State hears condos appeal

March 04, 2008 11:00 pm

By Kelley Atherton

Triplicate staff writer

A proposal for an oceanside condominium development in Crescent City has moved into its second round of appeals.

The California Coastal Comm-ission will hold a public hearing Friday in Carmel on the appeal of Crescent City's approval of the Coasta Norte mixed-use residential and office development.

Coastal Planner Jim Baskin said he anticipates the commission following his recommendation to take a fresh look at the project.

"We'll look at the merits of the project as if it were coming to the commission for the first time," Baskin said. The commission may schedule a subsequent hearing as well.

On Dec. 13, the City Planning Commission approved a use permit for the three-story, 44-unit condominium and time share development. The project would also include a 1,500-square-foot medical/professional office and a 700-square-foot sales office.

That decision was appealed by Glenn Tiffany of Ashland, Ore., who owns property immediately across the street from the proposed site.

The Crescent City Council voted to deny the appeal Jan. 22. Nearby residents Kirk Roberts and Natalie Fahning then filed another appeal with the commission's North Coast District office Jan. 28. Coastal commissioners Sara Wan and Mike Reilly also appealed the city's approval of the project Feb. 7.

The two appeals together raise several issues of contention.

The Coastal Commission has jurisdiction over the site because it is within the Coastal Zone, essentially the area between the sea and the first public road.

The area at 2nd and A streets, formerly a hospital and medical clinic site, is currently designated for medical use and zoned for residential and professional development. Baskin said the land-use designation and zoning should be amended before construction begins.

"Regardless of the fact the hospital been relocated and the clinic has been relocated, first and foremost the land use and proper zoning changes need to be made before any development could be legally allowed," Baskin said.

The commission had a similar problem with the next-door Hampton Inn and Suites. It took a year to get a land-use amendment for that project.

Other issues include:

•Increased public traffic - Appellants claim that there will be significantly more people parking on the street and using the beach.

• Public access - It's questioned whether the public access that currently exists on the project site will still be available. Loss of the access may not be acceptable under the Local Coastal Program (LCP) that protects coastal areas and public access.

•Density - Appellants also claim the project is too large and dense for the area. The lot area per dwelling does not meet LCP standards—the number of dwellings would need to be reduced. Forty-four units on a 1.24-acre parcel is 35.48 dwelling-units-per-acre. The LCP maximum is 29.04 units per acre for coastal residential areas.

•Environmental concerns - Appellants would like assurance that project construction and water runoff doesn't destroy the bluff and marine life.

Appellants also stated the city did not include any provisions protecting nearby marine organisms or the wetlands along the shoreline.

•Water quality - Appellants state there wasn't any assurance from the city that the coastal water quality would be protected. They questioned whether the facilities would be able to treat and filter the amount of rainwater they are required to.

•View disruptions - They said the project would block resident and public viewpoints. In addition, they said the design is not compatible with the character of the surrounding area.

Baskin said that during the city's consideration of the project he was vocal about it and wrote letters outlining his concerns.

"We say please deal with this first before going to a hearing," Baskin said about issues such as the land-use designation. "We typically do that for larger projects ... to give notice in advance of issues."

The commission leans toward projects that are coastal in nature, he said. Projects in the Coastal Zone have to be within the scope of the Coastal Act and protect environmentally sensitive areas, water quality and the character of the area, Baskin said.

The commission tends to shy away from projects that could be located farther away from the coast, he said.

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