Fenced in: The shoe was on the other foot for Jack Lemmon last week.
A ringleader this summer of the successful effort to block construction of an immense mansion on his street in Beverly Hills, the actor found himself in his other city of residence, Malibu, defending his own too-high fence before the City Council.
Along one side of his oceanfront property on Broad Beach, Lemmon has a six-foot block wall, topped by a four-foot lattice fence that he said keeps tourists and paparazzi from peering into his pool, yard and house.
"I got caught skinny-dipping" once, he explained to the council Monday night.
The fence, put up without a permit before Malibu's incorporation, exceeded the county height limit for fencing and now also exceeds the city's six-foot limit. When a neighbor complained recently, Lemmon was notified that he had to apply for a variance or take down the fence.
Lemmon appealed, saying no one except the complaining neighbor had ever objected to the fence. "Everybody has violated the ordinance up and down the street," he said. There were solid walls as high as 12 feet, and walls of trees and bushes so thick "you couldn't throw a javelin" through them, he said.
The neighbor in question, Robert Colman, told the council in a letter that in the nearly 20 years he has lived in the neighborhood, including three years as a full-time resident, he has "almost never seen a tourist stop and try to see into (Lemmon's) house." He said the vines growing on Lemmon's latticework block the flow of air and light on his property, and a variance would "constitute a special privilege to the applicant."
Several council members said they had visited Lemmon's neighborhood before the meeting and found other walls over the height limit. The council voted unanimously to leave the fence alone, and instructed city staff to re-examine code standards dealing with side-yard fencing.
A game of inches: The owner of Zenzero, a trendy new restaurant on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, was looking out his window one day when he spied a man measuring his dining patio wall.
The measurer was City Councilman Ken Genser, checking to see if the barrier complied with the city's outdoor dining patio guidelines.
He apparently thought he had the goods on Zenzero. By his count, the wall was six to eight inches too high. He also complained about the distance of the patio wall from a tree well.
"(Councilman Kelly Olsen) and I took a close look at the newly constructed outdoor dining patio on Ocean Avenue," Genser wrote in a complaint to the city staff. "This structure clearly does not conform to our standards."
Genser went on to demand that city staffers explain why they had allowed Zenzero to flout the guidelines.
The city staff got on the case. So did the restaurant's attorneys, Ken Kutcher and Chris Harding.
One explanation for the disparity was quickly obvious: Because of a sloping sidewalk, some parts of the wall had to be higher off the pavement than other parts if the wall was to be level on top.
What saved the day for the restaurant was some legal sleuthing that Kutcher says was prompted by Genser's complaint.
Kutcher said he knew Zenzero had certain rights because it inherited its permits from a restaurant that had previously occupied the building.
After researching the matter, he concluded that if Zenzero was so inclined, it could put up an eight-foot
wall--2 1/2 feet higher than is now allowed--with a permanent awning. The Santa Monica city attorney's office, in a letter to Harding, conceded that this was so.
Kutcher said Zenzero intends out of goodwill to comply with the new, more restrictive rules for the patio walls. But while there is no plan for an eight-foot wall, he said, the restaurant will apply to the city's Architectural Review Board for permission to build one. That's the best approach, Kutcher reasoned, toward getting approval for what the restaurant actually does want--a retractable awning so the patio can be used when the weather is bad.
Where does that leave Genser? He declined to comment on the matter. But according to Kutcher, it was the councilman's quibbling over a few inches that set the stage for a tall patio wall.
"That's egg on (Genser's) face," Kutcher said.
The Michael Mural: The Hollywood Arts Council is sticking by Michael Jackson. Officials at the council say they have no plans to scrap the 80-foot mural of Jackson that is planned for the east side of the historic El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.
"Clearly . . . it gives you cause to think," said council trustee Oscar Arslanian, referring to news reports that Los Angeles police were investigating allegations that Jackson had molested a 13-year-old boy. (The accusations have not been substantiated and no charges have been filed.) "But until something a lot more definitive is (known) regarding Michael, we have no question but to proceed as we have."
The mural already has a controversial past. Last year, the council battled Hollywood activists who argued that installing an image of Orson Welles in "Citizen Kane" would be more fitting to the boulevard and to Hollywood's history. Then, after preliminary work began on the mural, the National Park Service, which became involved because the 67-year-old El Capitan is a historical landmark, objected, saying the mural would "partially obscure the historic features and character of the building." Late last year, the Park Service relented and gave the mural the green light.
Arslanian describes the mural, which is being painted by famed muralist Kent Twitchell, as depicting the singer dressed in a white suit and wearing a porkpie hat, coming out of a dance spin. "It's at once a Michael Jackson look and a retro Hollywood, Fred Astaire look," he said.
Party people: Is a hip-hop party in Agoura Hills just ho-hum by Malibu standards? The Malibu City Council balked at an ordinance last week regulating private parties and public dances after wondering out loud whether the party standards for Agoura Hills and other cities served by the Lost Hills sheriff's station should apply to Malibu.
The ordinance, which was sent back to city staff for more work, would require residents to reimburse the Sheriff's Department for its cost if deputies had to come back to quell a party a second time after giving an initial warning.
The ordinance, which was requested by the Sheriff's Department, is intended to have a calming effect rather than make money, said City Manager David Carmany, adding that all of the cities served by the Lost Hills station except Malibu have the ordinance.
Carmany said he has gone on ride-alongs with sheriff's deputies in Malibu and could attest that "parties out there are vigorous."
To which Councilman John Harlow replied: "They may be (considered vigorous) in Agoura Hills, but it may be a normal party in Malibu."
But the biggest problem the council had with the ordinance was a provision prohibiting parties and dances that are advertised as open to the general public in residential areas. Churches and religious organizations that advertise parties and dances and solicit an admission or donation were let off the hook, but the provision said nothing about campaign fund-raisers in private homes, Harlow said.
Maybe it's on his mind because his council seat is up for grabs come next April's election.
Insurance Commissioner Margolin?Westside Assemblyman Burt M. Margolin says he is weighing a bid for state insurance commissioner next year.
"I'm seriously considering it," Margolin, a Democrat, said last week. "I've specialized in insurance reform issues in the Legislature. I've been a strong consumer advocate in my tenure. I believe the insurance commissioner can make a difference."
Margolin, a legislator since 1982, has been active on the insurance front as chairman of the Assembly Insurance Committee. A protege of Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), he is a respected liberal lawmaker who in the past expressed interest in running for Congress.
He will have to leave his the Assembly in 1996 under the California term limits law.
At this point, the only other prominent figure publicly considering the race is state Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles). John Garmamendi, the state's first elected insurance chief, has said he will seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next year.
Contributing to this report were correspondent G. Jeanette Avent and staff writers Scott Shibuya Brown, Nancy Hill-Holtzman and Alan Miller.