Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ask the Realtor: Mansionization in L.A. and what it means for you

(Cartoon by the incomparable Ted Rall) Recently, two separate residential real estate clients have called about parcels of residential property next to or adjacent to their houses.  These parcels are either vacant land or an older, smaller home in disrepair.  They’re worried that a real estate developer will come along, buy the properties for cash and build a mansion which will then block my clients' light, their view, their neighborhood ambience.  Could this really happen? Yup.  Check out this recent article from the L.A. Times about many residents’ growing frustration.

This won’t make you feel better, but here are some rules of thumb about what can and can’t be built on residential property.  Each separate city has its own rules, though, so if you want to be certain, please check with that city’s building and planning department.

-        First, the house’s square feet can only be 35% to 45% of the lot’s square footage, not including the garage.  So a house of 3000 sf can be built on a standard 6700 sf lot.  At least it’s not a 5000 sf house (cold comfort, I know).

-     There have to be set-backs from lot lines.  Standard here is 5 feet (not enough IMO) on the sides, and 25 feet at front.

-      The design has to conform to the neighborhood character.  So while somebody could build a fake Cape Cod (the house design du jour), they can’t build a replica of the Parthenon.  (Except in Glendale. Kidding.)

- If the lot is smaller than 5,000 sf, building on it at all may not be permitted unless a variance is issued.

What to do if you’re next to a potential humongous construction project?

-     Try to make nice with the new owners before they dig.  If they are not developers and plan on staying there, perhaps they will re-scale grandiose plans.  Not likely, but it’s worth a try.

-       Go to your city’s building and/or planning department and speak with whomever is reviewing the plans (before the old house, if there is one, is torn down).

-        Buy the lot/house yourself (thanks a lot for nothing on this one, Judy).

If you’d like to investigate further, here is the link toL.A. city mansionization ordinances.

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