Hillside Front Yard Setback with Retaining Walls

When we first design a project on a complex hillside in Los Angeles, we go into plan check to see what the plan checkers will say. This time we are dealing with wall heights in the front yard setback.

retaining wall

The current design shows a wall against the property line that will hold up what is basically a cliff. The existing slope is steeper than 1:1. The client is trying to regrade the existing driveway to something more manageable to drive on. Currently the driveway is steeper than 25%. Which gives us two major items to work with. First, dropping the driveway lower than existing. Second, bringing this driveway with associated walls into current standards.

The first design works, but we ran into a setback issue. The wall cannot be taller than 42" within the setback. Back to the drawing board we go.

retaining wall

Emailing back and forth with the Architect I thought what if we pulled the retaining wall behind the setback and see how we can rework the slope. Basically the wall parallel to the property line would sit on the existing steep slope and act as a way for us to add a swale to catch the water. As the wall moves away from the property line, this now connects into the dropped driveway. The benefit of where I placed this is that the existing slope where we can't touch remains, and we also use the existing driveway cutout making some minor grade changes on the driveway apron.

The design is not as pretty as the original but we do get around the front setback height requirements. I cropped out the other side of the driveway as that becomes the next area to address.

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