Commission weighs in on another stringline case

Faced again with the issue of how far to permit a beachfront property to extend towards the ocean, the Planning Commission Monday granted a variance to a property owner on Malibu Road permitting his proposed home to project farther seaward than the zoning code’s development standards allow.

The property owner, Marshall McDaniel, requested three variances for his planned home, including a modification of the so-called stringline rule, which regulates how far seaward a beachfront home may project.

The stringline rule requires that proposed homes extend only as far as adjacent properties, thereby preventing a property owner from encroaching on the ocean views of neighbors. To determine the stringline for a proposed development, the planning staff draws an imaginary line from the nearest adjacent corners of neighboring properties.

In the case heard Monday, the nearest adjacent corner of the home directly east of the McDaniel property is not the most seaward corner of the home. In fact, it cuts back significantly away from the oceanfront to a staircase on the side of the home.

McDaniel sought a variance to protect his future views, and with very little discussion, the commission granted his request, finding that he would otherwise suffer a hardship.

“Being a rebel, I vote against the law,” said Commissioner Ken Kearsley. “I know what the law is . . . and this commission has consistently voted for rationality, not stupidity, and to allow the stringline to be the line closest to the ocean.”

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Last month, the City Council reversed an earlier commission ruling involving a deck stringline. In that case, the commission found that a hardship would occur if a deck stringline was drawn from only the nearest adjacent deck corner, rather than the seaward corner, because the deck cut away from the ocean front.

The City Council, reversing the commission, ruled that a hardship does not occur if a deck does not extend out as far seaward as neighboring decks.

Monday’s decision was the second time the commission has challenged the council on its approach to the stringline rule, and additional cases will soon come before the commission.

Councilman Tom Hasse said last month that if the commission wants to change the stringline rule, it should propose an amendment to the zoning code. On Monday, Chair Jo Ruggles repeated her interest in seeing a change.

In other matters, the commission also began considering changes to the section of zoning code governing the issuance of temporary use permits. In response to complaints about large, catered events in residential neighborhoods, the City Council requested the commission to draft an amendment to the code. Ramirez Canyon residents have for some time sought relief from the numerous events at the Streisand Center for Conservancy Studies, but other residents have also complained about their neighbors renting their homes out for special events.

Ewing asked the commissioners to name the number of guests that would turn a private gathering into an event that would require a temporary use permit.

But mindful of the lavish parties regularly thrown by those in the entertainment industry, the commission resisted naming a figure. Ruggles also said that with her five children and 11 grandchildren, she did not want to set a figure so low she herself would need a temporary use permit to have her family over.

Kearsley suggested that 100 people should serve as the minimum, and Ruggles and Commissioner Charleen Kabrin agreed.

“Otherwise, this ordinance will offend everyone in Malibu,” Ruggles said. Vice Chair Andrew Stern did not attend Monday’s meeting. Commissioner Ed Lipnick, who is still recovering from major surgery, was also absent.

The planning staff also plans to propose limiting residents to only a few temporary use permits a year and to require that amplified music end early in the evening.

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