TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
FROM: DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT
DATE: AUGUST 2, 2005
SUBJECT: SITE PLAN REVIEW (case no. ZON2005-00355), FOR PROPERTY LOCATED AT 49¼ ROCKINGHORSE. (Applicant: Stan Rinehart / Property Owner - 49 ¼ Rockinghorse: Stan Rinehart / Property Owner - Vacant Parcel: Edward Lassiter)
Staff Coordinator: Dave Blumenthal, Associate Planner
Adopt Resolution No. 2005-__, approving, with conditions, the Site Plan Review (Case No. ZON2005-00355) to allow the construction of an access driveway through Open Space Hazard (OH) zoned property.
In June 2005, the Planning Commission approved an application to construct a new residence on a vacant lot located at 49¼ Rockinghorse. The approved residence proposes to take access across a vacant parcel that is owned by a different landowner. Although both property owners are in agreement with the proposed access route and the Commission approved the concept, City Council approval of the access road is required since the access road would be located on Open Space Hazard (OH) zoned property. The City’s Development Code allows the construction of an access driveway through an OH zone with City Council approval. Although, the basic route of the access road has already been graded, based on the analysis in this report, staff feels that both of the required findings can be adopted to approve the driveway in the OH zone. As such, staff is recommending that the City Council approve, with conditions, the Site Plan Review for the access driveway.
On May 25, 2004, the Planning Commission approved a Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2003-00088) to allow the construction of a 4,507 square foot single-family residence and 622 cubic yards of grading (see P.C. Resolution No. 2004-23). The applicant subsequently appealed the project to contest some of the conditions of approval imposed by the Planning Commission. This appeal was held in abeyance by the Council at the applicant’s request. On March 17, 2005, the applicant withdrew his appeal, without City Council acting on the project. As such, the Planning Commission’s May 25, 2004, decision became final on March 17, 2005.
On April 5, 2005, the applicant submitted an application to modify the location of the access driveway to the new residence. On May 2, 2005, while the revision application was being processed, staff was notified by a neighbor that the proposed driveway was already graded. Accordingly, staff conducted a site visit to investigate the alleged violation, at which time staff found the allegation to be substantiated. A detailed discussion of this grading is located in the site and project description section of this report. As a result of the unpermitted work, pursuant to the requirements of the Municipal Code, the applicant paid double the application fees. Nevertheless, staff’s analysis of this request is based on the merits of the project, as opposed to whether unpermitted work has been performed.
On June 14, 2005, the Planning Commission approved an after-the-fact revision to the Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2005-00160), thus allowing the driveway to be relocated across an existing vacant parcel on the west side of the project site (APN 7556-011-031), provided an easement is granted by the adjoining property owner. Additionally, the Planning Commission approved an increase in the grading quantity from 622 cubic yards to 821 cubic yards (see P.C. Resolution No. 2005-27). The access driveway would be located in an Open Space Hazard (OH) area. Pursuant to Municipal Code Section 17.32.050, access driveways are allowed to be located on Open Space Hazard (OH) zoned areas provided City Council approval is obtained. Therefore, the Planning Commission included a condition of approval that requires the applicant to obtain approval of the access driveway from the City Council prior to submitting plans into Building and Safety plan check.
On July 7, 2005, in accordance with the conditions of approval, the applicant submitted a Site Plan Review (Case No. ZON2005-00355), requesting to construct an access driveway through the Open Space (OH) zone. After a review of the application and plans, staff deemed the application complete on July 12, 2005. As such, the action deadline for this request is September 10, 2005.
Even though the Municipal Code does not require a public notice for a Site Plan Review application, staff sent a courtesy notice regarding this request to all interested parties on July 14, 2005.
SITE & PROJECT DESCRIPTION
The project involves two parcels, which are under separate ownership, and are located on "The Spur" portion of Rockinghorse Drive. The development parcel (APN 7556-011-033, 49¼ Rockinghorse) is owned by Mr. Rinehart (the applicant) and is an unimproved 33,613 square foot parcel, which is mainly located in the RS-2 zone. However, a portion of the west side of the property is zoned Open Space Hazard. The development site, which slopes down from the street of access, is primarily an extreme slope (greater than 35%). In fact, the only portions of the site that are less than 35% slope are located on the northwest corner of the site, which is within the Open Space Hazard Zone. There is an ingress/egress street easement on the front portion of the property, which ranges from 10 to 25 feet.
