July 2008 – What do we see when we look out our window? Are we doomed to see only McSheds and blank walls?

By Fabiola Wright

When my husband died more than ten years ago, I raised my two daughters in our house in a quiet part of the Oxford Triangle.  We all loved the back yard. Our house had a big backyard with great trees and bushes. It was our oasis to get away from the rigors of city life.

Then suddenly, several months ago the neighbor directly behind us started building a huge recreation room, inches from our property line. Soon we were looking at a wall of the building almost 16 feet high.  We were shocked. The neighbors never contacted us to discuss this building. 

The neighbors refused to discuss altering this giant room so I went to the city’s Department of Building and Safety.  I learned that my neighbors had hired an architect who filed an application with the Planning Department for a garage.  It certainly was big enough for a two car garage.  The problem was that there was no way for a car to get to the back of their yard as the distance from the fence on the sides of the house didn’t leave enough room. The application was a total sham.

The neighbor’s experienced architect had to know that a recreation room would never have been approved since the law requires variances or adjustments and the approval of two-thirds of the adjoining neighbors. The building, which was obviously not a garage became redefined as a storage shed. However, it still required the same variances, adjustments, approvals, etc. which were not applied for, or granted. If the architect had originally applied for a plan to build a McShed this size, it would never have been approved. Instead he skipped the zoning administration which is supposed to be part of the city planning process.

To look at the attached picture one can see how the system failed. Laws, rules and regulations were ignored and side stepped. My property value has been decreased. If large structures like this are allowed with the complicity of the city of Los Angeles, Venice and other communities will suffer, as will homeowners. 

When this matter finally comes to a zoning hearing at 10:30 AM, July 17, at 1645 Corinth Ave., West L.A. (off Santa Monica Blvd.), the citizens of the Venice area should appear to voice their opinions so that their property and community are protected by the rules and laws that exist for their benefit. If we allow some developers and architects to flout the rules, we all lose.

Venice is such a unique area from the rest of Los Angeles, but Venice also has smaller lot sizes that most of Los Angeles. When developers, or uncaring neighbors, are allowed to build a McShed on their property line, or to erect a 30-foot-tall box of a house that blocks the sunlight of the house next door, they are disregarding their neighbors. This is not the kind of community we want. In fact, it will not be a community at all if people are allowed to behave this way.

There is an old saying that a person’s home is their castle. When I purchased my home many years ago with my husband, we felt that way. It had even more of a special meaning because we were able to live in Venice not far from the beach.  

It has caused my family to change our attitude about being in the yard. Now, we often have to put up with hours of band practice emanating from McShed. Every time we look at this structure we feel as if someone has robbed us of the enjoyment of our property.

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