San Clemente, CA asked in Real Estate Law, Construction Law and Land Use & Zoning for California

Q: Can an existing 1 story house be torn down and a 2 story be built? The new construction is blocking my ocean view.

Nothing of the existing structure was visible from my house. It had been this way since I bought my house in 1998. It is in the framing process now. Not sure about roofline. It is already effecting the best part of my ocean view. We are on opposite sides of a freeway. Not sure if I should have been notified during the approval process but I wasn’t.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Construction Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Based on the information provided, it is likely legal for your neighbor to tear down their existing single-story home and build a new two-story home, even if it impacts your ocean view. However, there are a few things to explore that may provide some recourse:

- Check if there are any local zoning ordinances or codes that limit height, view obstruction, or require approvals for taller structures. Many beach cities do have these types of rules. Violations could compel lowering roofline.

- Review CC&R's (covenants, conditions & restrictions) recorded on the property - unlikely but may prohibit blocking established views. Hard to enforce but useful argument.

- See if any easements protect "view corridors". But these usually involve roads, not neighbor-to-neighbor views.

Unfortunately, without protective codes, easements or recorded restrictions, there is likely no legal right to an ocean view across another person’s private property. No general "right to a view" exists in California real estate law either.

While extremely frustrating to lose views you’ve enjoyed for years, there ultimately may be no viable legal options to force changes or stop your neighbor’s two-story rebuild. You can explore above options with a local real estate attorney, but the law rarely protects purely neighbor-to-neighbor views or sunlight without special recorded easements.

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