September 13, 2014 Meeting Summary


E-mail and phone reminders


4 members


Agenda Items:

The meeting began about 11:25 am

  • What makes a house “too big” for its location?
    • Last Monday the City Council voted to have the Planning Commission look at the issue of “mansionization” in single family residential neighborhoods and whether changes to zoning that should be made to reduce its occurrence in the future.  There is a particularly egregious example on South Los Robles that is raising awareness that many areas of the city are vulnerable to abuse.  Even with a special zoning overlay for Lower Hastings that was instituted about four years ago, there were several of its residents who spoke at the meeting about how it does not seem to be preventing what they perceive as mansionization.
    • Of course there is always some conflict in balancing the property, expressive, and privacy rights of the individual versus those of the neighborhood and community as a whole.
    • Government also needs to be careful about essentially discriminating against minority cultural aesthetics and values.
    • Older neighborhoods tend to have a large diversity of housing styles and sizes.  For long timers, and those who bought because they liked the neighborhood aesthetic, dramatic changes have always brought consternation and fear of what’s to come.  The pace of change may be as much, or more, important then the type of change.
    • Many people think that maximizing the indoor space improves the value of their home.
      • Unfortunately for those who prefer outdoor space, real estate prices seem to prove that outdoor space has little value compared to indoor space.  But going too far overboard, building a home completely out of character with the neighborhood may not pay off in increased value.  For those not looking for a quick payoff, it may not matter.
      • Neighbors may feel their property is less valuable and the only way for them to regain value is to vastly expand their house as well, thus causing a cascade of development.
      • For the city, more development and increased property values bring in more fees and taxes.
    • Larger houses used to imply larger families and thus more traffic and more infrastructure (water, sewer, etc) usage.  These days it opens that possibility, but often there aren’t any more people then before.  In fact our single family neighborhoods, with the same number of houses as 50 years ago, probably have a lot fewer residents now then they did then because family sizes are smaller.
    • Perception of “need” has changed drastically since the smaller houses were built.  In the 50s, a 2 bedroom 1 bath house of 800-900 square feet was considered totally sufficient for a middle class husband, wife, and two children.  Now there is an expectation of a bedroom for each child, at least two or three bathrooms, an office, a den.  The city requires larger garages.  If families cannot find houses that have what they want, or at least have the potential to have what they want, they will invest elsewhere.  Restrictions that are too severe risk causing neighborhoods to slowly decline as they become less desirable compared to other places.
    • Building restrictions only work in the long run if they attract sufficient numbers of people willing to pay to live in the environment they create / maintain.
    • Height vs. sprawl
      • Adding a second story in a predominately one story neighborhood tends to make neighbors unhappy
      • For the people adding a second story, it allows much more indoor living space, either in addition to what they could get into one story, or keeping more then a postage stamp sized yard.  Adding a second story is more expensive then expanding one story, so usually going up only happens after the area allowed for a first story is filled.
      • Neighbors may object to loss of views, loss of privacy in their backyard or through windows, imposed solid shade, blocking of breezes, damage to or removal of trees, a claustrophobic feeling.
    • Zoning rules attempt to limit the scope of expansion and may try to preserve the “character” of a neighborhood.
      • Because Lower Hastings was all developed within a few years, and all the houses were single story “ranch” style, that area’s recent zoning overlay attempted to reduce impacts by mandating such things as that a second story must be set back from the first story and can be no more then 50% of the ground floor area.  It also banned two story doors/facades.  Neighbors at the meeting complained about how the second stories still block views of the mountains and the new houses still seem enormous.  One question was why garages are included in the calculation of first floor space. Undoubtedly another considered change will be banning second stories.  (Any change will only apply going forward.  Those already built or permitted remain, becoming “existing, non conforming”.
  • Local Crime Summary
    • For the last month, from
      • Sun August 10, 4:42 pm, 300 block Avocado Ln, Grand Theft
        This may have been an incident where someone apparently came over the back wall from the PCC parking lot.
      • Sun August 17, 9:48 am, 3200 block Foothill Blvd, Drug/Alcohol violation – overdose
      • The rash of burglaries in Daisy Villa seem to have come to an end after August 15 (when suspects were caught due to an alert neighbor).
      • 24-hour Fitness had 4 vehicle break-ins and another report of theft.
      • There have been an unusual number of assaults, including battery, assault with deadly weapon, and an attempted homicide, along Foothill between Sierra Madre Villa and Rosemead. Various days and times.  The majority near the corner or Rosemead and the freeway offramp.  There was also a purse snatching in this stretch.
  • anything else attendees wish to discuss
    • Chit Chat
      • We spent the majority of the meeting in informal chit chat in the pleasant cool of the library meeting room. (None of us attending has A/C at home.)

Next meeting is October 11, 11:15 am, at Hastings Branch Library meeting room

Adjourned about ??