Matt Weinstock

Sept. 26, 1957

You can’t fight City Hall, states an old dictum, but Kenneth Reiner, 41, doesn’t agree.

Last April, work started on Reiner’s showplace home at 2138 Micheltorena St.
Located atop a high hill in the Silver Lake district, the home will
encompass six lots, have a magnificent view, include a tennis court,
swimming pool and a guest house and cost more than $100,000
($716,528.38 USD 2006).

It will contain many architectural and engineering innovations. Reiner himself is an engineer and product designer.

The architect is John Lautner, highly regarded in his profession, and
among the engineers associated in the job is T.Y. Lin, professor of
civil engineering at Berkeley.

In due course, Reiner applied for a permit to build a pre-stressed
concrete block wall for the guest house which would save him $5,000 in
construction costs. It was a unique design but Lin, who created it,
said its safety factor was greater than building code requirements.

The Building and Safety Commission, however, turned down the permit on
the grounds that the type of construction was not covered in the code.


[Reiner’s home, named Silvertop, in a 1963 photo. Note the "Unsafe at Any Speed" Corvair.]

Reiner asked for a rehearing. The Building Department replied that new
evidence was required for a rehearing. Reiner submitted what he
considered new evidence. The department ruled it wasn’t new evidence.

Reiner could have solved the difficulty by accepting several
alternative design methods but he decided to fight. He contends the
department has a negative attitude toward unconventional design, that
it is arbitrary in its decisions and unable to evaluate any departure
from standard design objectively. The commission, of course, insists it
must abide by code regulations.

Last month, he took his case to Superior Court, which, after expert
testimony, ordered the commission to give him a full hearing and judge
the proposed methods and materials on their merits and grant a permit
if they were adequate. The court also ordered the commission to pay
the court costs.

At the rehearing, the commission reaffirmed its previous decision. It also tried unsuccessfully to evade the court costs.

Reiner estimates he has spent around $5,000 for attorneys and other
fees in his fight but he intends to continue it, even if it means going
to court again. He admits he is a stubborn man. Meanwhile, his guest
house remains unbuilt.

Naturally, he has acquired considerable nuisance value around City Hall
in his one-man crusade. It’s safe to state the Building and Safety
people wish they’d never heard of him.

South Bel-Air matron phoned a downtown employment agency and said she
wanted to hire someone who knew French and Chinese cookery.

Later in the day, a man called her, applied for the job, gave his
qualifications and added, "You said you wanted someone who understood
French and Chinese. Well, I speak both languages."

"Yes," said the matron, with the feeling that she was being crowded by chaos, "but what kind of cooking can you do?"

"Best Irish cooking you ever had, madam," he replied.

He didn’t get the job.

progress-minded representative of a firm which makes aluminum diving
boards asked permission to demonstrate the board, using a model in a
bathing suit. He was told there is no pool at the municipal auditorium
where the commercial exhibits will be held.

"Well, could she just bounce up and down on a board?" he persisted.

"No!" was the horrified rejoinder.

semester, as he stopped his No. 4 bus at 3rd and Loma Drive to let the
Belmont High students off, the driver would say, "Now get in there and
work hard, kids, so you won’t have to drive a bus when you grow up."
This semester he’s saying, "All off for San Quentin."…Word coinage
note: Alfred Hitchcock’s drama on KNXT Sunday was described in program
notes as a "chilling macabrestry." Sounds awful, whatever it is…
Barbara Snader is afraid that with underground nuclear explosions we’ll
have to worry about fall-in as well as fallout.


About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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