Rancho Palos Verdes City Council
   

TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL

FROM: DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT

DATE: APRIL 6, 2004

SUBJECT: ZON2003-00417 (16-FOOT HEIGHT CODE AMENDMENT)

Staff Coordinator: Ara Michael Mihranian, Senior Planner

RECOMMENDATION

Staff respectfully requests Council direction on the following items:

  1. Determine whether to continue the discussion on the proposed code amendment language, as recommended by the Planning Commission, and the amendments that were introduced at the City Council meeting, until after receiving a comprehensive recommendation from the Planning Commission; and,
  2. If the Council wishes to discuss the matter this evening, review the Planning Commission’s concerns, as summarized by Staff, and provide Staff with further direction as to any specific language amendments.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

On February 17, 2004, the City Council unanimously adopted Urgency Ordinance No. 400U, Resolution No. 2004-12, and Ordinance No. 401 amending the Development Code, that among other things, clarified the application of two Height Variation Findings. The Planning Commission, when presented with the new code requirements at its February 24, 2004 meeting, raised concerns regarding the application of the new findings. Based on Staff’s understanding of the Commission’s and the public’s concerns, as discussed in this report, Staff respectfully requests Council direction on suggested draft code amendment language to address the following issues:

  1. How to allow flexibility in the view analysis of structures below 16-feet in height when a significant view impairment exists;
  2. How to treat "tear-down / rebuild" structures;
  3. How to avoid project phasing;
  4. The ambiguity with the term "proposed construction;"
  5. Clarification of the intent of the Grading View Finding; and,
  6. Whether to repeal the current requirement that two-story structures under 16-feet in height go through the Height Variation application process.

BACKGROUND

On February 17, 2004, the City Council conducted a public hearing to consider adopting a code amendment that would, among other things, clarify the application of two Height Variation view findings. At the meeting, the Council considered modifications to the code amendment language recommended by the Planning Commission at its December 11, 2003 meeting (see attached P.C. Resolution No. 2003-62) and after discussion, unanimously introduced Ordinance No. 401, which contained the modified language.

The Planning Commission’s proposed language required that the only portion of a proposed new structure that is less than sixteen feet in height that would be analyzed for view impairment in connection with a height variation permit is the portion directly under the structure that is proposed to exceed sixteen feet in height. The City Council revised the language to expand the review to all of the new areas of the structure that are less than sixteen feet in height in connection with a height variation permit. In order to make the new requirements effective immediately, the Council adopted Urgency Ordinance No. 400U that evening (the minutes from that meeting are not yet available). The Urgency Ordinance mirrors Ordinance No. 401 and is attached to this Staff Report (see attachment).

At the February 24, 2004 Planning Commission meeting, the Commission was informed of the new Height Variation findings adopted under Urgency Ordinance No. 400U. The Commission was informed that because an urgency ordinance was adopted, the new requirements became effective immediately and would have to be applied to two Height Variation applications on the Commission’s agenda that evening. In reviewing the two proposed projects to determine whether the new findings could be made, the Planning Commission raised some questions regarding the intent of the new language, as they felt there was some ambiguity as to what type of "new construction" would be subjected to the view analysis. Although the Commission went on to make the required findings, it sought further clarification from the Council on how to apply the new findings for various scenarios, including "tear-down and re-build" projects.

On March 2, 2004, the City Council was set to adopt the second reading of Ordinance 401. However, at that meeting, it was brought to the Council’s attention that the Planning Commission had expressed some concerns about the application of the new Height Variation findings language. Since there were questions regarding the code amendment language, the Council agreed to refrain from formally adopting the new height variation language and continued the discussion of the matter to its April 6th meeting. In addition, the Council directed Staff to report back on April 6th with the Commission’s specific concerns regarding the proposed code amendment language and any suggested new language that may address the Commission’s concerns.

The City Council’s modified code amendment language to Height Variation Findings Nos. 4 and 5 was presented to the Planning Commission at its March 23, 2004 meeting. Only the language of the Height Variation findings was presented to the Planning Commission, because this is the only language that was modified by the City Council after receiving the Planning Commission’s recommendations, and the Planning Commission did not raise any concerns about the other code amendment language contained in the Urgency Ordinance. Due to other items on the agenda that evening, which involved members of the public who were waiting to speak, the Commission did not get to this agenda item until after 11:00 pm. As a result, the Commission had a very brief discussion of the matter and heard testimony from only one speaker in attendance, a resident currently proposing to construct a new residence above 16-feet in height. Given the circumstances, the Commission, with a vote of 5-1, agreed to continue the discussion to its April 13, 2004 meeting with a recommendation that the Council continue its discussion on this matter until after the Commission could thoroughly discuss the issue and present the Council with a more comprehensive recommendation. As such, this item is scheduled to be considered by the Planning Commission as the second item on the agenda of its upcoming April 13, 2004 meeting.

