OP-ED: Another Construction Project in Rockaway Beach with Signs of Errors, Negligence

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) will hold a hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, May 21, 6 p.m. in the Rockaway Beach City Hall Civic Facility (276 Hwy 101), on the application by landowner Tai Dag for a shoreline protection structure. Members of the public will be able to testify. It is also possible to comment for or against the proposal by mail or e-mail. Comments should be sent by mail to Calum Stevenson, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, 12735 N.W. Pacific Coast Highway, Seal Rock, OR 97376, or via e-mail to calum.stevenson@oregon.gov.
By Anne Van Horn, Jim Mayo and Claudine Kent, Seascape Homeowners Fire Safety Group
As property owners in Rockaway Beach, we want to bring to your attention that there is another large construction that has some similarities to Tai Dang’s home. Currently, there is a building being constructed on N. Pacific and 3rd Avenue in Rockaway Beach. Another oceanfront home being built on a very small lot. This lot does not have ANY dunes for protection like Mr. Dang’s home and was approved by the city. There were many issues related to rip rap but unlike Mr. Dang’s home, supposedly according to city records, there was rip rap already in existence since 1975 (although no permit or evidence of such is available to prove it). The lot had rip rap repair and received a geo-tech passing report (after the repair) stating that it can support a structure that would be 45 ft high. This developer wanted his large building to be constructed as close the shoreline as possible. The developer had no problem with his zoning permit and was approved to build by the city.

The nearby homeowners (including Anne Van Horne, Jim Mayo, Claudine Kent and five others) as a part of the Seascape Townhomes have been objecting to this project since its inception in 2015, mainly because of the issue of safety related to the fire turnaround. We have a substandard fire turnaround (there were mistakes that made the turnaround substandard in the first place due to city planner negligence) that serves the neighboring community and this small fire apparatus will be impacted negatively as the developer wants to build over the fire turnaround for his decks and overhangs. We (existing landowners) have sought out legal efforts to bring this health and safety issue to City Council, City Manager, City Planners, and the City Planning Commission. They all have ignored our concerns and even made concessions to allow the building to be built over the fire turnaround. Anything over the height of 13ft 6 inches is allowable for the developer to construct.
Why such blatant disregard for safety to the existing homes? For the benefit of a builder? It’s like we are on the Titanic with insufficient lifeboats. If a fire were to happen, all the homes in the neighborhood would be in jeopardy. This is another potential lawsuit and even greater threat… loss of life; as no fire trucks can even make a proper turnaround…they can’t get out of the road properly. What would happen in an emergency? The city hasn’t even thought things through on that scale!
The easement concession was made largely because the city had kept the builder from proceeding and felt they needed to approve the permit. As one council member said, “I feel bad that he had to wait for so long.” I (Anne Van Horn) recall watching the video link of the city council meeting and vividly remember that statement. Another owner went on record of our concerns with the potential issues with fire safety if this easement would be allowed. Also, please note that the topic of the fire easement was added to the city council meeting and wasn’t publicized widely so we couldn’t have a good turnout of our owners for this meeting.
You have to ask why did they feel bad for this developer and not Tai Dang’s home nearly on the verge of collapse? Mr. Dang was asked on Lar’s interview, why he would be targeted with the change in zoning permit which he had no real answer. Why allow this new developer to have everything he wants and even go so far as to make concessions for his project but won’t even budge for Mr. Dang to protect his home? Could it be racial discrimination? The other builder is a white male from Washington and Mr. Dang is an Asian immigrant. Why such a difference?
It is shameful to have public officials that seem to only look after the wealthy developers and not landowners that want to be protected by their city officials. Our group of homeowners is at a loss right now and with the publicity on Mr. Dang’s legal battles against the city, and would like to have it brought up that there are other examples of gross negligence in the City of Rockaway Beach that should be looked at carefully.
We want to point out that had there been due diligence from the city in the first place in 2005, a CODE compliant fire turnaround would have been installed. The city manager, planner and state fire marshal failed on that. Again, had there been due diligence from the city manager, planner and fire marshal on the relocation of a SMALLER fire turnaround, they would not have approved the zoning permit…it was caught not by the professionals but by me, a homeowner. Simply put, had the city enforced the code properly in the first place, there wouldn’t have been a buildable lot for the original builder to sell. No property owner should be burdened with the city’s gross negligence. Tai Dang is in his current situation because of mistakes and cover-ups. Had the city done the proper due diligence on verifying the shoreline set back calculations, then the zoning permit for his home would have been different. They never caught the mistake by their planner’s calculation…no third-party verification was done similarly to our situation. No one in city hall has the time to do any proper review on important zoning permits. Please note there have been at least 4-5 planners since Mr. Dang’s project. Small towns cannot afford million dollar lawsuits and mistakes like theirs does affect the community negatively. When several mistakes happen, then it starts to look like more than negligence, but possibly discrimination.