Larry Nokes is chairman of the View Equity Committee, which will receive public input in December on its revised view ordinance. (Don Leach, Coastline Pilot / November 5, 2013)

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A committee charged with tweaking an existing ordinance related to residents' views has finished its draft and is awaiting public comment.

The View Equity Committee's proposed view ordinance provides guidelines on a date a resident can use when determining if he or she is entitled to a certain view, according to the proposed ordinance, available on the city's website at lagunabeachcity.net.

The committee, which includes Sue Kempf, Mayor Kelly Boyd, landscape architect Bob Borthwick and Planning Commissioner Ken Sadler, gathered input from seven previous public hearings and met with City Manager John Pietig, City Attorney Phil Kohn and Community Development Director John Montgomery, in composing the current draft, said committee chairman Larry Nokes.

"It's more subtle, not a drastic change," Nokes said. "What we want is an ordinance that meets the people's needs, something that benefits the community ... and an ordinance that is enforceable and has some teeth to it."

One key addition focuses on the date a homeowner may use when determining a "preexisting view," according to the proposal.

"A preexisting view means a visual scene from a primary viewing location or area that is not significantly impaired by vegetation and that existed on or after either the date of acquisition of the claimant's property or Nov. 4, 2003 (the effective date of ordinance No. 1430 relating to view preservation), whichever is later," the proposal said.

A primary viewing location or area means one location or area from a property owner's principal residential structure that is used to observe a primary view.

Hallways, closets, bathrooms and garages shall not be considered or used as primary viewing locations or areas, according to the proposal.

"There was great concern with people trying to open views they never had," Nokes said. "The idea is someone can't tag on to their predecessor's views."

The purpose of the revised ordinance is to allow property owners the right to determine a primary view and preserve that view from growth of trees and vegetation, according to the proposal.

Homeowners, under the proposal, would also have a right to restore a preexisting view that has been "significantly impaired" by trees or other vegetation, the proposal said.

If a resident files an application, city staff will visit the property and photograph the view from the homeowner's selected spot, and a written notice will be sent to the affected vegetation owners within 500 feet, the proposal said.

The committee determined 500 feet was a reasonable distance to make a claim, according to Nokes.

"Some people advocated for no distance [limit], but that could lead to too many random claims," Nokes said.

The vegetation owner would have 14 days to respond to the view request, according to the proposal. Upon consideration of information from both property owners, the community development director would either approve or deny the view request.

Care must be had in trimming trees or vegetation — the proposal doesn't encourage "topping" trees, but rather thinning or lacing them, Nokes said.

A resident may make a claim for view preservation or restoration with the following evidence: documented and date-stamped photographic prints, slides, negatives or movies. Persons with knowledge of a pre-existing view can submit letters supporting the claimant, according to the proposal.

The proposed view ordinance would apply only to city-owned land and not state- or county-owned property.

The committee will hold a public hearing at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 3 in council chambers at 505 Forest Ave..

After the meeting, the committee may send the draft ordinance to the City Council for approval.