2014 Annual Online Survey

[Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter, November 2014:]


Miracle Mile Residential Association
2014 Annual Online Survey

Click on map to enlarge.
In November 2013, the MMRA launched its first online survey of Miracle Mile residents to gain a better understanding of your attitudes and opinions on central issues, such as traffic and development. Last year’s poll had 114 respondents; the results can be reviewed here.

The 2014 annual survey repeats many of the key questions asked in last year’s survey, which will indicate how opinions have shifted (or not) in the past 12 months. While hardly a scientific survey, the poll provides a “snapshot” of the community and helps guide the MMRA in prioritizing our efforts. The Miracle Mile Residential Association is a consensus driven organization and polling helps to ensure that the actions of the MMRA reflect the will of the residents we represent.

The MMRA also uses more targeted polls to gauge opinions on single topic issues. Both the “MMRA Mansionization-RFA-HPOZ” and “LACMA Bridge Over Wilshire” surveys are still open. You can participate in those polls or view the results in the links below.

The annual poll is not just for residents living within the boundaries of the MMRA [see map above], we are also interested in how residents in neighboring areas feel, too. The survey will remain open until December 31, 2014. The results of the annual survey will be featured in the January 2015 newsletter.

We utilize SurveyMonkey for our polls; it is a secure and simple way to gather your input. Participation is completely anonymous and your honesty is welcomed. So, please take a few minutes to complete the poll – there are 60 questions with opportunities to make specific comments. And you can skip over the questions that don’t interest or apply to you.


2014 Miracle Mile Residential Association Annual Online Survey

Participate in the survey


MMRA Mansionization-RFA-HPOZ Survey (May 2014)

Participate in the survey
View the results


LACMA Bridge Over Wilshire Survey (July 2014)

Participate in the survey
View the results


Proposed Ban on Single Family Home Demolitions Includes Miracle Mile

 

Proposed Ban on Single Family Home
Demolitions Includes Miracle Mile

A tidal wave of complaints about mansionization – and the inability of the existing Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO] to stop the spread of McMansions – has prompted the City Council to propose a stopgap measure to protect neighborhoods under attack. A plan presented October 7th at the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee would impose temporary restrictions to stop or limit demolitions in areas with pending applications for either a Reduced Floor Area District [RFA] or Historic Protection Overlay Zone [HPOZ].

The Miracle Mile Residential Association submitted a request to create a RFA to Councilmember Tom LaBonge on September 13th. LaBonge appeared at the City Council committee to place the Miracle Mile on the list of neighborhoods to be included in the proposed Interim Control Ordinance [ICO].

The ICO – which is still to be finalized before being brought to a vote of the full City Council – would prohibit all single-family home demolitions while allowing only interior remodels that retain all exterior walls and roofs orfeature a less restrictive option that could allow complete demolitions but limit new structures to 120% of the size of the previously legally existing structure. Either measure would effectively stop mansionization, but MMRA President James O’Sullivan and Vice President Ken Hixon informed the committee that the MMRA preferred the first option prohibiting single-family home demolitions entirely.

Nearby areas to be included on the list of protected neighborhoods are La Brea-Hancock and North Beverly Grove, which – like the Miracle Mile – are seeking RFA status, and Carthay Square, which has been waiting nearly four years for approval of its HPOZ. Staffing cuts to the Department of City Planning have created a logjam of pending RFAs and HPOZs. Developers have been exploiting this backlog to quickly build McMansions before protections are officially implemented.

An ICO is a temporary ordinance that is renewable in six-month increments for up to two years. It would stop mansionization in the most vulnerable areas and give the city time to reform the BMO and tighten zoning rules so that neighborhoods could have more say about the density and scale of new home construction and remodeling.

The ICO would protect the Miracle Mile while our RFA is developed and HPOZ protection is pursued. The proposed ICO clearly has the support of the entire City Council and it is anticipated that it will be approved and implemented by the end of the year.

For additional information:

Los Angeles Times: Tighter L.A. ‘Mansionization’ Rules Coming Too Slowly, Critics Say

MMRA Request for Reduced Floor Area District, Sept. 13, 2014

MMRA Newsletter, September 2014: MMRA Pursues “Reduced Floor Area District” for R-1 Zoned Properties in Miracle Mile”

Los Angeles Times [Editorial]: L.A. is Bogged Down in Trying to Save Its Historic Structures

Los Angeles Times [Steve Lopez]: L.A. Should Act Quickly to Close Loopholes in Mansionization Ordinance

MMRA Pursues “Reduced Floor Area District”

[Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.]

