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Staff Coordinator: Ara Michael Mihranian, Senior Planner
Consider the following recommendations of the Residential Development Standards Steering Committee and Staff:
1) Initiate a Code Amendment to increase the side and rear yard setbacks;
In 2003, the City Council formed a committee, referred to as the Residential Development Standards Steering Committee (RDSSC), charged with the task to review the City’s residential development standards in relation to current housing construction trends. The RDSSC met for nearly two years and is now proposing its recommended amendments to the City Council for its consideration and eventual adoption. In summary, the RDSSC is recommending changes to the rear yard and interior side yard setbacks for zoning districts within the “Lots Created Prior to Incorporation/Annexation” category, rezoning the Eastview area from RS-4 to RS-5, and establishing a Mira Vista Overlay District that sets development standards that are more conducive to the existing neighborhood. Additionally, the RDSSC is recommending amendments to criteria relating to fences, walls, and hedges, the lot coverage definition, parking and driveway standards, private street criteria, mechanical equipment, fountains, and the sloping lot step criteria to name a few. In some cases, the proposed amendments will not only require an amendment to Title 17 (Development Code) of the RPVMC but will include amendments to the Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook for clarification and consistency purposes. If the Council finds the proposed recommendations acceptable, in whole or in part, the Council is being asked tonight to initiate the Code Amendment and Zone Change proceedings, which requires that the Planning Commission review the specific amended language and zone change proposals and forward its recommendation to the City Council for its consideration and eventual adoption.
On June 3, 2003 the Council, at the recommendation of the former Neighborhood Compatibility Steering Committee, agreed to form a new committee to review the City’s current residential development standards. At that time, the Council agreed that the formation of the new committee should follow suit with the Neighborhood Compatibility Steering Committee and should be comprised of two Council members, two Planning Commissioners and community representatives. The Council also agreed that the new Committee should, at a minimum, review the items identified by the former Neighborhood Compatibility Steering Committee for further study, such as setback, lot area, and lot coverage requirements, as well as the general residential development standards found in Title 17 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code (RPVMC).
The Residential Development Standards Steering Committee (referred herein as the Committee) was comprised of Mayor Wolowicz, Mayor Pro-Tem Long, Planning Commissioner Bill Gerstner, Planning Commissioner Stephen Perestam, and community members; Ken Dyda, Lois Karp, Frank Lyon, Jim Slayden, Craig Mueller, Kristine Denton, and Jon Cartwright. The Committee met 23 times during almost nearly a 2-year span, from June 2004 through March 2006. During this period, the Committee reviewed the Development Code’s residential development standards in relation to other Cities’ ordinances and current housing construction trends. Additionally, the Committee reviewed the City’s Zoning Map. In its review, which will be discussed in greater detail in the next section, the Committee identified specific residential development standards that warrant amending, as well as proposed amendments to the City’s Zoning Map.
Attached to this Staff Report is a Committee Summary Table that identifies each topic reviewed by the Committee and its ultimate recommendation. Additionally, attached are select meeting minutes, data worksheets, and other relevant materials for the Council’s review.
The Committee held its first meeting on June 23, 2004. At that meeting, the Committee drafted a list of topics to review throughout its tenure, including topics that were forwarded from the former Neighborhood Compatibility Steering Committee. All the topics reviewed by the Committee are listed below (the first four items are topics forwarded by the Neighborhood Compatibility Steering Committee):
- Lot Coverage
To facilitate the Committee’s review of the above topics, working from the Council’s directive, the Committee adopted the following goal:
The Committee’s overall goal is to review the City’s residential development standards and recommend any changes necessary to maintain or enhance the unique character of the City’s residential neighborhoods in consonance with the General Plan and the Neighborhood Compatibility ordinance.
Based on this goal, the Committee spent its time reviewing the above topics in light of current housing construction trends. The attached Committee Summary Table lists the topics reviewed by the Committee and its eventual recommendations. In some cases, the Committee is recommending that the Council consider amending the Development Code and in other cases the Committee is recommending no action. In either case, the table summarizes the rational for each of the recommended actions. Notwithstanding the attached table, that is intended to facilitate the Council’s review of the Committee’s recommendations, the following discussion explains the three (3) major recommendations by the Committee.
The topic of setbacks was forwarded from the Neighborhood Compatibility Steering Committee because they felt that the current housing construction trend is diminishing the open space feel of the City by building taller structures up to the setback limits. The Committee reviewed the existing setback criteria depicted in the Development Code (See attached Table 02-A). According to the table, the setbacks for property in the City are divided into two categories, “Lots Created Prior to Incorporation/Annexation” and “City Created Lots.” In order to understand the application of these setback standards, the Committee was presented with examples of various neighborhoods within each zoning designation. Furthermore, the Committee was presented with a matrix that compared the City’s setback standards to other cities in Los Angeles County, including the Peninsula cities (Rolling Hills, Palos Verdes Estates, and Rolling Hills Estates), Manhattan Beach, Malibu and La Canada-Flintridge (see attachment).
