07/09/2002 Planning Commission Agenda July, 2002, 07/09/2002, Planning, Commission, Meeting, Agenda, A request to allow the construction of a new 5,409 square foot (garage included), two-story, single-family residence on an unimproved lot. The proposed residence will be constructed off the existing building pad at a height of 26’, as measured from the highest pre-construction grade elevation (752.00’) of the building pad, to the top of the highest roof ridgeline (778.00’) of the proposed structure. Additionally the applicants propose to conduct 819 cubic yards of associated grading (combined cut and fill calculations) and construct a new 6’ high combination fence/wall along the front property line with a Minor Exception Permit The 07/09/2002 RPV Planning Commission Meeting Agenda
Ranch Palos Verdes Planning Commission Agenda July 9, 2002

 

DISCLAIMER

The following Planning Commission agenda includes text only version of the staff reports associated with the business matters to be brought before for the Planning Commission at its Regular Meeting of this date. Changes to the staff reports may be necessary prior to the actual Planning Commission meeting. The Planning Commission may elect to delete or continue business matters at the beginning of the Planning Commission Meeting. Additionally, staff reports attachments, including but not limited to, pictures, plans, drawings, spreadsheet presentations, financial statements and correspondences are not included. The attachments are available for review with the official agenda package at the Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Department.

...end of disclaimer...

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This agenda has been prepared for the orderly progression of Planning Commission business.  The Planning Commission is very interested in hearing your comments and encourages your participation in the meeting.  These agenda instructions are intended to familiarize you with how the meeting will be conducted, what to expect and how to most effectively participate in the process.

Staff Reports

Detailed staff reports on the items contained in this agenda are available from the Planning Department the Friday before the meeting and are posted for public viewing immediately prior to the meeting in the hallway outside the chambers.  The Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Department is located at City Hall at 30940 Hawthorne Boulevard, Rancho Palos Verdes.  The Department's public counter hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.  The telephone number is (310) 377-6008.

Organization of the Agenda

The Planning Commission agenda is divided into the following sections:

Consent Calendar: This section consists of routine items, which, unless a request has been received from the public, a Commission member or Staff to remove a particular item for discussion, are enacted by one motion of the Planning Commission.
Continued Business:  This section consists of items that were held over from a previous Planning Commission meetings and for which a decision has not yet been made.
Public Hearings: This section is devoted to noticed public hearings which have not been previously heard by the Commission.
New Business: This section is for items that do not require a noticed public hearing.  Pursuant to adopted Planning Commission procedure, the Commission will, except under exceptional circumstances and with the consent of the majority of the Commission, adjourn its meetings on or before 12:00 a.m. and not consider new business items after 11:00 p.m., with any unfinished business being continued to the next regular, adjourned, or special meeting.
Audience Comments: This part of the agenda is reserved for making comments on matters which are NOT on the agenda.  Comments must be limited to matters within the jurisdiction of the Planning Commission.  Due to State law, no action can be taken on matters brought up under Audience Comments.  If action by the Commission is necessary, the matter may be placed on a future agenda, or referred to Staff, as determined by the Commission.

Presentation of Agenda Items

Unless the Chairperson in his or her discretion should direct otherwise, the order of the presentation is generally as follows:

(a) Presentation of staff report, including any environmental analysis or recommendation.
(b) Questions of staff by members of Planning Commission.
(c) Public hearing opened.
(d) Presentation of the applicant(s) or appellant(s).
(e) Presentation of persons in favor of the requested action.
(f) Presentation of persons in opposition to the requested action.
(g) Rebuttal comments by the applicant(s) or appellant(s), if requested.
(h) Closing comments by staff.
(i) Public hearing closed.

How to Speak on an Item

 In order to speak on an item, please completely fill out a Request to Speak form and return it to the recording secretary.  These half-sheet forms (which are printed on colored paper) are available on the table in the hallway outside the chambers or from the recording secretary, who is seated on the left-hand side of the dais (the table with the blue skirt at the front of the meeting room), next to the light timer.  Requests to speak on an item must be submitted to the recording secretary prior to the completion of the remarks of the first speaker on the item.  No request forms to speak on the particular item will be accepted after that time.

 After your name is called by the recording secretary, please approach the lectern and speak clearly into the microphone.  The height of the microphone may be adjusted by hand if necessary.  Before beginning your comments on the item, please state your name and address for the record.

 The length of time that each person is allowed to speak on individual items is determined by the Chairman and is usually based on the number of speakers on the particular item.  Normally, the applicants and appellants are limited to a five (5) minute presentation and a three (3) minute rebuttal (if requested). All other persons are generally limited to three (3) minutes per person. 

 Submittal of Written Correspondence

 You may submit written evidence to the Planning Commission through the Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement and request that the Commission receive copies of the submitted materials prior to the meeting.  However, such written evidence must be submitted by 12:00 noon on the Monday prior to the Planning Commission meeting.  If any written evidence is submitted after the Monday noon deadline, the Commission will not consider it at the meeting.  However, it will be distributed as part of the agenda packet for any forthcoming meeting, provided that the item is continued.  This does not prevent you from reading written comments that are submitted late into the record as part of oral comments, in accordance with the time limits discussed above.

Conduct at the Meeting

The Planning Commission has adopted a set of rules for conduct during Planning Commission meetings. Although it is a very rare occurrence, the Chairperson may order from the Planning Commission Chambers any person(s) who commit the following acts with respect to a regular or special meeting of the Planning Commission:

1. Disorderly, contemptuous or insolent behavior toward the Commission or any member thereof, which interrupts the due and orderly course of said meeting.
2. A breach of the peace, boisterous conduct or violent disturbance, which interrupts the due and orderly course of said meeting.
3. Disobedience of any lawful order of the Chairperson which shall include an order to be seated or refrain from addressing the Commission.
4. Any other interference with the due and orderly course of the meeting.

Your cooperation in making the Planning Commission meeting run smoothly and fairly for all participants in greatly appreciated.


BEGINNING OF PLANNING COMMISSION AGENDA

AGENDA

RANCHO PALOS VERDES PLANNING COMMISSION

TUESDAY, JULY 9, 2002

FRED HESSE COMMUNITY PARK, 29301 HAWTHORNE BOULEVARD

REGULAR MEETING

7:00 P.M.



SCHEDULING NOTES

REQUESTS TO SPEAK ON AN ITEM MUST BE SUBMITTED TO THE RECORDING SECRETARY PRIOR TO THE COMPLETION OF THE REMARKS OF THE FIRST SPEAKER ON THE ITEM. NO REQUEST FORMS WILL BE ACCEPTED AFTER THAT TIME.

PURSUANT TO ADOPTED PLANNING COMMISSION PROCEDURE, NEW BUSINESS ITEMS NOT HEARD BEFORE ll:00 P.M. WILL BE AUTOMATICALLY CONTINUED AND WILL BE HEARD ON THE NEXT COMMISSION AGENDA.

NEXT P.C. RESOLUTION NO. 2002-14



CALL TO ORDER:

FLAG SALUTE:

ROLL CALL:

APPROVAL OF AGENDA:

COMMUNICATIONS:

1. Council Policy Items (Excerpt Minutes):

2. Staff:

3. Commission:


COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items):


CONSENT CALENDAR:



1. MINUTES OF JUNE 11, 2002

 


2. MINUTES OF JUNE 25, 2002

3. APPEAL OF FENCE, WALL AND HEDGE PERMIT (CASE NO. ZON2001-00122): 32451 Searaven Drive / Foster (BY)

Request: An appeal of the Director's decision to allow an existing hedge located along the east property line to remain, with the condition that a portion of the hedge be lowered to 2’-6" in height.

Recommendation: Staff recommends that the Planning Commission adopt Resolution No. 2002-__, approving with conditions Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00122), to allow the existing hedge, located along the east side property line, to remain and be maintained at a height of 5’-0", as measured from the higher adjacent grade.


CONTINUED BUSINESS:


4. VARIANCE / GRADING PERMIT (CASE NO. ZON2001-00176): 3340 Palos Verdes Drive East / Farrar (BY)

Request: A request to legalize two existing mechanical equipment HVAC units and related ducting located on the rooftop of an existing single-family residence, to allow the construction of a 2’-0" high perimeter parapet wall along the existing roof’s edge, the construction of two pyramids on the roof to enclose the existing HVAC units, to legalize a series of retaining walls located in the side and front yard, to legalize the associated 225 cubic yards of grading, and to allow the construction of a 387 square foot shed at a maximum height of 10.4’.

Recommendation: Staff recommends that the Planning Commission adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2002-__, denying without prejudice Variance Permit and denying with prejudice Grading Permit (Case No. 2001-00176).


5. HEIGHT VARIATION NO. 899, GRADING PERMIT NO. 2151, MINOR EXCEPTION PERMIT NO. 573, AND ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT NO. 745 3787 Coolheights Drive / Nassari (AM)

Request: A request to allow the construction of a new 5,409 square foot (garage included), two-story, single-family residence on an unimproved lot. The proposed residence will be constructed off the existing building pad at a height of 26’, as measured from the highest pre-construction grade elevation (752.00’) of the building pad, to the top of the highest roof ridgeline (778.00’) of the proposed structure. Additionally the applicants propose to conduct 819 cubic yards of associated grading (combined cut and fill calculations) and construct a new 6’ high combination fence/wall along the front property line with a Minor Exception Permit.

Recommendation: 1) Adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2002-__, thereby adopting the Mitigated Negative Declaration and Mitigation Monitoring Program, and 2) Continue the public hearing discussion on the merits of the project applications to the July 23, 2002 Planning Commission meeting.


RECESS (approximately 8:30 P.M.):


PUBLIC HEARINGS:


6. HEIGHT VARIATION NO. 940 and GRADING PERMIT NO. 2293: 2033 Santa Rena / Milan (RL)

Request: A request to allow an additional 1,063 square-feet of living space to an existing 1,776 square-foot one story single-family residence. The proposal includes a second story and measures 16-feet from highest existing (preconstruction) grade to be covered by the structure to ridge, and a maximum overall height of 21’-7" as measured from lowest finished grade to ridge. The application also includes the excavation and fill of approximately 268 cubic yards of earth and a depth of cut of approximately 4’-10" for the proposed new lower level.

Recommendation: Staff recommends that the Planning Commission adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2002__, denying, without prejudice, Height Variation No. 940 and Grading Permit No. 293.


7. VARIANCE PERMIT NO. 489: 6610 Palos Verdes Drive South/ York Long Point Properties (AM)

Request: A request to allow the construction of a new, 1,400 square foot cabana, as well as a new swimming pool and spa, within the City’s designated Coastal Setback Zone. The proposed cabana structure will be constructed at a height of 16 feet, as measured from the lowest adjacent finished grade to the top of the highest roof ridgeline, and will provide restroom facilities for both the general public and hotel guests.

Recommendation: Review and discuss the applicant’s Variance request, provide Staff with input as to the required Variance findings, and if deemed appropriate, direct Staff to prepare the appropriate resolution for consideration at its July 23, 2002 meeting.


NEW BUSINESS: (NO ITEMS)


ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS:

Staff


8. PRE-AGENDA FOR THE MEETING OF JULY 23, 2002.

Commission


ADJOURNMENT:

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 23, 2002, 7:00 P.M. at Hesse Park.

 

AGENDA

RANCHO PALOS VERDES PLANNING COMMISSION

TUESDAY, JULY 9, 2002

FRED HESSE COMMUNITY PARK, 29301 HAWTHORNE BOULEVARD

REGULAR MEETING

7:00 P.M.


SCHEDULING NOTES

REQUESTS TO SPEAK ON AN ITEM MUST BE SUBMITTED TO THE RECORDING SECRETARY PRIOR TO THE COMPLETION OF THE REMARKS OF THE FIRST SPEAKER ON THE ITEM. NO REQUEST FORMS WILL BE ACCEPTED AFTER THAT TIME.

PURSUANT TO ADOPTED PLANNING COMMISSION PROCEDURE, NEW BUSINESS ITEMS NOT HEARD BEFORE ll:00 P.M. WILL BE AUTOMATICALLY CONTINUED AND WILL BE HEARD ON THE NEXT COMMISSION AGENDA.

NEXT P.C. RESOLUTION NO. 2002-14


 

CALL TO ORDER:

FLAG SALUTE:

ROLL CALL:

APPROVAL OF AGENDA:

COMMUNICATIONS:

1. Council Policy Items (Excerpt Minutes):

2. Staff:

3. Commission:


COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items):


CONSENT CALENDAR:


1. MINUTES OF JUNE 11, 2002


CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION
REGULAR MEETING
JUNE 11, 2002

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Cartwright at 7:02 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.

FLAG SALUTE

City Attorney Lynch led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.

ROLL CALL

Present: Commissioners Cote, Mueller, Tomblin, Vice Chairman Long, Chairman Cartwright. Commissioner Duran Reed arrived at 7:40 p.m.

Absent: Commissioner Lyon was excused.

Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Director of Public Works Allison, City Attorney Lynch, Senior Planner Mihranian, Senior Planner Fox, and Recording Secretary Peterson.


APPROVAL OF AGENDA

The Commission agreed to hear the items in the following order: 6, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 1, 2, and 9.


COMMUNICATIONS

Director/Secretary distributed 7 items of correspondence relating to Agenda Item No. 7 and one item of late correspondence relating to Agenda Item No. 7.

Commissioner Tomblin reported that he had discussions with the Ortolanos.

Chairman Cartwright also reported that he had a discussion with Mr. Ortolano Jr. regarding availability of staff reports on the website.

City Attorney Lynch clarified that the only requirement under the Brown Act is that the agenda be posted 72 hours in advance of the meeting and any item that is distributed to the Planning Commission be available for public review at the same time. She explained that since the staff report was available for public review and could be picked up at City Hall the obligation was discharged. She noted that the website is an additional courtesy that the City provides to the public.


CONTINUED BUSINESS


6. Height Variation No. 899, Grading Permit No. 2151, Minor Exception Permit No. 573, and Environmental Assessment No. 745: 3787 Coolheights Drive

Senior Planner Mihranian presented the staff report. He briefly reviewed the scope and history of the project and stated that at the direction of the Planning Commission staff contacted a City hired Engineer to come up with design alternatives in regards to the turnaround at the end of Coolheights Drive. On a PowerPoint display, Mr. Mihranian showed two hammerhead designs, and various cul-de-sac designs. He explained the criteria used to analyze the various design alternatives, focusing on issues with regard to the Settlement Agreement, Fire Department approval, Waste Management approval, cost of construction, square footage of encroachment onto the subject property, the square footage of encroachment onto neighboring property, parking availability, pedestrian accessibility, and whether a street easement would be required. He discussed the different alternatives beginning with the hammerhead design in Alternatives A and B. He next discussed Alternatives C, D, E, F, and G which are cul-de-sac designs at a 32 and 42-foot radius. He explained that the difference between a 32-foot radius and a 42-foot radius is that the 42-foot radius allows for parking in the cul-de-sac and the 32-foot radius would be red curbed. He also explained that under today’s standards, a new cul-de-sac terminating at the end of a street which is more than 28 feet wide, would have to maintain a 42-foot radius.

Senior Planner Mihranian stated there had been concerns raised regarding the project silhouette and its accuracy. He stated that staff has re-measured the silhouette and determined that it is at the correct height. He discussed the brush clearance and certain government codes, and noted that the State codes in question pertain to existing occupied structures. He explained that the Los Angeles County Fire Department adopted regulations that require all new hillside construction to prepare a fuel modification plan, which the applicant has done. He noted that the Fire Department has reviewed and approved this plan, and reduced the required setbacks because of the impacts to the habitat.

Regarding trail easements, Mr. Mihranian stated that staff was recommending imposing a condition that requires that a blanket trail area off the building pad of the property be made available for future trail easements, as shown in Exhibit B of the draft Conditions of Approval. He also noted that the City’s Forestall Committee is currently reviewing the trails in this area.

Commissioner Mueller asked about the 32 and 42-foot turnarounds in the cul-de-sac and how a 42-foot turnaround applies in a residential neighborhood.

Senior Planner Mihranian stated that a 32-foot turnaround normally applies to a private street or driveway, while a 42-foot radius standard would typically apply to a multi-family zoning district. He noted that these standards are for turnarounds and that the Fire Department has indicated that an actual cul-de-sac for a new sub-division would require a 42-foot radius because the street width is greater than 28 feet. He also noted that the Fire Department can deviate from the typical standards and the Fire Department addresses this on a case by case basis.

Commissioner Mueller asked if a 42-foot cul-de-sac was used in the City and if it was always required for new development.

Director Allison answered that the City does require a 42-foot cul-de-sac and noted that this was the normal Fire Department requirement.

Commissioner Mueller asked if the 32-foot turnaround satisfied the requirements of the Fire Department as long as it was red curbed.

Senior Planner Mihranian answered that all seven turnaround alternatives presented comply with the Fire Department’s requirements.

Commissioner Mueller asked about the difference between a public street easement and a public access easement.

City Attorney Lynch answered that a public access easement is any type of easement other than a street easement, and noted an example of a public access easement would be a trail. She stated that if the City is going to require a turnaround that will provide access to vehicles that will be maintained by the City as a street, it should be a public street easement.

Vice Chairman Long asked if the Settlement Agreement limited the City to installing a hammerhead turnaround.

City Attorney Lynch answered that the Settlement Agreement contemplated a hammerhead turnaround. Therefore, if the City required a cul-de-sac turnaround, it was her view that the property owner would only be required to dedicate and provide free of charge that portion of his property that would have been required for a hammerhead. If the City wants a larger turnaround for a cul-de-sac, the City would most likely have to pay the difference between the cost of a hammerhead and a cul-de-sac.

Vice Chairman Long asked, in looking at the view issue from the neighboring property, if staff felt the project as proposed significantly impairs the views from viewing areas, taking into account views below the sixteen foot height limit from the adjoining property.

Senior Planner Mihranian answered that staff did not believe views below the sixteen-foot height limit at the adjoining property would be significantly impaired.

Commissioner Tomblin referred to Alternative E and asked staff if they had considered moving the cul-de-sac down the street slightly which would take away some of the sidewalk and having some encroachment on Mr. Ortolano Jr.’s property and Mr. Ortolano’s property.

City Attorney Lynch answered that with respect to Lots 110 and 111, it appears that the only impact would be within the area subject to the public right-of-way easement.

Director Allison added that by moving the cul-de-sac downhill slightly there was a tradeoff of impacts to the applicant’s property and impacts to Lots 110 and 111. He stated that staff had not analyzed this idea and felt it was something staff may want to look at.

City Attorney Lynch added that if the City steps outside the dedicated right-of-way area the City would be obliged to pay compensation to the property owners for whatever area is outside of the current dedicated street area. She noted Mr. Ortolano Jr. has indicated in correspondence that he would be willing to give up some of his property for the cul-de-sac provided the City were willing to lift the development restrictions that have been placed on his property.

Commissioner Cote asked about the City’s liability involved with the public street easement.

City Attorney Lynch answered that as long as the City designs a street turnaround that is safe and complies with the standards set forth by the Fire Department, from a liability perspective, the City would be fine. She stated that the Traffic Engineer has indicated that the design alternatives presented were acceptable from that perspective.

Director Allison stated that regarding site and appearance he felt that the City could make a hammerhead look and feel like a public street, even though he could not cite another example of this type of hammerhead design in the City. Regarding maintenance, a cul-de-sac was much easier to sweep and maintain, as there were no corners. He felt there would be little difference between a hammerhead and a cul-de-sac when considering street repairs and overlays.

Commissioner Cote asked if a cul-de-sac were approved, did the City Attorney feel that an amendment to the Settlement Agreement was necessary.

City Attorney Lynch answered that it would depend upon which alternative was chosen. She stated that the Settlement Agreement did not specify that a specific design must be used, however it does state that there would be no objection by Mr. Ortolano Jr. to the use of a hammerhead. She stated that a design that uses part of Mr. Ortolano Jr.’s property would most likely require an amendment to the Settlement Agreement, as Mr. Ortolano Jr. has expressed in correspondence that if that happens he would like the development restrictions on his property removed.

Vice Chairman Long asked if the City could condemn part of Mr. Ortolano Jr.’s property for a portion of the cul-de-sac design.

City Attorney Lynch answered that the City could do this, however she felt that Mr. Ortolano Jr. might assert as a defense to the condemnation action, that the Settlement Agreement must be amended. She felt, however, that the action would not require an amendment and that any time the City needs to require property for public purpose, that it could do so if they paid the fair market value for the property.

Commissioner Cote discussed view impairment and the "by right" 16-foot height limit. She asked what was meant by "by right" and where in the Development Code that was discussed.

Senior Planner Mihranian explained that this was a pad lot, and pursuant to the Development Code a property owner can build up to 16-feet in height without having to adhere to the discretion of the view ordinance, and this is why it is considered "by right".

Director/Secretary Rojas further explained that if someone were to build to a height of 16 feet, and it obstructed a view, there would be no need to apply for a height variation, whose requirements were discussed in Section17.02.040 of the Code.

Chairman Cartwright asked if a cul-de-sac design could be approved without an amendment to the Settlement Agreement.

City Attorney Lynch answered that, in her view, if a hammerhead design were built it clearly would not need an amendment to the Settlement Agreement. However, anything beyond that was arguable as to whether an amendment to the Settlement Agreement would be necessary. She noted that even if she did not think an amendment was necessary, she did not know how a court would decide the issue.

Chairman Cartwright asked what the criteria was for determining the necessary dimensions for a hammerhead turnaround.

City Attorney Lynch responded that the criteria was to design a turnaround that would comply with Fire Department, Waste Management, and engineering principles that would allow larger trucks to turn around safely.

Chairman Cartwright asked if there were any other streets in the City that end without provisions for a turnaround.

Director Allison noted that there were a few such streets in the City, such as the street below Coolheights Drive, which was referred to as Hightide.

Chairman Cartwright asked the City Attorney if the Planning Commission had the authority to recommend to the City Council that the City take a portion of property to build a cul-de-sac and how long of a process would it be to acquire the property.

City Attorney Lynch stated that the Planning Commission did have the authority to make that recommendation. She explained that the acquisition of property could be quite lengthy, however if the City were in a hurry to put in a public improvement they could get an Order of Immediate Possession within 30 days.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked staff where in the Code it references the 16-foot by right height limit.

Senior Planner Mihranian referred to Section 17.02.

In looking at Section 17.02, Commissioner Duran Reed stated that she did not see anything stating that there was a "by right" building height limit.

Director/Secretary Rojas noted that Section 17.02.040 contained a discussion on building height.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked if there was specific language stating that if one was building up to 16-feet in height, they could do so by right.

Director/Secretary Rojas stated there was no such specific language, however this is how the staff, Planning Commission, and City Council has interpreted the Code since it was written.

Vice Chairman Long stated there was nothing in the Ordinance that stated one should ignore the portion of the view that is under 16-feet in height when making the findings for a height variation.

Chairman Cartwright felt the Planning Commission has had this discussion many times, and each time the Planning Commission has agreed with staff’s interpretation.

Vice Chairman Long did not think that the Planning Commission had always agreed with staff’s interpretation and asked what language in the Ordinance tells the Planning Commission and staff to ignore the portion of the view below 16 feet.

Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the findings in the Code apply to the portion of the structure that is over 16 feet in height, and that there was no specific language that says to ignore the view below 16 feet.

Chairman Cartwright asked if it was the policy of the City to allow one to build a structure up to 16 feet in height on a developable lot.

City Attorney Lynch answered that it was the policy of the City, and pointed out on page 218-24 of the Code which contained language regarding height variations that the City uses.

Director/Secretary Rojas further referred to a Table 02 in the Code that sets the residential development standards. He noted that in the Table it set a 16-foot maximum height standard.

Commissioner Duran Reed discussed far views and near views and asked if these views could be protected.

Chairman Cartwright added that it was his understanding that only the most significant view could be protected, and if there were a near view and a far view the City would determine the primary view.

City Attorney Lynch responded the determination was made of the view from the viewing area, and that the best and most important view would then be established. She stated that this could be both a near and far view, one or the other, a panoramic view, or a more restrictive view, depending on the area of the home from which the best and most important view was taken.

Commissioner Duran Reed felt that the view could therefore encompass both a near and a far view pursuant to the Development Code Section 17.02.040.

Commissioner Mueller noted staff’s recommendation on the placement of the spa, and asked what staff’s original concern was.

Senior Planner Mihranian answered that staff was concerned with the close proximity of the spa to the top of the slope, and staff would like to see some type of a setback from the slope. He felt there were privacy issues from the trail users as well as impacts to the slope from a structural standpoint.

Commissioner Mueller asked if the sheds on Mr. Ortolano Jr.’s property were permanent structures.

City Attorney Lynch responded that, pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, Mr. Ortolano Jr. was allowed to maintain the sheds in the current locations.

Chairman Cartwright opened the public hearing.

Joe Nassiri 6910 Los Verdes Drive stated that in the last 4 ½ years he has compromised with the City on every request made. He stated he has made the proposed house much smaller than originally proposed, moved it to a less desirable location on the property, given part of the property for public easement to trails, and was willing to give another easement for two additional trails. He also has given an open space easement that consisted of approximately half of his property. He stated there were several dead-end streets without cul-de-sacs in the City, and Coolheights Drive was only one of them. The hammerhead turnaround that he has proposed was designed with the safety of the street in mind. He felt the street has been safe for over 30 years and this turnaround would only increase the safety of the street. He stated that it was very difficult for a family to have a 64-foot cul-de-sac in the middle of their front yard. He felt the cul-de-sac would destroy the view and value of his property, as well as making in impossible to put a swimming pool on the property in the future. He asked the Planning Commission to approve the proposed hammerhead turnaround.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mr. Nassiri how a cul-de-sac would destroy his view.

Mr. Nassiri responded that all of the bedrooms are proposed to be downstairs and the yard landscaped with flowers so that when sitting in the bedrooms there would be a view of a flowering landscape. He stated putting in a cul-de-sac would give one a view of asphalt and traffic from the bedrooms.

Commissioner Tomblin asked Mr. Nassiri if, when purchasing the property, he was under the impression that a hammerhead turnaround would be installed.

Mr. Nassiri answered that one of the conditions in purchasing the property was that the issue of the hammerhead turnaround be settled. He stated that when he did purchase the property he thought the issue was settled. He stated that the issue of the cul-de-sac was brought up by only one neighbor.

Commissioner Mueller asked if the purchase of the property was contingent upon the Settlement Agreement.

Mr. Nassiri stated that his agreement regarding the hammerhead was between him and the previous owners.

Commissioner Mueller asked, if the purchase of the property was contingent upon the Settlement Agreement, and if the Settlement Agreement changes, would Mr. Nassiri be eligible to go back and re-negotiate the purchase of the property.

