Neil Merrilees: Right Here In the Middle

Posted by on Tue, May 1, 2007

Darin Boville

"Where am I now?"

In this new installment Neil continues his exploration of the local building codes and their unintended consequences. A must-see video for builders and environmentalists alike.

The video is available in two formats: A small Flash version for older computers or slower connections, and a larger Quicktime version for newer computers and faster connections. width= | Quicktime | Flash |

Neil’s last video installment showed how Miramar has been walled-off and wrecked by view-blocking monster structures. This installment shows that Princeton is suffering the exact same fate.

Of course, none of this is any concern to our County Board of Supervisors. Good luck trying to get them to change the zoning to encourage “small cottages.”

After all, the Supervisors are the ones who enthusiastically approved the most offensive view-blocking monstrosity in Coastside history: Keet Nerhan’s Harbor Village Mall project—which didn’t make it into this video.

Hi Kevin,

I think your example of Keet Nerhan’s development might be instructive.

The “scuttlebut” that I heard—I know nothing beyond this—is that Keet was willing and interested in building a smaller, less imposing development but that since he already had the plans for the present structure approved it was too risky/too difficult to go back and make the changes.

If that is true then we have another example of the zoning rules requiring structures that are not in the best interests of the developers, the environmentalists, and the general community. A lose-lose situation.

Whatever the truth of the Nerhan rumor,what do you think off Neil’s call to discuss these issues amongst developers and environmentalists (I use both terms as a loose catch-all) and to see if a consensus can be reached that would satisfy both sides?

My observation after living here on the coast for three years is that we fight without quarter and then appeal to one “big daddy” or the other (City Council, County, Coastal Commission, etc) to make decisions for us. It’s a weird situation!


Oh yes, I heard that rumor: Mr. Nerhan really wanted to build something smaller but those pesky environmentalists gave him no choice! Yeah right. I believe that was floated by an affiliated developer to deflect criticism of the monstrosity that we are now stuck with. Otherwise known as “blaming the victim.” Besides, who knows what “smaller” means to Mr. Nerhan anyway?

The forum for changing the zoning to encourage what Neil is advocating would be the Midcoast LCP update. The results so far are not looking too good, to put it mildly.

In the version of the rumor I heard—again, this is all I am basing this on—Nerhan had plans approved for the current development ten years ago. But as times changed and as he wanted to build somethiing smaller it was impossible to make the changes without going through the whole process again—and putting his entire investment at risk.

Is that true—that a builder who has approval to build structure “A” can’t negotiate to build a smaller structure in an economically feasible manner?

If true it would be interesting to see if policies could be set up to make it easy to “build down” but difficult to “build up.”

As for the Midcoast LCP being the “forum” for changing the zoning I, for one, would love to see a real forum, with people talking to people of differing views, face to face. I’ve seen nothing like this basic democratic process occuring on the coast.