Just how long does it take to build a two-story home in La Cañada's hilly west side?
Local developer Norman Peters will tell you at least five years — that's how long it's taken his plans for a home that's less than 4,000 square feet to bounce between the Planning Commission and the City Council a record 10 times.
Since 2009, Peters has tried to build the "spec" home, a house built with no one buyer in mind, on Lyans Drive. He applied for a second-floor review and a hillside development permit to build on a 36-degree slope.
The problem is, the lot stands squarely in between two neighboring homes and the scenic Verdugo Mountains that grace their views.
Over the course of four Council meetings and six Planning Commission meetings, Peters has rearranged the home's layout, shrunk its square footage, length and height and moved it several feet from its original location.
On Monday, City Council members held a public hearing on an appeal filed by a neighbor against a March 11 Commission ruling that declared the project compliant by a 3-1 vote.
Jon Kagawa, who lives just east of Peters' property claims the project would still significantly occupy his home's primary view corridor. He attended the hearing Monday with local consulting architect Jay Johnson to ask that the house to be moved further west.
"How can we open up that view corridor 10 more feet?" Johnson asked Council. "There is a solution if the City Council really wants to look for one."
Peters, who came with consultants in tow but spoke on his own behalf, said he'd already changed plans to allow Kagawa's house more than 15 feet of additional view.
"We're not imposing (upon) a very large percentage of the Verdugo Mountains. In fact, it's a very small area," the developer maintained. "We're substantially lower, substantially smaller and we've moved the house."
After a lengthy and multifaceted discussion on everything from driveways and hedge heights to lot frontage and RV parking, the Council asked Peters to somehow further shrink or reconfigure the project at least 6 more feet away from Kagawa's view corridor.
"A house does not have to be invisible, and every person who owns a property has the right to develop it," said Councilman Dave Spence. "But with common sense and reasonableness, we can still make this a win-win situation for everybody."
Peters was also asked to comply with a number of neighborly agreements, including repairing any damage dump trucks might make to jointly used driveways as they haul away dirt from the lot and removing visually imposing queen palms from the project's landscaping plan.
At the risk of further prolonging the process, the panel decided 4-0 to continue the matter to a future meeting, allowing the developer time to figure out a plan for adhering to the new mandates. Mayor Pro Tem Don Voss abstained from the vote, as he was unable to visit the properties.
Mayor Mike Davitt said that while Peters went a long way to minimize the impact of the project, it was important for Council decisions to be fair to the city's rules and to all parties involved.
"You can't say it's got to be an invisible home; you can't ask anybody to do that. But, with that being said, it can't be unfair to the neighbors," Davitt said before addressing Peters. "As good as an effort I think you've made…I think we could do better, I really do."
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