NEIGHBORHOOD NIT-PICKING: Neighbors endured years of construction at 811 John St. in anticipation of the palace that would surely result. But the behemoth that emerged has frustrated some even more than the roaring bulldozers.
Builders last month finally wrapped up construction of the mysterious, oversized house--or "the Mausoleum" as it is known in some circles--located at the very top of the tony Manhattan Beach hill section. Visible from the beach and other parts of the city, the house towers over its neighbors and is drawing mixed reviews.
"It's almost like it takes away from the beauty of the neighborhood, because we have really nice houses on this block," said one neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous. "It's really nice inside, but outside it's just not very pretty."
Architect Pat Killem drew up the design, which was inspired by a recent addition to the Beverly Hills City Hall, for owners Arnold and Homeira Goldstein. "I think we've built something very special," said Arnold Goldstein, owner of Shorewood Realtors in Manhattan Beach. "I'm not even defending it; the architecture defends itself."
In a city that has long protected the property owner's rights to design and build whatever works within the city code, many believe this place has pushed the envelope. It's boxy design--three stories of steel gray cement and smoked-glass windows--has both intrigued and angered residents.
By day, its stark facade dominates the once-quaint street. By night, it is lighted like a national monument.
Residents are also upset about the size. The Goldsteins gained approval for the design before the city passed recent building restrictions, said David Wachtfogel, former planning commissioner.
"He didn't push the (size) envelope, he defined it," Wachtfogel said. "He put as big a house on the lot as was permitted by law, as is his right."
QUICKLY BUT SURELY: Redondo Beach officials have been forced into a strange plan to slow down traffic: On one street, they'll have to boost the speed limit.
Speeds along a one-mile stretch of Manhattan Beach Boulevard have risen in the last several years because radar enforcement there has been lax, officials said. Police say they have been prohibited from using radar to enforce the 35 m.p.h. speed limit because the city last approved a traffic study of the area in 1986.
The state requires a traffic study be completed every five years when radar is used to gauge car speeds. The studies are used to determine the average speed of cars on the road and help officials set the speed limit.
But here's the rub: The just-completed study shows average speeds of 42 m.p.h., so the city has to raise the speed limit to 40 m.p.h. State law requires the speed limit be adjusted to the nearest 5 m.p.h. increment below the average determined in the study.
Without the study, speeders could easily contest their tickets in court when radar was used, said Redondo Beach Police Sgt. Bruce Rosen. "If the (traffic) judge looks in his book and sees the last survey is 6 years old, he'd say 'Boom, dismissed,' " Rosen said.
The net effect: Cops can use radar, but drivers can speed up.
NO CHRISTMAS RUSH: When Torrance City Clerk Sue Herbers dedicated her office walls to displaying local art, she hoped to brighten the workplace and help feed a few starving artists.
But it's a display she alone has been unable to resist.
Herbers has made the sole purchase so far, a floral watercolor by Dottie Brittnacher, since she opened her impromptu art gallery three months ago for members of the Torrance Artists Guild. "I was going to buy two," she said. "I really would buy one of everybody's if I could."
Herbers came up with the idea after remodeling left her office walls bare. "I was trying to think of a way to make the office nice and colorful."
Though sales have been, well, kind of slow, the artists welcome the exposure. "Our greatest outlet is having shows in Joslyn Gallery," said Brittnacher, who is president of the guild. "Unless we have something like that, it is very difficult to get your work out there."