 

MMRA Pursues “Reduced Floor Area District”

for R-1 Zoned Properties in the Miracle Mile

On September 4, 2014 the Miracle Mile Residential Association’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a motion in support of seeking Reduced Floor Area [RFA] District status for R-1 zoned properties in the Miracle Mile. On behalf of the board, MMRA President James O’Sullivan sent a letter to District 4 Councilmember Tom LaBonge formally requesting that he introduce a motion directing the Department of City Planning to draft a RFA overlay for the Miracle Mile limiting the base Floor Area Ratio to 0.42, increasing the side-yard setbacks of two-story homes and eliminating exemptions for over-height entries, balconies, covered porches, and attached garages.


The construction of a “McMansion” at 808 South Ridgeley [right] has galvanized the community to take this action. The implementation of a RFA would plug loopholes in the existing Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO] and stop the construction of additional “super-sized” homes. A RFA would also serve as a stopgap measure to preserve the scale of our neighborhood while the community continues to do the consensus building required to create a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone [HPOZ] that would protect the traditional design and fabric of the Miracle Mile.The MMRA had hoped that recent efforts to reform the BMO would make this step unnecessary, but there is no relief in sight. The Miracle Mile is surrounded by HPOZs and by other neighborhoods that have already secured or are actively pursuing RFA status thwarting mansionization. It is apparent – given our lack of RFA and/or HPOZ status – that the Miracle Mile has become an easy and obvious target for developers of McMansions.A Reduced Floor Area District [see map] would limit the square footage for new construction and the remodeling of existing homes. It would only apply to single-family homes that are zoned R-1. Details of the proposed ordinance are contained in the letter the MMRA sent to Councilmember LaBonge [click here to read letter].

 

Click on map to enlarge.

 

Once the Department of City Planning launches the process of drafting a RFA overlay for the Miracle Mile they will hold a series of public hearings and workshops to garner community input. Although less time consuming and complex than creating an HPOZ, a RFA could take as long as a year (or more) to implement due to budget cuts and staffing shortages at the Department of City Planning – and the fact that the department is being deluged by new RFA applications from communities across the City that are desperate to stop mansionization. In Council District 4 alone there are already four RFAs waiting for action – the Miracle Mile would be the fifth RFA in this holding pattern.

It is a sad commentary on the state of our City that our leaders lack the political will to reform the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance in order to protect our historic and traditional neighborhoods from the intrusion of mansionization – and that residents must resort to creating RFA Districts to stop what the BMO was expressly intended to prevent. But it is very clear that our residents are ready to take any and all actions necessary to protect the quality of life in the Miracle Mile.

For additional information:

MMRA Declares War on McMansions!

Los Angeles Times Finally Starts to Report on the Mansionization Story

Preliminary Results of the Mansionization-HPOZ-RFA Survey

Mansionization Threatens Miracle Mile

MMRA Declares War on McMansions!

MMRA DECLARES
WAR
ON McMANSIONS!

The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] has launched a three-front battle to stop mansionization. The Miracle Mile has become an easy target for builders of McMansions due to the fact that surrounding neighborhoods have successfully thwarted such development by becoming Historical Protection Overlay Zones [HPOZ] or Reduced Floor Area Districts [RFA].

A “super-sized” home under construction at 808 South Ridgeley Drive has galvanized the community [see “before” and “after” photos above]. Such development presents a clear threat to the historic fabric, scale, and livability of the Miracle Mile. After consulting with residents, real estate professionals, and other land use experts, the MMRA Board of Directors has concluded that, indeed, the Miracle Mile is a prime target for speculators looking to make a fast buck by demolishing older homes and replacing them with McMansions. Immediate action is critical to protect our community.

Because of the urgency and fluidity of this situation, the MMRA Board of Directors has developed a three-pronged effort to stop mansionization in the Miracle Mile:

Reform the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO]: 

The City adopted the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO] in 2008 to prevent McMansions, but developers have skillfully exploited loopholes in the ordinance to circumvent restrictions on height and square footage. This resulted in a surge of mansionization in the Beverly Grove and La Brea/Hancock areas. Desperate to stop the destruction of their neighborhoods, these communities pursued becoming Reduced Floor Area Districts [RFA] to plug the many loopholes in the BMO.

Homeowner and residential associations, as well as other community organizations, have recently increased the pressure on the City Council to fix the BMO so that RFAs would not be needed to stop mansionization. Having an ever-growing number of RFAs created throughout L.A. would strain the already threadbare resources of the Department of City Planning. Reforming the BMO would protect Los Angeles neighborhoods and save the taxpayers money.

The MMRA has been lobbying City Hall to enact speedy reform of the BMO. The City Council Planning and Land Use Management [PLUM] Committee held a public hearing this month that attracted a large showing of community representatives clamoring for revisions to the BMO. The PLUM Committee gave the Department of City Planning a month to come back with suggestions on how to change the ordinance.

The MMRA is closely monitoring the actions of the PLUM Committee and will continue to exert pressure to eliminate the loopholes in the BMO.