In light of the Commission’s recommendation, Staff noted to the Commission that pursuant to previous Council direction, this item would still be on the April 6th City Council agenda. Staff noted that the Commission’s recommendation would be provided to the Council, but that it would be at the Council’s discretion on whether and how to proceed. Therefore, notwithstanding the Commission’s recommendation, Staff is presenting this item to the Council with a Staff Report that summarizes the various issues that have arisen since the Council adopted Urgency Ordinance No. 400U. The purpose of this report is to facilitate the discussion, if the Council wishes to proceed with the item this evening.

DISCUSSION

PROPOSED LANGUAGE AT ISSUE

The subject of concern, as expressed by the Planning Commission and certain public speakers at the Council’s March 2, 2004 meeting, is the new language of Height Variation Findings Nos. 4 and 5. The precise language is contained in Urgency Ordinance No. 400U, which is attached to this Staff Report. To assist with the discussion of the issues, Staff is providing an explanation of each finding below:

  1. Height Variation Finding (No. iv)
  2. According to Urgency Ordinance No. 400U, residential development projects that require a Height Variation application will be subject to a view analysis finding for new construction above or below 16-feet in height. The specific language for Height Variation Finding No. iv is as follows:

    The area of a proposed new structure or addition to an existing structure, when considering both the new area that is above sixteen feet and the new area that is below sixteen feet, as defined in Section 17.02.040(B) of this Chapter, when considered exclusive of existing foliage, does not significantly impair a view from the viewing area of another parcel.

    The following diagram helps illustrates the application of the above finding:

     

     

     

     




     

     

     

    Based on the diagram, the proposed addition labeled area A’ would trigger a Height Variation application because the proposed addition is above 16-feet in height. Pursuant to the Urgency Ordinance, the view analysis finding would apply to proposed additions labeled as areas A’, A and B, because together they constitute "new area that is above sixteen feet and new area that is below sixteen feet."

    As a result of concerns raised at the March 2, 2004 City Council meeting, Councilman Stern inquired whether code language could be drafted that would allow more flexibility in the analysis of a Height Variation permit when a significant view impairment exists below 16-feet. Specifically, Councilman Stern is requesting that language be drafted that would allow a Height Variation permit to be granted if the structure causing the view impairment below 16-feet in height is designed to reasonably minimize the impairment of a view. As such, pursuant to Councilman Stern’s inquiry, if it is the Council’s wish, the following language can be added as the last sentence to Height Variation Finding No. iv:

    In cases where a significant view impairment exists below 16-feet in height, this finding can be made if the proposed structure below 16-feet in height is designed and situated as to reasonably minimize a significant view impairment.

  3. Height Variation Finding (No. v)

According to Urgency Ordinance No. 400U, a Height Variation application being sought for a residential development project above 16-feet in height will need to be reasonably designed to minimize a view impairment, even if the previous finding determines that a significant view impairment does not exist. The exact language reads as follows:

If a view impairment exists, but it is determined not to be significant, as described in Finding No. iv, is the proposed new structure or proposed addition to an existing structure designed and situated in such a manner as to reasonable minimize the impairment of a view.

Based on the above code amendment language, when assessing whether a project is designed and situated to minimize a view impairment, those portions of the proposed project that are above and below 16-feet are to be considered in the analysis of this finding. Using the previous illustrative example, this finding would apply to the proposed additions labeled as areas A’, A and B because they constitute a proposed addition to an existing single-family residence. However, it should be noted that the additions labeled areas A and B would only be analyzed in situations where the addition labeled area A’ is requested, since it is addition A’ that triggers a Height Variation application. Otherwise, if only additions labeled as areas A and B are requested, whether collectively or independently, this finding would not apply because a Height Variation application is not required.

PLANNING COMMISSION INPUT

The following discussion is a summary of Staff’s understanding of the concerns raised by the Commission during its brief discussion on this matter at its March 23rd meeting. As previously noted, the Planning Commission did not have enough time to provide suggestions on possible draft language that could address its concerns. Additionally, the Commissioners abbreviated their remarks and some did not speak. Therefore, the Commission is recommending that the Council continue this item to allow a second opportunity for the Commission to provide more comprehensive input. Notwithstanding the Commission’s recommendation, if it is the Council’s desire to discuss this matter this evening, Staff has summarized the comments made by the Commission below and has included some draft language for consideration by the Council that may address the brief concerns expressed by the Commissioners on March 23rd.

  1. Tear-down / Rebuild Structures:

The Commission is concerned that a strict interpretation of the proposed code amendment language could prohibit a property owner who wishes to demolish an existing home that exceeds 16-feet in height from rebuilding that home within the same building envelope, if it is determined that a significant view impairment would result from the new home. This is because anytime a structure is voluntarily demolished or is remodeled, such that over 50% of the interior and exterior walls are removed, the replacement structure is considered a new structure which must receive approval of the necessary applications in order to be built. Under the historical application of the Height Variation findings, only the portion over 16-feet of the new replacement structure would be subject to the view analysis. However, under the new language, the entire new structure would be subject to the view analysis.

