Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bel-Air Association Land Use Committee Q&A

Bel-Air Association Land Use Committee Q&A

"In light of the increase in recent property development in the community, the Bel-Air Association’s Land Use Committee has become very active in working with property owners, developers, community residents and the City in an effort to balance the health and safety of all residents and the preservation of the community infrastructure with the rights of property owners to the use and enjoyment of their properties.  In order for the entire community to understand the issues, the Land Use Committee proposes to issue from time to time, answers to questions that arise, and the following are a list of Q/As:"

Q:  Why can't the Bel-Air Association dictate the rules of construction/development of properties?

A.  The Bel-Air Association is not the legal entity that approves or disapproves permits for development; that is the role of the City of Los Angeles. 

Q.  Some communities, even those in Los Angeles, have CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) that add restrictions to those of the City.  Didn't Bel-Air have these CC&Rs; what happened to them?

A.  Bel-Air was originally developed on a tract by tract basis beginning about 80 years ago with the concept of an architectural review committee set up with CC&Rs.  But, these original CC&Rs had a limited life, generally, around 50 years subject to certain rights of extension, and some of them were not specific enough to enforce effective architectural controls anyway.  As each tract's CC&Rs were expiring, the Bel-Air Association tried to obtain the consent of property owners in such tract to new architectural controls, but since the original CC&Rs authority had expired it required the consent of every property owner in each tract; and no tract was successfully covered by such consents.  As a consequence, most of the tracts in Bel-Air have no active CC&Rs at this time.

Q.  But some property owners still want more restrictions. Can individual properties be covered by CC&Rs?

A.  The Bel-Air Association is willing to consider CC&Rs for individual properties on a basis that is fair and reasonable to property owners and the community.  But, any such CC&Rs can legally only restrict those properties whose owners sign the CC&Rs and those property owners must be willing to provide the support necessary for an active architectural committee/review function by the Assn.

Q.  If there are no CC&Rs, then what function can the Assn. and Land Use Committee play regarding development of properties?

A.  The City heavily relies upon the Bel-Air Association to be a voice in land use policies and individual property development in the community.  For example, the City seeks the Bel-Air Association’s input on haul route and variance issues for all developments in Bel-Air. 

Q.  In light of all of the issues surrounding construction and development, why not simply limit the size of houses to 20,000 sq. ft. or less since does anyone really need more than that to live in?

A.  Bel-Air is a unique area of Los Angeles.  It did not start with uniform lots or topography or as a tract-house development, but was created to allow people to design their own homes.  And, over the years, that freedom to design unique homes has contributed to the World Class reputation of Bel-Air.  That is also a reason that Bel-Air enjoys some of the highest land valuations in the City and even the entire country.  For many Bel-Air residents, their home represents a large portion of their wealth and the wealth of their family and heirs.  To arbitrarily limit the size of homes, with no basis other than "I don't like big houses" is neither reasonable nor fair to existing property owners who wish to develop their properties and is likely to adversely affect the reputation and value of the community.  For example, every house built in Bel-Air at one time or another was likely a burden to a neighbor, but that doesn't mean it should not have been built or none of us would live here.

On the other hand, the Bel-Air Association is well aware of the burden of construction and development on the community and is working with the City and property owners to minimize those burdens so that there can be a reasonable balance between the freedom of property owners to develop their properties and the protection of the welfare of the community.

The Bel-Air Association will continue to monitor and participate in discussions with the City regarding general land use matters and individual property development with the goal to protect the health, safety and infrastructure of the community while preserving the World Class status and value of properties.

Q.  Since Bel-Air is a fire prone area, should all construction be stopped to minimize the risks of fire related to construction such as the use of large trucks, construction materials and other construction related equipment and activities?

A.  As to the issue of Fire & Life Safety, the Land Use Committee believes that the health and safety of our community is of paramount importance, and we must do what we can to require all development in our hills to comply with best practices in this regard.  However, we also understand that the technical aspects of what is best to save lives and protect our properties is not going to be accomplished by taking the untenable position of "no construction". 
By logical extension and illustration, it is inherently more dangerous and a greater fire risk to simply live in the hillsides, and as such, should it then be illegal to live in the hillsides and thus all homes in Bel~Air should be torn-down?   Of course not.
As such, to take the position to "stop construction, stop trucks, stop everything" is neither fair nor reasonable, especially as the City has laws and rules to deal with fire safety that are enacted and enforced by experts in the area. 

Q.  We have heard some talk about a large development on Strada Vecchia (overlooking Rocca Place)that has been issued a stop-work order notice and may have some of its permits revoked.  Has the Bel-Air Association been involved in this matter?

 A.  Yes, the Land Use Committee has met with City representatives and presented information about what appears to be material building violations, however, individual property owners in close proximity to the development have played a significant role in explaining to the City the nature of the various alleged violations.  We understand that the City is investigating the matter and the Bel-Air Association will continue to monitor the situation in an effort to encourage the City to prohibit any development that is materially inconsistent with applicable laws.