City Attorney Lynch did not know, as she had never seen the document that conveyed the property from the previous owners to Mr. Nassiri. She stated that the Settlement Agreement does not mention any future conveyance.

Commissioner Mueller asked if painting the curb red on the cul-de-sac would help the situation.

Mr. Nassiri responded that however the cul-de-sac was built, this was the best part of his property.

Chairman Cartwright asked if the idea of a hammerhead was included in the agreement between the City and the previous lot owner.

City Attorney Lynch answered that it was not specifically spelled out, only contemplated. However, the feeling was that if the lot was to be a developable lot, then the City would minimize the impact to the developability while still assuring that a turnaround would be provided that would meet Fire Department standards as well as general Public Works safety standards.

Chairman Cartwright asked if, when the lot was excluded from the Forrestal property, it contained a provision for a turnaround of some sort.

City Attorney Lynch responded that a number of years ago a tract map did propose to improve the terminus of Coolheights Drive with a cul-de-sac. She noted that this tentative tract map had expired when the City purchased the site.

Alex Chang 8730 Huntington Drive, San Gabriel stated he was the architect for the project. He stated that several years ago, when starting the project, he had gone to the City to find out all of the requirements and restrictions for the lot. At that time he was told he would have to obtain the Fire Department’s approval, which has been done. He now feels that he is being asked to go back to where he started from. He did not think the question was how much it would cost to build a cul-de-sac, but rather the land that would be lost and how to re-design the house to accommodate the location of the cul-de-sac. He stated that the site was almost 4 acres but the actual building site was very limited.

Chairman Cartwright summarized that if the 42 foot cul-de-sac was adopted the applicant felt it would significantly impact the value of the land. He asked if that were also true for the 32-foot cul-de-sac.

Mr. Chang answered that any of the cul-de-sac options would require modifications that would cause a loss of privacy and land for his client. He felt the best option was Option A.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked what the square footage of the proposed residence was.

Senior Planner Mihranian answered that currently it was approximately 5,400 square feet.

Mr. Chang stated that 5,400 square feet includes the garage, decks, and balconies and that the actual home was a little over 4,000 square feet.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked if the house could be set back on the property a little farther so that it would not be so near the cul-de-sac.

Mr. Chang stated that there was a drainage channel directly behind the house and that he had placed the house as far back on the property as he could.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked if 3 feet could be taken off of the front of the house.

Mr. Chang felt that three feet could be taken off the front of the house, however he felt it would destroy the design of the house and did not think that would help the view impact from the bedroom windows. However, he stated he could look at the possibility again.

At this point Commissioner Mueller apologized as he had to leave to catch an airplane. He commented that a hammerhead turnaround would be the first in the City and there was an example of a 32-foot cul-de-sac in the immediate area.

Sidney Croft 3858 W Carson St. Torrance, stated he was the attorney for Mr. Nassiri. He reiterated that Mr. Nassiri had done everything possible to accommodate every request that they could. He stated that the main issue was the hammerhead turnaround versus the cul-de-sac. He stated that Alternative B was not acceptable as there was no setback and the pavement would go all the way up to the window of the residence. He stated that Alternative A was not the applicant’s proposal, but rather the applicant’s proposal as modified by the City Engineer. He stated that Alternative A was acceptable and far superior to any cul-de-sac design. He respectfully asked that the Planning Commission adopt Alternative A and adopt the Resolution to allow the project to proceed.

Chairman Cartwright asked if the Fire Department had approved Alternative A or if they had approved the applicant’s design for the hammerhead.

Mr. Croft stated that the Fire Department had approved the applicant’s design, however Alternative A was basically the same as the applicant’s design, just slightly larger. He did not think the Fire Department would object to a larger turnaround.

Senior Planner Mihranian clarified that Alternative A is slightly larger because the City Engineer included a 2-½ foot space between the edge of the pavement and the easement edge so that one could open car doors. Other than that, the plan was the same.


RECESS AND RECONVENE

At 8:55 p.m. the Planning Commission took a brief recess to 9:10 p.m. at which time they reconvened.


CONTINUED BUSINESS (cont)

Allen Fischer 3770 Coolheights Drive stated that his primary concern was the cul-de-sac and did not think that Alternatives A and B were sufficiently safe. He felt that if there were a fire on the hillside there needs to be the best possible access to the hillside by safety and emergency vehicles. He felt the hammerhead design limited the accessibility of fire trucks and equipment. He did not think the hammerhead looked like a turnaround and that vehicles would continue to back down the street or use other driveways to turn around. He felt that the issue of safety should override the issue of cost.

Chairman Cartwright asked Mr. Fischer who he felt should make the determination as to which of the alternatives were safe and which were not.

Mr. Fischer answered that Planning Commission should make that determination.

Barbara Sattler 1904 Avenida Aprenda stated that she was speaking as a member of the California Native Plant Society. She stated that comments have previously been submitted to the Planning Commission regarding their concerns about impacts on habitat. She asked the Planning Commission to note Section 51184 of the California Code and she provided copies to the Planning Commission of this Code. She noted that staff had stated this code only applies to existing structures and stated that she did not see that detail in the actual code. Additionally, the California Native Plant Society felt this project’s proposed conservation easement does not serve as an adequate mitigation, as there will be a considerable loss of habitat as a result of the proposed project. She referred to the letter dated May 13, 2002 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where they recommend a minimum of 3:1 mitigation.

Chairman Cartwright asked staff to comment on the California Code referred to by Ms. Sattler.

Senior Planner Mihranian stated that the California Code refers to "occupied dwellings or occupied structures" and not new construction. He explained that the applicant has submitted a fuel modification plan to the Fire Department which has been reviewed and approved. Because of the sensitive area and the habitat, the Fire Department has reduced the required fuel modification setbacks.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked staff to clarify the mitigation ratio in the Mitigated Negative Declaration Report.

Director/Secretary Rojas stated that Mitigated Negative Declaration identifies two options for mitigation: onsite at a 1:1 ratio, or offsite at a 3:1 ratio. He stated that it was staff’s position that there would be a benefit to conserving the onsite habitat as it would compliment the adjacent Forrestal property, which also has a conservation easement on it. Also, pursuant to Fish and Game and Fish and Wildlife policy memos, habitat loss that results from fire orders does not need to be mitigated. Notwithstanding, staff is proposing mitigation that would ensure that the remainder of the applicant’s parcel will be conserved in perpetuity for habitat purposes.

Tom Redfield 31273 Ganado Drive stated he was speaking as a member of the Mediterrania Board of Directors. He felt that safety should be considered the primary concern and the City should focus on the safety of the neighborhood. He did not think the City should be overly concerned about the cost. He felt that the Fire Department should have the best possible access in the event of a fire. He discussed parking, and asked that the Planning Commission or Traffic Committee study the parking situation thoroughly, no matter what alternative is chosen. He asked that the Mediterrania HOA have the opportunity to have input on the parking in the area. He emphasized how important it was regarding neighborhood compatibility that the applicant, public, and everyone else has a clear understanding of what was being done. Finally, he was concerned about the overall impact on flora and fauna, habitat, and trails.

Regarding parking, Commissioner Cote asked Mr. Redfield if his concern has to do with parking restrictions.

Mr. Redfield answered that the HOA would like to have some input on the proposals for parking hours, red zones, and any other parking concerns which may affect the residents of the Mediterranea area. He also stated that all residents have access to the trails and hoped that whoever was considering the parking issue kept that in mind.

Chairman Cartwright asked if the subject property was part of the Mediterranea HOA.

Mr. Redfield stated that the answer was yes and no. He explained that the applicant’s property and Mr. Ortolano’s lot are just outside the HOA area, however the issues of trails, parking, and safe turnarounds involve all residents.

Senior Planner Mihranian stated that whatever terminus is approved for Coolheights, a portion of it would have to be red curbed since a new fire hydrant would be installed.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked if the Planning Commission was going to look at the parking issue.

Director/Secretary Rojas stated that the Traffic Committee looks at parking on residential streets.

Ward Harman 3748 Coolheights Drive stated that there was a great need for an adequate turnaround at the end of Coolheights, whether it be a hammerhead or a cul-de-sac, as long as it could handle the trash trucks and emergency vehicles. He stated that it was very dangerous as currently existed, with the trucks backing all of the way down Coolheights Drive.

Joan McGovern 3807 Pirate Drive stated that this property was adjacent to a canyon and her home was at the mouth of this canyon. She was very concerned with the drainage from the applicant’s property. She stated that the canyon originally had no swales in it when she first moved in. She explained that flood control monitors drainage from her property whenever it rains. She stated that the Planning Department has assured her that her drainage issues will be addressed, but she wanted to state her concerns regarding the drainage on the record. She hoped that the Planning Department and Building Department would be absolutely sure there were no drainage issues once this home was built.

Joan Ortolano 3776 Coolheights Drive stated that she had filed a letter with the City the day before pointing out that the need for a cul-de-sac was a neighborhood safety issue and not a personal issue. She discussed Alternative E and the idea of moving a part of the cul-de-sac down to use more of her developed property. She stated that she currently looks down at the street and sidewalk from her bedroom windows but she can still see her garden and she does not think there is any particular burden to the applicant. She stated that the last time she spoke to the Planning Commission she focused on the issue of whether the street extension would be private property with an easement for public access or whether it would be a publicly dedicated street, and she discussed some very practical problems including jurisdiction for any future problems. She explained that her understanding of a publicly dedicated street, which is what she is proposing, in contrast to an easement for public use is that the City retains the ownership of the street. She asked staff and the City Attorney to explain what rights go to the City and citizens from a public street easement and whether those rights are any greater or any less for the City as compared to a public dedication of the street.

City Attorney Lynch stated that a public access easement would allow public use for such things as public trail access. She continued to state that with a public street easement, in a typical scenario there are two lots on either side of the street and the property lines of the lots actually go to the center line of the street and the public street easement is imposed on top of the two properties with each sharing half of the street. She stated this was very typical as to how streets used to be designed, and there is no difference from a City perspective as to whether it is an easement for street purposes or whether it is a fee dedication. Either way the City has ownership of the street area, maintenance responsibility, and can enforce requirements of the vehicle code.

Chairman Cartwright asked what the difference was between this and the public access easement.

City Attorney Lynch answered that a public access easement was not a public street easement, but rather an easement for other public use such as trails.

Mrs. Ortolano stated that if there was no practical difference, then she would have no objection to the public street easement.

Ralph Ortolano Jr. 3776 Coolheights Drive stated that he had initially fought for a cul-de-sac as a street turnaround, but eventually accepted a hammerhead. He stated that what he had accepted was a standard Fire Department turnaround as defined in the Fire Department Guidelines within a 30 x 70 foot box. To ensure that it remained in a 30 x 70 foot box he insisted that his property go up and include the little finger shape at the top. The only reason the actual dimensions were not defined in the Settlement Agreement was because he had a dispute with the City Attorney as to whether the turnaround should be big enough to accommodate parking. In settling this disagreement he relied on the understanding that at a later date the Department of Public Works would resolve the issue as to whether it would be big enough to accommodate parking or not. He stated that he has taken Alternative B and moved the cul-de-sac down to where he felt it should have been and noted that there was still adequate setbacks. As far as the trail access, his only concern was a small portion between the non-trail area and the trail area of the lot, where his easement crosses over with the City easement and over to Mr. Nassiri’s property. He felt that moving this down slightly does not impact Mr. Nassiri’s privacy and yet it allows for a trail that is existing, which he built, that goes down to the end of the bench drain. He stated that he has compromised with this project as he has given up 25 feet from the western edge of his property for the agreement. He agreed with Mr. McGuire regarding drainage and that there should be an adequate requirement that there are downspouts from the ends of the bench drains at the north side of the lot before any habitat is removed. Lastly, he requested the Planning Commission require the current trail accesses remain open until whatever future trails are created.

Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Ortolano to clarify what portion of his land he had built the trail on.

Mr. Ortolano Jr. answered that it was on the western edge of the lot.

Ralph Ortolano 3776 Coolheights Drive discussed Alternative E. He displayed an enlargement of Alternative E which he felt showed that one could increase the space between the house and the cul-de-sac by pulling the cul-de-sac down the street. He explained that it could be pulled down even further if he gives up a portion of his lot, which he stated he was willing to do in order to get the issue resolved and in order to increase the clearance between the house and the property. He felt that what was originally proposed for Alternative A has been improved by the City’s engineer. His objections to the remaining features of Alternative A are that it is not in compliance with streets anywhere else in the City or Peninsula and requires any large truck entering the street to back up in order to turn around and is less safe than a cul-de-sac. It would continue to make Coolheights Drive the only non-outlet street in the City over 1/10 of a mile long without a cul-de-sac. He felt that the configuration in Alternative B needs to be moved 2 ½ feet southwest and 2 ½ feet southeast in order to accommodate the perimeter the staff engineer added for parking. Alternative C he felt was acceptable, but not the best of the seven offered because it impacts the planned structure. Alternative D was also acceptable but not the best choice because it unnecessarily impacts the neighboring lot. He felt that Alternative E was the simplest form of the cul-de-sac and utilizes already available park strip and sidewalk and is the most efficient of the cul-de-sac alternatives by using less space and materials. Mr. Ortolano felt there were discrepancies in the matrix in the staff report. He concluded by stating his choice for the turnaround was Alternative E, his seconded choice was Alternative B, his third choice was Alternative D, and his fourth choice was Alternative A.

Chairman Cartwright questioned how Hightide Drive was different than Coolheights Drive, in that there was also no outlet on Hightide Drive. He stated that there was no turnaround on Hightide and one had to back up to get off of Hightide Drive.

Mr. Ortolano said it was different because it was less than 1/10 of a mile in length. Further, one could turn on Oceangrove to turn around. He felt that if the residents on Hightide could propose a cul-de-sac that he would not argue against it.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked about Mr. Ortolano’s proposal to pull the cul-de-sac in Alternative E further down the street and asked if he was expecting compensation for the land he would be losing.

Mr. Ortolano answered that he would have to see what would happen, as he was already worried about one of his trees.

Mrs. Ortolano added that they were not contemplating compensation, but they were also concerned as to how far down the cul-de-sac would go. She stated there was a very large coral tree that may have to come down for safety reasons.

Doris Penalosa 3520 Coolheights Drive was very concerned with the fire danger and would like to see room for more than one emergency vehicle, and felt the cul-de-sac was the best was to accommodate this request.

Barry Holchin 3949 Via Valmonte, PVE, stated that he has been running and hiking on the trails in the area for over 30 years and still hikes on the trails at least twice a month. He asked that the trails remain open during construction and that there is access to the trails. He felt the trails should be as natural and unobtrusive as possible and there be no concrete steps on the natural trails.

Mohammad Farooq 3777 Coolheights Drive did not want to have parking along the cul-de-sac and felt it should be painted red. He was very concerned with the accuracy of the silhouette, as it had been redone several times. He felt the lot should be surveyed and the silhouette placed according to the survey. He stated that in addition to the silhouette, there were other structures on the property that measured 16-feet in height that could affect his view. He asked that the entire structure be depicted with a silhouette. He stated that the view impact to his property was significant and asked the applicant lower the height of his proposed residence. He appreciated the applicant’s concerns regarding his property values, but noted that he had the same concerns regarding his property. He felt his property value would go down because he would lose significant portions of his view. He discussed the trees and the fence and objected to having to look through them to see what was left of his view. He asked that the fence be lowered and the City limit the height of the fence to 42 inches. He felt that moving the proposed house three feet back it would save much of his view. He distributed pictures to the Planning Commissioners showing how his view would be obstructed.

Chairman Cartwright asked where people currently park when using the trails.

Mr. Farooq answered that they park along the street.

Chairman Cartwright asked how this would change after the home is approved and built as people would park in the same place then as they do now.

Mr. Farooq responded that two or three people park in the turnaround area which will not be available after the curb is painted red.

Chairman Cartwright noted that Mr. Farooq was very concerned about his view and that the applicant has relocated the house to help preserve the views. He asked Mr. Farooq if the present location of the proposed house helped minimize the impact on his views.

Mr. Farooq answered that he has not seen the latest plan, but on the last plan he had seen there were still view impacts.

Chairman Cartwright asked if the silhouette had been certified.

Senior Planner Mihranian answered that the silhouette had not been certified, but could be if the Planning Commission so desired.

Commissioner Tomblin asked if moving the house back two to three feet would satisfy Mr. Farooq’s view issues.

Mr. Farooq responded that it would.

Commissioner Tomblin also asked if Mr. Farooq would be willing to give a portion of his property for the cul-de-sac.

Mr. Farooq answered that he would, other than the area of his driveway.

Nick Trutanich 3751 Coolheights Drive stated that there were several children in the neighborhood and would like to see the Traffic Committee get involved with this project. He stated that he supported the cul-de-sac design over the hammerhead design.

Chairman Cartwright asked how he would like to see the Traffic Committee involved.

Mr. Trutanich answered that the Traffic Committee could do a traffic count and gather statistics about the street that would help in the decision regarding the turnaround.

Commissioner Tomblin noted that if there are more trails on the property that could generate more traffic in the neighborhood.

Mr. Trutanich responded that most people who use the trails are those that live locally and do not drive to the trails.

Jim Knight 5 Cinnamon Lane discussed concerns on the environmental assessments. He referred to a letter from Fish and Wildlife which raised issues regarding protocol surveys of the Gnatcatcher. He asked if there would be a Take Permit would be required. In terms of fuel modification, he asked if the fencing and decks be of combustible material and if so would the fuel modifications be set from the deck or fence. He asked that staff make sure all habitat impacts follow the NCCP conservation guidelines. He suggested the drainage of the spa go into a closed system such as a sewer system, rather than into the canyon or storm drains.

Vice Chairman Long asked how the spa was proposed to be drained.

Senior Planner Mihranian stated that the drainage would be addressed through the NPDES guidelines and a condition was included in the conditions of approval. He added that the mitigation measures address some of the issues discussed by Mr. Knight. He stated there was a discrepancy in regards to the dates in which the thinning of the vegetation should occur, however staff can modify the dates according to the resource agencies’ letter.

Vice Chairman Long asked about the decking and fences discussed by Mr. Knight.

Senior Planner Mihranian stated that there was no decking proposed with the project and no fence proposed. He stated that if a fence were later proposed staff would most likely require it to be a wrought iron fence.

Sunshine 6 Limetree Lane stated that there are no new trails being proposed and therefore no additional impact to the traffic in the neighborhood. She explained that the proposal was simply to relocate a small portion of an existing trail around Mr. Nassiri’s property. She agreed that it was mostly the local community that used these trails as there was no established trailhead in the area. She agreed that the trails should stay open during the construction and that they are natural pathways. She stated that concrete stairs are not trails. She felt that it would be wiser to relocate the trail and then do the legal definition of the trail, rather than the other way around.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked if there would be any difficulties in leaving the trails open during construction.

Senior Planner Mihranian answered that he did not foresee any problems.

Commissioner Cote asked staff to clarify Mr. Ortolano Jr.’s request regarding the trail easement.

Senior Planner Mihranian referred to Exhibit B of the Resolution which showed the trail easement on Mr. Nassiri’s property. He described the proposed trail zone and explained that Mr. Ortolano was requesting the trail be angled so that there is more room at the beginning of the trail.

Sue Soldoff 3414 Coolheights Drive stated that she and her husband were both in favor of the cul-de-sac design and felt that safety issues should be the most important issues when considering the design.

Sidney Croft (in rebuttal) did not feel it was right, fair, or necessary to introduce the idea of a cul-de-sac this late in the process. He stated that the Fire Department and Waste Management had both said the hammerhead turnaround was adequate for their needs. He respectfully asked that the Planning Commission adopt the hammerhead turnaround.

Chairman Cartwright closed the public hearing.

Chairman Cartwright was concerned that this item was not near completion and felt that the Planning Commission should stop and hear the remainder of the agenda before continuing on with this hearing. The Planning Commission agreed.


3. Appeal of Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit (Case ZON2001-00122): 32451 Searaven Drive

Vice Chairman Long moved to continue this item to the June 25, 2002 Planning Commission meeting as recommended by staff, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, (5-0).


PUBLIC HEARINGS

4. Height Variation No. 928, Grading Permit No. 2276, Variance No. 487, Minor Exception Permit No. 586 and Site Plan Review No. 9127: 4206 Admirable Drive

Vice Chairman Long moved to receive and file the request to withdraw the application as recommended by staff, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, (5-0).


5. Wind Energy Ordinance (Case No. ZON2002-00228)

Senior Planner Fox presented the staff report. He explained that all California cities were required to adopt an Ordinance to provide guidelines for small wind energy systems by July 1, 2002 and if they fail to do so they must approve applications for small wind energy systems by right if they comply with the terms set forward in the Assembly Bill. He described the small wind energy system and noted that this action is not intended to allow large-scale power generation facilities and are limited to non-urbanized areas. He explained that Section 17.76.150 would be added to the Municipal Code which would allow small wind energy systems on properties of an acre and over and commercial, institutional, cemetery, and open space recreational districts. The systems would not be allowed as currently proposed in residential, open space hazard, or coastal zones. The development standards would be similar to those of antenna towers. He stated that staff was recommending the Planning Commission review the Ordinance and forward their recommendations to the City Council.

City Attorney Lynch stated there were a few other changes that could be made to the Ordinance to make it more restrictive. She stated there was a provision that prohibits any roof mounting on residential structures, and the Planning Commission could omit the word "residential: so that it would prohibit mounting on any structures. She also recommended deleting the words "significantly" so that the structures would not impair views to any degree, and "protected" so that there would be no aesthetic or view impact on any adjacent property.

Vice Chairman Long agreed with the changes suggested by the City Attorney. He asked how the standards for the Wind Energy Ordinance would be similar to those of the Antenna Code.

City Attorney Lynch answered that it was the approval process that was similar. She explained that these small wind energy systems are designed to provide an alternate on-site energy source and would not have the same economic impacts or incentives that are involved with commercial antennas.

Commissioner Duran Reed agreed with the City Attorney’s changes and commented that the words "significant" and "protected" should be removed to avoid any confusion on the undefined terms.

Chairman Cartwright noted that these systems would not be allowed in residential areas.

Vice Chairman Long felt that with the added suggestions from the City Attorney, this Ordinance did not allow for any chance of commercial windmill developments.

Commissioner Tomblin moved to accept the recommendations of staff and the City Attorney regarding the Wind Ordinance and to forward the recommendations to the City Council, seconded by Vice Chairman Long. Approved, (5-0).


RECESS AND RECONVENE

At 10:50 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 11:00 p.m. at which time they reconvened.


CONTINUED BUSINESS (cont)


6. Height Variation No. 899, Grading Permit No. 2151, Minor Exception Permit No. 573, and Environmental Assessment No. 745: (Cont.)

Chairman Cartwright suggested continuing this item to the next meeting of June 25, 2002, as the hour was late and there not the full seven members of the Planning Commission present. He felt this was an important issue that deserved more time.

Vice Chairman Long agreed, and did not feel all of the items that should be discussed could be completed by midnight.

The Commission directed the planning staff and the Director of Public Works to meet with the applicant and the neighbors to address the turnaround issue, as well as other issues identified during the public hearing.

Commissioner Duran Reed moved to continue the item to the meeting of June 25, 2002, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, (5-0).


7. Height Variation No. 941 and Grading Permit No. 2286: 3261 Crownview Dr.

Senior Planner Fox presented the staff report stating that the Planning Commission had previously conceptually approved the new house. There was a stipulation to incorporate the conditions of approval from the City’s geotechnical consultant into the project conditions, which had been done in Condition No. 21 of the draft Resolution. The second issue was research on the availability and financial feasibility of requiring the applicant to obtain liability insurance or a bond to indemnify the downslope property owners. He stated that there were no past instances in the City where the City has required the developer of one single family home to provide such proof of insurance, although there have been a few instances where larger commercial projects were required to provide such insurance. He explained that staff had looked into the cost of liability insurance, which they found to be approximately $2,500 to $3,000 for $1 million of coverage. As an alternative, the applicant suggested including himself as an additional insured on the liability insurance policies that are carried by his geotechnical consultant, his grading contractor, and other contractors involved in the construction of the house. Staff felt that requiring the applicant to provide this type of insurance certificate would be equivalent and less expensive than having him procure such coverage on his own.

Vice Chairman Long noted that there were different guides for rating insurance companies, such as Standard and Poors and Moodys, and asked if staff had given thought in all of the insurance conditions to having requirements for Standard and Poors and Moodys in place of Best, or in addition to Best. He suggested writing a condition that a certain rating be maintained at at least two different rating agencies. Regarding the additional insured endorsement, he felt a separate condition might have to be added for the geotechnical consultant who will have professional liability insurance, as opposed to the grading contractor who will have CGL. He also felt that there should be a specification on the CGL insurance that there be completed operations coverage, and unless that was specified it most likely would not be provided. He asked if the policy limits specified in the additional insured endorsement will apply separately to this particular location.

Commissioner Duran Reed endorsed the Vice Chairman’s comments, and explained that her concern was to make sure there was coverage during the construction as well as subsequent to the construction.

Chairman Cartwright opened the public hearing.

Samuel Iskander 1901 Flournoy Road, Manhattan Beach, stated that he understood the concerns of the Wans and was aware of his responsibilities to ensure that there would be no damage to his neighbor’s property while he was constructing his home. He therefore contacted an insurance company and found that he and the City of Rancho Palos Verdes could be added as additional insured on the insurance provided by his geotechnical consultant and grading contractor. He felt that this would be more than adequate coverage. He stated, however, that all necessary precautions have been taken as far as thorough soil investigation and testing and the plans and specifications have been thoroughly reviewed by engineers. He stated that the plans meet all construction standards. He realized there have been a few instances of landslides that have occurred in the City. He hoped these unfortunate incidents do not make potential builders provide insurance for everything they want to build. He felt this insurance requirement undermines the experience and judgment of so many professionals. He did not think a landslide in one area was sufficient reason to change the policy to require landslide insurance. He noted that it has been determined that there are no unusual conditions or reports of landslides in the immediate area of Miraleste, he has a soils report that has been reviewed and approved by the City’s geotechnical consultant, and the project will be subject to regular inspections by the City’s building and safety department. He also noted that the retaining walls will add to the stability of the upslope area and will improve the value of the adjoining property.

Lourdes Wan 3249 Crownview Drive stated she was concerned about the stability of the steep slope and for the safety of her yard and home during construction of the proposed residence. She was also concerned that the retaining wall was excessively high. She stated that the City had denied a previous request for a deck on her property on geotechnical grounds.

Lawrence Wan 3249 Crownview Drive felt it was an unusual practice to have a client named as an additional insured on a geotechnical engineer’s liability insurance. He also wondered who the grading contractor would be on the site, and pointed out a sentence in the geotechnical report stating that the contractor is solely responsible for the safety during the construction.

