La Canada OKs Rules on Size of Buildings

A squabble that began almost a year ago between a La Canada Flintridge resident and his neighbors over the remodeling of his house resulted in the adoption this week of new rules governing the height and bulk of buildings.

The City Council on Monday revised its rules for building standards that had been adopted just four years ago. The new rules are designed to "significantly reduce the ambiguity in the current ordinance," according to a staff summary presented to council members.

The "most perplexing" of the rule changes, according to the report, was coming up with the wording to define what point on a lot can be used to measure an angle plane that determines the height of a building. After months of study, planning commissioners found that there was "no trouble-free solution" to the issue, according to the report. However, the changes are expected to "simplify enforcement."

The neighborhood squabble erupted after a homeowner decided to increase the level area of his lot by building a 10-foot-high retaining wall and filling in a slope. He then built a new second story on his house and used the new, higher level of that part of the lot as the base from which to measure compliance with the city's height limit. Neighbors complained that the new construction towered over their property at the base of the retaining wall.

Among other changes, the new law measures building height using a complicated formula based on the ground level at all boundaries of the lot.

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