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FROM: DIRECTOR OF PLANNING BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT
DATE: SEPTEMBER 19, 2006
SUBJECT: PROPOSED VIEW RESTORATION AND PRESERVATION GUIDELINE REVISIONS
Review and approve the recommended revisions to the City’s View Restoration and Preservation Guidelines that have been forwarded from the Planning Commission, including language revisions discussed by the City Council.
Amendments to the City’s View Restoration Guidelines are being made to update the Guidelines to make them consistent with the use of a professional mediator and the fee structure approved by the City Council on November 3, 2004 and February 15, 2005, respectively. In addition, minor clean-up amendments are proposed to clarify the View Restoration Permit process and streamline the View Preservation Permit process. The Planning Commission completed its review of the proposed amendments on May 9, 2006, and forwarded its recommendations to the City Council. At its regular scheduled meeting on August 15, 2006, the City Council reviewed the proposed amendments and continued the public hearing to tonight’s meeting after directing Staff to make additional minor language modifications. The proposed revisions to the View Guidelines are now being presented for the Council’s review and approval.
Provided below is a summary of the Planning Commission’s recommended revisions as described in the August 15, 2006 City Council report followed by a summary of the suggested language revisions discussed by the City Council at the August 15th meeting. All of the specific language amendments are contained in the attached draft View Guidelines. Language that is proposed to be inserted is shown in underlined text, while language that is proposed to be deleted is shown in strike out text.
As described in the August 15, 2006 City Council Staff report the proposed major changes recommended by the Planning Commission are as follows:
1: Replacing the term “View Owner” with the term “Applicant” [throughout]
SUMMARY: The Commission proposes language throughout the Guidelines that would replace all the references to "view owner" with the term "Applicant".
2: Mediator’s pre-application attendance [page 9, Section V(A)(6)]
SUMMARY: The Commission proposes language to clarify that the mediator is an unbiased participant during the pre-application meeting and does not represent the City.
3: Diagram to illustrate and clarify foliage trimming when multiple ridgelines are involved [page 12, Section V(B)(3)]
SUMMARY: It is recommended that a diagram be added to the Guidelines in order clarify the current language that describes foliage owners with residential structures having multiple rooflines and taking into account the different rooflines when directing tree-trimming levels.
4: Tree removal clarification [page 16, Section VI(A)(4)]
SUMMARY: The Commission proposes language to clarify what is meant by “tree removal” and to allow foliage owners the flexibility to leave a tree or shrub stump in place rather than stump grind or flush cut to grade.
5: Applicant’s obligation to pay for any unexpected tree trimming costs necessary to restore a view [page 19, Section VI(I) & page 8, Section IV(F)].
SUMMARY: The Commission proposes language to clarify that the applicant is responsible for providing additional funds into a City tree trimming trust account if and when Staff determines after the initial trimming that additional tree trimming is required to restore the view as intended in the City decision.
6: On-site monitoring by Staff [page 19, Section VI(I)].
SUMMARY: The Commission proposes language to make it clear that foliage owners should inform Staff prior to initial trimming or removal so that Staff can monitor the work if needed, but that Staff is not required to monitor every Commission-directed tree trimming.
7: Insurance coverage requirement [page 21, Section VI(K)]
SUMMARY: The Commission suggests specifying the actual required insurance coverage for tree trimming contractors and extending said coverage to any additionally named insureds so as to close any potential legal ambiguities regarding insurance coverage responsibilities.
8: Recovery of City costs incurred in securing compliance [page 21, Section VI (K) & Section VIII (B)(5)]
SUMMARY: The Commission proposes language to clarify the City’s abatement authority and cost recovery process when Staff is required to retain a tree service to secure compliance with an approved Planning Commission resolution. To coincide with this amendment, the City Attorney prepared an ordinance, which amends Section 17.02.040(C)(2) of the Municipal Code, to make it clear that the City may utilize the process set forth in Title 8, Chapter 24 of the Code to record assessments or liens against properties in order to cover unpaid costs to trim or remove foliage to restore a view in accordance with the Commission’s or the Director’s decision. Said ordinance (No. 442) was introduced on August 15, 2006 and adopted on September 5, 2006.
9: Mandatory site visits to participate in the hearing of View Preservation appeals [page 26, Section VIII B (4)(d)]
SUMMARY: The Commission proposes language to require that site visits for View Preservation Permit appeal hearings be mandatory and be conducted in the same manner as View Restoration Permit required site visits as outlined in Section IV (E)(5) of the Guidelines.
