The West Hollywood Planning Commission will recommend that the City Council adopt guidelines intended to halt the construction of so-called “big box” houses in the West Hollywood West neighborhood.
The guidelines, developed by the city’s Community Development Department and Page & Trumbull, a consulting firm, are designed to ensure that the mass, scale and proportion of new buildings or major additions to existing buildings in the neighborhood complement those of existing houses. The goal, according to the department, is to preserve the eclectic character of the neighborhood’s housing. The guidelines will apply only to West Hollywood West.
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.
The commission agreed to recommend one modification to the proposed guidelines. That modification would have a proposed requirement that hedges on the front of a lot be set back at least 18 inches from the property edge make part of the area’s zoning code rather than a guideline. The guidelines, if approved by the Council, will not apply to projects currently under construction or that already have been approved by the city.
The guidelines were approved in a four to one vote, with Commission Marc Yeber voting “no.” While Yeber expressed his support for the intent of the guidelines, he said some parts of it were vague and possibly contradictory. He asked that the Commission ask the City Council to extend the development moratorium for two more months so that city staffers and the consultant could clarify the guidelines. Commissioner Donald DeLuccio was absent from the meeting.
The guidelines included the following provisions:
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.