The Los Angeles City Council recently passed an ordinance limiting the construction of large homes in a number of Los Angeles neighborhoods:
The City Council unanimously passed the Neighborhood Conservation Interim Control Ordinance, which put a two-year ban on the size of new, single-family dwellings in some neighborhoods.
The ordinance temporarily limits the size of single-family dwellings in 15 neighborhoods: Valley Village, South Hollywood, La Brea Hancock Neighborhood, The Oaks of Los Feliz, Miracle Mile, Larchmont Heights, Lower Council District Five, Beverlywood, Inner Council District Five, Fairfax Area, Bel Air, Faircrest Heights Neighborhood, Kentwood, Mar Vista/East Venice and Old Granada Hills.
The law also puts a temporary moratorium on the issuance of building and demolition permits in five proposed Historic Preservation Overlay Zones: Sunset Square, Carthay Square, Holmby-Westwood, Oxford Square and El Sereno-Berkshire Craftsman District…
Los Angeles city planners are crafting new zoning codes for development in the city. Updated regulations are expected to be released in about 18 months.
The key in this ongoing battle is what the updated regulations look like. At the moment, this ordinance slows down large teardown houses in certain neighborhoods. Yet, it will still be difficult to balance property rights versus the wishes of the neighborhood groups in a few years.
Two other possible side effects:
1. I wonder if this will lead to teardowns and McMansions in neighborhoods outside these boundaries. While these neighborhoods are off-limits to some degree, the demand for housing doesn’t disappear.
2. What will happen to both the population and character of these protected neighborhoods in the next few years? Will there be population increases or decreases? Will builders and developers take their projects elsewhere? Will these places be held up as paragons of citizens rallying together to save something?
If you want a few visuals of the homes that cannot be built in the next few years, check out these five recently constructed homes at Curbed LA.
A recent NPR report described the changes taking place in the Anacostia neighborhood in Washington, D.C. In addition to calling Washington “Chocolate City” (setting off another line of debate), one of the residents quoted in the story is unhappy with how the neighborhood was portrayed:
Kellogg wrote that “in recent years, even areas like Anacostia — a community that was virtually all-black and more often than not poor — have seen dramatic increases in property values. The median sales price of a home east of the river — for years a no-go zone for whites and many blacks — was just under $300,000 in 2009, two to three times what it was in the mid-’90s.” After profiling one black resident who moved out, Kellogg spoke with David Garber, a “newcomer” among those who “see themselves as trailblazers fighting to preserve the integrity of historic Anacostia.”
But Garber and others didn’t like the portrayal, as even WAMU’s Anna John noted in her DCentric blog, where she headlined a post “‘Morning Edition’ Chokes On Chocolate City.”
On his own blog And Now, Anacostia, Garber wrote that the NPR story “was a dishonest portrayal of the changes that are happening in Anacostia. First, his evidence that black people are being forced out is based entirely on the story of one man who chose to buy a larger and more expensive house in PG County than one he was considering near Anacostia. Second, he attempts to prove that Anacostia is becoming ‘more vanilla’ by talking about one white person, me — and I don’t even live there anymore.”
Garber also complained that Kellogg “chose to sensationalize my move out of Anacostia” by linking it to a break-in at his home, which Garber says was unrelated to his move. Garber says Kellogg chose to repeat the “canned story” of Anacostia — which We Love D.C. bluntly calls a “quick and dirty race narrative.”
Garber continues, “White people are moving into Anacostia. So are black people. So are Asian people, Middle Eastern people, gay people, straight people, and every other mix. And good for them for believing in a neighborhood in spite of its challenges, and for meeting its hurdles head on and its new amenities with a sense of excitement.”
This seems like it could all be solved rather easily: let us just look at the data of what is happening in this neighborhood. I have not listened to the initial NPR report. But it would be fairly easy for NPR or Garber or anyone else to look up some Census figures regarding this neighborhood to see who is moving in or out. If the NPR story is built around Garber’s story (and some other anecdotal evidence), then it is lacking. If it has both the hard data but the story is one-sided or doesn’t give the complete picture, then this is a different issue. Then, we can have a conversation about whether Garber’s story is an appropriate or representative illustration or not.
Beyond the data issue, Garber also hints at another issue: a “canned story” or image of a community versus what residents experience on the ground. This is a question about the “character” of a location and the perspective of insiders (residents) and outsiders (like journalists) could differ. But both perspectives could be correct; each view has merit but has a different scope. A journalist is liable to try to place Anacostia in the larger framework of the whole city (or perhaps the whole nation) while a resident is likely working with their personal experiences and observations.
The Chicago area has experienced several proposals in recent years for mosques to be built in the suburbs. Several proposals have been in DuPage County where communities or the County have rejected plans. There is a new proposal being brought forward now for an unincorporated site near Lombard, meaning it will be under review by DuPage County:
Proclaim Truth Charitable Trust is seeking a conditional-use permit that would allow it to demolish a 65-year-old single-family house along Highland Avenue and construct a new 5,200-square-foot mosque.
Sabet Siddiqui, the group’s representative, stressed to members of DuPage County’s zoning board of appeals Thursday night that the proposed mosque would be used by about 100 families who live in the area and currently attend services in Villa Park.
“Unlike other mosques and synagogues and churches that you folks have heard in the past, this is a different scale and different scope,” Siddiqui told the board. “It’s a small neighborhood mosque.”…
Siddiqui said he believes the mosque would be “a perfect fit” for a neighborhood that already has two churches and a synagogue. He said the brick and masonry structure is designed to “match the surrounding residences as much as possible.”
Almost all the residents who attended Thursday night’s public hearing voiced support for the plan, including a representative from neighboring Congregation Etz Chaim.
In comparison to some of the other cases, it sounds like this particular proposal is experiencing a stronger welcome from residents in the neighborhood.
It would be interesting to do a study of these cases that have popped up in recent years. Do Christian churches experience the same kind of process and complaints that mosques do? How exactly do nearby residents voice concerns – it is typical NIMBY material like traffic, parking, and noise or are there broader issues brought up in the cases of the mosques? Is the support or concerns about the proposed mosques tied more to the size of the mosque or is it more about the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood?
The housing crisis of recent years is not just about foreclosures. The loss in housing value across the board means that many homeowners with mortgages owe more on those mortgages than their house is worth. This is a common occurence in the Chicago region where new data suggests one-third of homes are underwater, a rate almost ten percent higher than the national average:
Some 32.9 percent of all local single-family detached homes with mortgages were underwater in September, meaning the homeowners owed more on the loans than the properties are worth, according to new data from realty Web site Zillow.com. That compares with 30.9 percent in June and 27.2 percent in September 2009. The report does not include data on condominiums.
Nationally, 23.2 percent of homes have negative equity.
“Negative equity is going to continue to cast a pall over the housing market for the next several years,” said Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist. “All these people are trapped in their homes and can’t move onto another one and it’s throwing off more foreclosures. For people who are not going to move anytime soon, it is much more of an academic issue. For people who need to move or who encounter an economic issue, it’s a material issue.”
I haven’t seen too many people speculating about the social consequences of this. Americans in the last 60 years have been fairly mobile people but these sorts of mortgage situations limits that. This may have consequences for job markets; even if there are jobs available elsewhere, fewer people are then able to pick up relatively quickly and move. On the other hand, it may lead to increased “feelings or perceptions of neighborhood” as more residents have to stay put longer than they would have even just five years ago.