On Tuesday night, representatives of the Planning Department and City Council District 4 presented new R1 (single-family) zoning options to residents of the Brookside and Sycamore Square neighborhoods, which are currently governed by an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) that will expire next year.
The ICO, which provides zoning and building limits more restrictive than the city’s original Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO), was instituted two years ago, at the request of neighbors, to help curb mansionization in the two neighborhoods while the city finalized its new, more restrictive BMO. The new BMO went into effect earlier this year, so the city is now offering neighborhoods that had ICOs the option of choosing one of several new R1 zones for their single-family properties, which would offer additional specifications for building size and massing, in addition to those provided by the new BMO.
This process has already played out in our La Brea-Hancock, Larchmont Village and Citrus Square neighborhoods, which were covered under a similar ICO that expired earlier this year. In those discussions, La Brea-Hancock and Larchmont Village chose the new R1-R3-RG zone (which requires the majority of building mass to be toward the rear of the property, and garages to also be placed at the rear) over the less restrictive BMO protections…while Citrus Square chose the new R1-V3-RG zone (which allows variable massing patterns, but also requires rear garages).
At Tuesday’s meeting, City Planning Associate Giselle Corella explained the history of the BMO and the ICOs, along with the elements – including building Floor Area Ratio, massing patterns, garage placement and more – that the new R1 zone options cover. In general, the new zones address size, scale and patterns for architecture, so they are being presented as “Neighborhood Conservation” options…which is not the same as “preservation” measures like as Historic Preservation Overlay Zones, which specifically address things like building style and materials, which are not covered in either the R1 options or the BMO.
After the introduction, the meeting divided into separate discussion groups for the two neighborhoods, which will decide individually which of the new R1 zones, if any, would be most appropriate for their areas.
During the breakout discussions, according to Christine Saponara, senior city planner, who lead the Brookside discussion, neighbors from that area appeared to generally favor the option for an R1-V3-RG zone, which would allow variable patterns for building massing (since Brookside already contains a wide variety of architectural styles and massing patterns), but would require garages to be built at the rear of the property, in keeping with the prevalent pattern of most of the older homes in the neighborhood. The R1-V3-RG zone would also mandate floor area ratios (the ratio of a home’s square footage to its lot size) of no more than .45 on lots up to 6,000 square feet, while larger lots (6,000-10,000 square feet) would be limited to ratios of .43 to .35 depending on their size). The average lot size in Brookside is 8,391 square feet, according to Corella, while the average home size is currently 2,433 square feet, and the average FAR is .29. So even the new limits would allow for quite a bit of expansion in new construction or remodels of older homes.
Brookside resident Laura Cohen, who took part in the discussion, said the group’s discussion was nearly unanimous on the rear garage element…but less unified on the question of floor area ratio, with some residents favoring the “V3” option (under which no homes could have a floor area ratio of more than .45), but others favoring less restrictive options V1 or V2 options, in which floor area ratios could climb to .55 or even .65, depending on lot size.
At least one Brookside resident, Brent Gold, also spoke out against the institution of any regulations more restrictive than the current BMO, arguing that times have changed since the area’s older homes were built, wealthier people are moving into the area, and people who can afford today’s home prices want to be able to build larger homes, in styles that they choose. He contended that any sort of further restrictions on building activity would infringe on both individual property rights and the ability of current homeowners to maximize the market value of their houses.
In the Sycamore Square discussion, where only four residents from the 700 and 800 blocks of Citrus Ave. attended to represent neighborhood interests, the neighbors pointed out the different zoning pattern of that neighborhood, where two single-family streets alternate with two streets with multi-family zoning, and argued that it wouldn’t be fair to further restrict building on the single-family streets without also restricting building activity on the adjacent multi-family properties. That group expressed a strong preference for not instituting one of the new R1 zones, and instead sticking with the less-restrictive regulations of the BMO.
As with many local planning and zoning meetings, there were some complaints at this meeting from people who had only recently found out about the new R1 efforts, despite the long history of preservation and anti-mansionization discussions in both neighborhoods in question. Neighbors also expressed dissatisfaction with the relatively small number of residents from each neighborhood who attended and participated in the discussions, noting that the numbers were too small to be truly representative of the overall neighborhood sentiments. Saponara explained that this meeting was just the first introduction to the subject, to help gauge neighbors’ initial concerns and positions, and that there will be a number of further steps in the process before any decisions are made. The next step, she said, will be a larger, more formal public hearing on the R1 options. Paper notices for that meeting will be mailed to about 4,500 area neighbors, she said – including all neighbors who live within both Brookside and Sycamore Square, as well as those who live within a 500-foot radius of the two neighborhoods.