By Connie Acosta, Plan Check NC member
Plan Check Neighborhood Council Meeting—On January 9, at LADWP headquarters, planners from the Los Angeles City Planning Department introduced a few key components of the proposed amendment to the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance.
The presenters were Associate Zoning Administrator Jae Kim and Senior City Planner Jane Choi. After providing a brief background on small lots, they covered the topics of yard setbacks, cantilevers over common access driveways, and height.
Jae Kim said that 10 years ago, the City adopted a Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance to create a new type of housing typology, “a hybrid housing type,” similar to a single family home; but, only authorized in multi-family zones where apartments and condominiums are allowed as well as in commercial zones. He emphasized that small lots are not allowed in single-family residential zones.
“They’re kind of tall and skinny, kind of stuck together, and … repetitive, similar to the Victorian brownstones that we see in Brooklyn and San Francisco,” said Mr. Kim.
Senior Planner Jane Choi added that in the last ten years about 200 small lot projects have been approved in this city and “between 2006-2012, housing units created through Small Lot Subdivisions contributed to 1% of the total number of housing units built in the City of Los Angeles,” Ms. Choi said.
The Yards Issues
“Yards are the biggest issue,” said Jae Kim.
Small lots in RD3 and Residential-3 zones will default to the zoning code requirement just like apartments and condominiums, except if a small lot sits in a commercial zone.
“The front yard of the underlying zone shall apply to the Front Lot Line across the board,” said Mr. Kim. Whereas, a 15 foot yard will be applied to the Rear Lot Line when a small lot is adjacent to a single-family R1, RA, RE, or RS zone; and, a 10 foot yard will be applied to the Rear Lot Line when a small lot is adjacent to all other zones.
In addition, Jane Choi said that a 5-foot yard is a requirement to the Side Lot Line of the subdivision, but not between the interior lot lines of the individual dwelling units. “We’re addressing this in the new ordinance,” she said.
Density, Design Standards, and Height Issues
“Density and Massing have been the objections,” said Mr. Kim.
The new ordinance allows for three small lots in a Residential Density (RD) 2, and four small lots in a Residential-3 Zone. “In a multifamily residential zone (R3), by virtue of the zone, a standard lot (50’ by 150’) can build 4 units,” he said.
The new design standards allow for roof modulation: Mr. Kim said that small lots with two or more floors will require an open deck of eight feet or a pitched roof.
As for the height of a project, “it is dictated by the height-district such as R3-1 which means you have to build up to 45 feet; small lot projects have to be built within that envelope,” said Miss Choi.
Common Access Driveway
“‘Muffin top design’ when there’s a common access driveway,” said Mr. Kim. “A Driveway functions as a private street; keep open to the sky and with no gates. Cantilever [extension of building over common access driveway] okay in the back up space,” he said. Five or more units need to provide a common access driveway of 20-foot wide minimum. Four or less units need to provide a common access driveway of 10-foot wide minimum.
Questions for Further Consideration
Some of the NC members were left with vague answers to their questions due to the time constrains of the meeting. The concerns were guest and tandem parking, open space, trash collection, and the issues of small lot communities.
Mid-City West NC, Planning and Land Use Committee member Keith Nakata said, “there are parking issues that remain unaddressed by the proposed amendment such as tandem parking.”
Meanwhile, Echo Park stakeholder David Rockello stated that garbage collection and, “the ingress and egress of vehicles need to be considered and as far away from existing homeowners as possible.”
City Planners Acknowledged NC Participation
City Planner Jae Kim encouraged the NC membership to phone or email comments and concerns to Jane Choi. “Email some addresses [of small lot subdivisions] that you have concerns with and I would like to walk through them myself,” he said.
There are 3 upcoming hearings in 3 different parts of the city where the components of the proposed amendment to the ordinance will be further discussed. “March 24 to the Valley Commission, then it will be brought before the City Council in April or May 2016,” Mr. Kim said.
The handouts that City Planning circulated at the meeting included contact numbers and emails of the presenters as well as the three upcoming hearing dates and their locations, and the small lots amendment draft.
Connie Acosta has been participating in the Neighborhood Council (NC) system since 2009; she is the vice chairwoman of the Planning and Land Use Committee of the Echo Park NC, and former secretary of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC).