What's happening now

Formerly the home of Beaumont-Wilshire Neighbors for Responsible Growth, the Portland Land Matters blog explores citywide land-use concerns, such as home demolitions, with the belief that development should create an improvement.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sun starts to set on McMansions

One home allows light and
privacy for neighbors;
the other doesn't.
Los Angeles—a city not known for its land-use planning or curbing excesses—has enacted "immediate laws that restrict the size of dwellings in 14 neighborhoods." Full story here. Noting the effects of oversize construction on neighborhood character and the unequal distribution of benefit from that style of development, the story describes the neighborhood associations' (OK, councils') role in shaping the groundswell of opinion that prompted action from city leaders.

It's similar to how United Neighborhoods for Reform is building consensus for change through its demolition/development resolution, now making the rounds and gathering endorsements at neighborhood association meetings all over Portland.

Interestingly, many of the Los Angeles developers of the oversize homes were using a loophole designed to encourage "green" building features to build big even though studies, such as one by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, have found that living smaller is more environmental. You can drive a Prius all you want, but if your house is huge, never mind. (And if that house replaced another modest-size one built of quality materials decades ago, it's said that carbon debt can never be recouped.)

There are those, even in Portland, who might say the city has no right to tell property owners what to do with their land. However, reams of city code already tell landowners what they can or can't do, but none of it protects unique affordable housing and previous investors in the neighborhood, i.e., the people already living there and who probably worked hard to improve their properties and neighborhoods only to see them exploited by those who build, cash in, and run, leaving problems behind. As one of the neighborhood leaders in L.A. said, "You drop one of these giant houses in, and it just changes the entire character of the neighborhood."

On a walkabout of the neighborhood recently, I took pictures of a couple of the newer homes. After the paint fades a few years on, the quality of the wood—if it is wood—becomes clear (above left), as does the chilling effect of the homes' size and the blank, expansive walls presented to the neighborhood.

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