Phonehenge: Artistic Architecture Or Zoning Hazard?

Phonehenge West is a fete of architecture. The 20,000 square foot home is more like a castle and is a labor of love for Acton, California homeowner Alan Fahey. People come from all over to see this work of art Fahey and his family call home. Glamour magazine even did a photo shoot there once. It is Alan Fahey’s intent to turn this structure into a museum with a library, a gift shop, and a crafting center for disabled children that will support his family, help his community of Acton, and help disabled children.

The Los Angeles Times calls the architecture a “hodgepodge of reddish building braced with scores of utility poles and steel beams and connected by bridges and ramps.” Phonehenge isn’t just one structure but a compound of many structures – a barn, a 70-foot tower covered with Italian stained glass windows, and a trailer painted to look like a train boxcar are just a few.

The County of Los Angeles has other ideas about what should become of Phonehenge. Throughout the years, officials say, Fahey has violated numerous building codes, including one that requires buildings to be no taller than 35 feet. Zoning officials have notified Fahey multiple times over the past 3 decades, but Fahey has continued to build his own way. Now, they say, he will have to take it down or face 7 years in jail.

David Lewis is an advocate for code reform in the Los Angeles area. He calls Phonehenge an “exceptional place.” According to Lewis, the structure is “visually striking,” something most properties with code enforcement aren’t, and “it’s something special that shouldn’t be demolished.” The Phonehenge West page on FaceBook has received over 1,000 “likes” from other supporters as well.

In his favor is the fact that zoning officials have failed to keep up with this case, which saw its first violation notice in 1986. According to Fahey’s attorney, Fahey asked zoning officials several times for suggestions on how to bring the structure up to code but received no answers. His attorney is defending the structure as a “work of art” that should be allowed to remain.

Despite the support from lovers of this unique piece of architecture, Fahey may yet be required to tear it down. The final decision will be made this week in a court hearing in Lancaster, California.

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