Torrance Real Estate Explained – Hillside Overlay

By Keith Kyle

Home with "flags" marking outline of proposed addition

Home with “flags” marking outline of proposed addition

A few of the many benefits of living near the beach are the wonderful ocean views and ocean breezes that make life here so unique.  These ocean views have immeasurable value from both a quality of life aspect as well as a significant monetary impact.  In many of the South Bay cities these views are unprotected and it’s not rare for a home’s stunning ocean views to disappear when the one story home next door gets torn down and new and much larger home replaces it.

Certain areas of Torrance are the exception. Primarily found in the Hollywood Riviera and Seaside Ranchos neighborhoods the city has incorporated much stricter building guidelines known as the “Hillside Overlay” area.  (see map below)

In 1977, the Hillside Overlay Area was established in Torrance, CA in order to address issues concerning building, remodeling, and protecting views and privacy.  All new construction (meaning both new homes and expansions on current structures) are subject to review and input by neighbors including “flagging”  where a mock up of the future structure are marked with plastic flags  to approximate the outlines of any proposed addition to the structure prior to permit approval so that neighborhood input may be obtained.

Torrance Municipal Code Excerpt (Hillside Overlay)

The basics of the hillside overlay are as follows:  Upon receipt of the complete application, the Community Development Director shall set a date, time and place for a public hearing thereon as soon as practicable and shall send notice thereof to the owners of land included within a three hundred (300) foot radius of the exterior boundaries of the land for which the permit is sought

No construction and no remodeling or enlargement of a building or structure shall be permitted unless the Planning Commission (or the City Council on appeal) shall find that the location and size of the building or structure, or the location and size of the remodeled or enlarged portions of the building or structure, have been planned and designed in such a manner as to comply with the following provisions:
a) The proposed development will not have an adverse impact upon the view, light, air and privacy of other properties in the vicinity;
b) The development has been located, planned and designed so as to cause the least intrusion on the views, light, air and privacy of other properties in the vicinity;
c) The design provides an orderly and attractive development in harmony with other properties in the vicinity;
d) The design will not have a harmful impact upon the land values and investment of other properties in the vicinity;
e) Granting such application would not be materially detrimental to the public welfare and to other properties in the vicinity;
f) The proposed development will not cause or result in an adverse cumulative impact on other properties in the vicinity.

Torrance Hillside Overlay