Hilltop owners argue project could block their ocean views
ENCINITAS — Worried that their distant views of the ocean may vanish, hilltop neighbors on the eastern edge of Old Encinitas are suing the city over its decision to issue permits allowing a tiny home below them to add a second story.
City officials and council members say the project complies with all city regulations and that the modest home addition is appropriate for the surrounding neighborhood.
The construction project — a 649-square-foot addition on an 860-square-foot duplex on Rosebay Drive — may be tiny, but its impact could be huge, said Everett DeLano, the attorney representing the recently formed Friends to Preserve Encinitas Beauty, which filed the suit.
Not only does the project have the potential to restrict the ocean views of several uphill homeowners and nearby public trails, DeLano said, it also may be the start of a wave of second-story additions that sweep through the Pacific Serena neighborhood — a community of dozens of single-story duplexes north of Encinitas Boulevard and east of Quail Gardens Drive.
“This is where it’s not a small matter,” he said.
The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court March 17, argues that the city has violated its ordinances and guidelines by approving design review and coastal development permits without adequately addressing the project’s impact to private and public coastal view corridors. It seeks a temporary restraining order and ultimately a permanent injunction on the construction project “until lawful approval is obtained.”
DeLano said he knows Encinitas doesn’t technically have a “view protection ordinance” like some coastal cities do, but that the city’s design review permit process does mention that impacts on coastal views should be considered when reviewing construction permit requests.
City officials strongly disagree that the project hasn’t been adequately reviewed. During a permit appeals hearing on the construction plans last month, City Council members repeatedly stressed that they felt the project clearly complied with city regulations and they disputed some of the view blockage allegations.
“I can’t even comprehend how you could argue this project will block views from the (public) trails,” Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, who lives near area, told the opponents of the plan.
Councilwoman Catherine Blakespear said it was a “relatively modest” project that fit well with the surrounding neighborhood and Mayor Kristin Gaspar said such projects are good for Encinitas.
“I think this is exactly the type of project that is responsible, it’s respectful, it complies,” Gaspar said. “It’s actually what we should be encouraging. We want people to re-invest in their properties.”
Councilman Tony Kranz said he believed some uphill neighbors would lose part of their views, but said that’s something people have to live with. He’s experienced it himself when a neighboring property was developed, he said.
The home’s owners — Gina Merchant and Derek Bradley — told the council that they only decided to add a second story after finding that there wasn’t much room on their lot to expand the first floor. They need the extra space because she’s pregnant with their first child, Merchant said.
“I’d like to emphasize that we are looking to go from a modest two-bedroom, one-bath home to a modest three-bedroom, two-bath home,” she said, adding that she’ll be using one of the bedrooms as an office so she can work from home.
And, she added, they’re only increasing the building height to 22 feet, though city ordinances would allow them to go up to 26 feet.
Several of her neighbors told the council that Pacific Serena residents back the project, it’s the folks in the luxurious, two-story homes “with swimming pools” uphill in the Encinitas Ranch area east of Pacific Serena that oppose the plans. Those homes came later and they impacted the Pacific Serena folks’ views to the east when they were built, several residents said.
Source: San Diego Union-Tribune