Mr. Iskander (in rebuttal) stated that this insurance requirement could be very costly for a homeowner and the City should rely on the experts when they say the area is safe. However, he stated he would do whatever the City asked to ensure that his neighbor felt safe during the construction of his home.

Commissioner Tomblin asked Mr. Iskander if he had tried to obtain insurance, but had encountered difficulty, and therefore chose this route of insurance.

Mr. Iskander responded that this route was his choice.

Vice Chairman Long asked Mr. Iskander who his grading contractor was.

Mr. Iskander answered that he had not yet chosen a grading contractor.

Vice Chairman Long asked Mr. Iskander if he knew whether the limits of insurance specified by the insurance broker for Applied Earth Sciences applied separately to each work site.

Mr. Iskander did not know.

Vice Chairman Long asked if the policy had a subsidence or earth movement exclusion.

Mr. Iskander did not know.

Chairman Cartwright closed the public hearing.

Director/Secretary Rojas clarified that staff was responding to Commission direction to research this insurance information and staff was not recommending that this condition be added. Staff was bringing this condition before the Planning Commission and asking for direction as to whether to add the condition.

Commissioner Cote stated she was willing to consider the insurance requirement as long as the applicant could be added as an additional insured on the contractor’s policy.

Commissioner Tomblin felt this was a topic that could be discussed to no end and agreed with Commissioner Cote that requiring the applicant to provide an insurance policy made him uncomfortable. He was satisfied with the additional insured option along with the million-dollar coverage.

Commissioner Duran Reed stated her initial concern was to make sure everyone was protected. She felt that having insurance with everyone involved was very important and the one million dollar coverage was adequate. She stated that she had done some research and called some insurance companies and was told that a million dollar insurance policy would only be approximately $200 - $300 per year. She stated that her concern was that the applicant and adjoining homeowner be thoroughly protected at all times, not just during grading and construction, but afterwards as well.

Vice Chairman Long felt that adding the property owner as an additional insured to the appropriate insurance was a good and cost effective way to go. He felt it was important at some point in the future for the Planning Commission to discuss guidelines as to when insurance should be required. He felt that in this case where someone is modifying a retaining wall that supports the property of his neighbor, he would not want the risk of failure to be transferred to that neighbor. He stated that, as a practical matter, if the property owner does not have enough insurance to pay the possible cost of damage, then the risk has been transferred to the neighbor. He did not think it was appropriate for the Planning Commission to allow people who want to develop their properties to transfer that risk to their neighbors. He stated that insurance was the free market’s way of determining what the risk is, what the value of the risk is, and what the cost of the risk is. He stated that he has reviewed the certificate of insurance provided by the applicant and the form of additional insured endorsement, and provided there can be some assurance that the policy does not contain a subsidence or earth movement exclusion and that the limits apply separately to each work site, then there is a very good degree of protection for the property owner.

Chairman Cartwright felt it was important to have a cost assessment of what it would cost to acquire insurance of this type. His main concern was that with this action the Planning Commission would be setting a precedent that he felt sets the City on a course for automatic insurance. He stated that the reasons given for asking for the insurance on this case was to make the downslope neighbor feel better. He did not think this was the kind of precedent setting project that would allow the Planning Commission to pick and choose when insurance is needed. He felt that if this was the criterion, then everyone who is exposed to grading would certainly feel better if there was insurance involved. In looking at this project he felt the geotechnical assessment was sound and he did not see anything that was unusual with the grading or the construction. He felt that in this case the requirement of insurance undermines the integrity and credibility of the development process. He felt there were many things that could be required other than insurance, such as bonds. He was terribly concerned that the Planning Commission was establishing a policy which would permit the City to get into the insurance business for most of the projects in the City.

Vice Chairman Long shared the Chairman’s concern about defining when insurance should be required, and did not think it was appropriate to require applicants to get insurance to make their neighbors feel better. He did not know where to draw the line, since on one hand the City should not be involved in the minutia of the projects, yet on the other hand he felt an individual property owner’s rights to use their property as they see fit are circumscribed by the fact that if they do it in a way that poses risk to their neighbors and they are not capable of answering for that risk, that what they are effectively doing is deciding that their neighbors are joining them in taking a risk. He stated that pieces of paper can be empty promises and professionals do make mistakes.

Commissioner Duran Reed felt that the Planning staff were most likely the best judges as to when insurance may be necessary based on the conditions at the subject property. She noted that in this case the Wan’s request to build a deck was denied on geological grounds and this simply raised a red flag to her. She felt it was preposterous to require insurance on a project to make the neighbors feel good. She did not think it was a burden to ask an applicant to provide insurance, and noted that in this case it did not cost the applicant any money to do so. She also agreed with Vice Chairman Long that the risk of building should not be transferred to adjoining homeowners.

Chairman Cartwright agreed that requiring insurance to make neighbors feel good was preposterous, and that in this case that is exactly what was happening. He referred to past minutes where the neighbor was asked if they would feel better if insurance were required, and the speaker said yes. He did not feel there were any other reasons that were stated on the record that justify insurance. He felt that if the Planning Commission was going to require insurance it should be for very specific reasons and it has not been defined in this instance. He noted that the geology seemed sound, there was nothing unique in the geotechnical report, and the lot was buildable.

Commissioner Duran Reed stated that the Wans were asked if they would feel better having insurance to protect their property, as this was simply a way to address the issue in layman’s terms without having to get into a lengthy legal analysis of the subject.

Commissioner Duran Reed discussed the Ocean Trails project, and although it was a known landslide and the project was a different situation than the one before the Commission, the City and all concerned experts had approved the building of the project. Because of the insufficient insurance the landslide caused the project not to be completed and the owners to go into bankruptcy.

Commissioner Tomblin moved to accept the staff’s condition and accept the $1 million policy on the project.

Vice Chairman Long asked to amend the motion to adopt the recommendation for an insurance condition specifying $1 million, specifying the applicant be added as an additional insured to the policy, and specify if possible that the limits be made available separately to the work site and that subsidence and earth movement exclusions be excluded as well.

Commissioner Tomblin accepted the amendment and noted that this motion and these conditions would apply to this project only and did not want this to apply to any other project, as there were many issues that needed further discussion by the Planning Commission.

Vice Chairman Long agreed, and seconded the motion.

Commissioner Cote suggested that staff research how other cities in areas that have similar geologic concerns handle the issue of insurance.

Vice Chairman Long agreed with the suggestion.

Chairman Cartwright stated that he was terribly concerned with the idea of requiring insurance, especially when there was no set criteria of when it should be required.

Senior Planner Fox asked if the following language should be added to proposed condition no. 23 in the staff report: If possible the limits of such insurance shall apply to each job site separately and shall not include an exclusion for subsidence and earth movement.

Vice Chairman Long suggested that condition 23 should read: Prior to issuance of a grading permit by Building and Safety the applicant shall submit to the City a certificate of liability insurance for the applicant’s geotechnical consultant and grading contractor demonstrating that the applicant is listed as additional insured on general liability policies for the geotechnical consultant and grading contractor in an amount of not less that $1 million per occurrence and in the aggregate applying separately to the project site cover awards for loss or damage arising out of the grading or construction of this project by the applicant and his consultant or contractors. Said insurance policy must be issued by an insurer admitted to do business in the State of California with a minimum rating of A-7 by Best Insurance Guide and equivalent or better ratings from either Standard and Poors or Moody’s. Said insurance shall not be canceled or reduced during the grading or construction work and without providing at least 30 days prior written notice to the City. Said additional insured endorsement will be on a form providing completed operations coverage such as the Insurance Services Office form

CG201010-93.

Commissioner Tomblin accepted the language added to his motion, seconded by Vice Chairman Long. Approved, (4-1) with Chairman Cartwright dissenting.


PUBLIC HEARINGS (CONT)


8. Height Variation (Case No. ZON2002-00038): 27725 Longhill Drive

The Planning Commission unanimously waived the reading of the staff report.

Chairman Cartwright opened the public hearing.

John Hamilton stated he was the architect for the project. He questioned the recommendation for a translucent window on the second story addition. He did not feel there was a privacy issue involved and noted that there were other two-story homes in the immediate neighborhood that did not have translucent windows on the upper floors. He stated there had been no complaints from neighbors regarding privacy issues.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked what a translucent window was.

Mr. Hamilton answered that a translucent window allows light to come in but you cannot see out of them.

Chairman Cartwright noted that the neighbor to the east has not expressed a concern regarding privacy, yet staff does have a concern. He asked why staff had the concern if the neighbor did not.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that it was a situation where the staff planner went to the site and noted that the new project would have a window closer to the residence and would look down into the backyard. He felt this situation could be mitigated through a different window design.

Chairman Cartwright closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Tomblin moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2002-13 thereby approving Height Variation (Case No. ZON2002-00038) as recommended by staff, seconded by Commissioner Duran Reed.

Vice Chairman Long suggested amending the motion to remove the condition that the window be a translucent window. There was no second to the amendment.

Commissioner Duran Reed suggested amending the motion to require either a translucent window or a window that is partially translucent.

Chairman Cartwright re-opened the public hearing.

Commissioner Tomblin asked Mr. Hamilton if the neighbors have seen the plan and understand that a window will be looking into their backyard.

Mr. Hamilton answered that these particular neighbors have not seen the plan.

Chairman Cartwright closed the public hearing.

Given that information, Commissioner Tomblin did not accept the amendment made by Commissioner Duran Reed.

After a roll call vote, the motion passed (5-0).


CONSENT CALENDAR

1. Minutes of May 28, 2002

Vice Chairman Long noted a typo on page 7 of the minutes, three word changes on page 8, a clarification on page 16, and a typo on page 17.

Chairman Cartwright noted a clarifications on page 16.

2. Page 23 of Minutes of May 14, 2002

Commissioner Tomblin moved to accept both sets of minutes as amended, seconded by Commissioner Duran Reed. Approved, (5-0).


ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS

Vice Chairman Long stated that he had items he would like to add to a future agenda, which did not necessarily have to be the June 25 meeting. He felt there was a need to consider the issue of insurance requirements and what criteria should be used if insurance was going to be required. He agreed with Commissioner Cote’s suggestion to check with other cities to see if they had any insurance requirements and what their criteria was. He suggested contacting coastal cities such as Malibu, Laguna Nigel, Santa Barbara and others that have similar topography as Rancho Palos Verdes.

Vice Chairman Long suggested a possible future agenda item to discuss amending the antenna ordinance. He also asked that an item be added to clarify how findings 4 and 6 are dealt with for height variation permits.

Chairman Cartwright noted that the City Council was scheduled to discuss the term "significant" at a future meeting and suggested the Planning Commission wait until the City Council has their discussion before agendizing this topic.

Vice Chairman Long stated that his suggestion was a different issue but he agreed that the discussion be postponed until after the City Council has concluded their discussions.


ADJOURNMENT

The meeting was adjourned at 12:40 a.m.


2. MINUTES OF JUNE 25, 2002

CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION
REGULAR MEETING
JUNE 25, 2002


CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Cartwright at 7:00 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.


FLAG SALUTE

Chairman Cartwright led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.


ROLL CALL

Present: Commissioners Duran Reed, Lyon, Tomblin, Vice Chairman Long, and Chairman Cartwright.

Absent: Commissioners Cote and Mueller were excused.

Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Assistant Planner Yu, and Recording Secretary Peterson


APPROVAL OF AGENDA

Commissioner Duran Reed suggested hearing the items in the following order: 2, 3, 4, 5, 1. The Commission agreed.


COMMUNICATIONS

Director/Secretary Rojas distributed one item of late correspondence regarding agenda item No. 3 as well as several copies of e-mail received at pc@rpv.com.

Director/Secretary Rojas reported that at the last City Council meeting the City Council had adopted the Wind Energy Ordinance, overturned the Planning Commission decision on the Nancy Road project, and had their first meeting regarding the revised Long Point project.

The Commission discussed the need to perform site visits and asked staff to make sure the record was clear in the minutes as to which Commissioners had visited the project site.

Commissioner Tomblin reported that he had received a phone call from, but did not speak to, Mr. Ortolano Jr. He also reported that he had attended a meeting as part of the Youth Peninsula League with the YMCA Development Group regarding some potential new projects on the peninsula.

Vice Chairman Long reported that he had received an e-mail from Mr. Ortolano requesting his phone number, as the one on the web page is incorrect. However, after e-mailing Mr. Ortolano his correct phone number, he did not receive any phone calls from him.


CONTINUED BUSINESS


2. Height Variation No. 899, Grading Permit No. 2151, Minor Exception Permit No. 573, and Environmental Assessment No. 745: 3787 Coolheights Drive

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the continuance was being requested to allow the consultant engineer additional time to review design work for the cul-de-sac and hammerhead turnarounds.

Commissioner Duran Reed moved to continue the public hearing to the July 9, 2002 Planning Commission meeting, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, (5-0).

Vice Chairman Long and Commissioner Tomblin noted that they would not be in attendance at the July 9 meeting.

Commissioner Duran Reed also noted that there was a possibility she would not be at the July 9 meeting.

Director/Secretary Rojas stated that the City Attorney could not be present at the July 9 meeting, and therefore it may be continued to the following meeting. However, he noted that there was a time constraint regarding the adoption of the Negative Declaration.

3. Appeal of Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00122): 32451 Searaven Drive

Assistant Planner Yu presented the staff report. She explained that the item was an appeal of the Director’s approval to allow a portion of the existing hedge to be maintained at a height of 5 feet and a portion of the hedge to be lowered to a height of 2 feet 6 inches. She explained that the appellant was requesting to maintain the entire hedge at a height of 5 feet. She explained the Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit and the purpose of the permit. She stated that staff had performed a site visit and determined that the existing hedge significantly impairs the coastline view from the viewing area at 32459 Searaven Drive. As such, staff is of the opinion that the hedge should be trimmed to improve the view from the viewing area. To mitigate privacy impact concerns to the spa located in the rear yard, staff suggested leaving the hedge at a height of 5 feet in the rear area. As such, staff was recommending the Planning Commission deny the appeal, thereby upholding the Director’s decision to approve the Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit.

Chairman Cartwright opened the public hearing.

Marty Foster 32451 Searaven Drive stated she was appealing the mandated trimming of her hedge. She explained that in August 2001 she was before the View Restoration Commission in response to a view preservation permit filed by the upslope neighbor, and was found to be in compliance. Subsequently, she was required to apply for a Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit for the existing hedge. She displayed several pictures on an overhead projector showing the hedge. She noted that her spa is very visible from the upslope property and the hedge shields the spa. She stated that the rear yard is a major extension of their living space and they spend a great deal of time in the yard. She felt that trimming the hedge would allow for the loss of a great deal of their privacy. She explained that the loss of privacy was not limited to the rear yard, and noted the rear windows of residence. Mrs. Foster displayed a slide showing a slope that had failed and explained that she had removed agave plants from this hillside and the entire hillside had failed after a rain. She was concerned that this same type of thing could happen if the hedge were extensively trimmed and died. She noted that the upslope home had an addition to it several years ago, creating the exaggerated "L" shape. She explained that this addition now allows for greater viewing into her rear yard and windows. She was further concerned that there would be a recorded restriction relating to her property on the City ledge which she felt could possibly affect the value of her home. She discussed the two options she felt were available if she was forced to trim her hedge, which were either selling the home or putting an addition onto the back of the home. She felt the possible addition would shield the backyard from the upslope property. She concluded by stating that she had bought her property and view as it was at the time. Similarly, her neighbors also bought and paid for the property and view as it was at that time, which included the existing hedge.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mrs. Foster if she had consulted with a geologist or soils expert as to whether the slope would become unstable if the hedge were to be completely removed, as had happened with the agave.

Mrs. Foster responded that she had not consulted with a soils expert, and had already spent a great deal of money on this process.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mrs. Foster if she had consulted with a real estate agent to see if cutting the hedge would affect the value of her property.

Mrs. Foster answered that she had spoken to a realtor who confirmed that privacy is very desirable in these homes and that cutting the hedge could affect the property value.

Commissioner Duran Reed noted that on the other side of the property there was a clear plexiglass fence which allowed for a view of the coastline. She asked Mrs. Foster how she would feel if the neighbor replaced this fence with a hedge at a similar height.

Mrs. Foster answered that her view would be affected from her yard, however this was not her primary viewing area.

Vice Chairman Long asked if a new down slope neighbor were to move in and planted a hedge for privacy where the current plexiglass fence was, that Mrs. Foster would not make a complaint to the City that the hedge was impairing her view.

Mrs. Foster did not want to answer this type of hypothetical question that may put some type of restrictions on her property.

Vice Chairman Long asked if the purpose of the possible addition to Mrs. Foster’s property would be to shield the backyard and preserve the privacy if the hedge were trimmed.

Mrs. Foster answered that that was correct, as well as adding value to the property.

Commissioner Tomblin asked if the hedge was part of the application taken before the View Restoration Commission.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the hedge is below the 16-foot threshold that triggers a View Restoration Commission review, and therefore is subject to the Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit.

Commissioner Tomblin asked if the hedges were in place when the property was purchased.

Mrs. Foster answered that there was a different fence behind the hedge, and the hedge was higher than it is today.

Commissioner Tomblin asked if there was a grandfather clause that would apply, since the hedge was in place before the Code was in place.

Director/Secretary Rojas stated that if the hedge was existing as a significant view impairing hedge at the time that the Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit regulations came into being, it most likely could be considered a grandfathered situation. Staff, however, could find no evidence as to how long the hedge had been in place.

Vice Chairman Long asked if there was a fencing requirement for spas.

Director/Secretary Rojas answered that spas must be enclosed by a five-foot high fence.

Vice Chairman Long asked if the current chain link fence were removed would the applicant’s property then be out of compliance with swimming pool fencing requirements.

Director/Secretary Rojas answered that it would then be out of compliance, however he clarified that the chain link fence was not out of compliance and could remain where it was currently placed.

Chairman Cartwright asked Mrs. Foster if she was aware that a permit was required for the hedges at the time she purchased the property.

Mrs. Foster answered that there was not a permit required when she purchased the property, as she purchased the property in 1979, and the Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit requirements did not come into affect until approximately 1988 or 1989.

Commissioner Duran Reed noted that some of Mrs. Foster’s privacy concerns were from the inside of her home, and asked if she had considered some of the many different kinds of window coverings to help protect her privacy.

Mrs. Foster acknowledged that there were many types of window coverings that she could look into that would protect her privacy while allowing her to maintain her viewing area.

Chairman Cartwright asked if there were any other homes in the neighborhood which had a similar type of solid hedge along the property line.

Mrs. Foster answered that there were several such hedges in the immediate neighborhood.

Bill Foster 32451 Searaven Drive read a section of the Development Code which states that the purpose of the Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit was to provide standards for the construction of fences, walls, and hedges. He stated that his hedge was not constructed nor planted by him and was in place when he purchased his home in 1978. He questioned why this permit applied to his hedge. He then questioned the staff report section on Code Considerations and Analysis and the discussion on the City’s Municipal Code and General Plan. He noted that staff had written that the hedge impacts the ocean view from 32459 Searaven Drive as such it does not comply with the General Plan’s goal to prohibit encroachment on existing scenic views reasonably expected by neighboring residences. He contended that the scenic view through his hedge has not existed for at least 20 years. He also noted that when the upslope neighbor bought the house only a year ago there was no view through the hedge and therefore they could not have reasonably expected a view through that hedge. He felt that the decision on the Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit mandated that he create a new view for the upslope property at the expense of his privacy.

Mr. Rammal 32459 Searaven Drive stated that the hedge blocks his shoreline view, Long Point view, and Portuguese Bend view. He explained that he bought the property the hedge was 8 to 9 feet tall and thought he could talk to his neighbors and ask them to lower the hedge. He noted that the Fosters had lowered the hedge slightly, however would not lower it sufficiently to restore his view. He felt that his entire view from his living room was obstructed. He felt that neighbors should try to help each other and was disappointed that his neighbors would not agree to compromise with him.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mr. Rammal where his family spent most of its time.

Mr. Rammal answered that it was mostly in the family room and living room.

Commissioner Tomblin asked Mr. Rammal if he purchased the home with the expectation of having a full view.

Mr. Rammal answered that his real estate agent had told them this was a view lot and they had paid the price for a view lot. He noted that his upslope neighbors had cut two trees to help his view and he had cut one tree to help his upslope neighbors’ view.

Commissioner Tomblin asked Mr. Rammal if he had the expectation of a view through the hedge when he bought his home.

Mr. Rammal answered that he did not have the expectation of a view through the hedge when he bought the home, but contacted the City after he bought the home regarding the rules and regulations of a view through the hedge.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mr. Rammal if he knew when the addition was added to his home.

Mr. Rammal thought it was in 1992, and he purchased the property in 1999.

Commissioner Lyon asked staff to clarify what area of the hedge staff was recommending be trimmed.

Assistant Planner Yu showed a slide which displayed an area of the hedge that staff was proposing be trimmed.

Commissioner Lyon did not feel there would be much privacy for the down slope property once the hedge was trimmed.

Assistant Planner Yu answered that the majority of the hedge would be trimmed, however staff had suggested leaving the hedge higher near the area of the spa.

Commissioner Tomblin felt that the code was written in "future tense" in that if someone were to want to build a fence or hedge they would have to comply with these codes. He therefore questioned how this code applied to the existing hedge.

Director/Secretary Rojas noted that most written code provisions are in the "future tense" and if an improvement requires after-the-fact approval it is treated as it if were not there.

Barry Hildebrand 3560 Vigilance Drive stated he had known the Foster family since they moved to the neighborhood 24 years ago. He discussed the many things the Fosters have done for the community. He explained that this hedge has existed in the same location since before the City was formed and did not think it was fair that the City require the Fosters to create a view where none had existed before. He did not understand why the Fosters should apply for a permit for something they have had for more than 25 years, after the hedge had reached maturity several times over. He noted that the upslope neighbor is asking for a view that he did not have when he bought the home.

Chairman Cartwright closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked staff to address the issue of whether or not the code should be enforced retroactively.

Director/Secretary Rojas responded that with the guidance of the City Attorney, staff does not look for unpermitted conditions, and only addresses these situations when they are brought to staff’s attention. When there is a situation where the condition or structure was built before incorporation, there then is the issue of determining when the structure was built. He explained that if there is no clear evidence for staff to dismiss the situation, then it goes through the after-the-fact permit process.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked what the date was for the General Plan.

Director/Secretary Rojas answered that it was 1975.

Vice Chairman Long felt that the first issue was to determine whether or not the Ordinance applies to this hedge. He did not feel he had sufficient guidance from staff or sufficient facts to decide the question. He did not feel the Planning Commission needed to decide the question to reach the conclusions necessary. He discussed Finding No. 1, and felt the first consideration was what is the view area. He felt that it must be determined as to whether the view was significantly impaired from the living room. He was not able to get inside the living room, nevertheless he felt he was able to walk around in the backyard, and he did not believe the view, taken as a whole, was significantly impaired. He agreed with Finding No. 2 in the staff report. Discussing Finding No. 3, Commissioner Long did not think the view is reasonably expected by neighboring residents. He did not think the impact on the view was significant, and therefore it was not reasonable to expect that one could avoid all insignificant impairments of view. He did, however, feel there was an extensive violation of the privacy expectation of the Fosters by trimming the hedge. Without the hedge that was in place, he felt the Foster’s outdoor privacy would be very poor. With the hedge, he felt the privacy was fairly good, and the good privacy was achieved by what he felt was an insignificant impairment of view. Further, even if the impairment of view were significant, he felt the invasion of privacy necessary to restore the coastline view would be unreasonable, within the meaning of Finding No. 4. Therefore, he recommended rejecting the staff report and sustaining the appeal.

Commissioner Tomblin felt the Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit was mostly for new construction. He felt this hedge had been in place for a very long time and did not fall under this type of permit. He stated that the major view for Mr. Rammal was out directly towards the ocean, which was not impacted. He felt that the view of the coastline was already lost when Mr. Rammal purchased his home, and he did not feel there was anything in the Code to address that issue. Therefore, he agreed with Vice Chairman Long that the appeal be sustained.

Commissioner Lyon understood the desire to want privacy, but did not feel it was an entitlement. On the other hand, he felt that the applicant had a right to build an addition to his home up to 16-feet in height, in which case the view from the upslope property would be totally gone. He did not think that cutting a hole in a hedge to provide a view to a neighbor was a reasonable course of action, and did not think it added much to the view that already exists. He agreed that the appeal should be sustained.

Commissioner Duran Reed did not feel Finding No. 2 applied. She discussed Finding No. 3 and felt that both the Municipal Code and General Plan should be considered. She stated that the General Plan prohibits encroachment on existing scenic views that are reasonably expected by neighboring residences. She did not have enough information to determine under the General Plan, if the view that is currently being obstructed was an existing scenic view, and if so, when did it exist. She felt that in this case, the question of retroactivity did not apply. However, she did not think she would hold this as a standard for future applications of any type. She discussed Finding No. 1 and whether the hedge significantly impairs the view. She felt the view was tied into Finding Number 3, an existing scenic view. She found it very difficult to say that because the view had been blocked for so many years, the foliage should now be removed. She was concerned with the possible loss of privacy to the Fosters, but did feel that any loss of privacy in the home could be reduced with window coverings. She disagreed with Commissioner Lyon’s view that building an addition up to 16 feet in height was possible without any consideration of the neighbor’s view. She felt that the appeal should be sustained.

Chairman Cartwright felt that the Fence, Wall, and Hedge process applies in this situation. He felt that the view, if the hedge were not in place, would be worthwhile and felt the view was significantly impaired. However, there is a concern with the privacy. He felt the indoor privacy could be handled very easily with window coverings, but was troubled with the privacy to the spa. He felt the upslope neighbor did not have any reason to expect that the hedge would be removed. He felt that the Fosters were entitled to build an addition to their property that was no higher than 16 feet without regard to view. He was concerned that denying the appeal and forcing the Fosters to cut their hedge would put them on the path of adding a room that would completely destroy any possible view that might exist. Therefore, he would also sustain the appeal, and hope that the neighbors could work together to find a way to open up the view and maintain as much privacy as possible.

Commissioner Lyon moved to sustain the appeal, thereby overturning the Director’s decision to approve the Fence, Wall and Hedge Permit, seconded by Vice Chairman Long. Approved, (5-0).

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the staff would have a Resolution prepared for the next meeting’s Consent Calendar.


RECESS AND RECONVENE

At 8:40 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 8:50 p.m. at which time they reconvened.


PUBLIC HEARINGS


4. Variance/Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00176): 3340 Palos Verdes Drive East

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that staff was requesting a continuance to allow the applicant additional time to meet with his neighbors and staff to try to resolve some outstanding issues.

