Housing Policy

When Blue-State Zoning and Super-Cool Green Architecture Collide


What's he BUILDING in there?

This purportedly carbon-neutral building, in Venice, California, is three and a half feet too tall, according to Los Angeles zoning restrictions. Removing the solar panels would knock it down 18 inches, but that might not be enough for the City Council. The architect says, "To fix it would cost more than it cost to erect it in the first place." Read more about it at L.A. Curbed.

Hat tip to Shawn Richardson.

NEXT: Debt Becomes Us

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  1. California doesn’t deserve all that nice weather.

    1. Washington should take it from them…by force. Oregon would get crushed in the ensuing struggle, of course, which is only appropriate.

    2. All the nicest places to live are populated by the worst people.

      1. We didn’t get here by being nice, loser.

  2. That building is unmutual.

  3. I hear that dude who knocked down his own house with a bulldozer is available – I bet he could take this thing to a total height of 18 inches.

    Which would be fine, cause this is one fugly building.

    1. Also, fuck California

      1. And fuck New York, too

  4. Click around the pictures of the inside. It looks like a futuristic prison. Like the kitchen, it’s so warm and inviting. And nothing says home like exposed steel beams and corrugated metal.

    And all this can be yours for a mere 10K a month!

    1. This place is not ideal, but I suspect it’s pretty nice in the hot southern Californian weather. Would make a pretty sweet bachelor pad/design & prototyping studio.

      1. I’m sure it has it’s uses, but this type of architecture has also had a real institutional feel to me. I’m pretty sure one of the shots of the bare concrete floor shows a drain set in the middle of it. Living in converted lofts is one thing, but making a loft that looks like it was converted from industrial space is not an aesthetic I care for.

        1. I think the drain was in the bathroom. You gotta admit though, if you got rat faced and pissed on the floor then the concrete + drains would be pretty handy. 🙂

          1. Yes, handy…

            But look at the third row, second from the left. That’s not the shower stall. (The shower stall has a toilet in it.)

            1. I almost rented a place on Elliott Ave here in Seattle that had a similar aesthetic. It’s not as bad as you think, but of course, I ended up choosing a more normal place, so maybe my subconscious agrees with you.

              1. I do see the benefits of being able to clean your living room with a garden hose, though. Assuming whatever hippie rainwater catchment/bicycle generator arrangement they have gave you any water pressure.

                1. What is this “cleaning” you refer to? Is that what the Mexican woman I hire does?

                  1. Not all of us live your jet set lifestyle.

                  2. Too poor for a Canadian bang maid, I see.

                    1. I thought all the Pollack bangmaids go to England.

                    2. Fuck, I read ‘Canadian’ as ‘Caucasian’. Regardless, my point still stands – Canada sucks.

                    3. I could afford one, but the wife has the crazy notion that it sets a bad example when I butt-bang the help.

                    4. The wife should just get her one of those lockable strap-in plugs then.

                    5. You were going to have a male maid?

                    6. I only ass-fuck the help. Those people get pregnant at the drop of a jimmy hat.

                    7. Nothing says “settlement” like a positive DNA test on the bugger.

    2. Holy Hell. I think if I moved in to a place like that, my suicide would follow not long after, even in sunny California.

  5. It looks like the architect took extra time to go over the design once more to remove any hint of aesthetic quality. Too bad he didn’t check the height.

    I’m guessing they knew good and well it was too tall, but the only way to shorten it would be to take out a revenue-producing floor, and they figured “Hey, what are they going to do, make us tear the whole thing down because its 42″ too tall?”

    1. He was just thinking, “Close enough for government work.”

    2. The building could have been more carbon neutral if the ceilings were lower. Isn’t their whole movement supposed to be about sacrifices like that?

  6. That place is a libertarian’s dream home. They tore down a homeless shelter to build it.

    1. What, there was no orphanage available for demolition?

    2. Clear fields of fire, front yard a kill zone…

    3. Dude, I am sure it is full of ghosts. Ghosts who are too incompetent to get a job and/or deal with their addictions, but ghosts none the less!

      1. The ghosts of Progressives are the only ones that haunt buildings. They feed off of the psychic energy of the living, the ultimate immortal parasites.

