I have to say this was one of the strangest stories I've done in recent years. When you talk about disputes between neighbors, you're usually talking maybe a fence issue, trees overhanging someone's property, repairing a sidewalk perhaps, but not this. In Lomita, residents of a 25-unit condo complex are perplexed, angry and feeling violated by their immediate neighbor, Green Hills Memorial Park in bordering Rancho Palos Verdes. It seems the cemetery has added an elaborate new mausoleum, complete with a grassy rooftop burial site, eight feet away from the condo property line. Matt Geier, the head of the condo association, opens his blinds and looks right down on the graves. ‘‘They bring in big tractors. They're digging the day before and then there's more digging. Our privacy is gone. Our views are gone. We had beautiful views of the ocean and on the first floor all views gone. We'd like them to remove the roof and, as gently as possible, move everyone who's on the roof to someplace else just as nice.”
Having visited the condo and literally reaching out over the wall by the pool towards the concrete mausoleum eight feet away, having looked out the window onto a gravesite, I can certainly sympathize with residents who say the funeral services violate their privacy, and I can even understand how funeral-goers themselves have reportedly objected to residents too close to them as well. It's a problem for the condo folks, but the operators of the cemetery, which dates back to 1948, don't see it as a controversy. “Well, we're doing our best to accommodate their concerns“, says Robert Sax, a spokesperson. He said they've already agreed, at the urging of the city of Rancho Palos Verdes, to limit funeral hours, cut down on noise, install privacy shields, and more. But removing those rooftop graves and shutting that site down, so far that's not going to happen.
Meantime, the city of Rancho Palos Verdes claims at the time all the expansion was discussed before the planning commission seven years ago, ‘'nobody thought this was a problem.‘' Joel Rojas, Community Development Director, told me over the phone that yes, there is normally a 40-foot buffer zone from a property line before any construction is allowed, but ‘‘an eight foot approval was granted under a conditional use permit revision. ‘' Geier admits that at the time, no one went to the meetings to object because they all thought the mausoleum was in another part of the property that didn't affect them. They claim they were intentionally misled, but the cemetery is denying doing anything wrong or misleading. They say they've always been good neighbors, but not so much any more. And it's not just about inconvenience. One man who's lived there 30 years, who looks straight out at some 43 graves already there, says bands sometimes play all day after funerals. He says his condo value has plummeted by about $100,000 and it's ‘‘unsellable''. I asked him how that makes him feel. “Poor “.
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