Despite Neighbor Objections, Coastal Commission Lets Romney Build McMansion on La Jolla Beach

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Mitt Romney (photo: Associated Press)

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney finally won one in California when the Coastal Commission rejected a former neighbor’s appeal of his zoning application to tear down his 3,100-square-foot home on the beach in La Jolla and build one nearly four times as large.

Romney got flack during the presidential campaign when details of what he planned for his $12 million tear-down contributed to a public image of mega-wealth indifference to the plight of his fellow man. The new three-story home will have a four-car garage with an elevator for the vehicles, a design feature that electrified the media for more than a few news cycles back in March 2012.

Not much more has been publicized about the home’s features—Politico got hold of the proposed blueprints, but elected not to publish them after security issues were raised—however the status of the Romney’s zoning request has been bird-dogged since architect Anthony Ciani, who lived across the street, raised objections to it.

Ciani argued that the Romneys incorrectly exaggerated the size of their lot by 50%, to 18,000 square feet, by improperly including too much of the beach (out to the median high-tide marker) in computing how much home could legally be built. He also claimed the Romneys had privatized a public-access walkway and had a seawall that wasn’t up to snuff.

The Romney plan passed muster with the San Diego Planning Commission earlier in the year, but still had to win approval from the Coastal Commission and, last Friday, it did on a 7-4 vote. One of the dissenting commissioners, Jana Zimmer, told the New York Times that the property size calculation was a “huge red flag, and an unacceptable premise” that left her “flummoxed.”     

Another commissioner, Dayna Bochco, took issue with the Romney claim that the home wasn’t as large or obtrusive as critics said because more than 4,000 square feet of the home would be a basement nestled out of sight. “If you’re standing on the beach . . . you are going to see French doors or sliding glass doors of a first floor that they call a ‘basement.’ We have to define what we really mean as a ‘basement’ on a hillside lot,” she said. Her argument did not carry the day.

Although the strip of beach where Romney purchased his house four years ago is an exclusive enclave with lavishly developed properties, his new home would be four times larger than the median house in the area. A tour of the neighborhood by the Times turned up a community that may have issues with the new neighbors that extend beyond having a McMansion on the block.

Romney, who campaigned against gay marriage, has at least six gay households within three blocks of his home. Three of their owners expressed reservations about their neighbor and one jokingly suggested hanging a gay pride banner from his home, which the Romneys would have to drive under to reach their house.   

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Coastal Commission Says the Romneys Can Build La Jolla Dream Home (by Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times)

Will the Romneys Ever Get to Build Their Beachfront Mansion? (by Arit John, The Atlantic)

The Candidate Next Door (by Michael Barbaro, New York Times)

Mitt Romney's 4-Car Fantasy Home (by Reid J. Epstein, Politico)

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