Commissioner Lyon moved to continue the public hearing to the July 9, 2002 Planning Commission meeting, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, (5-0).


ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS


5. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of July 9, 2002

Director/Secretary Rojas briefly discussed the View Restoration Commission’s current workload and when the Planning Commission would likely begin hearing view restoration cases.

Commissioner Tomblin noted that on the July 9 agenda there was an item regarding Long Point. He stated that he has already disclosed to the City Attorney and the City Clerk that he had done a small consulting job for Lowe Enterprises, the project applicant.

Director/Secretary Rojas discussed a previous request from Vice Chairman Long regarding a future discussion on the findings required for a height variation. He stated that it was his understanding that Vice Chairman Long was not requesting that the item be agendized to a date certain, but rather agendized at some future agenda, and asked for Commission direction.

Vice Chairman Long agreed that the request was not for a date certain, but rather at a time that staff feels they will be suitably prepared and able to provide sufficient advance notice to all of the Commissioners.

Commissioner Duran Reed asked that, in addition to the height variation guidelines, there be a discussion regarding the General Plan and how it is interpreted regarding height and view guidelines.

Commissioner Long stated that he would like clarification of the question of whether, in making findings for a height variation permit, the Commission should consider the entirety of the view or only the portion of the view that exceeds 16 feet. He also wanted to consider how this issue inter-relates with view restoration permits and the trimming of foliage, as well as in which cases, if any, can construction which is less than 16 feet in height impact a view, as a view is considered in both the General Plan and different planning permits such as grading applications.


CONSENT CALENDAR


1. Minutes of June 11, 2002

Commissioner Duran Reed noted and clarified an omission on page 7 of the minutes as well as a clarification on page 9. She inserted a paragraph for clarification on page 19 and inserted sentences to a paragraph on page 23 to clarify her statement. She also added two paragraphs on page 23 of the minutes which she felt had been omitted.

Vice Chairman Long noted a typo and a clarification on page 3 of the minutes as well as typos on page 23 and 24.

Chairman Cartwright noted a typo on page 6 of the minutes.

Commissioner Duran Reed commented that on page 26 of the minutes under "Items to be placed on future agendas", she recalled the Commission suggesting additional cities to be looked at, and thought they should be included.

Vice Chairman Long suggested continuing the minutes to the next meeting so that the revisions could be reviewed. The Commission agreed.


ADJOURNMENT

The meeting was adjourned at 9:25 p.m.

 


3. APPEAL OF FENCE, WALL AND HEDGE PERMIT (CASE NO. ZON2001-00122): 32451 Searaven Drive / Foster (BY)

Request: An appeal of the Director's decision to allow an existing hedge located along the east property line to remain, with the condition that a portion of the hedge be lowered to 2’-6" in height.

Recommendation: Staff recommends that the Planning Commission adopt Resolution No. 2002-__, approving with conditions Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00122), to allow the existing hedge, located along the east side property line, to remain and be maintained at a height of 5’-0", as measured from the higher adjacent grade.

TO:
CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION
FROM:

DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT

DATE:
JULY 9, 2002
SUBJECT:
FENCE WALL AND HEDGE PERMIT, CASE NO. ZON2001-00122 (FOSTER, 32451 SEARAVEN DRIVE)


Staff Coordinator: Beilin Yu, Assistant Planner

RECOMMENDATION

Adopt Resolution No. 2002-__, approving with conditions Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00122), to allow the existing hedge, located along the east side property line, to remain and be maintained at a height of 5’-0", as measured from the higher adjacent grade.

BACKGROUND

On June 25, 2002, the Planning Commission sustained the appeal, filed by the property owners of 32451 Sea Raven Drive, Mr. and Mrs. Foster, thereby overturning the Director’s decision to approve a hedge at a reduced height. The Planning Commission’s action allows the property owners to maintain an existing hedge located along the east side property line, at a height of 5’-0", as measured from the higher adjacent grade.

Additionally, at the June 25, 2002 Planning Commission meeting, the Planning Commission directed staff to prepare a resolution sustaining the appeal. As such, Staff prepared the attached resolution and recommends that the Planning Commission adopt P.C. Resolution 2002-__.

ATTACHMENTS

  • P.C. Resolution No. 2002-__
  • Exhibit "A" – Conditions of approval

P.C. RESOLUTION NO. 2002-__

A RESOLUTION OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES OVERTURNING THE PLANNING DIRECTOR’S DECISION, AND CONDITIONALLY APPROVING FENCE, WALL, AND HEDGE PERMIT (CASE NO. ZON2001-00122), TO ALLOW AN EXISTING HEDGE TO BE MAINTIANED AT 5’-0" HIGH, AS MEASURED FROM THE HIGHER ADJACENT GRADE, LOCATED AT 32451 SEARAVEN DRIVE.

WHEREAS, on October 15, 2001 an application for Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00122) was submitted to the Planning Department to allow the existing hedge, located along the east side property line at 32451 Searaven Drive to be maintained at 5’-0"; and,

WHEREAS, on November 14, 2001 the subject applications were deemed complete for processing by Staff; and,

WHEREAS, on April 10, 2002 the Director of Planning approved the application with conditions, including a condition requiring the portion of the hedge closest to the residence at 32451 Searaven Drive to be lowered to and maintained at a maximum height of 2’-6", as measured from the higher adjacent grade; and,

WHEREAS, on April 29, 2002, the property owners, Mr. and Mrs. Foster submitted a letter and the associated fees to appeal the Director’s decision to the Planning Commission; and,

WHEREAS, on May 9, 2002 the required public notices for the May 28, 2002 Planning Commission meeting were mailed to the adjacent property owners; and,

WHEREAS, at the applicant’s request, on May 28, 2002, the Planning Commission continued the public hearing to the June 11, 2002 Planning Commission meeting; and,

WHEREAS, at the applicant’s request, on June 11, 2002, the Planning Commission continued the public hearing to the June 25, 2002 Planning Commission meeting; and,

WHEREAS, pursuant to the provision of the California Quality Act, Public Resources Code Section 21000 et.seq. ("CEQA"), the State's CEQA Guidelines, California Code of Regulation, 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 Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit Case No. ZON2001-00122 would have a significant effect on the environment and, therefore the proposed project has been found to be categorically exempt (Class 1, Section 15303(a)); and,

WHEREAS, after notices issued pursuant to the requirements of Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code, the Planning Commission held a duly noticed public hearing on June 25, 2002, at which all interested parties were given the opportunity to be heard and present evidence.

NOW, THEREFORE, THE PLANNING COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES DOES HEREBY FIND, DETERMINE, AND RESOLVE AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1: That the existing hedge does not significantly impair the view of the coastline from the viewing area of 32459 Searaven Drive.

Section 2: That there is no existing foliage on the subject property that exceeds 16’ in height, and which significantly impairs views from neighboring properties

Section 3: That the existing subject hedge complies with the Development Code, since Section 17.76.030(C)(1)(b)(ii) of the Development Code allows hedges up to sixteen feet in height on any part of the lot, except between the front property line and the exterior façade of the existing single-family residence closest to the front property line.

Section 4: That partial trimming of the hedge constitutes an unreasonable invasion of the outdoor rear yard privacy of the applicant’s property, there is no other method to create such privacy, and the rear yard area is an usable and enjoyed area by the property owners.

Section 5: A Notice of Decision shall be given to the applicant and to all interested parties informing them of the Planning Commission’s decision.

Section 6: Any interested parties may appeal this decision or any portion of this decision to the City Council. Pursuant to Section 17.02.040.C.1.j of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code, any such appeal must be filed with the City, in writing, and with the appropriate appeal fee, no later than fifteen (15) days following the date of the Planning Commission’s adoption of this resolution.

Section 7: For the foregoing reasons, and based on the information and findings included in the Staff Report, Minutes, and other records of proceedings, the Planning Commission of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes hereby overturns the Director’s decision, and approves with conditions (as shown in attached Exhibit "A") Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00122), to allow the existing hedge to be maintained at a height of 5’-0", as measured from the higher adjacent grade.

PASSED, APPROVED, AND ADOPTED this 9th day of July, 2002, by the following vote:

AYES:

NOES:

ABSTENTIONS:

ABSENT:

Jon S. Cartwright
Chairman

Joel Rojas, AICP
Director of Planning, Building
and Code Enforcement; and,
Secretary to the Planning Commission

Exhibit "A"
Conditions of Approval

Fence, Wall & Hedge Permit
Case No. ZON2001-00122

1. The applicant/property owner shall submit to the City a statement, in writing that they have read, understand and agree to all conditions of approval listed below. Failure to provide said written statement within ninety (90) days of the effective date of approval shall render this approval null and void.

2. Approval of this permit is to allow the existing hedge located along the east side property line to remain and be maintained at a height of 5’-0", as measured from the higher adjacent grade.

3. The height of the hedge shall be measured from the higher adjacent grade, which is the rear yard pad elevation of the property located at 32459 Searaven Drive.

4. No expansion of the building footprint or additional enclosed floor area is approved with this permit.

5. The project shall substantially conform to the plans stamped for approval by the Planning Department.

6. In the event that the Planning and Building requirements are in conflict, the stricter standard shall apply.

7. No additional construction or grading is approved under this permit approval.

8. On March 2, 2001 and January 7, 2002, City Staff conducted a foliage analysis on the subject property and determined that there is no existing foliage on the subject property that exceeds 16’ in height, and which significantly impairs views from neighboring properties.


CONTINUED BUSINESS:


4. VARIANCE / GRADING PERMIT (CASE NO. ZON2001-00176): 3340 Palos Verdes Drive East / Farrar (BY)

Request: A request to legalize two existing mechanical equipment HVAC units and related ducting located on the rooftop of an existing single-family residence, to allow the construction of a 2’-0" high perimeter parapet wall along the existing roof’s edge, the construction of two pyramids on the roof to enclose the existing HVAC units, to legalize a series of retaining walls located in the side and front yard, to legalize the associated 225 cubic yards of grading, and to allow the construction of a 387 square foot shed at a maximum height of 10.4’.

Recommendation: Staff recommends that the Planning Commission adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2002-__, denying without prejudice Variance Permit and denying with prejudice Grading Permit (Case No. 2001-00176).

TO:

CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION

FROM:

DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT

DATE:

JULY 9, 2002

SUBJECT:

VARIANCE PERMIT AND GRADING PERMIT (CASE NO. ZON2001-00176)

PROJECT
ADDRESS:

3340 PALOS VERDES DRIVE EAST

APPLICANT:

MR. RAY MEDAK
2814 S. BAYWATER AVE.
SAN PEDRO, CA 90731

PHONE:

310-519-8633

LANDOWNER:

MR. JERRY FARRAR
3340 PALOS VERDES DRIVE EAST
RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA 90275

PHONE:

310-519-1400

STAFF
COORDINATOR:

BEILIN YU
ASSISTANT PLANNER


REQUESTED ACTION: A REQUEST TO LEGALIZE TWO EXISTING MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT (HVAC UNITS) AND DUCTING LOCATED ON THE ROOFTOP OF AN EXISTING SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENCE, TO ALLOW THE CONSTRUCTION OF A 2’-0" HIGH PERIMETER PARAPET WALL ALONG THE EXISTING ROOF’S EDGE, THE CONSTRUCTION OF TWO PYRAMIDS ON THE EXISTING ROOF TO ENCLOSE THE EXISTING HVAC UNITS, TO LEGALIZE A SERIES OF RETAINING WALLS LOCATED IN THE SIDE AND FRONT YARD, TO LEGALIZE THE RELATED 225 CUBIC YARDS OF GRADING, AND TO ALLOW THE CONSTRUCTION OF A 387 SQUARE FOOT SHED AT A MAXIMUM HEIGHT OF 10.4’.

RECOMMENDATION: ADOPT P.C. RESOLUTION NO. 2002-___; DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE VARIANCE PERMIT AND DENYING GRADING PERMIT (CASE NO. ZON2001-00176).

REFERENCES:

ZONING: SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENTIAL – RS-2
LAND USE: SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENTIAL
CODE SECTIONS:

17.56.050, 17.64 AND 17.76.040

GENERAL PLAN: SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENTIAL
TRAILS PLAN: N/A
SPECIFIC PLAN:

N/A

CEQA: CATEGORICALLY EXEMPT (CLASS 1)
ACTION DEADLINE:

JULY 22, 2002


PLANNING COMMISSION MEMBERS RESIDING WITHIN 500’ RADIUS OF THE SUBJECT PROPERTY: NONE

BACKGROUND

On September 8, 2000, the City received a complaint of an alleged violation of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code occurring on the subject property. A subsequent inspection revealed that there were two HVAC units and ducting located on the roof of the subject residence. This is a violation of Section 17.56.050(E), which prohibits mechanical equipment to be placed on the roof of a main building or accessory structure in residential districts.

As such on November 26, 2001, Variance Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00176) was submitted to the Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Department for processing to legalize two existing HVAC units and the related ducting located on the roof. The application was deemed incomplete on January 2, 2002 due to missing information on the submitted plans.

On February 19, 2002, the City again received a complaint of an alleged violation of the Municipal Code occurring on the subject property, and a subsequent inspection revealed that a series of retaining walls and concrete stairs were being constructed on the subject property. A Stop Work Order was issued on February 19, 2002, during the site inspection. On February 22, 2002, Building Department Officials conducted another site inspection, and work was still occurring on the subject property, in violation of the first Stop Work Order. As such, a second Stop Work Order was issued on February 22, 2002.

On April 26, 2002, a Grading Permit to legalize the existing retaining walls and the associated 225 cubic yards of grading was submitted to the Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Department for processing. The Grading Permit also requests approval to construct a 387 square foot shed at a maximum height of 10.4’.

The application was deemed complete on May 24, 2002 for processing. The required public hearing notice, was sent to 41 property owners within the 500 foot radius on June 6, 2002 and published in the Peninsula News on June 8, 2002. Thus far, City Staff received eight written comments pertaining to the project (attached), and several correspondences from the applicant (attached). If more comments are submitted to the City after distribution of this report, they will be provided to the Commissioners at the public hearing.

On June 19, 2002, after a meeting with Staff, the applicant requested that this item be continued from the June 25, 2002 Planning Commission meeting to tonight’s meeting, to allow the applicant time to work with the neighbors to address their concerns, as well as Staff’s concerns. As such, on June 25, 2002, the Planning Commission continued this item to tonight’s meeting.

SITE DESCRIPTION

The subject property is located at 3340 Palos Verdes Drive East, which is located in the eastern portion of the City and is accessed by a long driveway off Palos Verdes Drive East. The subject lot is a flag lot with an approximately 160 feet long pole, a 90.54’ long front property line, 153.66’ and 169.87’ side property lines and 216.93’ long rear property line for an overall lot area of 27,340 square feet.

The subject property is currently improved with a single-family residence located on a building pad, a swimming pool in the rear yard, and retaining walls in the front and side yard. The existing single-family residence is a single story structure, with a flat roof, at a maximum height of 9’-2", as measured from the lowest adjacent grade (756’-0") to the top of the roof (765’-2"). Of the retaining walls currently located on the site, only one 4’-0" high retaining wall was existing. As noted earlier, the remaining retaining walls were built recently without Planning Department’s approval or building permits. According to the applicant there was an existing shed located in the side yard, which encroached into the adjacent neighbor’s property. The shed has been demolished. The side and rear yard slope down to an existing canyon.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The applicant is requesting an after-the-fact approval to legalize two existing HVAC units, and the related ducting located on the top of the roof of the single family residence. To screen the HVAC units from adjacent properties, the applicant is proposing to enclose the units with pyramid structures. The pyramid structures are proposed to be 11’-0" by 11’-0" and 6’-0" high, as measured from the top of the roof to the top of the pyramid. To screen the ducting from the adjacent properties, the applicant is proposing to construct a 2’-0" high parapet along the edge of the flat roof, and a series of 4’X4’ posts at a height of 2’-6" on top of the existing roof, with a new roof element to match the existing roof, over them.

The applicant is also requesting an after-the-fact approval to legalize a series of retaining walls constructed on the side and front yard. With the construction of the retaining walls, the applicant created three level terraced areas. As stated above, the subject property contained one retaining wall prior to the grading activities conducted by the applicant. The existing retaining wall was 4’-0" high, as measured from the adjacent finished grade. The applicant raised the height of this retaining wall, so that the top of wall of the west portion of this retaining wall is at 753.25’ elevation, and the east portion is at 751.3’. The finished grade elevation on the lower level is 744.3’, which results in an 8.95’ high wall on the west portion and a 7.0’ high wall on the east portion. The applicant left a 4’-3" opening, where the applicant is proposing a landing and stairs that lead from the middle level to the lower level.

The applicant also constructed 2 "L" shaped retaining walls between the top of the previously existing slope and the existing retaining wall, approximately 5’-6" from the existing retaining wall. One of the retaining walls is located to the front of the garage and the other is to the side of the residence. The purpose of the wall located to the front of the garage is to create additional parking spaces and to provide for a turn around area for cars parked in front of the garage. The purpose of the wall located to the side of the residence is to create a larger level area along the residence. The walls are located 6’-0" from each other at the portion where they parallel each other, and the applicant constructed on grade stairs leading down from the top level to the middle level. The applicant also constructed on-grade stairs between the wall located to the front of the garage and the west portion of the existing retaining wall. These stairs lead from the newly created parking area to the middle level.

The top of the highest wall is at elevation 757.58’. The finished grade elevation at the middle level, adjacent to the wall to the front of the garage is 749.9’, resulting in a 7.68’ high retaining wall. The finished grade elevation at the middle level, adjacent to the wall to the side of the residence is 748.70’, resulting in an 8.88’ high retaining wall.

Additionally, the applicant built a retaining wall parallel to the front property line and returned it so it parallels the side property line. The retaining wall is setback 5’-0" from the front as well as the side property line. The purpose of this retaining wall is also to create additional parking area to the front of the garage. The applicant constructed two retaining walls perpendicular to the existing retaining wall, connecting the existing retaining wall to the wall parallel to the side property line to create a planter in that location. The wall paralleling the side property line lowers in height after the planter area, and no longer retains any dirt. The top of wall of the retaining wall paralleling the front property line is proposed at an elevation of 757.5’ and the finished grade elevation adjacent to the retaining wall slopes down away from the front property line, as such, the retaining wall varies in height from 0.18’ to 13.0’. After the planter wall, the top of wall of this wall lowers to 753.25’. The adjacent finished grade at this location is at 744.5’, resulting in an 8.75’ wall. The top of wall for the upper planter wall is at a 757.50’ elevation, and the top of wall for the lower planter wall is at a 753.25’ elevation.

The applicant back filled the portion between the previous top of the slope and the newly constructed retaining walls and cut the area between the new retaining walls and the existing retaining wall. This entailed approximately 129 cubic yards of fill and 96 cubic yards of cut, for a total of 225 cubic yards of grading.

The applicant is also proposing to construct a 387 square foot shed on the lower level. The applicant is proposing to use the west portion of the existing retaining wall, the lower planter wall and the block wall, which parallels the side property line, as walls for the shed. The shed is proposed at a height of 10.4’, as measured from the lowest adjacent grade (743.7’) to the top of the roof (754.1’).

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

The project qualifies for a Class 1 Categorical Exemption under the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Guideline Section 15301.

Class 1 exempts from the preparation of an environmental document projects consisting of any alteration to the existing structure or topography that involves no significant expansion or use beyond that previously existing. Staff made this determination since the site is developed with a single-family residence and the proposed project consists of minor alterations to the existing structure on the subject property, with no significant additional site disturbance.

CODE CONSIDERATION AND ANALYSIS

VARIANCE PERMIT

According to Section 17.56.050(E), the applicant is requesting a Variance to allow the existing mechanical equipment (2 HVAC units) and the related ducting on top of the flat roof of the single-family residence. Pursuant to the Development Code, the granting of a Variance provides a property owner with relief from the strict interpretation of the provisions of the Development Code, when practical difficulties, unnecessary hardships or results inconsistent with the general intent and purpose of the Development Code occur on private property.

Pursuant to Section 17.64.050 of the Development Code, the Planning Commission must adopt the following four findings before granting approval of a Variance Permit (The Development Code findings are indicated in bold type, followed by Staff’s analysis in normal type).

  1. That there are exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions applicable to the property involved, or to the intended use of the property which do not apply generally to other property in the same zoning district.

    a) Mechanical Equipment

    The subject property is a 27,347 square foot flag lot, which is located in the RS-2 zone. The minimum lot size for the RS-2 zone is 20,000, in which the subject parcel meets the minimum required lot size. However, approximately 50% of the lot is located on an extreme slope, which is not allowed to be developed pursuant to the Development Code. The remaining lot area consists of the building pad and driveway. Area to place the mechanical equipment is limited since the building pad is mainly improved with the dwelling unit, swimming pool, and driveway. It is staff’s opinion that this diminished area represents an exceptional or extraordinary circumstance since there is limited area on the lot to accommodate the mechanical equipment on the ground level, and this finding can be made.

    b) Related Ducting

    In regards to the related ducting, the applicant is of the opinion that the ducting cannot be located within the residence since the residence contains an 8’-0" interior ceiling height, and there is no attic space between the ceiling and the roof. Additionally, according to the applicant, the ducting cannot be located under the existing residence because the residence is built on caissons, which does not provide any space under the residence to accommodate the required ducting for the new heating system. Staff consulted with the Building and Safety Department Staff, and is in agreement with the applicant that the ducting cannot be located inside or under the existing residence. As such, Staff is of the opinion that because of the design and construction style of the residence, there are exceptional circumstances applicable to the property involved which generally do not apply to other properties in the same zoning district to allow the related ducting to be located on top of the roof of the existing residence, and this finding can be made.

  2. That such a Variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right of the applicant, which right is possessed by other property owners under like conditions in the same zoning district.

    a) Mechanical Equipment

    The applicant believes that the granting of the Variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right enjoyed by other property owners under similar conditions because all the homes are required to contain a heating system by the Uniform Building Code. As discussed in Finding No. 1 above, the subject property has limited area to place the mechanical equipment on the ground level. As such, granting a Variance to allow the mechanical equipment on the roof top of a single family residence is necessary for the preservation of a substantial property right of the applicant to contain a heating system in the residence and is a right possessed by other property owners in the same zoning district. As such, this finding can be made.

    b) Related Ducting

    As discussed above, Staff is of the opinion that a Variance to allow the ducting on the rooftop is necessary for the heating system, and as discussed above, the residence does not contain an attic space or underground space to place the ducting system. As such, a Variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a property right by the applicant, and this finding can be made.

  3. That granting the Variance will not be materially detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to property and improvements in the area in which the property is located.

    a) Mechanical Equipment

    The applicant and Staff are of the opinion that the two mechanical equipment units are a detriment to the surrounding property owners because of their unsightly appearance. As such, the applicant is proposing to enclose the mechanical units with two pyramid structures, at a height of 6’-0’, as measured from the top of the existing roof. The applicant is of the opinion that the proposed structures would cause less impact on the views from the surrounding properties than a pitched roof would.

    Staff agrees that the mechanical equipment should be enclosed and obscured from the adjacent properties’ sight. Upon conducting a site inspection Staff determined that a pitched roof, at a maximum height of 16’-0" would significantly obstruct the Harbor view of the adjacent property to the west. However, unlike, the applicant, Staff is of the opinion that the proposed pyramid structures are not compatible with the architectural style of the residence or the surrounding neighborhood, and that the pyramid structures are too large to be located on the rooftop of a residential structure. As such, Staff is of the opinion that the applicant should enclose the mechanical units with structures that are more compatible with the existing architectural style of the residence. For example, Staff feels that a flat roofed enclosure would be more compatible with the proposed flat roof with the duct screening and the existing residence. For these reasons, Staff feels that the granting of the Variance will be materially detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to the properties and improvements in the area, and this finding cannot be made.

    b) Related Ducting

    The applicant is proposing a 2’-0" high parapet along the edge of the roof and 4’X4’ posts with a roof element, that will match the existing residence flat roof, on top of the 4’X4’s to obscure the ducts from the surrounding neighbors. Staff reviewed the design of the enclosures and found that the enclosures are integrated with the existing structure. As discussed in the two findings above, the property is not able to accommodate the ducts anywhere else other than the roof top. Staff is of the opinion that since the duct enclosures are integrated into the design of the existing residence, granting of the Variance will not be materially detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to the properties and improvements in the area, and this finding can be made.

  4. That granting the Variance will not be contrary to the objectives of the General Plan or the policies and requirements of the Coastal Specific Plan.

Staff is of the opinion that as proposed, granting the Variance is contrary to the policies of the General Plan because it is a policy of the General Plan to "make an effort through zoning…. to preserve the rural and open character of the City." (General Plan, page 78, policy 17), and by allowing pyramid like structures that are not an integral part of the residence on top of a roof in a residential neighborhood will detract from the rural character of the City. As such, the granting of the Variance will detract from the rural character of the City and the granting of the Variance will be contrary to the General Plan.

Additionally, granting the Variance is contrary to the policies of the General Plan because it is the goal of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes to enhance the visual character and physical quality of existing neighborhoods (General Plan, page 56), and as discussed above, the pyramids are not compatible or integrated with the existing residence and therefore, the Variance does not enhance the visual character and physical quality of the existing neighborhoods.

Based on the discussion above, Staff is of the opinion that two of the four findings to grant the Variance Permit to allow the mechanical equipment cannot be made, as such Staff is of the opinion that the Variance cannot be granted. However, if the applicant were to redesign the pyramids to be more compatible, Staff would be able to support the Variance.

GRADING PERMIT

The City requires a major grading permit for activity that will involve:

  • Excavation, fill, or both in excess of 50 cubic yards in a two year period, or

  • excavation of 5'-0" or more below or above the natural grade,

  • excavation of fill encroaching in or altering a natural drainage course, or

  • excavation of fill on an extreme slope (35% or more)

Based on the activities described above, the proposed project would require a major grading permit since it involves a fill and an excavation of 5’-0" below natural grade, and the combination of excavation and fill is in excess of 50 cubic yards. Section 17.76.040 of the City's Municipal Code states that the Planning Commission, shall use but not be limited to the following criteria for evaluating a Grading Permit request (the City's Municipal Code language appears in boldface type, followed by Staff's analysis in normal type):

  1. The grading does not exceed that which is necessary for the permitted primary use of the lot.

    The property is zoned RS-2, (single-family residential), and the permitted primary use of the lot is a single-family residence. The proposed grading involves a total of 225 cubic yards of grading, which involves 96 cubic yards of cut at a maximum depth of 6’-0", and 129 cubic yards of fill at a maximum depth of 7’-6". The purpose of the 129 cubic yards of fill is to create additional parking area and turn around area for cars parked to the front of the garage. The purposed of the 96 cubic yards of cut is to create a terraced level area to accommodate a shed. As stated in the site description, the site contains a steep slope in the side and rear yard. The site currently contains parking spaces to the front of the garage, measuring approximately 41’-6" in length by 25’-11" in width, which Staff finds to be sufficient to accommodate the additional parking the applicant is seeking and is sufficient for turn around purposes. Additionally, as described in the site description above, the property contained a shed, which was demolished. The location where the shed was located is a level area. Staff is of the opinion that the applicant may accommodate the proposed shed at the level location without additional grading. As such, the requested grading is not necessary for the permitted primary use of the lot and this criteria cannot be made.

