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FROM: DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT
DATE: OCTOBER 3, 2006
SUBJECT: CODE AMENDMENT (CASE NO. ZON2004-00265): AMENDMENT TO VARIOUS SECTIONS OF TITLE 17 (ZONING) TO REGULATE THE USE OF CARGO CONTAINERS ON PUBLIC AND PRIVATE PROPERTY
Review Staff’s proposed revisions to the Cargo Container Code Amendment (Case No. ZON2004-00265) and the potential conflicts that they raise, and provide direction to Staff to finalize the language of the amendment for introduction of the ordinance at a future date certain.
Based upon discussion at the August 15, 2006, City Council meeting, Staff has revised the Cargo Container Code Amendment to allow long-term use on City property and for City purposes (i.e., emergency supply caches); to allow long-term use of cargo containers that are incorporated into the design of a residence that meets all applicable Zoning and Building Code requirements; to allow, on properties on specified streets within the Portuguese Bend community, the long term use of cargo containers as specialized foundations and for general household storage purposes; and to clarify that the proposed development standards for the use of cargo containers apply to both short- and long-term use. Some of these changes may potentially conflict with the City’s Building Code and landslide moratorium regulations, so Staff requests additional input from the City Council before finalizing these changes.
At the August 15, 2006, City Council meeting, the City Council directed Staff to revise the Cargo Container Code Amendment to:
- Allow long-term use of cargo containers on City property and for City purposes (i.e., emergency supply caches);
- Allow long-term use of cargo containers that are incorporated into the design of a residence that meets all applicable Zoning and Building Code requirements;
- Clarify that the proposed development standards for the use of cargo containers apply to both short- and long-term use, and include a 10-foot minimum separation from other structures.
The report below describes the specific language changes proposed by Staff.
The revised proposed Code language is contained below. The double underlined text represents new Code language since the last City Council meeting on August 15, 2006.
Section 6: Section 17.96.345 of Title 17 is hereby established to read as follows (the underlined text represents new language and the strikethrough text represents deleted language):
Section 17.96.345 Cargo Containers
A “Cargo Container” means a pre-manufactured structure, of metal construction, that is delivered to a site as a fully assembled unit. This shall be a container that was originally designed and fabricated as a shipping container for use as portable storage, but shall exclude storage sheds that are assembled at the site. Any permitted cargo container shall not exceed a height of 8’-6”, a width of 8’, and a length of 40’.
Section 7: Section 17.76.170 of Title 17 is hereby established to read as follows (the underlined text represents new language and the strikethrough text represents deleted language):
Section 17.76.170 Cargo Containers
Cargo containers shall not be stored, maintained, or otherwise kept on any property within the City except as follows:
A. Short Term Uses (one year or less): The following short term uses of cargo containers may be permitted:
1. Temporary Construction Storage – One or more cargo containers may be used for temporary storage in conjunction with construction allowed through an active building permit, in accordance with the provisions set forth in Section 17.56.020(E) of this Municipal Code. The time period for which a cargo container may be used for temporary construction storage under this subsection is limited to the time when the building permit is active, as determined by the City’s Building Official. A cargo container approved pursuant to this subsection shall not require approval of a separate building permit.
2. Temporary Emergency Storage – In the event that a structure in any zoning district becomes uninhabitable due to an involuntary act, or due to a voluntary act against the structure(s), which is not the fault of the property owner or lessee, one or more cargo containers may be used for temporary storage of household materials until said structure is repaired or reconstructed, but for no more than 180 days unless additional time is approved by the Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement. Nevertheless, in no case shall the temporary emergency storage exceed 12 months. The location of the cargo container is subject to the review and approval of the Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement and the Building Official. A cargo container approved pursuant to this subsection shall not require approval of a building permit.
3. Temporary Storage on City Property – For City-owned property (regardless of the underlying zoning district), one or more cargo containers may be permitted for a period not to exceed 12 months in a 3-year period with the approval of the City Manager. A cargo container approved pursuant to this subsection shall not require approval of a building permit.
B. Long Term Uses (longer than one year): The following long term uses of cargo containers may be permitted. Additionally, each cargo container shall be painted an earth tone color that is approved by the Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement and shall not contain any names, logos, or other markings painted on, or otherwise attached to, the exterior of the container. A building permit shall be obtained for the long term use of a cargo container:
1. City-Owned Property and City Uses – For City owned property and City uses (regardless of the underlying zoning district), one or more cargo containers for long-term storage use may be permitted with approval of the City Manager. The number of cargo containers allowed and the time period for which a cargo container may be used under this subsection shall be established by the City Manager.
2. Commercial and Institutional Zones –The use of one cargo container for long-term storage may be permitted, provided the cargo container is substantially screened from view from any other private property, public right of way, or street easement, subject to the review and approval of the Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement. The applicant shall construct a silhouette of the proposed cargo container to demonstrate to the Director that this provision will be satisfied. Requests for more than one cargo container on a single parcel shall be subject to the review and approval of the Planning Commission. A building permit shall be obtained for the long-term use of a cargo container under this subsection.