10. Streamlined View Preservation Permit Process [page 25 and 27, Section VIII-B(4)and Section VIII C(1)]
SUMMARY: The Planning Commission agreed to eliminate what Staff believes to be an unnecessary pre-application meeting requirement outlined in Section VIII (B)(4) of the View Guidelines. In lieu of requiring a View Preservation applicant to attend a mandatory pre-application meeting, the Commission’s proposed language allows Staff to immediately make a decision on a request upon receipt of a Notice of Intent form from the applicant, which includes the View Owner’s written correspondence to the Foliage Owner and documentation of view photographs. If Staff determines that the offending foliage significantly impairs the view from the applicant’s viewing area, then Staff shall request that the foliage owner voluntarily trim the offending foliage within 30 days of receiving written notice from the City. If the foliage owner does not perform the work within 30 days, then the Director’s formal Notice of Decision to trim the view impairing foliage is issued to the foliage owner. The Commission agreed that this amendment would allow Staff to address View Preservation requests more quickly and reduce costs associated with having the View Mediator attend pre-application meetings for View Preservation matters.
The additional proposed changes discussed by City Council on August 16, 2006 are as follows:
A: Tree removal clarification [page 16, Section VI(A)(4)]
SUMMARY: The City Council agreed that Staff should clarify the language that describes the option to either stump grind to existing grade or flush cut to existing grade. Staff has clarified that stump grinding means grinding a stump to either existing grade or a depth below existing grade to be determined by the Planning Commission on a case-by-case basis. This enables the Planning Commission to order stump grinding to a specified depth below grade when warranted. Otherwise, if the Planning Commission specifies no stump grinding depth, the grinded stump level shall be left flush with the existing grade. In addition, Staff has clarified that should physical limitations such as topography, preclude mechanical stump grinding, the tree’s stump shall be brought to existing grade or as close to existing grade as possible by a flush-cutting method.
B: Replacement of foliage that serves as screening [page 18, Section VI(E)(1)(g)]
SUMMARY: The City Council directed Staff to draft language that would enable the Planning Commission to order replacement foliage when existing foliage that serves as screening for unfinished walls or the support structure of decks on adjacent properties is required to be removed to restore a view. Accordingly, Staff has added a finding that would allow the Planning Commission the ability to order replacement foliage to provide such screening foliage on a case-by-case basis.
C: View Preservation clarification [page 23, Section VIII(A)].
SUMMARY: At the August 15, 2006 City Council meeting, Staff noted that just prior to the meeting, Staff had visited with a long standing view restoration applicant who raised some concerns about the lack of defined process for dealing with new foliage growing into a view that had been restored through the View Restoration Permit process. Staff felt that the issue could be addressed with additional language and the City Council agreed. After consulting with the City Attorney, Staff has drafted language to make it clear that foliage owners are responsible for ensuring that any new view-impairing foliage that was not specified in an original View Restoration Permit is not allowed to grow up and significantly impair the view in the future. This is achieved by considering any new foliage that grows up into an applicant’s documented view as significant view impairing foliage. Furthermore, Staff has incorporated language that makes it clear that should maintenance trimming work not be performed within the required time periods, Staff shall use the enforcement and applicable cost recovery procedures to bring the property owner’s foliage into compliance.
The adoption of the proposed amendments will not necessitate a budget adjustment or an expenditure of City funds. As described above, the Planning Commission's proposed recommendations include streamlining the View Preservation Permit process. Streamlining the process will eliminate the need to have the View Mediator attend View Preservation pre-application meetings, which represents approximately 20% of all view cases per year, thus potentially saving the City expenses of approximately $9,000 annually. However, any potential costs savings may be offset by the increase in hours spent by the Mediator for View Restoration cases.
At the August 15th City Council meeting, in conjunction with the proposed Guideline amendments, a draft ordinance was introduced to clarify in the City’s municipal code that the City may record liens or assessments against non-compliant property owners. On September 5, 2006 at its second reading, the Council adopted Ordinance No. 442, amending Section 17.02.040(C)(2) of the Municipal Code to clarify that City may record assessments or liens against properties in order to recover unpaid costs associated with court-ordered trimming to restore and preserve views.
2. Identify any issues that require additional Staff review and input and continue this item to a future meeting to allow Staff time to prepare such review and input.
1. Draft View Restoration Guideline language amendments with strikeouts and underlining