    Staff is of the opinion that the applicant should restore the slope to its original condition, which Staff believes is a slope from the edge of the existing parking area down to the existing 4’-0" high retaining wall. Staff is of the opinion that since the 4’-0" high retaining wall was existing prior to the grading activities conducted by the applicant, the 4’-0" high retaining wall may remain, and the area where the previous shed was located may remain level.

  2. The grading and/or related construction does not significantly adversely affect the visual relationship with, nor the views from neighboring properties.

    The proposed grading will not significantly adversely affect the views from the neighboring properties because the proposed grading is located below the horizon of the surrounding properties since the adjacent properties are located at higher elevations than the subject property and the location of the grading. However, the proposed grading and the related construction will significantly adversely affect the visual relationship from neighboring properties because the grading, retaining walls and the shed are located along a canyon diminishing the natural appearance of the canyon. As such, Staff is of the opinion that this criteria cannot be made.

    Staff is of the opinion that if the applicant were to remove the recently constructed retaining walls and restore the slope to its original condition, maintaining only the existing 4’-0" high retaining wall, the adverse impact on the visual relationship of the canyon will not be as significant. The impact of a 4’-0" high retaining wall on a canyon will not be as significant as a series of retaining walls at an average height of 8’-0". By allowing the applicant to maintain the existing 4’-0" high retaining wall, the applicant will be able to maintain the level area to construct the proposed shed.

  3. The nature of the grading minimizes disturbance to the natural contours and finished contours are reasonably natural.

    As discussed above, the grading and the retaining wall are located along a canyon and are disturbing the natural appearance of the canyon. The retaining walls are varying in height, with an average height of 8’-0", which is more than a minimal disturbance to the natural contour. The finished contours are also not reasonably natural, since the applicant conducted deep cuts and fills to create large level areas in the side and front yard. As such, the nature of the grading does not minimize disturbance to the natural contours and finished contours are not reasonably natural and thus this criteria cannot be made.

    Staff is of the opinion that the applicant should restore the slope to its original condition and maintain the slope between the existing parking spaces and the existing 4’-0" high retaining wall. The 4’-0" high retaining wall will not be a significant disturbance to the natural contours because the slope will only be disturbed by a 4’-0" high cut, and the overall height of the slope is approximately 12’-0".

  4. The grading takes into account the preservation of natural topographic features and appearances by means of land sculpturing so as to blend any man-made or manufactured slope into the natural topography.

    As stated in Criteria No. 3 above, the proposed grading is a significant disturbance to the natural contours since the grading entails 6’-0" high cuts and 7’-6" high fills, and the retaining walls average 8’-0" in height. Further, the applicant constructed a series of retaining walls, which do not preserve the natural topographic features, since the retaining walls create large level areas. Further, the height of the retaining walls do not integrate into the natural topography. Instead, the retaining walls disturb the natural topographic features of the continuous canyon, and Staff believes that this criteria cannot be made.

  5. For new single-family residences, the grading and/or related construction is comparable with the immediate neighborhood character.

    This criteria is not applicable because the project does not involve the construction of a new, single-family residence.

  6. In new residential tracts, the grading includes provisions for the preservation and introduction of plant materials so as to protect slopes from soil erosion and slippage and minimize the visual effects of grading and construction on hillside areas.

    This criteria is not applicable because the project does not involve the development of a new residential tract.

  7. The grading utilizes street designs and improvements which serve to minimize grading alternatives and harmonize with the natural contours and character of the hillside.

    This criteria is not applicable because the project does not involve the construction of new streets or other right-of-way improvements.

  8. The grading would not cause excessive and unnecessary disturbance of the natural landscape or wildlife habitat through removal of vegetation.

    This criteria is not applicable because there is no natural landscape of wildlife habitat on the subject property. Based on a site inspection, Staff found no vegetation located in the rear of the subject property, where the grading is located.

  9. The grading conforms to all of the standards established under Section 17.76.040(E)(9) of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code.

  1. The proposed grading is on a slope exceeding 35 percent gradient, however, the subject property was created prior to November 25, 1975, and is not currently zoned open space hazard. Additionally, the geology report for the retaining walls has been approved by the City’s geologist on May 21, 2002, as such, Staff is of the opinion that the retaining walls will not threaten the public health, safety, and welfare;

  2. The created finished slopes are not greater than 35 percent;

  3. The cut is at a maximum depth of 6’-0", and the fill is at a maximum depth of 7’-6", therefore it exceeds the maximum depth allowed of five 5’-0". Since the proposed grading does not meet the maximum depth permitted in the Development Code, it is subject to additional review and analysis under criteria 10;

  4. The proposed grading is not on a slope exceeding 50 percent gradient;

  5. A series of retaining walls are being proposed, more than the allowed one 3’-6" high downslope retaining wall allowed by the Development Code. As such, the proposed retaining walls are subject to additional review and analysis under criteria 10.

10.The Planning Commission may grant a grading permit for development in excess of that permissible under Subsection (E)(9) of this section upon the finding that:

  1. The criteria of Subsections (E)(1) through E(8) of this section are satisfied.

    Staff reviewed the proposed project for conformance with the applicable grading criteria in the Development Code. Four of these eight criteria were not satisfied in the analysis listed above. Therefore, the proposed project has not satisfied the criteria applicable to the project in Section 17.76.040(E)(1) through (E)(8).

  2. The approval is consistent with the purposes set forth in subsection A of this section.

    Municipal Code Section 17.76.040(A) provides for reasonable development of the land, while maintaining visual continuity of the hillsides and minimizing problems of soil erosion, flooding, and earth movements. The proposed grading does not maintain visual continuity of the hillsides and the grading is not necessary for the reasonable development of the land since the subject property already provides parking spaces outside of the garage and a level area to construct a shed. As such, approval of Grading Permit Case No. ZON2001-00176 is not consistent with the purposes set forth in subsection A of this section.

  3. Departure from the standards in subsection (E)(9) of this section will not constitute a grant of special privileges inconsistent with the limitations upon other properties in the vicinity.

    The approval of the grading will be a grant of special privilege inconsistent with the limitations upon other properties in the vicinity, since the subject property is the only property containing a series of retaining walls along the canyon. Other properties in the vicinity area also contain extreme slopes on their properties, however, those properties do not contain retaining walls to create terraced level areas within the canyon. Therefore, granting of Grading Permit Case No. ZON2001-00176 will be inconsistent with the developments found on the properties in the vicinity.

  4. Departure from the standards of subsection (E)(9) of this Section will not be detrimental to the public safety nor to other property.

As discussed in Finding No. 9a above, the grading and retaining wall has been reviewed and approved by the City’s geologist, and if approved the retaining walls will be required to be reviewed by the City’s Building and Safety Department. However, as discussed in Finding No. 2 above, the retaining walls will significantly adversely affect the visual relationship from neighboring properties because the grading, retaining walls and the shed are located along a canyon diminishing the natural appearance of the canyon, and would be a detriment to the public.

Based on the discussion above, Staff is of the opinion that four of the eight findings for granting the grading permit cannot be made, and the tenth finding to allow deviation from Finding No. 9 also cannot be made to grant the grading permit and allow the series of retaining walls and associated grading conducted on the subject property to remain. Staff is of the opinion that the property should be restored to its original condition, and all the recently constructed retaining walls should be removed. The original condition of the property contained one 4’-0" high retaining wall and a down slope from the edge of the existing outside parking spaces to the existing 4’-0" retaining wall.

The proposed 378 square foot shed is not approved, since the approval of the shed is contingent upon the approval of the Grading Permit. After the applicant restores the property to its original condition, the applicant may wish to consider reapplying for the construction of the shed at the level area adjacent to the 4’-0" high retaining wall.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

As noted above, on November 8, 2001 the City mailed out 41 notices (including the applicant). During the noticing period, the Planning Department received eight correspondences pertaining to the proposed project, and several correspondences from the applicant. The letters are attached as Exhibit "B".

The first correspondence from Mr. and Mrs. Lofgren, 2860 Colt Road, indicates concerns in regards to the negative impact of the mechanical equipment, related ducting, and retaining walls. Mr. and Mrs. Lofgren suggest that a roof structure be installed to fully enclose the ducts. As discussed in the Staff report, the applicant is proposing to fully enclose the ducts, and therefore, Staff is of the opinion that Mr. and Mrs. Lofgren’s concern is addressed. Mr. and Mrs. Lofgren also suggest that the retaining walls be landscaped, however, Staff is recommending that the property be restored to its original condition and the retaining walls be removed, maintaining only one 4’-0" high retaining wall. Additionally, they suggest that no additional structure be allowed adjacent to the retaining walls. Staff is of the opinion that if and when the applicant proposes a new structure adjacent to the retaining wall, the structure will be required to be reviewed and approved by the City, and the feasibility of constructing a structure adjacent to the retaining wall will be analyzed at that time. Therefore a condition such as this is not feasible at this time.

Mr. and Mrs. Lofgren subsequently sent a second correspondence, and the correspondence indicates that after further meeting with the applicant they support the proposed project with the conditions indicated and addressed above.

The correspondences from Mr. Halverson, of 29240 Palos Verdes Drive East, Mr. Shannon, of 3350 Palos Verdes Drive East, and Mr. and Mrs. Soss of 29254 Palos Verdes Drive East, indicate that they have reviewed the plans and are not in opposition to the proposed project.

Mr. Jerald Farrell, from 3300 Palos Verdes Drive East, indicated in his correspondence to the City, that he would like to see modifications to the original plans to fully enclose the duct work located on the roof. According to the progress correspondences sent by the applicant, it appears that Mr. Farrell is in accordance with painting the duct work white, to integrate it into the white rock roof.

Mr. Campbell and Ms. French-Campbell, from 3330 Palos Verdes Drive East, in two separate correspondences indicated opposition to the granting of the Variance application to allow the mechanical equipment and the associated ductwork on the roof because they impair their view. Staff conducted several site inspections and was not able to analyze the impairment of view due to the weather. On separate site inspections, Staff did determine that the property located on 3330 Palos Verdes Drive East does have a view of the Vincent Thomas Bridge and Harbor oriented through the subject property. As discussed in the staff report, Staff is of the opinion that there are exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions applicable to the property involved, in that there is limited space to place the mechanical equipment on the ground, and that the existing residence is not able to accommodate the associated ducting. As such, the mechanical equipment and ducting can be located on the roof. However, Staff is of the opinion that if the applicant decides to redesign the pyramid structures, in such a way that is compatible with the existing residence, any enclosure larger than what is necessary to enclose the the mechanical equipment will be a detriment to the property located at 3330 Palos Verdes Drive East, since such enclosure will intensify the view impairment.

Mr. Campbell and Ms. French-Campbell also indicated opposition to the granting of the Grading Permit, since the retaining walls are unfitting and unsightly. As discussed in the staff report, Staff is recommending that the retaining walls be removed and that the slope be restored.

As indicated on the correspondences by the applicant, the applicant requested a continuance from the June 25, 2002 meeting to meet with the surrounding property owners and address their concerns. Staff recognizes that the applicant made a good faith effort to meet with the surrounding property owners to address their concerns as well as Staff’s concerns. Notwithstanding such efforts, Staff is still of the opinion that the proposed mechanical equipment enclosures are not integrated to the existing residence, and that the granting of the Variance will be detrimental to the surrounding properties and the Variance cannot be granted.

CONCLUSION

Based upon the above analysis, Staff determined that two of the four findings for granting a Variance cannot be made to allow two existing mechanical equipment units (HVAC units) to remain on the top of the roof of the existing residence, as currently designed. Staff recommends that the property owner redesign the mechanical equipment enclosures with a flat roofed enclosure, so it is more compatible with the existing flat roof, and the proposed duct screening. Staff also determined that four of the eight findings and the tenth finding to allow deviation from finding No. 9 of the Grading Permit cannot be made to allow a series of the retaining walls and associated grading to remain. Staff recommends that the property be restored to its original condition, and all the recently constructed retaining walls be removed. The original condition of the property contained one 4’-0" high retaining wall and a downslope from the outside parking area to the 4’-0" high retaining wall. Therefore, Staff recommends adoption of P.C. Resolution No. 2002-__, denying without prejudice Variance Permit and denying with prejudice Grading Permit (Case No. 2001-00176).

ALTERNATIVES

In addition to the Staff recommendation, the following alternatives are available for the Planning Commission's consideration:

  1. Approve with conditions Variance Permit and deny with prejudice Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00176), and direct Staff to prepare an appropriate P.C. Resolution and conditions of approval for Planning Commission consideration at the next meeting.

  2. Approve Variance Permit and Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00176) with conditions, and direct Staff to prepare an appropriate P.C. Resolution and conditions of approval for Planning Commission consideration at the next meeting.

  3. Identify any issues of concern with the proposed project, provide Staff and/or the applicant with direction in modifying the project and/or conditions of approval, and continue the public hearing to a date certain.

ATTACHMENTS

Draft P.C. Resolution No. 2002-__
Floor plan and Site Plan

  • Letter from Mr. and Mrs. Lofgren of 2860 Colt Road, dated June 11, 2002

  • Letter from Mr. and Mrs. Lofgren of 2860 Colt Road, dated June 18, 2002

  • Letter from Mr. Halverson of 29240 Palos Verdes Drive East

  • Letter from Mr. Shannon of 3350 Palos Verdes Drive East

  • Letter from Mr. Farrell of 3300 Palos Verdes Drive East, dated June 19, 2002

  • Letter from Mr. Farrar of 3340 Palos Verdes Drive East (applicant), dated June 19, 2002

  • Letter from Mr. and Mrs. Soss of 29254 Palos Verdes Drive East, dated June 18, 2002

  • Letter from Mr. Campbell and Ms. French-Campbell of 3330 Palos Verdes Drive East, dated June 21, 2002

  • Correspondence from the applicant dated June 25, 2002

  • Correspondence from the applicant dated June 27, 2002

  • Correspondence from the applicant dated June 28, 2002

  • Letter from Mr. Campbell and Ms. French-Campbell of 3330 Palos Verdes Drive East, dated June 28, 2002

  • Correspondence from the applicant dated June 29, 2002

  • Correspondence from the applicant dated June 30, 2002

  • Correspondence from the applicant dated July 1, 2002

 

P.C. RESOLUTION NO. 2002-__

A RESOLUTION OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE VARIANCE (CASE NO. ZON2001-00176), A REQUEST TO ALLOW TWO EXISTING MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT UNITS AND RELATED DUCTING ON THE ROOF TOP OF THE RESIDENCE TO REMAIN, AND DENYING WITH PREJUDICE GRADING PERMIT (CASE NO. ZON2001-00176) TO ALLOW A SERIES OF RETAINING WALLS AND ASSOCIATED 225 CUBIC YARDS OF GRADING TO REMAIN AT 3340 PALOS VERDES DRIVE EAST.

WHEREAS, on September 8, 2000 the City received a complaint of an alleged violation of the City’s Municipal Code occurring on the subject property, and a site inspection revealed two HVAC units and related ducting located on the roof of the residence; and,

WHEREAS, on November 26, 2001, the subject application, Variance Permit Case No. ZON2001-00176 was submitted to the City to legalize the two HVAC units and related ducting located on the roof of the existing residence; and,

WHEREAS, on February 19, 2002, the City received another complaint of an alleged violation of the City’s Municipal Code occurring on the subject property, and a site inspection revealed that a series of retaining walls and concrete stairs were being constructed on the subject property without City approval, and a Stop Work Order was issued, and;

WHEREAS, on February 22, 2002, Building Department Officials conducted another site inspection which revealed that work continued on the subject property, in violation of the first Stop Work Order, and a second Stop Work Order was issued; and,

WHEREAS, on April 26, 2002, the subject application Grading Permit Case No. ZON2001-00176 was submitted to the City to legalize the series of retaining walls and the associated 225 cubic yards of grading, and to request approval to construct a 387 square foot shed at a maximum height of 10.4’; and,

WHEREAS, on May 24, 2002, the subject applications were deemed complete for processing; and,

WHEREAS, on June 6, 2002 a public notice was mailed to property owners within a 500 foot radius of the subject property informing them of the proposed project. Furthermore, a notice was published in the Palos Verdes Peninsula News on June 8, 2002; and,

WHEREAS, at the applicant’s request, on June 25, 2002, the Planning Commission continued the public hearing to the July 9, 2002 Planning Commission meeting; and,

WHEREAS, pursuant to the provision of the California Quality Act, Public Resources Code Section 21000 et.seq. ("CEQA"), the State's CEQA Guidelines, California Code of Regulation, 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 Variance and Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00176) would have a significant effect on the environment and, therefore the proposed project has been found to be categorically exempt (Class 1, Section 15303(a)); and,

WHEREAS, after notices issued pursuant to the requirements of Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code, the Planning Commission held a duly noticed public hearing on June 25, 2002, at which all interested parties were given the opportunity to be heard and present evidence.

NOW, THEREFORE, THE PLANNING COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES DOES HEREBY FIND, DETERMINE, AND RESOLVE AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1: That there are special circumstances or conditions applicable to the property involved, or to the intended use of the property which do not apply generally to other properties in the same zoning district, since 50% of the subject property is an extreme slope and the majority of the building pad is improved with the residence, the swimming pool, and driveway, and as such the property has limited area to accommodate the mechanical equipment.

Section 2: That there are special circumstances or conditions applicable to the residence involved, which do not apply generally to other properties in the same zoning district, since the residence contains an 8’-0" interior ceiling height with a flat roof, and is built on caissons, and therefore the required ducting for the heating system cannot be accommodated inside or underneath the residence, and the only feasible location is on top of the roof.

Section 3: That the Variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial right of the applicant, which right is possessed by other property owners under like conditions in the same zoning district, because a heating system is required by the Uniform Building Code, and the only feasible location to locate the mechanical equipment and related ducting is on top of the roof.

Section 4: That approval of the Variance for the pyramid structures will be materially detrimental to surrounding properties, because the proposed pyramid structures are not compatible with the existing residence and surrounding neighborhood character.

Section 5: That approval of the Variance for the duct structure will not cause materially detrimental effects on surrounding properties, since the duct enclosures are not designed in such a way that is integrated to the existing residence and are not fully obscured from the surrounding properties’ views.

Section 6: That the Variance request for the pyramid structure is contrary to the policy of the General Plan because it is a policy of the General Plan to "make an effort through zoning to preserve the rural and open character of the City" (General Plan Page 78 Policy 17), and the proposed pyramids do not preserve the rural character of the City.

Section 7: That the grading exceeds that which is necessary for the permitted primary use of the lot since the lot already contains outdoor parking and turn around areas, and a level area where the proposed shed may be located.

Section 8: That the grading significantly adversely affect the visual relationship from neighboring properties since the grading, retaining walls and proposed shed are located along a canyon, diminishing the natural appearance of the canyon.

Section 9: That the grading does not minimize disturbance to the natural contours since the grading creates large level areas and the retaining walls average 8’-0" in height, producing finished contours that are not reasonably natural, and creating areas that are not integrated to the natural topography of the canyon.

Section 10: That the grading does not take into account the preservation of the natural topographic features and the man made terraced areas are not integrated into the natural topography, since the retaining walls are very tall and the level areas are very large.

Section 11: That the height of cut and fill does not comply with the maximum depth of 5’-0" allowed by the City’s Municipal Code, since the applicant is proposing a cut at a maximum depth of 6’-0" and a fill at a maximum depth of 7’-6".

Section 12: That the height and number of retaining walls exceed the allowed one 3’-6" high retaining wall allowed by the City’s Municipal Code.

Section 13: That four of the eight criteria of Subsection (E)(1) through (E)(8) of Section 17.76.040 are not satisfied.

Section 14: That the approval is not consistent with the purposes set forth in Subsection A of the Section 17.76.040 because the grading does not maintain visual continuity of the hillsides, and the grading is not necessary for the reasonable development of the land.

Section 15: That the departure from the standards in Subsection (E)(9) of Section 17.76.040 constitutes a grant of a special privilege inconsistent with the limitations upon other properties in the vicinity, since other properties in the vicinity also contains extreme slopes into the canyon, however, no other property in the vicinity contains retaining walls and level area in the canyon as the ones constructed by the property owner.

Section 16: That the departure from the standards in Subsection (E)(9) of Section 17.76.040 will not be detrimental to the public health since the City’s geologists have reviewed and approved the geology report for the grading and retaining walls. However, departure from the standards in Subsection (E)(9) of Section 17.76.040 will significantly adversely affect the visual relationship from neighboring properties because the grading, retaining walls and proposed shed diminishes the natural appearance of the canyon and is a detriment to the public welfare.

Section 17: Any interested party may appeal this decision or any portion of this decision to the City Council. Pursuant to Section 17.02.040.C.1.j of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code, any such appeal must be filed with the City, in writing, and with the appropriate appeal fee, no later than fifteen (15) days following the date of the Planning Commission’s adoption of this resolution.

Section 18: For the foregoing reasons, and based on the information and findings included in the Staff Report, Minutes, and other records of proceedings, the Planning Commission of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes hereby denies without prejudice Variance (Case No.ZON2001-00176), thereby denying the request to allow two existing mechanical equipment units and related ducting located on the roof of the residence located at 3340 Palos Verdes Drive East; and denies with prejudice Grading Permit (Case No.ZON2001-00176), thereby denying the request to maintain a series of non-permitted retaining walls, the associated 225 cubic yards of grading conducted on the property, and the construction of a 387 square foot shed at 3340 Palos Verdes Drive East.

PASSED, APPROVED, AND ADOPTED this 9th day of July, 2002, by the following vote:

AYES:

NOES:

ABSTENTIONS:

ABSENT:

Jon S. Cartwright
Chairman

 

Joel Rojas, AICP
Director of Planning, Building
and Code Enforcement; and,
Secretary to the Planning Commission

 


5. HEIGHT VARIATION NO. 899, GRADING PERMIT NO. 2151, MINOR EXCEPTION PERMIT NO. 573, AND ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT NO. 745 3787 Coolheights Drive / Nassari (AM)

Request: A request to allow the construction of a new 5,409 square foot (garage included), two-story, single-family residence on an unimproved lot. The proposed residence will be constructed off the existing building pad at a height of 26’, as measured from the highest pre-construction grade elevation (752.00’) of the building pad, to the top of the highest roof ridgeline (778.00’) of the proposed structure. Additionally the applicants propose to conduct 819 cubic yards of associated grading (combined cut and fill calculations) and construct a new 6’ high combination fence/wall along the front property line with a Minor Exception Permit.

Recommendation: 1) Adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2002-__, thereby adopting the Mitigated Negative Declaration and Mitigation Monitoring Program, and 2) Continue the public hearing discussion on the merits of the project applications to the July 23, 2002 Planning Commission meeting.

TO:
CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION
FROM:

DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT

DATE:

JULY 9, 2002

SUBJECT:
HEIGHT VARIATION NO. 899, ET. AL. / 3787 COOLHEIGHTS DRIVE (THOMAS GUIDE PAGE: 823 / E-5)

Staff Coordinator: Ara Michael Mihranian, Senior Planner

RECOMMENDATION

1) Adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2002-__, thereby adopting the Mitigated Negative Declaration and Mitigation Monitoring Program, and 2) Continue the public hearing discussion on the merits of the project applications to the July 23, 2002 Planning Commission meeting.

DISCUSSION

On May 14, 2002, the Planning Commission opened the public hearing on the subject applications. At the meeting, concerns were raised regarding the design of the applicant’s proposed hammerhead turnaround, as well as potential view impacts, public trail access, and brush clearance. As a result, the Commission unanimously moved to continue the public hearing to its May 28th meeting so that Staff may further research the concerns raised at the public hearing. Specifically, the Commission directed Staff to consider alternatives to the applicant’s hammerhead turnaround, including the design of a cul-de-sac at the terminus of Coolheights Drive. Additionally, in continuing the public hearing, the Commission directed Staff to conduct a meeting with the applicant and neighboring property owners to consider the feasibility of the alternative "turnaround" designs.

As such, the City had seven turnaround design alternatives prepared, consisting of two hammerhead designs, three 32-foot radius cul-de-sac designs, and two 42-foot radius cul-de-sac designs. The design alternatives were presented to the neighbors at a meeting held on June 5, 2002, in hope that a general consensus would be reached on the preferred design. However, during the neighborhood meeting, an agreement could not be reached between the applicant and the neighbors because of differing opinions as to the optimal design alternative.

At its June 11, 2002 meeting, the Planning Commission was presented with the seven turnaround design alternatives for improving the terminus of Coolheights Drive. In order to assist the Commission in its analysis of the design alternatives, Staff prepared a matrix that identified various criteria that could be used in determining the most optimal design. Such criteria included: construction cost, Fire Department approval, parking, public accessibility, and encroachment onto the applicant’s and neighboring properties. After reviewing the various alternatives and hearing public testimony, the Commission continued the public hearing to its June 25th meeting, and directed Staff to once again meet with the neighbors to address the turnaround issue, as well as other issues identified during the public hearing.

On June 17, 2002, Staff met with the applicant and the neighbors to address the outstanding issues. As a result of the meeting, it appeared that a general consensus could be reached as to a preferred turnaround design. However, additional time was needed to prepare the appropriate plans. Therefore, at the June 25th Planning Commission meeting, Staff recommended that the Planning Commission continue the public hearing to its July 9, 2002 meeting. At that time, Staff informed the Commission that pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), action on the environmental component of the project should be made by July 9, 2002, and that the appropriate resolution would be given to the Commission at that time.

To date, Staff is still working on the turn-around design issue with the neighbors and the City’s Engineering consultant. In response to concerns raised at the most recent meeting with the neighbors (June 24, 2002), Staff has directed the City’s Engineer to prepare a survey of the existing street to identify the critical landmarks noted by the neighbors. According to the City’s consultant, the existing street survey was completed on June 29, 2002, and drawings associated with the turnaround will not be made available until Monday July 8, 2002, at the earliest. Therefore, Staff respectfully requests that the Planning Commission continue the discussion on the merits of the project to the July 23, 2002 meeting. The additional time will enable Staff to meet with the neighbors once again to review a revised set of turnaround design alternatives. It should also be noted that in addition to addressing the turnaround issue, Staff is also working with the applicant and the neighbors at 3777 Coolheights Drive to address the potential view impairment issue. Staff is requiring that the applicant submit a certification for the project silhouette before the July 23rd meeting.

