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Geologic Review Process for Projects in the Landslide Moratorium Area
The Landslide Moratorium Exception Process
The City’s Landslide Moratorium Ordinance (Municipal Code Chapter 15.20) prohibits the issuance of permits for new construction on all properties located within the Landslide Moratorium area. However, the ordinance also establishes 15 exception categories, whereby if a proposed project falls into one of the exception categories, it can proceed through the standard planning/building review process after an exception is granted. Most of the exception categories involve City projects, maintenance projects and other minor projects or applications. If a proposed project meets one of these exception categories it is subject to review by Staff with no formal application or review. However, there are 4 exception categories that require a proposed project applicant to submit a formal Landslide Moratorium Exception Permit application. The projects allowed under these 4 exception categories are summarized as follows:
1) The replacement, repair, or restoration of a residential structure that has been damaged by a hazard, geotechnical or otherwise [Section 15.20.040(B)];
2) Minor projects which involve additions to existing residential structures, enclosed patios, conversion of non-habitable space to habitable space, or attached/detached accessory structures not exceeding a cumulative total area of six hundred square feet per parcel [Section 15.20.040(H)];
3) Construction of new residential buildings, accessory structures, pools/spas, and grading in the portion of the Landslide Moratorium Area "outlined in blue" (A more detailed discussion of the area outlined in blue in relation to the remainder of the landslide area is contained below) [Section 15.20.040(K)]; and,
4) The construction of one attached or detached garage per parcel, not exceeding six hundred square feet [Section 15.20.040(L)].
In order to grant a Moratorium Exception Permit for these four types of projects, the applicant has to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the City’s geotechnical staff (Zeiser Kling Consultants Inc.) that the proposed project will not aggravate the existing situation. This is the review standard explicitly stated in the moratorium ordinance. Therefore, project applicants must submit information satisfactory to the City's Geotechnical Staff, including, but not limited to, geological, geotechnical, soils, or other reports to demonstrate that the proposed project will not aggravate the existing landslide situation, along with the appropriate filing fee to pay for the City's review of the submitted geotechnical reports/information. Once the City's Geotechnical Staff is satisfied through a site visit and/or the review of the submitted reports that the proposed project will not aggravate the existing landslide situation, the City’s geotechnical staff alerts the planning staff and the Landslide Moratorium Exception permit is approved with the following standard conditions:
The granting of a Landslide Moratorium Exception Permit does not constitute planning approval of a specific project request, but simply grants the property owner the ability to submit the appropriate Planning Division application(s) for consideration of a specific project request (i.e. Site Plan Review Application, Conditional Use Permit Application, Height Variation Application, Variance Application, etc.). Therefore, once the Landslide Moratorium Exception Permit is granted, the applicant may proceed through the planning process and then on through the Building and Safety plan check process, in the same manner as applicants for projects outside the moratorium area.
Temporary Moratorium on Certain Exception Projects
Following the heavy rains that occurred in the 2004-05 rainy season, City Staff noticed new street cracks in the Seaview tract near the intersection of Dauntless Drive and Exultant Drive in May 2005. Furthermore, in a report to City staff in October 2005, the City’s geologist noted that the tension cracks on Dauntless Drive are indicative of landslide movement. As a result, on November 15, 2005, the City Council adopted Urgency Ordinance No. 427U, which placed a temporary moratorium on the issuance of permits in the "blue area" of the landslide moratorium area (exception category K) to allow the City Geologist to further study the issue. The City Council extended the temporary moratorium twice, and on April 18, 2006, adopted Urgency Ordinance No. 439U, which expanded the temporary moratorium to apply to the issuance of permits for additions to existing homes in the remainder of the landslide moratorium area (exception categories H and L). This temporary moratorium also applied to projects that had received planning approval but had not received a building permit or begun construction. On June 20, 2006, the City Council extended the temporary moratorium on new construction in the landslide area to October 25, 2006.
Landslide Moratorium Areas in "Red" and in "Blue"
The City’s Landslide Moratorium Ordinance establishes two separate areas within the overall landslide moratorium area, each with differing restrictions. Almost all the mapped landslide moratorium area is referred to as the area "outlined in red" (the "Red Area"). There is also a small area on the eastern side of the moratorium area described as the area "outlined in blue" (the "Blue Area"). Most of the Blue Area consists of the eastern portion (37 lots) of the Seaview tract, which is affected by the Klondike Canyon landslide
As noted earlier, there are certain projects that may proceed with the approval of formal Landslide Moratorium Exception Permits. However, prior to the temporary moratorium established by Urgency Ordinance No. 427U in November 2005, the types of projects that qualify for exceptions varied between the areas outlined in red and the area outlined in blue. The differences in the types of improvements that the moratorium ordinance allowed in both areas are summarized in the table below.
Unlike the Red Area, the owners of properties in the Blue Area were allowed, subject to certain conditions, to develop residential buildings and accessory structures on vacant lots, build pools/spas, and perform grading. The more lenient restrictions in the Blue Area were adopted in September 1989, based on the fact that this area had been subdivided previously and was almost completely developed (only one or two lots were not developed) and included a sewer system, along with a lack of indicators of movement in the Blue Area. These factors distinguished this area from the remainder of the landslide moratorium area. However, with the observation of movement in that area in 2005 and thereafter in 2006, the previously perceived basis underlying the distinction between the red and blue areas may no longer be valid.
Landslide Moratorium Exclusion Process
The City’s landslide moratorium ordinance also establishes a procedure for a parcel of land to be excluded from the landslide moratorium area. Pursuant to section 15.20.100, a landowner, or his/her designated agent, may apply for a parcel of land to be excluded from the landslide moratorium area to the City Council. To obtain such an exclusion, the City Council shall find as follows:
1) The exclusion is consistent with the general plan and coastal plan of the City.
2) The exclusion promotes the health, safety and welfare of the community.
3) The exclusion shall not aggravate any existing geologic conditions in the area.
Among other things, a Moratorium Exclusion applicant must submit geological or geotechnical reports or geologic studies, as requested by the City's geotechnical staff, to demonstrate that the proposed project will not aggravate the existing geologic situation in the area. In 2002, the City Council clarified that a factor of safety analysis is relevant to that determination. The exclusion request application cannot be deemed complete to begin processing until all required geology studies have been completed and review has been completed by the City's geotechnical staff.
If a Moratorium Exclusion is granted for a subject parcel, the parcel would no longer be considered to be within the landslide moratorium area and would be treated as any other parcel in the City, subject to all the City’s existing zoning development restrictions.