Granny Flats Approved Without Public Hearings



The Design Review Board is being undermined in a surreal manner. Worst case: new homes
 go through and obtain Design Review Board approval 
during construction, but a single residential unit can be added with over-the-counter ministerial approval
 and can block views, but the city staff position is that a public meeting is not allowed. So look for this to become standard procedure in the future all over Laguna Beach.

I have always said the toughest job in Laguna Beach was serving on the Design Review Board. Passions often get high, and the decisions are often very difficult. However, I always thought it was an important job and that their work and effort made a difference.

I was shocked to learn that after receiving Design Review Board approval for a new home at 3355 Alta Laguna Blvd.  that an addition could be made without a public hearing and signed off over-the-counter by city staff. After many meetings regarding the sensitivity of the environment and the importance of preserving public views, state law regarding second unit residences requires only ministerial review and there is nothing that can be done. Unbelievable!

There are many state and city laws that need to be considered. But we are told that this state law regarding “Granny Flats” trumps all. Of course, we are concerned about low-cost housing, but no one thinks that 3355 Alta Laguna Blvd. is addressing low-cost housing.

The appeal does not question adding the addition, but that it needs to be consistent with the design approved by the Design Review Board. This second unit residence should be lower and positioned so as to preserve public views and to preserve the dedicated hard work of the Design Review Board.

After years of many Design Review Board and other public meetings focused on preserving public views, the applicant purchased the lot at 3355 Alta Laguna Blvd. with approved plans. The applicant knew or should have known of the concern for public views and the environmental sensitivity of the lot.

The DRB-approved plan protected the public views and the adjacent public park. Changes now adversely impact public views and the adjacent public park. The changes have been approved by city staff without public input.

Apparently the English language is a challenge, “to not require a public hearing in the consideration of second-unit applications” does not mean that the city is prohibited from holding a public hearing.

Granny flat design changes should be sent to the Design Review Board to ascertain if the project changes are consistent with their approval.

Gene Felder, Laguna Beach


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