Tuesday’s City Council discussion will have lasting repercussions for Santa Monica homeowners, as the Council decides whether to limit the size of new houses and the fate of the first preschool aiming to open in a neighborhood zoned for single family homes. The two separate issues have a broad impact on the character of local neighborhoods amid skyrocketing property values and an economic boom.

“Mansionization” Ordinance

The Council could decide to immediately implement an interim ordinance Tuesday that would suddenly restrict the size of new houses by twenty percent and the height by several feet. If the Council agrees with the planning department’s recommendations to limit new home height to 25 feet, the North of Montana neighborhood would lose seven feet of allowable height. In other neighborhoods, height is generally restricted to 28 feet.

The Council is responding to concerns over the “mansionization” of Santa Monica. In fact, a recent report by planning manager Jing Yeo found new homes are on average twice as big as the ones they replace.

The interim ordinance would reduce parcel coverage by 20 percent from existing standards. In the North of Montana and Sunset Park neighborhoods, maximum cumulative parcel coverage is currently 61 percent, which is allocated to a maximum 35 percent on the first floor and 26 percent on the second floor. In the Pico neighborhood, maximum parcel coverage is generally 40 percent with some exceptions for smaller plots.

All projects that have obtained a building permit, started construction or in plan check would not be subject to the interim ordinance. Still, some property owners in drafting phases are worried they will have to suddenly scrap their plans that followed the old guidelines, wasting time and money. Council could delay the applicability date of the interim ordinance to please those landowners, however, leaving a gap period to file plans could undermine the principal of the law.

Gandara neighborhood preschool

Two years after a zoning code change allowed preschools to open up in single home (R1) neighborhoods, a group of residents is fighting to keep the first one from opening up on Delaware Avenue in the Pico Neighborhood. The 20-student early childhood education center would operate out of a remodeled 1,500 square foot house near Ishihara Park. The Council has received hundreds of letters on the issue.

A neighbor, Nada Shamonki, filed the appeal to block a Conditional Use Permit for the school and says she is backed by more than 350 residents who oppose the center. Those who live in the neighborhood say it will increase traffic and infringe on their right to “quiet enjoyment” of their residential street. Other neighborhood groups object to the concept of allowing a commercial business to open in an R1 zone, even if that business is a school for toddlers and other young children.

The preschools’ founder, former teacher Laila Taslimi, says she chose the quiet neighborhood for her school because of its outdoor space, proximity to parks and the Expo Line stop at 26th/Bergamot. Taslimi says preschools are badly needed in the 90404 zip code and she is raising money for scholarships to allow low-income children to attend the private school.

The decision was initially scheduled to take place in early December, but Councilmembers delayed the hearing until the appellant could get all official documentation they requested.

 

kate@smdp.com

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