Bringing a possible end to months of energetic and sometimes angry neighborhood discussion, Emma Howard, Senior Planning Deputy for City Council Member David Ryu, announced on Friday, May 18, that Mr. Ryu will support a uniform new R1 single family zone for the Brookside neighborhood, instead of a dual-zone proposal first suggested by the City Planning Department (and initially supported by Ryu). The full City Council is scheduled for a final vote on the matter tomorrow.
For the last few months, since the dual-zone plan was first presented by city officials, Brookside neighbors have been engaged in detailed and sometimes heated discussions about the new single-family zone options. Brookside, like several other local neighborhoods, has the opportunity to select a new “neighborhood conservation” zone with stricter controls for building size, massing and garage placement than the city’s basic Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO). (The new zone, though, would not address things like architectural style or building materials, so would still be less restrictive than fuller preservation options such as an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone.)
Initially, the city offered Brookside, which was covered by temporary anti-mansionization measures while the city worked on its new BMO, the choice of two new permanent single-family zones. One (R1-R3-RG) requires new construction to place the bulk of a building’s mass at the rear of the structure, and the other (R1-V3-RG) allows building mass to be at the back, front or all along the length of a home (i.e. “variable” massing). These are the same choices that have been offered to several other local neighborhoods, which have already made their selections.
Last winter, however, after a public input and comment period, and instead of recomending one zone option or the other, the Planning Department recommended using both of the new zone options in Brookside. The “R3” – or rear-massing – option on blocks originally developed with smaller, single-family homes (to help preserve the single-story streetscape)…and the “V3” option, which would allow building mass to be varied according to owner preference, on blocks originally developed with larger two-story homes.
But that two-zone proposal was met with vigorous opposition from many neighbors, who argued that the neighborhood should be uniformly zoned with a single designation…while others argued, just as vehemently, that the dual-zone proposal made more sense for the two original development patterns in the neighborhood, and for long-term neighborhood preservation, especially on the blocks with smaller homes.
In the end, Ryu’s office (which supported the dual-zone proposal at City Planning Commission and City Council PLUM Committee hearings) did not side with either group as the controversy peaked, but instead asked people in both camps to survey neighbors on the proposed “R3” (rear-massing) blocks to see which option they’d prefer, and to submit petitions showing the results of those surveys. The deadline for the petition submissions was Monday, May 14.
Since then, Ryu’s staff has been reviewing the petitions, and in Friday’s letter Howard recounted the results:
“Of the 220 parcels proposed to have R1-R3-RG zoning, representatives for both sides spoke to 166 households at least once, or 75% of the total affected homes.
In the end the packets sent to our office indicate 156 people residing in the proposed area are in support of a single zone or V3 option, which was also supported by the Brookside HOA and the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. An additional 113 residents were in support of the two zone option and R1-R3-RG for their homes, with more write-in comments from the greater Brookside area in support.
Our office also looked at the by-the parcel numbers. Of the 166 parcels that gave some response we note that 25 indicated support for both proposals, effectively voting for both zones, either because a single person supported both different options or different residents in the same household supported different zoning outcomes. 89 homes wanted purely R1-V3-RG zoning and 52 wanted R1-R3-RG for the survey area.”
The letter went on to say:
“The results demonstrate that a greater number of affected residents and their neighborhood representing bodies would like to see the entire community of Brookside zoned as R1-V3-RG. Based on the results we have seen, the Councilmember is prepared at this time to support a single R1-V3-RG zone for the community of Brookside at City Council next week.”
Jan Wieringa, a Brookside resident who led the petition effort in favor of the two-zone option, told the Buzz that she was disappointed with both the outcome and the process that led to it, especially the fact that Ryu’s office limited the petition effort to the neighborhood blocks where the R3 (rear massing) option was proposed. The survey excluded residents in the areas that would receive the V3, or variable, massing zone under either a single or dual-zone plan.
“Our biggest concern and disappointment in this process of rezoning Brookside,” Wieringa said, “is that 50% of the community was not allowed to sign a petition indicating their support for split zoning vs. V3. As a result of this lack of due process and fairness, we now have a zone being recommended by our Councilman and half of the Brookside community was surveyed while half of the community was not surveyed. In what world is that fair?”
Wieringa’s husband, Taylor Louden, an architect specializing in historic buildings, sent a letter to Ryu’s office last week, asking that Ryu request the Brookside item be removed from tomorrow’s City Council agenda, and that the neighborhood’s Interim Control Ordinace be extended past its current June 30 expiration date.
This would provide more time for neighborhood outreach and education, Louden said, particularly on the topic of how the zoning decision could affect future neighborhood-wide preservation efforts. (Proponents of the dual-zone plan have argued that the uniform V3 zone would allow more, and more extensive, alterations of building facades, particularly on the blocks with smaller homes…and that would, in turn, disqualify the neighborhood from future HPOZ consideration.) Without such an extension and discussion, said Wieringa, “This zoning decision for V3 effectively ends any chance for an HPOZ for Brookside.”
Supporters of the uniform variable-massing zone, however, tend to feel that the V3 option will provide enough protection of the overall neighborhood character, and that stricter preservation measures are not necessary.
“I think the V3 strikes a perfect balance for Brookside,” said Heather MacPherson, a Brookside resident who supported that option. “An HPOZ has been proposed a couple of times over the years with no success. I think the V3 option gives us the right amount of protection without overstepping property rights.”
MacPherson said she was also happy with the consideration Ryu gave the debate, delaying the City Council vote on the matter for several weeks for the petition effort. “I am pleased that the Councilman rescheduled the final vote to provide time to reexamine the will of the residents in the affected areas,” she told the Buzz. “As a longtime resident, I was concerned that the R1R3 split zone was moving forward with little to no communication to the neighborhood. Many residents I spoke to were unaware of the proposed change. Many, like myself did not learn about it until after the Feb vote when I found a flier on my doorstep from the HOA.”
MacPherson said she believes that the variable massing option gives all homeowners, not just those with larger homes, better options for remodeling.
“In my opinion, V3 gives the right amount of protection without handcuffing homeowners into poorly designed homes. It allows the homeowner the ability to create the optimal design for their style house and family’s needs. NOT all homes and lots are conducive to rear mass. A 30-foot second story setback [as the R1-R3-RG option would have required] is hard to navigate when renovating your home.”
The City Council’s vote, scheduled for the meeting that starts at 10 a.m. tomorrow at City Hall, will presumably be the city’s final word on the matter before the new zone ordinance becomes law.
[This story has been updated to add the comments from Heather MacPherson, which were received after publication.]