A landowner’s plan to build a mansion near the iconic Hollywood sign is drawing protest from neighbors. They say the development could have seismic consequences. The home builder, Kenneth York, says he has done everything by the book. Kathy Vara reports from the Hollywood Hills for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2014.
Trouble is brewing near the Hollywood sign, as local homeowners are kvetching about one man’s plan to build a mansion next to a vineyard he planted more than a decade ago.
The Los Angeles Times first reported about Glendora ophthalmologist and winemaker Kenneth York’s proposal and application to build an 8,000-square-foot home, a 1,300-square-foot guest addition, a pool, tennis court and basement complete with “wine caves” next to half a dozen acres of grapes he planted in 2001.
Neighbors claim that York’s plans will produce years of dust, potential landslide activity and noise, as a significant amount of grading on a steep section of Mount Lee is required before construction can proceed.
“It’s a David-and-Goliath story: It’s a family being abused by the bureaucracy,” York told NBC4. “We have three kids, and it’s not fair for them to be put through that.”
Sheila Irani lives about two blocks away from York on Canyon Lake Drive. She is the president of the Lake Hollywood Homeowners Association and plans to run for the community’s council seat, soon to be vacated by Councilman Tom LaBonge, Irani’s former boss.
Irani said a majority of York’s neighbors have expressed opposition to the plans.
The plans are “overkill, and he’s already scarred the hillside,” Irani said, in reference to York’s vineyard, which is part of a 40-acre estate.
The six-acre vineyard, adjacent to Griffith Park and the Hollywood Sign, produces Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec under the label Hollywood Classic. York’s property is located roughly half a mile away from the iconic landmark.
“It’s unfortunate, we’ve tried to be good neighbors,” York said. “We’ve been trying to build this home for ourselves since 2007 on property that we’ve owned since 1998.”
York’s plans additionally include the construction of a third-of-a-mile-long fire lane, as well as a hammerhead turnaround, to give fire fighters access to his land, which according to York, is significantly “out of the way.”
Irani told NBC4 that she held a meeting at her house in November 2013 attended by roughly 30 community members to discuss York’s plans and collect opinions. York was not invited to attend.
York’s attorney, Ellia Thompson, said that her client has done everything by the book -- legal hoops ranging from environmental reports to soils tests to geological reports -- and has met with numerous city staffers and officials with regard to his plans.
Thompson, who is representing York for CA Land Use Professionals, added that the size of the proposed home is in keeping with the scale of the surrounding neighborhood, especially considering that some of the houses in the neighborhood are similar in size to the proposed project, albeit built on smaller lots.
The home at 6434 Innsdale Dr., for example, is 5,847 square feet on a .28-acre lot, and the home at 3001 Arrowhead Dr. is 9,385 square feet on a .57-acre lot, according to Thompson.
York’s lawyer said the development of her client’s property with a single family home is allowed by right, and York said that he intends to comply with all city regulations.
Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents the area in question, called York’s prospects a “grand plan for an oversized house,” and said that neighborhood groups such as Friends of Griffith Park and the Lake Hollywood Homeowners Assocation have approached him with concerns.
LaBonge said that he asked York to meet with him in the community, but York never assented.
The plan “is oversized, and it’s unnecessary. I do not support it,” LaBonge said. “They’re going to scar the hillside; it’s out of character for this classic 1964 subdivision called Lake Hollywood.”
LaBonge said that he hopes people see this is not an appropriate project.
York’s plan awaits approval by the city.