The second parcel (APN 7556-011-031, no address assigned) involved with this project is owned by Mr. Lassiter and is currently an unimproved lot entirely within the Open Space Hazard (OH) zone. It is this parcel in which the proposed driveway is located. As previously noted, it appears that the new access driveway has been cut into the slope, without the benefit of City approval. Based on staff’s site visit, a review of the aerial photos, and a discussion with the interested parties, staff has ascertained that the upper part of the driveway is a portion of an existing access driveway to a water main for California Water Service that was graded at an undetermined date. The lower portion part of the driveway appears to have been a portion of a trail that provided access to a horse stable, which has been removed from the property. Recently, in order to provide equipment access for a geotechnical study that is associated with a separate project, the property owner (Mr. Lassiter) cleared the vegetation from this area and widened the lower portion of the road. Even though staff is unable to determine when portions of the upper driveway were graded, it is apparent that recent grading has occurred on the lower portion of the driveway. Nevertheless, all of this grading has occurred without the benefit of permits, therefore the revised grading application request is being considered after-the-fact.
The original project approved by the Planning Commission on May 25, 2004 consists of a 4,507 square foot single-family residence on the Rinehart property, which has a maximum height of 27’-2" from the lowest elevation where the finished grade is adjacent to the building foundation/slab (112’) to the highest roof ridgeline (139’-2"), and the highest ridgeline of the residence (139’-2") is 6’ below the average elevation of the front setback line (148’).
The recently approved Planning Commission revision allows the driveway to take access across the vacant Lassiter parcel on the west side of the project site. To accommodate this request, Mr. Rinehart has reached an agreement (attached) with Mr. Lassiter to obtain an access easement across the property to accommodate his driveway. The new driveway is proposed to be 15’ wide and 480’ long. To accommodate the driveway, the Commission approved an increase in the grading quantity to 821 cubic yards. Additionally, the applicant is proposing to construct a 6’ tall upslope retaining wall adjacent to the driveway for slope stabilization. As a result of the new driveway location, the applicant was able to sink the residence further into the hillside, which results in the highest ridgeline elevation being lowered 1’-2" from 139’-2" to 138’. No other changes to the residence were proposed or approved.
Staff has reviewed the proposed application for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Upon completion of this review, it has been determined that this request is categorically exempt from CEQA, pursuant to Guideline Section No. 15303 (New Construction or Conversion of Small Structures).
Categorical Exemptions are projects, which have been determined not to have a significant effect on the environment and have been exempted from the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. Class 3 consists of "construction and location of limited numbers of new, small facilities or structures," which includes a single-family residence. It is staff’s opinion that since this Site Plan Review is being proposed to accommodate access to a new single-family residence; the proposed revision qualifies for a Class 3 exemption.
Open Space (OH) Zone:
According to Municipal Code Section 17.32.050(A), access to a lawful use or lot is permitted in the OH zone, provided the City Council approves a Site Plan Review application and the following provisions apply:
A condition of approval of the original project (Condition No. 22) required the applicant to record a revised ingress/egress easement with the approval of the adjoining neighbors that would extend across the applicant’s street frontage. This was required since the applicant’s proposed access driveway would prevent the existing private road easement from being built out to its full width, if needed in the future. However, the applicant has stated that he was unable to reach an agreement with all of the adjoining property owners that have rights to the easement. Considering this and the limitations on the location of the residence, it is staff’s opinion that that the proposed access driveway through the OH zone is the only practical access to the structure. As such, staff feels that the proposed driveway complies with this provision.
The permitted uses in the OH zone include passive recreation uses (parks, trails, etc.), preservation of natural resources (plant and animal life), growing of crops and/or fruits (for noncommercial purposes), public utility structures (subject to approval of a Conditional Use Permit), and all other uses listed in Chapter 17.32 of the Municipal Code. Staff has reviewed the proposed driveway with regard to these uses and it is staff's opinion that the addition of the driveway will not alter the ability to use the property for in a manner that is consistent with the permitted or conditionally permitted uses in the OH zone. As such, staff feels that the proposed driveway complies with this provision.
