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Challenges Faced By New Home Builders in Los Angeles

Contemporary tiled spa and pool Having a new custom home in Los Angeles is the dream of many. Yet, building in the City of Angels can be a complicated — and exciting — journey. In this article, we’ll examine all the challenges faced by new home builders in LA, and explain the best ways of overcoming them.

Zoning and Planning

In the City of Los Angeles, zoning may still favor single-family residences, but that doesn’t mean that getting approval to build your dream custom home is an easy feat. Depending on the location of the lot, and the land’s current and intended use, you may have to get separate approvals from a number of city agencies and departments. These may include:

Department of City Planning — Ensures your project’s compliance with local zoning ordinances and the General Plan. Any deviations from the Plan will require a variance, which grants relief from the zoning ordinances. Variances typically come with conditions.

Fire Department — Typically, the department reviews site plans to ensure adequate hydrant placement and Fire Department access to the proposed building. With commercial projects, the department will also review individual fire safety requirements, depending on the nature of the business.

Department of Public Works — Your project may need various types of permits from this department, if the construction activities affect public roads, walkways, storm and sewer drains, streetlights, and traffic signals.

Department of Transportation — This department reviews driveway dimensions, project access, and circulation plans.

Apart from the above, the Departments of Water and Power, Housing, Cultural Affairs, as well as various state agencies may also get involved in the approval process, depending on the complexity of your project. And bear in mind all of this is on top of the Building and Safety Department.

As you can imagine, the approval process can drag on for many months, especially if any of the departments require revisions to the plans. The best way to streamline these approvals is to hire a construction management professional with plenty of local experience. Doing so will help your project team anticipate administrative hurdles ahead of time, avoid needless revision cycles, and help you get the shovels in the dirt as soon as possible.

Baseline Mansionization Ordinance

The Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) was adopted to protect older and historic LA neighborhoods from tear-downs and new large, out-of-scale homes. For new home communities in Los Angeles, this ordinance means:

● Limits on the home’s footprint and height
● Design standards that prevent “boxy” designs
● Ban on tree removal to accommodate enlarged driveways

Building a luxury home within the confines of the BMO can be a challenge, as your project team will need to balance desired architectural features, floor areas, and BMO regulations.

Hillside Home Projects and Their Challenges

The hills surrounding Los Angeles are more than an iconic landmark; they’re a highly desirable location for custom, luxury homes.

To help protect LA’s existing hillside communities, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning has adopted the Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BHO) — a set of regulations that governs hillside construction.

The BHO has a significant impact on the design of hillside homes — and properties — in Los Angeles. Balancing your design intentions, budget, and the requirements set forth in the BHO can be a real challenge. If you’re planning to build your new home on the hillside, your best approach would be to hire a skilled construction manager to oversee all stages of your home’s design and construction.

Hillside Landslide and Seismic Hazards

Unfortunately, hillside construction is also fraught with risk — look no further than the Northridge Earthquake and the destruction that it caused among hillside homes.

Earthquakes aren’t the only hazard for hillside residences, either. Landslides pose another major risk, as do flash floods (yes, even in bone-dry SoCal).

Given all these natural hazards, hillside construction requires careful planning and design — especially if you’d like to retain your dream home’s aesthetics and stay within the budget.

Natural Hazards

Like much of California, Los Angeles, and the surrounding areas are vulnerable to a number of natural hazards.

For instance, much of Los Angeles falls within Seismic Design Categories E and D2 — those representing the highest seismic hazard. California’s building and residential codes have strict regulations that govern construction in locales with high seismic, liquefaction, and landslide risks. These regulations often influence building design and may require owners to compromise on their desired architectural features.

What’s more, as recent years have shown, the areas surrounding Los Angeles are highly prone to wildfires. As the city’s wildland-urban interface expands, it’s inevitable that many new developments will end up within the fire hazard area, which already makes up a sizable chunk of the city.

Building with these threats in mind can be a formidable challenge, as mitigation measures have a sizable impact on both the budget and design.

Why You Need Expert Project Management in LA

In Los Angeles, new home construction faces many hurdles. From a drawn-out approval process to countless natural hazards, there are many challenges that require a skilled, experienced construction management team’s expertise if you don’t want to compromise on your vision for your new home.

At Stonemark, we have 25 years of experience in managing challenging construction projects all over California. We offer complete project management services to meet deadlines, stay within budget, and build a home that meets your design intentions.

Crucially, we’ve managed many construction sites in the Los Angeles area, so we bring that unique local experience you need to make your dream home project a success.
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