Photo by produced by JLC Architecture
Looking west from neighbor's, existing and proposed views
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.
Existing view-Encinitas Ranch Trail to southwest
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.
Proposed view-Encinitas Ranch Trail to southwest
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."