Rancho Palos Verdes City Council
   

TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL

FROM: DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT

DATE: FEBRUARY 17, 2004

SUBJECT: PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE CITY’S NEIGHBORHOOD COMPATIBILITY ORDINANCE

Staff Coordinator: Ara Michael Mihranian, Senior Planner

RECOMMENDATION

  1. Consider whether to proceed with an amendment to the new Neighborhood Compatibility review process that would exempt certain minor additions that are not likely to result in any apparent impacts to the neighborhood.
  2. If the Council agrees to move forward with the code amendment, provide Staff with direction on whether to proceed with the amendment now or table the amendment process until after the reconvened Steering Committee reports its findings on the effectiveness of the new Neighborhood Compatibility process in late July 2004.

BACKGROUND

On May 6, 2003, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 389 amending Title 17 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code as it pertains to the City’s Neighborhood Compatibility requirements. On June 19, 2003, thirty days after the second reading (May 20, 2003), the new code requirements went into effect. The new Neighborhood Compatibility requirements include a voluntary pre-application step, additional triggers for requiring a compatibility analysis, a revised definition of immediate neighborhood, and additional review criteria. Project applications received by the City after June 19, 2003 or received and deemed complete for processing by the City before June 19, 2003, were subject to the new Neighborhood Compatibility requirements.

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the new requirements, the City Council directed Staff to monitor the new rules for one year and provide the Council with a follow-up report. Staff is currently monitoring the application of the new rules and intends to present a report to the Council on the effectiveness of the new rules in late Summer.

Notwithstanding, concerns have arisen regarding the process by the public. Specifically, at the October 7, 2003 City Council meeting, the Council was informed by a local resident, Mr. Dellosa, during public comments that the new Neighborhood Compatibility requirements were costly and time consuming to him and other homeowners proposing small additions to homes that were previously expanded after the original construction. He requested that the Council re-visit the Neighborhood Compatibility triggers and consider adopting exemptions for projects that currently trigger the Neighborhood Compatibility analysis, but would not be visible from neighboring properties or the street right-of-way. In response to the public comment, then Councilman Clark suggested, and the Council agreed, that Staff bring back a future agenda item that would consider exemptions for certain minor projects to the Neighborhood Compatibility requirements.

DISCUSSION

Current Triggers

The City Council’s adoption of Ordinance No. 389 amended Section 17.02.030(B) of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code (RPVMC) thereby requiring a Neighborhood Compatibility analysis for the following types of projects:

    1. A new residence that is proposed to be developed on a vacant lot;
    2. A new residence that is proposed to replace an existing residence;
    3. An existing residence that is proposed to be remodeled or renovated such that fifty percent or greater of any existing interior and exterior walls or existing square footage is demolished;
    4. An addition to an existing single-family residence or the construction of any new detached structure that individually, or when combined with prior additions cumulatively, results in the greater of: (i) 750 square feet of additional floor area, or (ii) a 25% expansion of the total square footage of all of the original structures constructed on the property, including the main residence, the garage, and all detached structures;
    5. The construction of, or an addition to, a new second story or higher story; pursuant to Chapter 17.02 of the Development Code;
    6. Projects that result in lot coverage that exceeds the maximum allowed in Chapter 17.02 of the Development Code;
    7. An addition of a deck, balcony or roof deck to a second story or higher story that is eighty (80) square feet or larger in area or projects more than six (6) feet from the existing building; and,
    8. An addition of a mezzanine to an existing structure that modifies the exterior of the structure.

Based on the above triggers, a homeowner requesting to construct an addition to an existing home that is less than 16-feet in height and complies with the Development Code’s residential standards would be subject to the Neighborhood Compatibility analysis if the proposed addition, when combined with previous additions, cumulatively exceeds 750 square feet or 25% of the original structure size. For example, a homeowner requesting to construct a single-story (under 16-feet) 200 square foot, rear-yard, patio enclosure would have to complete the Neighborhood Compatibility analysis if previous additions were constructed to the existing residence, and when combined with the proposed 200 square foot addition, cumulatively exceeds 750 square feet or 25% of the original home. In this case, under the new Neighborhood Compatibility requirements, a homeowner would be required to construct a project silhouette and prepare mailing labels notifying property owners within a 500-foot radius of the proposed project. The processing of such an application by City Staff would include reviewing architectural plans for completeness, issuing a public notice, analyzing the proposed project with the immediate neighborhood (at least the twenty closest homes within the same zoning district), and preparing a Staff Report before a decision is rendered. This process typically takes approximately two to three months. The increased amount of time and additional costs associated with processing a small addition requiring neighborhood Compatibility is essentially the concern expressed by Mr. Dellosa at the October 7th City Council meeting. Additionally, Staff is aware of at least two other situations where residents expressed a similar frustration of having to process minor additions through the Neighborhood Compatibility process.

