New law means redevelopers will have an easier time getting a variance
This letter is in response to the published article titled “Court decision clarifies code issue.” The information in that article did not completely address the hardship issue for granting a variance. The article states that the Design Review Board approved Jon Scurlock’s development application in June 2010; concluding that constructing the new house on the existing building pad instead of moving it westward would minimize adverse impacts to steep slopes, minimize land disturbance from grading the site, and minimize the bulk and mass of the retaining walls.
However, the evidence contradicts the findings. As anyone who walks on Seaview Ave., or drives on Highway 101 by the public tennis courts and looks east, can clearly see the massive basement and pool on the completely graded slope (see photo above). The approved architectural plans clearly showed an expansion of nonconformity (which wasn’t included in the variance application), destruction of the slope and the old building pad and driveway, to build a large basement, decks, new driveway, and a swimming pool. The city chose to ignore the hard evidence in the plans. The large lot (14,552 square feet) is buildable and it is not situated in the protected bluff and overlay zone. The structure could have been easily moved another 10 feet further west and still have 38 feet left from the required 25-foot backyard setback.
As a result, Del Mar’s governing bodies allowed a large bulky and massive structure close to a narrow street, resulting in possible privacy issues and other concerns for Jon Scurlock and for us who live across the street. Views were much less of an issue since we would have not regained much of the loss from our primary living area, even if the development followed the required 20-foot front yard setback (the house would have dropped only 2-3 feet down the slope).
We are not litigious people — far from it. In fact, this is our first experience (and a very painful one) with the courts. We believe the city’s governing bodies had been misled by various lobbyists for this project, which resulted in a gross mistake. Unfortunately, the courts gave complete deference to the city (that says a lot about San Diego courts). Due to the new law, redevelopers will have a much easier time getting a variance and expanding their nonconforming homes, even without a true hardship.
Steve and Lucy Eskeland