architecture blog

Small Lot Subdivision Branching Out of Los Angeles?

Posted by Christian Navar on Thu, Apr 26, 2012 @ 06:04 AM

Derek and I recently spoke at a mobile workshop on LA's Small Lot Ordinance at the American Planning Association's (APA) National Conference in Los AngelesAt the conclusion of the workshop, we were asked, by an attendee of the workshop, a question about affordability (we like to use “attainability” because when people hear “affordability” they tend to only think of low-income housing). The attendee who asked the question turned out to be a City Council member from the capital city of a state, outside of California, with a population of over a million people (for the sake of privacy and the future of this person’s political career, the person and the city will remain nameless in this blog entry... for now). 

At the conclusion of a very brief back-and-forth dialogue with the councilman, I offered an open invitation to discuss the issue in greater depth. I suggested modative help him figure out if the economics within his district warranted what we feel is one of the greatest city ordinances in the United States. He gave me his card and asked that I get in contact with him. 

In today’s blog post, I would like to share with everyone my initial e-mail to the Council District  representative in an attempt to follow up and get this innovative planning method and practice into another great city: 

 

Hello [City Council member], 

I hope the rest of your stay in Los Angeles and your travel back to [your city] was great!  It was nice briefly meeting you on the APA Small Lot Subdivision tour. Thank you for joining us and I hope you enjoyed our brief presentation regarding a few of our Small Lot Subdivision projects. 

Your question regarding "affordability" was a fantastic one and I would love the opportunity to discuss it further with you. Here, in our office, we utilize Small Lot Subdivision as a means to practice architecture and construction. However, our true passion lies in better understanding the economics involved in the ordinance's implementation. 

Our goal is to develop these projects and provide an attainable housing alternative that will help stop the mass departure of our own friends from Los Angeles. All of us at Modative attended the University of Southern California. Our friends and colleagues from USC are now Architects, Engineers, Lawyers, Doctors, Professors, etc. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of housing in Los Angeles, homeownership is no longer attainable, even for those who practice in top-tier professional fields. Many of our closest friends can no longer afford to live in the city and state they grew up in. We are tired of attending going away parties for friends and family moving to more affordable cities like Portland, Austin, Denver, and Phoenix. We see the potential in the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance to solve this problem. 

Our involvement in the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance has been a great experience thus far. We have become experts in this ordinance and have ideas about how it could be modified to better achieve what it was originally intended to do. We are still firm believers in this housing alternative and think that, with a few small changes or by thinking a bit out of the box, we will soon be able to develop a housing stock that keeps L.A.'s professional class from migrating elsewhere. 

From your website, I gather your city is experiencing some growth and you are very interested in future planning while providing opportunity that is mutually beneficial to your constituents and those looking for new possibilities. We believe [your city] would be a great place to adopt a similar ordinance and provide a better, attainable housing alternative. After an initial quick glance at your Planning and Zoning website, it looks like your [medium density residential 1] through [medium density residential 2] zones would be ideal zones in which to implement a Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance. 

Reviewing some aerial maps, I found a project at the termination of [This] St. and [That] St. that looks to be an approximately 15-unit residential project with "adjoining walls". This may have been a perfect opportunity to provide a "fee-simple" alternative to new home ownership (see below). 


Small Lot Subdivision Illustration

 

When are you available to talk more about the economics of this type of project? Please let me know when you are free to schedule a follow-up phone call.  I look forward to talking to you soon. 

Here is a link to a page on our website where you can access the guide we developed regarding developing small lot subdivision projects in Los Angeles. 

Small Lot Subdivision Guide - Free Download

Here is a link to a page on our website where you can access useful documents from the City of Los Angeles pertaining to the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance. 

Free Download of Small Lot Subdivision Information

Thanks,

-Christian

 

On a side note, if you are a City Council member or city planner, have come across today’s blog post, and are interested in discussing or adopting a similar ordinance in your community, feel free to contact modative. We would be happy to help you draft a similar innovative planning policy or conduct a Small Lot Subdivision housing needs assessment for your city. It is possible to provide a creative “attainable” housing solution that will help create better living environments for you and your community. 

For any developers, architects, or concerned citizens out there who feel there is inadequate attainable housing in your city, feel free to contact us as well. Or, use my letter above as inspiration to contact your own City Council or planning representative. 

We will keep you updated on the Council District representative’s response!

Post by Christian Návar. Contributors to this post include Krystal Návar, Derek Leavitt and Michael Scott.

Tags: Property, Residential, Development, Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Subdivisions, Housing, los angeles architects, Planning

12 Incredibly Obvious Things I Like About Small Homes

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Wed, Jun 3, 2009 @ 06:06 AM

In the spirit of the recent Los Angeles Times article discussing the downsizing of the average American home from 2,629 square feet (last year) to 2,419 square feet (this year), I thought I’d touch on my reasons for liking small homes:

1. Simple Math: If You Build Less, It Costs Less


Tight lending means that loans for big, expensive homes are difficult, if not impossible to come by. Every square foot you build costs more in construction materials, labor, permits, city fees, and dare I say it, architecture fees.

2. Resale Value


What? The Realtor rule has seemingly always been, that the larger the home, the better the value. But things have changed.

Building more can now price you out of the market.

