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Q: Is City Hall finally taking on the mansionization of Los Angeles Neighborhoods?

McMansions Fight

LA's McMansions Fight—Dick Platkin

A: It depends on you.

Reform has finally started on the LA’s failed Baseline Mansionization Ordinance and Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BMO/BHO). The Planning Department has recently published its draft amendments and already held two public workshops.

To read the full draft, click on this link (BMO/BHO Draft Amendments), or go to the web page of the city’s Office of Historic Resources, select Updates, and then BMO/BHO Draft Amendments.

The Timetable

The Planning Department is aiming for City Council adoption of the mansionization amendments in late summer 2016, following public workshops, environmental review, public comment, a staff report, and public hearings before the City Planning Commission and the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM).

The first step is a series of public outreach meetings now underway in different parts of Los Angeles.

The two remaining outreach meetings are coming up fast:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015, 7 - 9 PM
Ronald F. Deaton Civic Auditorium,
100 W First Street, Los Angeles
(Corner of Main Street & West First)

Wednesday, December 16, 7 – 9 PM
Van Nuys Marvin Braude Constituent Center, Conference Rooms 1a and b
6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Los Angeles

Below you will find a summary of the draft amendments, a position statement, and sample emails and talking points.

For background info, contact info, a point-by-point pushback against mansionizers’ bogus arguments, a link to the draft amendments, or info on yard signs please go here.

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The city’s draft amendments stick close to Councilmember Koretz’s original Council Motion, although they weaken it by retaining two loopholes. On the positive side they eliminate the amendments eliminate the 400 square foot freebie for attached garages. But, on the negative side they retain one bonus and one exemption, despite the City Council’s clear direction to remove all loopholes that contribute to mansionization.


Position of No More McMansions in Los Angeles

  •  Completely eliminate the exemption for semi-enclosed patios, breezeways, and balconies.
  • The 20 percent by-right “proportional stories” bonus should also be eliminated. If retained in any form, similar to all other “discretionary” processes that increase the size of a project, the Planning Department should review applications for this bonus through a properly noticed public hearing, followed by an appealable determination.
  • Eliminate the 10 percent Zoning Administrator “adjustment.”
  • The BMO amendments will take effect before the ICOs. Confirm that once the amendments are adopted, ICO and RFA neighborhoods will be subject to either their overlay ordinance or the BMO/BHO, whichever ordinance is more restrictive.

The game plan: Show up and speak up!

  • Rally your neighbors.
  • Ask your Council office, homeowners’ association, residents’ association, and/or neighborhood council to speak out for meaningful reform of the two mansionization ordinances.
  • Go to the remaining public outreach meetings on December 15 and 16, 2015.
  • Follow up with comments of support to Council Office and City Planning
  • E-mails: Subject line should include: BMO/BHO Amendments, CF #14-0656

Distribution should include Hagu Solomon-Cary (

 Important talking and writing points

The city’s Baseline Mansionization Ordinance and Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BMO/BHO) failed. As a result, mansionization is ruining neighborhoods all over Los Angeles. Now the Planning Department has proposed important amendments to these two ordinances. This time, however, City Planning needs to get it completely right, not – as before – still permit McMansions through remaining backdoor loopholes.

Mansionization eliminates affordable single-family neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The speculators target smaller, affordable houses and replace them with McMansions that are, on average, three times the size and price. They are now eliminating about 2000 such affordable houses per year, and this will continue until it is finally stopped.

Uncovered (or “lattice roof” patios, breezeways, and balconies are not counted as floor space. This is just the kind of loophole that turns houses into McMansions. With or without a roof, these spaces add bulk. We need to totally close this exemption and count all such structures as floor space.

The “proportional stories” bonus should go. If retained in any form, it should no longer be awarded by-right, but should become a discretionary entitlement handled by City Planning. The City Council directive to City Planning was clear that any bonus that promoted mansionization should go, and this bonus can add 600 square feet to the size of a house. In some cases this might be warranted, but it needs to be considered by City Planning through a public hearing that results in an appealable written determination. The case for the increasing the size of a house must be spelled out in detail, not awarded in secret by the Department of Building and Safety.

[dc]“A[/dc]djustments” of 10 percent can be granted by Zoning Administrators behind closed doors. The city already has a process for variances, and now it is also creating many zoning tools tailored to the needs of individual neighborhoods. We do not need additional “adjustments” that increase the size of houses.

Dick Platkin

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