Since buying their North Hollywood home four years ago, Alex and Gossete DeLaguarigue have never stopped remodeling. They added a family room and a bedroom and elaborately landscaped the front yard.
Two months ago, with $42,000 spent and only the finish flooring to install, they heard from a neighbor a rumor that Alex DeLaguarigue said made them "sick to our stomachs."
They were told that the Los Angeles school board wanted their house and seven others to expand the playground for nearby Victory Boulevard Elementary School.
To the dismay of those living in the 6300 block of Gentry Avenue, the board had voted Feb. 12 to begin proceedings aimed at buying and removing the eight houses, all one-story bungalows, by the spring of 1986.
Residents are angry that they heard about the school expansion months after the board tentatively approved buying the houses.
They learned about the purchase plan from Victory Boulevard schoolteachers, "and then only by accident," said Pat Kaufman, a renter on Gentry Avenue, who is organizing residents to fight the playground expansion.
Robert J. Niccun, the district's chief real estate agent, said the 1.9 acres under the eight houses is needed to replace playground area lost to the Victory Boulevard school when temporary classrooms were installed in recent years to relieve classroom crowding.
He said the school already has switched to year-round classes to alleviate crowding "and simply needs more space."
The North Hollywood Residents Assn. has joined the effort to block the purchases. Residents are to meet with school board member Roberta Weintraub tonight at Trinity Community Presbyterian Church on Victory Boulevard.
Weintraub, whose district includes North Hollywood, held out little hope that the board would back away from the planned purchases.
"We condemn houses every year all over the city to make way for school expansion," she said. "It's a case of balancing the needs of thousands of children against that of a handful of residents."
She also said she doubted that no one on Gentry Avenue was aware of the plan until last month. "I think my correspondence goes back several months on this, but I would have to check," Weintraub said.
'We Need That Property'
She said that, while there is no procedure for notifying residents when the board votes tentatively to buy property, those affected will have an opportunity to speak, probably next month, when the board conducts a public hearing on the project's possible effect on the environment.
"We really haven't done anything official yet," Weintraub said.
"I wish I could offer the residents more comfort," she said. "But we need that property and we do pay fair market value, plus almost $15,000 in moving expenses."
Tom Paterson, president of the residents' association, said his group has joined with Gentry Avenue protesters.
"This was not handled properly and because, with all the closed schools, this doesn't seem like it should be a priority project for the school system," Paterson said.
Kaufman, a private investigator, said she moved into her house on Gentry Avenue with her two children on June 20 and "the next day heard about the school board's plans."
Kaufman said she had leased five other houses over the last 10 years, each time moving when the landlord sold the house.
"This was supposed to be the one where we could stay put," she said. "And now this comes along."