Council rejects hillside house

Citing blocked views and incongruence with the neighborhood, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council voted Tuesday to deny development permits for a two-story, 3,999-square-foot house on a hillside lot at 2048 Lyans Drive.

The 4-0 decision (Councilman Stephen Del Guercio was absent), which drew a large crowd to City Hall, reversed a unanimous vote by the Planning Commission in May to approve the development.

City planner Patrick Clarke recommended the council deny the appeal, stating that property owner Norman Peters had already redesigned the project several times to reduce its impact on his neighbors. The garage and guest parking were moved away from a home owned by the Kagawa family, and the elevation of the house was lowered from 188 feet to 114 feet, Clarke said. Further, the development plans preserved a 50-foot-wide view corridor comprising 20 feet on the Peters' property and 30 feet on the Kagawa property.

The sloping flag lot presents significant development challenges, Norman Peters said, adding that his proposal was well within all city codes and ordinances.

"The project should have been started and completed by now," Peters said. "It has been over a year and a half and I haven't even broken ground.…It is clear from the numerous city staff reports that my plans for the construction of my house have satisfied every code since the beginning. "

Neighbors maintained, however, that the proposed two-story house fits poorly in the neighborhood.

"This place looks a lot like the barracks I lived in when I was in basic training," said Bob Lyans Jr., a member of the neighborhood's founding family.

Small adjustments, such as repositioning the house on the lot and reducing its overall size, would mean the neighbors could maintain most of their views, said Richard Lyans, also of the street's namesake family.

"He is a builder; it is a spec house," said Richard Lyans. "I don't know why it needs to be that big except for the dollar."

Councilwoman Laura Olhasso said she appreciated that the developer had stayed within all required setbacks and square footage. But city ordinances and codes are maximums, she noted, not guarantees.

"Just because it meets the development standards doesn't mean it meets the findings," Olhasso said. "And we have to do both."

The proposal was not harmonious with the natural or built setting, and it posed incredible infringements on neighbors' views, Mayor Pro Tem Gregory Brown said.

"I'm disappointed and I am a little bit irritated that this has gotten this far," Brown said. "In my view this house started outrageous for this location…and I think it has gone from outrageous to bad."

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