By Joe Tash
A new requirement approved by the Solana Beach City Council in October means any home addition or remodeling project that adds 500 square feet or more of living space will now have to go before the council for review.
The new requirement takes effect on Nov. 12, 30 days after the council approved the new rule on a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Joe Kellejian in opposition.
The requirement means a longer processing time for projects adding 500 square feet or more, and an additional permit fee of $3,000 for applicants. Also, the City Council will preside over an additional 15 to 30 public hearings each year during its regular meetings.
Mayor Lesa Heebner said the new rule is needed to prevent construction of home remodels or additions that don’t fit in with the surrounding neighborhood.
“Our end goal is to have community character preserved. So we feel we need this now,” she said in an interview.
But during the Oct. 12 council meeting, Kellejian called the new rule a “burden on the public. I think it’s a financial burden on them, it’s a $3,000 fee for a development review permit. It’s a burden for our staff, it’s a burden for our council to hear all these issues.”
His comments were echoed by two public speakers at the meeting, one of whom called the new rule an “extraordinary hardship” on those who want to add to or remodel their homes.
The new rule requires anyone planning a room addition or remodel that adds more than 500 square feet to his or her home to apply for a development review permit, which requires a public hearing before the City Council. Under the existing rules, such a project could have been approved by city staff, although the projects were subject to appeal to the council.
The action taken by the council also clarifies other aspects of the development review process, such as a rule that any project requiring a cut or fill of 50 cubic yards of material also is subject to a development review permit.
Although Heebner and other members of the council were convinced the new rule was needed now to prevent incompatible development, it could be modified in the future. A council subcommittee is working on a “tool kit” of guidelines to help homeowners plan their remodeling and addition projects to conform to bulk and scale standards that are applied by the City Council.
“This isn’t set in concrete in perpetuity,” said Councilman Dave Roberts at last month’s meeting.
Kellejian said he would have preferred that the council wait to enact the new permit requirement until after development of the tool kit. The guidelines for bulk and scale of development projects would be similar to a set of guidelines already developed by the city for view preservation issues, officials said.
“My thought process was, maybe it’s a good thing and we want to do it,” said Kellejian in an interview, regarding the new development rule. “But we’re putting cart before the horse.”
While the council does not want to inconvenience residents, the panel is sworn to protect community character, Heebner said. Heebner herself will have to comply with the new rules when her family moves ahead with a planned remodeling project that will add 597 square feet of living space to their home. She will have to step down from the dais when the council discusses her project.
“I believe in property rights very strongly. I believe everyone has property rights, not just the one who’s building but the ones who live there already,” Heebner said.