DOWNEY — It was a lose-lose situation for James Alvarez as he unsuccessfully sought to keep a 497-square-foot addition to his home at 13506 Gunderson Ave. He acknowledged the addition was built without a city permit.
City Council members Feb. 10 said they sympathized with Alvarez but had to follow city zoning laws and rejected the appeal from Alvarez, who had asked the council to overturn a previous denial by the Planning Commission.
City Planner William Davis noted that if the council had waived the permit requirement, city building inspectors would have been required to examine the structure, drilling holes in the walls and foundation to assure it’s solidarity and thus causing significant damage.
The structure resulted in the house being 10 feet from the rear lot line instead of the required 20 feet, Davis added.
“I apologize for not getting a permit,” Alvarez said. “I have lived there since 1992 and my family was growing,” Alvarez said. He added the structure in 2013 to enlarge his son’s bedroom and provide a 280-square-foot family room.
He said it was built by a licensed contractor.
A licensed contractor should have known to get a permit, Councilman Sean Ashton said, agreeing with Councilman Roger Brossmer that waiving the rule would set a precedent.
“We are sensitive to the issue,” Mayor Pro Tem Alex Saab said. “We are not happy [doing this], but it’s a case of health and safety.”
“I sympathize but we don’t have overwhelming evidence of hardship or special conditions which would allow us to waive the requirement,” Councilman Fernando Vasquez said.
Davis pointed out that 14 neighbors of Alvarez also had extensions to their homes which intruded into the rear-yard setback, but said those additions were done with city permits prior to existing code laws approved in 1998.