A new survey of residents in Burbank, California, is trying to quantify some of this local frustration. Using images of seemingly out-of-place new houses within the city’s older neighborhoods, the online poll tries to get at both the “gut reactions” that city residents have to these “mansionized” houses and their overall willingness to create new laws to control the growth of house size.
Burbank last limited the size of new home construction in 2005, when it reduced the ratio of house square footage to total lot size, from 0.6 to 0.4. But even these new regulations allow for homes far larger than the average size across the city, according to Carol Barrett, the city’s assistant director for planning and transportation. She says the poll is designed to gauge the community’s interest in creating further size restrictions, as well as new guidelines for architectural style and building materials.
“It’s not just an issue that the houses are bigger,” Barrett says. Another important question, she explains, would be: “Is it just a giant box with some precast concrete stuck on for a little decorative design, or does it have a specific architectural character?”
All of this could be seen as largely a matter of taste. But the awkward images in the survey, of giant, Spanish-style mini-mansions dwarfing the decades-old bungalows and ranch houses next door are awfully convincing. Below are some of the most telling images from the survey, which Barrett culled from suggestions from local citizen groups like Preserve Burbank and coworkers in city hall.
I like the idea of a survey about mansionization. Here are a few thoughts on such a survey:
1. Having a decent survey response rate might be the biggest issue. Getting a representative sample from a city of just over 100,000 people is not necessarily easy. On one hand, people have more survey fatigue but, on the other hand, suburbanites tend to take threats to their neighborhoods and property values very seriously.
2. Linking people’s “gut reactions” to particular policy changes is an important step. I suspect, based on the pictures shown, people would respond fairly negatively to mansionization. But, there are a number of ways this could be addressed. It sounds like the survey asks about several policy options to limit houses; I wonder if there are a few residents who would argue for property rights (and the ability to make lots of money when selling their property).
3. The pictures included in the survey are very helpful: people need to see exactly what such houses might look like rather than imagine what might be the case. However, the particular pictures might influence responses as mansionziation can take multiple forms.
I would be really curious to see how residents respond.