Oceanside Real Estate: Building Heights
Building heights again on O'Side Council agenda
Preservationists and property owners clash over a proposed change of the maximum building height from 35 feet to 27 feet.
BY AARON BURGIN
MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2010 AT 4:29 P.M.
Oceanside officials will revisit a plan this week to lower building heights along its southern coastline.
It’s an issue that has pitted preservationists, who want to maintain the city’s coastal charm, against private developers, who believe lowering the heights infringes upon their property rights.
Wednesday’s City Council vote also will likely serve as a test case for how the new council majority will deal with developer-related issues.
Oceanside’s coastal building heights became the subject of debate in 2008, when the California Coastal Commission invalidated the city’s ordinance, which set the height at 27 feet and had been in effect since 1992, because the commission never certified it. City officials and the Coastal Commission called the missing certification an oversight. The city’s height and coastal building requirements reverted back to a 1986 ordinance, which sets the height at 35 feet.
A number of property owners have seized hold of the opportunity presented by the city’s review of the heights and submitted plans for homes that reach the 35-foot height. Spearheaded by local real estate agent and property owner — who sent out postcards to the coastal property owners urging them to attend Wednesday’s session — the property owners said the move is tantamount to a government take of one-third of a landowner’s property value. The owners have formed a group called the South Oceanside Neighborhood Association,
“The height limitation amendment being proposed will cause property values to plummet even further than they already have and remodeling projects to come to a halt,” according to an association news release. “In these tough economic times it is hard to understand why the city would be looking at discouraging revenue generation.”
A number of activists and local residents have panned the 35-foot height standard, which is among the tallest building heights allowed along the coastline between San Diego and South Orange County. Only San Clemente, which allows 45-foot-tall buildings in certain areas, is taller.
Those against the higher heights said the larger buildings would block coastal views, alter the character of the city’s coastline, exacerbate traffic and create a canyon-like effect on coastal streets and near the beach.
Opponents of the 35-foot requirement argue that the taller buildings will lower property values for homes that could lose ocean views if a building blocks it. The community at large could also lose value if the larger homes increase traffic in an already congested neighborhood.
A local real estate expert said that supporters and opponents concerns about property values are valid.
'Both sides make good points,' said Michael Lea, director of the Corky McMillin Center for Real Estate at San Diego State University. 'Elected representatives have to weight the competing interests and decide which are more important.'
A divided Planning Commission voted 4-3 in September to move the issue along to the City Council because the group couldn’t reach a consensus after several months of dealing with the issue.
At that meeting, planning staff members recommended a proposed ordinance that would allow owners to achieve varying heights of buildings but still comply with the 27-foot-height requirement along the shoreline side of Pacific Street if the average height of each tier was 27 feet.
Senior Planner Russ Cunningham said Friday that while the city might never reach a consensus on how tall buildings along the coast should be, there are a few issues where officials and residents appear to have an accord. First, that buildings along the coastline should be terraced to avoid a block-like appearance, and that the city should require additional parking spaces for buildings with more than five bedrooms.
Wednesday’s meeting marks the first time the City Council will meet after the swearing in of Councilman Gary Felien, a self-described fiscal conservative who defeated Chuck Lowery in the Nov. 2 election. Felien’s election and Jerry Kern’s re-election solidified a conservative majority on the council that some believe might vote to keep the 1986 rules in tact.
Kern, reached Monday, said he would vote against any changes to the 1986 ordinance because they would have to be approved by the Coastal Commission, a long and expensive process.
He recommends staff, property owners and architects in the area develop a set of administrative guidelines to guide development in the area, not mandate it.
“I want to see quality projects, and the property owners down there also want to see quality projects,” Kern said.
This article was found on http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/dec/06/building-heights-again-oside-council-agenda/
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