The applicant has submitted and obtained approval of a geology report for the original driveway and the structure. This report demonstrates to the satisfaction of the City’s Geologist that the structure can be built without having a negative impact to the geology of the area. As part of the approval of the revision, the Planning Commission included a condition on the project that requires, prior to the issuance of building permits, the applicant to submit an updated geology/soils report, for review and approval by the City Geologist, which includes the area of the proposed driveway. With this condition of approval, staff feels that the proposed driveway complies with this provision.
According to the "Natural Vegetation of Rancho Palos Verdes" Map (dated June 11, 2003), which is part of the City’s NCCP, the subject site is located in an area which is identified as containing Coastal Sage Scrub (CSS) habitat. CSS is the habitat of the federally protected California Gnatcatcher. According to the federal Endangered Species Act, the removal of CSS habitat that is occupied by a gnatcatcher is considered a "taking" which may require the issuance of a federal "take" permit. Accordingly, the applicant hired a biologist to perform a biological review of the site. As summarized in the applicant’s biology report, dated May 24, 2005 (attached), the biologist concluded that there is an approximate 0.03-acre of Coastal Sage Scrub on the site. However, the proposed residence and revised access driveway will not impact the patch of CSS. Furthermore, the biologist found that the vegetation on site is not occupied by a gnatcatcher nor is it likely to provide nesting resources to gnatcatchers. However, due to the close proximity of the driveway to the identified CSS, the Planning Commission incorporated the biologist’s recommendations for avoiding impacts to the CSS into the projects conditions of approval. Based on the biologist report findings, the driveway will not eliminate any coastal sage scrub habitat. As such, staff feels that the proposed driveway complies with this provision.
Site Plan Review:
Municipal Code Section 17.32.050 allows the City Council to approve the Site Plan Review for the access driveway in the OH zone, provided the following two findings can be made:
This request is for a permanent driveway, through the OH zone, to provide access to a new single-family residence. Inasmuch as the driveway is for access to the residence only, it is staff’s opinion that it is accessory and subordinate to the residence. Furthermore, staff feels that this is the suitable location for the driveway, thus it will facilitate access to the residence. Staff further feels that since the applicant is utilizing existing contours and the Planning Commission conditioned the driveway to be screened with landscaping the driveway will not alter the nature of the open space. As such, staff believes that the proposed driveway complies with the standards set forth in this finding and that this finding can be adopted.
The City of Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code section 17.70 allows the City Council to approve a Site Plan Review provided all requirements of Title 17 of the Municipal Code are being complied with. Staff has reviewed the requested driveway and is of the opinion that the driveway complies with all the requirement of Title 17, without a need for the approval of a Variance or Minor Exception Permit. As such, staff feels that the proposed driveway complies with Chapter 17.70 of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code and that this finding can be adopted.
As of the printing of this report, staff has not received any correspondence regarding the Site Plan Review application.
In addition to staff’s recommendation, the following alternatives are available for the City Council’s consideration:
Joel Rojas, aicp,
Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement
RESOLUTION NO. 2005-__
A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES APPROVING, WITH CONDITIONS, A SITE PLAN REVIEW (CASE NO. ZON2005-00355), FOR PROPERTY LOCATED AT 49¼ ROCKINGHORSE.
