HUNTINGTON BEACH : Home-Height Flap Coming to Panel

A dispute over the height of a Huntington Harbour home will come before the city Planning Commission Tuesday night after six years of litigation that has involved the state Supreme Court.

The issue involves the height of the home of Emad Ali Hassan built in 1985. A neighbor, Charles Reince, has protested that the three-story structure is 9 feet higher than allowed by city zoning.

Reince ultimately filed a lawsuit, charging that the city erred in allowing Hassan to build higher than the zoning permitted. A state Court of Appeal agreed that the city's action was in error. The state Supreme Court refused to hear the case, thus leaving the Court of Appeal judgment intact.

Hassan is now seeking a conditional use permit and variance, which would allow him to keep the height of the house as it is.

"The city staff has recommended that the variance be granted," said Howard Zelefsky, city planning director. "The recommendation is based on the fact on the property's topography--a sloping lot."

Zelefsky said the height of Hassan's house, because of the slope, was suitable and did not detract from other homes. "Property in that area has, in fact, increased in value," he said.

But Reince's attorney, Jeffrey M. Richard, disagreed, saying Hassan's structure has blocked as much as 30% of Reince's previously unobstructed ocean view.

"We feel that it is extremely unfair for the city now to consider awarding Hassan a variance," Richard said, "after forcing Chuck Reince to fight this battle to enforce the zoning code in the courts for nearly six years."

Richard said he believes that the city appears determined to escape its obligation imposed by the Court of Appeal's decision--the duty to remove the upper 9 feet of Hassan's structure.

Zelefsky said that if Hassan does not get a variance, part of the structure mighty have to be razed.

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