Based on this information, the Committee felt that Citywide, the front yard setback standards are adequate and that the rear and interior side yard setbacks be modified as follows:
Lots Created Prior to Incorporation/Annexation:
- RS-A5, RS-1, and RS-2 – Increase the rear yard setback from a minimum of 15-feet to a minimum of 20-feet.
The Committee felt that the rear yard setback for “Lots Created Prior to Incorporation/Annexation” within the RS-A5, RS-1, and RS-2 zoning districts should be increased from 15-feet to 20-feet because these lots are large enough to accommodate the additional open space without compromising the buildable area or causing a hardship to property owners. Additionally, the Committee felt this change would make the criteria consistent with “City Created Lots.”
With regards to interior side yard setbacks, the Committee spent several meetings reviewing scenarios at various setback limits to determine what interior side yard setback criteria would best preserve the open space feel of the City with minimal impacts to property owners seeking to modernize or expand their homes. In the end, the Committee felt that the current interior side yard setback criteria for “City Created Lots” provides adequate open space for all zoning districts, especially the RS-3, RS-4, and RS-5 districts, that require a minimum total of 20-feet with a minimum of 10-feet on each side. However, the Committee agreed to increase the interior side yard setback criteria for all zoning districts within the “Lots Created Prior to Incorporation/Annexation” category to a total of 15-feet with a minimum of 5-feet on one side. The Committee felt that this change would secure open space between structures without causing a significant hardship to property owners because the current 5-foot side yard setback along one side could be maintained provided that the other side maintains a 10-foot side yard setback or any combination thereof which totals 15-feet.
It should be noted that some members of the Committee felt that the rear yard setbacks should be increased because it would further increase the open space between structures. Some other members felt that no change should occur because increasing setbacks would cause property owners seeking to expand their home to go upward rather than outward, which may introduce different impacts (views, scale, etc.). Furthermore, some Committee members felt a change to the setbacks would pose a hardship to areas such as Eastview because of the smaller lot configurations.
2. Lot Area and Zoning
During the Committee’s discussion on setbacks, concerns were raised regarding the required lot area standards, specifically as it relates to the density of current subdivisions and their inconsistency with existing neighborhoods. Although the Committee recognized that the subdivisions proposed today comply with the City’s Code requirements, there is a concern that the resultant lot area densities may be incompatible with the character of existing neighborhoods. This is of particular concern within the RS-4 and RS-5 zoning districts because these areas appear to be experiencing the most visible development. The Committee reviewed a table prepared by Staff that analyzed various neighborhoods within the City designated RS-4 and RS-5 zoning districts (see attached). The attached table evaluated the average lot area and lot size range to the minimum lot area standards for the designated RS-4 or RS-5 zoning districts. The information contained in the table was based on sampled lots from randomly selected streets within the City’s designated RS-4 and RS-5 zoning districts (The information was obtained from the Los Angeles County Assessors Office).
Based on the Committee’s initial review of the attached table, it was determined that the lot area calculations for the study area accurately represented the base zoning for each respective area, with the exception of the Eastview Area. The Eastview area is designated as an RS-4 zoning district that requires a minimum lot area of 10,000 square feet. According to the data reviewed by the Committee, the average lot area (7,694 sq. ft.) for the Eastview area was consistently less than the minimum lot area (10,000 sq. ft.) required by the RS-4 zoning designation. As such, the Committee directed Staff to further study the zoning for the Eastview Area.
Based on an in-depth study of the Eastview Area, the Committee opted against establishing a new zoning designation and agreed to recommend rezoning this area from a RS-4 to a RS-5 district to better represent the Eastview area as a whole. The Committee’s recommendation took into account the possibility that there may be an increase in subdivision applications as a result of the change to the RS-5 zoning designation. However, after considering minimum lot area, minimum lot dimension (lot width and depth) requirements, and topography, no more than a few lots within the sampled area could be subdivided under the new zoning designation. As such, the Committee is recommending the following change to the City’s Zoning Map:
Rezone the Eastview Area from RS-4 to RS-5 zoning designation (see attached map)
3. Mira Vista Overlay District
At the time the Committee agreed to recommend that the Eastview Area be rezoned from a RS-4 to a RS-5 zoning district, concerns were raised regarding the impacts such a change might have on residential improvements within this area. As such, the Committee formed a Subcommittee (consisting of Committee Members Dyda, Karp and Denton) assigned with the task of reviewing the development standards for the Eastview area and with the possibility of establishing an overlay district that would create residential development standards that are more conducive to the area.
