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Tiny house project creates waves in Morro Bay

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Aesthetic and public access concerns have plagued a triangular plot of land nestled in a crevice between Sandpiper Court and Main Street in recent months.

In May, the Morro Bay Planning Commission denied Sandy Bean's application to build a 496-square-foot, two-story tiny home on that lot, which included requests for a conditional use permit, coastal development permit, and several variances.

TINY HOMES, BIG PROBLEMS A rendering of Sandra Bean's 496-square-foot, two-story tiny home was included in diagrams at the Aug. 23rd Morro Bay City Council meeting. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MORRO BAY CITY COUNCIL
  • Photo Courtesy Of Morro Bay City Council
  • TINY HOMES, BIG PROBLEMS A rendering of Sandra Bean's 496-square-foot, two-story tiny home was included in diagrams at the Aug. 23rd Morro Bay City Council meeting.

"Three planning commissioners were concerned with the exterior look of the home, compatibility with the neighborhood, potential detrimental effects on the bluff, and the belief that this site should've never been a building site," a staff report stated.

Bean appealed the decision, citing misinformation about the project during the Planning Commission's May 17 meeting. The appeal also stated that the project was reviewed under "different standards and conditions than would be required of other recently approved homes also on the coastal bluff."

At the Morro Bay City Council's Aug. 23 meeting, council members and the community discussed the logistics of Bean's project, including variances requested by Bean, which would allow for better design and function of the tiny home and were similar to varancies granted to other residences facing similar challenges. These included allowing Bean to have an uncovered parking space, a 2-foot side yard setback, adjusted roofing heights, and a screening trellis.

Mayor John Headding said the variances weren't essential to allowing the existence of a home on the site.

"I believe the variances required were minor, and although they improved the design and function of the project, they were not unlike any other variances granted to other projects in the city, other than the parking variance," Headding said.

The council voted 4-1 to grant Bean the permits she had requested, reversing the Planning Commission's decision. While a majority of the council was in agreement, the public comment on the item was a mixed bag.

Planning Commission Chair Susan Stewart, who was the sole vote supporting Bean's tiny home project during that May commission meeting, urged the council to overturn the decision denying her project.

"As designed, this project is quirky, charming, functional, and fits in with the landscape with a small footprint that continues the tradition of small beach houses, which some of us would like to see returned to Morro Bay," Stewart said. "Ms. Bean has designed the house to suit her needs and has been working with staff for nearly four years."

Morro Bay resident Allen Hoshstetler, who owns a house next to Bean's property, opposed the idea, citing fire hazards to his property because of the house's proposed shingle siding and roof. He added that the proposed variances weren't minor, that the house would impact other homes in the area, and that building a house on a bluff above the bay is unsafe.

"What's going to happen in the next 20 years? The house is going to be in the bay," he told the council. "You already have the city easements and right of way, so that access there, if the house is built, will cut off that access to the public forever. We already have a problem with people walking down the beach and climbing up that bluff and going over the fence and that's only going to be made worse by this."

Bean disputed claims made by Hoshstetler, citing documents relevant to the property to support her project. She said that stories circulating about the property incorrectly assume that lot wasn't intended for a residence.

"I actually have a copy of the grant deed for this lot from the 1950s. I can tell you that there are no restrictions against construction, and if the lot had been sold for any other purpose, the seller would've placed restrictions," Bean said. "It has been hearsay that has been causing a lot of these discrepancies." Δ

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