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Archive for the ‘Preservation’ Category

McMansion being built

It seems as though builders and/or property owners in and around Belmont Heights, Belmont Shore and the Peninsula, along with other areas of Long Beach, are ignoring building codes causing residents to start fighting to preserve the character of their neighborhoods. The term “mansionization” refers to the alarming trend for builders and homeowners to purchase smaller homes, tear them down and erect a home that is much larger and not in character with the other homes in the area. 

Third District Councilman, Gary DeLong  along with Seventh District Councilwoman, Tonia Reyes Uranga asked the City Council for a new “Neighborhood Character Stabilization” plan to slow this trend at this week’s Council Meeting. In turn, the counsil asked it’s Housing and Neighborhoods committee to come back to them in 45 days with something similar.

In the meantime, some residents are fighting specific projects that exceed the building codes or are asking for a variance. Belmont Heights Neighborhood Association reported to the council that there are a dozen or more homes right now in their neighborhood in danger of being torn down and replaced with much larger structures.

Today, the Planning Commission will rule on a home being built at 181 La Verne Ave. where construction was halted after residents brought to the city’s attention that the home’s height exceeded building codes. The owner says he didn’t know the storage unit adjacent to the roof-top deck exceeded the height of the building code. His apology is not disuading the residents that reported the violation to the city. They oppose allowing the builder to finish the home. The building department, on the other hand, is suggesting that a variance should be granted due to the fact that the violation is well off the street. What does that have to do with anything? Isn’t it possible that the height of this home could block another homeowner’s view (if not now, in the future) from their roof-top deck? Aren’t variances for hardship cases? And, what kind of precidence is that setting for future building projects?

I agree with the neighborhood activist that seek to eliminate or greatly reduce the number of variances granted. It should be consistant across the board. There are too many cases where the building goes up and the variance comes after the fact. It’s becoming too easy for builders to complete a project and ask for forgiveness afterward.

There is also a trend to build to the extreme edges of lot lines and to go as high up with the building as the code allows. While this is not a violation, in many cases these “McMansions” (homes) do nothing to enhance the character of the neighborhood and usually take away from it. In the Shore, one particular builder has built the same “McMansion” numerous times within a three block radius, painted all of them the same color and put the same front door on them. Several of my prospective buyers, as of late, have noticed these look-a-like homes and have pointed them out to me. One of the reasons people buy in the Shore or the Heights is because the homes are so architecturally different from each other. The Neighborhood Character Stabilization plan will consider the “maxing out” of properties and hopefully will address the copy-cat building as well.

Some activists are calling for story poles to be erected. These are wooden poles put up weeks before any approvals are given by the building department, allowing neighbors to see the height and massing of the proposed building to be erected. Although commonly used in communities such as Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and the like, Long Beach does not require their use. I think it’s an excellent idea, giving neighbors an opportunity to view their site lines and research the building’s specifications before it is built and construction has to be haulted.

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downtown-offshore.jpgI have moved across the country more times than I can count on one hand. I’ve always gravitated back to Long Beach and all that it has to offer. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life here and have decided to share my “Top Ten Reasons to Move to Long Beach.”  There are many reasons, but here is the short list, not in any particular order:

