The West Hollywood Planning Commission will be asked tomorrow night to approve design guidelines and a zoning amendment intended to stop the construction of so-called “big box” houses in the West Hollywood West neighborhood.
The City Council in April placed a moratorium on construction of new houses in the neighborhood, which is bounded by Melrose Avenue on the north, Beverly Boulevard on the south, La Cienega Boulevard on the east and Doheny Drive on the west. It consists largely of single-family or duplex buildings built in the 1920s and 1930s.
The moratorium was designed to give the city’s Community Development Department time to consider a way to address complaints by residents that developers were constructing massive houses out of character with those already existing.
Construction of the large houses began in 2010, and applications to the city for new housing permits in the area have increased sharply in recent years. The Community Development Department said that while two applications were approved in 2010 and two in 2011, eight were approved in 2012, ten in 2013, and eight were under consideration when the Council approved the moratorium in April.
The guidelines developed by the department are designed to ensure that the mass, scale and proportion of new buildings complement the existing neighborhood. They also specify that new homes should be of a unique design and not identical to others nearby. The goal, according to a report from the Community Development Department, is to preserve the eclectic character of the neighborhood’s housing.
The conditions the Community Development Department proposes include requirements that:
1) If a new building is two stories or more than 15 feet in height, the floor area of the second floor not be greater than 75 percent of the floor area of the first floor and that the front and sides of the building not be a single solid plane.
2) The roof of a building not be a single unbroken plane, but have a vertical or horizontal change of direction at least three feet long. This requirement would prevent construction of buildings whose straight horizontal rooflines make them resemble boxes.
3) Balconies on the side of a building not be larger than 80 square feet and to the rear not be larger than 144 square feet. Side balconies that are within five feet of the maximum allowed perimeter of the building must have a privacy screen. Neighborhood residents have complained that balconies on the sides and rear of some new houses seem to intrude on the privacy of their neighbors, given the relatively small size of the lots in the area.
Research by WEHOville shows many of the applications for replacing one-story houses with two-story houses have come from Beverly Hills-based real estate developers rather than residents or prospective residents of those homes. An example is DD & Co Enterprises, which is listed as the owner of 8740 Dorrington Ave., where it has demolished the existing house and has a new one under construction. David Akhtarzad , an owner of DD & Co. Enterprises, also is listed as the owner of 8830 Dorrington Ave., where permission to replace a one-story house with a two-story house has been granted. His company’s website identifies it as a real estate developer, in business since 2006, that concentrates on West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Real estate records show that its principals, who include Danniel Akhtarzad, have been involved in buying and selling dozens of houses in West Hollywood in recent years.
If approved by the Planning Commission, the guidelines will go to the City Council for final approval. The Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica.