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Council Adopts Mansionization Zoning Code Amendment

Published on Monday, October 19, 2020 | 6:05 pm

The City Council on Monday unanimously passed a zoning code amendment designed to address mansionization.

Under the proposed zoning amendment, applicants would be required to provide a square-footage analysis of all single-family houses (not including garages or accessory structures) within a 500-foot radius of the proposed project.

The amendment will be reviewed in one year.

Mansionization occurs when homeowners remodeling their homes create a structure that is out of scale, or ill-proportioned, or out of character with its surrounding neighborhood. Local residents have been calling for action on the issue since 2015.

“The Madison Heights Neighborhood Association(MHNA) supports Pasadena’s efforts to limit ‘Mansionization’ in our neighborhood and city,” the MHNA wrote to its members. “This sentiment was reinforced by our recent neighborhood survey in which ‘Mansionization’ was the top concern among the replies we received. In general, remodels and new construction should conform to existing neighborhood standards and not create homes that don’t fit existing standards, design, style, and architecture. Our concerns include inappropriate sizing, scale, setbacks, massing, on-site location, design, and style.”

According to a staff report on the matter, the city’s zoning code regulates development in single-family neighborhoods through the establishment of maximum heights, floor areas, and setbacks, among other development standards. Additionally, there exist further regulatory requirements throughout much of the city, including: Historic Landmark Districts; Hillside Overlay Districts; and Lower Hastings Ranch. In these areas, there is a discretionary review process and additional standards that are intended to ensure that new houses and additions to existing homes consider the existing neighborhood development pattern.

The amendment includes the adoption of neighborhood compatibility standards related to maximum floor area, the establishment of a discretionary review process for projects of a certain size, the modification of standards related to primary structure first and second story plate height requirements, modification of standards related to accessory structure finish materials and roof pitch, and establishment of design standards regarding: prohibition of unfinished concrete and architectural foam; review of new window placement relative to existing neighboring windows; the placing of story poles to demonstrate height as part of the discretionary review process; and updating the construction notification boards.
Several residents signed petitions opposing the amendment.

“We strongly oppose the zoning code amendment to Single-Family Standards — in particular, we strongly oppose the proposed restriction to limit ‘new houses to less than 35 percent above, the median floor area of houses within 500 feet.’ In short,” the petition states, “the proposed limit is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that fails to account for the unique circumstances of many neighborhoods within Pasadena and will unfairly impose extreme and unreasonable burdens on many homeowners [in particular those that own a large lot of land.]”

Serious discussions about mansionization at the city level began in 2015. It was then that the Planning and Community Development Department held citywide community meetings focused on single-family home neighborhood issues.

Other meetings were also held focusing on Lower Hastings Ranch and on Hillside Overlay District areas, which helped the department learn of neighborhood concerns about mansionization from a wider cross-section of the community.

The meetings ultimately led to the formulation of design guidelines that could eventually cover all other single-family home residential zones in the city.

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