As a way of opening up more dialogue and accessing expertise, Culver City Crossroads.com is offering a new column called “Local Pol.” We will have a rotation of former elected officials taking on topics that are currently of interest to the community. This week, we have former mayor Andy Weissman reflecting on the issue of mansionization.
The issue of residential infill development, or mansionization – the building of houses that are out of scale and character with a neighborhood – is not unique to Culver City. Established communities across the country and those surrounding Culver City are experiencing similar development problems as builders and property owners use every last bit of land and build large houses.
I am not in favor of the practice of building the largest possible size of home.
I do not support demolishing smaller, older houses in neighborhoods and replacing them with new ones that occupy the maximum amount of lot space available. Remodels that result in residences much larger in comparison to the surrounding dwellings, can change the character of neighborhoods.
As with most policy issues, it is a matter of reasonableness and balance.
The City has the right to control what can be built on the land adjacent to another’s property, but is it reasonable for people to expect that the neighborhood must remain exactly as it was the day they bought their house?
Reasonable development needs to be permitted. Property rights on either side of the issue are not absolute. Where do we draw the line? How big is big?
Zoning ordinances have always been used to express the nature and limitations of the property rights people acquire when they take ownership of a piece of real estate. Among other things, these ordinances set forth prohibited activities, height limitations, and mandatory setbacks.
How exactly do we respond to concerns about building size, building height, privacy rights, changing the character of neighborhoods?
Where do we strike the appropriate balance?
We need to respect the character of our neighborhoods.
But we also need to recognize and respect that throughout Culver City, there does exist housing stock that is not designed in a manner that is practical or desirable to homeowners. Adult children, grandchildren, parents are moving in with other family members. A house may need a bedroom, a family room or another bathroom. Homeowners, sellers and buyers alike need flexibility in redesigning a home to meet their own physical and aesthetic preferences.
The previous council (of which I was a member) took steps to restrict the practice of building the largest possible size of home on a lot by establishing more restrictive building design standards for “oversized” single family residences for use throughout the City.
More remains to be done and the process is continuing. The City Council directed staff and the planning commission to continue the community dialogue and to seek community support in the process of establishing more restrictive building design standards for “oversized” single-family residences, in order to reduce building mass, create building articulation and building step backs, sometimes referred to as tiering, to respect privacy and to promote neighborhood compatibility.
I look forward to this dialogue.