Culver City Imposes 90-Day Ban on Residential Buildings Over 4 Units

Community Correspondent

The Culver City Council this week unanimously imposed a 90-day ban on construction of residential buildings with more than four units.

Council members said they want time to consider the impact that construction of multiple-family dwellings has on parks and schools, and on the availability of open space.

Several developers, real estate agents and property owners spoke against the restrictions, arguing that they are unfair and will impede needed revitalization of old neighborhoods.

Council Took Action

In addition to the ban on buildings with four or more units, the interim ordinance imposes size limits and open-space requirements for properties with two- and three-unit buildings. They can be no more than two stories and 30 feet high, with the second story set back twice as far as the first from the property line.

Buildings that had received planning and zoning approval before Monday night's meeting, including a senior-citizen housing development supported by the Culver City Redevelopment Agency, are exempt from the ordinance.

Earlier this spring, the council, at then-Mayor Paul Jacobs' request, asked the city attorney to draft a moratorium on multiple-family buildings. The council took this action after it had reluctantly approved a plan for 10 units on two lots--a project that, despite its density, complied with existing zoning rules.

There was some confusion Monday night over whether the council had asked for an outright ban on new multifamily construction. Jacobs said that was not his intention. He said the problems brought up at the earlier meeting were amply addressed by the interim ordinance.

"When I made the motion, I didn't want to eliminate R-3 and R-4 (low- and medium-density) housing," Jacobs said. "This ordinance not only eliminates the overbuilt type of project that brought about my motion, but it also addresses our concerns about open space and a height limit."

City Regulations

Those who spoke against the ordinance said it would be unfair to developers and especially to property owners who had bought their parcels with the hope of building multifamily projects and had followed city regulations in drawing up their plans.

"Who's really being affected by this?" asked Randall Cohen, an attorney for a developer. "It's a handful of small developers who have worked with the city, crossing their t's and dotting their i's."

"Most people who own these properties aren't developers," added real estate broker Mark Hollins. "They're mom-and-pops."

Another speaker said he was holding down two jobs to pay for the parcel he had bought five months before. He planned to build five condominiums on it.

Some speakers warned that by restricting new construction, Culver City would interrupt badly needed reconstruction of old neighborhoods.

"Look at what these people want to do. It's a good thing in some cases," said real estate agent Barry Brickell. "They're replacing 50- and 70-year-old houses that are functionally obsolete, that have one-car garages and obsolete plumbing."

Fair Deal

Jacobs said that by allowing all projects that had received approval to go forward, the council had dealt fairly with developers already "in the pipeline." Of the eight with plans for multifamily projects who spoke before the council, six were allowed to proceed under the terms of the ordinance.

Brian and Barbara Smith, who live next door to a proposed 15-unit condominium development that was disallowed by the ordinance, said they were worried about the combined effect of that project and others already built on traffic density and crowding in the local elementary school, as well as their ability to use their driveway.

"We don't want to stop the development," said Brian Smith. "We just want to make sure our rights are not encroached upon. I think the best the council can do now is to go ahead with the moratorium and let everyone calm down."

WHAT THE BAN DOES

The City Council imposed a 90-day ban on construction of residential buildings with more than four units.

The ordinance also imposes size limits and open-space requirements for properties with two- and three-unit buildings. They can be no more than two stories and 30 feet high, with the second story set back twice as far as the first from property line.

Buildings that had received planning and zoning approval before Monday night's meeting are exempt.

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