  1.  GREEN SPACE and Lots of It!!! Everyone is talking “green” now, from the Al Gore to Congress and the Sundance Channel’s, Robert Redford. Well, Long Beach has the most recreational park space per capita than any other city in California. The city has more golf courses, nature trails, dog parks, beach parks, open green space than any other city in the state of California! Want to enjoy GREEN? Move to Long Beach!!!
  2. Average Year-Round, Balmy Temperature is a WONDERFUL 77 Degrees!  Who can dispute that it’s pretty pleasant! If you study the coastline of California, Long Beach is tucked inland. The beaches run east and west. This dissimilarity puts us in the high 70’s for an average temperature. Most other beach cities in So Cal are several degrees colder in the winter months .
  3. Diversity is the Name of the Game! With so many diverse activities and events going on at all times in the city of Long Beach, it’s hard to just name a few. Culture is a prized focus of this great city. For openers Long Beach offers the LB Civic Orchestra, Ballet, Opera, the Museum of Latin Art (MOLA,) Long Beach Art Museum and Cafe, just to name a few. On the hipper/cheekier side of things, there is the LB Grand Prix, Sea Festival, LB Aquarium, Haute Dog Parade (Easter and Halloween,) Long Beach Marathon, Belmont Shore Car Show, Chocolate Festival, Chili Cook-off, Taste of Belmont Shore, Vault 350 for great music entertainment, etc…
  4. Great proximity to Freeways and Public Transportation –  You have to have a car to get around the L.A. area.  Long Beach is centrally located to the freeways,  the 405, 605, 710N, 22 E.  Long Beach is also a hub for the Blueline mass transit train that draws people to ride the rails instead of driving cars to Los Angeles. The Blueline connects with the Redline, Goldline and Greenline, all within a few mile in the downtown quarter of Los Angeles.  I’ve taken my kids to Dim Sum in China Town without getting into my car.
  5. SHOPPING! Did we mention the SHOPPING?– Sorry guys! If you’re into shopping then the multitude of shopping districts have it all for you! You can start with the Pine Ave. shopping district that includes Seaport Village shops, The Pike stores to the great used book store on Pine Ave. and everything  in between; boutiques of every kind on 2nd St. in Belmont Shore. (Take the little Red Bus (called the Passport) to the Belmont Shore Area and back, if you’re staying in downtown Long Beach; The Long Beach Towne Center, Marina Pacifica Mall, Bixby Village Shopping District, Los Altos Shopping Center and on and on. Not to mention the fantastic outdoor Farmer’s Market and other wares every Friday downtown and on Sundays at the Marina near 2nd St. and Marina Drive.
  6. Great Neighbors & Communities!– Long Beach has several Historic neighborhoods and many others that are noticeably well cared for and show a wonderful pride of ownership. Many have active community organizations that meet on a regular basis to discuss improvements or concerns.  It’s easy to meet your neighbors because most people spend a good amount of time outdoors and are accessible to engage in friendly conversation.
  7. Schools, Schools, Schools!…..Long Beach schools have a long-standing history of excellence. Long Beach Unified School District has just been awarded recognition for the “Most Improved” school district in the State of CA.
  8. The BEACHES! Kite-boarding, sandcastle-building, volleyball, concerts in the park, a rowing club, sailing club, kayaking, what else? Can’t forget the dog beach in Belmont Shore between Granada and Roycroft where dogs are allowed off-leash. It’s fun to watch the dogs even if you don’t have one.
  9. 5th Largest City in CA- Moving in the right direction…very forward thinking…Tons of re-development projects on the books and in the planning stages, Historic preservation, tourist attractions, and a balance between industry and residential property.
  10. The Last AFFORDABLE Beach City in So Cal – The median price for a home is less than every other beach city in Los Angeles County and Orange County.  That means that there is a distinct opportunity to realise an excellent return on investment as compared to other beach cities in So Cal!  

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rose-park-condos.jpgThe Congratulations to the Homeowners of the Historic Rose Towers! Their collective efforts and community spirit pays off as they will now share in a Preservation Award from the Los Angeles Concervancy. Way to go!The Spanish Colonial Revival enclave located at 1728 E. 3rd. St. in the Alamitos Beach area of Long Beach, was designed by architect George D. Riddle. Built in 1928 as affordable apartments, the Mediterranean village-like complex was designed around a lushly landscaped courtyard and was full of Moorish decorative elements seen in the tile work, wrought iron balconies, graceful archways, hand-hewn and decoratively painted wood beams and carved wooden doors. El Cordova, as it was called at the time, was and continues to be inhabited by an economic and culturally diverse population of owners. In 1955, the units became “own-your-own” apartments and were then converted to condominiums in 1992.

It became apparent during a re-stuccoing project that the building was in need of more structural repairs due to extensive wood rot, unsound columns and water damage. Through the dedication, careful consideration and hours of sweat equity on the part of the homeowners, the building’s exterior has been meticulously restored to it’s original glory and years of deferred maintenance have been repaired.

The Rose Park project took years of research and footwork to acquire bids from contractors. The homeowners acted as their own general contractor with the volunteer help of a friend who had experience in construction management. At a total cost of $150,000, the actual work was completed in 4 months.

Rose Park was the first multi-unit building in Long Beach to receive and benefit from the 1972 Mills Act tax credit for historic preservation. The Mills Act is a Historical Property Contract program that provides property tax breaks to owners of historic buildings who agree to restore and maintain the structures for at least 10 years.  The amount of the tax reduction depends on the date of purchase, the property valuation and the current property tax assessment. 

The Rose Park residents qualified for the the Mills Act tax benefit by first having their building designated a historic-cultural monument or be a qualifying structure within one of the city’s 21 historic preservation overlay zones. They also received a $20,000 grant from the Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association. 

The Los Angeles Conservancy described the communal efforts of Rose Park owners as “a prime example of grass-roots preservation at its best.” They will be presented with the Conservancy’s Preservation Award at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel on May 10th along with other winners of the award. Cheers to your efforts and accomplishments! Rose Towers is a show place and a wonderful example of what community can do.

Read more about Landmark Properties ownership and how the Mills Act Tax relief could benefit you…………..

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