        1. Who ya gonna call?

      2. Dude, 13 Ghosts was an awesome movie! All those glass walls and shit.

  7. Soviet Architecture is not dead Comrades.

  8. And the toilet. Who doesn’t want to watch you take a dump the size of a birthday cake when you’re this rich?

    1. You need a more tubular metaphor – a football, maybe?

      1. A dump the size of Bono? 8.3 Kourics?

    2. The super rich actually shit cake, it’s a simple but expensive operation like a tummy tuck.

      1. I’ve always loved you
        Love dumpling
        Your shit’s like chocolate cake and
        your ass smells like a rose

        The whole thing

        1. Static-X! They’re the only band I know of whose original guitarist got fired for being a pedophile.

          1. No, Warty, that was their second guitarist. Their first guitarist was the Japanese dude who rejoined when the second guy got busted diddling teens.

            1. You say “diddling teens” as if it’s a bad thing.

      2. Cinnamon rolls, actually. We’re born different that way, to paraphrase Sir Francis Galton.

  9. So, vis is vere Dieter vent to build ze haus.

    I felt my eyes being poked out simply by looking at the pictures.

  10. Soviet Architecture is not dead Comrades.

    Too much gingerbread; Russians would have done it as a spalling, totally featureless concrete cube.

    1. Do you mean like this?

      Which is incidentally, another building that is too tall, by 7 inches (not too tall legally but too tall for it’s new function). The reason the 3 foot link struck me was because I spent a few years in the old IBM building going to Otis. IBM had received a tax break from the city of Westchester if the built a “skyscraper”. They did, by 7 inches. Well when the college decided to move into that building, they didn’t realize the implications of those 7 inches. A school in a “skyscraper” requires some pretty serious fire egress space which reduced the useable interior space by about a third. DOH!!

  11. Took a brief look at some of the history – supposedly not only did this guy go ahead and build the building too tall, he also violated various other local codes – including allegedly stealing electricity from the local pole.

    I mean, yeah, some zoning limitations are silly or overly detailed and restrictive, but I find it kinda hard to work up much sympathy or outrage on this guy’s behalf. If the rules are in place, you either deal with them and build within the established limits, get a variance, work to get the rules changed, or go build somewhere else. The answer is not to simply ignore all local law and build whatever the fuck you feel like building.

    1. Mike|6.1.10 @ 3:31PM|#
      Honest question: what’s the libertarian position regarding the follow scenario: My neighbor decides to add ten stories to his house.

      1. Are you quoting, or asking this question yourself? The classic libertarian answer would be negotiate a covenant with your neighbor in which he gives up the right to build a 10-story house and, in most likely scenario, you in exchange give up right to build your house 10 stories high.

        1. Some liberal tried to gotcha! us with this canard the other day. It amused me to see it happen here.

        2. That’s the classic libertarian answer? If so, it’s pretty dumb.

          That would be like Scarlett Johansson trying to avoid being groped by me by proposing a covenant where we each agree not to grope the other.

          In this situation, your neighbor probably knows you have no intention or reason to build ten extra stories on your house, so that concession is worthless to him. And you’re just bagging the question if you don’t take into account the possibility that your neighbor will refuse to sign any covenant preventing him from building the extra stories.

          1. Except for the fact that my groping Scarlet violates her personal space, and my using my property as I see fit and allowing you to do the same doesn’t.

            Other than that, they’re the same though.

            1. It’s called an analogy. I’m not saying that my neighbor is Scarlett Johansson. The similarity is that in both cases, an agreement is sought where one party gives up something they want in return for something they don’t want.

              If your philosophy is justified by the assumption that voluntary agreements of that sort are going to be commonplace, then your philosophy is in trouble.

    2. but construction issues like the foundation being poured too high happen all the time. You then put a manufactured building on top and “poof” your building is too tall. This is well within the margin of legitimate error.

    3. including allegedly stealing electricity from the local pole.


    4. The answer is not to simply ignore all local law and build whatever the fuck you feel like building.

      And the question is: “How do you knuckle under to statists and not act libertarian?”

    5. The answer is not to simply ignore all local law and build whatever the fuck you feel like building.

      Actually, that probably IS the answer. But only once all your EMP satellites and biowar booby traps are in place and you’re ready to take it all the way.

  12. So I gather the architect thought that Brutalism is for pussies.

  13. “To fix it would cost more than it cost to erect it in the first place.”

