Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Fight Against McMansionization Is Everywhere Now

Beverly Grove or Camillo Road?
Mod: I was trying without much success to find the right article to kick 2015 off with, and then as if by magic I received the following from a friend who has sent me so many good things over the years. It is from the L.A. Conservancy (link), an organization that is doing very much the kinds of things in Los Angeles that Preserve Sierra Madre is working hard to accomplish here. The article deals with the fight to save Beverly Grove, and how they managed to do just that. This is so similar to what is going on here it is uncanny.

Fighting Mansionization in Beverly Grove 

“If we don’t stand up and take care of our residential neighborhoods, we’re fiddling while Rome burns.” - Shelley Wagers

A twenty-year resident of the historic Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles, Shelley Wagers worked for a decade with neighbors, the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association, and City Councilmember Paul Koretz to protect their community from teardowns and mansionization. They saw it happening in nearby Beverly Hills and figured it was only a matter of time before the McMansions reached their streets. They were right.

Beverly Grove is the type of neighborhood that draws trick-or-treaters from other parts of the city. Built primarily in the 1920s, it has a combination of quiet charm and close proximity to shopping, restaurants, and museums that has enriched residents’ lives for decades—and more recently, made the neighborhood a teardown target.

Beverly Grove also exemplifies what’s happening throughout Los Angeles: razing existing homes in established neighborhoods and replacing them with houses up to three times as large.

"It’s not about architectural style,” says Shelley. “It’s about scale and proportion. When you change the scale that much, that alone changes the character of the neighborhood. An out-of-scale home looms over its neighbor; it deprives its neighbor of light, air, and privacy—a lot of the reasons people moved to the area in the first place.”

The teardown trend can have more tangible effects as well. “We’ve had Realtors tell us that living immediately next door to a McMansion reduces the market value of a home by at least $50,000 to $100,000,” she says. “We’re seeing short-term profiteering at the expense of other people, and at the expense of long-term property values in the community.”

Shelley remembers the first time she noticed that the McMansion going up next door had blocked the sunlight entering her home. It was 2004, and the Beverly Grove campaign against tear downs was already under way. An Interim Control Ordinance for the neighborhood in 2006 later proved inadequate because of “loopholes you can drive a McMansion through.”

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Ditto for the citywide Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (link), passed in 2008 (with a hillside version passed in 2011 - link). Through exemptions and design bonuses, a few provisions in the baseline ordinance actually encouraged the out-of-scale homes it was meant to prevent.

Just a few neighborhoods, including Beverly Grove, were able to close the loopholes in the baseline ordinance through the creation of Residential Floor Area (RFA) district overlays (see Beverly Grove's RFA ordinance here). Specific to each neighborhood, an RFA overlay provides a specific formula to limit the size of a house relative to the size of the lot.

“As soon as our RFA ordinance passed, we started to hear from people all over the city,” she says.

Along with residents like Shelley, the Conservancy pressed the City of L.A. to approve a plan for amending the baseline ordinance (link), which the Department of City Planning estimates will take from eighteen months to two years. “In eighteen months, thousands of houses will be lost,” says Shelley. “Thousands of McMansions will be scarring our neighborhoods, and we’ll be stuck with them for decades.”

With her neighborhood safe from further mansionization, Shelley and her neighbors continue to fight for citywide changes to the baseline ordinance. “I feel like I’m not allowed to complain unless I’m working on something,” she says. “I wasn’t ready to lay down and let the neighborhood go. And I’m not ready to lie down and let the city go. I think the developers, rightly, have their own interest at heart, and the community needs to actively work in its own best interest. These things don’t just take care of themselves.”

“This is a very dangerous time,” she says. “Developers know the City is considering some changes citywide, and they’re shoving into the pipeline everything they possibly can.

"Considering that the fix is so simple and straightforward, we’re asking everyone who cares about neighborhoods in Los Angeles to press for more timely work on this issue.”


(Mod: Nobody should ever think that this is just a Sierra Madre issue, because it is not. It is everywhere people hope to preserve their communities. Hopefully 2015 will be the year that we finally turn the corner on over-development here and return planning power to where it should be, the homeowners. It can be done.)

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

29 comments:

  1. if I lived next door to an obnoxious neighbor who built like this, I'd put an mirror art garden in my yard that reflected sunlight off multiple mirrors directly into their windows


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  2. Thanks John Crawford ....wishing you and your family a Happy New Year.
    Sure appreciate your blog.
    Happy New Year to all your readers and please everyone.......please support your local preservation group.
    Ours is PRESERVE SIERRA MADRE....
    Volunteer and or give them $$$$$. They can and will save our town.

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  3. Sierra Madre's Rose float won the Mayor's Trophy. Best city entry national or international. Sierra Madre News.net has an article up about it.

