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COMMUNITY COMMENTARY:Why won’t the city work with us?

For 10 years now I have tried to work with the City Neighborhood Services Department, permits division, planning, zoning, Board of Zoning Appeals, the city attorney and now the City Council on a problem I didn’t create (“Years-old fight goes to council,” July 7).

My home addition was built in 1963 and finished in 1965. Lyndon B. Johnson was president. I was 7 years old and in kindergarten at the time. Yet the city seems to want to hold me accountable for a mistake it made 40 years ago. You see, the city cited this addition in 1967.

Now, when I bought this property in 1989, there was nothing in public records to show the title company that anything was wrong with the property. The addition was represented as legal square footage, and we had no reason to expect otherwise. Never did we know the addition was built over the property line by 4 inches, encroached on the neighbors’ property, didn’t have a 3-foot setback and was built too close to the property line, all of which created zoning problems.

However, the city knew about this in 1967, and yet they let the problem sit dormant for 40 years.

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After working with Neighborhood Services and trying to correct the problem, knowing full well what the problem was, the city has been pointing the finger at my wife Lisa and I for 10 years, saying it’s our fault.

We worked with Neighborhood Services for 5 1/2 years to try to get permits, but the city wouldn’t let us.

We had to apply for a variance, and the city denied us.

We had to resolve this 4-inch encroachment issue over the property line, of which the city filed criminal charges against us for not complying with the code because our neighbor wouldn’t work with us.

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Then, once in Los Angeles Superior Court, the judge tells us we have to sue the neighbor to resolve the 4-inch encroachment. After four years and $106,000 in legal fees — which we attained only after the case got appealed all the way to the California Supreme Court — we obtained adverse possession for the 4 inches.

All this because we were forced into criminal court to sue our neighbor. Never once has anybody in the city, permits, planning, zoning or City Attorney’s Office, tried to work with us or even send out a building inspector. Now after following their instructions, spending 10 years and $106,000, we reapply for a variance to correct the mistake made 40 years ago and the city continues to refuse to work with us. I always thought the city people were there for us. I guess I am just an idealist. But it seems the only thing the city workers have worried about is losing their jobs.

Now, we reapply for the variance and are denied again. We appeal it to the Board of Zoning Appeals and are denied again. Finally to the City Council, it seems we are getting nowhere. They blame us for this mess, for the city is never wrong or culpable.

Thank God for City Councilmen John Drayman and Frank Quintero, who stood tall above it all and led the charge for rightness and fairness. Councilman Dave Weaver will become the deciding vote. Will Weaver roll over as another company/city man and vote against us or will he stand up and vote for what has truly been an unfair hearing and decision by the city of Glendale?

The people of Glendale and the La Crescenta portion of Glendale want to know their public officials will do the right thing. Will Weaver send us a message that he believes in right and wrong, or will he vote with the city and continue to point the finger at my family like it’s our fault?

Many people consider my wife and I leaders in La Crescenta. We spend most of our waking hours volunteering on the Crescenta Valley Chamber, Fourth of July Committee, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Sheriff Volunteers Relay for Life, food drives at Christmas, PTA, Community Emergency Response Teams, Rosemont Committee for the community and others; there are too many to list.

Maybe when the City Council votes, they will realize all the Duttons have ever done is try to deal with a city that has given us the bureaucratic red tape for 10 years at an incredible cost. We have strived to simply make legal an addition that has been that way for 40 years. If the City Council votes “no” on our variance, they haven’t told you what would happen. They would force us to cut it down.

When will the city start working with us rather than against us? I am still waiting.

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  • PAUL DUTTON
  • is a Glendale resident.


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