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Tighter L.A. 'mansionization' rules coming too slowly, critics say

Tighter L.A. 'mansionization' rules coming too slowly, critics say
Traci Considine holds a "before" photo of a home under construction in her Faircrest Heights neighborhood that she believes is an example of mansionization on March 14, 2014. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Neighborhood activists complained Tuesday that Los Angeles is moving too slowly to close regulatory loopholes that are allowing what they deem to be super-sized homes that are too big for their lots.

The criticism came as a City Council committee heard details of a plan to tighten up planning and building rules, expected to take a year and half to complete.

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Los Angeles imposed restrictions on the size of new and renovated homes six years ago, limiting the square footage of houses based on lot size.

Lawmakers said the rules were meant to stop "homes on steroids" from towering over their smaller neighbors – a trend dubbed "mansionization." Some Los Angeles residents say that the rules haven't stopped neighborhoods from being overwhelmed by out-of-scale homes.

Under the rules, builders can increase the size of new or remodeled homes up to 30% more than ordinarily allowed if they incorporate ecologically friendly features or tailor the design to meet other requirements.

In May, City Councilman Paul Koretz proposed revising the rules to eliminate "counterproductive provisions" that allowed builders to develop "giant, blocky McMansions." But community groups say that little has happened in the last several months, as what they see as oversized homes continue to replace smaller homes that they argue better fit the character of neighborhoods.

Under the plan presented Tuesday, the city would impose temporary restrictions to limit demolitions in several neighborhoods, including Sunset Square, Studio City and North Beverly Grove.

The neighborhoods have either requested stricter building rules or are being considered as possible historic zones. Several council aides asked that more neighborhoods be included in the protected areas, such as Faircrest Heights and Old Granada Hills.

The temporary restrictions would pause mansionization, city officials said,  and allow neighborhoods some breathing room while citywide rules are amended. Demolition restrictions could go into effect in about two months.

Meanwhile, Deputy Director of Planning Alan Bell said a year and a half was a realistic estimate for the time needed to tighten rules citywide.

Residents said that would leave too many areas vulnerable for too long. Dick Platkin, a former city planner and Beverly Grove resident, said there was no reason for the delay. Singling out a few "squeaky wheels" for added protection would allow the underlying problem to persist, he said.

The requests for more neighborhoods to be covered by the temporary protections "demonstrates very clearly that mansionization is a citywide problem," Beverly Grove resident Shelley Wagers said. "We need a citywide solution and we need it now."

The local chapter of the Building Industry Assn. argued that the temporary city restrictions in targeted neighborhoods were too harsh. An association representative, Veronica Perez, told the committee that the proposed restrictions on demolishing homes would put hundreds of pending home sales in "a tailspin of uncertainty."

Only one council member,  Councilman Jose Huizar,  was present during the discussion Tuesday afternoon. The council committee will consider the plan again in two weeks.

Follow @latimesemily for what's happening at Los Angeles City Hall

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