Seal Beach council sizing up Gold Coast lot

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Three Seal Beach City Council votes could determine preserving the character of Ocean Avenue.

The council on Monday, Dec. 10, will hold a public hearing on a request to divide a 75-foot wide lot at 400 Ocean Avenue into two smaller lots. The owner says he wants to prevent mansionization—which is defined as the construction of the largest allowable house on a lot, dwarfing neighboring houses.

Councilwoman Ellery Deaton, who represents District 1, will have to recuse herself from voting on the issue as she lives near the property. The decision will be up to the four remaining council members.

Senior Planner Jerry Olivera said the Planning Commission declined Harold Rothman’s request to divide the 400 Ocean Avenue lot in late 2011. The expected to be heard in late January or early February of 2012, but Olivera said that Rothman requested delays.

The issue is now scheduled to come before the City Council next week.

A majority vote would be required to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision.

Rothman has listed the 400 Ocean Avenue site for sale.

In a Nov. 29 letter distributed to his neighbors, Rothman said that potential owners of the 75-foot wide lot could build a house of 14,000 square feet.

“I truly believe that this would be a great detriment to the Seal Beach Community and especially the beautiful Gold Cost,” Rothman wrote.

Rothman would rather divide the existing lot into two smaller parcels: one 42 feet 6 inches wide and the other 32 feet 6 inches wide. “This would guarantee that the sale of the property would not result in the mansionization of the Gold Coast, would guarantee a smaller footprint from any new construction and would guarantee a greater amount of open space for public views,” Rothman wrote.

“It would also guarantee that the new homes were similar in size and stature to all the other homes on the Gold Coast,” Rothman wrote.

According to Rothman, only three homes facing Ocean Avenue are on lots 75 or more feet wide.

Ocean Avenue, also known as the “Gold Coast,” is unique in that it is the only place in Seal Beach where it is legal to build a three-story house.

Rothman told the Sun that he doesn’t know if he would benefit from splitting the lot.

“It has nothing to do with money,” Rothman said. “It’s what do the citizens want?”

He said dividing the property would make the lots more consistent with the surrounding neighborhood.

“Properties that are consistent are of more value,” Rothman said.

He said the people who live across the street from 400 Ocean Ave. will lose their view.

“Everybody else has the same thing,” Rothman said.

If he is allowed to divide the lot, Rothman said he might build a house on one lot and sell the other lot.

Alex Yoffe, a business manager for Rothman who helps with the property, said the Planning Commission rejected the application to divide the lot because the Municipal Code requires lots on the Gold Coast to be at least 50 feet wide. “The lot width is the question,” Yoffe said.

However, Yoffe said that the lot width code has never been applied to the Gold Coast.

According to a chart that Yoffe drew up for Rothman, there are 36 lots that are less than 50 feet wide on the Gold Coast. There are 45 lots in the area.

Yoffe said planners approved a lot split on an identical lot in 2008.

Mansionization an old issue

The mansionization issue is not a new one for Seal Beach. The question of whether Seal Beach should limit Old Town houses to two stories split the community for nearly two years, until an election in 2008 settled the matter.

Approximately 73 percent of Seal Beach voters approved Measure Z, which limited Old Town residences to two stories. Prior to that, an Old Town property owner of a large lot could build a three-story house.

The law applied only to Old Town. The rest of the city already operated under a two-story height limit.

However, in 2010, Senior Planner Olivera said that Measure Z did not apply to the Gold Coast. A three-story house may be built on the coast, so long as the third story is only visible from the beach side of the property.

In September 2010, the California Coastal Commission approved the construction of a three-story house on Ocean Avenue.

The property was owned by Wendi Rothman, who campaigned in favor of Measure Z.

Harold Rothman said he was unaware of the fact that Gold Coast property owners are allowed to build three story homes in Seal Beach.