The Mansionization Debate Rages On
Residents Continue to Pressure City
October 1, 2015
By Lynne Bronstein
The problem of extra-large houses being built on lots too small for them and too small in relation to other structures in the neighborhood-what has been dubbed "mansionization"- continues to be a contentious issue for some residents of Culver City.
Since residents of the Carlson Park area spoke before the City Council at several meetings this past spring, the city has been holding study sessions at Planning Commission meetings. There have been three study sessions to date.
Anti-mansionization activists have also been showing up at council meetings to speak in favor of a moratorium on new building in Culver City. Moratoriums have been passed in a number of other California cities.
Iain Gulin, who has been organizing many of the meetings by anti-mansionization activists, was among the speakers at the September 14 council meeting. He told the council that in his opinion, the planning commissioners were not proceeding with the process in an efficient way and that "outside consultants" ought to do the study.
Gulin and other speakers also commented that the Planning Commission was taking too long to release information but otherwise seemed to be rushing through the issue.
Mayor Mehaul O' Leary said "I don't understand" how the Planning Commission could be both too fast and too slow in its work on the mansionization issue.
Meghan Sahli-Wells added that the council is receiving memos about what is going on at the study sessions. She did note that the information should be made available to the public "so they can get information as timely as the council is getting it."
Gulin also presented the council with a chart showing how the five commissioners stand on the recommendations for alleviating the problem of oversized houses.
Most of the commissioners approved of the concept of a "flexible approach-not one size fits all." Three commissioners approved of "increased building setbacks and side yards," three (not the same three) approved of "incentives to reduce building size." Only one commissioner approved of "prevailing street frontage setback." Four out of five commissioners were opposed to a moratorium.
The Planning Commission has included written comments in its study session reports. While there are some letters that favor restrictions on size of new homes, Gulin criticized the staff reports for using mostly letters that supported building larger homes. The selection of letters, he noted, lacked diversity in sampling the opinions of residents.
"[T]he Planning Staff also released the most recent data on permits to build homes over 3,000 s.f.(square feet) in Culver City," said Gulin. "Not surprisingly, the number has skyrocketed. Of all the permits requested in 2015 alone, most came in the last three months, meaning there are a lot of homes planned that have not yet even started construction."
Gulin is calling on residents to "keep the pressure" on the city and the council to do what he terms "a proper study" as well as "a temporary halt on very large homes in plan check/permitting."
The Planning Commission can "only make recommendations," Gulin reminds people. It is the city government that can make changes to the building codes to prevent oversized homes being built.