    From your lips to Chris Hansen’s ears

  14. Just so everyone understands, the plans had to specifiy the building at the proper height or they would not have been approved. The difference in height is due to normal construction errors that happen all the time. These errors are typically overlooked. In fact, I have never seen an inspector measure the height of a building. They just check the height on the plans.

    1. Your explanation is a little confusing. Did you mean to say that, since nobody actually measures the height of an actual building, that it must have been that the plans didn’t show some detail (like the solar panels?) that pushed the height over the limit?

      1. There are discrepancies in the construction process all the time that are too expensive to fix and “close enough” is generally acceptable. It is perfectly typical for a contractor to pour a foundation and have that foundation be 6″-12″ too high. That is pretty easy to grade around and wouldn’t normally be a problem so everyone just shrugs and keeps building. No big deal. Then later in the project you might run into a situation where a joist has to be 3″ higher for the HVAC ducting to fit through because the electrical contractor put the conduit in the wrong place, but it’s not normally a big deal so you adjust things to make it work. Next thing you know the building is a foot or two taller than you planned. The city inspectors understand this and typically look the other way. The other way that error can creep into this is based on where they decide to measure the building as the grade changes thus changing the measurement. It is possible that someone in the building department didn’t consider the solar panels as part of the building height but I doubt it. More likely is that the architect measured from one place on the survey because that is where a plan checker said to measure the building and then the inspector measured from another point because that was the correct point. Couple that with discrepencies in the survey and a 3 foot discrepency is easy to obtain.

        1. That’s why you leave a little room for error in the plans. You don’t write the plans down for exactly the maximum height allowed…that’s just asking for trouble.

          1. That’s right people, use your own property as conservatively as possible to avoid bumping heads with the rulers.

            1. I believe the current discussion is about how to deal with existing zoning regulations that you do not have the ability to change.

              If you want to discuss whether zoning regulations are a good idea in the first place, reply to someone else.

        2. A 3′ discrepency may be “easy to obtain”, but in a 4 story building? I have worked industrial construction for years and if I ever missed the finished height by approx. 10% on a job, I would have been fired. This was not a construction error. You can only miss by that much intentionally.

          Either that or you just don’t know what the fuck you are doing.

          1. I’m guessing the solar panels weren’t considered part of the height originally. That puts you at 18″ discrepency or 5%. That’s pretty plausible and due for a variance. And a 30′ building is definitely not a 4 story building.

            1. I was judging each pair of horizontal elements as one floor, plus a parking level.

              At 30′, the components fabricated off-site would not fit a building that was 10% off spec. It is easily possible to get a 100′ tall building or an industrial structure within an inch or two compared to the drawing. It’s done all of the time in construction work.

              In my opinion, this was intentional with the thought “Well, they’ll give us a variance.”

          2. If you read the post the building itself (sans solar) is only “a couple of inches” over 30′ to grade at foundation.

  15. It took me a minute to figure out the set-up. The second to last image. The toilet is in the shower stall.

    Now you really have no excuse for pissing in the shower. Or you could take a dump and then a shower… Wait… is it a shower or is that a detachable bidet hose on the wall? Hell, why not both!

    Although the set-up does make scat-play clean-up a snap!

    1. I was at Misquamicut one time and I went to take a shower before leaving. All the stalls were taken…except one. So, with trepidation, I pulled the curtain back; and sure enough, someone had dropped a huge fudge dragon right in the middle of the shower. I almost took a shit myself I was laughing so hard. It was just…there. Totally out of place.

  16. The bathroom is, in some ways, a “european” layout. Where you have a drain in the floor and a shower in the wall. I had a few hotel bathrooms like that in various euro countries. The toilet in the bathroom would only be in hotels though not residences wich would have “water closets”.

  17. The difference in height is due to normal construction errors that happen all the time.

    Three and half feet on a six story steel-frame building? I’m no architect or construction contractor, but that strikes me as implausible. To add height to that building, you’d have to order different, or at least more, steel.

    I’m guessing they either added a floor after the plans were submitted (which I can recall being done on more than one occasion), or raised the pillars for the garage after the plans were submitted so the greenies could comfortable fit their Tahoes and Yukons under there.

    1. Hey! It’s the house that’s the Carbon Credit(tm)! Just like Pope Albert(PBUH)!

      We’ll compost that heretic Tipper, too!

