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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Management > Social Responsibility

MacMansions Cut Back in Size in Los Angeles

Los Angeles limits the size of MacMansion remodeling in city neighborhoods.

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Coming from a childhood spent outside a small town in mid-America, I still stare in wide-eyed wonder at the big city sights in Los Angeles, my current "home town". One sight that has almost given me a tic is the side-by-side housing with no lawns, no space, no people. They remind me of ant hills...concrete walls with cavernous interiors for a couple people. Isolated people.

This week's ruling by the Los Angeles City Council points out that my impressions are not unique... but the reasons might be different for the leaders' attention and action.

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday (May 6, 2008) approved new rules to address major byproducts of the gentrification that has swept the city: limiting the size of "mansionization" additions and making it harder for developers to convert low-income housing into luxury lofts.

The rules radically limit the size of remodeled homes in the city's flatlands to about 3,000 to 4,000 square feet in most cases, curtailing what homeowners say is a plague of giant, ugly stucco boxes that are killing neighborhood character.

On the other end of the spectrum, council members voted to preserve more than 18,700 units in residential hotels, mostly in downtown, that advocates worry are in danger of being turned into luxury lofts or condominiums, leaving many of the city's poorest with nowhere to live. SOURCE: LA TIMES

In my meanderings around my city, I seldom see people in these "wealthier" neighborhoods outdoors. They don't know seem to know their neighbors, they don't participate in community events. They live in their shells: their walls, their cars and work and social shells. Hence, Americans have the reputation of spending more than 90% of their lives "indoors"...with all the increased polluted air that manmade structures bring with them.

So, while the City Council might be seeing "ugly-ification", I see lack of community and nature-fication.

While the Council sees future deterioration. I see isolation, depression, abusive and antisocial behaviors...and further disintegration of our connection with nature.

How much nature is possible with an urban backyard?

Some think very little. But I've seen thriving gardens. Feeding and interaction with birds and squirrels and butterflies. Compost piles to restore the soil. Cross pollination of flowers to understand genetics. Block parties to build a mutual support community. Wedding feasts. Children playing together...building tree houses and imaginative citiescapes bulldozed in sand boxes. And fresh flowers for the dinner table. And fresh air wafting through the windows to freshen polluted indoor air. And joy.

Part of the American Dream has been having your own house. But another very strong part has been having your own little patch of ground in which you can connect with your roots...nature's roots -- those roots that we share with all other living creatures and plants on the planet.

But that comes from a heritage of rural upbringings...and who has that anymore?

As we have become an urban society, we think of houses, and MacMansions as the great American Dream.

But a new reality seems to be setting in.

There are limits. Size does matter...in reverse.

The new law limits most homes to a square footage about half the size of the lot, plus 400 square feet for a garage. It would affect 304,000 lots in the flatlands of Los Angeles, most of the city's single-family homes.

Since the average size of a home in Los Angeles is now 1,700 square feet and many lots are between 5,000 and 6,000 square feet, city officials said most homes still have plenty of room to grow before hitting the new limits.

Councilman Tom LaBonge said he hoped to see a similar law for the city's 100,000-plus hillside homes soon.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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