Encinitas, California. Pacific Serena homes for sale are no doubt going up in value due to their outstanding location, their funky charm, perfect petite size, cute yards and for many Pacific Serena home buyers or owners, a potential for an ocean view. With the $1,500,000 homes above and to the east of Pacific Serena in the community of Sandalwood, one owner decided to initiate a lawsuit in order to determine the ability for a Pacific Serena home owner to build up and potentially into the view corridor of one of these Sandalwood homes.
Here are all of the articles describing this Pacific Serena debate in detail:
"The houses up on the hill obstruct my view of the moon rise." By Marty Graham, April 8, 2016
Some Encinitas residents are suing their downhill neighbors who won city approval to build a second story onto their Pacific Serena home, saying it will partially block their views.
The neighbors — known as Friends to Preserve Encinitas Beauty — filed the suit in San Diego Superior Court a week after the March 16th city-council meeting where the council voted unanimously to deny their appeal of the permit granted to Gina Merchant and Derek Bradley to build a 643-square-foot second floor onto their 863-square-foot home.
The neighborhood is part of “old Encinitas” — north of Encinitas Boulevard and just east of Quail Gardens. The subdivision was built in the 1970s, a collection of side-by-side duplexes with adjacent garages that were originally restricted to people over the age of 55.
"We're looking to go from a modest, two-bedroom one-bathroom home to a modest three-bedroom, two-bathroom home," Gina Merchant told the city council. "We want to be in full consideration of our neighbors and have gone to only 22 feet of a permissible 26 feet in height."
People in houses up the hill, to the east, believe the addition will affect their view of the ocean. They raised their issues with the Encinitas Planning Commission, where the addition won approval on a 3-2 vote, and appealed the decision to the city council, which also supported the addition.
Julie Hedman, who lives uphill, noted that everyone in Encinitas has paid a premium for ocean views. "My husband and I would not have bought our home if we had known that homes would be allowed to build up second stories in front of us," she said. "It will block ocean views from homes in our neighborhood."
Another neighbor, Rebecca O'Neill, explained that she bought her house for the view and even when her property taxes were increased to market value, she was willing to pay that premium for the view. "I bought this place because I want to live out my life here. I want peace and tranquility. I want this view," she said. Merchant and her husband also want to stay in Encinitas — and raise a family in a neighborhood they love, she said.
The issue seems to come down to the right to a view, which a city staffer says doesn't exist under Encinitas law, according to a city report.
But Everett Delano, who represents the people uphill, says that the city's design-review ordinance requires that people follow a set of guidelines that include protecting public and private views.
"It says you have to take things into consideration and you have to balance the view protection with the allowed structure," Delano said. According to him, the uphill residents don't want to block the expansion, they just want a version that is more sensitive to their homes.
But the city council disagreed with him.
"They are not asking for a variance," councilwoman Catherine Blakespear said. “They are going up 21 or 22 feet and they have the right to do that."
While he voted in favor of the project, councilman Tony Kranz noted that he'd had the experience of a house going up next door that blocked his views.
"I do want to acknowledge that there are impacts from this," he said. "I understand what you're feeling about the impacts."
Not everyone was so kind, however. Pacific Serena neighbor Donna Arnicar blasted the group, saying they are "being quite ugly and unreasonable."
"It’s the people up on the hill with the houses that look alike that are being ugly," she said. "The houses up on the hill obstruct my view of the moon rise."
Neighbors sue Encinitas over small home addition Hilltop owners argue project could block their ocean views
By Barbara Henry | 3:34 p.m. April 12, 2016
ENCINITAS — Worried that their distant views of the ocean may vanish, hilltop neighbors on the eastern edge of Old Encinitas are suing the city over its decision to issue permits allowing a tiny home below them to add a second story.
City officials and council members say the project complies with all city regulations and that the modest home addition is appropriate for the surrounding neighborhood.
The construction project — a 649-square-foot addition on an 860-square-foot duplex on Rosebay Drive — may be tiny, but its impact could be huge, said Everett DeLano, the attorney representing the recently formed Friends to Preserve Encinitas Beauty, which filed the suit.
Not only does the project have the potential to restrict the ocean views of several uphill homeowners and nearby public trails, DeLano said, it also may be the start of a wave of second-story additions that sweep through the Pacific Serena neighborhood — a community of dozens of single-story duplexes north of Encinitas Boulevard and east of Quail Gardens Drive.
"This is where it's not a small matter," he said.
The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court March 17, argues that the city has violated its ordinances and guidelines by approving design review and coastal development permits without adequately addressing the project's impact to private and public coastal view corridors. It seeks a temporary restraining order and ultimately a permanent injunction on the construction project "until lawful approval is obtained."
DeLano said he knows Encinitas doesn't technically have a "view protection ordinance" like some coastal cities do, but that the city's design review permit process does mention that impacts on coastal views should be considered when reviewing construction permit requests.
