Del Mar landscaping project questioned for lack of permit

By Claire Harlin

With Councilman Don Mosier first moving to deny a permit that would save extensive landscaping built without a permit by new Del Mar homeowners Michael and Robin Khoury, the Del Mar City Council came to an agreement March 18 to continue the issue. The landscaping included a four-foot wall system and various planters.

“These are not easy elements to modify … It’s a significant taking of public land for private use,” said Mosier, referring to the development’s encroachment into the public right-of-way. The planters installed at the home, located on La Amatista Road, extend within 3 feet of the public road, and the improvements enclose the yard, extending it 10 feet into the public-right-of way.

Councilman Al Corti said he would like to see a continuance to allow the homeowner and adjacent neighbor Carolyn Butterfield — who said the wall “sticks out like a sore thumb” — to resolve issues, however, he thinks that had the project gone through proper design review procedures, both officials and neighbors would have had reservations about the design.

Butterfield said that, although her neighbors are “great people,” she was not informed of the development, and the lower elevation of her yard exacerbates the height of the Khourys’ wall.

The council expressed difficulty making a decision, based on the unfortunate situation of the Khourys, who claimed they didn’t know a permit was necessary and that they wished to enclose their yard from the public street to project their children.

“This is difficult because, first of all, they are wanting to improve and invest in the neighborhood, improve their residence and create a safe environment for their family,” said Mayor Terry Sinnott. “We, as a community, welcome these kind of people in the neighborhood … I love to see people try to make things better and that’s obviously what they were doing and doing in a positive way.”

But Sinnott said denying the easement would be fair to the rest of the community.

City Manager Scott Huth said the issue presents a need for further discussion because the city’s code is currently lacking in guidelines for some aspects of this type of landscaping development, such as outdoor wall height and appearance. However, councilmembers declined taking on efforts to work on that policy.