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Cardiff development wins Planning Commission OK

A six-home Cardiff development that residents fear will block their ocean views won unanimous Planning Commission approval on Jan. 15.

Planning Commissioners said they lacked the legal grounds to deny the project based on the loss of neighbors’ sightlines.

“We don’t have a view ordinance in Encinitas,” Commissioner JoAnn Shannon said. “We don’t have a rule or law that says the applicant has to preserve every view.”

Shannon said she sympathized with nearby residents, noting that her home has lost its ocean view over the years because of new homes and trees.

Project plans call for demolishing a vacant building, once the Cardiff Masonic Lodge, at 1401 Windsor Road and building six detached homes as well as a private street on the property. There would be five two-story homes and one single-story home.

A dozen public speakers opposed the project. They said most of the home heights are just too high and would thus ding their property values.

“We’re hoping you’ll help us,” Shari Pickett said. “Have the developer relook at his engineering and architecture plans to do more to appease the neighbors.”

After the meeting, Pickett said neighbors are weighing whether to appeal the Planning Commission vote to the City Council.

“The neighbors are very saddened by their decision,” she said.

Glenn Mortensen said lowering some of the building pads a mere foot or two would go a long way toward preserving views. He added that another component of the project, planting trees on a nearby slope, would further take away ocean sightlines.

Assistant City Attorney Greg Lusitana said the city’s general plan encourages preservation of home views, but doesn’t protect them.

“Consistently, private property owners claims to view rights or view easement rights have been successfully challenged in the courts,” Lusitana said. “That’s why very few municipalities try to go there.”

Lusitana added tree heights are one exception that municipalities often cap.

Randy Brown, an engineering manager representing the development, said they reduced two of the homes’ pad heights by a foot. He said now the pads are as low as possible, so decreasing them more would violate stormwater rules.

Brown also said they worked hard to make sure the home styles fit the neighborhood character. He added it isn’t a “density bonus” project, unlike many proposed developments in Encinitas.

California’s controversial density bonus law allows developers to build more homes than normally allowed in exchange for setting aside one house for low-income residents.

Chris Fermanian, project developer, said they also relaxed the steepness of the roofs to lessen building heights. Further reducing them would risk “messing with the aesthetics,” he said.

“Flat roofs aren’t exactly desirable,” Fermanian said.

He also said they’re willing to plant trees on the slope that aren’t as tall or dense as originally planned. As a condition for approval, the Planning Commission said the trees on the slope couldn’t be more than 15 feet tall.

Another condition: In response to commissioner concerns that two of the homes look too similar, the Planning Commission also required more variation between the exteriors.

Two public speakers were in favor of the project. Cardiff resident George Hann said he’s happy the vacant building will be replaced by new homes.

“I’m concerned with an abandoned building and the problems that can come from that,” Hann said.


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