Romneys get go-ahead for La Jolla mansion

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SAN DIEGO –Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney cleared a final hurdle Friday in building a new 11,000-square-foot mansion that will include a four-car garage with an elevator for the vehicles.

The state Coastal Commission rejected an attempt by a neighbor to prevent Romney from demolishing his current 3,100-square-foot oceanfront home in La Jolla to build the larger mansion.

The San Diego Planning Commission’s approval in June of the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate’s planned redevelopment to the Dunemere Drive home was appealed to the state Coastal Commission by architect Anthony Ciani, who built a home that sits kitty-corner to Romney’s property.

Because Romney’s property fronts the ocean, the Coastal Commission had the ultimate say on what can and cannot be built there. The commission voted 7- 4 to deny the appeal of the permit for the construction of the two-story house over a basement, with a pool, spa, retaining walls and seawall on a lot that is less than a half-acre.

Commissioner Greg Cox, who’s also a San Diego County supervisor, said the project would be below the permissible height and a substantial majority of the 11,000 square feet would be in the subterranean garage, making it “very compatible with the development that’s in that neighborhood.”

“It’s not going to be intrusive or blocking the views that people have right now,” he said.

According to Coastal Commission documents, Ciani contended that public beach use was not protected; that the bulk and scale of the development would be out of character with the surrounding community; and that the home would be threatened by geologic risks, would block public access and would impact water quality.

Ciani also alleged that Romney and his wife, Ann, wrongly claimed to own the beach in front of their home, thus inflating their lot size from 12,000 to 18,000 square feet in order to build a home that is about 1,000 square feet larger than the city would normally allow, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Barring a lawsuit, construction can now move forward, according to Coastal Commission spokeswoman Sarah Christie.

Romney, the multimillionaire former governor of Massachusetts, drew significant heat from his opponents during the 2012 election for his wealth. They charged that Romney’s estimated $250 million fortune put him out of touch with average Americans, and a car elevator crystallized that message for many.

“If developers and wealthy property owners can hire a surveyor that shows they own the public beach and get a permit to capitalize on that land to build a bigger house than you normally would, it’s going to become, `Oh, Mitt Romney did it,”’ Ciani told the newspaper. “It becomes a precedent. It’s not just La Jolla. It’s all of California’s beaches that have private property next to them.”

Ciani, who sold his home last year and moved to the Carmel area, also alleged that the Romneys have taken over a public sidewalk that runs along their home, unjustly preventing beach access to the public.

The Romneys have not commented on the allegations but their attorney, Matthew Peterson, dismissed them.

Commission staff found that the home was in scale and character with the surrounding community, met the city’s requirement for calculation of floor area ratio, would be safe from waves and would not impact water quality or public access.

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