Los Angeles Issues New Guidelines for Designing Small Lot Subdivisions

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Los Angeles Issues New Guidelines for Designing Small Lot SubdivisionsThe Los Angeles Department of City Planning Advisory Agency recently released its Small Lot Subdivision Policy and Small Lot Design Guidelines. The purpose of the guidelines is to help architects, developers, and residents design small lot subdivisions that create a more livable city. While the guidelines may not serve as the basis for project approval or denial, they are used to condition approved projects. Developers should be aware that if a project does not follow the guidelines, the project may be subject to delays, redesign, and community appeals.

The guidelines apply specifically to small lot subdivisions in multi-family and commercial zones that are filed after February 1 of this year. In addition, the guidelines only apply to projects of 47 dwelling units or less.

Los Angeles’ Small Lot Ordinance allows for the subdivision of underutilized land in multi-family and commercial areas. These subdivisions have many advantages as a smart-growth alternative, but also present spatial challenges. The guidelines outline recommendations for site organization and urban form, setbacks and building transitions, parking and driveways, building design and materials, and landscaping and access.

The guidelines are just that: guidelines. A developer must attempt to comply with them. However, if strict compliance is impossible, the developer only needs to comply with the overarching goals of the guidelines, which are to:

  1. Create high-quality indoor and outdoor living environments for all residents.
  2. Enhance the public realm.
  3. Provide home ownership opportunities for a greater number of people, at a wider range of income levels.
  4. Provide solutions for infill housing.
  5. Design and configure housing to be compatible with the existing neighborhood.
  6. Prioritize the livability and market value of a project over strict density.

Have you developed a small lot subdivision in Los Angeles? If so, what was your experience and did you find the guidelines to be helpful or harmful to your project?