Doing a 180-degree turn of its own, Agoura Hills has decided to let a developer turn part of a house sideways to keep from having to tear it down.
The redesign will allow builder Francis Allen to finish a nearly completed house that was targeted for removal two weeks ago by the City Council because it was built 27 inches too close to the street.
Council members at that time voted 3 to 1 to require Allen to either remove the four-bedroom modular house or move it farther back on its lot to comply with the city's 20-foot-setback requirement.
The council acted after nearby homeowners complained about the appearance of the house, and city inspectors discovered that one corner of its front garage stuck out 27 inches too far.
Allen contended that a rocky cliff at the home's back steps prevented him from moving it any farther from Lewis Road. He argued unsuccessfully that the city should allow him to shorten the garage to fit on the narrow front yard.
This week's compromise, approved by the city's planning staff, will allow Allen to turn the garage sideways and shrink its width to house just one car, officials said.
The new plan authorizes the Tarzana developer to supplement the garage with a small carport, to be squeezed between a rock outcropping and the side of the house.
A jubilant Allen began ripping out the first garage's foundation Wednesday afternoon.
"We should have the house finished and ready to sell in 30 days," he said. "I just hope this is the end of all of this."
But that is unlikely, according to nearby homeowners, who have charged that the prefabricated structure looks boxy and out of place in their picturesque, hilly neighborhood.
The 33-home residential area is nestled among rocky outcroppings and a deep ravine. The neighborhood is known for a colorfully painted Indian statue, a 47-year-old landmark that sits atop one of the cliffs on land also owned by Allen.
"We're going to go back to the City Council again about this," vowed resident Janice Olsen. "I can't believe it. Someone in the city has taken the laws into their own hands after the City Council made a decision in front of everybody."
City Planning Director Paul Williams said he authorized Allen to amend his site plan for the project after becoming convinced that the sideways garage and carport would fit on the lot.
"We didn't think it could be done physically, but it turns out it can," Williams said. "It conforms to all setbacks."
Williams said Allen was "running somewhat of a risk" by moving forward with construction before a 15-day period for appeals to the City Council expires. Williams said he knows of no grounds for an appeal, however.
At the disputed construction site, Violet Allen said she has plans of her own in case the City Council once again takes aim at her husband's house.
"I'll paint the Indian statue black," she said. "It will be in mourning for Agoura Hills."