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Commission Gives Seaview Addition Go ahead

By Joshua Wachtel

Dec. 4 -- A neighborhood spat ended Wednesday night when the Planning Commission gave the go ahead to build an addition to a house on a beach walk street.

After three hours of debate and testimony, the four commissioners present voted unanimously to deny an appeal of an Architectural Review Board approval of the project at 18 Seaview Terrace.

The appellants -- nearby property owner Joyce Syme and one of her tenants, John Oursland -- argued that the addition would obstruct ocean views and spoil the character of the quaint neighborhood by the sea.

They also questioned staff's calculation of the "natural grade" used to determine the new structure's height. "You're destroying the atmosphere of this land-use oceanfront district," Oursland said.

Syme -- along with an employee of her Seaview Motel and several tenants of an apartment she owns on the street -- testified that the addition would block views, impacting business.

But Commissioner Darrell Clarke questioned whether Syme wasn't using a double standard.

"I am concerned that one of the appellants is complaining about two stories over a garage when she owns two buildings that have two stories over a garage," Clarke said. "I find that a little disturbing that it's okay for her and it's not okay for them."

Greg Cole and Sally Frautschy, whose proposed addition to their English Tudor home fired the ire of some neighbors, detailed the many modifications they made to preserve ocean views. They include cutting down a tree, removing a bougainvillea, lowering the maximum height allowed and adding a glass-railed walkway.

"We're the preservationists," Cole said. "The rest is a charade."

Some of those who testified found the project acceptable. "I think it looks good from all angles," said Jerry Rubin. "It's crazy to ask them to scale it down any more."

But some of Cole and Frautschy's neighbors weren't buying the argument. The owners became angry when they were presented with proposed alterations to make the design more compatible, they said.

"Sally tells us to 'F' ourselves every time we see her," said neighbor Jerry Bass. "She ignores us, and that is not being a good neighbor."

Bass' wife, Stephanie Barbanell, argued with staff's interpretation of the code.

"I am very unimpressed by the way in which the laws have been interpreted," Barbanell said.

In the end, commissioners noted that much of the opposition centered on issues beyond their authority, which was limited to architectural features when hearing an ARB appeal.

"This has been a difficult hearing because so many of the issues you brought up are not within our jurisdiction," said Clarke, who noted he had never received so much correspondence on any other issue.

Hoping the spat would come to an end, Frautschy' last words to the commission before their vote were: "We just want tranquility.
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