2607 Ocean Blvd as of January 2017: Appeal filed to Coastal Commission
Latest News: A modified project was approved by the Planning Commission on December 7, 2017. A free appeal to the City Council of the Commission’s approval of the Coastal Development Permit (only) portion of the project approvals was filed with the City Clerk on December 21, but ultimately rejected for refusal to pay an appeal fee that was claimed due. In response to the City then issuing a Notice of Final Action, a free appeal to the California Coastal Commission was submitted on January 21, 2018, and has been acknowledged by a CCC Notice of Appeal dated January 23. The matter will presumably be scheduled for a hearing before the CCC during its March 7-9 meeting, somewhere in its South Central Coast district.
Project Overview: This proposal for a multi-story replacement, with rooftop pool and living area, of the small existing single family residence on the bluff face adjacent to the China Cove Ramp in Corona del Mar has drawn considerable public interest.
Why We Were Watching: This is the first time the Planning Commission has been asked to review an application for a Coastal Development Permit. This particular application requests numerous “variances” from the City’s normal development standards (none of which are currently allowed for CDP’s) and, as approved, would cause a permanent loss of public views from the ramp, which are supposed to be protected by the City’s Local Coastal Program, as well as permanently destroy a currently undeveloped portion of the China Cove bluff face and fence of public access to the City land at the top of the property, between it and Ocean Blvd, which would otherwise have potential as a public view spot. Aside from these Coastal Act issues (the Coastal Act, though the local LCP, is supposed to protect, for all Californians, coastal views, coastal landforms and public access to them), it is regarded by many as an example of a disturbing trend toward “mansionization,” out of tune with the City’s existing character. It is also an example of people buying properties and expecting to get an easy approval from the City to build something on it not allowed by the existing City codes and policies.
- March 7-9, 2018: Unless a 49-day limit is waived by the project applicant, a hearing on the January 22 appeal of the City’s approval of the Coastal Development Permit is expected to be scheduled during the California Coastal Commission’s March 2018 meeting at a location, yet to be announced, somewhere within its South Central Coast district (such as Santa Barbara or Ventura). According the CCC’s Appeals FAQ, that hearing is likely to focus on whether the appeal raises “substantial issues” of compliance with the City’s certified LCP. If the Commission finds it does, the actual hearing on the modifications that would be necessary to bring the project into compliance would likely be deferred to a later meeting.
- January 23, 2018: Notice of Appeal mailed by Coastal Commission staff, ordering the City to forward to them the materials on which the City’s decision was based.
- January 21, 2018: appeal of City approval filed with California Coastal Commission.
- January 9, 2018: City returns December 21 CDP appeal and the appeal of the City’s challenge to it, saying it will take no action on either.
- January 6, 2018: City sends a “Notice of Final Action” to the Coastal Commission, triggering the opportunity for an appeal to them, since the project site is within the LCP appeal area (City approvals within that area can be appealed directly to the Coastal Commission if the City charges for local appeals, as it now appears it does).
- January 5, 2018: Appellant challenges City threat to reject appeal.
- January 2, 2018: City challenges and threatens to reject the December 21 appeal for refusal to pay a $1,536 filing fee, which was claimed due even though it was not mentioned in the notice of the hearing and (unlike for Zoning Code appeals, pursuant to NBMC Sec. 20.64.030.B.2) is not called out in the City’s LCP code. The claim was the CDP had to be appealed along with any other matters approved at the same hearing, under any other codes, again something not called out in the LCP code, nor even logical since the Coastal Commission routinely rules on the compliance of CDP approvals with an LCP independent of all other local approvals. The City’s offer to allow the appellant to add an appeal of the variance approval under Title 20 by January 6 was arguably itself illegal, since the original appeal made clear it was not appealing that, and the publicly announced time for filing a Title 20 appeal had ended on December 21.
- December 21, 2017: After unsuccessful efforts to get a City Council member to call the Planning Commission’s December 7 decisions up for review, a private citizen filed an Appeal Application for the Coastal Development Permit portion of the approval, only, with the City Clerk, as allowed under Section 4.3 of Resolution 2075.
- December 7, 2017: The application was heard as Item 5 at the Planning Commission’s December 7 meeting, for which a new staff report was posted. According to the staff report, by eliminating the elevator stop on the roof, the applicant is no longer asking for a deviation from the City and coastal height standards, but still seeks variances to reduce the required setbacks and increase the allowed floor area. It might be noted that heights in Newport Beach are measured from the underlying land, so even though it may not technically be a height variance, allowing the land owner to reduce the setback from Ocean Blvd allows him to build farther up the bluff face, and hence higher. Reducing the setbacks also, in staff’s view, increases the buildable area and allows the land owner to build bigger (that is, allowing more floor area, even without a variance). Also according to the staff report, as suggested by the Planning Commission on Nov. 9, the applicant installed “story poles” (connected by strings and flags representing various key rooflines) on the property from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, illustrating how the proposed construction would impact views. Although the staff report continues to say the poles will disappear on Dec. 1, a later email from the applicant’s representative said the poles will be left in place through Dec. 8. Equally disturbingly, even though view impacts is a major concern with this project, the staff report contains no photos showing what the poles look like from various vantage points, and absolutely no computer simulations of how the actual building will affect existing views.Regarding the Coastal Development Permit issue, City staff clearly knows the City has no authority to grant variances from the recently adopted Local Coastal Program development standards, since they have asked the Coastal Commission for permission to add variance provisions to the LCP Implementation Plan. Coastal Commission staff has informed the City that adding those provisions would constitute a major amendment to the authority granted the City under the IP. To date, no hearings on the matter have yet been scheduled. Until language allowing variances from the LCP is certified, it seems the height of impudence for the City to be exercising an authority it has been clearly notified it has not been granted. At the hearing, staff said the Community Development Director has the authority to interpret the IP, and hence could “interpret” that it allows variances even if it doesn’t say so. After hearing testimony from the applicant and public, on a motion by Commissioner Bill Dunlap, the Planning Commission voted 4:2 (with Commissioners Weigand and Lowrey voting “no” and Vice Chair Zak absent) to approve the application, provided the “public view obstruction problems” could be solved, apparently largely by using clear glass for the screening around the rooftop pool deck. The final approval (PC Resolution No. 2075) was for 4,500 total square feet of floor area (including the garage, but not counting the livable roof area) on a lot where the maximum floor area allowed with the code-required setbacks would be 2,865 sf.
- November 9, 2017: The application began to be heard as Item 2 at the Newport Beach Planning Commission’s November 9, 2017, meeting (see video), but was continued to December 7. Commissioners Kramer and Kleiman were inclined to grant the variance requests provided the elevator was moved back to the Ocean Blvd side of the property (where, although reaching exactly the same top elevation, it is technically less tall since its “height” is measured from a higher point on the slope. The remaining Commissioners appeared to have problems with the project and asked the applicant to come back with something better. Vice Chair Zak expressed the opinion that relaxing setback requirements should not serve as an excuse to use the resulting larger buildable area to justify a corresponding increase in floor area .
- Daily Pilot (January 23, 2018): Approval of blufftop Corona del Mar house appealed to Coastal Commission
- Daily Pilot (December 27, 2017): Newport resident challenges approval of blufftop house with rooftop pool and elevator
- Daily Pilot (December 8, 2017): Blufftop Corona del Mar house gets go-ahead, with more changes
- Daily Pilot (November 10, 2017): Height of elevator at proposed CdM blufftop house draws rising opposition