Residents of the Melrose District are concerned that developers are buying and tearing down houses and replacing them with new larger residences that are out of character with the neighborhood.
More than 50 residents came together last Sunday to protest the practice — commonly known as mansionization — in front of a newly built home on Vista Street that recently went on the market.
Peter Nichols, co-founder of the Melrose Action Neighborhood Watch, has been at the forefront of opposition to mansionization in his community, and said while he is not against responsible development or a resident’s ability to remodel their house, he doesn’t agree with developers buying up homes and replacing them with structures that are too large for the parcels.
“I think fast and furious is right. There is a house across the street from me waiting to be torn down. Another house north of my house that was torn down,” Nichols said. “There are currently seven houses in this neighborhood that have either been torn down or will be torn down.”
Mansionization is occurring in neighborhoods throughout the area. The Melrose District is the latest of many communities where residents and city officials are trying to prevent the practice of demolishing homes and building new structures that are much larger than existing buildings. Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, was previously successful in passing a city ordinance that limits the size of new residences built in the Beverly Grove District. He said the ordinance preserves the character of the neighborhood and still allows people to remodel their homes, while making there less of an incentive for developers to tear down homes.
Koretz is working to expand the rules to other neighborhoods, such as the Melrose District, through a city interim control ordinance (ICO), which the councilman said would create a moratorium on building residences that are too big for a particular parcel. Koretz added that he hopes to have an ICO approved in January, after which the city council could work on revising the city baseline mansionization ordinance to address the problem citywide.
“There is a lot of pent up demand and a lot of wealth coming to the area, and the west side of Los Angeles in general, and a lot of folks are buying and demolishing these homes and putting up homes that are 5,000 square feet and are boxy and as close to the property line as they can get,” Koretz said. “They are sometimes ugly and almost always tower over neighboring homes. Melrose is one of the areas that has been hit pretty hard.”
The councilman’s plan calls for a city ordinance that establishes a floor-to-area ratio of approximately 1.5, although the number has not been finalized. Under such a ratio, for example, an approximately 3,000 square foot home could be built on a 6,000 square foot parcel. Koretz said such an ordinance would allow people to remodel or build additions on existing houses, but would not allow for a home to be torn down and replaced by a much larger structure.
Koretz said changes to the baseline mansionization ordinance would likely take a year-and-a-half to complete. He is optimistic that he can build support among other city leaders for the change.
Nichols added that he is also optimistic about the plan, but he is doubtful the support can be generated among city leaders to enact stricter rules. He added that by the time the regulations are in place, numerous other large structures, like the new home on Vista Street, will already be built.
Isabel De Mayo, a Remax realtor representing the new home at 737 Vista St., contradicted the claims about mansionization. She said many people are supportive of the more-modern homes, particularly large families. She agreed that the practice of tearing down older homes and building new larger structures is becoming more common, and said it is driven by market factors. The home on Vista Street is listed at $2.79 million.
“There are already a lot being built and a majority of people I talk to like it,” De Mayo said. “A lot of the old houses need work and have asbestos and lead paint. People like to have a big home and like this area. The developers are working in that area, and it creates jobs. It’s beneficial for the economy.”
Another resident who declined to provide his name added that he initially thought about fighting the project, but gave up because of the potential legal costs and the time and effort that would be needed.
“I have lived here more than 50 years,” the resident said. “It is really changing the neighborhood.”
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