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The Less-Than-Lovely Side of Gloria Molina

April 17, 2002|Patt Morrison

Happy? Oh, try again. I was thrilled to read in my very own paper that Gloria Molina, the Los Angeles County supervisor, and her husband, Ron Martinez, had put up an illegal retaining wall at their house.

It's not just the wall I admire--it's the attitude. For more than 10 years, the couple had snubbed inspectors, ignored fines and now, according to Peter Hong reporting in today's paper, it seems they may have put in a swimming pool without a permit in a yard being supported by that illegal wall.

Peeved, are you? Boy, not me. The lid is off, baby. It's R-1 independence day at my house, which is maybe a mile from Molina's. No more time-consuming permits. What, the world needs more paper? With the Molina example before me, it's now full speed ahead on all of the home improvement projects I've ever dreamed about.

Saturday morning, it all goes in: the neon-lights trim on the roofline, the clock tower that plays "It's a Small World" on the quarter-hour, the Morrison family mausoleum and gift shop, the home-hobby alligator-hatching pond. And, oh, yes, the gun range, so I don't lose my touch with a Glock.

Los Angeles Times Saturday April 20, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 60 words Type of Material: Correction
Garcetti garage--The Patt Morrison column in Wednesday's California section said that in the 1980s, then-Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti was ordered to tear down part of a garage built too close to the property line. After issuing that order, however, the city ruled that it had erred and had given Garcetti a permit for the garage. As a result, the city relented on its order and granted Garcetti a variance to let the garage remain as built.

Here's the thing about Gloria Molina. She is smart as new paint and tough as shoe leather, or she wouldn't be what she is, which is a Los Angeles County supervisor, a major-league player with more constituents, fatter budgets and bigger policy messes than some governors.

She made herself into a force majeure as Assembly member, City Council member and now supervisor. She's got the muscle to deliver the goods to her district and her supporters, and the Molina Machine can raise money and raise hell with the best of them. Mention "Gloria" in the official ZIP Codes of L.A., and everyone knows who you mean. All this she's done in spite of a double-barreled load of macho flak, political and cultural, and sexist cracks that get zinged out of Molina's earshot.

So if she sometimes breezes through the 10-items-or-fewer line at our local market with 12 or 13 things--which really galls my neighbor, who's seen her do it--well, we all have our lapses.

But to be a supervisor, to be a politician, is to be tempted to believe your own clippings, and to believe that everyone else does too.

Gil Garcetti, before he became D.A., built a house whose garage was too close to the property line. The neighbors said it looked like an atomic energy plant. They banded together and saw to it that Garcetti was ordered to tear down half of the offending 22 extra feet.

And Mike Woo, the city councilman who drafted the hillside rules that now govern neighborhoods like Molina's, remodeled his Silver Lake home without some of the safety features that would soon be required by that very proposed law.

But that's Lincoln Log play. Hong's stories about the Great Wall of Mount Washington chronicle 10 years of building codes flouted, 10 written repair orders ignored, $3,710 in fines and fees unpaid.

Mount Washington looks illogical on a map and impossible in person. Some roads are still dirt; most are narrow and steep and corkscrewed. There are almost no sidewalks. It's one of L.A.'s oldest neighborhoods, originally a getaway of canyons and cabins, and a legacy of odd-shaped lots and odder buildings. From the street, houses like Molina's--sleek and white--give no clue what's back behind there, which is how a pool or a wall could go unseen.

The word from City Hall is that there was no special treatment here. Meetings between an aide to then-City Atty. James Hahn and the head of the Building and Safety Department ... a note from Molina on city stationery ... an assist from a city councilman ... an inspector who Molina's husband believed was politically biased being replaced.... Oh, yeah, that happens to me all the time.

No wonder neighbors were afraid to complain--about the pool, the wall, or the debris from the house across the street being remodeled by Molina and Martinez. No wonder inspectors worried about their jobs.

"No special treatment." When Hong went to see the file on Tuesday, a public record in a public place, he was told they didn't have to show it to him.

For Molina and Martinez to try to cut corners and throw some weight behind it is a less-than-

lovely side of human nature, not unlike getting into the 10-item line at the market with 12 or 13 things.

For the city to knuckle under to that threatens more than a few houses that might be at risk from a suspect retaining wall. It threatens the cornerstone of credibility and fairness that government operates on.

And sometimes it doesn't take an earthquake to shake and crack a foundation. A file full of papers can do the job quite nicely.


Patt Morrison's columns appear Mondays and Wednesdays. Her e-mail address is

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