UPDATED: Judge orders property owner to reopen long-shuttered La Jolla beach access

Beach access advocate Melinda Merryweather stands at a bluff-top gate that for nearly 35 years has blocked access to the shoreline below. On Feb. 14, a San Diego County Superior Court Judge issued a final judgment that the property owner must reopen beach access through his land. File

ADDENDUM: Since this story was posted on March 11, the City of San Diego has responded to a request about the permissibility of work recently conducted on the home at 7957 Princess St. (where the California Coastal Commission has ordered the owner to reinstate public beach access through his property). According to Lynda Pfeifer, Supervising Public Information Officer with the City of San Diego’s Development Service Department, ”recent development activity at 7957 Princess Street is in violation of the City of San Diego’s Stipulated Judgment and Site Development Permit, in that the California Coastal Commission (CCC) has not yet approved the owner’s construction plans. To remedy this violation we have placed a hold on the construction permit while the applicant obtains the CCC’s approval of their construction permit. (City) Code Enforcement is aware the process has been initiated and is continuing.”

By Pat Sherman

A San Diego County Superior Court judge has moved for the second time in four months that a La Jolla homeowner must reopen a once-popular beach access path on his property at the foot of Princess Street.

On Nov. 1, and again in a Feb. 14 final judgment action, Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes found that the California Coastal Commission (CCC) may enforce a condition of the development permit it issued for the property in 1979, which requires that the owner record an easement to restore public access to the coastline below.

A path on the property, which had been accessible to the public since 1932, was closed off in 1978 when then property owner Jane Baker built her home on top of it while the original development permit was being challenged in court.

Baker never signed a revised permit requiring public access, nor reopened the path. However, she did eventually acknowledge the CCC’s determination. When selling the property to Chris McKeller in 1989, she required that he acknowledge the CCC’s public access requirement, though McKeller also did not restore beach access.

The current property owner, Ure Kretowicz, who purchased the home at foreclosure in 1993, has fought the public access requirement for more than a decade.

Kretowicz, who previously told La Jolla Light it would be too dangerous for the public to access the beach via the now-eroded bluff on his property — did agree to restore emergency access for lifeguards. He also offered to pay to establish beach access at an alternate site nearby, though the CCC has thus far deemed several alternately proposed access points unfeasible.

In her Feb. 14 decision, Hayes states, “Mr. Kretowicz is a prominent real estate developer and was required to investigate any conditions of the sale. The record shows there were public documents evidencing the 1979 permit restrictions on the property.”

Hayes denied Kretowicz’s request for declaratory relief, stating that, the statutes of limitation “do not preclude the CCC from enforcing the public access condition. … The passage of time will not legalize ongoing and continuing violations of the permit conditions.”

Though Kretowicz was out of the country and unavailable for comment, his attorney, Sherman Stacey, confirmed that he is preparing to appeal the judge’s decision.

The California Coastal Commission is determining whether recent work on this bluff-top home at the foot of Princess Street violates the terms of an agreement it entered into with the property owner last summer. Courtesy

Ongoing work in question
In addition, a CCC field representative visited the Kretowicz property on March 7 to determine whether recent work on the site violates an agreement the property owner entered into with the CCC in August 2013. The agreement included a series of conditions that must be met before specific work may commence, including the construction of a new trellis over the second-story deck, reconstruction of a wall south of the garage, and installation of a new Jacuzzi in the rear yard and solar panels on the roof.

San Diego Planning Commission records show that the CCC issued coastal development permits (CDP) to a previous owner for additions and modifications to the existing structure, though it noted that Kretowicz has since made “several improvements, modifications and additions that were constructed without obtaining an amendment to the original CDP.”

Kretowicz later filed an application with the CCC to amend the CDP and allow him to proceed with his plans. The CCC tentatively approved the permit amendment request at a hearing in July 2011, although it required that Kretowicz first restore beach access.

Attorney Stacey initially told the Light the recent work involved “redecorating the interior and repainting the exterior,” though when pressed, he conceded: “There are some exterior structural things that are happening.”

Stacey said the contractor may have started some work “prematurely.” He said his firm is working with the CCC to determine whether the stipulations agreed upon in August have been breached, or whether the recent work exceeded that specified in the agreement.

Lisa Haage, the CCC’s chief of enforcement, told the Light the work is most likely unauthorized. The question for the CCC, she said, will be “the extent of the violation.”

Marsha Venegas, a local enforcement analyst for the CCC, said the CCC would make a determination based on their site visit this week.

Related posts:

  1. Judge clears way to reopen La Jolla beach access at Princess Street
  2. State commission to consider appeal of Romneys’ home rebuild and beach ownership issue
  3. UPDATED: City Council votes for beach closure at La Jolla Children’s Pool during seals pupping season
  4. Shop owner seeks to replace Cove bluff plantings that ruffled some La Jollans’ feathers
  5. Move to restore beach access at Princess Street resurfaces

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Mar 19, 2014. Filed under La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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