Size limits build momentum for residents against 'mansionization' in Burbank

More than a dozen Burbank residents on Monday urged the Burbank Planning Board to consider stricter guidelines against so-called “mansionization,” arguing that huge houses being built near their much smaller homes are destroying their quaint neighborhoods.

The board, along with members of the public, participated in a city-administered survey in which they were asked to rate a series of photos of various-sized homes and different neighborhood landscapes.

Included were photos of huge homes located close to much smaller ones, minimally landscaped neighborhoods lined with concrete, and neighborhoods full of trees and greenery.

The idea was to get the community’s “gut reaction” to the design elements depicted to find out what the community agrees on, said Carol Barrett, the city’s assistant community development director.

For members of the community group Preserve Burbank, it was clear.

“It’s a travesty to have something the size of a hotel be constructed right next to you, or across the street from you,” said 67-year Burbank resident Marlene Burton, a member of Preserve Burbank.

Super-sized homes that are out of context with the rest of the neighborhood can affect the privacy of other homeowners, the value of their homes and their quality of life, residents argued.

“Charming homes are being torn down and replaced by super-sized mega-mansions,” said resident Sue Cleereman, who is also a Preserve Burbank member. She added that in the process, neighborhood trees are being replaced with concrete.

That’s why Eric DeWitt bought his next-door neighbor’s home when it went on sale almost a decade ago. At the time, the 3,000-square-foot home could have been demolished and replaced with an 18,000-square-foot mega-house, which DeWitt wanted to prevent.

So for years, he owned both homes.

Residents urged the board to consider reducing the maximum square footage that can be built on a lot, which is now 40% and 45%, depending on the lot’s size.

While stricter rules may help preserve the character of the neighborhood, they also could constrain how a property owner can build his or her land, officials said.

Officials plan to survey as many residents as possible to gauge how the community feels about the issue. Once the data is compiled, city officials will look to the board and the City Council for direction on the existing rules.

“It could be do nothing, it could be make small changes, or it could be do a complete overhaul,” said Deputy City Planner Patrick Prescott. “That’s what we’re trying to gauge right now.”

Those interested in participating in the survey can email Carol Barrett at cbarrett@burbankca.gov.

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Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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