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    1. The stealth bomber flyover was impressive. Very effective alarm clock.

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    2. I got to take a tour of a stealth bomber once. From the inside you know exactly what the purpose of this plane is. The bomb bay is immense.

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    3. I am both amazed and scared watching it fly over us.

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    4. With great power comes great responsibility.

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  4. Wow Leslee Hinton ......you must be very proud

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  5. The Mayor's Trophy is one of the big ones.

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    1. The float is number 72 in the line up, close to the end of the parade.

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    2. Pretty impressive show. And did you see that on the front of one of the rail cars they wrote "Forever Young?" Classy thing to do.

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  6. “This is a very dangerous time,” she says. “Developers know the City is considering some changes citywide, and they’re shoving into the pipeline everything they possibly can."
    True there, true here.

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  7. Those who talk about property owner rights always seem to forget that people who have owned homes here for years are property owners as well. Nobody should have to take a $100,000 hit on their property values so that some out of towner can build a McMansion.

    "The teardown trend can have more tangible effects as well. 'We’ve had Realtors tell us that living immediately next door to a McMansion reduces the market value of a home by at least $50,000 to $100,000,' she says. 'We’re seeing short-term profiteering at the expense of other people, and at the expense of long-term property values in the community.'"

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    1. I don't know who would want to buy a home that was proportionate to its lot when it is next door to a Megahouse, except someone who was going to do a tear down and build another Mega. There are whole streets in Arcadia where that is exactly what has happened - ginormous structures within inches of each other in all directions.

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    2. That must be a failed Realtor, if that was true then Arcadia property should be worth nothing , instead of much more than sierra madre

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    3. Arcadia is a hotbed of the Asian Bighouse Bubble - so of course it's playing put that way there. In Sierra Madre, a small house on a large lot is ruined if these looming obese grotesqueries rise up next door.

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  8. Happy new gas tax day.
    How Sacramento passes a new tax without you knowing or without them having to be held accountable for raising your taxes. http://www.markmeuser.com/gas-tax

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    1. Just paid $1.929 for a gallon of regular. Of course, I don't live in Carbon Tax (AB32) California.

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    2. A tax not approved by the voters, to pay for high speed rail that goes nowhere and nobody wanted anyway.

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    3. Best part of the Train To Nowhere is that the cars are manufactured overseas, no jobs for Americans, whoopsie

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  9. Sorry 9:39 we voted on it . if you did not know what you were voteing for that is your falt

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    1. No, we didn't. That is the point. It was part of AB32 band SB375. Do your home work.

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    2. 10:17 you should move to Colorado. Legal Mary Jane there, it will help with your delusions. Or maybe not.

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  10. The house on the northeast corner of Santa Anita and Grandview has been sold. Big lot high above street level. It is in Sierra Madre, I think, though Google maps has it as Arcadia. If it is Sierra Madre, it'll be very interesting to see just what can be built there. If it's Arcadia, too bad for everyone because it will be a castle, given its elevation.

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    1. https://www.redfin.com/CA/Sierra-Madre/1900-Santa-Anita-Ave-91024/home/7226099

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    2. When someobody builds a house like what is pictured and what we do actually see at Camillo, its really shows a complete disregard for the neighbors and their properties and how it will impact on the neighbors. Its a sign of the times that you have to legislate good neighbor rules rather than people just being considerate of their neighbors.

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  11. Thank you to John Crawford and the Sierra Madre Tattler for all that you did for the preservation movement in Sierra Madre throughout 2014. You helped to jump-start the fledgling Save Monaster Movement which, because of the assault by developers on the entire city of Sierra Madre, morphed into what is now Preserve Sierra Madre. All that was accomplished at the Planning Commission meetings and City Council Meetings were due in no small part to the efforts of the Tattler to bring people's attention to what was starting to happen in Sierra Madre. From the building and water moratoriums to the denial of the first house at One Carter to the changes made to the General Plan, the Sierra Madre Tattler was there every step of the way. Thank you for your efforts to preserve one of the last of the foothill communities that has not been destroyed by runaway development. We couldn't have done it without you and so as we start the New Year with great challenges still ahead, all of us at Preserve Sierra Madre want to express our gratitude to John Crawford and the Sierra Madre Tattler for their support for our efforts.
    Steering Committee
    Preserve Sierra Madre

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    1. Right back at you. The slow growth movement is as strong now as it was during its heyday back during the Measure V days. These are tough and challenging times, but in some ways they are also the best of times. Many people in this community have awakened to the threats the little town of Sierra Madre is facing, and they are fighting back. What we will accomplish in 2015 will make history. Democracy in action is a beautiful thing. I am honored to know you.

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