ZONING: Large houses are springing up in the four single-family neighborhoods in Santa Monica

Officials are revising development standards in Santa Monica’s single-family neighborhoods to discourage developers from replacing small homes with mansions.

In the city’s four single-family neighborhoods — Sunset Park, North of Montana, North of Wilshire and a small part of Pico — new development is typically double or triple the size of existing homes, according to the city of Santa Monica’s analysis of recent building permits. Residents have noticed the change in the character of the neighborhoods they’ve called home for decades, and they’re not happy about it.

Dozens of residents wrote letters to the city’s Planning Commission ahead of its Wednesday meeting to discuss new development standards for single-family neighborhoods. Most who wrote to the commission said they feel that existing standards have allowed developers to build houses that don’t fit into their surroundings and squeeze out middle-class residents.

“As a longtime Sunset Park resident, I am completely dismayed by the proliferation of new and under construction megamansions,” Linda Manning wrote Wednesday. “They are unsightly, monotonous, block neighbors’ views, sunlight and even airflow, and completely strip any privacy from neighbors’ houses and yards.”

Other residents, however, questioned why the city would consider downzoning single-family lots in the midst of a state housing crisis.

Eoin Gubbins, also of Sunset Park, said he thinks development standards should accommodate the changing needs of families. Children are living at home much longer because they can’t find affordable housing and grandparents often have to move in with their children for the same reason, he said.

“The state has recognized this and is actively encouraging greater density on (single-family) lots,” he wrote. “Why in 2019 would the city push for lower density to limit housing to … a single “traditional family” circa 1950?”

The Planning Commission and city staff must approve new standards that address residents’ concerns before November, when the interim zoning ordinance (IZO) for single-family neighborhoods City Council adopted last February expires.

The council passed the IZO to try to keep Santa Monica’s smaller, more affordable homes from being replaced with mansions. Permanent modifications to the city’s development standards are likely to reflect that purpose, said Commissioner Shawn Landres.

“We want to encourage remodeling rather than rebuilding homes, although we recognize there are situations where a rebuild is necessary,” he said.

The commission also plans to incentivize building accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on single-family lots, Landres said. ADUs, which can be built as standalone structures in backyards or as additions to homes, have gained popularity across California as a solution to the housing crisis.

The IZO gave homeowners the ability to build ADUs on their lots without butting up against parcel coverage limits. Landres said he wants the permanent development standards to not just facilitate ADUs, but strongly encourage them.

“That’s where, for me, the housing crisis meets the demand for multigenerational housing in Santa Monica,” Landres said. “ADUs solve both problems. The more we can produce ADUs, the better off we’re going to be.”

City staff solicited input from residents at several public meetings and the proposed standards they draft this summer will initiate further discussion from the commission, the public and City Council. But at the end of a long and complicated process, commissioners said they want to ensure the standards are as straightforward as possible and give property owners freedom to build the homes they want and need — within certain constraints.

“We want to simplify the code and make it user-friendly,” said Commissioner Leslie Lambert.



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  1. Yet , if apartment buildings can have no limits. Seems like it’s slight against affluence. Hope this doesn’t pass. Remember north of Montana basically supports the rest of Santa Monica. So glad I left that leftist city

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