Nearly a year after the Los Angeles Planning Commission approved construction of a new Getty Museum in the hills overlooking Brentwood, residents of nearby streets have launched a campaign to push it out of sight of their affluent neighborhood.
Although lengthy negotiations, hearings and public deliberations were capped by the issuance of a conditional-use permit 11 months ago, the residents said they were unaware of the consequences until late in 1985.
'Prying and Prodding'
"Through prying and prodding we just recently found out exactly how large this project is going to be and we've become very concerned about it," said Linda Trope, who helped gather 91 signatures on a letter asking City Councilman Marvin Braude for help.
Residents of the quiet neighborhood just south of the site said they are concerned that the museum complex will ruin their views, increase noise and air pollution and threaten their homes with unstable landfill from sheared-off hilltops.
They also said that the museum grounds could serve as a vantage point for criminals.
"People will be able to look right into our backyards and pools and see what to rob," said Elaine Helbock.
Braude has assigned staffers to look into the complaints, but he said the protests by residents of Layton Way, Gunston Drive, Woodburn Drive and Fordyce Road came late in the game.
"The burden has to be on them," he said. "The matter was widely reported in the press. Official notices went out. I don't know of any project that has had any more publicity, or notices, or meetings, both quasi-public and public, than this one."
Braude said he asked officials of the J. Paul Getty Trust to prepare studies showing how visible the proposed museum structures will be from nearby homes.
If the residents' fears turn out to be justified, he said, "I think it would be possible to mitigate any serious adverse impact, and that Getty would probably cooperate in mitigating any real fears--not hypothetical fears, but real ones."
Stephen Rountree, director of the J. Paul Getty Trust's building program, said the residents' concerns had been answered in the environmental review that led to the commission's approval of the project.
'It Is a Surprise'
"So it (the controversy) is a surprise," he said, "and we have at this stage been in contact with the city councilman's office just to try to understand what the concerns are, and I'm sure at some point we'll be meeting with them (the homeowners)." "Legally, as far as we know, everything is set."
Construction of the Getty complex, which will include an art history center, a conservation institute and a new museum, is scheduled to begin in 1989, with completion expected by 1992, Rountree said.
Plans call for the buildings to be erected on a 24-acre site previously zoned for housing.
The rest of the Getty Trust's 742 hilltop acres, now covered with lilac, sumac and chaparral, riddled with caves and a home to hawks, snakes and coyotes, are to be landscaped or left in their natural state.
Although neighbors said they thought the museum would be built near the San Diego Freeway, more than a mile north of their homes, Rountree said it was announced on Sept. 21, 1983, that the site would be at the southern end of the Getty property.
Reports published at the time said that six red, blue and yellow balloons had been floated to mark the site during a press conference, but were obscured by fog.
In any case, Rountree said, the site is at least a quarter of a mile from the houses in question.
"You can barely make out the general details of the homes near our site on the south," he said.
He also said that the museum, which has outgrown its present home in Malibu, hopes to establish "a very positive relationship" with its neighbors.
"We do that in Malibu and we think it's important here," he said. "We're going to be there for a long time."
The protest comes more than a year after representatives of the Brentwood Homeowners' Assn., which represents 3,000 homeowners, met with officials of the city and the Getty Trust to negotiate the terms of the permit that was eventually issued last February. The protesting homeowners said they did not participate in those meetings.
"They (Getty officials) wanted maximum flexibility, and that was the main problem," said Hugh J. Snow, an attorney and member of the board of the association. "They resisted being pinned down, (but) when they were pinned down they were accommodating."
However, he said, while agreement was reached on dozens of items, the visibility of the structure and noise and illumination during late hours of operation are still a major concern.
He said that the neighbors' protest was poorly timed, and that their comments would have been useful when negotiations on terms of the building permit were at their height 18 months ago.
Still, he said, their voices will be helpful when the architect's plans are submitted for review sometime next year.