UPDATED to add reaction from the owner.
The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved the AERIE condominium project after a 90-minute hearing this afternoon.
“I am proud that the truth prevailed and that the commission recognized on a unanimous basis that AERIE is the best plan for that very special site,” said owner and developer Richard Julian in an email. “We will be diligent and honor the wishes of the neighborhood.”
The audience broke into applause after the vote. The project, which will replace a 14-unit apartment complex with seven luxury units at Ocean Boulevard and Carnation Avenue, had been on the Coastal Commission’s agenda twice before.
“No project is perfect, but this one has come a long way,” said Brian Brennan, a commissioner from San Francisco.
“I think they’ve done a pretty good job,” said Commissioner James Wickett, also of San Francisco.
A few commissioners said they were concerned about the project’s size — 51,124 square feet– and excavation of 9,810 cubic yards of coastal bluff. But in the end, they said they respected the staff’s recomendation of approval.
The Commission rejected AERIE in April 2010, and the project was reduced in size by one unit since then, with a 17 percent reduction in square feet and a 61 percent reduction in bluff excavation. Construction time was cut from 32 to 25 months.
Several neighbors attended the hearing in support of the project.
“It’s time for a breath of fresh AERIE-y,” said Fred Forster of Corona del Mar. “It is flat-out beautiful.”
Several supporters said the project would improve the view from the water.
“It’s one of the first things you see as you enter the Harbor, and it is atrocious,” said Wendy Webb.
Owner Julian said 65 people wrote letters of support, including the two Newport Beach City Council members who had voted against the project in July 2009.
Two neighbors told the Commission that they were against the project because of its size. Lisa Vallejo said the project would be like dropping the Hearst Castle on the lot, but staff later could not confirm that comparison.
After the Commission denied approval in 2010, AERIE was again discussed in March but was withdrawn before a vote.
The commissioners asked that the condo’s CC&R’s reflect that no dock has been approved and would need separate consideration and Coastal Commission approval.
Read our earlier stories here, here, here, here, here and here.