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City Council Approves Better Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO)



To the delight and relief of neighborhood preservation advocates all over the city, the City Council Wednesday voted 13-0 to support revised rules that would strengthen the city’s Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) by closing a garage exemption loophole and reducing the allowable floor area of new homes.

More than 50 neighborhood representatives spoke before the City Council yesterday, urging it to make changes counting attached garages as part of a home’s overall square footage. Many requested to speak, even though it was clear the council was in agreement.

Beverly Grove resident and long-time preservation activist Shelley Wagers summed it up well in her remarks to the Council:

The original Motion this Council adopted to amend the BMO identified attached garages as a uniquely damaging loophole.  Here’s why: Attached garages add 400 square feet of bloat to a house. They eliminate the buffer that a driveway provides. They use wide curb cuts that reduce street parking and destroy mature street trees. They disrupt the look and feel of many LA neighborhoods. Excluding attached garages [from a home’s square footage] is like weighing yourself with one foot off the scale. CPC President David Ambroz put it this way:  “Square footage is square footage …” No one is asking you to prohibit attached garages.  But they must count as floor space.

The final vote yesterday was a rejection of a recommendation by the City Council’s own Planning and Land Use Committee, which had last week recommended against counting garage footage, and also in favor of a lower overall square footage allowance per lot.  (The City Planning Commission had originally recommended a maximum floor area less than 45% of a lot’s size, on lots less than 7,000 square feet, while the PLUM committee later recommended increasing that number to 50%.  Yesterday, however, the full Council returned to the CPC’s recommendation of 45% in its final vote.)

The vote was not a complete victory for neighborhood activists, however, since the front-facing garage square-footage exemption remained in place, though it was reduced to 200 square feet as also originally recommended by the CPC.

In the end, Wagers said she was “Just pleased that Council President Wesson and Councilmember Koretz led the City Council to a thoughtful, sensible, principled position on mansionization today.” 

La Brea Hancock residents Tammy and Frank Rosato also testified at yesterday’s hearing, thanking Council members Ryu, Koretz and City Council President Herb Wesson for their support.  Frank Rosato said he agreed with all the amendments put forth, but argued against the square footage exemptions for attached garages. Tammy Rosato also spoke in favor of restoring the .45 FAR and counting front facing attached garages as part of the overall square floor space. She expressed her thanks to the council members and the Planning Department staff.

The Los Angeles Conservancy reported on its Facebook page today:

We’ve worked hard to close those loopholes and protect L.A.’s older neighborhoods, but last week we suffered a huge setback when the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee directed the city attorney to draft a new ordinance that reinstates the current problematic measures in the ordinances.

Happily, after today’s meeting of the City Council we are back on track with the amended ordinances. Thank you to everyone who called, emailed, or spoke in support of this issue, and thank you to Council President Herb J. Wesson, Jr. and Councilmember David E. Ryu for their strong support. We especially want to thank Councilmember Paul Koretz for his sustained leadership on this important issue!

CD4 Council member David Ryu also urged a yes vote for strengthening the ordinance. “Protecting our residential neighborhoods has been my top priority over the last 18 months,” he said in an official statement. “By approving the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance and the Baseline Hillside Ordinance, our City and it’s residents will have the necessary tools to fight out-of-scale development.”

City Council President Herb Wesson commended Ryu and CD5 Council Member Paul Koretz for their leadership on the issue, and noted it was his honor and pleasure with them on “amending this motion back to reflect what was recommended by the Planning Commission.”

Since no draft ordinance was available before the meeting, Tom Rothman from the City Planning Department reviewed the key amendments that were ultimately approved by the council, including the following:

  • The Floor Area Ration (FAR) for lots that are zone R-1 shall be .45 regardless of size. In hillside areas that are also R-1, the FAR shall also be .45 but it will decrease based upon an increasing slope.
  • Return to the recommendation that the first 400 square foot of a rear detached garage be exempted from the size of a house;  The first 200 square feet of a front garage be exempted.
  • Return to a maximum grading be at 1,000 cubic yards for all hillside lots zoned R-1
  • The guaranteed minimum floor area for a hillside home shall be 800 square feet.
  • The R-1 encroachment plane will be changed to 20 feet from current 22 feet.

The amended BMO ordinance, with specific language in place outlining the above provisions, will go back to PLUM and the full City Council for votes early next year.

Click here to view the motion.

This story has been updated to include a copy of the motion.

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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