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Appeals Zoning Decision, Files Lawsuit : Deputy D. A. Renews Squabble Over Garage

December 24, 1987|JULIO MORAN | Times Staff Writer

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Gilbert I. Garcetti has renewed a feud with his Brentwood neighbors by asking for a zoning variance so that he will not have to demolish part of his oversized garage.

In September, the city Board of Zoning Appeals ordered Garcetti to tear down about 11 feet of his garage because it violates a setback requirement in the exclusive neighborhood.

Along with appealing that order, Garcetti has filed a $1-million lawsuit against the Brentwood Park Property Owners Assn., two of his neighbors, the former property owner, his architect and his surveyor.

The squabble centers on the construction of Garcetti's 4,500-square-foot, four-bedroom $1.6-million home in the park-like community north of Sunset Boulevard. His three-car garage is set back 43 feet from the North Cliffwood Avenue curb, but because the city owns the first 25 feet along each side of the street, the garage is actually only 18 feet from the property line.

Required Distance

Zoning ordinances for the area require structures to be 40 feet from the front property line. In Garcetti's case, the garage should be a total of 65 feet from the curb.

Garcetti claimed that he knew nothing about the 25-foot easement and that city officials approved his plans and issued a building permit knowing that the garage was only 18 feet from his property line.

Neighboring homeowners have said that they warned Garcetti about the property line, but that he "arrogantly" went ahead with his plans and that his county position helped him get his permit.

In October, 1985, the city Department of Building and Safety had ordered Garcetti to remove the portion of the garage that extends into the required setback. A series of appeals ultimately led to the September decision by the Board of Zoning Appeals, which essentially ordered Garcetti to move the garage 11 feet back. The homeowners had wanted Garcetti to remove 22 feet of the garage.

Garcetti's latest appeal will be heard on Feb. 1 in the West Los Angeles City Hall by the Planning Department. He is asking for a variance from the 40-foot setback requirement so that none of his garage will have to be torn down.

Back to Board

A planning official said that a similar series of appeals within the Planning Department could bring the final decision back to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Neighbors said they were surprised by Garcetti's new appeal, particularly because he had agreed in August to comply with the Board of Zoning Appeals decision within 60 days in exchange for being issued a temporary certificate of occupancy to allow him to move into his completed home.

Neither Garcetti nor his Newport Beach attorney could be reached for comment. Some homeowners, however, believe that the new appeal is part of the process to exhaust city administrative remedies before pursuing his legal action.

Garcetti filed suit on Oct. 30 in Los Angeles Superior Court, but has yet to serve any of the defendants. The defendants--the homeowners association, architect Marshall Lewis, surveyor Robert McNeil, former property owner Edward Hafer and neighbors Daniel and Lee Harnett--only recently became aware of the suit and obtained copies of it on their own.

Garcetti is alleging breach of contract, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Faulty Implication

The suit says that before the sale, former property owner Hafer implied that the property was 280 to 285 feet deep. The lot is 260 feet deep. Garcetti says that had he known about the 25-foot easement, he would not have purchased the property, nor begun construction of his home.

The suit also blames the homeowners association for not informing him about the confusing property line.

"At no time during this period did any person or entity inform the plaintiffs that there was any issue with respect to there being a difference between the curb line and the property line, the proper setback of the home, and or the claim of the city of Los Angeles to the ownership of the first 25 feet of land from the curb line," the suit says.

Vee Motto, a member of the homeowners association who has followed the dispute since the beginning, said Garcetti was told of the conflicting property line soon after purchasing the lot.

The Harnetts are named in the suit because Garcetti says that in July, 1986, they knew about the easement but "did nothing nor told anyone about this at that time."

No Information

The suit alleges that the Harnetts "intentionally and outrageously" did not tell Garcetti about the land because they did not like the architecture of the house. He said the Harnetts waited until October after construction began to inform the homeowners association.

Garcetti said he suffered humiliation, mental anguish, emotional and physical distress and embarrassment both professionally and in his personal life and has experienced nervousness, anxiety, headaches and depression and lost sleep.

He is asking for damages of at least $1 million.

"I feel very humble that I caused him humiliation and embarrassment," Daniel Harnett, a corporate attorney, said in a telephone interview. "There's no duty for me to tell him anything, but, in fact, he was told by the association."

Garcetti claims that Lewis, his architect, breached his contract by failing to design his house with the proper setbacks. He further claims that because of the modifications, his house is not of the design he had agreed on.

Garcetti said he has paid $50,500 of Lewis' $52,500 fee. The suit asks the court to return $50,499, arguing that Lewis' work now has a value less than $1.

The suit also claims that McNeil, the surveyor, failed to properly plot and map the property line, causing damages in a sum "presently unascertainable."

Neither Lewis nor McNeil could be reached for comment.

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