Appeal denied for proposed Morro home on Cerrito Peak

In what Mayor Bill Yates described as a no-win situation, the Morro Bay City Council on Tuesday denied appeals of a controversial proposal to build a house on Cerrito Peak, a rocky hilltop in the southern part of the city.

The council voted 4-1 to allow developer Dan Riddell to move ahead with plans to build a two-story home and “granny unit” on the 1-acre parcel that is currently a popular open-space feature. Councilman Noah Smukler was the dissenting vote.

While the council would prefer to see the peak, also known as Eagle Hill, remain undeveloped, it boiled down to respecting property rights, Yates said. The city risks a lawsuit no matter how the council voted, he said.

“It is private property, zoned R1,” Yates said, referring to the residential zoning. “He has a right to develop his property.”

Plans to develop the eucalyptus-covered promontory drew four separate appeals. These cited the fact that the hill is sacred to the Chumash Indians and is one of the city’s unique geologic features. Its many eucalyptus trees are also wildlife habitat.

In a four-page letter to the city, the state Coastal Commission urged that a decision be delayed until these and other concerns can be addressed. Because the property is inland of Main Street, it is outside the commission’s zone of appeal.