In order to address this concern, the Council may wish to consider language that states:

In cases where a Height Variation application is proposed for a structure that replaces an existing structure that has been voluntarily demolished by the property owner, this finding will not apply, provided that the proposed replacement structure will be within the building envelope of the existing structure, meaning that it will have the same square footage and maximum building height as the existing structure and will be reconstructed within the footprint of the existing structure.

Furthermore, if such language is added, Staff recommends that the Council also amend the Code to require that certified plans of the pre-existing residential structure be submitted to the City prior to issuance of a demolition permit by the Department of Building and Safety to document said residential structure.

2. Phasing a Project:

A concern was raised by the Commission that the Council’s intent to protect views below 16-feet when proposing construction above 16-feet, as described in new Height Variation Finding No. iv, could be circumvented by phasing the project construction. In other words, based on the language of new Height Variation Finding No. iv (noted above) and using the diagram below to illustrate this concern, one could conceivably construct areas A and B (provided they do not exceed 16-feet) as phase 1, without having to undergo a view analysis and then construct phase 2 later. If a view exists below 16-feet, said view would be impaired by the phase 1 construction, since said construction up to 16-feet in height is allowed "by right." Then, as phase 2, one could submit a Height Variation application to construct area A’. If there is no view impairment by proposed area A’, the Height Variation would likely be approved (provided all other findings can be made). Since Planning approvals are valid for 6-months (1-year if approved by the Planning Commission), the Phase 1 approval probably would still be valid when the Phase 2 approval is obtained. The applicant would then combine both designs and submit the plans to the Building and Safety Department for "plan check" review and ultimately construct the entire project at the same time. Although more costly to the applicant in terms of time and money, the end result would be the same as if the new finding language did not exist.

 

 

 




 

 

 

In order to address this concern, the Council may wish to consider establishing a minimum time period for applicants to wait between the processing of development applications. This would prohibit a property owner from submitting more than one development application during a set time period, thereby discouraging projects from being phased. However, this could inadvertently penalize property owners who wish to upgrade their property after purchasing a home that was recently expanded by a previous property owner, unless the time period is only applied to the same property owner.

3. Ambiguity with the Term "Proposed Construction"

According to the Commission, the Council’s clarification of the Height Variation Findings only apply to Finding Nos. 4 and 5, leaving a question of how the remaining findings should be applied when referring to "proposed structure" or "structure." For example, while it is clear that the view analysis performed under Height Variation Finding No. iv should consider portions of a proposed structure below 16-feet, it is not clear whether the same analysis should be performed for the "Cumulative View Impact" finding (Height Variation Finding No. vi in Urgency Ordinance No. 400U). Therefore, in order to alleviate any ambiguity when applying the Height Variation Findings, the Council may wish to add the following language to RPVMC Section 17.02.040(C)(1)(e):

 

e. A Height Variation application to build a new structure or an addition to an existing structure at a height that exceeds the sixteen foot height limit up to the maximum height permitted in Section 17.02.040(B)(1) of this chapter may be granted, with or without conditions, if the following findings can be made. For the purpose of this finding, "proposed structure" or "structure" shall mean the new area that is above sixteen feet and the new that is below sixteen feet:

COMMENTS SUBMITTED BY COUNCILMAN LONG

On March 23, 2004, Councilman Long submitted a comment letter to the Planning Commission that essentially frames some of the various issues that have been raised with regard to the modified code amendment language (see attachment). Although the Commission was not able to discuss the various points contained in the comment letter at its March 23rd meeting due to time constraints, Staff has reviewed Councilman Long’s letter and would like to address certain points.

  1. Grading Permit and the View Finding
  2. According to Urgency Ordinance N. 400U, in cases where grading is proposed, if the proposed earth movement results in a lower finished grade elevation, then the view finding (referred to as Grading Finding No. 2) does not apply:

    The proposed grading and/or related construction does not significantly adversely affect the visual relationships with, or the views from the "viewing area" of neighboring properties. This finding shall not apply when the proposed grading will lower the grade of the lot and will result in a structure that will create less view impairment than a structure that could have been built in the same location on the lot to the maximum building heights described in Section 17.02.040(B) of this Title.

    As noted on page 1, item 2, of Councilman Long’s letter, he states that "even if grading adds to the original grade, if the structure is still below 16 feet from the original grade, it is my understanding that clarification provided by urgency ordinance No. 400U would still provide that no view analysis is necessary." After discussing this issue with the City Attorney, it is Staff’s understanding that in a case where a project requires a grading permit that will raise the existing pad elevation, then the view finding will apply, even if the resulting structure does not exceed 16-feet in height. As written, the intent of the finding is to encourage grading that lowers a pad, thereby minimizing the potential to impair a view, rather than raising a pad, which is more likely to result in a view impairment. If this is not the intended result of this new finding, then Staff recommends that the Council clarify the intent at this time.

