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Big Parties Called Off at Los Feliz Landmark

August 14, 1986|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

In the wake of complaints about noise and traffic, trustees of a Los Feliz house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright have withdrawn their request to the City of Los Angeles to rent out the landmark residence for large private parties to raise money for restoration and upkeep, an attorney for the trust said.

The attorney, Amy Forbes, said the board of trustees plans to treat the house as a private residence and only allow occasional small parties, which they feel would not require a formal variance. She said it will try to raise needed money from private corporations and the state.

"The board is very sensitive to neighbors' complaints," Forbes said. "The best solution is to find alternate sources of money."

Derek Sutton, who lives across the street from the house, called the move to curtail parties "a very positive step."

Sutton and other neighbors have complained for two years that renting the hilltop residence, known as the Ennis-Brown House, for private parties and wedding receptions brought excessive noise and traffic to the otherwise quiet area.

Donated to Cultural Trust

The home at 2655 Glendower Ave. was built for Los Angeles businessman Charles Ennis and bought by G. Oliver Brown in 1968. Brown donated the house in 1980 to the Trust for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, a nonprofit organization, and continues to live at the home and to serve as caretaker.

The 7,000-square-foot, two-bedroom house, one of eight built in Los Angeles by Wright, is listed by the federal government in the National Register of Historic Places and has been declared a Cultural Heritage Monument by the Los Angeles City Council.

The exterior resembles a Mayan temple. Inside, there are 22-foot-high, wood-beam ceilings, a 100-foot-long marble floored corridor and art-glass doors and windows said to be worth more than $1 million.

Last year, the Trust for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage was forced to turn down a $20,000 matching grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to draw up a blueprint for restoration of the house. Brown said matching funds could not be found to secure the grant.

$500,000 Needed

Wright's grandson, Eric Lloyd Wright, said $500,000 is needed for repairs. According to Brown, one wall already is falling down.

Forbes said plans are under way to strengthen and reorganize the board of directors by bringing in new members with strong community ties.

She said the trust, besides occasionally renting out the house for small gatherings, also plans to continue holding public tours of the house six times a year and allowing small educational groups such as architecture students to visit the house.

"A resident in a residential area can hold a private party. That's not illegal," said Brown.

Los Angeles City Zoning Administrator Jack Sedwick said that the trust "walks a thin line" in this matter.

"As the owner of a house, you or I could have a party. As to how many parties you can schedule, that's not clear. If there were complaints . . . they could be cited by the Department of Building and Safety," Sedwick said.

Petition Drive Recalled

The fight over leasing the house began in 1984 with a petition drive by neighbors protesting the parties. Last October, Sedwick ruled that tours and parties constitute a commercial use of the property that is illegal in the residential neighborhood and that they create noise, parking and traffic problems in the wealthy hilltop area.

The trust immediately appealed that decision to the Board of Zoning Appeals and also filed an application for a variance from the City Planning Department.

Forbes said the zoning appeal was withdrawn several months ago and that the application for a variance was withdrawn July 16 when the trust decided to curtail parties and seek alternate funding.

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