The Subcommittee reported that this specific area, comprised of the following streets: Jaybrook, Trudie, Homeworth, Highmore, and a small portion of Bayend, consists of homes that were developed in the early 1950’s and are in need of modernization. Most of these homes have single car garages and average approximately 1,500 square feet in size (garage included), while the remaining portion of Eastview consists of homes with two or more spaces in a garage and average structure size of approximately 2,100 square feet (garage included). Additionally, the lots located within this specific area are approximately 1,500 square feet smaller in area than the lots located throughout the Eastview Area. Therefore, in order to promote the modernization of the housing stock in this specific area, the Subcommittee recommended that development standards be considered in the form of an overlay district that better suit the neighborhood. The Committee felt that an overlay district would improve the overall character of the neighborhood, and that would not cause undue hardship to property owners within the neighborhood. As such, the Subcommittee recommended establishing an Overlay District, referred herein as the Mira Vista Overlay District, for this specific area (see attached map). The proposed overlay district is comprised of 225 housing units out of a total of 2,201 housing units in the entire Eastview Area, which is slightly more than 10% of the Eastview housing stock. The proposed development standards for the Mira Vista District are attached for the Council’s review. In summary, the development standards cover the following areas:
The Committee wanted the property owners within the proposed Mira Vista Overlay District to be given a chance to review the proposal and provide the Committee feedback before formally recommending such a proposal to the City Council. Therefore, on February 13, 2006, the Committee held a workshop at Dodson Middle School to introduce the concept of the Mira Vista Overlay District to the neighborhood and to hear feedback from the residents. A notice of the workshop was mailed to residents within the proposed overlay district and to homeowner associations within the entire Eastview area. The workshop was attended by six residents who each spoke on the content of the proposed overlay district and expressed an appreciation of the City for attempting to improve the ability to modernize the housing stock within this area. Attached are the minutes from the February 13, 2006 workshop (see attachment). As a result of the workshop, the Committee further refined the proposed development standards, in areas such as setbacks, parking, and fences, to reflect the comments received at the workshop. As a result of this study, the Committee is recommending the following change to Title 17 of the RPVMC:
Establishing a Mira Vista Overlay District
OTHER CLEAN-UP ITEMS
In addition to the above recommendations, the Committee is also recommending other minor amendments to other existing development standards, as shown on the attached Summary Table (see attachment).
Furthermore, Staff has been keeping track of some Development Code items that need to be amended to further clarify the intent of the item, to correct inconsistencies, and/or to make minor wordsmith changes. These administrative clean-up items cover topics, such as, but not limited to:
- Roof Decks and Balconies
Staff is recommending that these administrative clean-up items be initiated at this time along with the Committee’s recommended Code Amendments.
CODE AND ZONING MAP AMENDMENT PROCESS
In the event that the Council supports the proposed changes, amendments to the City’s existing Zoning Map and Development Code would be initiated. In accordance with the Municipal Code, once initiated by the City Council, a code amendment and zone change is to be reviewed and considered by the Planning Commission at a duly noticed public hearing. The Planning Commission is to review and consider the actual proposed code amendment language and zoning map changes and forward a recommendation to the City Council for its consideration and eventual adoption. It should be noted that the Council is being asked this evening to consider the Committee’s recommendation and to determine whether code amendment proceedings should be initiated. The Council is not being asked to codify the proposed recommendations at this time, but to initiate the proceedings.
In addition to amending the Development Code, certain recommended changes will require amending the Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook for consistency purposes. The proposed amendments to the Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook will be processed concurrently with the amendments to the Development Code.
Attached are two comment letters from residents residing within the proposed Mira Vista Overlay District. The comment letters offer suggested modifications to the proposed standards. Staff believes that if the Council initiates the Mira Vista Overlay District, the content of the comment letters can be addressed at the time the Planning Commission reviews the proposal.
Committee Meeting Minutes
During the Committee’s tenure, detailed minutes were taken to document the discussion between Committee Members and the final action on each recommendation. Aside from the attached minutes from the February 13, 2006 public workshop, the Committee meeting minutes have not been attached to this Staff Report because of the voluminous nature of the minutes. However, in the event a Council Member would like to review the Committee discussion leading up to a specific action, Staff can provide the respective minutes.
In its review of the City’s residential development standards, the Committee identified a concern with noise generated by mechanical equipment, such as pool filters, air conditioners, and outdoor water heaters, and the lack of a City noise ordinance. Although this matter is not directly related to the Committee’s assigned task in reviewing the residential development standards, the concern relates to the quality of life for the City’s residents. As such, the Committee is recommending that the City Council consider studying the possibility of establishing a noise ordinance.
The Anderson Initiative, known as Proposition 90, has qualified for the November ballot. This initiative is supposed to be responding to the Supreme Court's decision in the Kelo case and has the potential to require compensation to be paid to property owners in cases where “down zoning” is considered. Staff will continue to monitor this Initiative as it relates to Code Amendments currently under consideration by the City.
As previously noted, a notice was mailed to property owners within the boundary limits of the proposed Mira Vista Overlay District and to homeowner associations within the Eastview area informing them of tonight’s meeting. To date, no public comments have been submitted to the City. Comments submitted to the City after the transmittal of this Staff Report will be given to the Council the night of the meeting.
Staff believes that the proposed changes will not result in increased costs to the City because the proposed changes to the residential development standards will not require additional Staff time for processing development applications. In fact, in some cases, the proposed amendments are to simplify the process by preventing the need for a variance application to be processed.
- Committee Summary Table