The Unfinished Irvine Castle : City May Hire Contractor to Complete House

Times Staff Writer

If Victor and Fern Ganish don't agree to finish turning their Irvine home into a castle within 180 days, city officials may hire their own contractor to complete the project.

That's the latest proposed solution to a dispute between the Ganishes and their Kron Street neighbors that began in 1982, when the couple first began transforming their standard tract home into a highly stylized baroque abode--with turrets and a rock-studded facade.

When the dispute last came before the City Council, the couple were given 60 days to complete enough of the exterior work on the house so it would not violate Irvine's year-old Residence Remodeling Law. That law, which was passed in part because of residents' concern about the Ganish house, requires that all work be completed within a year of the issuance of a work permit.

Deadline Passed

That deadline has passed, and Monday night the controversy will fall back into the council's lap.

An agreement has been drafted that would require the Ganishes to complete the work on the home within 180 days. Monday, the council will decide whether to give the Ganishes the option of signing that agreement or to seek competitive bids and send in workers to bring the home up to minimum health and safety standards.

If the city does send in workers, it will seek reimbursement from the Ganishes.

Some neighbors object to the slow pace of the project and to the style of the house. The home features a facade of inlaid river rock and Palladian windows. Guy Border, a building and framing contractor whose home immediately abuts the Ganish residence, estimated that the home is about "33% finished." He said that, according to the plans approved by the city, "it ain't even half as ugly yet as they want it."

Jan Pavlovsky, whose home faces the Ganish house from Ecclestone Court, said the home was approved to be remodeled in a Mediterranean style.

"It's not that," said Pavlovsky. "It's not even the same house. There isn't one previously existing wall standing."

Ganish has said he will take "40 years" to complete the project if necessary, according to Pavlovsky. "He told my mom it was because Americans never finish through with anything, and he was going to take 40 years if he had to."

The Ganishes have declined to talk to reporters. City officials say the couple contend that the Residence Remodeling Law is unconstitutional and doesn't apply to them.

Not all of the Ganishes' neighbors are as adamant as Pavlovsky about their project.

Within the last year, the homes on either side of the Ganish residence have been purchased at competitive prices by people who were aware of the project.

'Live and Let Live'

"Why can't people just live and let live?, " said Dr. Iriet Peshkess, who lives next to the Ganish home.

"I don't even know that I want them to finish, that's fine with me," said Peshkess, pointing to the plywood boards and tar-paper sidings on the house that are clearly visible from her yard.

City officials are hesitant about putting out money to complete the project or to bring the house up to minimum code standards in a style inconsistent with the rest of the structure.

"That money comes out of the city's pocket initially," said Dave Aleshire, a lawyer with Rutan and Tucker, the law firm handling the case for the city. "And there is a significant dollar difference" between bringing the home up to minimum code standards and contracting for a completion of the project consistent with the original design, according to Aleshire. Ganish has told the city that estimates for finishing the house according to the original plans start at $127,000.

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