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Encinitas blufftop house barely hangs on

Owner of Neptune Ave. duplex wanted to demolish and re-build under old rules

Soils saturated by recent rains, then by water from fire fighting hoses, caused a chunk of the bluff to collapse.
Soils saturated by recent rains, then by water from fire fighting hoses, caused a chunk of the bluff to collapse.

An attempt to rebuild a fire-ravaged home in Encinitas on the very same bluff edge that gave way has ended, though neighbors say the fallout of the 2019 blaze goes on.

"The home is a huge eyesore, and every teenager from miles around knows about it and shows up on their electric bikes to park out front and go in," a letter to the city reads.

Portions of the duplex at 1478 and 1480 Neptune Ave. extend beyond the bluff edge, a report states.

It wasn't clear what caused the fire to ignite the roof on December 23, 2019, but city reports said it burned for hours. Soils saturated by recent rains, then by water from fire fighting hoses, caused a chunk of the bluff to collapse.

While the house was gutted, the foundation was left for a rebuild.

House before the 2019 fire


"It's more like a big staple holding on," said planning commissioner Kevin Doyle at an October meeting when the project first came to the city for a demolition permit. "We don't want to take it out and find out the bluff's going to collapse without that holding it in place." 

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The beachfront home near Jupiter Street has two units; one built in 1946, the other in 1966 — located 200 feet north of a mansion said to have once been owned by Charlie Chaplin; the Chaplin  property sold two months before the fire for $6,000,000, with a current Redfin estimate of $9,697,646.

After the fire, the dilapidated building quickly became a public nuisance and safety hazard, while young kids crawled in and out at all hours, neighbors said. The notices they received that the property would be secured never panned out, with a gate that was often left open. A tall electric fence could be put up and people would still be able to hop right over the brick "pony wall" on the north side, they said.

A new owner, Chad Robley, of Mindgruve Ventures took over in December 2022. Eight months later, neighbors got notice the home would finally be demolished. That permit, granted in October 2023, gave Robley 90 days — including any appeals, city reports said — to get the job done.

As one neighbor said at the meeting, "you just need a dump truck and a demo crew." 

But in December the owner appealed the city's requirement for a Coastal Development Permit to rebuild, which he thought was unnecessary, according to his planning consultant, Diane Langager.

Robley believed the house could be rebuilt without a coastal development permit because the old building was constructed before current coastal rules and includes a setback less than the 40-foot minimum now required from the bluff edge.

The city disagreed, saying the new building would have to go by current Coastal Bluff Overlay Zone regulations due to the presence of a coastal bluff.

The appeal was withdrawn last week, putting the long delayed demolition one step closer.

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Soils saturated by recent rains, then by water from fire fighting hoses, caused a chunk of the bluff to collapse.
Soils saturated by recent rains, then by water from fire fighting hoses, caused a chunk of the bluff to collapse.

An attempt to rebuild a fire-ravaged home in Encinitas on the very same bluff edge that gave way has ended, though neighbors say the fallout of the 2019 blaze goes on.

"The home is a huge eyesore, and every teenager from miles around knows about it and shows up on their electric bikes to park out front and go in," a letter to the city reads.

Portions of the duplex at 1478 and 1480 Neptune Ave. extend beyond the bluff edge, a report states.

It wasn't clear what caused the fire to ignite the roof on December 23, 2019, but city reports said it burned for hours. Soils saturated by recent rains, then by water from fire fighting hoses, caused a chunk of the bluff to collapse.

While the house was gutted, the foundation was left for a rebuild.

House before the 2019 fire


"It's more like a big staple holding on," said planning commissioner Kevin Doyle at an October meeting when the project first came to the city for a demolition permit. "We don't want to take it out and find out the bluff's going to collapse without that holding it in place." 

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The beachfront home near Jupiter Street has two units; one built in 1946, the other in 1966 — located 200 feet north of a mansion said to have once been owned by Charlie Chaplin; the Chaplin  property sold two months before the fire for $6,000,000, with a current Redfin estimate of $9,697,646.

After the fire, the dilapidated building quickly became a public nuisance and safety hazard, while young kids crawled in and out at all hours, neighbors said. The notices they received that the property would be secured never panned out, with a gate that was often left open. A tall electric fence could be put up and people would still be able to hop right over the brick "pony wall" on the north side, they said.

A new owner, Chad Robley, of Mindgruve Ventures took over in December 2022. Eight months later, neighbors got notice the home would finally be demolished. That permit, granted in October 2023, gave Robley 90 days — including any appeals, city reports said — to get the job done.

As one neighbor said at the meeting, "you just need a dump truck and a demo crew." 

But in December the owner appealed the city's requirement for a Coastal Development Permit to rebuild, which he thought was unnecessary, according to his planning consultant, Diane Langager.

Robley believed the house could be rebuilt without a coastal development permit because the old building was constructed before current coastal rules and includes a setback less than the 40-foot minimum now required from the bluff edge.

The city disagreed, saying the new building would have to go by current Coastal Bluff Overlay Zone regulations due to the presence of a coastal bluff.

The appeal was withdrawn last week, putting the long delayed demolition one step closer.

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