After nearly a year of trying, Natalia and Leonid Glosman have won the right to build their dream house in Beverly Hills. It may be a little smaller than their dreams, perhaps, but it is still a far cry from the apartment that they left behind in the Soviet Union 15 years ago.
"I feel exhausted. It's been a struggle but we're happy with the decision," said Natalia Glosman, who with her dentist-husband won the approval of the City Council Tuesday for the proposed French Baroque mansion in the heights above Coldwater Canyon Drive.
The Glosman chateau will hardly be the biggest in Beverly Hills. But other residents said that three stories of 18th-Century opulence would be out of place in their neighborhood, which is largely made up of ranch-style homes measuring 3,000 to 4,000 square feet.
Months of Acrimony
The result was months of acrimony, topped by an angry exchange before the city Planning Commission over whether working parents need a swimming pool and a tennis court so their children will not have to play in the street.
In March, the Planning Commission voted to reject the proposal, which was then appealed to the City Council.
Tuesday's session was calmer, although planning commissioners showed some frustration as the City Council overruled their conclusion that the house would "materially and adversely change the scale, integrity and character of the area."
By a 5-0 vote, the City Council said that construction could begin, although the size of the house would have to be reduced from 9,883 square feet to 8,883 square feet, the tennis court would have to be replaced by a smaller court suitable for volleyball, and mature landscaping would have to be planted to hide the games court and the ground-level garage.
"The result, although it was long in coming, is that a home is to be built which takes into account the concerns of the neighbors and also the interests of the family that wants to build the home and live there," said City Councilman Allan L. Alexander.
He said the "excruciating time and effort" that went into the process shows that the city's hillside ordinance needs to be revised.
The ordinance was imposed last year in an effort to come to terms with a trend toward the construction of big houses in the high-priced hillside areas of the city.
"We need to develop more objective standards for hillside development, so that a person when he buys . . . in the hillsides, knows exactly the size of the house he can build, and it's not going to be left to the subjective determination of the Planning Commission, planning staff or the City Council," Alexander said.
"I hear they gave it to them lock, stock and barrel," said MeraLee Goldman, chairman of the Planning Commission, who did not attend the Tuesday session but was briefed by her colleagues.
She said the Planning Commission labored through 13 versions of the plans for the proposed house in order to reach its conclusion, which was based on the requirements of the hillside ordinance. It requires that the scale, integrity and character of a neighborhood, the views of other residents, and other factors be taken into account in reviewing a project.
"If the city is going to have good, caring, intelligent people working on its Planning Commission then there have to be appropriate directions from the City Council in advance on controversial issues so the Planning Commission can more efficiently do its job," she said.
"I don't understand frankly how the council reverses its planning commission's decision when the planning commission has followed its instructions and done a good job," Goldman said.
She said the Planning Commission is scheduled to meet with the City Council next month to resolve their differences.