Should Phonehenge West be Saved?

By • May 28, 2011 •  Selected Work 

Alan Kimble Fahey has spent the last 30 years building a 20,000-square-foot labyrinth of buildings, called Phonehenge West, in Acton, an unincorporated census-designated place in Los Angeles County, California.

Unfortunately, Fahey never got a permit and the Los Angeles County enforcers are now demanding that Phonehenge West be torn down, because of many building and fire code violations.

The district attorney has charged Fahey with 14 criminal misdemeanor counts of maintenance of unpermitted properties and unlawful use of land.

A trial started yesterday and Fahey faces possible prison sentence up to seven years!

Phonehenge West is literally an exceptional place, something between art and architecture. Will it be enough to help Fahey keep his 30-year work?

Follow the story on the Save Phonehenge West Facebook page!

Photos by Genaro Molina, RuggyBearLA and courtesy of Alan Kimble Fahey
Via latimes

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114 Comments to Should Phonehenge West be Saved?

  1. Matt says:

    The government should NOT …EVER… be allowed to tell us what we can and can’t do with our own land . I know it doesn’t always work, but the common sence of the land owner should be enough . If a person is stupid enough to build something that isn’t safe , and it falls down and kills them, well the gene pool has just been weeded out . I think your home is different , it’s a one of a kind, you have the right ( or should have ) to live however you wish , you have the right to be happy . What about all the land the ppl store there junk on . ( I take it that is ok ) we can turn our land into a dump, but not a place to live , to be free and live our lives as we see fit .

    • T says:

      The MOMA needs to intervene. This man is an American genius in assemblage art. I am really saddened by this. Gosh, those authoritie s are idiots and on a power-trip . This is when I draw the line, vote independen t, those idiot Republican /Democrat types who have a zillion rules about building on your own so-called “property” can take a hike. His place is out in the middle of nowhere. America, the home of the free. Baloney. Freedom in America is large screen TV sets that will fall apart in a year and be in a landfill, a Budlight on the back of your tailgate of your car that is owned by the bank that repossesse d your house, a day at Hooters with the kids. The jury likely consisted of these types of ignorant people. Leave the guy alone.

  2. michelle elks says:

    I love your work of art. I wishI could have a beautiful house like that.
    Your art is you. Dont let anyone take that from you. I believe in you keep up with your art .

    Praying for you and your family

  3. Judy says:

    I love it!! you all need to leave the family in peace! It’s all about what money you can get out of this family!!!

  4. Gina says:

    I have one name for the “doubting Thomases” on this board…”Bart Prince“. This is an amazing architect who builds homes and offices that defy the laws of gravity. His FIRST studio, built in Albuquerque, NM, is in an old neighborhood and spits in the face of conformance. The house is now a historical landmark, and I’d hate to even attempt to count the number of engineers who said it wouldn’t stand when it was being built.

    You all claim that FAHEY’s house is unsafe, wasn’t built to code, and “blah, blah, blah.” Furthermore, you all claim to KNOW what art is and isn’t…got news for you. Art can be anything! Its the expression or application of HUMAN creative skill and imagination (be sure you NOTE those two terms, because you obviously lack both), typically in a visual form that produces works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. By its very definition, somebody could take a crap on their front lawn and claim it to be art. So, please, “doubting Thomases,” take that argument somewhere else. This home IS a work of art…its FAHEY’s interpretation of art!

    As for Texas and all of Tex’s grandiose visions of the state, Texas is not known for much other than oil (greed), cattle (cow-shit), and piss-ants (those itty, bitty little ants that invade and infest everything). And just so that I’m not accused of “forgetting,” yes…most Texans have money (hence the oil). What Tex fails to mention with regard to his insinuation of “law-abiding” Texans is that they don’t crap in their own backyard, but gravitate to somebody else’s backyard to do their “business” and break the laws. I love New Mexico..its my “home,” and yet I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I’d take my family to Red River, NEW MEXICO, for a vacation just to have the Texans overrun the place with their over-rated egos, their tuna-boat SUVs, their off-road vehicles, and their Taj Mahal sized campers only to leave Red River in a total shamble after their visit…garbage everywhere, trails gouged out of the landscape from their off-road vehicles, and most of all…a nasty, bitter taste in the mouth of every other visitor, resident, or storekeeper for their pompous way of stomping around this quiet, little resort town as though their crap is gold-plated and don’t stink. So, Tex, save us the speech and the “holier than thou” attitude and try using that “I don’t break the law” monologue on the people of Red River the next time you pay them a visit.

    Some of the greatest structures in this world were built by men and women who didn’t have a building permit, weren’t influenced by codes and politics, and weren’t engineers. Leave Fahey alone…at least this man has the brass balls to TRY and live outside the constraints of a life closely resembling a dictatorship by the very laws that we have put into place and the verve to refuse to be yet another sheep. Regardless of what you think of FAHEY’s house, he has something you’ll never have…GUMPTION!

