City leaders are right to keep these godawful vanity projects from ruining Kentwood, Mar Vista and east Venice

By Tony Peyser
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As The Argonaut reported on March 19, city leaders have finally taken notice of McMansions — those towering, tasteless monoliths that have been increasingly crowding out human-scale homes in places like east Venice, Mar Vista and Westchester’s Kentwood neighborhood. They’re pretty hard to miss.

As it turns out, though, the L.A. City Council voted just five days later to approve home-size restrictions for those neighborhoods and a dozen others throughout the city.

That’s a good thing, because one of the only good things about these monstrosities — OK, the only good thing — is that pretty much everyone feels free to shamelessly trash them.

Does anyone really like McMansions?

In the aforementioned article, the reporter managed to find someone who works in real estate who does. He argued that people seek larger homes because they’re too busy on their computers and other digital devices to get all that much out of the open space surrounding their homes, even in sunny Southern California.

The World Wide Web isn’t entirely to blame, though — it started after World War II. Once upon a time, casual socializing with neighbors was commonplace, an intersection of private and public space that helped bond communities together. Why this went away can be summed up in two acronyms: AC and TV.

The source’s larger point, however, was that the size of a home defines its value, and people tend to want to get every penny’s worth out of such a massive investment as their home.

This brings us to the idea of money spent vs. money well-spent. Do big-budget movies always have to be moronic? There’s the “Transformers” franchise, sure, but then there’s also “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” a conspiracy thriller that would have worked even without the superheroes. The latter is exceedingly well-conceived and made — a bit of praise you won’t hear directed at “Transformers” movies or, for that matter, your generic McMansion.

McMansions are despised for many reasons, not the least of which is they’re incredibly ugly. In a world with great ethnic cuisine served up by hipster food trucks, McMansions are Taco Bell. There is no key design element except size — a perfect marriage of greed and one-upmanship. They’re not so much homes as places to park Hummers. (One of the other names for such abodes is Hummer houses.)

Admittedly, one could say there is something wrong — even un-American! — about local government telling people how they can and can’t build their homes. And yet when these eyesores proliferate, the end result is often changes in the character of a neighborhood that can wind up bringing down the value of all the homes in the area.

It has always surprised me that the families in these bland, butt-ugly homes would stop at applying their wretched taste only to where they live. Dad can take the same steroids Barry Bonds did on the way to beating Hank Aaron’s home run record. Mom can opt for implants to resemble cast members from one of those “Real Housewives” shows.

I think such personal cosmetic enhancements should be mandatory for all who insist on tearing down perfectly nice homes to build the godawful dream houses that are nightmares for everyone who has to look at them.

I like to think I’m a fair and open-minded person, but at the end of the day it comes down to something like this: “I’m not prejudiced against McMansions … but do you really want one moving in next door?”

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