Mitigated Negative Declaration

As previously indicated, the environmental component of the project must be decided by the Commission at tonight’s meeting. This is because according to CEQA, the City has 180 days, plus a one time 90 day time extension, to take action on a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND). Since the project was deemed complete on October 9, 2001, and a 90 day time extension was requested on May 6, 2002, the MND needs to be adopted by July 9, 2002. Although in our City it is relatively rare to take action (adopt) on a MND or EIR prior to taking action on the project applications, it is not an uncommon practice. In fact, such an action is supported by State Law, since the deadline for the project applications starts when the CEQA action is taken. Therefore, Staff recommends that the Planning Commission adopt the project’s Mitigate Negative Declaration this evening. Attached to this report, as an exhibit to the environmental resolution, is the Mitigation Monitoring Program. Furthermore, a copy of the Mitigated Negative Declaration and Initial Study was transmitted to the Planning Commission with the May 14, 2002 agenda packet.

In regards to the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), several concerns were raised in past comment letters and public hearings regarding the project’s potential impacts to the surrounding environment, more specifically in regards to brush clearance and habitat loss. These two issues are discussed below.

Brush Clearance:

As previously mentioned, since the project site is located within a High Fire Hazard Area, the Los Angeles County Fire Department is requiring the removal or thinning of brush on the slopes that extend beyond the project site’s building pad. Pursuant to the Fire Department’s Fuel Modification Guidelines (see attachment in May 14, 2002 Staff Report), the applicants have prepared a Fuel Modification Plan that was reviewed and approved by the Los Angeles County Fire Department on August 15, 2001. The purpose of a Fuel Modification Plan is to identify various Zones within the project site which are subject to fuel modification. A fuel modification zone is defined as a strip of land where combustible native or ornamental vegetation has been modified and/or partially or totally replaced with drought tolerant, fire resistant plants. The fuel modification zones generally involve the following criteria:

  • Zone A "Setback Zone" - Minimum 20-feet beyond the edge of a combustible structure and selective vegetation;

  • Zone B "Irrigated Zone" – Minimum of 100-feet beyond the edge of combustible structure and selective vegetation; and

  • Zone C "Thinning Zone" – Minimum of 200-feet beyond the edge of the combustible structure or bottom of canyon, includes partial removal of vegetation.

Because of the impacts the project related brush removal or thinning will cause to existing protected habitat, the Fire Department reduced its setback requirements in order to minimize such impacts. The approved Fuel Modification Plan for the proposed project may be reviewed in detail in the attached Initial Study. However, in summary, Zone B was reduced to a minimum width of 80-feet, while Zone C was reduced to a minimum width of 100-feet. There was no change to the Zone A setback requirement.

A question has been raised as to who will monitor the implementation of the Fuel Modification Plan, as well as when the required brush clearance is to occur. With respect to monitoring, because of the sensitive nature of the habitat impacts, Staff has modified the Mitigation Monitoring Program so that in addition to a certified biologist, that monitoring occur by City Staff, as well as a representative from the Los Angeles County Fire Department. As for the time during which brush clearance is to occur, in order to minimize the potential impacts that the clearance may cause to the surrounding area, Staff has modified the Mitigation Monitoring Program so that brush clearance occur prior to issuance of grading or building permits, and during the non-breeding season of the California Gnatcatcher and the non-growing season of the Catalina Mariposa Lily (August 31 through December 31).

It should also be noted that the Fire Department has indicated that in certain instances, the removal or thinning of brush within the designated fuel zones may bypass certain sensitive plants that are unlikely to pose a fire hazard. In order to assure that sensitive plants remain on-site, Staff is recommending a condition that would require the applicant to submit a plant survey, prepared by a certified biologist, that identifies the location of the sensitive plants identified by the MND that exist within the Fuel Modification Zone. Furthermore, Staff also recommends that a condition be added that requires the plant survey to be reviewed by Staff and the Fire Department with the objective that if certain sensitive plants can remain within the fuel modification zone without jeopardizing the public’s health and safety, that such plants be flagged and bypassed in the required brush clearance. The suggested modification to the project’s conditions of approval will be transmitted to the Commission with the July 23, 2002 agenda packet, for further review and discussion.

Protected Habitat

As discussed in the project Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), there is 1.93 acres of Coastal Sage Scrub habitat (including .28 acres of disturbed habitat) on the 2.3 acre lot. Coastal Sage Scrub habitat (CSS) is considered the habitat of the Coastal California Gnatcatcher, a Federally listed Threatened species. As a result, CSS habitat is a protected habitat that should be avoided when possible. Impacts to occupied CSS habitat are considered a "take" under the Federal Endangered Species Act and a Federal "take" permit could be required before habitat impacts can occur. Typically, a Federal "take" (Section 10A) permit is issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, However, because the City of Rancho Palos Verdes is in the process of preparing a Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP) for the City, which is designed to permanently conserve extensive areas of CSS in the City, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes has the authority to issue an "interim take" or "4d" permit for any habitat losses that occur while the NCCP is being prepared. However, pursuant to a Resource Agency policy memo issued on February 2, 1995 (see attachment), Staff was of the opinion that CSS losses that are the result of mandated health and safety orders (e.g. weed abatement) are exempt from the interim habitat loss process and do not require mitigation. Therefore, at past Planning Commission meetings, Staff has taken the position that mitigation pursuant to the Federal Endangered Species Act would not be required for habitat loss associated with the project, but that mitigation should still be provided by the applicant.

Staff was recently informed by a representative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the policy memo issued on February 2, 1995 was intended to apply to existing residences, and that all new residences impacting protected habitat would have to provide mitigation. As a result of the required Fire Department brush clearance, 1.13 acres of protected CSS habitat will be impacted by development of the vacant lot. The CSS impact as identified in the MND, is a result of the reduced Fire Department setback. The environmental analysis completed pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) concluded that mitigation would be necessary as a result of this development project. The MND concluded that impacts to habitat would be reduced to a level of insignificance provided that the appropriate mitigation measures are adopted. The proposed mitigation would involve either the applicants restoring off-site habitat at a 3:1 ratio or by providing permanent protection for existing on-site habitat at a ratio of 1:1. On-site habitat preservation may be achieved by conveying an Open Space Conservation Easement on the project site to the City.

Since 1.13 acres of habitat will be impacted by the project, 3.39 acres of mitigation will be required to satisfy the Resource Agencies mitigation request. Staff believes that the Conservation Easement on the project site would constitute a portion of the required mitigation and would be the preferred choice because the lot contains extreme slopes and CSS habitat that should be preserved in perpetuity along with the abutting City owned Forrestal Property. Furthermore, in addition to the required Conservation Easement, Staff believes the remaining acreage designated for mitigation can be achieved off-site, through the establishment of a conservation Easement, on the newly City acquired Barkentine Property.

Public Trails

With respect to public trails, as identified in the MND, the applicant is required, and has agreed to, convey the appropriate public trail easements for the Ganado, Pirate and Flying Mane trail segments that traverse the subject property. Therefore, no significant changes have been proposed since the MND was prepared. It should be noted, that the City is still recommending that a blanket "trail zone" easement be conveyed to the City on the portion of the project site that extends beyond the "building pad" area to address the exact alignment of such trail segments after the required brush clearance occurs. In response to public comments, Staff has modified the delineation of the "trail zone" to further increase its area. This information will be presented in greater detail to the Commission at the July 23, 2002 meeting.

Time Limits

As the Commission may recall, pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), July 9, 2002 is the action deadline date for consideration of the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND). Furthermore, it should be noted that according to CEQA, once the environmental document (Mitigated Negative Declaration) is adopted, the clock for the Permit Streamlining Act is triggered, which requires the City to render a decision on the project applications within sixty (60) days from the adoption of the Mitigated Negative Declaration. Therefore, the additional time will allow the Planning Commission to continue its discussion on the merits of the project applications beyond July 9th. Notwithstanding, the adoption of the MND should occur at the July 9, 2002 meeting.

Future Project Modifications

Adoption of the project MND does not preclude the Planning Commission from approving a residential project and turn-around design that deviates from the project described in the adopted MND. However, any future changes to the project need to result in less or equal impacts than those identified in the MND. Any modifications to the project that result in greater impacts may necessitate the preparation of a Supplemental MND that would require re-circulation.

CONCLUSION

Based on the above discussion, Staff respectfully requests that the Planning Commission adopt the project’s Mitigated Negative Declaration and Mitigation Monitoring Program, and continue the public hearing on the merits of the project applications to its July 23, 2002 meeting.

ATTACHMENTS

  • Draft P.C. Resolution No. 2002-__ and Exhibit "A" – Mitigation Monitoring Program
  • Public Comments Letters (available for public review at the Planning Department at City Hall)

RESOLUTION NO. 2002-__

A RESOLUTION OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES ADOPTING A MITIGATED NEGATIVE DECLARATION AND MAKING CERTAIN ENVIRONMENTAL FINDINGS IN ASSOCIATION WITH ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT NO. 745, HEIGHT VARIATION N0. 899, GRADING PERMIT NO. 2151, MINOR EXCEPTION PERMIT NO. 573, AND VARIANCE NO. 488 TO ALLOW THE CONSTRUCTION OF A NEW 5,409 SQUARE FOOT, TWO-STORY, SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENCE ON PROPERTY LOCATED AT 3787 COOLHEIGHTS DRIVE.

WHEREAS, on November 17, 1999 the subject applications, Height Variation No 899, Grading Permit No. 2151 and Minor Exception Permit No. 573 were submitted to the Planning Department by the property owners, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Nassiri of 3787 Coolheights Drive, to allow the construction of a new 5,409 square foot, two-story, single-family residence with 819 cubic yards of associated grading; and,

WHEREAS, on February 24, 2000 the City’s Geotechnical Engineer reviewed and conditionally approved the applicants’ geotechnical reports and studies; and,

WHEREAS, after several meetings attended by Staff and the property owners and their architect, revised plans were submitted and deemed complete for processing on September 26, 2000; and,

WHEREAS, during the public noticing period for the November 14, 2000 Planning Commission meeting, the City received several comment letters from surrounding property owners expressing concern regarding the proposed project and its impacts to neighboring views, public trail access, brush clearance, habitat, and turnaround improvements. In light of the public comments letters, Staff determined that additional information and studies needed to be completed in order for the Commission to consider the project’s merits; and

WHEREAS, at its November 14, 2000 meeting, the Planning Commission tabled the public hearing for the proposed project in order to allow Staff and the applicants ample time to complete the necessary information needed to process the project applications; and,

WHEREAS, as a result of the Fire Department’s requirement to clear brush on the slopes that extend beyond the building pad, it was determined that the project would result in potential impacts to protected habitat and could therefore not be processed as a Categorical Exemption pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA); and,

WHEREAS, pursuant to CEQA, the proposed project required the preparation of an Initial Study, thus requiring the applicants submit new information along with a revised application; and,

WHEREAS, on March 8, 2001, Environmental Assessment No. 745 along with revised plans were submitted to the Planning Department on behalf of the property owners for the preparation of the appropriate environmental documents; and,

WHEREAS on October 9, 2001 the project applications were deemed complete for processing; and,

WHEREAS, pursuant to the provision of the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code Section 21000 et. seq. ("CEQA"), the State's CEQA Guidelines, California Code of Regulation, Title 14, Section 15000 et. seq., the City's Local CEQA Guidelines, and Government Code Section 65962.5(F) (Hazardous Waste and Substances Statement), the City of Rancho Palos Verdes prepared an Initial Study and determined that, by incorporating mitigation measures into the Negative Declaration and project approval, there is no substantial evidence that the approval of Height Variation No. 899, Grading Permit No. 2151, Minor Exception Permit No. 573, and Variance No. 488 would result in a significant adverse effect on the environment. Accordingly, a Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration has been prepared and notice of that fact was given in the manner required by law; and,

WHEREAS, the Initial Study was prepared on April 10, 2002 and distributed for circulation and review on April 11, 2002 through May 13, 2002; and,

WHEREAS, in accordance with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act, a Mitigation Monitoring Program has been prepared, and is attached to the Environmental Assessment No. 745 and Resolution as Exhibit "A"; and,

WHEREAS, after issuing notices pursuant to the requirements of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code and the State CEQA Guidelines, the Planning Commission held a duly noticed public hearing on May 14, 2002 at which all interested parties were given the opportunity to be heard and present evidence; and,

WHEREAS, at the May 14, 2002 meeting, the Commission unanimously moved to continue the public hearing to its May 28th meeting so that Staff may further research the concerns raised at the public hearing. Specifically, the Commission directed Staff to consider alternatives to the applicant’s hammerhead turnaround, including the design of a cul-de-sac, at the terminus of Coolheights Drive; and,

WHEREAS, at its May 28, 2002 meeting, the Planning Commission continued the public hearing to its June 11th meeting in order to allow Staff additional time to complete its analysis on the outstanding issues, including the turn-around design alternatives; and,

WHEREAS, at the June 11, 2002 meeting, the Planning Commission continued the public hearing discussion on the project, and after hearing public testimony, the Commission unanimously moved to continue the public hearing to its June 25, 2002 meeting, so that Staff can meet with the applicant and the neighboring property owners to address issues pertaining to the proposed design of the turn-around, potential view impacts, brush clearance, and the public access trails; and,

WHEREAS, at the June 25, 2002, the Planning Commission continued the public hearing to its July 9, 2002 meeting so that Staff can continue its analysis of the issues identified at previous meetings; and,

WHEREAS, on July 9, 2002, the Planning Commission continued the public hearing discussion on the project’s Mitigated Negative Declaration and Mitigation Monitoring program, at which time all interested parties were given the opportunity to be heard and present evidence. The Planning Commission also unanimously moved to continue the public hearing discussion on the merits of the project applications to the July 23, 2002 meeting; and,

NOW, THEREFORE, THE PLANNING COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES DOES HEREBY FIND, DETERMINE, AND RESOLVE AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1: The subject applications would permit the construction of a 5,409 square foot, two-story, single-family residence with 819 cubic yards of associated grading. The Planning Commission finds that the proposed project is a permitted use within the RS-1 zoning district, and would not result in significant adverse environmental impacts. In making this finding, the Planning Commission considered the project's mitigation measures that address the issues of Biological Resources, Geology, and Recreation.

Section 2: The subject property is currently zoned for single-family residential (RS-1) development in an area that abuts the City’s Natural and Urban Overlay Control Districts. The Planning Commission finds that the site will be improvement to accommodate the construction of a new single-family residence in an area of the 2.30 acre site that was previously disturbed when the neighboring tract was developed in the 1960’s. As such, the proposed residence will not significantly impact the City’s required land use designation.

Section 3: The proposed project will not alter the location, distribution, density, or growth rate of the human population in the area above what is forecast in adopted City plans and policies, nor will the project affect existing housing, or create a demand for additional housing. The project will not create a significant additional demand for fire or police protection, maintenance of public facilities (including roads), or other governmental services. The project will not result in the need for new systems, or substantial alterations to utilities, including power or natural gas, communication systems, water, sewer or septic tanks, storm water drainage, or solid waste disposal. Furthermore, the proposed project will not result in an increase in population, thereby warranting new recreational facilities. Notwithstanding, public trails identified in the City’s Conceptual Trails Plan and Forrestal Management Plan traverse the subject property that will be conveyed to the City in the form of a public access easement. Therefore, the proposed project results in no significant impacts to existing parkland.

Section 4: The proposed project will require approximately 819 cubic yards of earth movement to prepare the project for the construction of the proposed residence. As such, the Planning Commission finds that the proposed project will not result in significant adverse affects to topography; destruction, covering, or modification of unique geologic or physical features; impacts to archeological or paleontological resources; or expose persons to seismic ground failure, landslides, or other known hazards; or create a wasteful or inefficient use of the energy already being consumed on the site. Although on-site grading is proposed, a Geotechnical Report addressing the scope of the project grading has been reviewed and approved in the Planning Stage by the City’s Geotechnical Consultant. Nonetheless, additional reports may be required for final review and approval by the City’s Building Official and the City’s Geotechnical Consultant prior to issuance of building permits. Furthermore, the Geotechnical Report shall provide the developer with applicable conditions for which the project shall be constructed, along with other conditions that the City’s Building Official and City’s Geotechnical Consultant find necessary to ensure the project is constructed in a manner that does not jeopardize the public’s health, safety and welfare. As such, the mitigation measures will ensure that the proposed project will not cause any significant geological impacts.

Section 5: The project site is located within an area identified by the Los Angeles County Fired Department as a High Fire Hazard Area, thereby requiring the removal or thinning of brush on slopes that extend beyond the project site’s building pad. Pursuant to the Fire Department’s approved Fuel Modification Plan, the required brush clearance may impact sensitive Plant Life or Animal Life. As such, the Fire Department has reduced its setback requirements for the various zones requiring fuel modification. Additionally, the environmental analysis conducted for the proposed project revealed that such impacts to habitat may be reduced to a level of insignificance provided that the appropriate mitigation measures are adopted. Such mitigation includes the applicants responsibility to preserve offsite habitat at a 3:1 ratio, or by providing permanent protection for existing on-site habitat at a ratio of 1:1. it has been determined that on-site habitat preservation may be achieved by conveying an Open Space Conservation Easement on the project site to the City or a land management agency. As such, the Planning Commission finds that with the appropriate mitigation measures, potential impacts to habitat may be reduced to a level of insignificance.

Section 6: The proposed project will not change the current, the course or the direction of water movements in either marine or fresh waters, since the project site is not located in such a setting. Although there may be slight changes in the absorption rates, drainage patterns, and surface run-off on the subject site as a result of the proposed project. A proposed drainage plan shall be submitted to the City for review and approval pertaining to the implementation of mitigation measures that address potential impacts to water patterns. Furthermore, in compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act, an Urban Stormwater Mitigation Plan shall be submitted to City for review and approval prior to the issuance of building permits, as it pertains to implementation strategies that reduce stormwater runoff. As such, the Planning Commission finds that such conditions will ensure that water patterns will not significantly impact the surrounding environment.

Section 7: The proposed project is for the construction of a new single-family residence in an area developed with similar structures. As such, the planning Commission finds that the proposed project will not create substantial impacts to circulation patterns, parking capacity, or traffic congestion.

Section 8: Although the construction of the proposed project is anticipated to generate noise levels uncommon to the surrounding environment, such noise will be temporary in nature and that the City has imposed conditions, in accordance with the City of Rancho Palos Verdes’ Municipal Code, that limits construction between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, with no construction permitted on Sundays and legal holidays (as identified in the City’s Municipal Code). As such, the Planning Commission finds that the mitigation measures imposed will ensure that noise levels do not adversely impact surrounding properties.

Section 9: In regards to aesthetics, the City’s Development Code requires that improvements to the project site be designed in a manner that is compatible to the neighboring homes on Coolheights Drive. As proposed, the project is designed so that the structure aligns with the homes on the "non-view" side of the street, while integrating articulation between the lower and upper levels to visually soften the structure’s massive and bulky appearance. Furthermore, the proposed residence is located at the terminus of Coolheights Drive on a lot that was not created when the neighboring tract was developed. Notwithstanding, the project site’s location at the terminus of the street further minimizes its impacts to the character of the immediate neighborhood because it will not be highly visible. In regards to a scenic vista from surrounding properties, including the City owned Forrestal Property, the proposed residence has been designed and plotted in a manner that restricts its visibility from neighboring properties. furthermore, the proposed structure’s maximum roof ridgeline is significantly lower than the public trails that traverse the project site and the Forrestal property, with views oriented in the opposite direction than the proposed development. As such, the Planning Commission finds that the proposed project will be compatible with the character of the immediate neighborhood despite its distinctive difference in lot area and lot configuration, and will not result in a significant view impairment of protected views of the Pacific Ocean from surrounding properties and the City owned Forrestal Property.

Section 10: For reasons discussed in the Initial Study, which is incorporated herein by reference, the project will not have any potential to achieve short-term, to the disadvantage of long-term, environmental goals, nor would the project have impacts which are individually limited, but cumulatively considerable.

Section 11: The applicant has consulted the lists prepared pursuant to Section 65962.5 of the Government Code and has submitted a signed statement indicating whether the project and any alternatives are located on a site which is included on any such list, and has specified any such list. The Lead Agency has consulted the lists compiled pursuant to Section 65962.5 of the Government Code, and has certified that the development project and any alternatives proposed in this application are not included in these lists of known Hazardous Waste and Substances Sites as compiled by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Section 12: The mitigation measures set forth in the Mitigation Monitoring Program, Exhibit "A", attached hereto, are incorporated into the scope of the proposed project. These measures will reduce those potential significant impacts identified in the Initial Study to a less than significant level.

Section 13: Any interested person aggrieved of this decision or by any portion of this decision may appeal to the City Council. Pursuant to Section 17.60.060 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code, any such appeal must be filed with the City, in writing and with the appropriate appeal fee, no later than fifteen (15) days following the date of the Planning Commission's final action on the project applications.

Section 14: For the foregoing reasons and based on its independent review and evaluation of the information and findings contained in the Initial Study, Staff Reports, minutes, and records of the proceedings, the Planning Commission has determined that the project as conditioned and mitigated will not result in a significant adverse impact on the environment. Therefore, the Planning Commission hereby adopts the Mitigated Negative Declaration making certain environmental findings in association with Environmental Assessment No. 745 to allow the construction of a new 5,409 square foot, two-story, single-family residence on property located at 3787 Coolheights Drive.

PASSED, APPROVED, AND ADOPTED this 9th day of July, 2002, by the following vote:

AYES:

NOES:

ABSTENTIONS:

ABSENT:

Jon Cartwright
Chairman

 

Joel Rojas, AICP
Director of Planning, Building
and Code Enforcement; and,
Secretary to the Planning Commission

 


RECESS (approximately 8:30 P.M.):


PUBLIC HEARINGS:


6. HEIGHT VARIATION NO. 940 and GRADING PERMIT NO. 2293: 2033 Santa Rena / Milan (RL)

Request: A request to allow a 1,276 square-foot addition to an existing 1,776 square-foot one story single-family residence. The proposal includes a second story and measures 16-feet from highest existing (preconstruction) grade to be covered by the structure to ridge, and a maximum overall height of 21’-7" as measured from lowest finished grade to ridge. The application also includes the excavation and fill of approximately 268 cubic yards of earth and a depth of cut of approximately 4’-10" for the proposed new lowerlevel.

Recommendation: Staff recommends that the Planning Commission adopt P.C. ResolutionNo. 2002__, denying, without prejudice, Height Variation No. 940 and Grading Permit No. 293.

TO:

CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION

FROM:

DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT

DATE:
JULY 9, 2002
SUBJECT:
GRADING PERMIT NO. 2293 & HEIGHT VARIATION NO. 940 (2033 SANTA RENA DRIVE)
Staff Coordinator:

Ryan Luckert, Assistant Planner

BACKGROUND

On July 26, 2001, the applicant, Mr. Milan Bocarski, submitted an application for a Height Variation and Grading permit to the Department of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement. Staff deemed the applications incomplete on August 10, 2001, pending the submittal of additional information and clarification. Since August 10, 2001, Staff and the applicant have been working together to resolve several issues pertaining to the submitted application. Subsequently, upon submittal of the necessary information and the construction of the temporary frame silhouette, Staff deemed the application generally complete on May 14, 2002.

On May 29, 2002, the City mailed notices to property owners within a 500-foot radius from the subject property. Subsequently, a notice of public hearing was published in the Palos Verdes Peninsula News on Thursday, June 1, 2002. As of the drafting of the staff report, Staff has received two (2) letters from concerned residences. The letters received will be discussed in detail below.

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

In accordance with the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Staff had determined this project to be categorically exempt under Class 1 – Existing Structures; therefore, no further environmental review is required.

Class 1 exempts projects that consist of alterations to existing structures from the preparation of environmental documents. The proposed project does not involve significant expansion of use beyond that previously existing. Staff has made this determination because the site is developed with a single-family residence and the proposed project consists of an alteration to the existing structure on the subject lot.

SITE DESCRIPTION

The subject property is located at 2033 Santa Rena, an interior lot located on the North side of the street. The parcel is rectangular in shape, containing 82-feet of street frontage, an average of 105-feet of lot depth between the west side and east sides, and 72-feet along the rear property line. The parcel measures 8,677 square-feet in area and is currently improved with a one-story, 2,193 square-foot, single-family residence, with an attached two (2)-car garage. The lot is currently a gently sloping lot, which slopes very slightly down from the west side of the lot to the east side, towards Western Avenue and San Pedro. The site is accessed off Santa Rena, which runs perpendicular to Western Avenue. The slope of the lot is not nearly as drastic as the slope in which Santa Rena Drive is located on. The lot is zoned RS-4, and is adjacent to other residential lots that are currently developed with one (1) story single-family residences with attached garages. Based on a review of the address file and tract maps, Staff determined the parcel to have been a lot of record since 1958.

The neighborhood is mostly developed with one-story, single-family residential structures. The properties to the rear (north) are located on Velez Drive and are located at relatively the same pad levels as the residences on Santa Rena Drive. Additionally, all of the neighboring properties to the south of the lot and on the south side of Santa Rena Drive are located at substantially the same pad elevations, while the property to the west of the subject parcel is located slightly upslope at a pad differential of approximately 8-10 feet. Moreover, the parcel located to the east is slightly downslope from the subject lot with a pad differential of approximately 5-7 feet. If you continue to head upslope and west on Santa Rena, the pad elevations of surrounding lots will continue to rise as well. In some cases the pad differential between adjacent homes are in excess of 10-feet. Further, the subject residence and attached garage is currently setback in excess of 20-feet (required 20-feet) from the Santa Rena front property line and is currently conforming to an easterly side setback of approximately 6-feet and a westerly side setback in excess of 5-feet (required 5-foot side setback). The existing open space on the property is 64%, which is conforming to the City’s Development Code minimum of 50%, RS-4 open space standard.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The application represents a request to allow a 1,276 square-foot addition to an existing 1,776 square-foot one story single-family residence. Specifically, the application includes the excavation and fill of approximately 268 cubic yards of earth and a depth of cut of approximately 4’-10" for the proposed new lower level two (2)-car garage, which will be located under the proposed new second story (existing first story). The proposed additions will include 660 square-feet on the first floor (new 2-car garage), the conversion of the existing 447 square-foot 2-car garage into habitable space and 616 square-feet of livable space on the proposed new second floor (upper level). Therefore, the total structure size, including garage, will increase from 1,776 square-feet to 3,499 square-feet. The height of the proposed additions will measure 16-feet as measured from highest existing (preconstruction) grade to be covered by the structure to ridge, and a maximum overall height of 21’-7"’ as measured from lowest finished grade to ridge. Additionally, the applicant is proposing two (2) retaining walls adjacent to the driveway area for slope stabilization, measuring 5-feet and 4’-10" in height.

