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— Berkman finds it telling that Development Services staff planned to go ahead with the planning commission review even if they failed to convince the city attorney's office to change its position. But change it they must have, for no word of the city attorney view reached Berkman, who spoke against Pacific Coast at the May 17 planning commission meeting. "While I am pleased," Berkman tells me, "that the city attorney agreed with us, I am disappointed and perplexed that we were not informed of this and had to discover the info through a public records request. That information, of course, would have been very powerful at the planning commission hearing."

Why were there no references in the public records materials to the city attorney's change of mind? And why, Berkman wonders, "were there no e-mails back and forth between Development Services staff and Jim Waring? Even if Waring had shown no early interest in Pacific Coast, I had warned him about the project."

In a May 13 e-mail to several city attorney and Development Services staff, property owner Robert Pollack outlined why he thought the city council could not call for changes in the project. In the appeal, he argued, the council's direction allowed the planning commission to "reconsider its [first] decision, but does not preclude the option of returning the same project as the best alternative. Specific language that would preclude use of the same project was not used." Besides, according to the California Environmental Quality Act, "Only the adequacy of the environmental document is being evaluated and city council is not granted the authority to rule on the merits of the project itself." But, asks Berkman, "If that were the case, then what use is an appeal? Nobody would ever file one."

Berkman proposes that the Pacific Coast Office Building project be renamed. " 'Son of Sunroad' fits in the following way," he writes me. "The building is too tall for the location. If it started at the 111-foot elevation it would be compliant at 150 feet, since it's 39 feet tall. However, since it extends to the 200-foot line, it is 50 feet above what is legal. Hence [its violation] is 30 feet higher than the Sunroad 20-foot height violation [for its office building near Montgomery Field]. While there are no airplane hazards, the public is likewise getting shafted due to the open space encroachment.... Another similarity: despite being told to revise plans, the landowner persists with the same plans -- in defiance of city council direction. One positive difference: this [project] has not broken ground."

This summer, the city council will hear another appeal of the planning commission's decision to approve the Pacific Coast Office Building. This time the University Heights Planning Committee and Friends of San Diego will join the four original appellants.

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