(LA TIMES)For two decades, Dee Tuntkavep has enjoyed a view of pine-shrouded Chandler Boulevard from the upstairs reading room of her Sherman Oaks home.
Now all she sees are concrete walls two stories high — the still-in-progress expansion of an Orthodox Jewish house of worship. In fact, plans for the upgraded Chabad of North Hollywood are for a structure nearly nine times the size of the prayer house it replaces.
On its website, the Chabad gives thanks: "Divine Providence has finally shined down on this long-awaited project."
Litigation, however, has brought the project to a virtual halt.
Tuntkavep and dozens of other residents say the new building's size — 12,000 square feet squeezed onto a 9,568-square-foot parcel zoned for residential — is just too big for the surrounding blocks of single-family homes, some starting at more than $1 million.
"It's like a mountain,'' Tuntkavep said. "How did this happen?"
That question has been the focus of a four-year battle pitting neighbor against neighbor, even Jew against Jew, in this quiet pocket in the San Fernando Valley.
Chabad of North Hollywood, which has operated a small synagogue in this location since 1981, says the larger structure is needed for a growing congregation: Up to 400 attend services during Passover and other holidays.
Benjamin Reznik, the Chabad's attorney, expects things to get back on track after an appellate court ruling last August.
"Really all the court said was that the City Council needed to make some better findings in support of its decision to allow this building,'' he said. "And the city can easily make those findings." continue reading...