View ordinance discussions continue

View Equity Committee members debated at a meeting Tuesday on whether they should use the date a property was purchased when considering a homeowner's view blockage claim, or if the date of a future view ordinance should be used.

About 100 residents filled City Council chambers for the public meeting.

The committee is working to draft an amended view ordinance to provide homeowners guidelines on how to deal with view blockage from overgrown trees and vegetation.

The date a home or lot was bought did not seem appropriate for committee member Morris Skenderian.

"All the people sitting here have view-blockage issues that have gotten worse in the last 10 years," Skenderian said. "We all had views when we purchased our homes. Now our views are being encroached upon."

Sandra Desmond moved to Laguna Beach from Houston six years ago. She said her view overlooks Heisler Park and the ocean.

"A tree has started to encroach upon the sight line," Desmond said.

Committee member Sue Whitin believes view issues should be dealt with case by case.

"The date on the lot is discriminatory," Whitin told attendees. "For 50% of the population in the city, 50% of the houses have turned over in the last 10 years."

Committee member Roger McErlane said that the date the ordinance is passed is the date that should apply.

"The creation of the lot is somewhat irrelevant," he said. "Even the date of purchase I have a problem with."

The committee designated two groups within its ranks to work on separate areas of the ordinance. One group of three will craft the ordinance's language and the other will report on how to deal with city-owned trees.

Other concerns addressed by the committee included the distance a tree sits from a home.

"For example: Can a homeowner only make a complaint for a tree that is a certain distance, such as 1,000 feet or less from a home?" said committee member Sue Kempf.

Section 12.16 of Laguna Beach's current view ordinance states: a claim for preserving view equity and/or sunlight access may only be made regarding any tree or vegetation located on real property that is within 500 feet from the complainant's real property boundary, and no similar claim has been made in the last two years.

Rancho Palos Verdes, which has a view ordinance the committee is studying, has a 1,000-foot limit from a home in order to be a legitimate complaint, according to its website.

Former Laguna Beach Planning Commissioner Bob Chapman said the word "equity" needs definition.

"There has to be equity between the applicant who is claiming and who is defending," Chapman said. "Is the purpose to restore or preserve the view?"

The committee will submit suggested amendments to post on the city's website May 10. Another public meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m. May 14 in council chambers, 505 Forest Ave. Recommendations are tentatively set to go before the City Council during its May 21 meeting.

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