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After Neighborhood Complaints, Santa Barbara Planners Halt Shoreline Drive Remodel

Residents claim they weren't given proper notice; commission sends project back to Design Review Board

A Shoreline Drive homeowner’s plan to add a second story to his blufftop home was temporarily thwarted Thursday by nearby residents, who said the city failed to notify them that there was a development project in the works.

The Santa Barbara Planning Commission voted 6-0 to send Chad Yonker’s house remodel at 1631 Shoreline Drive back to the single-family Design Review Board, after residents complained they never received notices from the city.

Some members of the commission also objected to Yonker’s plan to leave two unpermitted retaining walls, two sets of stairs and a chainlink fence, built by a previous owner.

“I never thought I would be able to afford a home with an ocean view, and this is going to take it away from me,” said Kip Fulbeck, who lives on Santa Rosa Lane. “If you choose to allow this second-story addition, it will take away the views and lower the property value. Please don’t let this turn into a Malibu.”

Fulbeck, a UCSB professor, said he took the job in 1992 because he “fell in love with the Mesa,” and it was “where I wanted to raise a family.”

The lack of notification to the neighbors bothered members of the commission, who have experienced similar complaints on other projects over the years.

“I am kind of disturbed by the fact that we have neighbors saying they weren’t notified,” said Commissioner Addison Thompson.

The city notifies people who live within 300 feet of the development prior to a project going before the single-family design review board. The city also has the option of putting a yellow “notice of development” sign in front of the house.

Some neighbors claimed they never saw a sign, although city staff showed a photo of the sign on the property in April before the design board meeting.

The sign, however, did not stay up for long, and Commissioner Michael Jordan pointed that out during the meeting. He said that when he visited the site over the weekend, there was no development sign.

“That is unbelievable,” said Jordan, who added that in more than seven years on the commission, Thursday was the first time he heard from city staff that the yellow development sign was an alternative to mail noticing, and not done uniformly for all projects.

The site currently has story poles to identify that there’s a project in the works.

Santa Rosa Lane resident John Kaufman said his view will be blocked by the home remodel.

It looks like a big box was just put there,” Kaufman said. “ It seems like it should go back to design review”

He added that the project is insensitive to the neighbors.

Yonker, who was not present at the meeting, bought the home in 2016. He inherited a ton of problems.

City planners said that a previous homeowner installed the walls, stairs and fence without permits between 1977 and 1987. Yonker's geologist determined that removing the unpermitted work could weaken the hillside so it would be best to keep most of it in place, without disturbing the bluff.

The geologist suggested that only 18 to 24 inches of the upper retaining wall needed to be removed.

In addition to the leaving most of the bluff structures, Yonker wants to add 422 square feet to the first floor and a new 1,356-square-foot second-story to the 1,826-square-foot single-family residence. The house would have two master bedrooms and two family rooms.

“The square footage seems luxurious,” said commission chairman Jay Higgins, adding that if neighborhood concerns exist, the single-family design review board should hear them.

“All of our design review boards put a pretty heavy premium on neighborhood input,” Higgins said.

The board was born out of the major Mesa discontent more than a decade ago during the big wave of development in the Marine Terrace area on Shoreline Drive.

With homeowners building large homes, sometimes, lot-to-lot, the "concerns erupted over the mansionization of the Mesa."

This project, however, also raised concerns over what was happening not just on top, but in the back yard. 

In addition to the view complaints raised by the residents, the commissioners weren’t convinced that leaving the structures on the bluff was the best way to proceed.

“Illegal unpermitted development has occurred on the bluff face,” said City Attorney Scott Vincent.

Commissioner Lesley Wiscomb said she wants the property owner to also return with a plan to remove the structures from the bluff.

“I would like to see another concept,” Wiscomb said.

Commissioner Jordan said he was not willing to grant the property owner a coastal-development permit.

“There’s just so many things stacking up here that don’t settle well with me,” Jordan said. “I cannot make a finding today that leaving what is in place is the best option.”

Planning commissioner and former Mayor Sheila Lodge agreed that since the neighbors weren’t notified, the Design Review Board should hear them.

“Maybe they would have a little different view if they could hear from the neighbors who are affected,” Lodge said.

In addition to the project going before the design board again, Yonker and his architect, Tom Ochsner, must also come back with a plan to remove the structures and backfill the blufftop so that the commission has more than one option to consider. The Planning Commission did not set a date for when the project would return.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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