The resulting open space after construction will be 53%, which meets the City’s Development Code RS-4 minimum standards for open space of 50%. The addition to the existing first story (proposed second story & upper level) will respect side setbacks and will measure 6-feet from the nearest side property line while the proposed first story (non-existing & lower level) will be setback 20-feet from the front property line.

In addition, the applicant is proposing to remodel the exterior façade of the residence, which includes the remodeling of the front porch area and walkway, the replacement of all existing windows of the residence, new stucco to various exterior portions of the residence, and the construction of a new roof covering the existing and proposed structures. The areas of the residence that will stay a single story (rear) will enjoy a new roof and alternate design and will increase to 16-feet in height as measured from the highest point covered by the structure to ridge. However, this remaining first floor area will extend to an overall height of 21’-7" as measured from the lowest point covered by the structure to ridge and will not remain under the maximum allowable height of 20-feet. The subject height variation requires review by the Planning Commission since the proposal entails the construction of a new second story that extends closer than 25-feet from the street side property line and covers more than 60% of the garage.

CODE CONSIDERATION AND ANALYSIS

The RS-4 zoning district standards, in conjunction with the development standards for pad lots, regulate structure height, for which structures up to 16’ in height are allowed without the need for a Height Variation permit. On a pad lot such as the subject property, this allows for construction of structures or additions up to 16’ high, as measured from the highest point of the pad covered by the structure; however, a residence shall not exceed 20’ in height as measured from the point where the lowest foundation or slab meets finished grade to the highest point of the structure. Pursuant to Section 17.02.040.C.1 of the Development Code, a property owner may request approval of a height variation to allow a second story addition up to a 26-foot maximum height. Since part of the proposal is an addition in the form of a second story, and which exceeds the height limitation of 20-feet measured from the lowest point covered by structure to ridge, it is currently subject to review and approval of a Height Variation application.

In considering a Height Variation application, Section 17.02.040.C.1.e of the Municipal Code requires the Planning Commission to make nine findings in reference to the subject property and the project under consideration (Development Code language is boldface, followed by Staff's analysis in normal type):

    1. The applicant has complied with the Early Neighbor Consultation process established by the City.

    The applicant was successful in obtaining the necessary number of signatures to satisfy this criterion through the initial door-to-door contact method. The Development Code requires owner signatures from at least 25% of the property owners within a 500-foot radius of the subject property and the signatures of at least 70% of the property owners within a 100-foot radius of the subject property. The applicant obtained 57% and 85% of the owner signatures within 500’ and 100’, respectively; thereby complying with the requirement. As such, this finding can be adopted.

    2. The structure does not significantly impair a view from public property (parks, major thoroughfares, bikeways, walkways or equestrian trails), which has been identified in the City's General Plan or Coastal Specific Plan, as City-designated viewing areas.

    The subject property is not overlooked by any park, major thoroughfare, bikeway, walkway, or equestrian trail identified in the City's General Plan. In addition, the property is not located in the Coastal Zone. Therefore, since the proposed project on the subject property cannot significantly impair a view from any of these public properties, this finding can be adopted.

    3. The proposed structure is not located on a ridge or promontory.

    The subject property is located within a developed area with varying pad elevations for many of the lots. Santa Rena slopes downward in an easterly direction away from the subject property. Further, there are transitional slopes from the subject property to the adjacent property to the east. Thus, the subject property is not considered to be on a ridge as there are adjacent lots with homes located at varying pad elevations, above and below the subject property. In addition, the lot is not located on a promontory. Therefore, this finding can be adopted.

    4. The proposed structure is designed and situated in such a manner as to minimize impairment of a view.

    Staff has determined that the proposed addition of the first story garage and resulting ridgeline elevation will impair a view from the viewing area of another parcel. Although the surrounding residences vary in pad elevations and vary in lot orientation, the proposed structure is not situated in such a manner as to minimize impairment of views, given that the neighbors view from 2041 Santa Rena will be impaired by the proposal. The proposed structure will measure 16-feet as measured from the highest point covered by the structure to ridge and 21’-7" as measured from the lowest point covered by the structure to top of the ridge. As proposed, Staff feels the design of the structure could be changed so as to not impair a view. This could be accomplished by either lowering the overall height of the additions to what exists currently or lowering the overall height of the proposal approximately 2-feet. If the applicant were to redesign the project as to minimize impairment of a view, then Staff feels this finding can be made. However, as proposed, the structure is designed and situated in such a manner that impairs a view. Thus, this finding cannot be made.

    5. There is no significant cumulative view impairment caused by granting the application. Cumulative view impairment shall be determined by: (a) considering the amount of view impairment caused by the proposed structure; and (b) considering the amount of view impairment that would be caused by the construction on other parcels of structures similar to the proposed structure.

    As discussed above, the property at 2041 Santa Rena that contains a view will be affected by the proposed second story addition, mostly from the proposed ridgeline because the view corridor is currently located above the existing residence and existing roof ridgeline. The total amount of view impairment caused by the proposed addition will be considerable. The neighbor will lose his entire view Long Beach and the harbor. As mentioned earlier, if the applicant were to lower the overall height of the proposal, then Staff feels the total amount of view impairment would be alleviated. Additionally, if similar lots located further upslope on Santa Rena were to construct a full second-story residence, rather than a split-level that slopes with the downsloping nature of Santa Rena, the view impairment would be considered significant. Although the neighbors are located upslope, and the pad elevations continue to get higher as you drive west on Santa Rena, Staff feels the height differential between lots is not great enough to support a full two-story residence. However, if these residences were to create a split-level house, similar to the one proposed, which slopes with the angle of the street, then it would have the best opportunity to minimize impairment of views upon neighbors. Nonetheless, the project will significantly impair a cumulative view. Thus, based on the discussion above, Staff feels this finding cannot be adopted.

    6. The proposed structure, when considered exclusive of foliage, does not significantly impair a view from the viewing area of another parcel.

    As determined above, there will be view impairment from the viewing area of another parcel, and there is evidence, as indicated below, of significant view impairment exclusive of foliage. Staff documented the views from the properties located directly north, south, east and west of the project as discussed below.

    2030 and 2038 Santa Rena – Located to the south and across Santa Rena, the proposed addition will not significantly impair a view from these residences, since these two properties are located across the street and enjoy a view in an easterly direction, which is away from the proposed addition. Therefore, the proposed addition will not significantly impair any protected views from these adjacent properties.

    2030 Velez Drive – Located to the north of the project site, the proposed addition will not significantly impair a view, since the property is directly behind the residence and currently contains a view corridor in an easterly direction, which is away from the proposed additions and subject lot. Therefore, the proposed addition will not significantly impair any protected views from this adjacent property.

    2025 Santa Rena – Located to the east of the project site, the proposed addition will not significantly impair a view, since the property and residence is located to the east of the subject lot and does not contain a protected view of any kind. This is due to the fact that the lot is located at a lower pad elevation than the subject lot and does not contain any far views of Long Beach and the St. Thomas Bridge. Therefore, the proposed addition will not significantly impair any protected views from this adjacent property.

    2041 Santa Rena – Located to the west of the project site, the proposed addition will significantly impair a far view from this residence. The residence at 2041 Santa Rena is located upslope from the subject lot and currently contains a view above the existing ridgeline of the residence on the subject lot in an easterly direction. Currently, this residence enjoys a far view of Long Beach, Long Beach Harbor, the Vincent Thomas Bridge, and parts of San Pedro. This view corridor happens to be in the same direction as the proposed addition and second story. The far view was taken from within the living room area and looking out over the roof of the subject residence in an easterly direction. After the silhouette had been constructed and Staff’s analysis was completed, it was determined that the construction will significantly impair a far view from the neighboring property to the west. The silhouette demonstrated that two (2) of the new roof ridgelines would completely eliminate the existing far view, even though the difference in height between the existing roof ridgeline and the proposed ridgeline is only approximately 2-feet. Therefore, the proposed addition will significantly impair a protected view from this neighboring property.

    Additionally, Staff has determined that no other residences in the area contain views, as defined by the Development Code, over the subject property due to the orientation of these residences and the subject residence. As discussed earlier, It is of Staff’s opinion that if the applicant were to 1) lower the ridgeline to what exists currently 2) lower the overall height of the proposal approximately 2-feet or 3) grade down to lower the overall height of the proposal, it would then not significantly impair a view from a neighboring parcel. Specifically, Staff feels the applicant can lower the ridgeline to an agreeable height. Therefore, based on the analysis above, Staff has determined that the second story addition would significantly impair a protected view, exclusive of foliage, from the viewing area of a neighboring residence. Thus, this finding cannot be adopted.

    7. The proposed structure complies with all other Code requirements.

    Pursuant to the development standards contained in Table 2-A (Single-Family Residential Development Standards) of Chapter 17.02, of the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code, for lots of record, existing as of November 25, 1975, the proposed addition will result in compliance with the applicable standards. The existing lot coverage is 36%, which is below the maximum allowable of 50% for the subject property. However, as part of the proposed project, the applicant will convert the existing garage into habitable space and grade down to create a new garage below the existing first story, resulting in a 47% lot coverage and compliance with the maximum allowable lot coverage. Further, the additions will result in compliance with the minimum rear and side setbacks and will be constructed in accordance with the residential development guidelines of the City’s Municipal Code. The proposed addition will also be required to comply with all safety standards of the Uniform Building Code. Therefore, Staff believes this finding can be made and adopted.

    8. The proposed structure is compatible with the immediate neighborhood character

Pursuant to Section 17.02.040.A.6 of the Municipal Code, "Neighborhood Character" is defined to consider the existing physical characteristics of an area. The below-mentioned properties have been identified as comprising the immediate neighborhood. The Code language is boldface, and Staff's analysis is in normal type:

1. Scale of surrounding residences, including total square footage and lot coverage of the residence and all ancillary structures.

    Compatibility with neighborhood character is based on a comparison to the other structures in the immediate area, which in this case, is comprised of the ten closest properties. Table No. 1 below illustrates the ten properties and structures in the immediate neighborhood.

    Table No. 1

    Address

    Lot Size

    Structure Size

    Number of Stories

    2041 Santa Rena Dr.

    7,767 sq. ft.

    2,006 sq. ft.

    One

    2044 Santa Rena Dr.

    11,421 sq. ft.

    2,548 sq. ft.

    One

    2041 Santa Rena Dr.

    8,011 sq. ft.

    2,506 sq. ft.

    One

    2038 Santa Rena Dr.

    11,326 sq. ft.

    2,799 sq. ft.

    One

    2030 Santa Rena Dr.

    10,049 sq. ft.

    2,006 sq. ft.

    One

    2025 Santa Rena Dr.

    7,549 sq. ft.

    2,134 sq. ft.

    One

    2024 Santa Rena Dr.

    8,246 sq. ft.

    1,798 sq. ft.

    One

    2017 Santa Rena Dr.

    6,686 sq. ft.

    2,006 sq. ft.

    One

    2030 Velez Dr.

    9,461 sq. ft.

    2,006 sq. ft.

    One

    2024 Velez Dr.

    8,921 sq. ft.

    2,006 sq. ft.

    One

    Average

    8,944 sq. ft.

    2,181 sq. ft.

    One

    Existing structure size

    8,677 sq. ft.

    2,193 sq. ft.

    One

    Proposed structure size

    8,677 sq. ft.

    3,499 sq. ft.

    Two

    Note: The above calculations for lot size were obtained from the Los Angeles County Tax Assessors information. The above calculations for structure size are based on building permits on file with the City and include the garage area, which, if not documented on the building permit, was calculated based on the Development Code’s requirement for two (2) parking spaces with minimum dimensions for each individual parking stall being 9’x20’ (180 sq. ft.).

    According to the above table, the total structure size (garage area included) of the neighboring homes ranges from 1,798 square-feet to 2,796 square-feet, with the average size being 2,181 square feet for the ten (10) closest developed properties. The existing structure size is 2,193 square-feet, which is within the range of structure sizes within the immediate neighborhood as illustrated above. The proposed additions totaling 1,276 square-feet will result in an overall structure size of 3,499 square-feet, which is 700 square-feet larger than the largest structure in the immediate neighborhood. The proposal meets all of the development standards for the RS-4, Single-Family Residential, zone in which it is located, including lot coverage. The maximum lot coverage permitted within the RS-4 zone is 50%. The lot coverage for the proposed residence will increase from 36% to 47%. The second story addition (upper level) will consist of converting the existing 447 square foot two-car garage into habitable space and the construction of an additional 616 square feet of livable space. The first story (lower level) will consist of the proposed new 660 square-foot two (2) -car garage. Since the residence will be the largest in the immediate neighborhood, Staff believes that the proposed additions will result in a residential structure that is out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood.

    Staff feels the overall design will be out of scale with the ten (10) closest homes and is not within a reasonable range when dealing specifically with square-footage. As proposed, the applicant is proposing a 660 square-foot two (2) car garage, which Staff believes is unnecessary and can be reduced in size, so as to still comply with the City’s Development Code standards for a two (2) car garage. Further, the added living space of approximately 616 square-feet is located directly along the front façade of the house and is clearly visible from the public right of way and other residences. Due to the stepping nature of the house and sloping street, the residence will not appear as a full two-story residence (entire fist story footprint located above an entire second story footprint) when viewed from the public right of way, rather a split-level house that steps with the natural contours of the area. Nonetheless, the residence is too large and appears unnecessary, when specifically discussing square-footage. If the applicant were to reduce the size of the garage and reduce the square-footage of the proposed added living space by a total of approximately 500-700 square-feet, then Staff feels this would put the residence in closer comparison with the rest of the neighboring homes and this finding can be made. However, as proposed, this finding cannot be made.

    2. Architectural styles, including facade treatments, structure height, open space between structures, roof design, the apparent bulk or mass of the structure, number of stories, and building materials.

    The architectural style of the existing residence is consistent with the architecture of the other homes in the immediate neighborhood. The architectural features that are predominately found in the immediate neighborhood include older ranch-style homes, exterior finishes of both wood siding and stucco, roofing materials of tile or wood shake, and a mix of gable and hip-pitch roof designs. The proposed project will not introduce any new exterior materials to the neighborhood. The existing and proposed portions of the home will have a design that includes stucco siding and a hip roofline.

    However, Staff feels the apparent bulk and mass of the structure will not be minimized, since the proposal includes two (2) new additions totaling 1,276 square-feet along the front setback line and a second story, which is clearly visible from the street. Of the ten closest homes in the neighborhood, none of them contained a second story. When comparing the second story and bulk and mass of the structure with the neighborhood, Staff believes it is difficult to conclude that the proposal is compatible. Staff believes this, given that the applicant clearly has other options available to reduce the overall bulk and mass of the structure to make it more compatible. One option being, to propose a structure with only one (1) story so as to not appear as the only two story structure on Santa Rena. Another option being to reduce the overall square-footage of the proposed garage and/or addition proposed for the west side of the lot. Lastly, to setback the structure further from the front property line, so neighbors and the public will not as easily see a bulkier and more massive structure. If the applicant were to redesign the project so the bulk and mass of the structure would be reduced to make the structure more compatible with its surrounding residences, then Staff feels this finding can be made. As proposed, this finding cannot be made.

    3. Front yard setbacks.

The proposed first and second story additions will not result in a change of the existing front yard setback area of 20-feet. As proposed, the front yard setback is at 20-feet for both the garage and additional habitable space. Currently, just about 30-lineal feet of the residence are located along the front setback line as compared to approximately 50-55 feet the applicant is proposing. As proposed, the residence will have a straight façade parallel to Santa Rena Drive, which differentiates from the existing "L" shaped façade presently. As discussed above, the residence will appear bulkier and more massive than what exists currently, and therefore, is not considered compatible with the neighborhood. Staff feels the applicant can redesign the project so as not to have as much lineal feet along the front setback line, which will help the appearance of the structure when viewed from the public right of way. Although the residence respects the required front setback, the design of the residence and large front façade of the house is not compatible with the neighborhood. As proposed, this finding cannot be made.

    9. The proposed structure does not result in an unreasonable infringement of privacy of the occupants of abutting residences.

The proposed second story addition will not infringe upon the privacy of the adjacent properties. As proposed, the addition located above the garage will contain two (2) bedroom windows and one (1) small bathroom window located on the east side of the residence. Due to the proposed additions and the remodeling of the exterior of the residence, these windows will be located at relatively the same height as what exists currently, thus, not allowing the applicant to have a direct view of the neighbor’s side yard or living space. The proposed west side of the addition will contain one (1) bedroom window and one (1) bathroom window, both of which are located below the existing finished pad of the neighbor to the west. The proposed windows and porch area located at the front of the residence will not deviate from what already exists throughout the neighborhood. Further, the first and second story additions will respect front, side, and rear yard setbacks. Therefore, since the addition of the windows will be at relatively the same height and shape of what exists now and due to the varying pad elevations found throughout the neighborhood, Staff does not have a concern with the potential for privacy infringement. As such, this finding can be made and adopted.

Major Grading:

The purpose of the grading permit is to promote public health, safety and general welfare while preserving the natural character of an area consistent with reasonable economic development. A grading permit is to ensure that development occurs in a manner that is harmonious with adjacent land so as to minimize problems of flooding, draining, erosion, earth movement and similar hazards, while maintaining the visual continuity of the hills and valleys of the City.

Pursuant to Section 17.76.040 of the Development Code, the City requires a major grading permit for grading activity that will involve the following:

    • Excavation, fill, or both, in excess of fifty (50) cubic yards in a two year period; or

    • Cut or fill more than five (5) feet in depth or height; or

    • Excavation or fill encroaching in or altering a natural drainage course*; or

    • Excavation or fill on an extreme slope (35% or more)*.

*Notwithstanding exemptions in Section 17.76.040(c)

Since the applicant is proposing overall earth movement of 268 cubic yards, a major grading permit is required, which requires review and approval by the Planning Commission, pursuant to Development Code Section 17.78.030, which requires all applications on the project to be heard simultaneously if one of the related applications is required to be heard. Section 17.76.040(E) of the Development Code establishes criteria that the Director uses to evaluate, review and act on major grading permit applications. The following Development Code criteria are discussed below (Development Code criteria are indicated in bold type, followed by Staff’s analysis in normal type).

E.1. The grading does not exceed that which is necessary for the permitted primary use of the lot.

The subject property currently contains a single-family residential structure that was constructed prior to the City’s incorporation. There have been no additions to the residence since, and the maintenance of a single-family home is the permitted primary use of the lot as established by the City’s Development Code. Nonetheless, the residence is currently conforming to the City’s Development Code with a two (2)-car garage, 36% lot coverage, and compliant setbacks. Of the proposed 268 cubic yards of grading, approximately 189 of it will be under the building footprint, at a maximum depth cut of just over 4-feet, and for the construction of the two (2)-car garage. Thus, the remaining 77 cubic yards of grading requested by the applicant is for the placement of the new direct access driveway, which will run adjacent to and accessed off Santa Rena Drive. Therefore, the majority of the grading is for the permitted primary use and enjoyment of the lot.

Currently, the buildable area of the lot is limited due to the small size of the lot. The applicant has proposed a one-story addition and garage conversion for the remaining buildable area. However, to enjoy a common residential amenity and to improve the value of the residence and lot, the applicant chose to propose and introduce a split-level residence. The proposal is within the permitted primary use of the subject lot as established by the City’s Development Code. Further, the applicant has not proposed any ancillary uses to the lot, which is not considered the permitted primary use of the lot. Furthermore, the majority of the area that is being graded (less than 5% slope), is located underneath the building footprint, and is not readily visible from the public right-of-way, and will not be after grading. As mentioned earlier, this is due to the submergence of the garage into the ground and the residual grade level of the surrounding proposed addition. Since the proposed grading is for a common residential amenity, Staff believes this criterion can be met.

E.2. The grading and/or related construction does not significantly affect visual relationships with, or the views from, neighboring properties.

As mentioned above, when looking at impacts to views from neighboring properties, Staff feels that the grading will significantly impact a protected view from a surrounding property since the proposed grading is for a lower level (first story) garage 21’-7" in height as measured from the lowest point covered by the structure to ridge. As discussed earlier, the applicant has the option of either lowering the roof height approximately 2-feet or lowering the ridge to its original height, thereby, not significantly impairing a neighbors view. This is possible by lowering the ridge of the overall design and/or grading down further into the ground and lowering the entire proposal approximately 2-feet. If the applicant were to do either, then Staff feels this criterion can be met. As proposed, the grading and related construction does impair a protected view, and Staff feels this criterion cannot be met.

E.3. The nature of the grading minimizes disturbance to the natural contours, and finished contours are reasonably natural.

As discussed above, the majority of the grading is for the construction of a lower level garage and related driveway area and retaining walls. In order to minimize disturbance to natural contours of the site, the applicant limited the grading to the area of the proposed garage at a cut of approximately 4’-10" in depth. The level grade surrounding the garage will remain in its current state and will not be disturbed. As for the grading being done outside of the building footprint, most of the finished contours will be level and the same as what is existing, with the exception that this area can now be used as a driveway area and walkway to the side and front of the residence. Upon researching the approval of the residence, it was found that a substantial amount of grading had been done to construct the specific tract the residence is currently within. The grading done had eliminated many of the extreme slope areas and natural hillsides to make the residential development feasible. Thus, the proposed grading to be done is not something new to the area or this particular lot. To further compliment the natural contours and slopes, the surrounding vegetation will be maintained in its natural state. Therefore, Staff believes this criterion can be met.

E.4. The grading takes into account the preservation of natural topographic features and appearances by means of land sculpturing so as to blend any man-made or manufactured slope into the natural topography.

Based on the plans submitted, the location of the proposed grading is in an area that was altered when the building pad was originally created. The street of access slopes downward, from west to east, and begins to level the closer you get to Western Avenue. Thus, the pads of the majority of the neighborhood are man-made and relatively flat, with the exception of a few surrounding neighbors. The proposed design includes a split-level residence, which will slope with the nature of the street. In relation to the downsloping street of access and surrounding varying pad elevation heights, the upper and lower level additions will not alter natural topographic features. Staff feels the proposal includes proper land sculpturing so as to blend the proposed residence into the natural topography with a stepping design feature. In addition, Staff believes that there is no trend to be found in the neighborhood as to indicate what is the most common or uncommon design as the pad elevations vary from lot to lot. Therefore, Staff believes this criterion can be met.

E.5. For new single-family residences, the grading and/or related construction is compatible with the immediate neighborhood character.

The proposed project is not for a new single-family residence. As such, this does not apply.

E.6. In new residential tracts, the grading includes provisions for the preservation and introduction of plant materials so as to protect slopes from erosion and slippage and minimizes the visual effects of grading and construction on hillside area.

This does not apply in that the proposed project is not a new residential tract.

E.7. The grading utilizes street design and improvements, which serve to minimize grading alternatives and harmonize with the natural contours and character of the hillside.

This is intended for new subdivisions and, therefore, does not apply.

E.8. The grading would not cause excessive and unnecessary disturbance of natural landscape or wildlife habitat through removal of vegetation.

The proposed project will not cause excessive and unnecessary disturbance of any natural landscape or wildlife in that the proposed grading will be located on an area that was previously disturbed to create the existing building pad and front and side yard recreational areas. Currently, the area that is being cut into does not consist of any protected wildlife habitat or vegetation. Therefore, this criterion can be met.

E.9. The grading conforms to the following standards for: grading on slopes, height of cut/fill, and retaining walls.

The Development Code permits grading on slopes equal to or greater than thirty-five percent (35%) if the lot was recorded and legally subdivided as of November 25, 1975. In addition, no finished slopes greater than thirty-five percent (35%) shall be created, except at the point of vehicular access adjacent to driveways; the depth of cut shall not exceed five (5) feet; and retaining walls located within the front setback area shall not exceed 3’-6", except for one (1) retaining wall up to a maximum of 5-feet in height adjacent to driveways may be permitted. As proposed, there will be the construction of two (2) retaining walls adjacent to the driveway. Of the two (2) retaining walls proposed, one is 5-feet in height, of which 4’-10" of it is retaining, while the other measures 3-10" in height, of which 3’-8" of it is retaining. However, a proposal may deviate from these standards when the Director or Planning Commission determines that unusual topography, soil conditions, previous grading or other circumstances make such grading reasonable and necessary. In order to approve such a deviation from the criteria contained in E.9, the director must make the following findings contained in E.10.

E.10. The Director may grant a grading permit for development in excess of that permissible under Subsection E.9. of this section upon finding that:

A. That the criterion of subsections E.1. through E.8. are satisfied.

Staff reviewed the project in accordance with the established grading criteria in the Development Code, and determined that the entire criterion of subsections E.1 through E.8 has not been satisfied. Specifically, Staff found that the proposed grading and related construction significantly impairs a view from a surrounding parcel. Therefore, this finding cannot be made. However, it is important to note, that with modifications, as discussed throughout this report, these criteria could be adopted.

B. That approval for the grading application is consistent with Section 17.76.040(A), the purpose and intent to allow for grading activity.

Development Code Section 17.76.040(A) "[provides for] ensuring that the development of each parcel of land…occurs in a manner harmonious with adjacent lands so as to…maintain the visual continuity of hill and valley without unsightly continuous benching of buildable sites". The proposed 3’-10" high retaining wall is approximately 4" taller than what is allowed by the City’s Development Code. As built, Staff feels the wall can be built smaller (4" lower) since there is no unusual topography on the site. Therefore, Staff has determined that this project is not consistent with the purpose and intent for grading activity and can be corrected to conform to the City’s Development Code and this finding cannot be made.

C. That approval of the grading application will not constitute a granting of special privilege inconsistent with the limitations upon other properties in the vicinity.

Staff determined that the proposed 3’-10" high retaining wall is there to provide slope and driveway stabilization. Staff feels that the current residence could easily achieve the same driveway stabilization by lowering the wall 4". Staff feels if the retaining wall is to stay at its proposed height it would be the granting of a special privilege since other homes on Santa Rena Drive would not be allowed to construct such a wall. Additionally, approval of such a retaining wall may establish precedence for construction of similar retaining walls in the neighborhood, which could lead to further visual impacts. As such, this finding cannot be made.

D. That approval of the grading application will not be detrimental to the public safety nor to other property.

The proposed grading and retaining wall will not be detrimental to the public safety since the retaining wall will be reviewed, inspected and approved by the Building and Safety Division. Further, the project will be required to comply with all safety standards of the Uniform Building Code and will be located entirely within the subject lot. Therefore, the retaining wall will not affect neighboring properties and neighbors. Thus, this finding can be met.

