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When neighbors can't settle the dispute

Noise. Debris. Missing permits. Whatever the problem, citizens can complain -- and even seek resolutions -- with the city or police.

June 05, 2005|Jennifer Lisle | Special to The Times

Sometimes disputes cannot be resolved in a neighborly fashion and require third-party assistance.

Neighbors who believe a homeowner's project does not have the proper permits can contact their city's building and safety or public works departments.

The city of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety follows up on about 15,000 complaints a year involving permit issues, according to Robert Steinbach, the department's assistant bureau chief.

The bulk of the 40,000 annual calls the bureau receives involves noise issues. These are referred to the local police department.

If Steinbach's department determines the proper permit is missing, it will demand that the homeowner stop the work until one is obtained.

In cases in which a permit is not obtained, the department will issue an order of compliance, which can result in penalties if ignored. Should the homeowner choose to dispute the order of compliance, the case can be referred to county court.

Those who live outside of Los Angeles should consult their local municipalities for regulations in their area.

In Rancho Palos Verdes, the City Council helped to resolve a permit issue that arose last December between a homeowner who was rebuilding a house in the Seaview area and his neighbors.

The homeowner, Eric Johnson, was constructing a facade of local stone that was cut on site. Although he set up a barrier to prevent the dust and noise from traveling, local homeowners continued to be bothered by high levels of debris.

"There was tons of dust," said Debbie Hanson, a neighbor who represented the community and brought the matter before the City Council. "We were experiencing health problems."

After investigating the dust level, the council declared it excessive and in violation of the owner's stone-cutting permit.

The council ordered Johnson to take further action to stop the dust from traveling, which he did by moving the seven stonecutters into his garage.

"I may not have been completely aware of the total impact," Johnson said, "but we were willing to try anything."

In Los Angeles, construction noise is allowed from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and national holidays. No construction noise is permitted on Sundays.

Neighbors who experience work-related noise outside of those hours can call the LAPD nonemergency line at 311 or their local police station.

The Los Angeles building and safety department customer call center can be reached at (888) LA4-BUILD. Or for more information, visit

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