Ferrari owner’s dream garage grinds neighbors’ gears

His pristine Ferrari 512 BBi “Boxer” sits in the middle of Holger Schubert’s living room in Brentwood, right next to stylish furniture, a built-in bookcase and a flat-screen TV that slides on tracks past walls of glass that frame an ocean view.

But Los Angeles officials are about to slam shut forever the garage door that leads to the city’s most extravagant parking space.

City planners have withdrawn permission for Schubert to use a bridge to connect his Ferrari’s third-floor resting spot with North Tigertail Road.

The ruling by the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission tosses a mechanic’s wrench into Schubert’s hopes of using the showpiece garage that last year won Architectural Digest magazine’s Design Driven contest.

Neighbors complained about the bridge, alleging that the city erroneously approved its construction to create both a safety hazard and a development precedent that could degrade hillside neighborhoods throughout the city.

Schubert, a 43-year-old product designer, contends that neighbors turned against the bridge in retaliation for his home-remodeling project taking so long -- about five years, so far.

The ruling sets the stage for the city to issue an enforcement order that will force Schubert to tear down the 10-foot-long, 15-foot-high bridge if he does not obtain a zoning variance for it or win a court reprieve that preserves it.

That would mean that his prized gray 1984 Ferrari would have to give up its unique living-room parking spot.

Schubert blames the lengthy structural engineering design work needed for the garage for slowing down the remodeling project that he and wife, Yuriko, have undertaken at their two-acre property in the Brentwood hills.

Along with its ocean view, its crisp skylight-accented ceiling and modernist furniture, the garage features a hydraulic ramp that lifts the front end of the Ferrari up to allow Schubert to coast his gleaming car back out onto his bridge without starting the engine. No Ferrari fumes in this house.

“I wanted to create a backdrop for the car as a piece of art,” Schubert said last year after winning the architectural magazine’s contest. “This is a space whose only purpose is to enjoy the car.”

Neighbors say that Schubert first tried to get permission to build a pedestrian bridge to connect the living room area with the street. They say they balked at that on grounds that such a walkway did not comply with the city’s building rules.

Critics contend that Schubert then sought permission to build an even wider driveway bridge.

At Wednesday evening’s commission session, they argued that the city approved the bridge only after being told that the top-floor garage was necessary for Schubert to comply with city off-street parking rules.

In reality, Schubert had ample parking space near a three-car garage that he demolished in order to make room for the remodel, said Victor de la Cruz, a lawyer for neighbor William Burnside.

De la Cruz said Schubert was warned as he began building the driveway bridge that there was opposition to the bridge and that he was constructing it at his own risk.

Burnside, 58, a senior vice president of a Los Angeles consulting group who has lived on Tigertail Road for 22 years, said neighbors and the Brentwood Homeowners Assn. oppose the bridge for a variety of reasons -- not because Schubert’s remodeling project has dragged on seemingly forever.

“I think the major issue here is the precedent it would set in the city” he said.

Residents are also worried about the safety of Schubert backing his Ferrari over the narrow bridge and onto the curving hillside street.

“That, plus he has a two-acre property that has perfectly good access from elsewhere,” Burnside said.

Schubert said he has spent about $1.5 million on the remodel and doesn’t relish the thought of losing his Ferrari garage or ripping out the bridge. He only drives the rare, vintage sports car when Westside traffic is light, he said. He hunted for 11 years before he found the car and purchased it.

“This is how people with money and power can make white seem black,” Schubert said after the commission vote.

His attorney, Jerold B. Neuman, complained to planners that after Schubert received the permit to build the bridge 18 separate city inspections occurred “and no one raised an issue” signaling any problem with its legality.

“They’ve set the stage for the city to say, ‘Tear down the bridge,’ ” Neuman said.

That means the next rumbling sound heard from Tigertail Road will probably be lawyers’ copy machines churning out court briefs, not the throaty full-throttle of a Ferrari 512 BBi.