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A View for All 
February 2009 | by Mark Whitehead, Santa Fe


In a forceful affirmation of Del Mar’s protection of views that were adjudicated by the city’s Design Review Board (DRB), the city council has ruled that an oceanfront homeowner’s overgrown vegetation unreasonably blocks their neighbors’ ocean view. The conflict arose when vegetation at a property, now owned by Madeline Pickens, grew taller than specified on the DRB approved landscaping plan that was agreed upon by the original home builder and neighbors and that was detailed in “Conditions for Approval” when the building permit was issued. The neighbors, Charles and Lynn Gaylord, whose ocean and coastal views were impacted by the vegetation overgrowth had earlier won a unanimous Planning Commission decision that their neighbor’s vegetation, in light of the original DRB conditions, does constitute unreasonable view blockage and should be cut. The Pickens appealed that decision to the City Council which, in November, unanimously supported the Commission’s ruling.

Council members were supportive of the DRB and the City’s “Trees and Views Process.” And they were explicit in their conclusions. Carl Hilliard stated that “DRB restrictions on vegetation should be preserved and are enforceable by the city.” Crystal Crawford, who originally helped draft the Trees and Views Ordinance, viewed it as a success for the community, and that the remedy, simply lowering the height of the vegetation in this case, is reasonable for the Pickens. Henry Abarbanel stated that the “DRB process and conditions for approval are a covenant with the community.” Dave Druker agreed that, in light of the clear record, the view blockage is unreasonable and should be remedied. The city rejected the Pickens’ attorney’s argument that the DRB’s conditions regarding vegetation are unenforceable since no formal covenant was placed on the title of the property when the building permit was issued. Council members disagreed, stating the city can find property owners in violation of conditions of approval without a covenant.


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