Toni Ryan was born and raised in the South Bay and has lived here all her life. Her living room is decorated with prints of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. A poster of the new Plaza Hermosa shopping center in Hermosa Beach hangs above her kitchen table.
Three years ago, just before she got married, Ryan sold her home in Redondo Beach and bought a three-bedroom house on 9th Street in Hermosa Beach. She and her husband, Jim, spent more than $25,000 renovating the one-story home, building solid-wood cabinets in the dining room and adding flower gardens and a manicured lawn outside.
"We love it at the beach, and originally, we planned to stay here forever," said Ryan as she walked out into a lush backyard framed by rows of blooming flowers. "Our alternative now is to live in a fish bowl or sell to a developer."
Apartment Next Door
Ryan's eyes had moved from the flower bed to a two-story pink stucco building that is under construction just yards from her backdoor. Last year, a developer bought her neighbor's home, leveled it, and is now building a five-unit apartment building. Most of the lots in the neighborhood, which is just west of Pacific Coast Highway about half a mile from the beach, are zoned for multifamily housing.
"We still love the house, but we don't get any sun after noon and we've lost our view," she said. "With the new building next door, and more apartments two doors down, our property should be apartments, too."
Ryan, 39, who works as a distribution manager for BMW in Marina del Rey, and her husband, an executive vice president for Porsche, recently agreed to sell the house to the developer who is building next door. But the sale is not final, and with the proposed zoning changes, the Ryans said they may have to shave thousands of dollars off the sale price for the deal to go through.
Under current law, a developer can build five apartments on the Ryans' lot, which is 4,860 square feet. But with the proposed changes, only four apartments would be allowed. The loss would mean reducing the sale price from $200,000 to $160,000, the Ryans said. Toni Ryan said she paid $144,450 for the house three years ago.
"If they can't meet the April 1 deadline (when plans must be filed for projects to qualify under the current ordinance)," said Jim Ryan, 43, "then we lose $40,000."
But the Ryans, who joined about 100 other opponents of the proposed zoning changes at a City Council meeting two weeks ago, say their opposition to the changes goes beyond their own bank account. Toni Ryan said they own other real estate in the South Bay and can rebound from a loss in the sale of their home.
What the Ryans worry about most, she said, is the effect the new zoning requirements will have on the housing stock in Hermosa Beach. They fear that the changes will put a stop to what they perceive as a gradual improvement in the quality of housing, and if anything, will exacerbate parking and congestion problems.
"It is astounding to us that the city actually wants to stop the improvements that are going on in the city," Toni Ryan said. "The parking problems exist because of the substandard housing that was built ages ago. They weren't required to have enough spaces."
Parking Spaces Required
Since 1973, the city has required all new condominium and apartment projects to include two on-site parking spaces per unit and one guest space for every three units. Developments are also required to add on-site parking spaces if the project eliminates curb-side spaces, said Michael Schubach, the city's planning director.
Up to 1965, the city required only one parking space per unit, and between 1965 and 1973, it required 1 1/2 spaces per unit--both far below what city planners now consider to be adequate.
But even the standards established in 1973 apparently did not go far enough. New, stricter parking requirements are once again in the works, Schubach said. On Tuesday, the council will receive a report from the Planning Commission that recommends, among other things, that a guest space be required for every two units and that residents be required to clear out their garages so cars can be parked in them, Schubach said.
"We have a very personal interest in this financially," Jim Ryan said, "but in the big picture the density problem--manifested in things like poor trash removal and parking problems--is not necessarily a problem of too many people living in the town, but a problem of the type of buildings here and the number of bootleg (illegal) apartments."
'Not the Solution'
"These people think this is the solution, but this is not the solution. All you are doing is locking in those properties with substandard housing and no parking."
In a letter to the council, the Ryans recommended that the council put off the new zoning changes and appoint a task force to review the affected properties to determine which of them should be included in any changes. The council, however, voted to go ahead as planned.
Last year, the Ryans bought a second piece of property in Hermosa Beach, a 2,850-square-foot lot on 17th Street that has two small houses on it. After it became clear that they would be selling their 9th Street home, the couple decided they eventually will tear down the two units and move into a new home they will build on 17th Street property, Toni Ryan said.
But with the changes under way, they are not sure they want to do that anymore.
"We have a half-million dollars invested in Hermosa Beach," Jim Ryan said. "But I don't have much faith in the way this city is run. Who knows what they'll do next?"