By Jose Martinez, 2/24/2011
Proposed Height Exceeds Windsor Square Assoc. Rules
Most city residents who are worried about home security either build a wall to keep out intruders or buy a dog with a loud bark. But as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa learned when he wanted to erect a security wall, even he had to abide by the city laws.
On Feb. 2, the mayor’s office submitted paperwork to receive a variance to city bylaws to build a security wall surrounding the Getty House in Windsor Square. Only the second mayor to reside at the Getty House (Tom Bradley being the first), Villaraigosa moved into the official residence of the Mayor of Los Angeles at 605 S. Irving Blvd. in 2005.
The newly developed plan is actually revised from the eight-and-a-half-foot wall that was originally bandied about a couple of months ago and rejected outright by the Windsor Square Association. The new proposal calls for a six-foot wall, still greater than the allotted 42 inches that is permitted.
When informed that the mayor’s office had filed the paperwork seeking a variance, John Welborne, Windsor Square Association vice president for planning and land use, was caught off guard, even though the mayor’s office is not responsible to notice the association.
“Because it appears that nobody from the mayor’s office or the City Planning Department’s Office of Zoning Administration has notified the Getty House neighbors of the filing of a variance application, such an application has yet to be considered by the Board of the Windsor Square Association,” Welborne said. “I would note, however, that virtually everyone in the City of Los Angeles who erects, or seeks to erect, an over-in-height fence or wall in the required, open, front yard setback area of a single-family residence says the reason is ‘for security.’ Should all of Los Angeles, including its historic residential neighborhoods, become a collection of walled compounds?”
Apparently placed on the fast track (some zoning decisions can take months), a deadline for a ruling has been set for April 18, meaning a public hearing will have to be arranged soon. But according to the Department of City Planning, they “probably won’t make that deadline,” seeing how backed up the office is.
“Those deadlines can always be extended but I consider April to be pretty far away,” Welborne said.
Craig Weber, of the Department of City Planning, said increased security is not a new issue at the Getty House.
“Security concern has been an ongoing issue,” Weber said.
Although an LAPD Wilshire Division spokesperson said there have been no calls for service that he was aware of to the mayor’s home, there have been organized demonstrations in the past when city librarians, and members of the Service Employees International Union protested outside the house.
Weber also pointed out that an application for variance to build a wall had actually been filed in 1996 by the mayor’s office but was later withdrawn. The mayor’s office contends that a protective wall around the Getty House, named for George Getty, the son of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, would save taxpayers money because around-the-clock security would not be needed. The design of the six-foot wall calls for security features to be embedded in the construction.