The state Coastal Commission is scheduled to vote Wednesday on granting a permit for a four-story home above Big Corona beach, according to a staff report.
The new home, at 3225 Ocean Blvd. in Corona del Mar, would occupy more than 4,700 square feet, the report states. It would require an excavation into the bluff face, partially due to a tunnel and a 1,084-square-foot garage, according to staff.
Staff members, citing potential damage to coastal bluffs and community character, have recommended that the commission deny the permit.
Other concerns listed in the staff report include: preserving "scenic resources," avoiding development in hazard-prone locations, and potentially paving the way for similar projects in the future.
"Many of the homes that exist in the vicinity are older and likely to be redeveloped," the report states. "If this site were allowed to be developed in the proposed manner, matching proposals on adjacent and nearby lots would likely follow."
A notice submitted to the commission by the architect Brion Jeannette contends that staff members made their conclusions based on bad information, and the home would be suitable for the area. The notice represents the project applicants, Christian Evensen and his wife.
Jeannette also designed the Portabello Estate, the Corona del Mar mansion valued at up to $75 million.
The notice claims that Coastal Commission staff ignored standards that were used to approve other projects in the past.
"Why did staff use photos from 2008, over three years ago, to make this point?" the notice states. "This home is smaller than many of its neighbors and recent approvals."
The staff also claims that the building spans the entire bluff face, which Jeannette says is inaccurate.
"Four of the six adjacent sites (including THIS site) have structures on the top and toe of this bluff," the notice states. "Staff has chosen to ignore these because they are pre-coastal."
The notice also claims that the soils and geologic conditions on the site are suitable for development and not hazardous, as staff claims. It also notes that the staff report ignored several positive features of the planned home, including the lowered height of the building that allows better public views of the ocean, as well as the way the structure would conform to the land slope rather than protrude "in a box-like manner."
The Ocean Boulevard project application included geotechnical reports that indicate the project site would be safe from hazards for 75 years, but Coastal Commission staff state that "beach areas are dynamic environments, which may be subject to unforeseen changes."
The staff report also states that the "extraordinary engineering measures to make this project technically feasible" would "substantially alter natural landforms along bluffs, which is inconsistent with section 30253 of the Coastal act."
The staff report suggests that as alternatives, the existing home could be remodeled or rebuilt in the existing footprint.
The city of Newport Beach has given administrative approval for the project. City staff issued no report, and no city hearings explored the project.
In April 2010, the Coastal Commission denied another Corona del Mar development because of concerns over coastal bluff excavation.
The Aerie luxury-condominium project on Carnation Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, also designed by Jeannette, would have replaced an older apartment complex with eight luxury units. That project required excavation for an underground garage but would have left much of the bluff's facade in place.
Several commissioners at the time said that excavation of coastal bluffs set a dangerous precedent that could lead to bluff faces eroding and falling into the ocean up and down the California coast.
The commission's meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the Long Beach City Council Chambers at 333 W. Ocean Blvd. It also will be streamed live on the Coastal Commission's website.