Who Cares about Mansionization? You’d be Surprised …

GETTING IT RIGHT-After many months of delay, the city finally got to work on the much-needed amendments to its flawed mansionization ordinances – the Baseline and Hillside ordinances known as the BMO and BHO.  Homeowners and residents from Echo Park to Valley Village to Westwood have pleaded for years for relief from reckless overbuilding. Now, they are voicing enthusiastic support for meaningful reform. 

Some supporters live in neighborhoods already covered by Interim Control Ordinances that provide a measure of protection. Others are in neighborhoods that are still fully exposed to the devastation of mansionization.  Some are in a queue to be designated HPOZs (Historic Preservation Overlay Zones) and some will rely on citywide regulations for protection. Exact preferences may differ a bit from one cohort to the next, but they are all calling loud and clear for appropriate limits on home size in single-family neighborhoods. Naturally, there some who are still fearful of opponents’ doomsday scenarios. No surprise there.  

The real surprise is the breadth of support from Angelenos who do not even live in the single-family neighborhoods covered by the BMO and BHO. Some of these supporters live in “mixed” neighborhoods where single-family homes share the street with multiple-family dwellings; some live in higher-density residential neighborhoods. Some own their homes and some rent.  

What they all share is their grasp of the big picture: Los Angeles will never be a world-class city until it demands development that honors the scale and character of its neighborhoods, both residential and commercial. Amending the BMO is an essential element of enlightened public policy, moving toward a more livable city.  

The mansionization ordinances in effect since 2008 have fallen far short of their goal. Councilmember Paul Koretz’s admirable council motion to amend them laid out a simple, straightforward path to getting it right. His amendments propose allowing for spacious, comfortable homes for modern families, while still respecting the scale and character of established neighborhoods.  

That’s why Los Angeles Conservancy has come out in support of amendments that faithfully reflect his motion. (You can find a partial list of organizations that support the amendments on the No More McMansions website.) But important as it is to fix the BMO and BHO, it’s not the end game. It’s a down payment on the promise of sustainable development -- an explicit commitment to end mansionization – and both are embedded in the City of Los Angeles’ policies and principles.  

Our city’s residential neighborhoods are beset on many sides. R-2 and R-3 neighborhoods are grappling with the replacement of duplexes by McMansions – a trend that runs directly contrary to the city’s density and affordability initiatives. They are threatened by small-lot subdivisions that disrupt the fabric of neighborhoods and severely strain infrastructure.  

So why do R-2 and R-3 neighborhoods care about fixing single-family neighborhoods? Because the BMO and BHO amendments are first-up on the agenda, and they set the tone for everything that follows. Fixing the BMO forces the city to acknowledge that mansionization is too widespread and damaging to ignore. It strengthens the arguments and paves the way for regulation that will preserve the scale and character of other zones and neighborhoods. It serves as a foundation to build on.  

Speculators who are strip-mining residential neighborhoods would love nothing better than to drive a wedge between hillsides and flats, single-family neighborhoods and all the rest. But Angelenos are on to them. We know that money gives developers and realtors access and clout while the rest of us must rely on our numbers and our nerve. We are standing together to insist that the city do right by its residents. 


(Shelley Wagers is a neighborhood activist who has campaigned for the last ten years to stop mansionization in Los Angeles. She is an occasional contributor to CityWatch. For more information, please log on to  www.nomoremcmansionsinlosangeles.org or send email to [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.





Vol 14 Issue 6

Pub: Jan 19, 2016