part of his career in land development. He, too, can read an ordinance.
Together, we poured over the language of the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance ICO as it pertains to Kentwood and we see at least 6 reasons the ICO is ill-conceived and should be opposed:
- Modern families often have one or both adults working at home. For this reason, 5 bedroom houses are in high demand and command a premium on the market. Five bedroom homes can be built in 3000 sq ft (50% of the average Kentwood lot), but a close reading of the ICO demonstrates that we don’t get 50% under the ordinance (see below).
- One major complaint about the new construction that led to the ICO is that newer structures are often “hulking box-like structures” (quite literally, “hulking box-like structures” are cited in the ICO as a supporting reason for passing this “emergency” ordinance). The way the ICO is written, porches, balconies, breezeways and detached accessory buildings count against the 50% floorplan limitation. To maximize interior floor space, homeowners and developers are going to minimize exterior features that make the structure visually interesting. What are we left with? Boxes that are only slightly less “hulking.”
- Singling out Kentwood and not our neighboring Westchester communities of Loyola Village, West Westchester, Westport Heights, Emerson Manor and others means that developers will merely move their efforts over a few blocks. What does this solve? There won’t be fewer large houses in Westchester.
- The ICO is not going to help Kentwood with its problems with LMU student housing. More students will be crammed in smaller bedrooms. Let’s skip the ICO and focus on helping the City enforce the R-1 zoning.
- The ICO does away with eco-friendly incentives that developers currently utilize to build a few extra square feet. This is a blow for sustainable building in LA and makes me extra sad. 😦
- ICO stands for “Interim Control Measure.” ICO’s are emergency laws. Kentwood was tossed into the BMO ICO at the last minute with little analysis as to what it is going to mean for Kentwood property owners. Our councilman said as much. Kentwood should not be punished for at least two years (and likely longer) with artificially depressed property values while the City of LA slogs through a general overhaul of its zoning laws. Leave us on the same footing as our neighboring communities.
The ICO currently before the City Council means that my family is not going to be able to cost-effectively expand our bungalow to build a home that modern families (including ours) want. This depresses property values in Kentwood during an unprecedented run up in values thanks to the rise of Silicon Beach. And for what? Not enough from what I can see. There is no emergency. Let’s take more time to craft a better ordinance.