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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Life among the petty

A really expensive treehouse

Not in My Neighbor's Backyard
By Martha Groves, Times Staff Writer

The mansionization battle rustling the leaves of North Barrington Avenue is something new even for Brentwood.

It's a dispute not over a 12,000-square-foot neo-Tudor monster or a towering modernist cube, but over a backyard treehouse for an 18-month-old girl.

This being Brentwood, of course, the edifice at issue is no ordinary treehouse.

When Les Firestein, a television producer, and his wife, Gwyn Lurie, a screenwriter, wanted to do something really special for their daughter, Sydney, they enlisted their friend Roderick Wolgamott Romero.

Romero is a renowned builder of elaborate treehouses for such celebrities as Sting and Donna Karan. His work can be found in the "fantasy gift" section of this year's Neiman Marcus holiday catalog. Beginning price: $50,000.

In the backyard of the Firestein-Lurie home, which sits on a tree-studded half-acre north of Sunset Boulevard, Romero and his buddies built a roughly 10-foot-by-10-foot structure of reclaimed wood, salvaged windows and vintage stained glass from Buenos Aires that would quicken the heart of any fun-loving child or parent. The treehouse includes a viewing deck bordered by a railing crafted from tree branches from the backyard.

In return, Romero asked for a week's worth of lodging and all the Baja Fresh meals he could eat. With his tattooed arms and braided, knee-length hair swept up under a tweed cap, Romero and his pals worked for days, even in the rain.

Richard Fleming, the couple's next-door neighbor and a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, was not amused.

He feared that children could perch in this aerie and look in on him and his wife in their backyard pool and hot tub. He suspected, also, that city codes had been violated.

Enter the city of Los Angeles. As the treehouse neared completion last Thursday, city inspector Thomas Sze arrived on the Firestein-Lurie doorstep, responding, he told them, to an anonymous complaint.

"Oh, that's big," Lurie said he told them after looking at the treehouse and the much larger platform on which it rested. Sze also expressed concern about the structure's safety. On Friday, he delivered a written order that all work be halted.

"We're requiring plans and permits if [they] want to continue," Dave Keim, the city's chief of code enforcement, said in an interview Tuesday. "We'll work with them to try to legalize this…. It's not going to be easy."

The city does not require permits for nonhabitable structures less than 8 feet square, but Keim said the treehouse exceeds that size and therefore requires city permission. Firestein and Lurie can appeal whether a permit is required.
Wow. Whatever happened to talking to one's neighbors like adults

posted by Steve @ 10:55:00 AM

10:55:00 AM

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