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Venice woman trying to save tree house her late husband helped build

September 11, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A beloved tree house that a Venice homeowner calls a bamboo masterpiece and a tribute to her late husband is facing possible demolition.

Eileen Pollack Erickson has a tree, and she has a house. And while Los Angeles' Department of Building and Safety is fine with that, it is not fine with her tree house.

She says a letter from the city spelled out the bad news.

"There were maybe 25 violations. They just threw the book at me. They pretty much all gave me no hope," said Erickson.

The Venice resident says her late husband helped build the tropical looking tree house 10 years ago. It's a popular play spot for her children, grandchildren and other families.

But the city tells Eyewitness News that the tree house is 20 feet tall, and "any structure that exceeds 64 square feet in area or exceeds eight feet in height is required by code to be permitted."

When Erickson asked how she could fix the problem, she says the city responded with its own questions.

"'How do we give you a permit for a tree house? We don't have codes to permit a tree house. Where's the structure? Where's the foundation? Where's the shear wall?'" Erickson quoted city officials as saying.

Erickson says the community has been rallying around her.

"I certainly don't see how that tree house is getting in anyone's way or doing anything other than improving the neighborhood," said Charlie Mason who lives right next door to Erickson.

Erickson even posted a petition on the tree 10 days ago. More than 450 people have signed it. She has more than just those signatures though. Now, a Los Angeles city councilman has joined the fight. He says the city building department is barking up the wrong tree.

"We need to figure out a way to make sure that it can remain," said Councilman Mike Bonin.

Bonin says city inspectors were turned onto the tree house by an angry neighbor. He's planning to meet with building and safety officials to work out a solution.

"The government is able to change state laws in order to make sure that we can have a football stadium downtown. I think we can figure out, by bringing people together, how to have a resolution that allows a widow to have a tree house for her grandchildren," said Bonin.

But Erickson says even a work-around could prove costly -- $3,500 just for a variance. Her childhood dream is leaving her up a tree, and not in the way she intended.


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