A controversial Corona del Mar lot merger last year has resulted in efforts to change the city’s Zoning Code by adding size restrictions to homes built on merged lots.
The Newport Beach Planning Commission will consider those restrictions at a Thursday meeting, and the City Council will hold another public hearing before the changes would go into effect.
According to a city official, “The PC recommended approval with changes. The amendment would apply to lot reconfigurations resulting in an increase in lot area, not lot width, of more than 50 percent.”
The changes would create new standards for homes built on merged lots to reduce the “buildable area” of the lot, according to city documents.
Currently, most of the city’s residential zoning districts have a maximum floor area limit that is based on a lot’s buildable area, and setbacks are required at the sides, front and rear of homes.
“When abutting residential lots are merged, setback areas are eliminated resulting in a larger buildable area and potentially larger homes,” according to a city staff report from an August City Council meeting. “These issues may create impacts to surrounding properties and community. ”
Lot mergers became a debated subject in Corona del Mar in 2011 and 2012, when several city hearings were held regarding the merger of two Ocean Boulevard lots. The Planning Commission approved the lot merger in a 3-2 vote last March, and after that decision was appealed, the City Council voted 6-1 in June to approve the merger.
Neighbors had complained that the lot merger would pave the way for a home to be built that would destroy views of two homes that were part of a five-home private agreement created in 1951. The lots are located at 2808 and 2812 Ocean Blvd.
City officials worked with neighbors and the properties’ owners on a compromise that included approval of the lot merger. But Planning Commission Chairman Michael Toerge, and later then-Mayor Nancy Gardner, agreed that the city’s zoning code should be amended to protect neighborhoods from what some call oversized “McMansion” homes on merged lots.
Toerge pointed out that two homes on two lots would each have side setbacks that currently can be eliminated if lots are merged and one home is built. He asked last year that the city codes be changed so the merged lots’ home would somehow incorporate the setback space onto the property, and that the scale of a home not be allowed to be larger than the size of two separate homes would be.
A city report in August said that a merger of two lots with typical dimensions could result in a 8.33 percentage increase in buildable area, and a merger of three lots could result in an increase of 13.89 percent.
According to a staff report for the Thursday Planning Commission meeting, staff has explored “various approaches to implementing the Council’s direction that future mergers result in no net decrease in the setback areas and buildable areas.”
“Increasing the side setbacks to keep the buildable area (and floor area) the same was considered; however, side setbacks of six (6) feet or more would be required in many cases, which would present new neighborhood compatibility issues,” the staff report states. “In the end, the best approach would be to simply restrict the maximum allowable floor area to that which existed prior to the lot merger. It was also decided to limit to restriction to lot reconfigurations that increase in the lot width by more than 50 percent in order to avoid apply this restriction to lot reconfigurations that do not result in excessively large lots.”
The changes would affect certain lots in Corona del Mar as well as on Balboa Island, Balboa Peninsula, Lido Isle and West Newport.
The Planning Commission meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at the old City Hall at 3300 Newport Blvd. The public may attend and make comments.