A Newport Beach resident is challenging the city Planning Commission's approval of a new blufftop home in Corona del Mar that would include a rooftop pool and an elevator, saying it violated the Local Coastal Program, which guides development closest to the shore.
Jim Mosher filed an appeal of the commission's Dec. 7 vote, which allowed, with some conditions, zoning code variances to build a three-story, 4,500-square-foot house on a steep, irregularly shaped lot at 2607 Ocean Blvd.
"At the Planning Commission hearing, I think the city's responsibilities under its newly certified LCP implementation plan were confused with those under its separate zoning code, resulting in Planning Commission approval of a [coastal development permit] that I believe is clearly inconsistent with the certified LCP development standards for minimum setbacks and maximum floor area, as well as LCP (and Coastal Act) policies to protect, restore and enhance public views to and from the coast and to minimize alterations to natural coastal land forms," Mosher wrote in his Dec. 21 appeal, filed with the city clerk's office.
In other words, Mosher — a city government watchdog who regularly comments at public meetings — contends the commission approved variances under both the zoning code and the Local Coastal Program when it had the authority to pass them only under the zoning code.
"They're acting like the two things are the same," but they're not, Mosher said Wednesday.
The item could go before the City Council, though that isn't certain. Most city staff members are on holiday break through Monday and were not immediately available for comment this week. An agenda has not been set for the next scheduled council meeting Jan. 9.
A representative of Nicholson Construction, the home's builder, wasn't immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Without variances for the lot — a 4,257-square-foot asymmetrical rectangle on a slope with a 35-degree grade difference — a house would be limited to 2,865 square feet, substantially smaller than what could go on a regular rectangular plot in Corona del Mar, according to a city staff report. The Planning Commission agreed to waive the floor-area maximum and the front and back yard setback requirements — the buffers between the house and the lot boundaries — to allow owner Darrin Ginsberg to build his custom home.
A three-story, 2,260-square-foot house built in 1948 currently stands on the site.
Councilman and former planning commissioner Scott Peotter, whose district includes Corona del Mar, didn't want to comment Wednesday on the specifics of the issue in case it goes before the council. But he said that generally, variances exist for unusual circumstances that would prevent a landowner from full enjoyment of his or her property.
The proposed home has been the subject of controversy over its size and potential to block ocean views.
The city received more than 100 letters, mostly in opposition, from people around Newport Beach, and several people spoke at two Planning Commission meetings to urge the project's rejection. Opponents denounced "gross overbuilding" and "mansionization" — cramming a large house onto a lot that's too small for it — along with exceptions that they said create an unfair "special privilege" for the owner.
The commission issued several caveats before approving the house, which Ginsberg and his building team first pitched in November as roughly 5,200 square feet, including a 683-square-foot garage. As first proposed, the house would reach 36 feet tall, counting a chimney-like elevator shaft topping out at the expansive rooftop recreation area, which would feature an open-air bar, a barbecue and a glass-bottom pool.
To get the commission's approval, Ginsberg and his representatives topped out the elevator shaft inside at the third floor, reduced the house to about 4,500 square feet, amended a parking management plan for construction workers, tweaked the exterior design to streamline the appearance and promised to enclose the pool deck with transparent glass.