    2. I’m guessing it is a combination of inaccuracy in the survey (I run into this all the time), a foundation that was poured a little high because the contractor set the sonotube a little high and didn’t want to move them all down 6″ or whatever, and differences in the location from where the measurements were taken. Where the measurements are taken was probably the biggest issue.

      1. I learn something new here every day. Today, what I learned doesn’t make me feel unclean.

  18. I think this is the best part…

    The building was not measured from the centerline of 5th Avenue

    Seriously? Building height is relative to the street level and not the building itself? What, to prevent building on man-made hills?

    1. Or skyscrapers in ditches.

    2. It depends. In residential, the height is measured from the lowest grade at a distance of 5 feet from the foundation to the highest point of the building. So if you are on a steep hill, you get screwed.

    3. So I can’t build my palace of doom atop a pyramid of skulls? Fuck you, California.

      1. They probably won’t let you put in burners with enough BTU to properly boil huge cauldrons of girl anyway.

        1. Silence! My palace of doom is entirely carbon neutral, since I encase my enemies in carbon.

          1. Not Cabonite? Wtf, man?

            1. er, Carbonite. Look, its made up anyway, does the spelling really matter?

        2. Sure they would, you would just have to follow commercial kitchen regulations that would have all kitcen surfaces as being non-combustible or put the giant burner outside. You would also have to get a new connection from DWP so you could have a bigger pipe for your gas connection. Just tell them you are a potter or something. It’s a kiln I swear.

          1. Or get rezoned as a rendering plant maybe?

      2. Aww man, it would be tough to get a grading permit for a pyramid of skulls. You would have to send skulls out for independent testing in order to determine compressive strength and then….. On second though just build it in Montana.

  19. I think he should tear it down, and build a cute bungalow-on-steroids McMansion, using exotic tropical hardwoods. And heat it with coal.

    1. Speaking of libertarian bingo:

      Wayne, New Jersey
      June 6th, 2010
      11:37 am
      For a couple of people supposedly concerned about freedom, father and son have acted mighty imperious. Couldn’t Rand Paul just answer Rachel Maddow’s question about whether businesses who serve the public should be prohibited from discrimination? Why did Rand invoke the concept of fate in discussing BP’s recklessness (accident’s happen) and make the accusation that Obama was un-American in demanding an accounting?

      Because the Maddow interview truly indicated that Libertarianism is a college discussion, nothing more. The dreamy rich person’s-utopia can have no real world application, because there is no real world where a minority can “take business elsewhere!” and magically solve the problem of a lack of public accommodations. They believe that the free-market dynamics are a substitute for codified justice drawn up by our elected representatives. I think that is crazy talk.

      The Rands should be kicking back, and smoking their corn-cobb pipes on the porch of their general store complaining about the government. We have a real world here with real problems that quite unfortunately, only the government can solve. That’s why we created one.

      1. …but we liberals aren’t hateful purveyors of stereotypes, nor are we elitists!

        1. Ha! You haven’t seen my art collection, my Prius, my stash of 3-D hentai tentacle porn, have you Brian? You really should set your sights higher. Did I mention I am a PhD too? I am easily the smartest person in my apartment complex, and probably the smartest in my twelve square block area location. Tony is easily the smartest in his too, and we are both paragons of charity and selflessness! If only you were as enlightened as us, then maybe we can make this flawed world more equal in its outcomes and clean with emissionless true sustainable energy! Bask in our righteous indignation, Losertopians!

      2. In reality, deregulation = criminality. Case in point is Somalia. Just like the Pauls all wish, there is absolutely no government there. So the question is, how exactly is the place doing, with no government? Of course, it is a criminal haven, where death is a daily thing, and suffering is commonplace. Of course without anybody to police anything, it’s a mess.


    2. The only thing I’d ask Dondero advice on is what to do when I shit a pint of blood. Everything else is well outside his area of expertise.

      1. Paging Dr. Groovus!

  20. Human creativity brought to you by The Borg.

  21. Wow that is super cool indeed! Amazing.


    1. Which makes sense with a robot’s aesthetic values.

  22. We have a real world here with real problems that quite unfortunately, only the government can solve. That’s why we created one.

    Offer thou up thy Praise and Prayer to Government Almighty!

