The City Council will pick up a piece of Driftwood at the Aug. 13
Councilwoman Toni Iseman has appealed the Planning Commission
determination that a variance is required for indirect access to the
proposed Driftwood Estates project. It’s not that Iseman doesn’t
agree with the commission, she said she just believes that the
council should take a close look at the interpretation.
City staff took the position in May of 2000 that a variance would
be required and has not wavered from that position. The Planning
Commission concurred at the July 24 meeting.
“The variance is the key to the project and will determine the
ultimate design,” said Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman.
High Pointe Communities, developer of the project and architect
Morris Skendarian dispute the commission’s interpretation of the
“We asked for the commission to interpret the city codes and
policies that a variance was not needed,” said Todd Skendarian,
In a letter dated June 11, attorney Jerrold Block asserted that
proposed construction over a 50-foot easement that is not owned by
the applicant, but crosses the property line does not need a
variance; that the minimum standard for secondary access may be an
easement and indirect access is a definition, not a development
Staff refuted all points made by Block.
The next commission meeting, the first at which specifics of the
project will discussed, is scheduled for Aug. 21. On the agenda:
changes to the proposal by the developer, including a request to
remove a portion of a mapped water course from the General Plan and
Coastal Environmentally Sensitive Areas plans.
The request is based on consultants’ reports that the watercourse
no longer exists. It was graded away about 40 years ago, according to
attorney Block. The developer proposes to build a debris basin above
the questioned portion of the watercourse, which in theory would
replace its function.
Changes to the plans have to be made because no where does it
stipulate that the water course must exist, it simply states that
development is prohibited in a watercourse.
“The biggest change is the reduction of grading down from 32,800
cubic yards of dirt to be exported to 8,000 cubic yards,” said senior
planner Ann Larson, who is assigned to the project.
Also all lots and roads have been moved out of the very high
habitat area. However, the biggest bone of contention remains the
number of lots to be permitted in the sub-division and that will be
determined by the decision on the variance request for indirect
“Approval could result in 15 lots,” project manager Skendarian
said. “Denial would result in seven lots. Seven lots and the project
The developer has lowered the proposal from 18 lots to 15. City
planners have consistently recommended seven lots.
Staff has recommended that the commission approve a resolution
directing the applicant to prepare a plan for a seven-lot development
or a resolution denying the project.
* BARBARA DIAMOND is a reporter for the Laguna Beach Coastline
Pilot. She may be reached at 494-4321.