After nearly a year of study, the board that sets building design guidelines for most of Pacific Palisades is expected to vote on a plan later this month to curb the rash of massive homes being built in the community.
The Pacific Palisades Civic League will vote on a proposal to set a maximum single-family house size of 2,000 square feet plus 28% of the lot size. The plan would also restrict the height of new and remodeled homes to 28 feet.
"We're not proposing the ultimate guidelines, we're just trying to make them more restrictive than they are now," said Lila Gordon, president of the 19-member board. "We recognize that people want to build bigger houses. But it's apparent that the current guidelines are not working."
Although many of the 70 homeowners who attended a Monday night meeting to discuss the plan applauded the board's efforts to address the problem, several complained that the guidelines hampered their ability to expand their own properties. In addition, they said, the plan offered no guidelines for specific neighborhoods, where in some cases large two-story homes would not be out of character.
A few of the property owners also expressed concern that the proposed restrictions would make potential buyers wary and might lower home values.
Yet the homeowners agreed unanimously that some stricter guidelines were necessary to stem the wave of "mansionizing" plaguing communities throughout Los Angeles County and particularly in the affluent areas of the Westside, such as Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.
For example, if the plan is 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 4,800 square feet. The guidelines also call for a maximum second-story addition of 800 square feet plus 12% of the lot area.
Current 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 past three years, the trend toward erecting huge homes has forced city councils and planning boards throughout the Los Angeles County to begin grappling with the difficult issue of size restrictions for single-family homes.
The Los Angeles City Planning Commission is studying a proposal to place a 25-foot height limit on house lots of less than 7,500 square feet. Homes on lots of up to 15,000 square feet would have a height limit of 35 feet. In the city of Los Angeles, the height limit for all single-family homes is now 45 feet.
The palisades civic league's proposed guidelines are similar to restrictions studied by the city of Beverly Hills, where officials are looking at a cap of 1,500 square feet for homes on small lots 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 last 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 at all.
However, one neighbor complained that restrictions would be almost impossible to enforce.
"It's like gun control," said the man, who declined to give his name. "You can pass any laws that you want but, unless you enforce them, people just (flout) them."
The civic league maintains that it can seek a court injunction to stop any construction that doesn't conform to its guidelines.
Gordon said that the guidelines may be altered slightly before the board votes on the plan.
"But I think these guidelines are flexible," Gordon said. "If we don't provide something that is reasonable, then we will find a bunch of people who just choose to ignore them. We just need to get some guidelines in place, and then we can refine them."
The Pacific Palisades Civic League is expected to vote on a plan later this month to curb the rash of massive homes being built in the community. The proposal would:
* Set a maximum single-family house size of 2,000 square feet plus 28% of the lot size.
* Restrict the height of new and remodeled homes to 28 feet. Current guidelines restrict heights to 32 feet.
* Limit second-story additions to a maxiumum of 800 square feet plus 12% of the lot area.