Manhattan Beach Opts for Treehouses to Add Housing Density

By Dave Fratello | April 1st, 2022

APRIL FOOL! Thanks for joining us for our annual tradition of "walking the line" with a little topical humor. The full, original story is posted below!

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The city of Manhattan Beach has reached agreement with the state of California to begin allowing housing in the trees, and other elevated platforms around the city.

"Treehouses and the supporting infrastructure for elevated living will help our city to meet its vital housing needs and remain in compliance with state mandates,” city staff wrote in a report released on April 1.

The plan, dubbed “Rise Above MB,” may help reduce pressure for new development on existing single-family home lots in the city, including lot splits, duplexes and ADUs, among other means of increasing density in town. The plan also reduces the threat of litigation, or worse, by the state to force new development.

Because the city owns the skies above most residences, Manhattan Beach has the right to “upzone” by allowing for housing to be constructed above existing neighborhoods.

Initial Reactions Strong

The first bit of formal opposition to “Rise Above MB” has come from the Manhattan Village Homeowners Association.

“We have quickly identified at least 47 parts of our CC&Rs that would be violated by any attempt to place housing in our community’s trees or above our roofs,” the HOA said in an April 1 letter to the city after an emergency meeting. "And no one should think for a minute that any treetop residents will be exempted from our $700/month HOA fees."

Overnight, yet another anonymous citizens group has formed, or, at least, someone registered a new Gmail address and claimed to speak for a lot of people. The group calls itself StopWokeTreehousesInMBNowAndForever.

“This Ewok-inspired plan is nothing more than a ‘woke’ plan to fill our neighborhoods and schools with people who can’t afford to live here otherwise,” says the group’s first missive.

“Just think about who’s going to live in these treehouses," the email states. "It’s like allowing Antifa and BLM to build bases all over our city. ‘Rise Above’ is risible.”

City Has Been Pressured to Add Housing

The “Rise Above” plan comes soon after the city council voted last week to adopt a controversial housing roadmap to add 774 housing units over several years, but said they were doing so “under protest” against Sacramento’s mandates.

Now, there is agreement between the parties to let the treehouse plan play out for a while.

Although housing units of various sizes would be built above existing neighborhoods, none would have garages, and many residents would be carless, the report assumes.

As a result, traffic impacts from the new housing would be reduced, mitigating a chief concern of residents about increased density.

Startup Areas: Tree Section, East Manhattan Beach

The initial focus for treehouse development will be in areas with existing tall trees, including eucalyptus trees, found in bunches around the appropriately named Tree Section and, for instance, in clumps along 2nd Street and the “Fifth Street Forest” in East Manhattan.

Palm trees are exempt from the plan, because palms are technically grasses.

The city will be responsible for providing infrastructure, including plumbing and electricity as well as rope bridges, zip lines and ladders connecting the new homes to one another, and to the ground.

Homeowners below the trees slated for housing will have easements placed on their properties to allow for infrastructure improvements and for means of ingress and egress for treetop residents.

The plan also calls for a crash program of wide-scale planting of new, fast-growing trees to help fill out the housing plan’s potential within the next 20-25 years.

Vision for a 'City Within a City'

The city plan states, “The full vision under the Rise Above MB plan is that we will have a new city within a city, up above us, but connected and deeply a part of us, too.”

Local housing advocate Warrick Wicket congratulated the city on adopting the plan, noting how it echoes popular film. “This is a progressive vision for housing that inspires one to think of the Ewok villages of Star Wars,” Warrick said.

“In truth, this is not a fanciful way to build residences,” Warrick continued. “It’s common all over the globe.”

“Treehouse living is one of the safest and most natural ways to live,” Warrick said. “One can be close to nature and avoid predators.”

Leaked Emails Show Pressure Building on Cities

As detailed in leaked emails published today by MB News, state agency chiefs have been planning to seize the former Fry’s site at Rosecrans and Sepulveda, as well as the vast new corporate headquarters under construction along Sepulveda/PCH in Hermosa Beach.

Both sites would become large apartment buildings.

Instead, now Manhattan Beach's compromise for tree housing should delay state actions here.

Anticipating a great deal of community input, the city has announced a series of Town Halls about the subject. The first is this afternoon, April 1st, at 4:20pm.

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