  3. Structures Destroyed by a Natural Disaster or Involuntary Act

Pursuant to Section 17.84.060(A)(2) of the RPVMC, a residential building damaged or destroyed due to an involuntary act, or a voluntary act against the structure that is not the fault of the property owner may be replaced, repaired or restored to its original condition provided that such construction is limited to the same maximum building height, square footage and general location on the property. In other words, a structure destroyed by a fire or earthquake, for example, may be rebuilt within the same envelope as the original structure without having to go through a comprehensive discretionary review process, including the view analysis typically required for Height Variation applications for structures exceeding 16-feet in height. However, if a damaged or destroyed structure is proposed to be rebuilt beyond the original envelope, then the replacement structure would be considered a new structure and would be subject to all applicable discretionary review applications.

3. Two-story Structures At or Below 16-Feet

According to Section 17.02.040(B)(1)(c) of the RPVMC, a Height Variation permit is required for a structure on a pad lot that exceeds one-story even if it is within the 16-foot height limit (it should be noted that the Municipal Code does not limit the number of stories). This requirement was added in 1996 to close a loophole in the pre-existing Development Code that was allowing two-story homes to be built without the benefit of a Height Variation application review. Prior to the comprehensive amendments to the Development Code made in 1996, two-story structures were being built within the permissible 16-foot height limit by lowering the pad elevation through grading. This was possible because the "old" Code established the 16-foot height limit from existing grade and made no reference to finished grade. By not triggering the Height Variation review process, two-story homes were being built without a Neighborhood Compatibility analysis. Therefore, in order to address this loophole, the Code was amended to establish a maximum measurement from both existing and finished grades and a requirement that a two-story structure must go through the Height Variation application process.

At this time, Staff believes that the two-story trigger for structures that are less than sixteen feet in height is confusing and no longer necessary because of the establishment of the maximum heights based on existing and finished grades. Furthermore, if a project is proposed to be constructed at 16-feet, the concern would not focus on the interior floor plan, but rather on the exterior appearance, which would be reviewed under the Neighborhood Compatibility guidelines, if a project trips one of the neighborhood compatibility triggers. Therefore, if the Council wishes to eliminate this Height Variation application trigger and not require a Height Variation permit for projects involving two-stories, which are under 16-feet in height, then the following language may be deleted:

Structures allowed pursuant to this subsection shall contain no more than one-story (cellars and basements are exempted from this requirement) and shall not exceed twenty-feet in height, as measured from the point where the lowest foundation or slab meets finished grade, to the ridgeline or highest point of the structure. Otherwise a height variation permit shall be required.

Based on the above discussion, Staff respectfully requests Council direction on the matters discussed and the suggested code amendment language. In the event the Council wishes to continue the discussion on the matter until after receiving a more comprehensive recommendation from the Planning Commission or to further modify the code language contemplated, the Council may wish to consider repealing Urgency Ordinance No. 400U to avoid public confusion.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Discussion of Proposition M by the City Attorney

Section 1 of Proposition M states, in relevant part, that its purpose is to prevent the needless destruction and impairment of limited vista points and view lots. "Specifically, this Ordinance:

"1. Protects, enhances and perpetuates views available to property owners and visitors because of the unique topographical features of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. These views provide unique and irreplaceable assets to the City and its neighboring communities and provide for this and future generations examples of the unique physical surroundings which are characteristic of the City.

"2. Defines and protects finite visual resources by establishing limits which construction and plant growth can attain before encroaching onto a view.

"3. Insures that the development of each parcel of land or additions to residences or structures occur in a manner which is harmonious and maintains neighborhood compatibility and the character of contiguous sub-community development as defined in the General Plan.

"4. Requires the pruning of dense foliage or tree growth which alone, or in conjunction with construction, exceeds defined limits."

Section 5 of Proposition M, which is not codified within the Municipal Code, states that future City Councils may amend its provisions, if such amendments are necessary to effectuate or enhance its purposes:

"To the extent the City Council finds that changes to this Ordinance are necessary to effectuate or enhance the purposes of this Ordinance as stated in Section 1, the City Council may amend this Ordinance, following the procedures, including all required public hearings, for amending zoning ordinances. The City Council is empowered to adopt such procedures and rules or regulations as are necessary to implement this Ordinance."

When then City Attorney Ariel Calonne analyzed the provisions of Proposition M that are related to structures and compared them to the then-current provisions of the Municipal Code, he stated:

"Existing Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code provisions permit construction of, or additions to, residences of up to sixteen (16) feet in height, as measured in a specified manner. Existing Municipal Code provisions further allow residential structures of up to thirty (30) feet in height, as measured in a specified manner, upon issuance of a discretionary height variation permit. Before a height variation permit can be issued under existing Municipal Code provisions, the City must determine, among other things, that defined view lots are protected from significant view impairment and that no significant cumulative view impact will result from the height variation.

