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Decision Fits Like a Golf Glove

L.A. Country Club and Holmby Hills residents reach a compromise on course's safety fence.

November 23, 2002|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

Golfers at the Los Angeles Country Club have finally met their match in a yearlong fight with Holmby Hills residents teed off over a proposed 120-foot-high driving range fence.

Operators of the 300-acre course between Beverly Hills and Westwood will only install 35-foot-high netting next to a driving range. That's where duffers sometimes slice and hook balls into neighboring Comstock Avenue -- and on at least one occasion knocked a passerby unconscious.

Nearby homeowners had complained that the planned safety fence would block the view of the scenic golf course that they enjoy from estates that average $5 million in price.

"This fence is total overkill. It will dramatically impact us," said film and television actress Michele Lee, who has lived there 32 years.

Country club leaders needed a zoning variance to build the tall fence, and Los Angeles planners had been reviewing the construction request since last year.

The West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission finally played through the red tape this week in hopes of settling the dispute. And the country club double-bogeyed on the height request.

Lee and her neighbors lobbed chip shots at the proposal during a 90-minute hearing, arguing that the club had not considered structural changes to address the errant-ball issue. They suggested that changing the location or the figuration of the driving range would eliminate any safety problem.

"This is one of the last neighborhoods on the Westside that feels like it's in a rural area," Bud Frankfort told planners.

"This fence would be a large, ugly, permanent eyesore," added Adri Butler.

A city hearing officer recommended that a 45-foot-high fence be allowed as a compromise. That was acceptable to the club, but commissioners worried that even that would be a detriment to the neighborhood, as panel President Matthew Rodman put it.

When homeowners' lawyers Robert Glushon and Kenneth Dusick suggested the 35-foot height, the country club's attorney called for what golfers refer to as a gimme.

"We'd like something better than nothing," shrugged Mark Armbruster, noting that the club already had the right to erect a 30-foot-high fence without special city permission.

With that, the planning foursome approved the 35-foot fence. Holmby Hills residents were pleased by the 4-0 vote.

This golf course dispute, they said, was resolved the fair way.

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