Neighbors Sue to Block Plan for Museum

Times Staff Writer

Angry neighbors of the Lanterman House in La Canada Flintridge have filed a lawsuit against the city, opposing the use of the 1915 Craftsman-style mansion as a museum and requesting that the city start over with its plans.

The lawsuit, which the neighbors' attorney plans to serve on the city this week, claims that the 1988 environmental impact report for use of the house as a museum is legally inadequate and that the conditional-use permit issued on the basis of that report is invalid.

"We are taking the position that the environmental impact report is deficient and the process needs to be done over," said Dhiya El-Saden, one of the neighbors. "We don't think the City Council adequately considered various alternatives."

No Comment From City

Deputy City Atty. Stephanie R. Scher said she could not comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, until the city had been served.

"I'm not terribly surprised, but I am disappointed," Scher said. "I thought the city had worked very hard to try to work this out and mitigate any problems."

The suit also contends that use of the Lanterman House on Encinas Drive is inconsistent with the city's general plan and zoning codes.

"Critical to the challenges is whether this is consistent with the city's policy of single-family residences," said William Ross, the neighbors' attorney. "Is it appropriate to put an institutional use of this intensity in a residential neighborhood?"

The nine plaintiffs are asking that the permit be nullified and that the city redo the planning process, including considering other alternatives for the property.

Jeanne Guy, who lives across the street from the house, said neighbors want to see the property sold as a single-family residence and opened to the public once or twice a year.

"This is a R-1 neighborhood, which means private homes," Guy said. "And that's what we want--private homes. You just don't put a business in a residential neighborhood."

It has also been suggested that the historic contents of the house be moved to nearby Descanso Gardens and that the money from the sale of the house be used as a down payment for a new city hall.

Latest Effort

The lawsuit is the latest effort by frustrated homeowners near the house who have vehemently opposed its conversion to a museum.

Use of the house has been the subject of emotional public debate since the death of Lloyd Lanterman in 1987. Lanterman, the last survivor of the family that founded La Canada Flintridge, bequeathed his home to the city several years ago with the understanding that the property be preserved for community and civic purposes.

When the city announced its plans to convert the historic house into a museum and cultural center, angry neighbors voiced their concerns about parking problems and increased traffic and noise in the neighborhood at a public hearing in February.

They also charged that the City Council had not sufficiently examined alternatives to the museum proposal, saying that council members came to the debate with their own ideas about what to do with the property, and that the environmental impact report and conditional-use permit were inadequate.

In spite of the homeowners' objections, the council voted 4-to-1 to deny the appeal and approve the report and conditional-use permit.

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