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Corona del Mar Today: AERIE project back on Coastal Commission agenda

February 19, 2011
  • The famous Corona del Mar dolphin topiaries.
The famous Corona del Mar dolphin topiaries. (HAND IN )

The AERIE project — denied Coastal Commission approval last spring — has been revised and reduced and will go back before the agency in March.

The Coastal Commission's agenda lists the project on the March 9 agenda for a meeting in Santa Cruz. No staff report has been posted.

In a recent interview, owner Rick Julian said he has downscaled the project and believes he has done everything the Coastal Commissioners requested.

"I'm so tired of this," Julian said. "I wanted to either get rid of the property or do something."

Julian spent years working on plans to replace an apartment building on Carnation Avenue at Ocean Boulevard, and finally in July 2009, the Newport Beach City Council voted 4 to 2 to approve it. In April 2010, a Coastal Commission staff report recommended the Commission approve the project.

During that Coastal Commission hearing, however, several commissioners expressed concerns over the excavation of coastal bluff.

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"I do feel this would set an unnecessary and dangerous precedent," said Commissioner Esther Sanchez. And Commissioner Sara Wan said Julian's plans "essentially take out the whole inside of the bluff."

In the end, the commissioners voted 7 to 5 to deny the application.

The decision, Julian said, was a blow.

"I'm dead, I'm beaten, I'm bloody," he remembered thinking at the time.

But after talking to friends and family members, Julian decided to take the Coastal Commission's objections to heart. He and architect Brion Jeannette reduced the project from eight units to seven and removed a garage elevator from the plans.

The new project has four levels on one side and three from another, with two levels of garage space squeezed so they go just slightly underground. One unit less meant fewer guest parking spaces, and ceiling heights in the parking area were lowered to eight feet, Julian said.

The city of Newport Beach approved the new plans. Because the city had approved the old plans, and the new plans were smaller, no hearings were held, city officials said.

Earlier this winter, the Coastal Commission voted 7 to 3 against another Corona del Mar project that involved excavation of coastal bluff.

That project would have replaced a home at 3225 Ocean Boulevard with a 4,700 square foot new home that required an approximate 46-foot wide by 37-foot deep by 19-foot high notch excavation into the bluff face. A garage below would have been accessed by a tunnel. Jeannette is architect for this project and the AERIE project.

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