The Cambrian

Couple planning Cayucos beach house agrees to work on revisions

A beach house is proposed to be built on a small swatch of land on the beach in Cayucos, shown here adjacent to the existing homes.
A beach house is proposed to be built on a small swatch of land on the beach in Cayucos, shown here adjacent to the existing homes. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

The owners of a slice of land abutting the beach in Cayucos agreed this week to continue working on long-held plans to build a single-family home there.

San Luis Obispo County supervisors on Tuesday considered an appeal filed by a neighbor objecting to the Planning Commission’s approval of a 2,374-square-foot home on the west side of Studio Drive at Highway 1.

Owners Jack and Joanne Loperena, who bought the lot four decades ago, proposed the home in 2006 and have been struggling since then to get it through the lengthy coastal planning and permitting process.

County planning commissioners asked the couple in January to redesign the house to address neighbors’ concerns that the home’s balcony would overhang the beach. The commission then approved the project in April, citing county staff’s determination that the home would be safe from sea level rise and coastal hazards for the next 100 years.

Debate Tuesday centered on one of the key issues in the appeal — whether the site is a coastal bluff, which would require the home to be set back from the edge of the bluff.

County planning staff maintains that the lot sits on an inland bluff that was formed by a historic mouth of Old Creek and is not subject to setbacks. The current mouth of Old Creek is south of the site.

County supervisors differed in whether they agreed but concurred that if the appeal was denied, the project would almost certainly be appealed to the California Coastal Commission, which would likely find the site to be a coastal bluff and deny the project.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson, whose district includes Cayucos, suggested the Loperenas continue to work with county planning staff on further revisions to the project, including a determination of necessary bluff setbacks.

“The path through the Coastal Commission process could take years,” Gibson said.

Added Supervisor Frank Mecham: “It pains me to say this, but I actually agree with you. If there is any way we could work with you to allow something to be built, I would rather see you head in that direction rather than sending you to Coastal — that’s like sending you to the slaughterhouse.”

Though Bruce Elster, an engineer and representative for the family, eventually agreed, he also expressed concern that “we have zero assurance that we’ll obtain any satisfaction from the next-door neighbor.”

The appeal was filed by Kevin Elder on behalf of Ethel Pludow and Cynthia Sugimoto. Several local residents and the president of the local Sierra Club chapter also spoke in support of the appeal.

“This property is the most northern house (on Studio Drive); it is highly visible,” said Carol Baptiste, a member of the Cayucos Citizens Advisory Council, speaking as a private citizen. “The project does not meet the coastal bluff setback requirements.”

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