WHEREAS, on May 25, 2004, the Planning Commission approved a Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2003-00088) to allow the construction of a 4,507 square foot single-family residence and 622 cubic yards of grading. The applicant subsequently appealed the project to contest some of the conditions of approval imposed by the Planning Commission. This appeal was held in abeyance by the City Council, at the applicant’s request. On March 17, 2005, the applicant withdrew his appeal, without having the City Council act on the appeal of the project. As such, the Planning Commission’s decision became final on March 17, 2005; and,
WHEREAS, on June 14, 2005, the Planning Commission approved an after-the-fact revision to the Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2005-00160), thus revising the location of the driveway to take access across a portion of the vacant parcel located immediately to the west of the project site (APN 7556-011-031), which is within the OH Zone. Additionally, the Planning Commission approved an increase of the grading quantity from 622 cubic yards to 821 cubic yards (see P.C. Resolution No. 2005-27); and,
WHEREAS, on July 7, 2005, in accordance with the conditions of approval for the revision to the Grading Permit, the applicant submitted a Site Plan Review (Case No. ZON2005-00355), requesting to construct an access driveway through the Open Space (OH) zone; and,
WHEREAS, the Height Variation application was deemed complete by staff on July 12, 2005; and,
WHEREAS, on August 2, 2005, pursuant to the requirements of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code, the City Council considered the Site Plan Review at a regular City Council meeting, at which time all interested parties were given an opportunity to be heard and present evidence; and,
WHEREAS, pursuant to the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code Sections 21000 et. seq. ("CEQA"), the State's CEQA Guidelines, California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 15000 et. seq., the City's Local CEQA Guidelines, and Government Code Section 65962.5(f) (Hazardous Waste and Substances Statement), Staff found no evidence that the Site Plan Review would have a significant effect on the environment and, therefore, the proposed project has been found to be categorically exempt under Class 3 (Section 15303); and,
NOW, THEREFORE, THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES DOES HEREBY FIND, DETERMINE AND RESOLVE AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1: That the approved project includes the construction of an access driveway through the Open Space Hazard Zone.
Section 2: The driveway through the Open Space Hazard zone is permitted, in accordance with Municipal Code Section 17.32.050, inasmuch as there is no other practical access to the residence; the access will not alter the character of the premises in respect to the permitted or conditionally permitted uses in the Open Space Hazard district because the addition of the driveway will not alter the allowable uses that can be made of the land; based on the geology report that has been reviewed and approved by the City Geologist, the access will not further increase hazardous conditions or alter the nature of the permitted uses, and based on the approved biology report, the access will not eliminate any coastal sage scrub habitat that is occupied by the threatened California Gnatcatcher.
Section 3: Approval of the Site Plan is warranted, since the uses and developments are not permanent (with the exception of access, which is allowed by Section 17.32.050 of the Municipal Code), and the access road is clearly accessory and subordinate to the primary residential use of the land, and the driveway will not alter the nature of the open space land, and is limited to those facilities that can be constructed on the property and are necessary for utilization of the open space land. Inasmuch as, the driveway will provide access to a new single-family residence, it is accessory and subordinate to the residence and will facilitate access to the residence. In addition, the Planning Commission has conditioned the Grading Permit to screen the driveway so that it will not alter the nature of the open space.
Section 4: The Site Plan Review is warranted since the project complies with the provisions of Chapter 17.70 of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code. Chapter 17.70 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code allows the approval of a Site Plan Review, provided all requirements of Title 17 of the Municipal Code are satisfied. Based on a review of the requirements of Title 17, it is found that the project can be constructed without the need for the approval of a Variance or Minor Exception Permit. Accordingly, it is appropriate for that finding to be made.
Section 5: The time within which the judicial review of the decision reflected in this Resolution, if available, must be sought is governed by Section 1094.6 of the California Code of Civil Procedure and other applicable short periods of limitation.
Section 6: For the foregoing reasons and based on the information and findings included in the Staff Report, Minutes and other records of proceedings (dated August 2, 2005), City Council of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes hereby approves the Site Plan Review to allow for the construction of a driveway through the Open Space Hazard zone (Case No. ZON2005-00355); subject to the conditions contained in Exhibit 'A', attached hereto and made a part hereof, which are necessary to protect the public health, safety and welfare in the area.
PASSED, APPROVED, AND ADOPTED this 2nd day of August 2005.
State of California )
County of Los Angeles ) ss
City of Rancho Palos Verdes )
I, __________________, City Clerk of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, hereby certify that the above Resolution No. 2005-__ was duly and regularly passed and adopted by the said City Council at a regular meeting thereof held on August 2, 2005.
Conditions of Approval
Resolution No. 2005-__
Site Plan Review (Case No. ZON2005-00355)