3. Residential Zones – The use of cargo containers as integral structural elements of a residence utilizing a conventional foundation system may be permitted, provided that all applicable Zoning and Building Code requirements are met.
4. Portuguese Bend Area – For parcels within the Landslide Moratorium area that have a primary street of access from one of the following streets – Cherry Hill Lane (north of Palos Verdes Drive South), Cinnamon Lane, Clove Tree Place, Figtree Road, Fruit Tree Road, Ginger Root Lane, Kumquat Lane, Limetree Lane, Narcissa Drive, Peppertree Drive, Plumtree Road, Pomegranate Road, Roseapple Road, Sweetbay Road, Tangerine Road, Thyme Place, Vanderlip Road, cargo containers may be used for the following uses, subject to all applicable provisions of Chapter 15.20 of the Municipal Code (Moratorium on Land Use Permits):
a) Long Term Storage – The use of one cargo container per parcel for long term storage may be permitted, provided the cargo container is substantially screened from view from any other private property, public right of way, or street easement, subject to the review and approval of the Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement. The applicant shall construct a silhouette of the proposed cargo container to demonstrate to the Director that this provision will be satisfied. A building permit shall not be required for the long term use of a cargo container under this subsection.
b) Specialized Building Foundation – One or more cargo containers may be used as a specialized foundation for a structure located in the “active landslide” section of the Portuguese Bend Area, but only if such use has been approved by the Building Official, pursuant to Section 15.04.060 of the Municipal Code.
C. Prohibited Uses – Prohibited uses of cargo containers include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. Specialized foundations for structures as described in section 15.04.060 of the Municipal Code.
D.C. Development standards – The following development standards shall apply to all cargo containers proposed for long-term use (longer than 1 year):
1. Unless incorporated into the design of a residence that meets all the applicable zoning and building code regulations pursuant to subsection B.3 above:
2. A scaled site plan drawn to show the location of all existing buildings, parking spaces, and the size and location of the proposed cargo container(s) shall be submitted. Additionally, the site plan shall show all slopes on the lot, as well as all slopes adjacent to the subject site.
3. Cargo Containers shall be setback a minimum 5’ from any property line and a minimum 10’ from any other structure.
4. Cargo Containers shall not block, obstruct, or reduce in any manner any required exits, windows, vent shafts, parking spaces, and/or access driveways.
5. Cargo Containers shall comply with the hillside setback requirements of the Building Code, as adopted by the City of Rancho Palos Verdes (H/3 from the top of slope and H/2 from toe of slope).
6. Refuse and/or debris shall not be stored in, against, on, or under the cargo container.
7. The cargo containers shall be constructed of metal, except for a wood floor within the metal shell. Structural plans and calculations are not required.
E.D. Amortization - All cargo containers existing in the City as of the effective date of this Ordinance (________, 2006) shall conform to the requirements of this section.
1. Cargo containers for which prior approval was granted by the city or another agency with jurisdiction over permit issuance shall be allowed to remain, subject to continued compliance with their original conditions of approval, if any.
2. Cargo containers that have been installed without prior approval of the City shall be allowed to remain for one year after which they shall be brought into conformance with the requirements of this chapter or removed within ninety (90) days of the date written notice is mailed to the property owner. Penalty fees are waived for all applications submitted within this period.
Section 8: Paragraph E of Section 17.56.020 of Title 17 is hereby established to read as follows (the underlined text represents new language and the strikethrough text represents deleted language):
E. Cargo containers. Cargo containers may be used in any zone for temporary storage in conjunction with construction allowed through an active building permit, provided that the City’s Building Official determines that the active building permit warrants the use of a cargo container for temporary storage and is needed to facilitate construction. For purposes of this section, an active building permit shall mean a building permit that has not expired, has not been revoked, and has not been finaled. In the event that an active building permit is finaled, revoked, or expired, any cargo containers used for temporary storage shall be removed from the property within ten (10) calendar days of said expiration, revocation, or finalization. The number and location of cargo containers on construction sites shall be subject to the approval of the City's Building Official and shall be placed in a location that will minimize disturbance to the surrounding property owners.
Based upon the language above, which Staff believes reflects the City Council’s previous direction, Staff has identified several areas of conflict with existing City Codes for which Staff seeks City Council input before proceeding to finalize the language of the Cargo Container Code Amendment.
Conflicts between Long-Term Use of Cargo Containers and the UBC
As City Building Official Roy Bronold expressed at the August 15, 2006, City Council meeting, the Uniform Building Code (UBC) has a very clear definition of a structure, and Mr. Bronold is convinced that a cargo container is a structure, as defined by the UBC. The Code states that this type of structure can be placed temporarily for less than a year without a foundation, but once it has been in place for more than a year, it must be placed on a foundation system. In comments to the Planning Commission, Mr. Bronold explained that a conventional foundation would be concrete with footings to carry the load uniformly, but the exact means to provide a suitable foundation for a cargo container would be determined by a structural engineer, possibly with input from a soils engineer. He noted, however, that in an area with highly expansive and unstable soils—such as the active area of the Portuguese Bend landslide—a conventional-type foundation might not be practical. Under these conditions, it would be up to an engineer to determine what type of specialized foundation would function safely.