"The proposed measure would modify the existing height variation permit requirements in several ways. The maximum height allowed with a height variation permit would be reduced to twenty six (26) feet. An early neighborhood consultation process would be created to require the person seeking the height variation permit to take reasonable steps to consult with property owners within five hundred (500) feet. If an interested neighborhood homeowners’ association exists, the applicant would be required to request its position on the application. The proposed measure would require height variation permits to be supported by a finding that a proposed structure would not significantly impair views from the viewing area of other parcels.

"The proposed measure requires height variation permits to be supported by a finding that the proposal is compatible with the immediate neighborhood character, as defined to include the scale of development of surrounding residences, architectural styles and materials, and front yard setbacks."

The amendment to the Code that is set forth in Urgency Ordinance No. 400U would allow the portion of a proposed development (For purposes of this discussion, "development" means an entirely new structure or an addition to an existing structure). that is at or below 16 feet in height to be reviewed for potential view impairment, if a height variation application is required for a portion of the development that will exceed 16 feet in height. (The amendment does not affect any proposed single-family residential development project that does not exceed 16 feet in height.)

The current question that is being posed is whether this amendment effectuates or enhances the purposes of Proposition M so that the City Council can approve it, or is voter approval of the amendment required?

One of the overarching purposes of Proposition M was to protect and enhance views, as stated in the first purpose of Section 1. Allowing the Planning Commission and City Council to review the portions of a new development that are below 16 feet in height for potential significant view impairment and adjust any portion of the project, regardless whether above or below 16 feet in height, to eliminate or minimize a view impairment clearly advances the purpose of protecting views, so that voter approval of this amendment should not be required.

On the other hand, it can be argued that this amendment conflicts with the second purpose of Proposition M, which was to retain the pre-existing right to develop a structure that did not exceed sixteen feet in height "by establishing limits which construction and plant growth can attain before encroaching onto a view." (Emphasis added.) In the impartial analysis of Proposition M, Mr. Calonne discussed the then-existing Code provisions that allowed development up to 16 feet in height; his analysis does not state that Proposition M would alter those provisions. However, because the recent amendment does not affect the right to build a structure that is entirely within the 16-foot height limit, it can be argued that the amendment is consistent with the second purpose of the Proposition so that voter approval is not required.

Although the amendment and this discussion focus upon the portions of Proposition M that address the development of structures, a significant portion of the Proposition addresses foliage and the height limits to which it can grow before someone can file an application to have it removed so that a view can be restored (sixteen feet or the ridgeline of the structure, whichever is less). It is interesting to note that under the recent amendment, some property owners actually could have the right to keep foliage on their properties that completely obliterates a view (assuming the ridgeline of the structure is at least sixteen feet tall), but would not have the right to build a new structure that is less than sixteen feet in height without a height variation because a portion of the proposed structure will exceed sixteen feet in height. It is doubtful that the drafters of Proposition M intended this result.

It should also be noted that historically, documented as far back as 1989 (after the adoption of Proposition M), the practice of the City has been to assess the impact on views only with respect to the components of a project that are above 16-feet in height in connection with Height Variation applications. This approach was upheld by both the Planning Commission and City Council on appeal. In situations when an ordinance is ambiguous, interpretations of its provisions by city staff and the administrative bodies that are charged with enforcing and interpreting its provisions are entitled to great weight by the courts. (Highland Ranch v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board, 29 Cal.3d848, 859 (1981). Based on these prior determinations and interpretations, it appears that the intent of Proposition M was to analyze only those portions of the structure that were above sixteen feet.

After performing this analysis, on balance, it appears that the recent amendment, which was adopted by the City Council in Urgency Ordinance No. 400U, does effectuate and enhance one of the primary purposes of Proposition M of preserving views from residential lots in the City. Accordingly, even though the amendment departs from prior City practice, approval by the voters does not appear to be required. Of course, to remove all doubt about this conclusion, a ballot measure could be prepared so that this issue would be presented to the voters.

Historical Information Regarding Height Variation Applications

Since the inception of the Height Variation requirement in 1976, the City has received approximately 1,031 application requests. Of that number, approximately 325 applications involved construction above and below 16-feet in height, which is approximately 31% of the total number of Height Variation applications submitted to the City. It should be noted that the information gathered from the City log-books, especially pre-1983, contained limited information on project descriptions. Therefore, the figures provided are considered to be estimates.

It should be noted that to date, five Height Variation applications have been processed under the new findings established by the Urgency Ordinance. Of these five applications, only one request was denied because of a view impairment. However, the denial was based on a view impairment resulting from proposed construction above 16-feet, as the portion below 16-feet was not visible from the viewing area.

