Wednesday, May 20, 2009
C.A. Rejects Claim That Height Increase Will Remove Coastal View
By a MetNews Staff Writer
This district’s Court of Appeal has upheld a decision by the California Coastal Commission granting a Redondo Beach couple a permit to add a second story to their home.
In its April 9 decision ordered published yesterday, Div. Five held that the Legislature did not intend for “every scrap” of the public’s view of the sea’s horizon over the rooftop of Michael and Kimberly Doyle’s house on Esplanade Avenue be protected.
Esplanade Avenue, the first street inland of the ocean, runs parallel to the shore along the bluffs, and is part of a densely developed residential neighborhood.
Though mostly lined with homes on both sides of the street, Esplanade Avenue offers an unobstructed public view of the shoreline beginning four lots south of the Doyles’ house, where the west side of the street is undeveloped. The Coastal Commission has deemed this “one of the best views of any coastal city.”
Another view of the ocean is available to the north of the Doyles’ home, where a 20-foot wide accessway to the beach abuts the Doyles’ property. The accessway was granted to the city by a previous owner of the Doyles’ property, and extends from where Knob Hill Avenue ends at a T-intersection with Explanade.
Knob Hill also affords the public a view of the ocean, but was partially blocked by the Doyles’ home, which had one story below street level and one story above street level.
The Doyles sought a coastal development permit from the city to build an additional story on their home, which would increase the house’s height from 13 feet to 23 feet and block more of the view from Knob Hill Avenue.
Finding that the city’s certified Local Coastal Program did not identify the Doyle’s property for view protection, the project would leave the house under the plans’ 30-foot height limit, and the proposed project was consistent with the program, the city issued the permit.
Kevin Farr appealed the city’s decision to the Coastal Commission, and the commission held a public hearing concerning the public’s view from Knob Hill Avenue. After the hearing, the commission approved the permit, opining that the view over the roof of the then-existing home was “already partially obstructed” by the house, and as the view was not identified as a protected view corridor under the certified Local Coastal Program, it was not a “significant public view that must be protected.”
The commission determined that the public view affected by the proposed construction was a “limited view of a small part of the sea’s horizon over an existing roof, and it can only be seen from Knob Hill Avenue and its sidewalks,” and concluded that such a view did not “rise to the level of significance that would warrant the imposition of a special building limit on the applicants’ thirty-foot wide lot.”
Farr then sought a writ of mandate, but Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra I. Janavs, since retired, found no abuse of discretion and no action in excess of jurisdiction.
On appeal, Farr argued that the commission had exceeded its jurisdiction by adding language to Public Resources Code Sec. 30251 by adding the word “significant” to the statute so that it reads, “Permitted development shall be sited and designed to protect significant views to and along the ocean.”
In legal support, Farr noted that the Legislature used the word “significant” in a number of other places in the Coastal Act and contended that the Legislature deliberately omitted the word in Sec. 30251, and thus intended that every view be protected from every intrusion.
Writing for the appellate court, Justice Orville A. Armstrong, joined by Presiding Justice Paul Turner and Justice Richard M. Mosk, reasoned that the Legislature did not intent that permits “be denied for all projects which infringed in any way, no matter how minimal, on any view, no matter how limited, for anyone, from any vantage point, no matter the proximity of unlimited and expansive views.”
He explained that the Legislature intended “balance” between protecting, maintaining, and enhancing or restoring the coastal zone environment and orderly, balanced utilization and conservation of coastal zone resources taking into account the social and economic needs of the state.
The case is Farr v. California Coastal Commission (Doyle), 09 S.O.S. 2768.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company