Fewer Mansions, More Basements


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In an effort to curb the rampant McMansion-ing of modest neighborhoods, the last 5 years have witnessed a new building trend some of us never thought we’d see happen in Southern California.

Why are there so few California basements?

1.    In the post-war home building boom, it was quicker and cheaper to build without them.

2.    Concerns (now unfounded) over earthquake safety.

3.    With so much land to build out on there was little reason to build down.

4.    Increased cost.

5.    After a while, it just became a tradition of not doing it that way.

Then came the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO)

  • Figuring out what you could build in LA used to be relatively simple - 32’ height/setbacks
  •  The Baseline Mansionization Ordinance was enacted to stop “out of character” home building.
  •  First passed in 2008 with LOTS of loopholes, but amended in 2017 and 2020 with serious restrictions - grading limitations, height to setback ratios, max square footage limited to 45% of lot size

Basements - the way to add invisible square footage

  •  Soils report
  •  Planning permissions
  •  Daylight and egress requirements
  •  Cost

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