  5. Donna says:

    YES, it should be saved!

    The FACTS appear to me that they tried following code. Should they have waited 30 years for code officials to give them the go ahead? It was the governments’ duty to enforce the law years ago and they neglected their duty. If you are going to uphold the law, then both parties are at fault! And really how can you even consider criminal maintenance issues until there is a decision on the unlawful use of land charges?

    This county knew they proceeded with construction years ago. They are guilty of not enforcing the law as well as the Fahey family is for breaking it. They didn’t do their job and now it is a finger pointing game. It seems to me that the statute of limitations should prevail and it should be a counter-suit against the officials for not enforcing code and allowing them to proceed. They should work together to make it a positive outcome for all. Matteo has a great idea, make it a research site at least you may get an unbiased opinion on the safety of the structure.

    We certainly don’t need more laws; we clearly need to employ more people for research and development of environmental genius creations as this is.

    I pray for justice in the true sense of the meaning, “Fairness.”

    Mr. Fahey, I would like to know if you have any neighbors because it appears the house is in the middle of nowhere.

  6. Anne says:

    Kim stated that other families were involved but left. Was this originally a commune? Why wasn’t building permits secured prior to building/ I think there are a lot of questions that need to be asked but have yet to be answered. Yes I understand there should be some freedom to do as we please with our property and build what we want. Why are they sleeping on a single air mattress and cook on a tiny stove? For such a big building I would have thought there would have been a huge bedroom to sleep in and a nice kitchen to prepare food. There hasn’t been any word from the other side (code enforcement) and somehow or another, there could be a resolution to this problem.

  7. Jacqueline says:

    I love it..Specially the Stained Glass Window..Beautiful work and keep up the fight…There is more corruption in City Permits Department then you will ever know..I used to work for a General Contractor..Money talks:)

  8. Bob Risk says:

    Interesting to see the number of folks who are all so eager to jump on the band wagon and make a critical judgement based on only one side of the story.

    To me, that’s the big issue here and part of the reason that our communities and local governments are in the state they’re in… no argument from me that they’re pretty messed up in a number of ways. But the rant’s being submitted here aren’t helpful. Take the time to find out what’s happening on both sides of the fence… take the time to find the reasons/justifications for the regulations that are in question. Put some substance in your arguments and discussion rather than just playing off of one another’s emotions and questionable sense of what’s right and fair.

    Let’s have a real discussion on this… based on actual facts.

    • Tracy says:

      Okay, How about this for fact:

      Kim TRIED to cooperate with the code enforcement in the initial stages of building. They lost his building plans and continuously gave him the run-around. They made it impossible for him to comply, when they would not would not give him the information he required. They made it impossible for him to comply when they “conveniently” lost his building plans. So they left him alone. He continued to work on his home (and/or his work of art) for thirty years. And NOW they want to tear it down? He was not allowed any expert witnesses (or any witnesses besides himself) at trial, he was not allowed to bring in his scale model of the home, nor were the jurors allowed to visit the home to tour it. How exactly is this fair and just? The law can be so twisted, especially when it comes to code enforcement. I’ll be completely honest, I do not know California statues or codes, but in New Mexico (where it can be just as shitty), the city can “make-up” a new code in order to condemn a perfectly safe and sound structure, just because it has been vacant for the past 28 years (regardless of the fact that it had been well maintained and cared for, regardless of the fact that the owner of the building had complied with fixing the cosmetic problems that the city complained about…) It is just plain ridiculous. All Code Enforcement does is promote greed and power. Those are the facts.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I have to say that Tex is right. This man built his home illegally and now wants a free pass for doing so. It isn’t that hard to take the proper steps, it is just that he decided 20 years ago that he either didn’t want to wait or didn’t want to spend the money to take them. I agree that government has taken over and we should have a right to build whatever kind of home we want on our own land, but instead of building first and asking questions later, he should have taken care of the legal or code issues before beginning construction. He knew he was breaking the law and chose to do it anyway. There are also many places left in the US, surely there were more 20 years ago when this was started, where a permit is not required to build. Maybe, knowing what he wanted to accomplish, he should have choosen his location a little more wisely.

    I do beleive this home is beautiful, and it is a shame that it might be torn down. But, he should have taken the proper steps in the beginning to ensure that his artwork would remain intact.

    I relate this story to a kid stealing cookies, and when asked about the missing cookies he acts innocent with crumbs on his face.

    • Tracy says:

      How long would you have him wait? He tried to comply, submitted building plans all to get the run-around.

    • jerry says:

      goo point on the kids stealing cookies. where are they? the government has prison terms waiting for them too I am sure….

    • mlaiuppa says:

      Uh, yes it is.

