Tom Heinsheimer
Tom Heinsheimer (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

Next month's municipal election marks the end of an era in the seemingly timeless Palos Verdes Peninsula enclave of Rolling Hills.

Veteran City Council member Godfrey Pernell, 89, is finally stepping down after 38 years serving the community.

Consulting aerospace engineer Thomas Heinsheimer, 73, is seeking to inherit the mantle as the senior member of a panel he has served on for 41 years, running for another four-year term.

The entire City Council and the governing body of the Rolling Hills Community Association, which co-governs the private, gated community, has anointed 10-year-resident Jeff Piper as Pernell's successor.

Piper, 45, is chairman of the Planning Commission and the View Committee and was approached by Pernell to succeed him.

Jeff Piper
Jeff Piper (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

"We have a good succession plan," Heinsheimer said. "What's important is we bring people into the City Council who have experience and knowledge.

"I supply the memory and the knowledge and the balance of what has gone before," he added.

Two challengers are bidding to upset an arrangement some see as a mite cozy.

Information technology consulting firm owner Spencer Karpf, 66, a seven-year resident, who wrote ballot Measure A, which would liberalize usage restrictions on converted stables in the city, is seeking a council seat.

"It's time for someone else," he said, noting that the three other City Council members have served for a combined 48 years. "It's time for a refreshment."

The other challenger is Deputy District Attorney Bea Dieringer, 59, a 10-year resident. Like Karpf, she supports both Measure A and Measure B in concept, if not the precise language.

"There needs to be some signal - even though it's not a perfect answer - to the City Council that this is something that's important for them to address," Dieringer said of the latter measure, a view echoed by Karpf.

Spencer Karpf
Spencer Karpf (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

So the 1,523 registered voters in the community have a clear choice: city insiders Piper and Heinsheimer are opposed to both measures and represent the status quo, whereas outsiders Karpf and Dieringer support the measures and advocate change.

Karpf cites his experience in buying a home in the city in 2006 for backing changes to the view ordinance, which has spawned several lawsuits as it's currently written.

Measure B would change current city law, which allows property owners to restore a view that would exist were it not obscured by trees on a neighboring property. Instead, it would protect only views that existed when the owner acquired the property.

Bea Dieringer
Bea Dieringer (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

Karpf said a neighbor's trees are blocking his view of Santa Monica Bay, which meant his property was less expensive than a lot with expansive views.

"I got what I paid for essentially," he said. "And what I paid for didn't have a view at the time. So why should I penalize my neighbors to enhance the view of my own property?"

Piper and Heinsheimer maintain the city has in the past - and is prepared in the future - to tweak regulations regarding views and stables, but that would become more difficult if the measures - and their imprecise language - win approval.

"It locks us into things," Piper said. "If we go down this path, what's the next proposition?"

Dieringer, who would become the first woman on the panel since Councilwoman Jody Murdock was ousted after 21 years in 2003, said she's running in part because of her experience dealing with litigation and crime.

Reported crimes in the city doubled last year to 49, Dieringer said.

"There's no one on the City Council and no one running for City Council who is a practicing attorney," she said.

nick.green@dailybreeze.com

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