La Jolla’s Colony Hill HOA is sued over rejection of home renovation plans

Two homeowners sought to renovate a property on Caminito Rialto in La Jolla.
Two homeowners who sought to renovate a property on Caminito Rialto in La Jolla were denied by the Colony Hill architectural committee.
(Bing Maps / La Jolla Light)

Some homeowners associations have reputations for being difficult. But few get sued by residents.

But that’s what happened to the Colony Hill HOA in La Jolla after two homeowners sought to renovate a property but were denied on grounds that the project would be “too large for the location and creates a severe impact to the neighboring homes,” according to the lawsuit, filed July 20 in San Diego County Superior Court.

Homeowners Giuseppe Miano and Alma Noris seek at least $150,000 in damages to compensate them for expenses incurred as a result of the HOA’s “failure to review plaintiffs’ architectural applications in a good faith and competent manner,” according to the lawsuit.

Colony Hill is a 40-house development on a 22-acre hillside off Via Capri. It boasts “panoramic views from multiple rooms in almost every home,” according to its website, and “each homeowner owns his or her lot and is a member of our homeowners association, a nonprofit corporation owning all the common areas and open space.”

In their suit, Miano and Noris allege that when they purchased their house on Caminito Rialto in April 2019, “it was advertised with a set of architectural plans and drawings for a renovation of the home prepared by the firm of Marengo Martin Architects. These architectural plans were included in the purchase. … The plaintiffs took inspiration from the existing plans and commissioned Marengo Martin Architects to alter the design slightly to fit the plaintiffs’ needs.”

However, in reviewing the new plans, the HOA’s architectural committee denied the work, citing size issues and impact to neighboring houses.

The couple went on to submit four sets of plans, all of which were denied for similar reasons.

In January, the HOA board heard an appeal of the architectural committee’s denial. “At the meeting, the board confirmed that the architectural committee’s process was fair,” according to the suit. “However, the board chose not to make a decision as to whether to affirm the architectural committee’s denial of plaintiffs’ architectural applications.”

As a result, “plaintiffs are still left in limbo without a final decision on the appeal.”

Attorney Craig Combs, representing the Colony Hill HOA, emailed the following statement to the Light regarding the suit:

“Regrettably, relatively recent purchasers of a residence in the Colony Hill common interest development have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to overturn a decision by the [homeowners] association’s architectural committee to deny the plaintiffs’ architectural plans to expand their residence. Following its routine review procedures, the architectural committee gave substantial consideration to the plaintiffs’ plans, including discussions of the proposed improvements with the plaintiffs’ neighbors and consultation with an expert in architecture. Finding that the proposed expansion of the plaintiffs’ residence would negatively impact their neighbors’ views to an unacceptable degree, the architectural committee denied the plaintiffs’ plans.”

“Any person seeking to litigate decisions of a homeowners association’s architectural committees face a steep challenge in California courts, especially here in San Diego County, where many of the seminal appellate decisions governing a homeowners association’s right to control community aesthetics have arisen,” Combs continued. “Here, the architectural committee acted to protect the views of plaintiffs’ neighbors — some of the most spectacular and beautiful views in San Diego (or anywhere in the world, for that matter). The [homeowners] association is confident that the court will apply well-established law and find that the architectural committee and the association, in denying plaintiffs’ architectural plans, acted well within its discretion to protect its members’ views and preserve the character of Colony Hill.” ◆