Public Notification

Pursuant to the Development Code, a public notice was published in the Peninsula News on March 20, 2004 inviting public comments on the proposed code amendment. To date, two written comments have been submitted to the City and are attached for Council review. In the event the City receives additional public comments after the transmittal of this Staff Report, Staff will present the comments at the April 6th public hearing.

ATTACHMENTS (some items are not available electronically, see City Staff for more information)

  • Urgency Ordinance No. 400U
  • Councilman Long’s March 23, 2004 Comment Letter
  • P.C. Resolution No. 2003-62
  • RPVMC Section 17.84.060(A)(2) – Structures Destroyed by a Natural Disaster or Involuntary Act
  • Proposition L and M
  • Original Height Variation Code Requirement (adopted in 1975)
  • Public Comments

Respectfully submitted:

Joel Rojas, aicp

Director of Planning, Building

and Code Enforcement

Reviewed,

Les Evans

City Manager

ORDINANCE NO. 400U

AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AMENDING TITLE 17 OF THE CITY’S MUNICIPAL CODE REGARDING THE 16-FOOT HEIGHT LIMITATION FOR RESIDENTIALLY ZONED PROPERTIES, AND CLARIFYING THE FINDINGS REQUIRED FOR HEIGHT VARIATION AND GRADING PERMIT APPLICATIONS, AND DECLARING THE URGENCY THEREOF.

WHEREAS, on November 25, 1975, the City’s first Municipal Code was adopted establishing the City’s 16-foot height limit and establishing a discretionary review process for any individuals seeking to construct a residence exceeding 16-feet (Height Variation Permit process); and,

WHEREAS, in 1979, the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code (the "MuincipalMunicipal Code") was amended to clarify that the Height Variation Permit process applies to both new residences and additions to existing residences; and,

WHEREAS, on November 7, 1989, the voters of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approved Proposition M (Cooperative Preservation and Restoration Ordinance) which was incorporated into the Municipal Code; and,

WHEREAS, between 1996 and 1997, the City approved a major update and overhaul Title 17 (Zoning) of the Municipal Code, which among other things, clarified how to measure the 16-foot height limit on pad lots; and,

WHEREAS, on February 8, 2003 the City Council held a joint workshop with the Planning Commission to discuss, among other things, the interpretation of existing codes and the Height Variation Permit Findings involving the protection of residents’ views from proposed construction. At the meeting, the City Council directed Staff to bring forward ideas to the Council at a future meeting to clarify or resolve the issues; and,

WHEREAS, on June 24, 2003, the Planning Commission was asked to review and provide feedback on the content and format of a draft Staff Report to the City Council regarding the clarification and interpretation of existing codes and the Height Variation Permit findings. The Planning Commission continued the discussion and directed Staff to come back with more information regarding the historical interpretation and application of the 16-foot height limit and the Height Variation Permit findings; and,

WHEREAS, on July 15, 2003, the City Council, at the request of a Council member, discussed the issues pertaining to the existing Municipal Code and the Height Variation Permit findings. At the meeting, the City Council unanimously reaffirmed the historic interpretation and application of the 16-foot height, measured as set forth in the Municipal Code based on the type of lot involved, as being a "by-right" height limit for all residential properties in the City and clarified the interpretation of specific Height Variation Permit Findings; and,

WHEREAS, at its July 15th meeting, the City Council initiated code amendment proceedings in order to codify its interpretation and clarification of the 16-foot height limit and the Height Variation Permit Findings; and,

WHEREAS, on August 9, 2003 a notice of an August 26, 2003 public hearing to be held by the Planning Commission regarding proposed amendment of the Municipal Code regarding height issues was published in the Palos Verdes Peninsula News; and,

WHEREAS, on August 26, 2003, the Planning Commission, without discussion, continued the public hearing to its September 9, 2003 meeting, at which time the item was again continued to its September 23, 2003 meeting; and,

WHEREAS, after notices issued pursuant to the provisions of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code, the Planning Commission conducted a public hearing on September 23, 2003 at which time all interested parties were given an opportunity to be heard and present evidence regarding said amendments to Title 17 of the Municipal Code as set forth in the Planning Commission Staff Report of that date; and,

WHEREAS, after reviewing the proposed text amendments, the Commission directed Staff to prepare precise language for consideration at its October 28, 2003 meeting and continued the public hearing; and,

WHEREAS, at its October 28, 2003, the Planning Commission continued the public hearing, without discussion, and again on November 25, 2003, continued the hearing to its December 9, 2003 meeting; and,

WHEREAS, on December 11, 2003 the Planning Commission continued the public hearing proceedings, and reviewed and considered the proposed code amendments to Title 17, and adopted P.C. Resolution No. 2003-62 forwarding its recommendations to the City Council for its consideration, and;

WHEREAS, on January 31, 2004, a notice of a public hearing on the code amendment was published in the Palos Verdes Peninsula News; and

WHEREAS, after notices issued pursuant to the requirements of Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code, the City Council held a duly noticed public hearing on February 17, 2004, at which time all interested parties were given the opportunity to be heard and present evidence.

