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IRVINE : Judge Blocks City’s Plan to Raze Home

An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that one man’s castle may still be his home, granting Haym Ganish’s request for a temporary injunction to block the city’s planned Nov. 10 demolition of his castle-like dwelling.

After 12 years of alternately remodeling his home and battling city officials, Ganish won a reprieve from the impending destruction of what his neighbors call the “Kron Street castle.”

Judge Nancy Wieben Stock ordered both Ganish and the city to return to court Nov. 9, when a trial date will be set.

For Ganish’s attorney, the dispute centers on the rights of the individual verses the conformity of a planned community. But for Irvine city officials, who contend that hazardous conditions inside Ganish’s unfinished home violate state law, it’s a matter of public safety.

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“These homeowners would have the same problem whether they lived in Irvine or Irwindale,” said Irvine City Atty. Joel D. Kuperberg. “It doesn’t matter what the name of the city is--these laws are on the books in every city in California.”

Ganish bought the home in 1978 in the section of Irvine known as the Ranch. He began to modify the single-story ranch-style home into a suburban baroque castle in 1982. Ganish and his wife, Fern, live in the house with their two adult sons and 13-year-old daughter. Son Gilad Ganish, 18, is running for City Council.

Ganish’s attorney, Robert Sainburg, is challenging the city’s nuisance ordinance as “unconstitutionally vague.” He disputes the city’s contention that Ganish has violated state building codes.

“This is not a nuisance ordinance, it’s a conformity ordinance,” Sainburg said.

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“The city of Irvine has been stopped from demolishing the house. It was a victory,” he said of Thursday’s court ruling.

But Kuperberg said the ruling was narrow and did not strike down the city’s nuisance ordinance, on which the City Council based its resolution ordering demolition of the three-story house.

“The court indicated that the City Council’s resolution remains in force,” Kuperberg said. “But the court also indicated that the city cannot enforce the resolution until the court decides whether or not the house can be destroyed.”

The City Council unanimously approved the resolution in July after seeing photographs taken inside the Ganish home, which council members say showed exposed wires, an unvented water heater and other problems including an unsupported balcony.

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