Proposed Neighborhood Compatibility Exemption

In consideration of Mr. Dellosa’s concern and the Council’s request to consider a possible exemption to the new Neighborhood Compatibility requirement, Staff believes that the Council may wish to consider exempting certain minor additions that are not likely to result in any apparent impacts to the neighborhood. Specifically, additions that are under 16-feet in height, and not visible from the street right-of-way. In order to be categorized as a possible exemption, an addition would have to be located at the rear or interior side of a property. As such, Staff proposes the following Code amendment language as a possible exemption to Section 17.02.030(B):

The Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement may exempt a project from the Neighborhood Compatibility analysis, as stated herein, if the project consists of an addition to an existing single-family residence that is under 16-feet in height, as measured according to the criteria stated in Section 17.02.040(B); located in the rear or interior side of a property; complies with all of the City’s residential development standards; and is not visible from the street right-of-way.

Staff respectfully seeks Council consideration of the proposed conceptual language, and if deemed acceptable, direction on whether to initiate formal code amendment proceedings. In the event the Council wishes to amend the current Neighborhood Compatibility triggers as proposed, according to Section 17.68.030 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code (RPVMC), a Code Amendment initiated by the City Council shall be referred to the Planning Commission for its review. The Commission would then forward a recommendation on the proposed code amendment to the City Council for its adoption.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Follow-up of the Neighborhood Compatibility Committee’s Task

As previously noted, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed changes, Staff is currently monitoring the new Code requirements for one year. Staff has prepared a questionnaire that has been made available to various parties (property owner, architect, interested parties, etc.) involved in the decision of a project under the new criteria. Based on input gleaned from the questionnaire, as well as comments from the City Council, Planning Commission and Staff, as applications are processed under the new rules, the Neighborhood Compatibility Steering Committee is expected to reconvene some time in June 2004 with the purpose to evaluate the effectiveness of the process and identify any subsequent proposed changes in a follow-up presentation to the Council.

Based on this pending report to the Council, which could prompt additional changes to the new process, the Council may wish to table the processing of this particular code amendment until after the reconvened Steering Committee reports its findings in late July 2004. This may prevent public confusion from separate changes to the Neighborhood Compatibility requirements. Staff respectfully seeks Council direction on this matter.

Follow-up of Mr. Dellosa’s Application

As noted in the Background section of this Staff Report, the proposed exemption being proposed by Staff was prompted by a concern raised by Mr. Dellosa at the October 7, 2003 City Council meeting. Mr. Dellosa’s filed an application for his proposed project (119 square foot patio enclosure) on October 3, 2003, which was determined to be compatible with the immediate neighborhood and approved by Staff on November 11, 2003.

ALTERNATIVES

The following alternatives are available for the City Council’s consideration in addition to Staff’s recommendation:

  1. Identify any issues of concern with the proposed amendments, and provide Staff with modifications; or,
  2. Direct Staff to table the discussion on the proposed Code amendment until after the one-year review period has been completed; or,
  3. Direct Staff that no modifications be made to Title 17 of the Municipal Code.

FISCAL IMPACT

It is Staff’s belief that the proposed code amendment language allowing an exemption clause to the Neighborhood Compatibility requirement will not result in additional costs borne by the City’s General Fund. In fact, such an amendment would result in less processing time by Staff thus reducing costs. Nevertheless, as reported to the Council at the time the new Neighborhood Compatibility requirements were being considered, the amount of Staff time and associated costs involved in processing project applications under the new criteria is unknown at this time. However, Staff continues to monitor the time involved in processing a Neighborhood Compatibility application in relation to the relevant costs and will report to the Council at the of the effectiveness report whether any changes to the fee schedule are warranted.

CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing discussion, Staff seeks Council direction on possible text amendments to the Neighborhood Compatibility triggers.

Respectfully submitted:

Joel Rojas, aicp

Director of Planning, Building

and Code Enforcement

Reviewed,

Les Evans

City Manager

ATTACHMENTS (to view the following attachment please contact the Planning Department):

  • October 7, 2003 City Council Minutes