Council Approves Limits on Housing : Tough Ordinance to Curb 'Mansionization'

Times Staff Writer

The Glendale City Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a series of stringent restrictions on all new single-family houses and all but minor home additions.

The council action was hailed by proponents as the beginning of the end of Glendale's "mansionization." Opponents called the measure an infringement on property rights.

The temporary ordinance will last from one to two years. During that time, the city planning staff will prepare a permanent ordinance to regulate construction according to each neighborhood's characteristics.

Temporary Ordinance

The temporary ordinance applies to all new single-family houses and house additions of more than 700 square feet. It generally limits new construction to no more than two stories and requires the front setback to be consistent with the average of houses within 300 feet.

For the first time, the city will impose parking and landscaping requirements on single-family houses. The ordinance requires two to five enclosed parking spaces, depending on floor area, for all new houses or alterations. It requires landscaping on at least 30% of the lot and limits the building area to 30% of the lot.

The ordinance also establishes limits on floor-area ratio--the relation of floor space to the lot area--according to lot size.

As the lot grows larger, the size of the building shrinks in proportion to the lot. The reason for this, City Planner John McKenna said, is to prevent a developer from buying several lots for one giant house.

Design Review Board

The ordinance subjects all new construction to Design Review Board approval. But the board can void the restrictions in the ordinance if the building is compatible with the neighborhood and would not go beyond the standards set by surrounding neighborhoods.

"These numbers are simply guidelines," Mayor Jerold Milner said. "We would hope and in fact we expect the Design Review Boards to exercise their discretion in approving the kind of projects that are compatible with their neighborhoods."

The council vote came after two extensive public comment sessions in City Hall before standing-room-only crowds that spilled into hallways and the lobby.

Tuesday's audience was also divided. Residents planning to sell their homes or make large additions, architects, realtors and other building industry members opposed the ordinance. Representatives of homeowner associations and individual residents who had been angered by nearby construction praised the council's decision.

Randy Carter, president of the Northwestern Glendale Homeowners Assn., which brought the mansionization problem to the council, said, "The facts are unavoidable. Mansion homes are being built all over the city. We came to the council for relief, and we got it."

But others protested what they termed government interference with their right to design and build their dream houses.

"Design Review Boards are politically appointed, have mediocre standards and lack imagination," said Robert Burman, a Glendale architect. "They deprive architects of their freedom of expression and are responsible for the mediocre construction in Glendale. Visionaries like Frank Lloyd Wright would be driven out of town."

"This is further erosion of rights, a further erosion of freedom and I don't like it," said John F. Day, who retired in April after 12 years on the City Council.

"If there were in fact a problem, would Glendale be threatened?" he asked. "I don't think so. We've lived with the Eiffel Tower, and we've lived with the Transamerica building in San Francisco, which we thought was horrendous and now we think it's nice.

Day, who was planning an addition to his house, asked the council to delay its decision so that he could study the ordinance's effect on his situation.

The trend toward mansionization--tearing down existing houses and building new ones that nearly fill the lots--has provoked adverse reactions in several parts of Los Angeles County, particularly in some Westside communities.

Beverly Hills and Los Angeles have recently adopted anti-mansionization measures. San Marino and La Canada Flintridge have similar ordinances.

In contrast to the council's ongoing, 18-month struggle to agree on zoning restrictions for apartment neighborhoods, it moved swiftly on imposing controls on single-family neighborhoods.

The Northwestern Glendale Homeowners Assn. first brought up mansionization at a July 25 council meeting. About 20 members of the newly formed association attended the meeting to complain about construction of a 7,150-square-foot building in their neighborhood and to ask for floor-area ratio restrictions on single-family houses.

The same day, Milner called for an Aug. 15 study session on mansionization. During that session, the council instructed its planning staff to prepare the ordinance adopted Tuesday.

The ordinance will take effect 30 days after adoption.

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