  23. On second though just build it in Montana.


    I hear Utah is nice. There’s lots of friendly Mormons there.

    1. The anti-drinking culture prevents bone deterioration too, so the skulls are higher quality.

  24. Maximum height regulations certainly have a point when the local government agency is providing fire protection. That being said, if they are upset that the solar panels are making the building too tall, I think they are missing the point of the regulation. As a former volunteer firefighter, I can’t imagine a solar panel catching on fire, and certainly can’t imagine needing ladder truck access to a solar panel or HVAC.

    1. Height restrictions in this case probably have more to do with the view and coastal commission issues than fire. Good point though.

    2. missing the point of the regulation

      That’s rich. Spirit of The Law? Fuck that Yo! I gots Letters!

    3. Solar panels and inverters are fire risks and tricky ones too.

  25. Am I the only one who thinks this looks like it came from Ikea?

    1. So it’s missing 30% of its bolts?

  26. Maybe the bathrooms are supposed to be Japanese.

    I didn’t know a lot about Japanese architecture, and one day I was watching House Hunters International and I couldn’t figure out how they managed to shoot interior scenes of bathrooms and never show a commode.

    I was like, “Is there a taboo in Japan about letting people photograph your commode or something?”

    And the wifey was like, “No. In Japan you relieve yourself into a hole in the floor.”

    And I ran right to Google and GOD DAMN but it’s true.

    The real reason Japanese people live so long is obviously the fact that you have to do Yoga five times a day there to be able to pee or take a crap. If I had to do squats or downward facing dog or something to take a dump, I’d be much healthier too.

    So maybe they built these crazy bathrooms as part of a plan to make Americans not only greener, but healthier.

    1. In countries where people use squat toilettes, there is much lower incidence of hemorrhoids.

    2. The toilet hole is an old fashioned thing for the Proles. Movers and shakers in Japan (and most middle class) have toilets with build in bidets, dryers and music from manufacturers like Toto. I know, because I also have a Toto toilet.

  27. I was just talking to the local building inspector (about something else) so I asked about “leeway” in deals like this. “I give plus 2%. So if you were approved for a twenty five ft. building, I’ll give you 6″. Comes up most frequently in setbacks – dude wants to put in a patio and, one thing or another, it encroaches 4″ into the 25′ set back. I’ll give him a break.
    Last month, thought, a guy built his hot-tub pad right up to the easement for the sewer line. Jackhammering it up as we speak.”

    1. That makes sense, because the measurement error on most instruments is roughly +/- 2% unless you want to start paying serious money.

    2. That sounds about right. I think the problem here has to do a lot with interpretation. I’m going to guess that someone at the building department didn’t include the solar panels in the height of the building just like you wouldn’t include vent stacks in the height of the building and then a supervisor decided after the fact that it should be included. Take the solar away and they are looking at 18″. Then add a small construction error of 6″ and they are down to 12″ which could easily be based on where they decide that day to measure from. Considering that I have had engineers at the grading department that couldn’t read a topo map, I’m voting for building department SNAFU that they won’t back down from.

    3. That leeway is arbitrary and not built into the statute.

      1. there is no leeway in the statute. If you piss off the inspector they will fuck you with whatever infraction they can find even if it has nothing to do with the current construction.

        1. Nothing i like more than Persons of Authority using their power to soothe a stung ego.

          1. The good news however is that they are lazy and orders to comply take about 3 hours of paperwork to complete. So if you have a Certificate of Occupancy and then make some minor changes that are code violations, they won’t come back at you with an order to comply. The one time bureaucracy helps out the little guy.

            Now if you don’t have a CO, have fun you’re their bitch.

  28. Last month, thought, a guy built his hot-tub pad right up to the easement for the sewer line. Jackhammering it up as we speak.

    Why can’t you build next to the easement??? If they have a set back from the easement shouldn’t you know they pay for that extra space with an easement? An easement IS a setback.

    My guess is the guy either built on the easement or did not know how to fight city hall and i am leaning on the latter.

  29. A professor at Columbia University champions vertical farming. He wants to set up a 5 story piolot building in Brooklyn, but the city is bogging him down with arguements over the variances.

  30. My town recently reduced the maximum allowed hight for homes. I’m very tempted to plant bamboo on my roof below the legal hieght and then wait for the police to come knocking when the bamboo grows over the limit.

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