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Planners hear input on small-lot proposal

Costa Mesa ordinance would apply to developments of 15 or fewer singe-family homes, but not require parking or density changes.

September 11, 2013|By Bradley Zint

The Costa Mesa City Council and Planning Commission on Tuesday discussed a proposed ordinance that would regulate and streamline future developments of single-family homes on small-land parcels.

City planners received input on the small-lot subdivision ordinance, including what some say is a need for zoning-code changes, given the market demand for new detached homes over condominiums.

The proposed ordinance would apply to developments of 15 or fewer single-family homes in areas zoned for multifamily units. It would not call for changes to a project's parking and density requirements.

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Among the proposals outlined in the ordinance: removing the minimum 3,000-square-foot lot size, the 3,500-square-foot average lot size and 10-foot minimum distance between main buildings — specifications currently in place for small-lot developments.

It also would not require incorporating a homeowners association, but rather a more informal "maintenance association" or "maintenance agreement," according to city staff.

Lydia Lim, a real estate law attorney with Los Angeles-based Soukup & Schiff, participated in the joint commission-council study session via conference call. Asked about the difference between an HOA and maintenance association, she cited more flexibility in the latter.

She said it's quite difficult for homeowners who are not lawyers to follow the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act — the state law that governs "common-interest" developments, such as condo complexes.

"A lot of times, they have a management company guide them to do it correctly," Lim said.

Future housing developments in Costa Mesa won't be like it was years ago, with master-planned communities spread out over many acres, Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy said.

"The idea of going out and buying 50 acres in Costa Mesa just isn't a reality," he said.

McCarthy, who was part of a team about four years ago that first looked into such an ordinance, also said the notion of building and buying new 3,000-square-foot homes is "long gone."

People are now "living smaller" and more efficiently, he noted.

McCarthy said planners looked at similar ordinances being developed for Los Angeles and San Diego and then began drafting one for Costa Mesa.

The small-lot ordinance is not being "developer-pushed," he added, but instead has been encouraged by groups like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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