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AROUND THE SOUTH BAY

City's point of view stands: For this homeowner, there's no room at the top.

December 20, 1987|GERALD FARIS

"I'm not quitting," says W. Kenneth Ross.

Ross, who wants to add a few rooms to his house in Rolling Hills Estates, has gotten more than a little discouragement--from the city and from four courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Along the way, he says, he has chalked up $58,000 in legal fees that represent a financial hardship.

The legal trail started in 1985 when Ross, who owns a commercial-lighting sales business, and his wife went to the city with plans to add a family room, workshop and bedroom to their Rollando Drive home by building over their garage. Although the planning staff said yes, the Planning Commission and the City Council said no after several neighbors protested that the addition would impair their views.

Ross challenged the constitutionality of a city ordinance drafted to protect views. And, he asserted that the city "stole" his property without compensation by not letting him build on it. However, both Torrance Superior Court and the state Court of Appeal upheld the city's position. The California Supreme Court declined to hear the case. And last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down the Ross case on the ground that it was not a "properly presented federal question."

Ross' attorney, Laurie J. Butler, said the high court rejected the "manner in which we presented our arguments" and did not get into the merits of the case. But City Atty. Richard Terzian said the court decided that Ross has no case.

City Manager Ray Taylor said the various court actions vindicate the city's view ordinance, which was enacted to make sure that construction does not unreasonably impair homeowners' views--a significant factor in the value of many homes on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The city has since formulated voluntary guidelines designed to deal with view problems caused by maturing or overgrown trees.

"The issue is enjoyment of property rights," Ross said. "I do not have a family room, I do not have a place for my son to use tools or do photography."

Said Terzian: "Ross has never recognized that the ordinance is for the protection of everybody, including him. . . . It maintains the value of everybody's property, including his."

Ross and Butler said they are still considering their next legal move.

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