NOW, THEREFORE, THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES DOES HEREBY FIND, DETERMINE AND ORDER AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1: The City Council has reviewed and considered the amendments to Title 17 of the Municipal Code.

Section 2: The amendments to Title 17 of the Municipal Code are consistent with California Government Code Section 65853, zoning amendment procedures.

Section 3: The City Council finds that the amendments to Title 17 of the Municipal Code are consistent with the Rancho Palos Verdes General Plan and Coastal Specific Plan in that they uphold, and do not hinder, the goals and policies of those plans, in particular to carefully control and direct future growth towards making a positive contribution to all elements of the community.

Section 4: The City Council finds that the amendments to Title 17 of the Municipal Code are substantially the same as previous provisions of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code or any other ordinance repealed, amended or superseded upon the enactment of this ordinance and that the amendments to Title 17 shall be construed as a restatement and continuation of the previous provisions and as new enactment. As such, to ensure certainty regarding standards applicable to current and future applications for new structures or additions thereto, the amendments must become effective as quickly as possible.

Section 5: The City Council further finds that there is no substantial evidence that the amendments to Title 17 of the Municipal Code would result in new significant environmental effects, or a substantial increase in the severity of the effects, as previously identified in Environmental Assessment No. 694 and the Negative Declaration, adopted through Resolution No. 97-25 in conjunction with Ordinance No. 320 for amendments to Titles 16 and 17 of the Municipal Code, since the new amendments reaffirm the historic interpretation and application of the 16-foot height requirement and clarify the Height Variation Findings. An Addendum (No. 10) to the prior Negative Declaration has been prepared and is attached hereto as Exhibit ‘A’. The City Council hereby finds, based on its own independent judgment, that the facts stated in the Addendum are true because the minor revisions to Title 17 of the Municipal Code will strengthen the Code and will not result in greater environmental impacts in the City.

Section 6: The City Council finds that the amendments to Title 17 of the Municipal Code are necessary to preserve the public health, safety, and general welfare in the area.

Section 7: The first paragraph of Paragraph B of Section 17.02.040 of Chapter 17.02 of Title 17 of the Municipal Code is hereby amended to read as follows, with all remaining portions of Paragraph B of Section 17.02.040 of Chapter 17.02 of Title 17 of the Municipal Code retained without amendment:

17.02.040 View Preservation and Restoration.

B. Regulations.

1. Building Height. Any individual or persons desiring to build a new structure or an addition to an existing structure shall be permitted to build up to sixteen feet in height pursuant to Section 17.02.040(B) of this Chapter provided there is no grading, as defined in Section 17.76.040 of this Chapter, to be performed in connection with the proposed construction, and further provided that no height variation permit is required, and all applicable residential development standards are or will be being met. All Approval for proposed structures or additions to existing structures exceeding sixteen feet in height, may apply be sought through application for a height variation permit, which, if granted pursuant to the procedures contained herein, will permit the individual to build a structure not exceeding twenty-six feet in height, except as provided in Section 17.02.040(B)(1)(d) of this chapter, or such lower height as approved by the city, measured as follows:

Section 8: Paragraph C subsection (1)(e) of Section 17.02.040 of Chapter 17.02 of Title 17 of the Municipal Code is hereby amended to read as follows:

C. Procedures and Requirements

1. Preservation of Views Where Structures are Involved

e. A Height Variation application to build a new structure or an addition to an existing structure at a height that exceeds the sixteen foot height limit up to the maximum height permitted in Section 17.02.040(B)(1) of this chapter may be granted, with or without conditions, if the following findings can be made:

i. The applicant has complied with the early neighbor consultation process established by the city;

ii. The structure does not significantly impair a view from public property (parks, major thoroughfares, bike ways, walkways or equestrian trails) which has been identified in the city’s general plan or coastal specific plan, as city-designated viewing areas;

iii. The proposed structure is not located on a ridge or a promontory;

vi. iv. The area of a proposed new structure or addition to an existing structure, when considering both the new area that is above sixteen feet and the new area that is below sixteen feet, as defined in Section 17.02.040(B) of this Chapter, when considered exclusive of existing foliage, does not significantly impair a view from the viewing area of another parcel. If the viewing area is located in a structure, the viewing area shall be located in a portion of a structure which was constructed without a height variation permit or variance, or which would not have required a height variation or variance when originally constructed had this section, as approved by the voters on November 7, 1989, been in effect at the time the structure was constructed, unless the viewing area located in the portion of the existing structure which required a height variation permit or variance constitutes the primary living area (living room, family room, dining room or kitchen) of the residence;

iv. v. If view impairment exists but it is determined not to be significant, as described in Finding No. iv, is the proposed new structure or proposed addition to an existing structure designed and situated in such a manner as to reasonably minimize the impairment of a view.

vi. There is no significant cumulative view impairment caused by granting the application. Cumulative view impairment shall be determined by: (a) considering the amount of view impairment caused by the proposed structure; and (b) considering the amount of view impairment that would be caused by the construction on other parcels of structures similar to the proposed structure;

vii. The proposed structure complies with all other code requirements;

viii. The proposed structure is compatible with the immediate neighborhood character;

ix. The proposed structure does not result in an unreasonable infringement of the privacy of the occupants of abutting residences.

