“Tell me that’s not a hotel”—commissioners endorse rules to deter Bel Air megamansions

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Could the opulent megamansions of LA’s wealthiest neighborhoods soon become a thing of the past?

City officials have been cracking down on overlarge and out-of-scale single-family residences lately, with the City Council voting to update an eight-year-old mansionization ordinance earlier this month. Now, the Planning Commission has endorsed a new set of regulations that would apply to a single neighborhood—Bel Air-Beverly Crest—where residents say that megamansion development is out of control.

Commissioners voted last week to recommend the council adopt the changes, which would require single-family homes larger than 20,000 square feet to go through a review process with the planning department before receiving permits to begin construction. Homes of this size would also have to meet new grading requirements and limit construction to the hours from 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

According to a city planning report:

From 2011 to 2015 approximately 18 building permits have been issued for new single-family home development projects with 20,000 square feet or greater of residential floor area. The Bel Air – Beverly Crest community experienced the most construction activity of these type of homes with 13 of those homes being constructed during the same period.

Area residents say construction activity for such massive development projects put strain on the community and could impact public safety by blocking emergency vehicle access on Bel Air’s narrow roads.

Others decry the influx of enormous mansions, arguing that the projects should be treated as commercial, rather than residential developments.

Resident Michael Rich told commissioners that some recent projects in his neighborhood are “essentially boutique hotels.” He went on to say that “outside investors are speculating and making millions of dollars … because of a lack of restrictions.”

Another resident, Steve Twining, agreed, noting that one recently constructed house in the neighborhood has 23 bathrooms. “Tell me that’s not a hotel,” he said.

Faisal Alserri, senior planning deputy for City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who reps the area, says Koretz’s staffers have found online advertisements for homes in the area that offer up the residences as extravagant vacation rentals, event spaces, and even private casinos.

A quick Craigslist search turned up this residence, billed as a place to “fulfill all of your filming, event, and vacation rental needs.” The ad further suggests the 25-room Tuscan-style villa would be “perfect as the setting for a reality show.” But at a paltry 13,000 square feet, it actually represents the type of home that would be unaffected by the proposed ordinance.

For right now, the city is only considering applying these regulations to the Bel Air-Beverly Crest zone, but they could later be applied to other areas.

The proposed rules are part of a package of zoning guidelines known as the Hillside Construction Regulation Supplemental Use District that could eventually be used in other neighborhoods to combat mansionization and another scourge that city officials have recently been trying to address: party houses.

Alserri offered support for the ordinance, saying that it would keep new developments in line with the scale of older homes in the area. “Most people in Bel Air have—relatively—small homes,” he said.

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