Additional Information

Staff received three (3) correspondence letters from the property owner directly across the street at 2030 Santa Rena, the neighbor to the west at 2041 Santa Rena and Don Shults at 2129 Velez Drive who represents the Rolling Hills Riviera Homeowners Board of Directors.

The neighbor directly across the street voiced support of the project and indicated that the proposed construction would only serve to benefit the homeowners on the street and mentioned it will be an asset to the neighborhood. Mr. Don Shults also voiced his opinion for support of the project, stating that the project will bring a positive change to the neighborhood and will be huge step forward to improving the overall appearance of the neighborhood.

The neighbor to the west indicated that the proposed addition would significantly impair his view of Long Beach and related areas. The letter also expressed concerns of privacy with the proposed first story addition and also voiced apprehension regarding the compatibility of the structure to the surrounding properties. However, the homeowner’s major concern was with the view impairment. As discussed earlier in the Staff report, Staff feels the proposed second story addition and resulting ridgeline will significantly impair a view from this neighbors parcel and agrees with the neighbor and his view concerns. After a site visit to the property and after consulting the submitted plans, Staff determined that no privacy infringement would result from the first story addition, since there will be only two windows on the west side of the residence, both of which are located under the existing pad elevation of the neighbor to the west. According to the City’s Development Code, "privacy" is defined as reasonable protection from intrusive visual observation. Staff feels there will not be a loss of reasonable protection from intrusive visual observation due to the varying pad elevations between the two residences. Furthermore, Staff feels the residence will be compatible with the neighborhood. As discussed earlier, the residence will be the largest in the immediate neighborhood and will not be compatible with the neighborhood. Staff believes that the proposed additions will result in a residential structure that is not compatible with the ten (10) closest homes when considering the bulk and mass of the proposal.

Staff would like to note that the architect and homeowner are fully aware of Staff’s recommendation regarding the Height Variation findings of significant view impariment and if upheld by the Planning Commission, are more than willing to lower the ridge height approximately 2-feet or to the height that exists currently so as to comply with the City’s Development Code and to restore the view at 2041 Santa Rena Drive.

CONCLUSION

Based on the above analysis, Staff has determined that all the applicable findings for Height Variation No. 940 and Grading No. 2293 cannot be made to warrant approval of the two-story addition that will result in a two-story structure that is 21’-7" in height as measured from the lowest point covered by structure to ridge and 16’-0" in height, measured from the highest point covered by structure to ridge. Specifically, as proposed, Staff believes the project will significantly impair a view from a neighboring parcel and will not be compatible with the neighborhood. Thus, Staff recommends denial of Height Variation No. 940 and Grading No. 2293, based upon the evidence and the findings contained within the Staff Report.

ALTERNATIVES

In addition to the Staff’s recommendation, the following alternatives are available for the Planning Commission’s consideration:

  1. Approve Height Variation No. 940 & Grading No. 2293 without prejudice.

  2. Identify any issues of concern with the proposed project, provide Staff and/or the applicant with direction in modifying the project, and continue the public hearing to a date certain.

Please note that in the event that this item is continued beyond the July 14, 2002 action deadline, the applicant must agree to a 90-day extension of that deadline.

ATTACHMENTS:

  • P.C. Resolution No. 2002-__ (to be distributed at P.C. meeting)

  • Letters of Correspondence to the City

  • Project Plans


7. VARIANCE PERMIT NO. 489: 6610 Palos Verdes Drive South/ York Long Point Properties (AM)/font>

Request: A request to allow the construction of a new, 1,400 square foot cabana, as well as a new swimming pool and spa, within the City’s designated Coastal Setback Zone. The proposed cabana structure will be constructed at a height of 16 feet, as measured from the lowest adjacent finished grade to the top of the highest roof ridgeline, and will provide restroom facilities for both the general public and hotel guests.

Recommendation: Review and discuss the applicant’s Variance request, provide Staff with input as to the required Variance findings, and if deemed appropriate, direct Staff to prepare the appropriate resolution for consideration at its July 23, 2002 meeting.

TO:
CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION
FROM:

DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT

DATE:
JULY 9, 2002
SUBJECT:

VARIANCE NO. 489 – LONG POINT RESORT HOTEL PROJECT (6610 PALOS VERDES DRIVE SOUTH)

Staff Coordinator:
Ara Michael Mihranian, AICP, Senior Planner

RECOMMENDATION:

Review and discuss the applicant’s Variance request, provide Staff with input as to the required Variance findings, and if deemed appropriate, direct Staff to prepare the appropriate resolution for consideration at its July 23, 2002 meeting.

BACKGROUND

At the time the City was processing the applicant’s (Destination Development) original proposal to construct a resort hotel and nine hole golf course on the former Marineland property, which also included the use of the City owned Upper Point Vicente Park Area, the plan for the hotel area included the construction of a new cabana structure, as well as a new pool and spa (referred herein as the "lower pool"), within the City’s designated Coastal Setback Zone. Pursuant to the Development Code, new structures, such as the lower pool facility, that are located within the Coastal Setback Zone are prohibited. Therefore, Staff informed the applicant that the construction of such a structure within the Coastal Setback Zone would not be permitted. Staff also indicated to the applicant the various options available to address the restrictions imposed by the Coastal Setback Zone, such as; 1) Revising the site plan by deleting the proposed structure from the plan, 2) Relocating the structure outside of the Coastal Structure Setback Line (which is 25 feet landward of the Coastal Setback Line), or 3) Submitting a Variance application to consider relief from the City’s Coastal Setback requirements.

Since neither revised plans nor a variance application were submitted to the Planning Department to address the lower pool facility within the Coastal Setback Zone, the Planning Commission in its October 9, 2001 decision recommending that the City Council conditionally approve the proposed resort hotel project, imposed a condition (see attachment, Condition No. 29) that denied the construction of the lower pool facility in its current location, unless a Variance approval was obtained from the City under a separate application.

The applicant submitted a revised Long Point Resort Hotel Project on April 22, 2002 that is currently being reviewed by the City Council. On June 6, 2002, the applicant filed Variance No. 489 with the Planning Department to allow the construction of the proposed lower pool facility within the Coastal Setback Zone. In order for the City Council to consider the Variance application in association with the remaining project applications (Conditional Use Permit No. 215, Grading Permit No. 2229, Tentative Parcel Map No. 26073, and Coastal Development Permit No. 166) previously reviewed by the Planning Commission, the Commission must first review the merits of the applicant’s Variance request, and then forward its recommendation to the City Council.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The proposed lower pool facility project consists of the construction of a new cabana structure, as well as a new swimming pool and spa. The proposed cabana would be approximately 1,400 square feet in area, and would be constructed at a height of sixteen (16) feet, as measured from the structure’s lowest adjacent finished grade to the top of the highest roof ridgeline. According to the applicant, the proposed cabana would separately serve both hotel guests and the general public. As proposed, the lower pool area would be divided into two sections, an area for hotel guests and a separate area for the general public. These two sections would be separated by a six (6) foot high fence, and would maintain separate entry gates off the public access trails. The hotel guest area would contain a pool and spa, concrete terrace area surrounding the pool, outdoor showers, private restroom facilities, and a kitchen/bar area. As for the public area, this section would provide restroom facilities, an outdoor concrete terrace, outdoor showers, and a drinking fountain.

According to the site plan, the proposed lower pool would be located on a relatively flat area of the south eastern portion of the subject property that was previously developed when Marineland was in operation. This area is bound between the slopes located seaward of the existing Catalina Room and the coastal bluff. In order to prepare this area for the proposed lower pool, 384 cubic yards of earth movement is proposed, consisting of 91 cubic yards of cut (pool excavation) and 293 cubic yards of fill. The depth of cut for the excavation of the pool would be approximately five (5) feet in height. It should be noted that although the lower pool area development was not approved by the Planning Commission in its review of the original hotel plan, the earth quantities associated with the lower pool area are included in the overall grading quantities currently being considered by the City Council.

PROJECT LOCATION

As noted above, the lower pool facility is proposed to be situated on the southeastern portion of the subject property on a relatively flat "pad" area bound between the coastal bluffs and the bluff face located seaward of the Catalina Room. According to City documents, the "pad" area was previously graded at the time Marineland was developed. The area was used by the operators of Marineland as a water holding tank. This area is currently accessed via the public coastal access trail that begins at the parking lot for the Catalina Room, fifty feet above the pad area, and terminates at the shoreline, approximately fifty feet below the pad area. Pursuant to Urgency Ordinances Nos. 213U, 214U, and 216U, adopted by the City Council upon the closure of Marineland, the coastal access trail and public parking area currently is required to remain open between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:00 pm daily.

DISCUSSION

Pursuant to Section 17.64.010 of the RPVMC, a Variance is to provide the property owner a relief measure from the strict interpretation of the provisions of the Development Code when practical difficulties, unnecessary hardships or results inconsistent with the general intent and purpose of the Development Code occur on private property. As such, the applicant respectfully requests a Variance to allow the lower pool facility to encroach into the City’s designated Coastal Setback Zone.

According to the applicant, the proposed location of the lower pool facility within the Coastal Setback Zone would not constitute new construction in this area because at one time, the operators of Marineland developed this site with a water holding tank. Therefore, the applicant believes that because this area has once been disturbed, both with grading and a structure, that the proposed lower pool facility would not result in an adverse intrusion onto the surrounding coastal region. Furthermore, the applicant believes that in accordance with the City’s Coastal Specific Plan, the lower pool facility is intended to provide the general public with an added amenity that would enhance the public’s experience of the adjoining coastal access trails and nearby beach, by providing a viewing terrace with restroom facilities and showers. It should also be noted that the applicant believes the lower pool facility is an important element to the success of the proposed hotel’s operation because of its close proximity to the ocean and beach.

Notwithstanding, Staff has begun its review of the applicant’s variance request as it pertains to the required findings. In accordance to Section 17.64.050 of the RPVMC, the following findings of fact must be positively made in order to grant a variance request:

    1. That there are exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions applicable to the property involved, or to the intended use of the property, which do not apply generally to other property in the same zoning district.

    2. That such variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right of the applicant, which right is possessed by other property owners under like conditions in the same zoning district.

    3. That granting the variance will not be materially detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to property and improvements in the area in which the property is located.

    4. That granting the variance will not be contrary to the objectives of the General Plan or the policies and requirements of the Coastal Specific Plan.

In reviewing the aforementioned findings, Staff believes that additional geologic information is necessary to be able to make the required findings. Although typically Staff would not take a Variance application to the Planning Commission until the information is obtained, Staff wanted to give the Planning Commission an opportunity to provide input on the Variance findings or identify issues that need to be further addressed. Therefore, Staff respectfully seeks input from the Commission as it pertains to the merits of the project. In order to assist the Commission in its review of the proposed project, as well as the required findings, the following discussion encompasses issues Staff believes need to be addressed in considering the applicant’s Variance request.

General Plan/Zoning Designation:

According to the City’s General Plan Land Use Policy Map, the subject property is located in an area designated as Commercial/Recreational, which permits the operation of recreational commercial activities that serve the general public. Furthermore, the City’s Zoning Map, and in conformance with the Land Use Policy Map, designates the subject property as a Commercial Recreational (CR) zoning district, which according to Section 17.22.010 of the RPVMC, states that this district is intended to provide entertainment and recreational activities which are commercial in nature. Furthermore, in addition to the commercial designation, the City’s Zoning Map also designates the coastal bluff portion of the subject property as Open Hazard (OH) because of its unique rock formation and steep slopes. However, it should be noted that the proposed lower pool facility is not located within the OH zoning designation. In accordance with the land use designations established by the City, specific development requirements apply to the subject property that Staff believes needs to be considered when processing the applicant’s Variance request to allow the lower pool facility to encroach within the Coastal Setback Zone.

Natural Environment Element:

According to the Natural Environment Element of the City’s General Plan, a Sea Cliff Hazard Zone is identified as the area from the base of the ocean side cliff, extending inland to a point where a line formed by a 20-degree angle from the horizontal plane at the base of a cliff or bluff would extend out to the surface (see attachment). This zone has been identified in this manner due to the fact that a soil mass, according to its composition, stabilizes at various angles of repose. Some structurally stable soils may have relative steep angles of repose, whereas other more unstable soils have very low angles of repose. In order to ensure that all varying conditions of sea cliff erosion are addressed, the Sea Cliff Hazard Zone was created using the lowest angle of repose. Within this hazard zone, the General Plan states that detailed engineering/geologic studies must be required with any proposed development to demonstrate the site’s stability and suitability for development. The General Plan also states that the development setback dimension from the sea cliff edge or bluff top in any given area of the Coastal District should take into account the local geologic conditions and should be judged on an individual basis. The applicant has submitted geotechnical reports, that are currently being reviewed by the City’s Geotechnical Engineer, that state that the proposed location of the lower pool facility will be adequately setback from the coastal bluffs and any associated sea cliff erosion. At this time, the City’s Geotechnical Engineer has not completed his review of the applicant’s reports.

Coastal Setback Line:

As a means of providing an adequate separation between marginally stable coastal slopes to that portion of a property that can accommodate development, a Coastal Setback Line was delineated on the City’s Zoning Map along the coastal region of the entire City. The Coastal Setback Line was drawn based on geologic information available at the time the Coastal Specific Plan was prepared by the City in 1978. Beyond the Coastal Setback Line is a 25-foot Coastal Structure Setback Line that establishes criteria to which development can occur.

Pursuant to Section 17.72.040(C) of the RPVMC, all new structures or uses located within the Coastal Setback Zone are prohibited, including but not limited to slabs, walkways, decks six inches or more in height, walls or structures over 42 inches in height, fountains, irrigation systems, pools, spas, architectural features, vertical supports, chimneys, and grading involving 20 cubic yards or more. Furthermore, in order to create an additional buffer to address possible slope erosion and other geologic concerns, a Coastal Structure Setback Zone was established twenty-five (25) landward of the Coastal Setback Line. The Coastal Structure Setback Zone is an area that limits development to minor structures such as, trash enclosures, storage sheds (less than 120 square feet), dog houses, enclosed water heaters, barbecues, garden walls, air conditioners, pool filters, vents and decking or ground covering less than six (6) inches in height. Any new permanent structures in this zone are prohibited including, but not limited to pools, spas, vertical support members and chimneys.

Staff believes that the Coastal Setback Line was created by a comprehensive geologic study of the City’s coastal region to ensure development does not result in the detriment to the integrity of the coastal bluff or the public’s welfare. Therefore, in order to consider whether a Variance to allow construction within the Coastal Setback Zone is feasible, great importance must be placed on the geologic stability of the project site. A discussion on the project geology is found later in this report.

Based on the discussion pertaining to the City’s General Plan and Land Use Designation, Staff believes that the subject property is unique to other properties within the City in that it is the only property zoned for commercial use that is intended for entertainment or recreational activities. Furthermore, it is the only commercially zoned property within the City’s Coastal District that is intended for recreational activities. The unique location of the subject property and its zoning designation coupled with the City’s development requirements that state the property must be developed in a manner that provides amenities for the benefit of the general public may result in extraordinary circumstances or conditions that may not generally apply to other properties. Notwithstanding, because the subject property is located in the City’s Coastal District, and abuts sensitive natural features, Staff believes that the City’s General Plan and Development Code establish specific criteria that is intended to shape the type of development this property can sustain and should be considered in the processing of the project applications.

Coastal Specific Plan

The subject property is located within the appealable portion of the City’s Coastal District, and is therefore subject to the requirements stated in the City’s Coastal Specific Plan. According to the Coastal Specific Plan, the subject property is in Subregion 2, which is referred to as an "attractor/generator" region because of its characteristics of being accessible, or at least partially accessible, to the vast majority of the public living within and outside the Peninsula.

At the time the City incorporated, the subject property was occupied by Marineland, an aquatic theme park, that at its peak, served approximately one million visitors a year. As the City prepared its Coastal Specific Plan, a concern was identified with the future operation of Marineland since attendance rates were declining. As such, the Coastal Specific Plan was drafted in a manner that required future improvements to the subject property include public amenities, such as trails along the coastal bluff edge, as a means of ensuring the visitor serving nature of the site. In 1985, Marineland closed its doors, and the property was sold to developers who sought and obtained City approvals in 1991 to build a resort hotel and a nine hole golf course. That project, which is referred to as the "Monoghan" project, was never constructed, and the property was eventually sold to its current owners, York Properties, who since 1996 have been seeking the City’s approval to construct a resort hotel with a golf amenity.

In terms of public amenities, the applicant for the resort hotel proposes to improve the subject property with a public park, public trails, bike paths, park benches, and vista view points, as required by the Coastal Specific Plan. Furthermore, the applicant’s Variance request is to allow the construction of a lower pool facility within the Coastal Setback Zone that could provide the general public with an additional amenity that would benefit the public’s use of the coastal access trail and the nearby beach. Although the policies in the Coastal Specific Plan encourage increased accessibility throughout the subject property, including the beach area, Staff believes that the proposed improvement of the lower pool facility should be designed and situated in a manner that does not result in an adverse impact to the surrounding natural environment and provides a public amenity. Staff is concerned that the current design of the lower pool facility may appear as an amenity solely for hotel guests, rather than a public amenity. Staff recommends certain modifications be incorporated to the design of the pool facility to further balance the private and public sections. A detailed discussion on this subject can be found later in this report.

Geology

In terms of geology, at the time the proposed resort hotel applications were filed with the Planning Department, the City’s Geotechnical Engineer reviewed the proposed project’s geotechnical reports and conditionally approved it in the Planning stage, with the stipulation that additional studies be submitted for further review prior to issuance of building or grading permits. Furthermore, geotechnical reports were included in the analysis of the project EIR, and appropriate mitigation measures were adopted at the time the City Council certified the EIR, assuring that the construction of the project is geologically feasible. Notwithstanding, because the lower pool facility is proposed to be located within the Coastal Setback Zone, which as previously discussed, was established based on geologic information to prevent the construction of structures that may be too close to the top of marginally stable slopes or cliffs, Staff is requiring that additional geologic studies be reviewed to determine the geologic feasibility of constructing such a structure within the Coastal Setback Zone. At this time, the applicant’s additional geotechnical reports for the proposed lower pool facility are being reviewed by the City’s Geotechnical Consultant. Therefore, Staff recommends that the Planning Commission not take action on the applicant’s Variance request until the geotechnical reports for the lower pool facility unequivocally support the location of such construction within the Coastal Setback Zone.

Public Amenities

In regards to policies set forth in the Coastal Specific Plan, the development of the project site must be completed in a manner that provides public amenities, such as coastal bluff top trails, throughout the property. According to the applicant, the construction of the lower pool facility within the Coastal Setback Zone would provide an added public amenity because of its close proximity to the beach and the coastal access trails. Notwithstanding, Staff believes that if the proposed lower pool facility is located within the Coastal Setback Zone, the design of the structure should provide a substantial benefit to the general public. As such, Staff believes that the design of the lower pool facility may be improved to further enhance the public amenity component of the project so that the hotel guest portion of the area can coexist with the public section without creating a feeling of segregation. Therefore, Staff suggests the following modifications be considered in the design of the public section of the lower pool facility:

  1. Extending the public terrace area closer to the edge of the southeastern slope, near the edge of the pool, so that the public has an opportunity to overlook the coast, as well as have an increased gathering area;

  2. Removing the six (6) foot high fence that separates the public section from the hotel section, and replacing it with a 42 inch high fence so as to minimize the feeling of being segregated or confined;

  3. Ensuring that the required fencing for the pool facility does not adversely impair views from the public terrace area nor creates a segregated feeling between the hotel guest section and the public section;

  4. Terracing the pad area so that a 2:1 transitional slope is created between the hotel guest section and the public section. This slope should be landscaped to create a landscaped buffer zone between the two sections that will visually separate the two areas without creating too much of a perceived separation;

  5. Reconfiguring the kitchen/bar area so that it serves the public section as well as the hotel guest section;

  6. Providing additional public amenities within the public terrace area, such as picnic benches and tables, drinking fountains, telescopes, and an interpretive display on the surrounding environment.

  7. Ensuring that access to the public facilities is provided in accordance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements so that the public access trails are constructed at a gradient that meets the ADA requirements.

Public Safety

With regards to public safety, Staff believes that the location of the lower pool facility is in an area that is isolated from the public’s view because of the surrounding terrain. Furthermore, Staff believes that if the resort hotel project is constructed and the existing public coastal access trail to the nearby beach is improved, which will also serve the proposed lower pool facility, this area may become highly used by the general public resulting in a potential public safety issue. Therefore, to further promote public safety and prevent any potential vandalism or crime, Staff proposes that if the Commission finds that a variance is warranted to allow the proposed lower pool structure to be located within the Coastal Setback Zone, that a condition be imposed that would require that on-duty supervision be provided by the hotel operators, both in terms of a life guard and a security guard, during the permitted hours of operation of the pool facility for hotel guests, and the public access trails and nearby beach during public park hours, as specified in the RPVMC Section 12.16.030.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Review Process

As previously noted, the City Council is currently reviewing the project applications for the resort hotel and golf academy. In order to include the applicant’s variance request with the Council’s review of the project, Staff recommends that the Planning Commission review the merits of the variance application, as well as the findings, and forward a recommendation to the City Council. It should be noted, that pursuant to the Permit Streamlining Act, the City Council has until November 4, 2002 to render a decision on the project development applications.

Public Notification

In regards to public noticing, tonight’s public hearing was duly noticed to property owners within a 500 foot radius of the project site, interested parties, list serve subscribers, as well as published in the Peninsula News. Public comments submitted during the noticing period on the proposed variance application have been attached to this report. To date, only one comment letter, supporting the proposed project, has been received. In the event additional comment letters are submitted to the City after the transmittal of this report, Staff will provide those comment letters to the Commission at the meeting.

CONCLUSION

Based on the above, Staff recommends that the Planning Commission begin its discussion on the merits of the applicant’s variance request, as discussed in the aforementioned findings, discuss potential improvements to the public amenities; and if deemed appropriate direct Staff to prepare the appropriate resolution for consideration at its July 23, 2002 meeting.

ALTERNATIVES

In addition to Staff’s recommendation, the following alternative is available for consideration by the Planning Commission:

  1. Identify any additional issues of concern with the proposed project, and provide the applicant with further direction in modifying the project, and continue the public hearing to a date certain to review the project modifications; or,

  2. Deny Variance No. 489, without prejudice, thereby requiring the applicant to relocate the proposed lower pool facility outside the Coastal Setback Zone.

ATTACHMENTS (available at the Planning Department at City hall for review)

  • Site Plan (including architectural plans and grading plans)
  • P.C. Resolution No. 2001-38 (Condition No. 29)
  • Applicant’s Letter
  • Geotechnical Report
  • Seacliff Setback Formula
  • Public Comment Letters

NEW BUSINESS: (NO ITEMS)

ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS:

Staff


8. PRE-AGENDA FOR THE MEETING OF JULY 23, 2002.

PLANNING COMMISSION
PRE-AGENDA
TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2002

 


CONSENT CALENDAR:


1. MINUTES OF JULY 9, 2002

CONTINUED BUSINESS:

 


2. HEIGHT VARIATION NO. 899, GRADING PERMIT NO. 2151, MINOR EXCEPTION PERMIT NO. 573, AND ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT NO. 745 3787 Coolheights Drive / Nassari (AM)

Request: A request to allow the construction of a new 5,409 square foot (garage included), two-story, single-family residence on an unimproved lot. The proposed residence will be constructed off the existing building pad at a height of 26’, as measured from the highest pre-construction grade elevation (752.00’) of the building pad, to the top of the highest roof ridgeline (778.00’) of the proposed structure. Additionally the applicants propose to conduct 819 cubic yards of associated grading (combined cut and fill calculations) and construct a new 6’ high combination fence/wall along the front property line with a Minor Exception Permit.


3. VARIANCE NO. 489: 6601 Palos Verdes Drive South / York Long Point Properties and Destination Development Corporation (AM).

Request: A request to allow the construction of a new, 1,400 square foot cabana, as well as a new swimming pool and spa, within the City’s designated Coastal District. The proposed structure will be constructed at a height of 16 feet, as measured from the lowest adjacent finished grade, and will provide restroom facilities for both the general public and hotel guests.

PUBLIC HEARINGS:


4. CONDITIONAL USE/ GRADING/ VARIANCE PERMIT (CASE NO. ZON2002-00010): 2 Burrell /Janak Raval (RL)

Request: A request to allow an additional 767 square-feet of living space to an existing single-family one-story residence on an extreme slope area of the lot. The proposed addition will be on the west side of the residence and under the 16-foot maximum height limit, which is required for new additions to one-story single-family residences. The applicant is also requesting approval of two (2) retaining walls located in the side yard of the residence.


5. CONDITIONAL USE/ GRADING/ ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT PERMIT (CASE NO. ZON2001-00055): 5701 Crestridge Road / BelmontCorp (DB)

Request: A request to allow The Brighton Gardens entitlements, originally approved in 1999 for Marriott, allow the construction of a new assisted living facility for senior citizens on a 4.57-acre lot located within the City’s Institutional (I) zoning district. The subject project is a revision to the existing entitlements. The revisions proposed by BelmontCorp, the new project applicant, involve no changes to the height of the structure (which remains a three-story structure measuring 35 feet above finished grade), nor the number of units (a total of 122 units, of which 98 units will be used for assisted living and 24 units will be used for dementia patients). The modifications proposed by the applicant consist of: an increase in the structure’s floor area from 74,774 square feet to 92,950 square feet; a reduction in the total length of the building along Crestridge Road by 17 feet; an increase in the total depth of the building by 18 feet; and, an increase in the amount of grading from 160,000 cubic yards to 163,060 cubic yards. The modified earth movement is not a balanced operation, as previously approved for the Marriott Brighton Gardens project, as it consists of 89,500 cubic yards of cut, 73,560 cubic yards of fill and 15,940 cubic yards of export. In accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Environmental Assessment is for a Supplemental to Final Environmental Impact Report No. 27. Pursuant to Section 17.78.040 of the City’s Municipal Code, the project modifications require City Council approval of a revision to existing Conditional Use Permit No. 195 and Grading Permit No. 1903.


6. HEIGHT VARIATION/ GRADING PERMIT (CASE NO. ZON2002-00082): 2554 Colt /Palma (GR)

Request: a request to allow the construction of a first and second story addition with a total area of 1,048 square feet to an existing 3,970 square-foot two-story, single-family residence at a proposed height of 26’, as measured from the lowest finished grade covered by structure to the highest roof ridgeline.


NEW BUSINESS: (NO ITEMS)

*Please note that that the actual Agenda may well expand, or possibly contract, based upon conditions (such as Continuances of public hearings, Withdrawals, etc.) prior to this meeting.

Date prepared: Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Commission

 


ADJOURNMENT:

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday,
July 23, 2002, 7:00 P.M. at Hesse Park.