Solana Beach ‘Design Review’ – Who owns your house?

By Gregg Short

Solana Beach

In a recent citywide mailing, an incumbent Solana Beach city councilman disputed claims made by a candidate for Solana Beach City Council (SBCC); unfortunately, his dispute is disputable!

This city councilman wrote: SBCC does not regulate proposed changes to a Solana Beach home’s style, color or design, when in fact any home addition over 500 feet requires (3) SBCC votes approving all aspects of the addition. In order to get (3) votes every aspect of the proposed design is open to discussion and change! Being required to get (3) votes approving every aspect of a proposed change is in fact ‘regulating’ ‘the design’; don’t you? In fact it seems like a perfect definition of “being regulated.”

The Solana Beach Municipal Code specifically provides that if a proposed PLAN included moving more than 50 yards of dirt (SBMC, 17.68.040(B)(1)(d)) or any new construction or remodel added more than 500 square feet (SBMC, 17.68.040(B)(1)(n)) then the proposer MUST get (3) votes of the City Council in order to obtain a discretionary “Development Review Permit” (DRP), which is required in order to get a building permit. I find it remarkable that the incumbent failed to mention these important distinctions in his citywide rebuttal letter. Under the DRP process, every aspect of a home’s design, including size, location, height, style, and design, is subject to the City Council’s discretion.

This requirement transfers an OWNER’S rights to his neighbor(s) AND most certainly will result in costly and lengthy delays. Not only is review by the City’s building department required, so is a lengthy Staff Report and hearing before the City Council during a normally scheduled SBCC meeting. Only then, after many months, 10’s of 10’s of 1,000’s of dollars in architect’s and engineering fees, does one get to appear before the SBCC to ask for DRP approval. At that time, anyone can speak for or against the proposed project, which the City Council has absolute discretion over. In order to get (3) votes, an OWNER may be forced to change his design to meet the arbitrary whims of the SBCC. Given the facts above, isn’t the incumbent’s rebuttal, at best, misleading?

One of the candidates for SBCC is proposing changes to SB Building Codes that would make getting SB building permits simple, objective, and rules-based. With objectivity comes EQUALITY and CERTAINTY. Everyone can understand and follow the same rules. Everyone is allowed certain heights, setbacks, and above ground square footage versus lot size.

If a neighbor would like the design modified, then the neighbor can negotiate to compensate the OWNER for making those changes, BUT the neighbor cannot use the City Council to bully his neighbor into changing his improvement plans. If an OWNER proposes changes that do not meet the objective standards, then he can seek a variance. If, on the other hand, the plans satisfy the OBJECTIVE development and zoning regulations set out in the SBMC, the OWNER promptly receives his building permits following submittal of his plans.

Isn’t fairness about everyone playing by the same set of rules?

I am voting with the following beliefs in mind: You own it; you built it and you can decide for yourself whether to use paper, plastic or reusable!

P.S.: Ever since Prop A was very narrowly passed in a costly special election (Prop A is a law that severely limits certain SB homeowners from improving their property), I have felt as though I am complicit in the ‘taking’ of my neighbor’s property. I believe Prop A is a violation of the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution i.e., an unlawful taking of property, without just compensation, for the supposed good of the ‘whole’.

It is OK for cities to change their rules; it’s not OK to change the premise under which a property was purchased, for example; let’s say before Prop A an OWNER could add 1500 square feet to his property, after the law he could add 500’. In this example, 1000’ was taken from the OWNER for the ‘good’ of his neighbors, yet his neighbors didn’t compensate him for his loss.

I personally would have been OK with the change as long as existing OWNERS (and Heirs) were exempt, grandfathered in, particularly since 100s of homes in the affected neighborhoods had already been redeveloped under the old rules that allowed for larger homes.

Owning property is one of the fundamental reasons America has been successful, and collectivist societies have failed. The coerced, uncompensated transferring of RIGHTS to property to one’s neighbors is the ultimate in collectivism ideology and a sure road to failure.