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Boards a Force for Status Quo : Home Builder's 4th Plan Wins Approval

January 10, 1988|HUGO MARTIN | Times Staff Writer

ARCADIA — Rosalee Barton's design for a two-story, five-bedroom English Tudor-style home met all the city zoning and building requirements.

But before construction could begin six months ago, Barton, an Arcadia real estate broker who plans to live in the home, had to get the approval of the architectural review board of her neighborhood homeowners association.

The Santa Anita Village homeowners' review board unanimously rejected her plans, saying that the house was too massive and would not blend in with the neighboring 40- to 45-year-old, one-story, ranch-style homes.

Barton's proposal was turned down three times by the board before she finally won approval to build a house with a revised design.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday January 14, 1988 Home Edition San Gabriel Valley Part 9 Page 2 Column 5 Zones Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
A story in the Jan. 10 San Gabriel Valley section said that Arcadia resident Rosalee Barton spent $3,500 before her plans for a new home were approved by an architectural review board. She spent $35,000.

Out of 'Harmony'

"No one is against two-story homes," said Gary Kovacic, the design review unit's chairman. "No one is against new buildings. No one is against Victorians. We are just against buildings that are not in keeping with the harmony of the neighborhood."

Barton's plight reflects problems that some Arcadia builders and real estate people say they face in trying to build new homes in this quiet bedroom community. They say that while they try to meet the demand for larger homes, architectural review boards fight to prevent any dramatic change in the neighborhoods they are set up to represent.

The issue has attracted unusually large crowds to City Council and Planning Commission meetings and has been the subject of dozens of letters to the editor of the local newspaper.

After her first rejection by the Santa Anita Village board, Barton revised her plans, scaling down her home-to-be from 3,600 to 3,400 square feet. The plans were rejected again, and this time the board cited "incompatibility."

She came back a third time with still another set of blueprints calling for a four-bedroom, ranch-style home of 3,200 square feet.

Those plans were finally accepted by the board but were rejected by the City Planning Commission, to which several neighbors had appealed, complaining that the proposed home remained incompatible with the neighborhood.

Approval Long, Expensive

Barton faced the review board for a fourth time last month. This time, her plans were accepted with minor revisions.

It took Barton six months and $3,500 to get her plans approved.

"I guess I finally wore them out," she said. "But they are still not happy."

Neither is Barton. "I feel like my home was designed by everybody else," she said.

All new structures or home additions within the jurisdiction of a homeowners association must be approved by an architectural review board before construction can begin. If plans are rejected, the ruling can be appealed to the Planning Commission. If the commission rejects the appeal, it can be taken to the City Council, which has the final word.

In most cases, the five review boards in Arcadia are made up of members of homeowners associations. They are among the few design review boards in the San Gabriel Valley that are made up of volunteers instead of members appointed by city councils or planning commissions.

Mayor Pro Tem Robert Harbicht said the City Council supports the boards, known from their initials as ARBs, but also sympathizes with builders and real estate brokers.

"It's a funny situation," Harbicht said, "because the ARBs form another layer of approval that builders have to go through, and sometimes their decisions can be subjective."

Kovacic, of the Santa Anita Village board, said it is his group's job to "maintain compatibility, harmony and proportion in the area."

Steve Phillipi, president of the Santa Anita Village homeowners association, said he is not against development. "I just think it should be controlled," he said.

However, some real estate agents and builders complain that it is nearly impossible to build a home in Arcadia that will blend well with existing homes.

"How are you going to be compatible with something 40 to 50 years old? You've got to keep up with the times," Barton said, stressing that there is a demand for larger homes.

Robert Patterson, an architect whose plans for a two-story, four-bedroom home were rejected by the same review board earlier this year, agreed with Barton, saying that many prospective buyers want homes 3,000 square feet and larger.

"Eventually that will be the size of homes in the area," he said. "If (homeowners) want their land value to increase, they will have to allow change, and that change will come with larger homes."

The Santa Anita board cited incompatibility in rejecting Patterson's design. Chris Bade, president of Chris Construction Co., who was to build the new home, appealed to the Planning Commission but was rejected.

Bade plans to take his appeal to the City Council. "We are going to fight this all the way," he said.

The builders and real estate agents also complain that review board decisions are based on subjective criteria such as style and compatibility and that the boards do not offer enough in the way of specific criticism.

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