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TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
FROM: DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT
DATE: OCTOBER 19, 2004
SUBJECT: NEIGHBORHOOD COMPATIBILITY CODE AMENDMENT/ ZON2004-00331 (CITYWIDE)
Staff Coordinator: Ara Michael Mihranian, AICP, Senior Planner
Staff recommends that the City Council review the proposed draft code amendment language that proposes to establish exemptions to the Neighborhood Compatibility review process, and if deemed acceptable, direct Staff to prepare the appropriate ordinance for introduction at the November 2nd meeting.
On May 6, 2003, the City Council adopted changes to the City’s Neighborhood Compatibility ordinance, which among other things, expanded the review process to include more types of projects. In October 2003, a resident raised a concern to the Council about the time and costs involved in processing a neighborhood compatibility application for a minor project. In response, the Council initiated Code amendment proceedings that would establish certain exemptions to the new neighborhood compatibility review process. The Planning Commission has reviewed draft Code amendment language that would establish some exemptions and has forwarded a recommendation for consideration by the Council this evening. Staff is recommending that the Council review the proposed Code amendment language recommended by the Planning Commission and if deemed acceptable, direct Staff to bring back the appropriate ordinance for introduction at the next meeting.
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. The ordinance established new Neighborhood Compatibility requirements, which went into effect 30 days later, which included a voluntary pre-application step, additional triggers for requiring a compatibility analysis, a revised definition of immediate neighborhood, and additional review criteria.
At the October 7, 2003 City Council meeting, the Council was informed by a City resident that the new Neighborhood Compatibility requirements were costly and time consuming to him and other homeowners proposing relatively small additions to homes. He requested that the Council re-visit the Neighborhood Compatibility triggers and consider adopting exemptions for small additions that currently trigger the Neighborhood Compatibility analysis. In response to the public comment, Mayor Pro-tem 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. On February 17, 2004, Staff presented the Council with a report that explained that it typically takes 2-3 months for a project to go through the Neighborhood Compatibility process and therefore it may make sense to exempt certain types of projects that, by their nature, would not likely impact neighbors. Staff also presented some suggestions of minor projects that could be exempted from the Neighborhood Compatibility review process. After considering public testimony and reviewing the suggested exemptions, the Council unanimously agreed to initiate the Code amendment proceedings.
Pursuant to Section 17.68 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code (RPVMC), the proposed Code amendment was referred to the Planning Commission for its review. On July 13, 2004, the Planning Commission opened the public hearing to review proposed language that would establish specific exemptions to the Neighborhood Compatibility review process for minor projects. After reviewing the proposed language prepared by Staff at the July 13th meeting, the Commission directed Staff to redefine and expand the proposed exemptions and to consult with the City Attorney. On August 10, 2004, the Planning Commission was presented with revised Code amendment language that was conceptually approved by the Commission. On August 24, 2004, the Planning Commission adopted P.C. Resolution No. 2004-33 recommending that the City Council consider adopting code amendment language that establishes specific exemptions to the Neighborhood Compatibility finding (see attached Resolution).
For detailed information regarding the background summarized in this Staff Report, Staff has attached the previous Planning Commission Staff Reports along with excerpt Planning Commission minutes related to this matter.
In accordance with the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Staff has determined that the proposed Code amendments to the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code will require an addendum to the Environmental Assessment and Negative Declaration prepared and approved by the City Council under Resolution No. 97-25 for amendments to Titles 16 and 17 of the City’s Municipal Code. At the time the City Council adopted the Negative Declaration, it found: 1) that there would be no significant adverse environmental impacts resulting from the adoption of the amendments; 2) that many of the amendments were clarifications and minor non-substantive revisions; and 3) that the substantive amendments would reduce impacts on the environment since the requirements and regulations governing development in the City would generally be strengthened, thereby further reducing any adverse impacts to adjacent properties and the environment.
