Bulky mansions still allowed in Downey

Alicia Edquist, Advertising Manager/Lab Aide

Downey Council took action on a new ordinance after a public hearing had residents and council members wanting revisions made to the ordinance last Tuesday.

The ordinance was to control the growing trend of massive and bulky “mansion-size” homes in Downey.

Mayor Pro-Tem Meredith Perkins moved the matter to be sent back to the Planning Commission for further study on the issue, and bring back a revised ordinance to the council at a later date.

His motion passed 4-0. Councilman Kirk Cartozian was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Nineteen residents showed up to the council meeting opposing their views on the new ordinance and one to voice his opinion for the ordinance.

During the public hearing, the City Staff’s Ron Yoshiki gave a presentation on the new ordinance.

Yoshiki called the trend “Mansionization” and believes it could be controlled by requirements that would limit the size of second story homes. This would mean that the second floor of a home would no longer be equal to the size of the first floor.

The proposed ordinance said that it would limit the second floor by two-thirds the area of the first floor. Also, second floors can be limited by demanding greater side-yard area setbacks.

The staff recommended an addition of a paragraph to the building code, which at present reads, “The architecture and general appearance of the building shall be in keeping with the character of the neighborhood and as such not to be detrimental to the general welfare of the neighborhood in which they are located.”

The addition to the building code reads: “Reduction of Building and Mass: for detached two-story single family residential units, second story floor area shall not exceed two-thirds of the first floor area (which includes habitable and uninhabitable square footage). Floor areas shall be determined by measuring from exterior walls of the residence.”

The following requirements will also apply to the code:

1) The second floor setback for one wall facing an interior property line shall be a minimum of 10 feet, if one wall uses the existing four-foot side yard setback of the first floor.

2) The second floor may be centered over the first floor; the side yard setback shall be a minimum of eight feet from both the interior side property lines.

3) Reconstruction of legal non-conforming residences: If at least 90 percent of a two-story detached single-family residence is destroyed or the reconstruction exceeds 90 percent of the current replacement value, then the residence can only be re-established as required by these standards.

Yoshiki said that the commission still wants to preserve the rights of the homeowner and knows that it’s not necessarily perfect, but its what they came up with.

After Yoshiki’s presentation, residents from the city came to the podium to speak out on the matter.

Angel Gonzalez, Downey resident, said, “I want to build a house the way I want it, and I would like to have it big if I so desire too.”

Resident and building designer Andres Rodriguez said, “No one at city hall mentioned any new ordinance to me. We are the center, (Downey) and I enjoy this place I live in. Everyone here has dreams of living in a large house.”

Another resident agreed.

“Downey is a very prosperous city and our family has grown. We want to stay in Downey and in the schools,” Veronica Avalos, said. “Downey will not prosper if we are not allowed to build and the tax and fees that go to schools will cease. We will stunt its (Downey) growth. We are no longer allowed to create our dream homes which is what we want.”

Some residents urged the council to think about the monetary damages that will incur for the building designers and their clients.

Greg Powell, a building designer and 30-year resident of Downey, said he was concerned about two projects he has in the works; if the ordinance is passed, he will have to redo the projects, and it will be costly to him and the homeowners.

A couple of residents heard about the hearing by accident, such as Lorraine Harponela who said that she believes it would not be fair to residents in planning stages.

“I think people knew that this council meeting would be full. The parking issue is not being addressed either. I know the city complied with the law by publishing the notice, but its not enough,” she said.

Only one of the resident’s who was present was for the new ordinance.

George Redfox, resident and teacher in Downey, said, “I am for this resolution and believe that it will help maintain the setback. I am glad that the ranch style homes in Downey will be preserved.”

Redfox agreed with other residents who are concerned with the new homes on Cherokee and Brookshire in Downey.

“They are out of character with the homes in the area,” he said.

Councilman David Gafin was also concerned about the residents who came to speak at the public hearing.

“None of the people who came in November to complain to the Planning Commission are even here (those who were for the ordinance). For some reason this has changed. We need to get it (a notice) out to the public to get full representation of the public at these meetings,” Gafin said.

He also believes the city needs to advertise the public hearings more instead of doing the bare minimum.