The Coast News Group

Judge rules against citizens group in duplex suit

ENCINITAS — A Superior Court judge has ruled against a residents group that challenged the city’s approval of a second-story addition to a duplex on Rosebay Drive in 2016.

The group, which called itself Friends to Preserve Encinitas Beauty, sued
Encinitas residents Gina Merchant and Derek Bradley in March 2016, challenging the addition of a 649-square-foot second story to their 863-square-foot duplex.

The group claimed the home remodel would block public and private views, would violate the city’s parking requirements, that it didn’t follow the city’s Design Review Guidelines and that it should have been subject to extensive review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The group also claimed approval would prompt others to build additions which would block the view of neighbors above.

Superior Court Judge Earl Maas on May 10 ruled against the group on all counts.
Merchant expressed relief in the ruling.

“My husband and I are so relieved to have put this to rest as the weight of the lawsuit has been bearing down on us for 12 long months,” Merchant said. “We were shocked and disheartened that these people took it this far given that we worked carefully with the city of Encinitas to design a second story that would be considerate of our neighbors and community, and their arguments were completely baseless.

“They were just determined to try to bully us with their money. We hope our success will discourage similar NIMBY attacks elsewhere in our community, and empower people to fight for their right to improve their homes,” Merchant said.

Everett Delano, the group’s attorney, said the group hadn’t decided if they would appeal the ruling.

Delano acknowledged that winning the lawsuit was not going to be easy, given they would have to prove the “slippery slope” the approval would create.

“I think it was important to set a precedent that we simply can’t sit back and allow this to happen,” Delano said. “It’s not about Derek and Gina, it’s the concern that if you keep building up, everyone else will build up.”

Marco Gonzalez, who represented Merchant and Bradley, called the suit “frivolous.”
“Suits like these only serve to fuel the perception that our environmental laws are ineffective and frequently abused,” Gonzalez said. “I really wish some attorneys would consider the negative consequences to the environmental movement when they bring these types of clearly bogus suits.”