      My Dad wanted to add on to our house in a conventional manner. I think he had to redraw the same plans five times. I heard him cursing one night and he showed me. They had scribbled in big letters that he had to indicate something or other. Then he pointed and sure enough. There is was, labeled in the correct spot nice and neatly. So he had to redraw and resubmit them again.

      The permit process is so that the city can make money. It is also to discourage people from doing their own work. My Dad told me he’d see contractors there with shit for plans the didn’t get a second glance, just approved. Part of the process is to favor contractors and make sure people pay them instead of doing it themselves.

      I’ve gone through the process myself. Just for a fence. I had to go down three times. And there are several hours wait each time so you’re talking an entire day three times over the course of a few weeks.

      Then, of course, there’s the money. The reason for permits is to charge you money for the permit money for the inspection and then raise your property taxes.

      I think that’s Fahey’s problem. The city wants their money, then more, then more. And they’re using him as an example to others.

      I read their piddly complaints. Setback. Out in the middle of nowhere? He used too much wood so it’s a fire hazard. Excuse me? Too much wood? My house is built entirely of wood except for the cripple wall around the crawlspace. He didn’t meet “code”. The generic and ambiguous excuse. Part of the reason is the unconventional building technique that makes this house art. But it’s not unsafe. It’s stood for over 30 years.

      Let the guy pay the fines, issue some retroactive permits so you can collect your property tax and then leave him alone.

      Tearing down this house isn’t going to make anyone friends in L.A. County and is liable to cost the county more in law suits and bag press.

  10. Darcy Brewer says:

    Hey LA County Why don’t you mind your own business! That man ownes that land and has every right to build his home as he wants, he is not hurting anyone! That is the problem with America, we have been over run with building codes that changes all the time. I guess the county forgot who ownes the land, it’s not LA county. Tell LA you have your land & home grand fathered in ! It was their before their codes. Who’s country is it ? I think it was ours as we pay the taxes and fight to be free. Tell LA County to take a hike ! I lived in Calif. for 39 years and was glad to leave !

  11. Darcy Brewer says:

    The Government will put the owner in jail for 7 years because he built his dream home on his land, when they wont jail illegals who sells drugs and comes to our country illegally ? Go figure, who is the dummy in LA county maybe we should send him to Mexico, he wont be back . Get out of this man’s business and leave him alone ! Calif sucks.

  12. Middleground says:

    Well, here’s the crux. I think the place is beautiful, and it’s a 30-year labor of love. They bought the land and the materials used to make the house. They have a working well. On the other hand, they started to build it – and continued to work on it for 30 years – without the necessary permits.

    If this were some sort of government witchhunt, that would be one thing. If the government were just after these folks because they didn’t sign on the right line or put the correct postage on the permit envelope, or because the telephone poles aren’t a certain height, then I’d say yeah, screw the government bastards. But the reality is, as many others have said, these regulations are in place for a reason, and it’s the job of the building departments, etc. to enforce them. What happens if these folks catch a break, and they can continue on their way, no permits or inspections or changes required? This opens the door for everybody else who doesn’t want to follow the annoying, cumbersome rules. What happens if someone wants to do something a little less “artsy” and palatable, like build a concrete garage in a wetland? Should that person get a pass, too?

    As mentioned, I hope a compromise can be reached. Either a free pass or “tear it down” seems unreasonable.

  13. ANNETTE GILBERT says:

    YOU STAY STRONG!!!! tell them to just shove it. This is nothing more than a bunch of rich, self-rightous, sick of their own life, assholes. I love the house. Very artistic with tons of heart. GOD BLESS AMERICA, THE LAND OF THE FREE

  14. David says:

    The smartest thing this guy could do is host prayer services at his house and seek to protect the structure under RLUIPA….Google it….

  15. Nancie says:

    I hope you do not go to jail over this as your son will still want you home. I understand and wish you the best. It is ever so sad that this is what we as people have become. Sadly, the people that want to see it brought down are the ones that have missed the point in living out their own lives. Seems if they cant’ see the forest through the trees no one else is allowed to either. I am a designer….I like your house. I hope I can see it some day. I would even make a trip out there just to view what you have created. Thanks

  16. Iris says:

    Hm… I say perhaps they should offer to work with him to bring the structure up to fire safety standards. Also, just a general item… if this whole thing was started 20 years ago, well, a lot has changed. I’m pretty sure there were safety codes that weren’t even in existence that long ago, that have come into effect now. Furthermore, I’d say stick with just fining him for the permit item, and, as said, work with him on bringing it up to current fire code standards.

    I’d like to say that the reality of today is that most houses are NOT in fact up to code. A lot of them are built that way. It’s cheaper that way. I myself got dinged for my mobile home, and didn’t even know it wasn’t in code. I didn’t build it. I bought it, brand new, and guess what? It was built out of code. So ragging on the guy for it is a bit silly. It’s not whether the building is within code, it’s whether or not he’s willing to try and modify things.

