City OKs Shia LaBeouf's Neighbors' Wall
Posted by Daniel Antolin on Nov 3, 2011 - 3:08:24 AM
Shia LeBouf. Photo courtesy of IMDb.
SHERMAN OAKS—On Tuesday, November 1, the Los Angeles City Council voted 11-0 to allow a 6-foot-6-inch-high wall to continue to stand in the front yard of the home of a Sherman Oaks couple. It was built to prevent paparazzi and stalkers from trespassing onto their property in order to look into the home of their next-door neighbor, "Transformers" star Shia LaBeouf.
Though approved by the city council, the 120-foot-long wall at the home of Joe and Orit Picker on 3951 Deervale Drive will still have to be evaluated by the Department of Building and Safety to see if it is up to code and by the Department of Public Works regarding the appropriateness of its location. And a large portion of the wall will have to be removed so that it is compatible with the neighborhood.
"We built this fence so we can feel safe in our own home," Joe Picker said during the public comment portion of the meeting. "We live next to a celebrity, right above him. Our home gives an excellent observation point to paparazzie and other intruders. We have had constant problems with tresspassers and vandalism."
Disputed wall next to Shia LaBeouf's home. Photo courtesy of City of Los Angeles.
Also during the public comment period, Ryan Kick read a statement from LaBeouf's attorney Matthew H. Saber because the actor was in Canada filming a movie. What Kick read elaborated on the intrusions the Pickers and LeBeouf claim to have experienced.
"Mr. LaBeouf was forced to hire private security guards from time to time in order to control the flow of sightseers and the media. There are also occasionally potentially violent stalkers monitored by law enforcement," Kick read from the statement. "Unfortunately for the Pickers, the photographers and alleged press have continually tresspassed on the Picker's property in order to claim a view into Mr. LaBeouf's backyard and photograph him and his guests through their property."
A nearby front yard wall. Photo courtesy of City of Los Angeles.
Fifth District Councilmember Paul Koretz, who made the motion for vote, presented council findings indicating that the zoning administrator who denied Picker's application to keep the wall did not recognize that a lot of nearby homes have similar walls and that he ignored signatures of neighbors who support it. Council findings also indicated that the administrator denied the application because he took issue with the public right-of-way underlying the wall's location. In addition, the council found that he set an inconsistent precedent in signing off on a separate request for a wall at a home across the street based on its intended use.
"The appropriateness of the wall's placement is in the purview of Public Works. It is not in the purview of the zoning administrator, so I believe the zoning administrator abused his discretion," Koretz said. "Also, a previously approved overheight wall directly across the street was not considered due to its use as a retaining wall."
"The zoning adminstrator erred by placing unequal weight on the idea that a wall's function is the determining factor of the appropriateness of its height and that one use supersedes another from a planning perspective," Koretz said.
Chief among the concerns of the wall's detractors is that allowing it to stay up will send a message that home owners can build whatever they want without a permit, and once they get caught, pay whatever is necessary to get it approved.
Elke Heitmeyer, a Deervale Drive resident who does not support the wall, said that the structure is out of character with the open landscape of the street, and that it is not necessary. She said that this is because LaBeouf's home features a high fence beyond which paparazzi, who have not been seen in the area in an about a year's time, cannot see anything.
Not only is the wall not needed, Heitmeyer said, but its structural integrity is in question because construction proceeded without the Pickers obtaining a city permit. During an earthquake, the illegally built wall could fall over and crush whatever is in front of it and the city would be responsible, she said.
Harriet Diamond, another detractor of what has been called the "great wall of Sherman Oaks," reiterated
Heitmeyer's view that the Pickers should have either put up a fence to
keep trespassers away or obtained a city permit before building the disputed structure.
Diamond said that LaBeouf's adjacent home was only visible to her from the living room of the Picker's home, where she claimed to have lived for 16 years before they moved in, and that trespassers were never a problem.
Koretz said that LeBeouf's home is more than visible in his trips to study the area in question.
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