Coastal Commission OKs Romney mansion expansion in La Jolla

Neighbor wanted to stop demolition of home

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The state Coastal Commission Friday cleared the way for Mitt Romney to demolish his 3,100-square-foot oceanfront home in La Jolla to build an 11,000-square-foot mansion, despite a former neighbor's attempt to stop it.

10News learned the Romneys may have been spending time with their new grandchild on Friday morning.

The San Diego Planning Commission's approval in June of the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate's planned redevelopment to the Dunemere Drive home was appealed to the state Coastal Commission by architect Anthony Ciani, who built a home that sits kitty-corner to Romney's property.

Because Romney's property fronts the ocean, the Coastal Commission had the ultimate say on what can and cannot be built there. The commission voted 7-4 to deny the appeal of the permit for the construction of the two-story house over a basement, with a pool, spa, retaining walls and seawall on a lot that is less than a half-acre.

Commissioner Greg Cox, who's also a San Diego County supervisor, said the project would be below the permissible height and a substantial majority of the 11,000 square feet would be in the subterranean garage, making it "very compatible with the development that's in that neighborhood."

"It's not going to be intrusive or blocking the views that people have right now," he said. “These people have played by the rules."

According to Coastal Commission documents, Ciani contended that public beach use was not protected; that the bulk and scale of the development would be out of character with the surrounding community; and that the home would be threatened by geologic risks, would block public access and would impact water quality.

Ciani also alleged that Romney and his wife, Ann, wrongly claimed to own the beach in front of their home, thus inflating their lot size from 12,000 to 18,000 square feet in order to build a home that is about 1,000 square feet larger than the city would normally allow, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"If developers and wealthy property owners can hire a surveyor that shows they own the public beach and get a permit to capitalize on that land to build a bigger house than you normally would, it's going to become, `Oh, Mitt
Romney did it,"' Ciani told the newspaper. "It becomes a precedent. It's not just La Jolla. It's all of California's beaches that have private property next to them."

Ciani, who sold his home last year and moved to the Carmel area, also alleged that the Romneys have taken over a public sidewalk that runs along their home, unjustly preventing beach access to the public.

The Romneys have not commented on the allegations but their attorney, Matthew Peterson, dismissed them.

“We’re not sure what his motivations are," Peterson said.

Commission staff found that the home was in scale and character with the surrounding community, met the city's requirement for calculation of floor area ratio, would be safe from waves and would not impact water quality or
public access.

After doing the research, checking codes and reviewing maps, staff members said the Romneys do in fact own the beach in front of their property, as do a handful of other homeowners along that stretch of the coast.

Peterson said the Romneys are excited about the decision.

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