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Deck Compromise Returns Harmony to Neighborhood

Times Staff Writer

After 45 minutes of discussion and consultations with the deputy city attorney, the La Canada Flintridge City Council voted Monday to let a resident build a deck behind his $500,000 home.

The decision rested on a compromise that appeared to bring harmony between bickering neighbors.

One of them, Douglas Bates, addressed the council Monday on behalf of residents of the Homewood Lane subdivision, who were asking the council to abolish Landscape Maintenance District No. 1.

The district assesses a tax on the 12 homeowners of the subdivision for the maintenance of the slope that overlooks a previously existing neighborhood on Lanterman Lane, City Manager Donald H. Otterman said. It also carries restrictions on what the homeowners can build there.

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Bates said the district was preventing him from building a deck.

Tax Collection Halted

At the request of residents, the city stopped collecting the tax in June, and the City Council was to consider a proposal Monday to abolish the district outright.

But Ray D. Johnson, whose home on Lanterman Lane is about 14 feet below Bates’ property, argued that, without the district, residents of the Homewood subdivision could build on the slope without restrictions, ultimately infringing on his privacy.

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Johnson added that before the maintenance district was created, water draining from the slope had flooded his property.

But Bates said that if the district is abolished, he and other homeowners would improve the condition of the slope.

“We don’t want to flood your pool with mud,” Bates told Johnson during the meeting. “We want you to be happy like we are.”

Council Member Abstained

One council member abstained from the discussion but still played a role in its resolution. Councilman Ed Phelps, who lives in the district, not only did not vote, but also stepped down from the dais to sit in the audience with Bates, his neighbor.

When Bates passed copies of his deck plans to the council, Phelps took one to the back of the room and handed it to Johnson.

Johnson looked the plans over and concluded that “they look fine.”

At length, the council voted not to abolish the district but instead to change its boundaries so that homeowners on Homewood Lane would have room to make improvements in the rear of their properties.

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To protect Johnson and his neighbors below, it also required the homeowners to insert covenants in their property deeds allowing only decks, fences and other unobtrusive structures to be built on the slope.


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