By Roger Bloom | NB Indy
The Frog House – a landmark surf shop threatened with closure by the city of Newport Beach – is apparently saved.
Frog House owner T.K. Brimer and Newport Councilman Steve Rosansky, whose district includes the surf shop, both said today that Brimer can request a zoning change from the city that likely would be granted and allow the shop to operate indefinitely.
“I am confident that when it comes before the Planning Commission and Council that it will be approved,” Rosansky said of the proposed change.
His comments were echoed by City Manager David Kiff, as well as other city officials who spoke off the record.
Brimer was cautiously optimistic Friday, and said he deeply appreciates the support he has received from his friends and customers.
The Froghouse found itself in hot water when the City Council passed an ordinance designed to eliminate so-called “non-conforming uses” within the city – that is, types of buildings or developments that are technically not allowed under their zoning designation, but have been allowed to continue because they were in place before the zoning took effect.
In the Frog House’s case, it is a commercial operation on a piece of land that was re-zoned in the 1970s to allow only residential use. Since the shop was in operation before that zone change, it was allowed to continue operating – until this year.
As the deadline for eliminating non-conforming uses approached, the city notified Brimer that he would have to close, sparking an outpouring of support in the form of e-mails, letters and websites.
“I couldn’t believe the e-mails,” said Brimer, recalling the weekend the news hit the media. “I was tearing up just reading them all. People I hadn’t seen for 20 years, from all over the country.”
They were e-mailing and writing city officials, also.
“I have gotten more e-mails on the Frog House than on any other issue,” said Rosansky, a two-term councilman and former mayor. “And it’s amazing how many of the emails had personal stories – about how he helped someone get a job, or gave a discount when they were short, or helped their kid.”
Rosansky said he met with Brimer and with the city staff. Two other property owners on Brimer’s block of Coast Highway are also affected by the non-conforming use crackdown, he said, and “I think the path to success here is for all three to make one application (for a zone change). That saves them money, and it saves the staff having to process three separate changes.”
The Frog House and the other two businesses are set along a busy section of Pacific Coast Highway in West Newport.
“It’s a commercial area,” Rosansky said. “It’s a high-volume street. It’s not like it’s in the middle of a residential area. Residential may not even make sense at that location.”
Rosansky said he did not know the reason for the change of zoning in the ’70s.
City Manager David Kiff said a zoning change would have to go through a public hearing and vote at both the Planning Commission and the City Council. He noted that he could not speak for those bodies, but said, “It seems reasonable to me that the city would look at it as a commercial area.”
Brimer said he has obtained a form from the city to request a zone change but does not know when he will have it completed and formally submitted.
Officials said the entire process could take a year or longer, but that the procedure to close the shop would be frozen while a zone change is pending.