Mansionization at a Crossroads: If You Think Your House is a Home … Speak Up Now

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Reform has finally started on LA’s fatally failed Baseline Mansionization Ordinance and Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BMO/BHO). The Planning Department has recently published its draft amendments and has already held four public workshops and hearings. 

To read the full draft, go to the web page of the city’s Office of Historic Resources, select Updates, and then BMO/BHO Draft Amendments

THE TIMETABLE--The Planning Department is aiming for City Council adoption of their mansionization amendments in late summer 2016, following public workshops, environmental review, public comment, a staff report, and public hearings before the City Planning Commission (March 10, 2016) and the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM).  

The first step is a series of four public hearing recently held in different parts of Los Angeles.  These hearings have clearly revealed the two opposing sides for these amendments. 

On one side are LA residents who consider their house to be a home that is part of an immediate community and neighborhood. 

On the other side are the realtors, architects, and speculators whose business is devoted to mansionization.  For them a house is just one more commodity, a bigger version of the soybeans traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The hearings revealed their view of anti-mansionization arguments based on quality of life and community character: denigrating smirks.

Below you will find an analysis of the draft amendments, a position statement, and sample emails and talking/writing points. 

SUMMARY--City Planning’s draft amendments stick close to Councilmember Koretz’s original Council Motion, although they weaken through two loopholes.  On the positive side they eliminated the amendments eliminate the 400 square foot freebie for attached garages.  But, on the negative side they retain one bonus and one exemption, despite the City Council’s clear direction to remove all loopholes that contribute to mansionization. 


POSITION OF No More McMansions in Los Angeles 

  • Completely eliminate the exemption for patios, breezeways, and balconies.  It makes no difference it they have a regular roof or a lattice roof.  When they add to the mass of a house, they promote mansionization.
  • The 20 percent by-right “proportional stories” bonus should also be eliminated.  If retained in any form, similar to all other “discretionary” processes that increase the size of a project, the Planning Department should review applications for this bonus through a properly noticed public hearing, followed by an appealable determination.
  • Eliminate the 10 percent Zoning Administrator “adjustment.” 
  • The BMO amendments will take effect before the ICOs.  Confirm that once the amendments are adopted, ICO and RFA neighborhoods will be subject to either their overlay ordinance or the BMO/BHO, whichever ordinance is more restrictive.


  • Rally your neighbors.
  • Ask your Council office, homeowners’ association, residents’ association, and/or neighborhood council to speak out for meaningful reform of the two mansionization ordinances.
  • Follow up with comments of support to Council Office and City Planning.  The January 11, 2016, deadline is coming up fast.
  • E-mails: Subject line should include:  BMO/BHO Amendments, CF #14-0656

Distribution should include Hagu Solomon-Cary.



The city’s Baseline Mansionization Ordinance and Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BMO/BHO) failed.  As a result, mansionization is ruining neighborhoods all over Los Angeles.  Now the Planning Department has proposed important amendments to these two ordinances.  This time, however, City Planning needs to get it completely right, not – as before – still permit McMansions through backdoor loopholes.

Mansionization eliminates affordable single-family neighborhoods in Los Angeles.  The speculators target smaller, affordable houses and replace them with McMansions that are, on average, three times the size and price.  They are now eliminating about 2000 such affordable houses per year, and this will continue until it is finally stopped.

Uncovered or “lattice roof” patios, breezeways, and balconies are not counted as floor space.  This is just the kind of loophole that turns houses into McMansions.  With or without a regular roof, these spaces add bulk.  We need to totally close this exemption and count all such structures as floor space.

The “proportional stories” bonus should go.  If retained in any form, it should not awarded by-right by Building and Safety, but should become a discretionary entitlement handled through City Planning.  The City Council directive to City Planning was clear that any bonus that promoted mansionization should go, and this bonus can add 600 square feet to the size of a “small” house.  In some cases this might be warranted, but it needs to be carefully reviewed by City Planning through a public hearing that results in an appealable written determination.  A Zoning Administrator needs to spell out the case in detail for granting or rejecting a request to increase the size of a house through the proportional stories method.

Zoning Administrators can grant “Adjustments” of 10 percent behind closed doors.  The city already has a process for variances, and now it is also creating many zoning tools tailored to the needs of individual neighborhoods.  We do not need additional “adjustments” that increase the size of houses.

ACTION INFO:  For background info, contact info, a point-by-point pushback against mansionizers’ bogus arguments, or info on yard signs please go to:

[email protected]  

(Dick Platkin reports on local planning issues for City Watch.  He has been part of the fight against mansionization for the past decade.  Please send comments, questions, or corrections to [email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.





Vol 13 Issue 102

Pub: Dec 18, 2015