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LA halts renovation work on Lisa Henson’s historic Venice bungalow compound

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The city says new inspections are needed

The city of Los Angeles has ordered a stop to renovation work underway on a historic Venice bungalow compound built by Irvin Tabor, the onetime chauffeur and confidant of Venice founder Abbot Kinney, and now owned by Hollywood producer and executive Lisa Henson and her husband, artist Dave Pressler.

The LA Department of Building and Safety instructed the owners to "submit plans for some structural repair work being done to one of the bungalows that exceeded the scope of the original issued permit," department spokesman Jeff Napier told Curbed.

Napier added: "The rear bungalow at 607 Westminster Avenue was notified in writing to stop work, return to plan check and submit plans for the structural repair work being done. The contractor has stopped work, and compliance is ongoing." The department will order further inspections of the project.

The work had prompted neighbors and some of Tabor's descendants to protest last weekend, questioning the project's permits and arguing that the compound—one of the first in Southern California developed by and for an African-American family—should be granted landmark status.

The new review was prompted by concerns about the extent of the renovations, LA Department of City Planning spokesman Yeghig L. Keshishian told Curbed. The project originally received permits under an express permitting process, which allowed interior or exterior modifications to 10 percent or less of the structures.

"What recently happened is, planning was made aware, once, I guess, the roof was replaced and collapsed, that there [was] subsequent ... work done that doesn't fall within the scope of the program," Keshishian said. "Specifically, obviously, for replacement of a roof. And also there was some understanding of a small addition that we discovered once folks were on site looking at the actual homes."

The California Coastal Commission has also been working with the city agencies to determine whether further permits or exemptions are needed as the compound falls within the coastal zone, commission spokeswoman Noaki Schwartz told Curbed.

"It’s our understanding that the city has determined the entire project needs coastal clearance," Schwartz said. "This means the city will determine whether the development is exempt, and if it’s not exempt, it will require a local coastal development permit."

It's unclear how long work will be halted on the renovations, which Henson earlier told Curbed was intended to update four of the compound's eight bungalows to match the ones that were renovated a while ago.

A spokeswoman for Henson, who is CEO of The Jim Henson Co., told Curbed on Thursday that she was not aware of and had no comment on the latest developments.

Neighbor Sue Kaplan, who organized the weekend's protests, said she was pleased at the news. "If it is indeed true that the work has been stopped so that a coastal permit ... application can be made, then we are very pleased that the city and the Coastal Commission finally did what they are required to do," she told Curbed. "It should not have been so difficult, nor should not have fallen onto the neighbors to do the city’s job. That happens all too often, and it is not right.”