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Commentary: View ordinance draft a big disappointment

March 13, 2014|By Steve Caporaso and Marianne Blume

More than a year ago, then-Mayor Kelly Boyd "raised a passionate plea to improve the city's view preservation ordinance, which he said, 'now has no teeth in it whatsoever and often pits neighbor against neighbor,'" according to a story in the Laguna Beach Independent.

After one year of view equity committee meetings, and numerous drafts of a new ordinance, the city has published the final draft, which will be voted on March 25 at a special council meeting.

Citizens for View Preservation and Restoration is a grass-roots group formed to support this long-overdue initiative. More than 200 homeowners have pledged their support for a strong, enforceable view ordinance that will provide a permanent solution to long-standing view impairment problems.

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Sadly, the final draft falls far short of what was promised or expected. If approved, this ordinance will be a step backward.

The final draft is missing the teeth we were promised. For example:

1.) If your view was blocked when you purchased your home, you will have no standing or hope for a remedy. (Many homes lost their views decades ago because the city allowed prior view regulations to lapse.)

2.) If you have views from a secondary residence, those views are not eligible for protection. (Guest houses are part of the culture and history of Laguna and deserve equal treatment.)

3.) If you are granted a view permit and your neighbor appeals the decision, you must agree to repay the city the costs of defending the law. This indemnification is unprecedented for a code enforcement action.

4.) If you are eligible now to use the popular and cost-effective hedge height ordinance, and the offending hedge includes trees, you will no longer qualify for this simple process. We must not weaken this section of the code.

5.) If the city grants you a view permit, which requires the offending neighbor to trim, maintain or remove and replace his vegetation to preserve your view, your neighbor can withhold his consent and effectively void your permit.

6.) If you choose to apply for a view application, you will bear 100% of the mediation, application and litigation costs, and the initial trimming or removal costs and the party who has neglected to maintain the vegetation (often for decades) pays nothing. This gives little incentive to the vegetation owner to cure the public nuisance he has created and neglected.

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