This was another important and long meeting. Two issues dominated the evening. The first was an appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of a second story addition to a single-family residence on Bernardo Avenue. This addition was over the 2500 square feet which generates a hearing.
Two of the members of City Council (Grantham and Borchard) feel strongly that no compromise is required and that you should be able to build as wide and high as you desire. Fortunately, the three other members felt differently and the homeowner was required to scale back to 2500 square feet. Councilman Smuckler brought up the issue of the tandem garage but that issue was not addressed by the council as a whole even though the owner plans to use the back part as a workshop – not a garage.
The members of the public who spoke demonstrated the divide that is in our community. How much is too big and how much compromise does one have to make with one’s neighbors?
To me the controversy reminds me of when I was younger and smokers had all the rights. If you were made ill by smoke or just didn’t like the assault it made on you that was just too bad. Slowly over the last three decades the concept of smokers’ rights ending where someone else’s nose begins was introduced and became the standard.
So what rights do neighbors have when a large house is built on a small lot so it overshadows their property? How large is too large? Is it good for the environment to have structures and concrete take up the entire footprint of a lot? Where is the rain supposed to go when buildings leave no place for absorption?
Will we become a town with no trees since there is no room left on these overbuilt parcels?
I moved here from the east coast a decade ago and was astonished at how small the lots are in California. Back east a half-acre is, more or less, the minimum size lot. If your neighbor decided to build a larger home it really didn’t effect your quality of life. Here, with our smaller lots, you can lose your sunlight, your ocean breeze, your privacy and your views. These are all quality of life issues. I bought a small beach cottage with a larger two-story home on my right and another in back of my property. I had no idea how that would effect me until I realized I could not enjoy my morning meal on my patio in my bathrobe for I had windows from both homes looking directly onto my back yard. This might seem trivial to some but the lack of privacy does cause hard feelings among some neighbors. If one can’t plant flowers because of the shade that the new addition creates in one’s yard then your quality of life is lessen. No longer seeing the blue sky from your windows makes life a little less pleasant from your home.
People certainly have a right to do as they wish with their property. However, shouldn’t that right end when if effects their neighbors? Is compromise such a dirty word that it can’t be considered? The architect’s attitude toward the neighbor’s rights was quite obvious for he stated, sarcastically, that he would scale it back to 2500 square feet but would do so in such a way that it would not improve the size and bulk appearance from the street and would put a second story patio on the back so the owners could peer down into their neighbors’ yard. Somehow there has to be a better way than this.
Oversized homes and businesses are eroding the charm and ambience of Morro Bay. Certainly Morro Bay Blvd has lost part of its quaint appeal in the last couple of years. If you drive around any of our residential neighborhoods you can see box houses popping up. Change will happen to this town that we all love. Some of us just have different visions of the direction that change should take us. It would benefit us all to find a middle ground that we can live with.
The second major issue discussed was activation of the Morro Bay Redevelopment Agency. The Council was being urged to accept the plan so that it would be in effect for the fiscal year of 09-10. It would be financially advantageous to do so. However, members of the public felt that some issues, such as the right to eminent domain and how the promised money would be generated, were not clearly understood. Mayor Peters and Councilman Grantham were ready to proceed but the other three members wanted to wait and have more time to inform the public. It was agreed that this would be addressed at the August 11 th. meeting by a special public forum for questions from local residences from 5 PM to 6PM. Public notification of this special forum would be done by the staff. This program will cost the city $210,000 but over the life of the 45 years of the program it will generate millions of dollars and help provide affordable housing, eliminate blight, and stimulate economic development.
So that’s it from my couch for July. These two issues will shape the city’s future and we all need to talk and learn from each other so that Morro Bay will continue to be our little piece of Paradise. We each came with an expectation of what our life would be like here. I hope we don’t spoil this jewel in the name of selfishness and “prosperity”. As the saying goes, “sometimes less is more”.
Since the year 2000, Sandra & Curt Beebe have installed 36 Mutt Mitt dispensers in and around Morro Bay. The Mitts are funded by donations from individuals, organizations, and grants. Make the checks out to “The Bay Foundation” for a tax deduction. Be sure to note “Mutt Mitts” on the front of the check. The Bay Foundation is a 501(c)(3) and is administered by the National Estuary Program. For more information about this "Mutt Mitt" Program, contact Sandra at email SandraBeebe@slocoastjournal.com.