After a three-hour public hearing, Palos Verdes Estates planning commissioners deadlocked on whether to allow a 30,000-square-foot mansion to be built in the city's hills.
The 2-2 vote last week came when Commissioner Jan Napolitan, without explanation, abstained. Several weeks ago she publicly criticized the project. Commissioner Don Pedersen was absent.
Commissioners will vote again when they meet Jan. 2. Their recommendation will then be sent to the City Council, which will decide the project's fate.
At issue is whether the mansion proposed by wealthy businessman and local resident Tei-Fu Chen meets the requirements of the community's neighborhood compatibility ordinance. The law, passed last year, requires new or remodeled homes to be compatible with existing homes in terms of square footage and design.
The commissioners who voted against the project, David Hitchcock and Dorothy Flood, argued that Chen's proposed house violates the intent of the ordinance because of its size. Chen's house would be about twice as large as any existing house in Palos Verdes Estates.
"I'm sorry, but I can't see it," Hitchcock said. "This would set a horrible precedent for this city."
But commissioners Joe Barnett and William Claire III, both of whom voted to allow the project to go forward, said they don't believe the house is too big because it would be located on a 2 1/2-acre parcel--one of the biggest in the city.
"I really don't find the property . . . is that much out of character or compatibility with the newer structures in the neighborhood," Claire said.
Napolitan drew boos from several audience members when she abstained. "Chicken, chicken, chicken," uttered a man in the audience. "Can you believe that?"
Napolitan shot back: "That's not a cop-out. I don't want a lawsuit." Reached by telephone Wednesday, Napolitan declined to comment further.