Instead, try building only what you need, not what you perceive some mysterious future buyer will need.


3. Quality Over Quantity


About 10 years ago, Sarah Susanka introduced an idea to build better, not bigger, homes in her popular book, The Not So Big House.

Her philosophy is relevant today as the economic shift has lessened the appetite for McMansions in favor of more compact, better built homes - the type of home that you'll want to live in for a long time.

4. Energy Efficiency


Aside from the energy you'll save in construction, a small home is far more efficient over its' life span. The mechanical systems needed to heat and cool your home will cost less upfront and will have to work less to keep you comfortable inside.

5. Think About Trading Space For Power


At a construction cost of $250 per square foot, if you were to build just 80 less square feet, you would have the $20,000 it takes to add a very decent solar power system. And in most places, government rebates will help put a big dent in that $20k price tag.

6. Sustainability


This is a much broader topic that is tough to summarize in a quick list; so simply put, small homes use less resources.

7. Affordable Land

Like many major metropolitan areas, in my home town of Los Angeles, the difficult challenge of finding affordable property makes it tough for many to make that first key step towards building a new home.  If you're willing to go small, new opportunities present themselves in the form of more affordable undersized and odd lots that others may ignore.

8. Subdivide

You can also consider becoming a micro-developer by subdividing a larger lot and building a few homes: one for you and the others to sell to help pay for yours.

Small Lot Subdivision, which we have here in Los Angeles, is spreading as other municipalities realize its potential.

9. Keeping It Clean


A simple concept: small homes are easier and faster to clean. If you hire someone to clean, it will cost you less.

It's also not much fun cleaning rooms you never use.

10. Don't Forget the Furniture


Larger home = more furniture you have to buy.

Nice furniture = expensive.

Small home = less furniture needed = can afford better furniture.

11. Less Room For Junk


Quick Quiz

If I had less space in my house to store (fill in the blank), I would:

a) Pull it out of the closet and put it on display
b) Use it more often
c) Give it away to charity
d) Sell it on ebay or craigslist

The correct answer is that these are all good answers.

I love storage as much as anyone, but having too much can have some disadvantages as well.

12. You Can Always Add-On Later

Build what you can afford (& need) now. Plan for what you want later.

 

By no means is this a complete list. I would love to get some thoughts on this.

What spaces in your house do you not use?

What areas of your home do you wish were bigger? Smaller? 

 

At Modative, we're fans of small modern homes. We like designing them, even on tight budgets. Feel free to contact us if you're thinking about a small home. We can even help you find property.

Download a PDF of 12 Incredibly Obvious Things I Like About Small Homes

Tags: Property, Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Affordable Housing, Subdivisions, economy, small homes

Happy Holidays to Our 2008 Consultants

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Dec 23, 2008 @ 16:12 PM

This holiday season, we at Modative would like to give thanks to the consultants we have worked with throughout the year. Without this talented group our architecture would not be possible.

John Labib + Associates Structural Engineers
John Labib, S.E. and Tony Nguyen
www.labibse.com
Not only are they one of the best structural engineering firms in LA, but they are a pleasure to work with.

Rainville Design Associates (Landscape)
Miriam Rainville
rainvilledesign@yahoo.com
Miriam never disappoints with her ability to beautifully match landscaping to buildings.

Iacobellis & Associates (Subdivision Engineering & Surveying)
Thomas Iacobellis, Thomas Iacobellis Jr., Chris Nassiri, Mark Fox, Gail Hearsey
www.tisurveying.com
In the ever complicated world of subdivisions, these guys are pros.

Fine Line Systems (Civil Engineering)
Chris Chan
CCCPE1003@aol.com
Chris knows the ins and outs of the City of LA so well that we swear he has an office at City Hall.

Breen Engineering, Inc. (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, & Structural)
Hamish List, Gary Mills, Ryan Ramos, Joper Tupas
www.breeneng.com
Breen is a one stop shop for all your engineering needs. However, this convenience is second to their obvious desire to continually please their clients.

Geocon Inland Empire, Inc (Geotechnical Consultants)
Neil D. Berliner
www.geoconinc.com
Geocon used their expertise in liquefaction analysis to save our client a bunch of money on foundations. And that is good news for everyone.

Taylor & Syfan Consulting Engineers (Structural Engineering)
Steve Taylor, Garrett Mills
www.taylor-syfan.com
Taylor & Syfan are expert engineers on projects of all types and sizes, plus they are easy to work with and always on top of things.

J. Byer Group, Inc. (Geotechnical Consultants)
Guiseppe Cugno
www.byergroup.com
We would like to thank Guiseppe and they J. Byer team for always answering our stupid questions about geotechnical engineering. Thanks for helping us architects to understand.

ARC Engineering (Structural Engineering)
Gagan Baines
www.arc-engineering.com
A great midsize structural engineering firm. Gagan, thanks for helping to solve problems us architects create.

TDR Engineering
Ysali A. Shank
www.tdrengineering.com
The fastest and most affordable surveyors in the west.

Ray Associates (Structural Engineering)
Ajay Ray
ajray1@sbcglobal.net
We would like to thank Ajay ray for his personal touch to engineering and willingness to take on projects of any scope.

Tags: Structural Engineers, Civil Engineers, Landscape Architect, Surveyor, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Subdivisions, geotechnical, holidays