  17. Revoltop says:

    1. Did you know the windmills are $5,000 a piece in just permit fees?
    2. Did you know you can’t build over 35 ‘ on a typically zoned lot, period end of story.
    3. A zoning change cost $17,000 just for the application , if you don’t get it approved you loose the money?
    4. If someone gets hurt you get sued , the building code doesn’t pay the victim it victimizes you?
    5. The great wall of China did not have a permit and could not get one today in LA county, it is over 6feet.
    6. Basically you only get to pay the taxes and cover the liability but other then that the king decides what you can do and when , if not the king will take his land back.

    No matter what this guy would try and do it would not be allowed in this zoning without engineering documents regardless of the actual building’s worthiness, only the government using your money can afford to legally build this structure. Welcome to LA county.

  18. Macdoodle says:

    it is amazing cross of art and architecture and should be considered usable art work and saved .
    If there some sections that are very dangerous they should be shored up.

    There could be agreements he never rents out, posts warnings to all visitors, signs never to sue the agencies etc. Then he is doing what his imagination allows on his own property. He is in Acton, not Newport Beach or Bel Air and he should be able to live like he is in a rural spot managing his own land.

  19. Dave says:

    Big government at work! It’s only taken them 30 years to catch up to this guy and hit him with decades-old code violations. All he has to do is file an appeal. He’ll be long buried before the court date ever arrives. Or change the name from Phonehenge West to Phonehenge Church or Latter Day Landowners. Don’t worry folks, this here government of ours will get right on that unemployment/economy thingy… wait, someone say something about an unemployment/economy thingy? It’s so easy to get distracted when rogue homeowners are building homes to live in.

  20. Samuel Verbiese says:

    Impressive technical information, such as the number and size of structures used (Kim’s signature telephone poles so clearly visible in above pictures), this is the kind of information that ought to be accurately explained for this work to reach due credit : I saw somewhere it all does exists in Kim’s documents, but if this can’t be produced to the jury, how can they assess his claims ? This evidence should be thoroughly analysed by independent experts, who must be cited as witnesses during trial. And for a special case like this shouldn’t seeking the co-operation of engineering and architecture schools be recommended, who might prove most willing to study this unconventional work, that lies perhaps beyond conventional codes. Why not try giving this an educational/research edge, in both fields ? It’s really a pity that 500,000$+ apparently were spent (how ?) towards destruction, rather than for helping Kim to conform, not blindly to existing codes, but to scientific/technical authority, especially in times where we all seek new ideas for progress. It would be highly interesting to see opinions from noted architects and engineers ! It merits therefore posting in main media to get a high-level discussion triggered, beyond loads of hidden agendas. When will Malia and Sasha find this fair tale magic scenery under their fresh eyes and thoughts, so that she can ask Dad and Mom how they could prove useful… This is positive food for the American “show what you can” strength and the “yes we can” drive during these hard times globally hit by such huge losses of life and infrastructure…

  21. garvan says:

    If Phonehenge must be torn down, then so must Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers be torn down.

  22. Josette Lemaire says:

    WOW! Sometimes God just puts things in our hearts, minds, and hands and tells us to go to work. No matter how many building codes there are, a soul is just overwhelmed and compelled to do something that God gave him to do. Even could be described as an OCD. Just can’t help it or control it, you got to do what you got to do. This man has a vision, I seriously doubt that code enforcement would have kept him from his dream. He would have built it somewhere. Tennessee mountains are beautiful, come build a dream here. I like it, I love it, I want some more of it!
    Call it art or what ever you want, it is a home.
    With home forclosures at an all time high, the man is blessed to have a home that, God no doubt inspired him to build it himself.
    I think the place is beautiful, look around, might be some little endangerd lizard species living under the front porch step that does not want to move. Maybe a few bird houses that a little endangerd bird found a good place to nest in and bring up its chicks. God had that house built there for a reason, find out what it is!
    Good luck, and God bless.

  23. Samuel Verbiese says:

    Most disheartening sight. The Machine of Art and Justice did its dirty job, compare with the beauty above, and after viewing the movies when googling to ‘phonehenge west’, watch the following

    And now, are you ready to take this?

    A last one, see the little girl under there, enjoying this magic place, something my daughter who was due there in September won’t see anymore… It draw real tears spouting out of me ol’ man

    Are you proud now, My Honor ? Have a nice sleep …and thank you so much, for the image you gave the world of what America is becoming !

  24. starrgratt says:

    dispite what any official may say, a man should have the right to build his dream home without codes. If he wants bank financing or plans to sell it or insure it then its a different story. but for personal use i favor freedom.

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