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Disputed blufftop home in Corona del Mar moves toward state approval

Ocean Blvd house
A rendering depicts a blufftop house proposed for Ocean Boulevard in Corona del Mar. A Newport Beach resident says variances for the house were approved counter to the city’s Local Coastal Program. He asked the California Coastal Commission to weigh in.
(File Illustration)

It appears likely the California Coastal Commission will allow construction of a blufftop mansion in Newport Beach, despite a challenge by a local resident filed two years ago.

The owner of the three-level, elevator-equipped, 4,500-square-foot home planned for Ocean Boulevard in Corona del Mar won several variances from the Newport Beach Planning Commission in 2017 to build on a steep, irregularly shaped lot offering commanding views of the waves.

Resident Jim Mosher appealed the city’s approvals to the Coastal Commission, saying they violated the city’s Local Coastal Program, which guides development closest to the shore.

The commission will consider amended plans when it meets Thursday in Calabasas.

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Owner Darrin Ginsberg and his builder, Nicholson Construction, have tweaked the design of a planned rooftop pool deck to mitigate the potential loss of ocean views and keep birds from flying into the glass barriers.

The updated plans do not, however, change the basis of Mosher’s appeal. He contended the variance approvals violated the Local Coastal Program’s standards on maximum floor area and minimum front and back yard setbacks — the buffers between the house and the lot boundaries. He claimed the city had the authority to approve variances only under the local zoning code and not the LCP.

Without variances, the house would be limited to 2,865 square feet, substantially less than what could go on a regular rectangular plot in Corona del Mar.

The current plans don’t alter the interior floor area or narrow setbacks. However, since the Planning Commission’s approval, the Coastal Commission has approved an amendment to Newport’s LCP that allows the city to grant individual waivers and modifications on such development standards. That makes the objections moot, according to a Coastal Commission staff report.

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The commission’s three-day meeting runs Wednesday through Friday, but several items of note for Newport Beach are on Thursday’s agenda. Others include:

Toad ponds

An environmentally sensitive toad could get several artificial seasonal pools in Crystal Cove State Park to encourage breeding.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation proposes to dig eight pools along Moro Ridge to support the western spadefoot toad, which the federal government is considering listing as an endangered species.

Six of the pools would be lined with PVC. The others would be lined with natural clay. They would range in diameter from about 30 to 50 feet and reach depths of 2 to 3½ feet.

The parks department also wants to restore about 10 acres of adjacent sage and scrub as habitat for the toads and the coastal cactus wren, a small songbird that nests in prickly pear and cholla.

Banning Ranch-area fence

An unpermitted chain-link fence erected near Banning Ranch could be coming down.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District put up the fence on its property bordering Banning Ranch in 2012 to keep out trespassers during a contentious time in the area’s history, when developers were pitching a development plan that eventually died after years of fighting at City Hall, the Coastal Commission and the courts.

Like the 401-acre swath of open scrubland that surrounds it, the school district property has freshwater wetlands and vernal pools, grassland and coastal sage scrub that support a variety of endangered and sensitive species.

Fence
This is a portion of an unpermitted fence on property owned by the Newport-Mesa Unified School District adjacent to Banning Ranch.
(Courtesy of California Coastal Commission)

The district didn’t get a Coastal Commission development permit needed because of the land’s proximity to the ocean. The district and commission have been working on a resolution for nearly seven years.

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With commission approval to remove the fence, the district would take down about 2,000 linear feet of chain-link, 170 fence posts and six concrete post footings. It also would remove invasive vegetation and plant native grasses to restore the area.

Swim dock

With the commission’s approval, Newport Beach could replace a public swim dock that once floated in harbor waters near Balboa Island.

The dock, offshore of Ruby Avenue at its northern terminus, would be 160 square feet — consistent in size and location to a swim dock the city maintained from 1947 until it deteriorated and was removed in 1970.

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