Council Approves Temporary Moratorium On Density-Boosting "Bedroom Splitting"Return To Front Page
(January 5, 2005) -- Drawing plaudits from neighborhood residents who feared a fight but instead received response action from the City Council, Councilmembers voted 9-0 at its January 4th meeting to institute an immediate, temporary prohibition (interim moratorium) on the alteration of multi-family dwelling units that creates additional bedrooms on sites with nonconforming parking.
The interim moratorium went into effect immediately (at 12:01 a.m Jan. 5/05) and as a practical matter stops the issuance of permits in such areas for bedrooms split into smaller bedrooms. The interim prohibition will continue while the Planning Commission takes additional testimony on a Zoning Ordinance amendment that would require additional parking when remodeling the interior of an existing multi-family residential unit of zero or one-bedrooms to create additional bedrooms.
During the Council colloquy, 1st district Councilman Bonnie Lowenthal -- who with 4th district Councilman Patrick O'Donnell first raised the issue of "bedroom splitting" last year -- also indicated that she plans to discuss with City Hall's Planning Dept. the issue of the splitting single family homes into multi-family units in the future.
The precise Council action taken on Jan. 4 was to request the City Attorney to prepare an interim Zoning Ordinance for placement on the City Council Agenda for hearing at its third meeting following such adoption, and direct the Planning Commission to commence a study regarding the adoption of a Zoning Ordinance related to the remodeling of the interior of existing multi-family residential units to create additional bedrooms.
In her Council comments, 1st district Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal said:
This is something that I know Councilmember [Patrick] O'Donnell and I feel very strongly about. We have neighborhoods that have really struggled with overcrowding and density and this was something that...I became aware of...last spring and went on a tour with the Housing Authority and Greg Carpenter from Zoning and saw some of these units and it was really pretty horrifying.
So we got to work, everybody came to the table and tried to come up with a solution that could keep us from, I know what Patrick is calling "Crackerbox II," it has been an unacceptable method to increase the size of bedroom units for landlords to charge more rent for people. It's caused overcrowding. It's caused parking problems. There's not enough open space. There's not enough parking.
And with over 50 of these legally permitted...it's pretty horrifying, so I'm very much in support of the moratorium while they [Planning Commissioners] study the issues related to this. I know in my own district, I've had individuals on a very similar note to this moratorium ask how we could halt the legal splitting of single family homes into multi-family units and it's something that I will be talking to Planning about in the future.
And I'm very much in support of this [moratorium] and I want to thank my colleague, Councilmember O'Donnell for being involved as well.
In his Council comments, Councilman O'Donnel said in part:
To me, bedroom splitting is unethical, immoral and today it becomes illegal.
Assistant City Attorney Mike Mais noted that the temporary moratorium will take effect immediately and in three weeks (Jan. 25), the City Attorney's office plans to bring the actual detailed ordinance to the Council for consideration.
During public testimony, veteran LB activist Catherine LaRosa, past president of Beach Citizens for Long Beach, thanked the Council for its support on the issue...and said she hoped "something can be done to reverse some of the damage that's been done. I would really like to see that be brought to the table, but thank you very much for your support...Thanks a million."
Neighborhood activist and property owner Kay Dermer urged that in addition to parking requirements, the city should "add development fees...add an environmental impact report...We really need to put a lot of thought into this thing, not just to prevent the splitting of bedrooms. It takes more than just dealing with the parking issue, cause there's a huge infrastructure issue related here. And I really want to thank [Councilman] Patrick [O'Donnell] for doing a great job of researching this ahead of us and really helping us with this."
At the conclusion of public testimony, 2d district Councilman Dan Baker added, "I want to thank the dedicated group of 2d district residents for coming out and sitting through this meeting. [Mayor O'Neill interjects, "It is very impressive."] I know these folks suffered through "Crackerbox I" in particular and we won't let it happen, and thank you guys for bringing this forward."
On April 20, 2004, Councilwoman Lowenthal asked city management to report back to Council within 30 days that includes current building standards and possible remedies that would address new standards for construction of habitable bedroom space in new and renovated buildings.
On November 23, 2004, city staff brought the Council a proposed Zoning Ordinance amendment...which the Council referred to the Planning Commission. At the time, Councilman O'Donnell issued a supportive written, stating in part, "It is my mission to fight overcrowding and anything that will add poorly planned density to areas that are already overcrowded and put a further burden on city services" adding that "the issue of bedroom splitting was brought to my attention by property owners in the District who were concerned about property values, but more importantly, about the impact on neighborhoods and tenants' quality of life."
On December 16, 2004 the Planning Commission voted 6-0 to continue (defer to a subsequent meeting) city staff's proposal after some opponents of the proposed parking requirements indicated that they'd been given little or no opportunity to provide input on the report submitted to Planning Commissioners by city staff. The Planning Commission granted a continuance and directed city staff to meet with those opposed to the parking requirements...and drafted the interim moratorium for Council action Jan. 4.
In a memo accompanying the Jan 4th Council item, City Hall's Acting Director of Planning & Building, Fady Matar, wrote in pertinent part:
At the November 23, 2004 meeting, the City Council directed the Planning Commission to consider amendments to the Zoning Ordinance to address the growing trend of remodeling the interior of existing multi-family residential units to create additional bedrooms. In many cases, these units are nonconforming with respect to parking, density, and usable open space, and creating additional bedrooms exacerbates these nonconformities. Due to the increasing prevalence of these interior remodels, the City Council directed that an amendment be returned within 60 days.
At the December 16, 2004 Planning Commission hearing..., Planning staff indicated that 52 such remodels had occurred in the past year, with the frequency increasing toward the end of the year. In addition, Planning staff noted that nearly 40 percent of dwelling units in Long Beach have zero or one bedroom (Source: 2000 U.S. Census). Planning staff reiterated the negative effects that these conversions can have on a neighborhood, including overcrowding of units, parking problems, and the lack of usable open space.
To address this issue, Planning staff proposed amendments to the Nonconformities section
of the Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 21.27), whereby creating additional bedrooms in zero or
one-bedroom multi-family units will require additional parking. Sites developed with only
one dwelling unit would be exempt from this amendment.
During the public hearing on the proposed amendments, the Planning Commission heard
testimony from several persons asking that this item be continued for additional
consideration of the impacts of the proposed amendments upon housing affordability. After
considering this testimony, the Planning Commission determined that the issue requires
further study, and voted to continue the item. However, given the prevalence of this trend,
the large number of potential future remodels, and the negative effects these remodels have
on the surrounding community, the Planning Commission recommended that the City
Council adopt an interim Zoning Ordinance to temporarily prohibit the alteration of zero- or
one-bedroom multi-family units with a nonconforming number of parking spaces, where
such alteration will create additional bedrooms and not provide additional parking. Sites
developed with only one dwelling unit would be exempt from this interim Zoning Ordinance...
The effect of an affirmative vote on this agenda item would be to prohibit the processing of applications for alterations described in this report until an ordinance is prepared for City Council consideration. The Municipal Code requires that the interim Zoning Ordinance be
returned to the City Council at its third meeting following such adoption.
IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT THE CITY COUNCIL:
Request the City Attorney to prepare an interim Zoning Ordinance...for...placement on the City Council Agenda for hearing at its third meeting following such adoption, and direct the Planning Commission to commence a study regarding the adoption of a Zoning Ordinance related to the remodeling of the interior of existing multi-family residential units to create additional bedrooms.
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