By Peter Lambrou
Resident, Solana Beach
In response to Councilman Joe Kellejian's call to fix the building and development process, he states he doesn't know what (other council members) are judging approval or denial upon. Kellejian votes consistently in favor of plans brought before the council that have been given approval recommendations by staff, so we can conclude that he decides based on what staff recommends. Staff recommends approval of developments that meet the minimum zoning and development requirements.
I have attended a number of Development Review Permit (DRP) and Structure Development Permit (SDP) council hearings as a 20-year resident of Solana Beach. In several of those hearings, council members (not Kellejian) commented that the zoning and development requirements are a minimum set of standards and not a guarantee of approval. The hearings are where projects that require a DRP/SDP are evaluated based upon their individual merits.
Kellejian believes such a subjective process is unfair to developers. That's not the case. Applicants are notified of the process; projects go to council hearings only when they trigger DRP/SDP criteria such as exceeding the 16-foot height mark, or require in excess of 50 cubic yards of soil removal (among other triggering factors). Developers can avoid the DRP/SDP hearings by keeping to one story and limiting excavation and keeping the scale and bulk of their project below the threshold of DRP/SDP factors.
The council has approved many applications that have gone to hearings, particularly when there is little, if any, community opposition. What generates opposition? Typically, when significant numbers of people in the community believe the bulk and scale of the proposed development won't conform to the character of the neighborhood. These become subjective elements, and as Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner remarked in the article, the council has the responsibility to protect the interests of the community.
No appointed committee should make final decisions on projects that trigger DRP/SDPs; otherwise citizens of Solana Beach will not have a voice through elected officials in the way our community evolves and transitions over time.
In my opinion, council does consider the voices of citizens affected by projects in their neighborhood and council does a good job of balancing the rights of all parties. The current process, though time-consuming, works well. Don't fix what's not broken. Keep the final decision on DRP/SDP projects in the hands of the City Council, as it is presently.