City officials strongly disagree that the project hasn't been adequately reviewed. During a permit appeals hearing on the construction plans last month, City Council members repeatedly stressed that they felt the project clearly complied with city regulations and they disputed some of the view blockage allegations.
"I can't even comprehend how you could argue this project will block views from the (public) trails," Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, who lives near area, told the opponents of the plan.
Councilwoman Catherine Blakespear said it was a "relatively modest" project that fit well with the surrounding neighborhood and Mayor Kristin Gaspar said such projects are good for Encinitas.
"I think this is exactly the type of project that is responsible, it's respectful, it complies," Gaspar said. "It's actually what we should be encouraging. We want people to re-invest in their properties."
Councilman Tony Kranz said he believed some uphill neighbors would lose part of their views, but said that's something people have to live with. He's experienced it himself when a neighboring property was developed in the home he lives in that is owned by his wife's parents, he said.
The home's owners — Gina Merchant and Derek Bradley — told the council that they only decided to add a second story after finding that there wasn't much room on their lot to expand the first floor. They need the extra space because she's pregnant with their first child, Merchant said.
"I'd like to emphasize that we are looking to go from a modest two-bedroom, one-bath home to a modest three-bedroom, two-bath home," she said, adding that she'll be using one of the bedrooms as an office so she can work from home.
And, she added, they're only increasing the building height to 22 feet, though city ordinances would allow them to go up to 26 feet.
Several of her neighbors told the council that Pacific Serena residents back the project, it’s the folks in the luxurious, two-story homes "with swimming pools" uphill in the Encinitas Ranch area east of Pacific Serena that oppose the plans. Those homes came later and they impacted the Pacific Serena folks' views to the east when they were built, several residents said.
Henry is a freelance writer in Encinitas
Rosebay homeowners win lawsuit over 2nd-story addition Last year we brought you the story of a young family planning to build a very modest 2nd-story addition to their home in the Rosebay neighborhood. Wealthy homeowners in the gated community on the hill above Rosebay filed suit to stop the addition even though 1) the property is zoned for two stories, 2) Encinitas doesn't have a view ordinance, and 3) even if there was a view ordinance, the small and distant addition could not reasonably be seen as blocking the plaintiff's view.
Today we have some happy news from the remodelers!
- In part because of the lawsuit, which required us to dip into our savings and emergency fund, we spent ~4 months changing banks, refinancing, and negotiating for a larger construction loan. Luckily, and because of our good credit history, this worked. We just kept our fingers crossed that we wouldn't get sick or lose our jobs. Fighting this has cost us tens of thousands of dollars. Although this is likely less than the Hedman's on West Bluff have paid their lawyer over the past 1.5 years, they clearly can afford to throw good money after bad whereas for my husband and I, it was a major decision to fight. We decided to fight because we love where we live, and we have a right to do this by the letter of the law.
- We started construction April 1, which was before we knew the outcome of the case. We didn't have a choice because otherwise we would lose our General Contractor (as he would have move onto other projects). We had waited as long as we could. We were confident they would lose but it has still been a nerve-wracking month. It was a good month though as our son turned 1 year old! It's crazy that it has been a year since the Hedman's sued the city and served us papers.
- We found out the judge ruled in our favor this past Thursday. I broke down in tears of joy at my office (pics attached :) It was a weird feeling after awhile though - it's more like relief. Yes, we won but really we just prevailed and survived. This should have never happened in the first place. Unfortunately we can't recoup our lawyers' fees due to the Anti-SLAPP law, which normally serves to protect people like us from having to pay developers' lawyers' fees were we to lose a case (i.e., the roles are normally reversed). We knew this going in but it still bothers me.
- There is a slim chance they will appeal this ruling, which would drag this out at least another year, and cost us more money. However, hopefully they aren't that delusional as the judge ruled strongly against every argument they tried to put forth (e.g., there is no public view obstruction). In fact, if you go walk the trail, it is difficult to make out our new roof line from among the trees (pics attached). If they are crazy enough to appeal, we are going to do a fundraising effort so that our neighborhood can come together and fight on behalf of all of our interests, which is defending our neighborhood's right to improve our homes, and the value of our properties. Not a day goes by where I don't remind myself that a small minority live in 3,500 square foot homes (like the Hedman's) while the majority live in homes much smaller like us. I've worked incredibly hard my entire adult life to get to where I am today, and I'll be damned if someone is going to try to use their money to bully me. We did everything according to the City's rules and regulations; we didn't ask for a variance; and we aren't flipping the property. This is our home.
- A silver lining in all of this is that we have met a lot of new neighbors, and most people have been unequivocal in their support for us, and our project. Obviously not everyone is stoked on the project but most people are, and it feels good to have that support after everything the Hedman's have put us through. We have also been fortunate that we are living next door during the remodel. Our neighbors are retired, and are fixing up another home while renting to us. It's crazy lucky that this happened but at the same time it speaks to the homeowners in this community, and how much we all support each other.
- We want to thank the community for rallying behind us, and for bearing with us through the dust and noise of the final framing etc. that should be done soon!
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