Call it a blooming of goodwill. Call it what you may. But Los Angeles County officials aren't going to have Tim Dundon's 40-foot-high compost heap in Altadena demolished any time soon.
After a meeting Monday with Dundon and his supporters, the officials granted an indefinite reprieve for the towering pile of decomposed mulch, kitchen scraps and dung that dwarfs Dundon's nearby home and nourishes his beloved one-acre jungle of cactuses, azaleas and banana trees.
"Everyone in the community loves this place, and we're hoping we can find a way to keep it," said Kathryn Barger, a deputy to County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the area. "Watts has Watts Towers. Altadena has the pile. It's a true community landmark."
Dundon, an eccentric folk hero in the Altadena hills, said he was delighted. "I think everybody sees the benefits of this super-cosmic pile being here," he declared after the meeting. "Pressure from the public and press is paying off."
Conal McNamara, another Antonovich deputy, said a Feb. 12 deadline for the adjacent Mountain View Cemetery to start bulldozing the pile was lifted until further meetings decide the heap's ultimate fate. The cemetery owns the land under the pile and lends it to Dundon.
"This morning's meeting showed a willingness on all sides to sit down and see what we can do to keep the pile," McNamara said. "We talk about perhaps making its size smaller and ways to protect it."
During the pile's 27 years of growth, officials made threats to remove it, but until recently never followed through. To Dundon's horror, county planners said late last year that their patience was up and that such a giant compost heap, which stretches the length of five buses, could not remain in a neighborhood zoned for single-family residences. Last month, the cemetery sent in a skip-loader that began to take chunks away.
However, residents of unincorporated Altadena rallied to Dundon's side.
John Gutwein, a senior county planner, said Monday's discussion was constructive and that options are being explored to save the pile.