Section 9: Table 02-A: Single-Family Residential Development Standards of Section 17.02.040 of Chapter 17.02 of Title 17 of the Municipal Code is hereby amended to delete footnote number 8, which currently reads "8. The front and side setback for those portions of structures over sixteen feet in height shall be a minimum of twenty –five feet in all residential zoned districts.", as shown in the amended Table 02-A attached hereto as Exhibit ‘B’. read as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section 10: Paragraph A of Section 17.48.050 of Title 17 is hereby amended read as follows:

 

A. No portion of any building or structure shall exceed the maximum building height of sixteen feet listed in the district development standards except as follows:

Section 1110: Subparagraph 2 of Paragraph paragraph E-2 of Section 17.76.040 of chapter 17.76 of Title 17 of the Municipal Code is hereby amended to read as follows:

The proposed grading and/or related construction does not significantly adversely affect the visual relationships with, nor the views from the "viewing area" of neighboring properties. This finding shall not apply when the proposed grading will lower the grade of the lot and will result in a structure that will create less view impairment than a structure that could have been built in the same location on the lot to the maximum building heights described in Section 17.02.040(B) of this Title;

Section 12: In addition to the amendments contained herein, the Planning Commission hereby recommends that the City Council consider amending the Height Variation Guidelines and Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook for consistency with the code amendment language attached hereto as Exhibit ‘B’.

Section 1311: The rights given by any approval granted under the terms of Title 17 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code prior to the effective date of the adoption of said ordinance shall not be affected by the amendments to Title 17 by this ordinance and shall continue in effect until and unless they are modified, revoked, expired or are otherwise terminated according to the terms of the approval or the terms of Title 17 as they existed prior to the effective date of this ordinance.

Section 1412: The amendments to Title 17 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code as identified herein shall apply to all development applications submitted after the effective date of the adoption of said ordinance that have not been finally acted upon as of the effective date of this ordinance.

Section 13: The City Council finds and determines that the immediate preservation of the public health, safety and welfare requires that this ordinance be enacted as an urgency ordinance pursuant to Government Code Section 36937 and shall take effect immediately upon adoption. Said finding and determination is based upon the recitals set forth above and the following:

A. Clarifications proposed by this ordinance are necessary to ensure that the provisions for structure height and view preservation consistently protect the health,

safety and welfare of the City and its residents and that disparate treatment of applicants could result if the ordinance does not take immediate effect.

B. The amendments are declaratory of existing policy and practice, and if the amendments did not take immediate effect, proposals for projects that fail to meet the criteria, and which could adversely impact the pubic health, safety and welfare, could be sought in order to evade the clarifying amendments, and therefore the ordinance must be adopted to apply to all projects presently on file on for which final actions have not been taken by the City, as well as any applications for development may be filed in the future.

C. Height and view impact issue regulation is consistent with the efforts of the City to preserve the unique aesthetic values and characteristics of the City and the individual properties within the City.

 

Section 1514: For the foregoing reasons, and based on the information and findings included in the Staff Report, Minutes, and other records of proceedings, the Planning Commission of the City Council of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes hereby recommends that the City Council adopts the foregoing amendments to Title 17 of the Municipal Code.adopt an Ordinance amending Title 17 of the City’s Municipal Code to affirm the historical interpretation and application of the 16-foot "by right" height limit, clarify the Height Variation Permit Findings, and amend the Height Variation Guidelines and the Neighborhood Compatibility handbook for consistency with the proposed Code Amendments.

Section 15: The City Clerk is directed to certify to the passage and adoption of this ordinance and to cause the full text of this ordinance to be published as required by law.

 

PASSED, APPROVED and ADOPTED this 17th day of February 2004.

 

/s/ Peter C. Gardiner

Mayor

Attest:

 

/s/ Jo Purcell

City Clerk

State of California )

County of Los Angeles ) ss

City of Rancho Palos Verdes )

I, Jo Purcell, City Clerk of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, do hereby certify that the whole number of members of the City Council of said City is five; that the foregoing Ordinance No. 400U was duly and regularly adopted by the City Council of said City at a regular meeting thereof held on February 17, 2004, and that the same was passed and adopted by the following roll call vote:

AYES: Clark, Long, Stern, Wolowicz and Mayor Gardiner

NOES: None

ABSENT: None

ABSTAIN: None

_________________________ City Clerk