City building heights stay at a tall 35 feet

OCEANSIDE — The uncertainty caused by a 1992 building zone ordinance that was not approved by the Coastal Commission brought the question of whether coastal homes should stand at 27 feet or 35 feet high back to the council on Dec. 8. The motion to change the 1986 zone ordinance failed in a 2-3 vote, with Councilmen Jerry Kern, Jack Feller and Gary Felien voting no. This keeps the maximum 35 feet building height in effect.
Citizens, who lined up at podiums to share their views for more than an hour, were split on the building height decision. Some wanted to reinstate the 1992 approved height limit of 27 feet. “I’ve seen the character change with huge homes,” Bill Biggs, an Oceanside resident, said. “I think we have to have some limits.”
Others preferred the taller building heights allowed in the 1986 ordinance. They said a 27-foot restriction would compromise designs and additions would be limited to adding below street level “caves” to beach homes.
The 1992 zone ordinance capped the height of oceanfront, Eastside Capistrano neighborhood and Saint Malo neighborhood residencies at 27 feet, which is average for coastal cities. A few years passed until the city was held to the rule that the zone ordinance change must be approved by the Coastal Commission for the city to enforce it. Since then the 1986 ordinance has been enforced.
“This is not about property rights,” Mayor Jim Wood said. “If this is something that goes before the Coastal Commission a lot of projects are going to be on hold for a long time.”
Many saw the 1986 ordinance as outdated. Not only in considering building heights, but in considering parking and setbacks. “I don’t think the height is that important to the quality of a project,” Councilman Jerry Kern said. “Setbacks and other things are.”
In the 1986 ordinance two enclosed parking spaces are all that is required without considering the size of the house, and reduced setbacks between neighboring houses and house and curbside have been criticized for producing a canyonizing effect.
City staff was directed to examine the zone ordinance. Changes may be considered in the future.

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