Letter to the Editor: Superficial Need for Height Variances

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On May 23, 2019, the City of Newport Beach received almost 100 signed petitions against a height variance in Newport Heights / Cliff Haven.

Despite the chorus of disapproval from the surrounding residents, the Planning Commission passed the variance with four “yes” votes and two Commissioners abstaining. Jean Watt of SPON is appealing this variance on the basis that it does meet the findings as a “hardship variance”.

According to California State Law and the Newport Beach Municipal Code: “The Staff report demonstrates the absence of substantial hardship on the part of the property owners and instead shows their desire to maximize the scale and value of their proposed project. Thus, granting the above variance would constitute a grant of special privileges in violation of State Law and the Newport Beach Municipal Code.”

The height exception was passed for a rooftop on a deck and a pitched ceiling for a teen-room. These should be considered luxury amenities, not a “hardship”; the surrounding residents will inherit the real “hardship”.

Since this property was granted a height variance, Deputy Community Development Director, Jim Campbell, stated that the house next-door would probably continue to require a variance, if one was ever requested. A height variance is a request to go higher than 29 feet and this variance will set an unnecessary precedent in the community.

The result, 100 discontented residents and one content family. As Commissioner Kleiman wondered whether the request for the variances were worth the unfavorable feelings that would result from the neighbors.

After the meeting, a few members of the community met with the applicant and it was stated that they would forgo the variance, if the community paid for their consultant and the Planning Commission fees. Absorbing these costs proves that there is a price for everything and that this appeal demonstrates how superficial the need for these variances are and why they should be repealed.

Peggy V. Palmer
Newport Beach Resident

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