Conceived by smart growth proponents as a viable solution to Los Angeles’ tight housing market, the City of Los Angeles adopted the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance in 2005. The ordinance aimed to encourage the construction of smaller, more affordable infill housing to target first-time home buyers in an increasingly unaffordable market.
The ordinance allowed for the creation of detached townhouses on land zoned for commercial and multi-family use, reducing setback requirements and minimum lot sizes from five thousand to six hundred square feet. In turn, these properties could be sold outright to homebuyers, a process that distinguishes small lot homes from condominiums or apartments.
Though the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance presents an innovative solution to Los Angeles’s housing shortage, the ordinance has also faced opposition from residents, neighborhood groups, and affordable housing advocates.
Critics argue that oversized small lot developments are often incompatible with the scale and character of older multi-family neighborhoods, producing results similar to mansionization in single-family neighborhoods. Areas like Venice, Silver Lake, and Echo Park have seen steady increases in this pattern of development, adding bulk to existing streetscapes and reducing open
In some cases, heightened demand for these modern homes has encouraged the demolition of existing multi-family residences, including bungalow courts, duplexes and fourplexes, and courtyard apartments with rent-controlled units. Though small lot homes are marketed as affordable or accessible to new homeowners, studies show that prices are increasingly higher than the median cost of a single-family home in Los Angeles.