UPDATED: State commission denies appeal of Mitt Romneys' La Jolla home rebuild

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Coastal Commissioner Dayna Bochco (center) speaks in favor of an appeal of Mitt Romney’s home rebuild plans (which ultimately failed). Commissioners Jana Zimmer and Wendy Mitchell, who also voted for the appeal, are seated beside her. Pat Sherman photos

Addendum:

Since the original version of this story was filed, Anthony Ciani has stated that he will not pursue his appeal further. In addition, attorney Matt Peterson, representing the Romneys, said in an Oct. 16 e-mail  that he and Ciani

"were able to work through many issues. ... Of particular concern to Mr. Ciani was not restricting the lateral beach access easement only for 'passive use.' I assured him that we will not include the word 'passive' in the dedication and that alleviated his concern re : public access. We also talked about the potential to increase lifeguard presence at the beach. Being a former lifeguard, Mr. Ciani  thought that was a great idea."

By Pat Sherman

While last week the California Coastal Commission (CCC) ignored its staff’s recommendation to deny expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, the following day coastal commissioners sided

with

their staff by allowing a proposed rebuild of Mitt and Ann Romney’s La Jolla home to proceed — despite some strong words in favor of an appeal of the project.

During a meeting held Oct. 11 at a Mission Valley hotel, the CCC voted 7-4 to deny an appeal of the project filed by architect and former La Jollan Anthony Ciani, stating that they found no substantial issues to warrant the appeal.

The Romneys plan to demolish their 3,000-square-foot oceanfront home on Dunemere Drive and rebuild an 11,000-square-foot, two-story home with a pool, spa and subterranean garage.

The motion to deny the appeal was made by San Diego County Supervisor and Coastal Commissioner Greg Cox, who said the project would be “very compatible” with other development in the neighborhood.

“I think staff did a very good job of evaluating the issues raised by the appeal,” he said. “It seems like these people have played by the rules that are in place.”

Commissioner Steve Kinsey, who seconded Cox’s motion, said the CCC needs to “prioritize” how it spends its time. “Our staff says that they believe it’s consistent with the LCP (Local Coastal Program),” Kinsey said of the Romneys’ plans. “There’s much bigger challenges facing our coast.”

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La Jolla attorney Matthew Peterson represents Mitt and Ann Romney before the California Coastal Commission.

However, in voting for the appeal, Commissioner Jana Zimmer said the project has broader implications for California’s coastline.

Ciani, who once owned a three-story home kitty-corner to the Romneys’ property, contends that the former presidential candidate and his wife claimed ownership of the beach to inflate the size of the home they are allowed to rebuild. Ciani produced a map of the beach from the La Jolla Community Plan which shows that the beach is owned by the city, though city staff and La Jolla land surveyor Michael Pallamary contend the Romneys own the beach up to the mean high tideline.

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Architect Anthony Ciani, who appealed the Romney’s home rebuild to the California Coastal Commission, listens as commissioners discuss the merits of his petition.

“The question of whether a property owner can count areas of their lot that are clearly not buildable for purposes of calculating FAR (floor-area ratio) or … how large a house should be allowed in terms of mass, bulk and scale is a statewide issue,” Zimmer said, adding that how the state develops its coast and protects it from rising sea level during the next four decades will be a “huge issue.”

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