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Skinny Plot Incompatible With Pacifica San Juan, Planning Commission Says

The Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend to the City Council that it deny a rezone on land just outside of Pacifica San Juan.

San Juan Capistrano planning commissioners said Tuesday that one man’s plans to build a home on a skinny plot of land on an ocean bluff off of Camino Las Ramblas should not be realized.

It wasn’t the swelling concerns about the home blocking beautiful vistas or its potential to create traffic and safety hazards that convinced the Planning Commission on Tuesday night to forward a recommendation of denial to the City Council. Rather, commissioners said, there was not sufficient evidence to determine whether the land is even buildable.

is requesting that the to be compatible with a nearby planned community. Although it's currently zoned to allow for a single-family home, there are no development standards in place on the remnant plot just outside of the gated community of Pacifica San Juan.

To approve the rezone and the incorporation of Darmal's land into Pacifica San Juan, the Planning Commission needed to not only determine that the site is suitable to build on, but also that it's compatible with the type of development permitted in the nearby neighborhoods.

Commissioner Robert Williams was among a few commissioners who said they were conflicted about how to proceed, primarily because they wanted to grant Darmal the right to build on his own property.

"I’m struggling with this because it’s a legal site, but I don’t think I can support a zone change," said Williams. "The site is not big enough; it’s too narrow to have the benefits of the planned community."

City staffers had proposed a new zoning classification for the parcel, "hillside estates," which would have allowed the house to be built with setbacks not permitted in Pacifica San Juan.

Williams also agreed with Pacifica San Juan residents who said it wouldn't be fair to allow Darmal's land to be incorporated into their community if he wasn't subjected to paying the homeowner association fees or Mello-Roos taxes.

According to Pacifica San Juan resident Marie Walker Riddle—one of more than 15 who showed up Tuesday to oppose the project—about 200 people have signed a petition opposing the proposed Darmal residence. The petition, which is being circulated on Facebook, drew a number of comments from residents and from people as far away as Beverly Hills, she said.

She read one of the Facebook comments to the council: "This residence is requesting to piggyback off of the Pacific San Juan [Comprehensive Development Plan], but not have to pay for the HOA and the bond ... How can this be fair ?"

Primarily, though, residents said they were concerned about safety. If the rezone is approved by the City Council—that vote could come as early as May—a two-story, 25-foot-tall house will be built on a .60-acre plot off of Avenida California. The street is the only access into Pacifica San Juan and does not have homes built on it.

There are no other driveways, the speed limit is 15 mph and parking is not permitted on either side of the street, residents said.

"Pay attention to the street and traffic issues," resident John Riddle told the commission. "This is a dangerous train wreck waiting to happen. We do not want Avenida California to be named 'Deadman’s Curve.' "

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