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City Council PLUM Committee Recommends New R-1 Zones for Brookside and Sycamore Square

Brookside residents study new R1 zoning options for their neighborhood at a community meeting last fall.

Two years ago, when the City of Los Angeles was re-working its old, ineffective Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, it agreed to cover several neighborhoods that were quickly losing original housing stock to over-sized new homes to be covered by a temporary and slightly more restrictive Interim Control Ordinance.

Now that the new, stricter, BMO has been enacted, the temporary ICOs are expiring, and the neighborhoods covered by them have been given the option of adopting either the development standards in the new BMO, or one of several new and slightly stricter R-1 single family “neighborhood conservation” zones.  Several local neighborhoods, including Larchmont Village, La-Brea Hancock and Citrus Square, completed this process within the last year or so, but the last two of our area’s ICO neighborhoods, Brookside and Sycamore Square, are still moving through the zone selection process.

And that process took a step closer to completion on Tuesday, as the City Council PLUM Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council approve an R1-V3-RG zone for the single family parcels on Citrus Ave. and Orange Dr. in Sycamore Square, and a split-zone plan for Brookside — R1-V3-RG in the western half of the neighborhood, where original homes tend to be larger and two stories, and R1-R3-RG in the eastern half of the area, where homes tend to be smaller and mostly single-story.  [Note:  the R1-R3-RG zone requires the bulk of a building’s mass be located toward the rear of the property, while the R1-V3-RG zone allows variable massing patterns.  Both R1 variants are among several new single-family zone options rolled out last year by the City Planning Department, to provide additional help for neighborhoods seeking to preserve their architectural character.  The new R1 zones address size, scale, massing and garage placement…but do not address matters of style or materials, as more comprehensive Historic Preservation Overlay Zones do.]

After two public meetings last fall, and individual consultations with each neighborhood, the City Planning Commission recommended the R1-V3-RG zone for Sycamore Square, a choice supported by both the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association and the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.

For Brookside, however, the path has not been as clear.

While the majority of Brookside neighbors at the two public meetings last year seemed to be leaning toward the R1-V3-RG designation for their neighborhood, the Planning Commission eventually recommended splitting the neighborhood’s zoning, with the R1-R3-RG (rear-massing) zone in the eastern half of the area, mostly developed with smaller, single story homes…and an R1-V3-RG (variable massing) zone in the eastern half of the neighborhood, where original homes tend to be larger and two stories tall.

But some residents say this recommendation caught them by surprise, and they do not want to differentiate development patterns in the neighborhood.  In fact, members of the Brookside Homeowners’ Association board appeared at last week’s Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council meeting with a letter urging the GWNC to support a unified R1-V3-RG zone for Brookside. (GWNC board members listened to the presentation, but were not able to vote on the matter because it had not been previously agendized.  The GWNC’s Land Use Committee will most likely address the issue at its meeting next week.)

Public comments at Tuesday’s PLUM Committee were divided.  Five Brookside neighbors spoke in favor of the city-recommended split-zone plan…while five spoke in opposition to the split and in favor of a single R1-V3-RG zone.  (One neighbor also spoke against adopting any of the new R1 zones, or any other new restrictions on building in the area.)  The neighbors opposing the split said they had recently canvassed 22% of the total households in the neighborhood, and all residents in that survey signed a petition favoring a unified R1-V3-RG zone.

In the end, however, there was no discussion among the members of the PLUM Committee, who voted unanimously to forward the R1-V3-RG recommendation for Sycamore Square, and the split-zone plan for Brookside, to the City Council for final approval.

After the vote, City Council Member David Ryu’s new Senior Planning Deputy, Emma Howard, met briefly with some of the Brookside neighbors, and recommended that they continue to make their preferences known to Ryu’s office before the full Council’s vote on the zoning choice.  Although Howard read a statement at the PLUM hearing supporting the city’s recommendation to split the Brookside zoning, saying it takes into account the different dates and styles of homes in the two parts of the neighborhood, she told the Buzz yesterday that “We’re agnostic on the issue. We want what the residents want.”

Howard said yesterday that Ryu’s office will make a final recommendation to the City Council based on what the affected neighbors want, so it will be very important, between now and that final Council hearing (which has not yet been scheduled), for neighbors who have a preference to make it known.  Comments can be sent to [email protected] .

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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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  1. The article states, “…The City Planning Commission recommended the R1-V3-RG zone for Sycamore Square, a choice eventually supported by both the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association and the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.” To be clear, the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association Board voted unanimously for R1V3-RG at its January 7th 2018 meeting, prior to the staff report, which reflected the Sycamore Square recommendation, not the other way around.


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