Zoning Changes Coming To A Neighborhood Near You – As In Yours

Westchester Zoning Changes Are Headed To A City Council Vote

Westchester zoning changes
photo credit: re:code LA

Just this week, the Planning Commission’s final proposed amendments to the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) were referred to the City Council’s Planning & Land Use Management Committee for review. The next step is a full Council vote to adopt the recommended restrictions.

In a nutshell, the BMO amendments, which will apply to all of LA, except a few defined communities, will eliminate green building and design incentives and will limit the square footage of your new or remodeled single family home to 45% of your lot size, among other restrictions. The Planning Commission’s final recommendation can be found here.

If you live in Kentwood, you’ve already been living with similar restrictions since mid-2015.

Does Westchester Need Tighter Restrictions?

There is no question that our antiquated Zoning Code needs a facelift. First adopted in 1946, the current Zoning Code has grown from a simple 84-page document to an unwieldy 600+ page book.

But do we need Westchester zoning changes that restrict the size of our homes to less than half the lot size? Is that even a smart idea?

During public hearings on the BMO amendments, four quality of life concerns were identified by the public:

  1. Out-of-scale development
  2. Uncertainty
  3. Increasing traffic
  4. Environmental quality
Slide from 9/13/16 Public Hearing
Slide from 9/13/16 Public ICO Hearing

As I see it, we get a bigger bang for our buck in addressing those concerns with larger, not smaller houses. For instance, larger houses allow us to work from home, thereby minimizing two of the four stated concerns – traffic and the environment.

Additionally, we are facing a housing affordability crisis here in LA. Families are welcoming multiple generations into their homes and need more bedrooms, not less.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a fan of “mansionization,” but is 3600 feet of house on a 6000 square foot lot really a mansion?? No, it’s a 5 bedroom home with a backyard that provides three family bedrooms, a home office and a guest room. Does that sound like a mansion to you?

Have you ever driven through east Playa del Rey or Manhattan Beach? Those homes occupy most of their lots and those neighborhoods are very attractive.

From what I’ve observed, the people most vocally opposed to larger homes object because they “hulk” over smaller houses from another era, but eventually all houses will be updated and enlarged, particularly if people care about maximizing resale value (and I posit that most of us care about the value of our home).

Certainly smaller, older homes with historic significance can, should be and are currently protected by historic overlay zones, but who is going to argue that the little boxes on decent-sized lots that populate Westchester rise to the level of historic significance?

What To Do If You Think Impending Changes Are Overly Restrictive

So what do you do if you believe that we should be able to remodel our little boxes into modern family homes? Immediately start contacting our Councilman. This has to happen now, before the BMO amendments come up for a full Council vote. Let him know that small boxy houses don’t fit your vision for the future of Westchester. Councilman Bonin can decide to vote “no” on the amendments or he can carve out Westchester. He’s already carved out Pacific Palisades.

Write and call:

  • Councilman Bonin at councilmember.bonin@lacity.org • 213 473-7011 • fax:213 473-6926
  • Councilman Bonin’s Chief of Staff Chad Molnar at chad.molnar@lacity.org • 213 473-7011 • fax:213 473-6926
  • Councilman Bonin’s Deputy Chief of Staff Laura McLennan at laura.mclennan@lacity.org • 213 473-7011 • fax:213 473-6926
  • Councilman Bonin’s Westchester Deputy Anna Kozma at anna.kozma@lacity.org • 310 568-8772 • fax:310 410-3946
  • Councilman Bonin’s Director of Land Use & Planning Tricia Keane at tricia.keane@lacity.org • 213 473-7011 • fax:213 473-6926
  • Councilman Bonin’s Senior Planner Ezra Gale at ezra.gale@lacity.org • 213 473-7011 • fax:213 473-6926
  • Contact Councilman Bonin’s office through his website

Kentwood Residents Need To Call & Write TODAY

Do you live in Kentwood? You have your own set of time-sensitive issues that are different from the BMO amendments. Read more about those here.

Your Voice Matters

Please don’t think that your voice doesn’t matter, especially when it comes to Westchester zoning changes. I’ve seen time and time again that our Councilman listens to what his constituents say and the fact that he is up for re-election in one year’s time is bound to make him even more sensitive to constituent concerns. I’ve also seen that Pacific Palisades has made enough noise about the BMO amendments that they are getting special treatment. We can, too.