When William Grubman finished building his three-bedroom home on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills last summer, he liked the way everything turned out, with one exception: A stone pillar mailbox, topped with a flowerpot, that he had put on one side of his driveway.
"What I didn't like was the single pillar," said Grubman, 36, who works in his family's paper products business in Santa Fe Springs. "I tried to keep everything about the house symmetrical. So I decided to build a second (pillar) as an aesthetic thing. I was expecting the city to say, 'You're the first person who has actually camouflaged a mailbox and did something nice to it.' "
But what the city did was notify Grubman that he had illegally placed companion pillars on a public right of way, failing to obtain both encroachment and construction permits, which are issued routinely for residential mailboxes. The city said he would have to remove the second pillar and its flowerpot on top. When he sought to appeal the decision, he was surprised to be told he would have to go before the City Council.
"I figured that it was such a minor item and I didn't think that the City Council would be interested in it," Grubman said. "I found the whole issue about the pillar kind of petty. I felt there was nothing wrong with the flowerpot. I felt it was attractive and I think (the council) thought so too."
Council Members Bemused
Bemused Beverly Hills council members, faced last Tuesday with a proposed parcel tax to help support its schools and a possible cancellation of its cable television agreement, did wonder why they, not the city staff, had to consider the matter.
Councilman Robert Tanenbaum chuckled about having to decide Grubman's appeal for his mailbox and flowerpot, while Maxwell Salter said he thought the council's role was to debate issues "of greater import." Vice Mayor Benjamin H. Stansbury Jr. asked the city staff to report on the city's policy on issuing permits on rights of way.
Grubman made a presentation before the council using picture displays of the pillars at his home at 9541 Sunset Blvd.
The council voted unanimously to deny Grubman's appeal to keep the second pillar, but allowed the flowerpot to remain on the mailbox.
City Manager Edward S. Kreins said the council formerly served as an appeals board for virtually all permits, but in recent years has directed permit appeals to the city staff, Kreins said.
'This Was an Anomaly'
"This was an anomaly. I don't recall an encroachment permit denial that was appealed to the council," he said.
The city tries to restrict public right-of-way encroachments mainly to limit the city's liability and prevent a proliferation of objects, Kreins said. Grubman's second pillar and the flowerpot on his mailbox were considered ornamental and "nonutilitarian" by the city engineer, he said.
Grubman said he will hire a worker to come and remove the other pillar. He said the city should have allowed him to keep the second pillar, even if it did not meet city code.
"I kind of feel sorry for the people of the city that the council couldn't say, 'Gee, something happened and we could bend (the rules).' I don't think I was doing something malicious, just making my home more attractive."