Big-home ban upheld by Coastal Commission, but legal challenge remains
By Kurtis Alexander
Posted: 03/14/2009 01:30:33 AM PDT

The county’s push to limit the size of beach homes was OK’d by the California Coastal Commission this week. But the effort to trim home sizes is not over.

County supervisors face a legal challenge to their ordinance, which reduces the amount of land on which a coastal property owner can build.

Pleasure Point residents Barry and Susan Porter sued the county two years ago, claiming that the ordinance was unfair, but their lawsuit was put on hold while the ordinance made its way through the approval process. Their attorney Todd Williams said Friday the couple had no intention of withdrawing their challenge.

“They think what the county did was wrong, and they believe the ordinance is flawed,” said Williams, of the law firm Morgan, Miller, Blair of Walnut Creek.

The Porters won approval for their nearly 5,000-square-foot home years ago but said they were fighting the county on the behalf of others.

The Porters’ argument is that the county ordinance unfairly strips property owners of developable space. The lawsuit contends that the county did not do sufficient environmental review to know just how much the new rules would affect residents.

The ordinance prevents property owners from counting cliff faces and certain beach area as developable land. While property owners have never been allowed to develop the sides of cliffs or beaches, they have been allowed to count the land toward the maximum building size, meaning they could build
bigger homes.

The Coastal Commission signed off on the county’s ordinance Thursday after making minor modifications. Since changes were made, though, the ordinance must go back to the Board of Supervisors and then to the Coastal Commission for final approval.

The courts are then likely to take up the Porters’ challenge.

Supervisor Mark Stone said the ordinance is simply closing a loophole that was inappropriately allowing property owners to count land on a cliff face or beach toward their total home size.

“In many cases, the homes got too big for the neighborhood,” he said.