Draft Mansionization Regulations Go Before Planning Commission for Review, Input

Published : Tuesday, July 24, 2018 | 5:19 AM

A draft of proposed zoning code revisions designed to prevent “mansionization” will be delivered to the Planning Commission on Wednesday for its input as the changes wind their way.

The “mansionization” effect, which is building homes over-sized or incompatible in design (or both) for a neighborhood, has been much-debated over the past five years in the city as property values have risen in areas with smaller, older homes.

Pasadena’s Planning Commission will be briefed Wednesday, July 25, about new guidelines prepared by the Department of Planning and Community Development that would lead to revisions in development standards in the Zoning Code to address the phenomenon.

The Planning Department was previously directed to study how Zoning Code standards governing single-family residences could be revised so any new construction, or renovations of existing residences, would remain to be compatible with their surroundings.

Being compatible means the new construction or renovation should be of an appropriate scale and massing that would not be too much in contrast with existing homes in the neighborhood, and any new accessories would be located and designed in such a way as not to dominate the appearance of the dwelling on the street, according to the draft guidelines that will be presented before the Planning Commission.

The revision of the development standards was done initially in three phases to address the Lower Hastings Ranch (Phase 1), non-historic non-hillside properties (Phase 2), and the Hillsides Overlay Districts in Pasadena (Phase 2), the planning department said in a staff report for the Planning Commission.

In previous discussions at the City Council and public hearings conducted by the Planning Department, members of the community expressed their concerns about the potential for “mansionization” in Pasadena’s single-family residential neighborhoods, as new houses were being built or significantly remodeled. The concerns have centered on potentially inappropriate size, scale, massing, on-site location, design and style.

The local nonprofit Pasadena Heritage has been particularly vocal about these concerns. In January, the group’s Executive Director Sue Mossman said the community must look at new projects and see how they impact the historic character of Pasadena’s residential neighborhood.

“New development continues at an aggressive pace,” Mossman said. “It seems that every other day, there’s a project that we need to look at, review and see if we’re concerned about. It’s kind of a constant challenge and people keep telling me these things are cyclical, but I don’t see any slacking in the pace of new development.”

Pasadena Heritage last year launched Participate Pasadena, a community outreach initiative to encourage residents to directly contribute input about Pasadena’s built environment. Discussions that followed led to more expressions of new houses being oversized and neighborhoods being overdeveloped such that they become obviously out of place with their surroundings.

Mossman said a continued spike in development, neighborhood “mansionization,” and the fallout from the now-dead 710 freeway tunnel project are top issues the organization would be monitoring.

The new draft guidelines on building or renovating single-family residences consist of about 25 pages of detailed explanations about what constitutes “mansionization” including photographs and illustrations.

The draft will be presented as an information-only item in the Planning Commission’s Agenda and will be the subject of future discussions, including public hearings, before the Commission endorses an updated draft to the City Council.

The Planning Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. at City Council chambers, Room S249 at City Hall.

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