This is a confusing but important topic for those in the luxury home market, whether buying or selling. Read below to get my good friend Richard Blumenberg’s take on the new mansionization ordinance, as it appeared in the Palisadian-Post.
Civic League Expert Interprets the City’s New Baseline Mansionization Ordinance
By RICHARD BLUMENBERG, AIA
Special to the Palisadian-Post
The Baseline Mansionization Ordinance was established to control the development of neighborhoods and prevent the trend in which property owners and developers were tearing down the original smaller houses and replacing them with much larger structures or significantly remodeling existing properties with large-scale, two-story additions that were out-of-scale with the neighboring properties.
When the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance became effective last year, it did not affect any properties in Pacific Palisades because it did not apply to properties located in a Hillside Area or Coastal Zone. The city had previously designated Pacific Palisades as a Hillside Area without regard to the slope of its properties. Now this has changed.
On September 23 this year, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to adopt the Hillside Area Definition & Map Ordinance. It has been sent to the Mayor’s office for approval. After it has been signed, it will be posted by the City Clerk’s office for 10 days and will become effective after a mandatory 30-day waiting period.
The new Hillside Area Definition and Map Ordinance will require lots with a slope less than 15 percent (shallower than a 15-foot rise for each 100 feet of length) to be included in the jurisdiction of the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance with its restrictions OR protections’depending upon one’s point of view.
The proposed change affects 51,000 residential lots in the City of Los Angeles that are not truly hillside. (The remaining 116,052 hillside lots will be addressed by the Baseline Hillside Ordinance that is currently under development.)
This affects the area south of Marquez, most of the Huntington, part of the California Riviera and Riviera Estates Homeowners Associations, and the area west of Allenford. In addition, it will affect most of Tract 9300, governed by the Pacific Palisades Civic League, including areas north and south of Sunset, the Las Casas area, south of Sunset in the Muskingum/El Medio/Asilomar area, south of Sunset to the Via de las Olas area, and the Alphabet streets.
What does this mean to Pacific Palisades? The current code’s Floor Area Ratio (FAR) allows a building area to be three times that portion of the lot area that is within the building setbacks. The Baseline Mansionization Ordinance establishes a specific FAR to determine the maximum Residential Floor Area (RFA) for each zone, ranging from 50 percent for a small 5,000-sq.-ft. lot in the Alphabet streets to 35 percent for larger lots with an area of 15,000 sq. ft or greater. In addition, there is a cap for a maximum allowable area of 6,000 sq. ft.
To give an incentive for good design, regulations include a bonus of up to 20 percent of the maximum Residential Floor Area when the structure is articulated (the second floor is no more than 75 percent of the first floor area or a minimum of 25 percent of the building width is stepped back at least 20 percent of the building depth). For new construction only, the 20-percent bonus may be given to a structure that is in substantial compliance with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes program at the ‘Certified’ level or higher.
In addition, parts of a building that were not previously counted as area are now included. Portions of a building in excess of 100 sq. ft. with a ceiling height greater than 14 feet, will count twice the area. Any attic, or portion thereof, with a ceiling height of more than 7 feet will be counted as area. Any portion of a garage or carport larger than 400 sq. ft., and any portion of a roofed porch or breezeway greater than 250 sq. ft., will be counted as area.
A basement fully underground with its roof or floor no higher than 2 feet above the ground does not count as area. However, if the floor or roof is higher than two feet above the adjacent ground level, such as windows or doors looking out to the yard, the basement will count as area.
Detached accessory buildings no greater than 200 sq. ft., with the total a combined area 400 sq. ft., will not be counted as area. However, if a structure is greater than 200 sq. ft. the entire area is counted.
In order to address the issue of building mass from the street or neighboring properties, the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance also includes a new height provision that directly ties the maximum height of a building to the slope of the roof.
When a building has a sloped roof (25-percent slope or 3:12 pitch and greater) the height is 33 feet for R1 (5,000 sq. ft.) and RE9 (9,000 to 10,999 sq. ft.) lots, and 36 feet for lots 11,000 sq. ft. and larger. However, when a structure has a flat roof (less than 25 percent or 3:12 pitch) the maximum height is 28 feet for the smaller lots and 30 feet for the lots 11,000 sq. ft. or larger.
Any homeowners association regulations that are more restrictive than this ordinance will govern. For the smaller lots in Tract 9300, the Baseline Mansionization guidelines will produce approximately the same area as the Civic League guidelines, using different criteria for the calculations; therefore, there’s no need to modify our guidelines at this time. Other homeowner associations may see the allowable area greatly reduced.
(For the remaining hillside and coastal properties that continue to be exempt from the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, the current Civic League guidelines will guide the development within Tract 9300 just as other homeowner associations will guide development in their respective areas.)
If any neighborhood wants different area restrictions to apply, the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance includes provisions for creating Residential Floor Area Districts that allow individual neighborhoods of at least 100 acres (less than a quarter-mile radius) to establish more specific Floor Area Ratios that better protect and/or enhance the scale of development.
For the map showing the proposed new boundaries of properties that will be included in the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, visit cityplanning.lacity.org and go to Plans & Ordinances, then Proposed Ordinances, then Hillside Area Definition Amendment, and then download Current and Proposed Area Boundaries (zoomable Parcel Specific Version).
Local resident Richard Blumenberg is president of the Pacific Palisades Civic League. His office, RLB Architecture, is located at 15200 Sunset Blvd., Suite 201. Telephone: (310) 459-0244.