Creating a Reduced Floor Area District [RFA] in the Miracle Mile:

Should the City Council falter or fail to eliminate all of the loopholes in the BMO, it is the consensus of the MMRA Board of Directors that the Miracle Mile should immediately seek the protections of RFA status. A Residential Floor Area Overlay district [RFA] is a zoning tool available for single-family residential neighborhoods to tailor citywide size and height development regulations to the particular needs of the community.

At its next meeting on September 4, 2014, the MMRA board will assess whether sufficient progress has been made by the City Council to reform the BMO. If – at that time – there is no evidence of movement towards substantial reform of the BMO, the MMRA will launch an outreach and petition campaign to create the Miracle Mile Reduced Floor Area District. The MMRA would pursue the same regulations contained within the Beverly Grove RFA, which was instituted in October 2013. [Click here to read the Beverly Grove RFA.]

An RFA can be created in much less time than an HPOZ – and time is of the essence in stopping mansionization. Hopefully, reform of the BMO will make this step unnecessary.

Creation the Miracle Mile Historical Protection Overlay Zone [HPOZ]:

The Miracle Mile is currently being subjected to a tidal wave of new development – mansionization is just one aspect of the many threats our community confronts. The MMRA created an HPOZ Committee last May to explore HPOZ protection for the Miracle Mile. The committee was instructed to do fact-finding, seek the input of residents and property owners, and report on how an HPOZ might be designed and implemented.

Although the committee’s work is in the preliminary stages, it is already apparent that an HPOZ is the only means available to ensure the historic continuity, appearance, and scale of our community. An HPOZ would help to level the playing field that is heavily weighted in favor of real estate speculators and developers – and the politicians who depend on their campaign contributions.

The push for an HPOZ has just begun in the Miracle Mile and it could take anywhere from two-to-four years to complete the intricate process of creating an HPOZ.  So, although an HPOZ would be the most effective way to stop mansionization – as well as institute design standards that would preserve the fabric of our neighborhood – it is not a “quick fix.”

Reform of the BMO and/or the creation of a RFA would stop mansionization and buy the community time to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of an HPOZ. Mansionization must be stopped now – or there will be even less to preserve.

For additional information:

MMRA Newsletter [May 2014]:
Mansionization Threatens Miracle Mile

MMRA Newsletter [July 2014]:
Los Angeles Times Finally Starts to Report on Mansionization Story

 What’s your opinion? 

Miracle Mile Residential Association launched an online survey last May to solicit residents’ opinions regarding mansionization and the creation of an Historical Preservation Overlay Zone [HPOZ] and/or Reduced Floor Area District [RFA].

Take the “Mansionization–RFA–HPOZ” Survey

Read the survey results…

•••

Mansionization–RFA–HPOZ Survey

Mansionization–RFA–HPOZ Survey

Click on map to enlarge.

The mandate of the MMRA board of directors is to represent the will of our residents. Good communication between the board and the residents is critical to this mission. Although informal and far from scientifically accurate, surveys help the board gauge the general opinions and attitudes of the community. 

Topics like mansionization, Reduced Floor Area Districts, and Historic Protection Overlay Zones can provoke strong and often heated responses. Even though we are very early in the exploratory stages of what our response should be – or should not be – to mansionization, we felt that we should emphasize that this will be a two-way conversation between the board and the residents from the start.

So, please, take a few minutes to complete this survey – there are only 17 questions and you will also have the opportunity to make general comments. All MMRA residents, property owners and renters, may participate [see map above to determine whether you live or own property within our boundaries].

We utilize SurveyMonkey for our polls; it is a secure and simple way to gather your input. Poll participants are completly anonymous and your honesty is welcomed. Just click on this link:

Mansionization-RFA-HPOZ Survey

 

Mansionization Threatens Miracle Mile

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Mansionization Threatens Miracle Mile

MMRA Board Creates an HPOZ Committee
And Considers Other Options

Mansionization is very much in the news these days [see links below]. The issue is especially relevant to the residents of South Ridgeley Drive where a circa-1920s home was sold and then quickly demolished to make way for construction of what appears to be a much larger residence that will overwhelm the existing houses.

In a recent front page article the Los Angeles Times reported that “…as the housing market rebounds and construction picks up, many homeowners complain that “mansionization” has revved up — reigniting long-standing policy battles and sometimes bitter fence fights over the face and feel of L.A.’s neighborhoods.”

The Baseline Mansionization Ordinance [BMO] passed in 2008 was aimed at stopping “super-sized” home construction in L.A. But developers have been able to easily exploit loopholes in the ordinance by manipulating bonuses for environmentally friendly construction techniques or excluding up to 400 square feet for a garage from the overall limits on floor space. These and other “tricks of the trade” have nullified the purpose of the ordinance: to preserve the character and protect the scale of well-established residential neighborhoods.