Given the City Council’s previous direction to allow cargo containers for storage purposes without a foundation in the Portuguese Bend area, Staff’s amended language does not require a building permit for such cargo containers. As currently drafted, this amendment would conflict with the Building Official’s determination regarding the need for a foundation for long-term use of a cargo container. As such, in order to implement the City Council’s directive, amendments to the City’s Building Code would be required. The attached memorandum from the Building Official (dated January 6, 2006) expresses his concerns that amending the UBC as such would create building and safety concerns.
Conflicts between Long-Term Use of Cargo Containers and the Landslide Moratorium
Given the City Council’s previous direction, the amended regulations would allow cargo containers for storage purposes on vacant and developed lots in the Portuguese Bend area. The City’s current Landslide Moratorium regulations allow limited development of vacant parcels. One of the permitted exceptions is for temporary, non-habitable structures up to one hundred twenty square feet (120 SF) in area that are not attached to a foundation. A standard cargo container is three hundred twenty square feet (320 SF) in area and would need to be attached to a foundation if it is placed for any period in excess of a year.
As currently drafted, the proposed Cargo Container Code Amendment would not be consistent with any of the current exception categories from the City’s landslide moratorium that allow structures in vacant lots. Furthermore, for developed lots, it is Staff’s belief that such cargo containers would count toward the cumulative 600-square-foot limitation for minor projects such as room additions. As such, an amendment to the Landslide Moratorium regulations would be required to create an exception category to encompass the long-term use of cargo containers on vacant lots. In addition, if the City Council does not want such cargo containers to count toward the cumulative 600-square-foot limitation for minor projects, additional amendments to the Landslide Moratorium regulations would be required.
Conflicts between Long-Term Use of Cargo Containers and the OH Zoning District
The underlying zoning of the most-active portion of the Portuguese Bend landslide is OH (Open Space Hazard), while much of the rest of the Portuguese Bend community is zoned RS-1 or RS-2. There is no provision among the permitted uses in the OH zoning district to explicitly allow the long-term use or placement of cargo containers on developed or vacant properties. The closest equivalent type of use that is permitted with the approval of a conditional use permit is a maintenance building up to four hundred square feet (400 SF) in size.
As currently drafted, amendments to Chapter 17.32 (Open Space Hazard (OH) District) of the Development Code would be needed to establish the long-term use of cargo containers as permitted either “by right” or subject to a conditional use permit or other discretionary approval.
Conflicts regarding Cargo Containers as Specialized Foundations not on Specified Streets
Given the City Council’s previous direction to allow cargo containers to be used as specialized foundations on the streets that were previously identified by the Planning Commission, the proposed list of streets where long-term use of cargo containers as a specialized foundation system would be allowed mimics the Planning Commission’s list, which specifically excluded the two (2) properties with Cherry Hill Lane street addresses that are located on the seaward (i.e., south) side of Palos Verdes Drive South. As such, the use of cargo containers to support and stabilize these homes would not be an available option. If the City Council wishes to make this option available to these two (2) residences, then the list of streets should be revised to explicitly include them.
On July 26, 2006, public hearing notices were mailed to seventy-one (71) parties who had previously expressed interested in this matter. Public notice was also published in the Palos Verdes Peninsula News on July 29, 2006. At the August 15, 2006, City Council meeting, Staff had received the attached additional comments from Madeline McJones (which were distributed as late correspondence at the August 15, 2006, meeting) and Marva Burt.
The Planning Commission found that there was no substantial evidence that the amendments to Title 17 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 provide regulations that would reduce impacts to properties within the City and the environment by protecting the aesthetic quality of the area. An Addendum to the prior Negative Declaration has been prepared and will be attached to any future Ordinance.
Permit Streamlining Act Compliance
Since this is an amendment to the City’s Development Code, it is not subject to the timelines imposed by the Permit Streamlining Act (PSA). Therefore, there is no decision deadline.
There are no fiscal impacts associated with the adoption of this Ordinance.
In addition to the Planning Commission’s recommendation, the following alternatives are available for the City Council’s consideration:
1. Deny the Code Amendment (Case No. ZON2004-00265) and direct Staff to prepare a resolution of denial;
2. Identify any issues or concerns with the proposed code amendment, provide Staff with direction in modifying the proposed code language, and continue the hearing to a date certain; or,
3. Identify any issues or concerns with the proposed code amendment and remand the code amendment back to Planning Commission for further review and analysis.
Joel Rojas, AICP,
Building Official’s memorandum or January 6, 2006