Head Wins Over Heart on View Ordinance Appeal

Story poles for proposed single-family home on Sea Level Drive, Malibu. Photo provided by resident Carol Bird to City Council for her appeal on Monday, June 8.

Malibu City Council Monday night denied an appeal for a homeowner seeking to halt construction on her neighbor’s new house — a home which conforms to all City codes and requirements, which has a proper height and setback, was properly noticed and is zoned for the type of development that will be built upon it. 

However, City Council members described the building as “difficult,” “sad” and “horrendous.” That’s because the new structure also wipes out 100 percent of its neighbor’s ocean views — views which have been enjoyed by the homeowner for nearly 20 years.

Carol Bird, a local real estate broker, has lived in her house on Sea Level Lane in the Broad Beach neighborhood of Malibu since 1996, when she purchased it following a fire which wiped out the houses located on the beach side of her property. Since then, Bird has become accustomed to broad ocean views and the value such views place on her property. That is, until the residentially zoned parcel across from hers was purchased and plans began to build on the land.

“I always understood that someday, someone would build on that lot, and I knew I would have some view obstruction, but nowhere in my wildest nightmares did I dream … [it would] wipe out all of my views,” Bird told Council on Monday.

The new neighbor, Tom Keane, did not attend Monday’s meeting, but his legal counsel Alison Hurley spoke on his behalf, telling Council that in addition to being a totally legal use of the land, the homeowner had, in fact, requested Bird provide plans for alternative options, which went unanswered.

“[Keane] asked multiple times… that [Bird] share with us some information on what it was that was envisioned in terms of alternate plans,” Hurley told Council. “We didn’t receive anything.”

At the meeting, Bird’s attorney Frank Angel presented plans for a home that would allow a narrow view corridor from Bird’s property, decreasing the total square footage of the proposed home from just over 1,900 square feet to just over 1,500 square feet.

Hurley stated that neither she nor anyone else involved on Keane’s side had seen those drawings before.

“There is no basis upon which to grant the appeal. There is no legal basis,” Hurley said.

Begrudgingly, Council agreed, echoing the decision made earlier this year by the Planning Commission.

“While I’m sympathetic to Ms. Bird … we do not have architectural review in this City, for a good reason,” Mayor John Sibert said. Sibert attended the meeting via Skype call from Mexico. “I hesitate to tell the person who bought this lot … that he’s got to go back, spend a lot more money and reduce the size of his house and change it and then deal with potentially other neighbors.”

Council unanimously agreed.

“I’m very, very sad, but I’m going to side with John on this,” said Councilmember Joan House. “The guarantee that we give to architects, the guarantee we give to people who buy property in the City, I just can’t take that away. Though I agree that it’s horrendous.”

Rosenthal summed up the feelings of Council.

“I, too, am going to support denying the appeal, but it’s not, again, that I don’t understand or feel for you,” Rosenthal said. “I absolutely do.”