Staff believes that the proposed amendments clarify the existing Code requirements and provide the decision makers, Staff and the public with clearer direction on how to process residential development applications. As such, Staff is of the opinion that said amendments to the Code will not result in any new significant environmental effects, but rather serve as clarifications and are minor technical changes or additions that are necessary to make the prior Negative Declaration sufficient, so that the preparation of an addendum to the previously adopted Negative Declaration pursuant to CEQA Guideline Section 15164 is proper. As a result, no further environmental review will be necessary other than the adoption of Addendum No. 11 to Environmental Assessment No. 694 and Negative Declaration.
The City Council’s adoption of Ordinance No. 389 in May 2003 amended Section 17.02.030(B) of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code (RPVMC) thereby triggering a Neighborhood Compatibility analysis for the following types of projects:
The situation that prompted the City Council to examine exempting certain minor projects involved "trigger d." Based on the above "trigger d", a homeowner requesting to construct an addition that 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 exceed 750 square feet or 25% of the original home. Under the current 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 through the Neighborhood Compatibility process is the concern expressed by a City resident at the October 7th City Council meeting. Additionally, Staff is aware of a few other situations where residents expressed a similar frustration of having to process minor additions through the Neighborhood Compatibility process.
Proposed Neighborhood Compatibility Exemptions
In consideration of these public concerns and the Council’s direction at its February 17, 2004 meeting, in order to implement exemptions to the Neighborhood Compatibility finding, the Planning Commission recommends the following Code amendment language to Section 17.02.030(B), as well as minor editorial changes to clarify the existing text (the underlined text represents new language and the strike-out text represents deleted language):
B. Neighborhood Compatibility.
2. The following projects shall be exempt from the Neighborhood Compatibility analysis in any two-year period:
i. Is 12-feet or less in height, as measured from adjacent grade; and,
i. Is 16-feet or less in height, as measured according to the criteria stated in Section 17.02.040(B); and,
Staff is recommending that the Council review the proposed exemption language and if determined to be acceptable, direct Staff to prepare the appropriate ordinance for introduction at the next City Council meeting.
Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook
After the new Neighborhood Compatibility requirements were adopted by the City Council in May 2003, a Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook was prepared to assist the public in understanding the new Neighborhood Compatibility review process. Given that the Neighborhood Compatibility review process is proposed to change with the adoption of the proposed Code amendment language, conversely the Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook will need to be amended to be consistent with the new exemptions. Therefore, based on Council direction regarding the proposed Code Amendment language, Staff will update the Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook accordingly.
Pursuant to the Development Code, a public notice was published in the Peninsula News on October 2, 2004 inviting public comments on the proposed code amendment. To date, no written comments have been submitted to the City. In the event the City receives public comments after the transmittal of this Staff Report, Staff will present the comments at the October 19th public hearing.
One-Year Review of the Neighborhood Compatibility Requirements
At the time the Neighborhood Compatibility Steering Committee presented its recommendations to the City Council and Planning Commission, it was envisioned that the disbanded Steering Committee would reconvene one-year after the effective date of the adopted ordinance to evaluate the effectiveness of the new Neighborhood Compatibility requirements. Pursuant to Council direction, Staff has been monitoring the reaction to the new Code requirements during the past year through the use of a questionnaire. The questionnaire, prepared by Staff, has been given to the various parties (property owners, architects, interested parties, etc.) involved in the processing of a project under the new criteria. Based on input gleaned from the questionnaire, as well as comments received from the City Council and the Planning Commission, it is Staff’s opinion that the new requirements do not warrant further amendments aside from minor editorial amendments and the proposed exemptions that have been discussed in the previous section. Moreover, the comments received thus far from the questionnaires commend the new requirements, especially the information contained in the Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook, the silhouette requirement, and the encouragement of the voluntary pre-application step. For this reason, the Steering Committee was not asked to reconvene and Staff’s report on the effectiveness of the new Neighborhood Compatibility requirements will be presented directly to the City Council in January 2005.
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.
The following alternatives are available for the City Council’s consideration in addition to Staff’s recommendation:
Joel Rojas, aicp
Director of Planning, Building
and Code Enforcement
ATTACHMENTS (the following documents are not available electronically, but can be viewed at the Planning Department at City Hall):