Last year the Beverly Grove community, which has been a battleground over McMansions, succeeded in creating a “Restricted Floor Area District” [RFA] to plug the loopholes in the BMO. An RFA limits the maximum base floor area ratio and related bonuses for new construction and remodeling of existing homes.

Since the passage of the BMO in 2008, 58 out of 690 single-family homes in the Beverly Grove area have either been demolished or remodeled in a manner that was out of scale and character with the neighborhood [photo right]. Fifth District Councilman Paul Kortez, in a letter supporting the RFA, wrote: “A large bulky home towering over an adjacent modest historic home can result in a loss of sunlight and privacy as well as a reduction in appeal and property values.”

The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] believes that the simplest and fastest remedy to this problem is for the city council to eliminate the obvious loopholes in the existing Baseline Mansionization Ordinance. But well-heeled real estate investors and developers have a vested interest in thwarting or delaying such action. So far, they seem to have the upper hand and communities like the Miracle Mile are left without a ready defense against mansionization.

This is why the MMRA is evaluating the only other options available: the creation of either a RFA or a Historic Protection Overlay District [HPOZ].  Both of these options have their advantages and disadvantages and neither would offer a quick solution to this problem.

At the May 2, 2014 MMRA board of directors meeting a motion was unanimously approved to create a committee to explore HPOZ protection for the Miracle Mile. The committee was instructed to do fact-finding, seek the input of residents and property owners, and report on how a HPOZ might be designed and implemented.

The MMRA board was briefed by Michelle Levy, head of the HPOZ unit at the Los Angeles Department of Planning, on what is involved with creating an HPOZ and what protections it provides to a community. The city has 30 HPOZ zones with an additional 16 neighborhoods at different points in the process of seeking HPOZ status.

Unfortunately, because of staffing cutbacks to the Planning Department, approval of new HPOZs are in limbo. Just this week the Los Angeles Timeseditorialized that because of mansionization the city council “needs to fund these positions or run the risk that some of those aspiring historic districts won’t have enough historic properties left to qualify.”

Levy explained that the first step in becoming a historic district is to establish the boundaries of the proposed area. An HPOZ adds historic development standards strictly dealing with design to the existing zoning regulations, whether it be a single family, multiple family, or commercial zone. These standards require that any alteration to the façade of a historic property would be subject to review for conformance with the adopted preservation plan. The preservation plan is developed by the community to establish the guidelines for how properties within its boundaries can be altered and/or developed. The overall goal of an HPOZ is to preserve historic buildings and prevent mansionization and other new development that is incompatible with the surrounding properties.

Levy stressed that outreach to property owners is critical to establish whether or not there is consensus to create an HPOZ. Widespread support will be needed as the community usually funds the expense of having a block-by-block historic field survey performed to identify “contributing” and “non-contributing” structures, which determines whether a particular building is subject to the full weight of the preservation plan or not. The historic survey is a very important component and informs the foundation of the historic district. The City is looking for 60 to 75 percent “contributing” structures [intact historical properties] within the HPOZ.

By its very nature the creation and implementation of an HPOZ is an exacting and complicated process. We encourage residents to review the links below to educate themselves on the subject.

Obviously, mansionization is a controversial matter – as is creating either an RFA or HPOZ to combat it. The MMRA is a consensus-based organization. We are committed to effective outreach whether it be via this newsletter, our website, door-to-door canvassing, or informal surveys [see below]. We welcome your input and participation in the discussion regarding the pros and cons of implementing a RFA or HPOZ in the Miracle Mile. You can contact the Executive Committee or HPOZ Committee at:

info@MiracleMileLA.com.

Photo credits: Top, Adrian Scott Fine, courtesy of the Los Angeles Conservancy; middle: Aaron Blevins, courtesy of the Park La Brea News/Beverly Press; bottom: courtesy of Office of Historic Resources, City of Los Angeles.

News media links:

Los Angeles Times: Return of ‘mansionization’ has some L.A. homeowners grumbling

Los Angeles Times: L.A. is bogged down in trying to save its historic structures

Los Angeles Times: What McMansions say about Americans

Baseline Mansionization Ordinance links:

Los Angeles Department of City Planning: Baseline Mansionization Ordinance Summary

CityWatchLA.com: L.A. Mansionization: the More You Stir It, the More It Stinks

CityWatchLA.com: It’s Time to Fix the Citywide Ordinance Intended to Stop the Mansionization in L.A.

Reduced Floor Area District links:

Beverly Grove Reduced Floor Area District Ordinance

CityWatchLA.com: Koretz Gets Formal Request to End North Beverly Grove Mansionization

CityWatchLA.com: One More L.A. Neighborhood On the Verge of Being Saved from Mansionization

Historical Protection Overlay Zone links:

Los Angeles Department of City Planning: HPOZ Brochure and Historic Rehabilitation Guide

PreserveLA.com: FAQ: Los Angeles HPOZs