Pismo Beach councilman wins setback battle against political opponent

December 23, 2022

Rendering of proposed single family home in Pismo Beach


The California Coastal Commission again voted to allow the construction of a single family residence affiliated with Pismo Beach Councilman Scott Newton, following an eight-month battle with his political rival, former Councilman Erik Howell.

In the 2020 election, Newton, a newcomer, came in first in a five-person race for two council seats, with 35.48% of the vote. Garnering only 23% of the vote, Howell lost both his council seat and his seat on the California Coastal Commission.

In Jan. 2022, Newton asked the Fair Political Practices Commission if he was required to step down on issues related to a proposal to rebuild a home on Naomi Avenue owned by his parents’ trust, and was told it was not required, Newton said. However, because Newton planned to purchase the Naomi Avenue property from the trust in the future, Newton recused himself from all city decisions on the project.

The family trust sought an exemption to the city’s general plan, to allow their rebuild to fall under the city’s typical 20-foot setback requirement, with plans to construct their new home 26 feet from the road.

Under the general plan at the time, rebuilt homes in the Naomi Avenue neighborhood were required to have the same setback from the road requirements as the original home, which in this case has a 42-foot setback, the second longest setback in the neighborhood.

In March, former Pismo Beach Planning Commissioner Adam Werner sent a letter to the city claiming that Newton was acting in his own self-interest. Werner also voiced concerns that a property owner could request an exemption to the general plan.

Newton refuted the claim, noting that he stepped down when the city council voted to approve the project and the local coastal plan exemption. During the April meeting, the council voted 3-1 to reject an appeal of the project filed by Werner and local attorney Tarren Collins.

The city then asked the California Coastal Commission to approve a local coastal plan amendment for the entire neighborhood, with setback requirements consistent with the rest of the city.

During the Sept. 9 California Coastal Commission meeting, Mayor Ed Waage asked the commission to approve the local coastal plan amendment saying the council never should have approved a different setback rule for that neighborhood.

Howell then accused Newton of using his position on the council to move his project forward.

Newton denied that he had acted in his own self -nterest, saying that those speaking against the project were political opponents.

Collins said it was not personal.

The commission then voted 11-2 to approve the amendment.

Howell and Collins, both of whom live more than a mile from the project, responded by appealing the approval of the rebuild of the home on Naomi Avenue. The surrounding neighbors, however, supported the project through letters to government.

Last week, the California Coastal Commission voted 5-1 to deny Howell and Collins’ appeal. During the meeting, Howell said he “hated” Newton.

While the appeals have delayed the project more than seven months at a cost of approximately $40,000, Newton’s family can now move forward with their project.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Howell loses the last two elections, loses his seat on the Coastal Commission, and now is looking for revenge wherever he can try to find it. He couldn’t sway his former Coastal Commissioners on this home after the mess he created while serving there. They have no respect for him and I doubt if Pismo Beach does either. The bigger question is how much longer until he ends up in court again (since he seems unable to avoid it).

Wishing all CCN commenters a very merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year!

Thank you for the fine thoughts. If I may, I would add that good wishes extend to all those who consume and support local news, regardless of the source (as long as it’s actually locally-generated), as we are all infinitely richer in a diverse news environment reflecting a wide range of viewpoints. Read on!

The coastal commission was formed for reasonable reason, to maintain public access to the coast.

Good idea. How in the world does the setback for a SFR have anything to do with access to the coast. The commission has clearly had mission creep into the absurd!

Who is for dissolving the Coastal Commision and let counties and cities handle their own development issues. This would be a good proposition next election.

I hope you’re not a fan of the Oceano Dunes for recreational motor vehicles. Because, if it was up to the county, it would have been gone long ago.