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Palisades Studies Limit on ‘Monster Homes’

Times Staff Writer

In an effort to halt the explosion of “monster homes” popping up throughout Pacific Palisades, the board that sets building design guidelines in the area is considering new height and space limitations for single-family homes.

After months of study, the Pacific Palisades Civic League presented a plan Tuesday night to restrict the height of new and remodeled homes to 28 feet and set a maximum house size of 2,000 square feet plus 28% of the lot area.

“What we are trying to do is to prevent somebody from building the Taj Mahal next door to your house,” said Lila Gordon, president of the 19-member board. “People no longer want an 1,100-square-foot house. That’s a fact of life today.”

Object to Guidelines

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However, several residents at the community forum objected to the proposed guidelines, complaining that they would infringe on homeowners’ rights to develop their property. Several property owners said the proposed restrictions would make potential buyers wary and might decrease the value of their homes.

Yet the homeowners agreed unanimously that some guidelines were necessary to stem the wave of “mansionizing” that is sweeping communities throughout Los Angeles County, particularly in the affluent areas of the Westside, such as Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades.

“These limits are just too restrictive,” said homeowner Mona Greenberg. “Buyers won’t be able to do things with the house that they want to.”

If the proposed building restrictions were approved, a homeowner with a 5,000-square-foot lot would be limited to a 3,400-square-foot house. The biggest home allowed on a 10,000-square-foot lot would be 4,880 square feet. The guidelines also call for some limitations on the size of second-story additions.

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Guidelines approved by the board last year restrict the height of houses to 32 feet. But there are no other restrictions on the size of new and remodeled homes, and several developers have been tearing down existing homes and building massive houses that nearly fill the lot.

During the last three years, the trend toward erecting huge homes has forced city councils and planning boards throughout the county to begin grappling with the thorny issue of size restrictions for single-family homes.

25-Foot Limit

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission is studying a proposal to place a 25-foot height limit on houses on lots under 7,500 square feet. Homes on lots up to 15,000 square feet would have a height limit of 35 feet. The height limit for all single-family homes in the city of Los Angeles now is 45 feet.

“This is an area that the city has neglected because they never had to deal with it,” Cindy Miscikowski, chief deputy to Councilman Marvin Braude, told residents at the meeting this week. She added that it will probably take about two years before the city establishes new size restrictions for single-family homes. In the Palisades, the civic league’s proposed guidelines are more stringent and would take precedence over the city ordinance.

The civic league’s proposed guidelines are similar to restrictions under consideration by the city of Beverly Hills, which is looking at a cap of 1,500 square feet plus 35% of the lot size. Two years ago, the Beverly Hills City Council adopted a temporary ordinance limiting the size of houses to 55% of lot size and made the ordinance permanent in June to allow the Planning Commission more time to study the proposal.

The Palisades board is responsible for design and building guidelines for about 60% of the commercial and residential property in the community, with the rest governed by private deeds. In some areas, there are no restrictions.

Gordon said the board’s goal is “not to have a solid mass of 2-story houses with sheer walls,” and still allow individual homeowners to incorporate creative house designs. The board plans to have a final community forum on the proposed building restrictions in January.

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“If we are proposing something that is too restrictive then we like to hear that,” Gordon said. “But the general feeling throughout the community is that we need to minimize the size of the house next to you to enhance the beauty of the Palisades.”


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