Developers looking to go big on homes in residential areas will have to settle for going medium after City Council revised construction rules this week following accusations developers are already undermining recent efforts to rein in oversized homes.
City Council voted Tuesday to restrict remodels to no more than 55% of the total lot. New one-story homes are limited to 50% and new two-story homes to 45%.
The city is trying to incentivize remodels rather than demolish and replace projects — a trend longtime residents say is changing the character of their neighborhoods.
The council previously tried to address the problem in October of last year when the council passed several changes to single-family neighborhood zoning, limiting the height of new homes, the size of their second stories and how much of a lot they can occupy.
The vote followed a year-and-a-half-long public input process in which locals said they were being boxed in by the large houses being built around them, often by developers hoping to cash in on Santa Monica’s lucrative housing market.
Other residents, however, said limiting parcel coverage to 55% will make it difficult to remodel their homes to accommodate children or aging family members. Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day sided with those residents, casting the lone dissenting vote against the parcel coverage limits on Tuesday and in October.
Nancy Coleman, chair of the North of Montana neighborhood organization, expressed support for the measure the council approved on Tuesday and said she was concerned to learn that a local real estate company, Pence Hathorn and Silver, has been encouraging homeowners to get around the city’s parcel coverage limits by building attached accessory dwelling units. (ADUs are exempt from parcel coverage limits because the city is encouraging property owners to build them to ease the local housing shortage.)
Coleman quoted the publication from the real estate company: “Because ADUs can be built abutting the house, there is talk among homeowners and architects of designing houses with common-wall ADUs so that once the city inspectors have signed off on the completed project, the home-owner might open the connecting walls and incorporate the ADU into the house thus recapturing the “lost” footage and shhh, adding illegal square footage to the house! A clever architect or designer should not have much trouble designing such a plan.”
In response, the council voted to develop a way to enforce the parcel coverage limits. Councilmember Gleam Davis suggested an annual certification of ADUs.
“We’re as upset as members of the public are that people are already trying to evade a law we’ve just put into effect,” said Mayor Kevin McKeown.