ULI Los Angeles News

“New Small Lot Standards Examined at Urban Marketplace”

ULI Los Angeles’ recent Urban Marketplace event included nearly 22 dynamic “Roundtable” conversations with key facilitators of Los Angeles urban development. One of the most-attended was “Evolution of L.A.’s Small Lot Ordinance: Tighter Regulations and New Design Standards,” led by Los Angeles Planning Department Senior City Planner Simon Pastucha and KTGY Architecture + Planning Principal Alan Scales.

Scales has worked closely with the Planning Department to create and evolve its small-lot guidelines, so that the ordinance best serves its goals presenting neighborhood-friendly development alternatives. And KTGY has more than 900 homes in various stages of design and construction developed under the Los Angeles Small Lot Ordinance.

Scales reported that amendments to the ordinance – both updates to the ordinance itself as well as new design standards – will likely go to City Council for approval in May or June.

“The biggest change in the ordinance relates to set-backs,” said Scales. “The new standards state that the underlying zoning will dictate front-yard setbacks.”

Scales also said rear yard setbacks will increase from five to 10 feet or more, that minimum lot widths will grow from 16 to 18 feet; that guest parking is now required, with projects of eight units or more needing ¼ guest parking space per unit; that existing bungalow-court style developments can be adapted to small-lot for-sale homes; and that developments of 20 or units have common open space of at least 30 square feet per unit.

“This common open space could be a plaza, courtyard, children’s play area or almost any another community-serving space,” said Scales “Many of these changes come from input from neighborhood groups. The goal is help these new developments improve and better define the communities where they emerge.”

In addition to these requirements, Scales helped evolve a checklist of guidelines to improve design. They include:
– Façade Articulation: “This requires more detail in the design of the exterior wall. Breaks in the wall plane, recessed windows or varied exterior materials will be required. Street-facing units should have prominent windows and/or details around the front door primary entry. This can include a porch, awning or stoop.”
– Building Modulation: “For every six units, you need minimum six-inch shift for every 3 units. This is accomplished by moving the wall plane back and forth. The vast majority of developments KTGY is involved with already do exceed this because it makes for good design. The guidelines also require multiple façade variations within depending on cluster size. This can be accomplished by adding balconies, roof shape or color schemes.”
– Varied Roofline: “For anything taller than two stories, you will be required to provide articulation of the roofline: a pitched roof, an open deck, or a step-back of the roof. Or there should be vertical differences: A two-foot minimum vertical height difference for a minimum of 10 horizontal feet is one solution.”

The goal of all these changes is to add aesthetic value to the neighborhood, said Scales.
“A good designer or developer is already taking all this into account,” he said. “And many of them are well beyond these guidelines.”

–Article by Jack Skelley, President of JSPR

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