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Tudor home spared the wrath of wrecking ball only to raise the ire of its new neighbors

February 26, 1987|DEAN MURPHY

An impressive Westside address evidently doesn't translate into special favors for newcomers to Wilmington, even if the transplant exudes a certain English smugness and the former address is just outside Beverly Hills.

But then the uppish new neighbor on the 1200 block of Neptune Avenue isn't exactly a well-connected Hollywood star or an influential Beverly Hills attorney. The newcomer, in fact, is a house.

The stately Tudor home, once snuggled on West Olympic Boulevard near Beverly Hills' La Cienega Park, has been moved 25 miles southeast to a vacant lot in the heart of the harbor-front community. The change of scenery spared the white stucco house the wrath of a developer's wrecking ball, but it by no means guaranteed it a quiet retirement.

For the past month or so, the house has been sitting on steel beams and wooden blocks 15 feet from the Neptune curb. The other homes on the same side of the block are 20 feet from the curb--the distance required by the city zoning code.

Beverly Hills airs or not, neighbors say, the protrusion is ugly. They want the house pushed back five feet.

"One house sticking out looks like a sore thumb," said Antonio Masoe, who lives next to the house. "If he is allowed to have his house stick out five feet from mine, then I certainly would want to be able to do the same thing."

Local Standards Apply

Wilmington residents are the first to admit that their community lacks the glitz and glamour of Beverly Hills and its surrounding neighborhoods. But Wilmington homeowners say they are proud of their community and if folks from other parts of Los Angeles want to move homes to vacant lots there, they had better live up to local standards.

"There is a patchwork-quilt-like zoning in Wilmington, with variances and exceptions to the rules everywhere," said Olivia Cueva Fernandez, an officer with the Wilmington Home Owners organization, the largest residents' group in the community. "Since we have a lot of vacant lots in Wilmington, a lot of people may be looking at this as a way to get nice homes into the neighborhood. It is important that we let people know that we want these homes to follow the same rules as the rest of the neighborhood. We don't want any more exceptions."

Masoe, Fernandez and a handful of neighbors took their complaints to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, which oversees house relocations. The residents demanded that the house be pushed back to the 20-foot mark, or that the department allow homeowners all along Neptune to build out to the 15-foot setback.

Extension Denied

"Last fall I requested an extension to go forward to build a fireplace, but the city said no, the setback is 20 feet," Masoe said. "Then all of a sudden this house from Beverly Hills or Hollywood or somewhere comes along and it is at 15 feet. It was a double standard."

Actually, city officials say, it was more of a misunderstanding.

Richard Grimshaw, a building inspector who handles relocations, said owners of the Tudor home wanted to place the house 15 feet from the curb to increase the size of the back yard. City officials rejected the request, but somehow signals got mixed, he said, and the movers left the house 15 feet from the curb anyway.

"One of the requirements for relocation is that the building must be compatible to the area it is moving to," Grimshaw said. "That means architecturally, size and setbacks. Otherwise it is not fair to the people who are already living there. . . . If all of the properties down there observe a 20-foot setback, I don't blame neighbors one single bit for being concerned."

Owner Not Available

D. Gail Cash, listed on city documents as the owner of the Neptune property, could not be reached for comment. But Charlie Smith, who runs a house relocation business in Redondo Beach with Cash, confirmed that he had requested the zoning variance.

"We wanted it at 15 feet because the houses across the street were only at 10 feet and we felt we were entitled to the same thing," Smith said. "But they insisted that we make it 20."

Once inspectors realized the house had been misplaced, Grimshaw said, they instructed Smith to build the foundation five feet farther from the street. The foundation was poured last week 20 feet from the street, and the house should be moved onto it in the next couple of weeks, he said.

With the setback issue resolved, Masoe said he and other residents on Neptune Avenue welcome their new neighbor.

"That empty lot had been an eyesore and a popular area for people to dump their garbage," Masoe said. "It is a real nice house, one of those Hollywood-style homes with a real high roof. It is great. It will boost our property values."

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