L.A. council moves to curb teardowns in 'mansionization' hot spots

L.A. lawmakers take step toward curbing demolitions in areas seen as mansionization hot spots

Los Angeles lawmakers unanimously voted Tuesday to draft rules that would temporarily curb demolitions in more than a dozen neighborhoods where residents have bemoaned “mansionization” – homes being knocked down and replaced with bigger buildings seen as too large for their lots.

Planning officials say imposing those restrictions will swiftly halt the problem in mansionization hot spots such as Miracle Mile, Valley Village and North Beverly Grove while the city works on tightening citywide rules against mansionization, a process expected to take a year-and-a-half.

City officials are still determining the exact restrictions for the targeted neighborhoods, which will come back before city lawmakers for final approval before being imposed.

The restrictions could vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, ranging from an outright ban on home demolitions to limiting the size of new homes that replace teardowns, according to planning officials. The temporary rules could last for as long as two years.

The Los Angeles chapter of the Building Industry Assn. has previously warned in a letter to lawmakers that such restrictions could throw hundreds of pending home sales into "a tailspin of uncertainty," potentially spurring lawsuits from buyers who didn't get adequate warning that they couldn't tear down or significantly expand the properties they purchased.

Neighborhood activists opposed to mansionization said Tuesday that they welcome the restrictions in targeted neighborhoods, but they complain that officials are taking too long to change the citywide ordinance, leaving other areas vulnerable to out-of-scale development.

"It's great that they're going to protect those 14 neighborhoods," said Dick Platkin, a former city planner who has pushed to tighten the rules. "But that's not going to deal with the question of mansionization in the rest of the city."

"There's no technical reason it should take so long," Platkin added.

Los Angeles lawmakers voted six years ago to limit the size of new and renovated homes based on lot size, but critics such as Platkin say the rules are ineffective because of “bonuses” that allow builders 20% or 30% more space than otherwise allowed.

Councilman Paul Koretz has pushed to eliminate those bonuses -- and the rest of the City Council voted with him Tuesday to begin that process -- but the planning department says it needs an estimated 18 months to amend the citywide rules because it must check compliance with environmental rules and hold repeated public hearings, among other steps.

"We believe that is a very realistic estimate," Deputy Director of Planning Alan Bell told the council. "We'll certainly do our best to expedite it as much as possible. We don't want to delay this at all. But that is a realistic estimate given all the milestones that have to be achieved."

The neighborhoods targeted for the temporary restrictions on home demolitions include Sunset Square, Carthay Square, Holmby-Westwood, Oxford Square, the El Sereno-Berkshire Craftsman District, South Hollywood, La Brea Hancock, North Beverly Grove, The Oaks, Valley Village, Faircrest Heights, Old Granada Hills, Larchmont Village and Miracle Mile.

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