Mini-dorm house

This house in La Marina Estates is slated for a second story and a unit above the garage, creating a property with 11 bedrooms.

A property owner with a house in La Marina Estates has filed plans to remodel and also add an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) — resulting in a home with 11 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and two kitchens.

La Marina Estates is a couple of blocks from the Cal State Long Beach campus, and neighbors have raised alarms the property will turn into a fraternity house or student boarding house. They have asked Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price to get involved, and she has tentatively scheduled a meeting for tonight, Thursday.

But both Price and the city planning officer have said there's likely nothing that can be done.

"The permits are in plan review now," planning officer Alexis Oropeza said Friday, Sept. 4. "In the R1 zone, an ADU is permitted under current regulations. With this (house) building envelope, they can build what's proposed — seven bedrooms in the house and four in the ADU is allowed.

"One reason is that this is a much larger lot size than most single family homes," she added. "It is 7,800 square feet as opposed to 4,500 to 4,800 typically. Essentially, the city's hands are tied."

The house, at 6481 E. El Roble St., is on the corner lot, intersecting with Iroquois Avenue. It currently has four bedrooms, rented to four CSULB students, according to the property management company, High Point Real Estate. The property owner, Daniel Lewin, said that he was providing needed housing under the state's new housing laws.

"A fraternity or sorority is not in our game plan," Lewin said in a phone call from his office in Long Beach. "But I will rent to anyone interested and qualified. My wife actually lived in that house while she was attending Cal State Long Beach, and when it went on the market, I took the opportunity.

"We're not here to be a bad neighbor," he added. " We do not want to be an issue… At the same time, there is a housing crisis and I am providing housing, which is a necessary thing."

Price said she has been working with the neighbors for the last three weeks. She also said the expansion plans appear legal, and blamed the state for loosened regulations.

"Students live there, but the use could be expanded in the future," Price said. "The state ADU proposition, AB68, preempts the ordinance we passed, particularly in regards to parking. Under the city's law, this would require additional parking. Under the state, no additional parking is required."

There is a two-car garage on the property, and it will remain a garage, according to the plans, Oropeza said. The state law says that when new housing is within a half mile of adequate public transportation, no additional parking is needed.

Parking impacts are only one issue, neighbors said.

"The students who live there now told us about it," said Jenny Landefeld, who lives next door. "I was shocked. This is communal housing. We started by emailing Suzie Price to see if we could have an emergency municipal code passed.

"That's when we found out it's really a state issue, taking power away from the city… We are going to seek legal counsel."

Oropeza said a fraternity or sorority house would be illegal in that zoning area, and any sober living, mental health or assisted living facility would require licensing.

"A boarding house would be an issue too," Oropeza said. "But it would need a lot of documentation to prove that — leases and such."

Lewin said he would do his best to mitigate impacts on the neighborhood, but that he did not plan to reduce the scope of the expansion. He confirmed the garage would continue to function as a garage.

Lewin, who is 28 years old, said this was one of "a couple" developments he has begun, although this likely is the largest. He said he hoped to have the work done in the beginning of the next year.

Another neighbor, Terri Peightal, is trying to organize opposition, asking neighbors to call officials and protest issuing permits. She said there already had been trouble with students living there in the past (not the current residents) with late-night parties and noise. Peightal lives three houses down from the property.

Price said she the city would work hard to mitigate impacts, and would rely on neighbors to keep watch over the property so it doesn't become a problem. Nuisance complaints and citations could follow. She said she was concerned this property could set a precedent for similar rebuilds.

Oropeza said the permit applications are in plan check now. There's no reason to seek higher approval from the zoning administrator or the Planning Commission.

That leaves Landefeld and other neighbors perplexed.

"This is a commercial enterprise," Landefeld said. "We don't see how it is lawful. All we're doing is trying to keep our single-family neighborhood a neighborhood." 

Note: This story was updated to correct where Dan Lewin lives.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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