The City of Los Angeles is about to take another stab at limiting the size and scale of new homes. In 2008, after widespread complaints about “McMansions,” homes that were seemingly out of scale for their lot and street, the City passed the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) and the Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BHO).
The Ordinances prescribed additional rules to the existing building codes that would serve to limit the size of new home construction and remodels. The rules dictated maximum square footage for a home based on lot size. There were exemptions for things like garages, basements and covered patios, and bonuses for creating a home with certain design elements like a pitched roof or an asymmetrical front elevation. The latter was a thinly veiled attempt to encourage box-like homes that lacked the design elements familiar to southern California homes.
Since 2008, particularly in Brentwood, the BMO has resulted in the construction of more traditional-style homes, as those designs allow the builder to take advantage of the 20% bonus in square footage, thus creating a high potential resale value. Homes in Brentwood currently sell for about $900 per square foot of livable space.
Unfortunately, the BMO did not completely prevent large-scale homes from being built, at least not to the expectation of the original groups that inspired it. Councilman from several neighborhoods were urged to amend the existing BMO and close a lot of the loopholes which allowed developers to build homes larger than the ordinance may have intended.
In the meantime, and because the amendments may take months or years, the City Council has passed an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) which is a set of several basic moratoriums assigned to respective neighborhoods. These govern building until the final amendments are passed by the City Council and become part of the new BMO (and BHO).
The City is holding several town halls to hear from the public and requesting input from various homeowner associations and neighborhood councils. It is unclear of the division between those wanting strict limits versus those who want to maintain maximum home value. Limitations on what can be built will likely result in lower sale prices for homes considered to be lot value or “tear downs.” Likely, the City will attempt to strike a balance and weigh the concerns of the most passionate groups.
The Brentwood Homeowners Association, Brentwood Community Council and the Brentwood Park Homeowners Association, among others, are reviewing the amendments and polling their constituencies in order to respond before the end of the year.