CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Vice Chairman Clark at 7:08 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Councilman Stern led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Cartwright, Long, Mueller, Paulson, and Vice Chairman Clark.
Absent: Commissioner Vannorsdall and Chairman Lyon were excused.
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Acting Principal Planner Pfost, Acting Senior Planner Mihranian, Associate Planner Schonborn, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Without object, Vice Chairman Clark approved the agenda as presented.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed one item of correspondence relating to Agenda Item No. 4 and one item of correspondence for Agenda Item No. 5. At the direction of the Commission, he also distributed two items of late correspondence for Agenda Item No. 4 and one item of late correspondence for Agenda Item No. 5. Mr. Rojas also stated that the packets with the staff report for the Long Point project hearing on July 10 had been distributed to the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Cartwright asked that the fourth paragraph on page 7 be clarified.
Commissioner Long noted a clarification on page 7 of the minutes. He asked that his additional comments regarding multi-use trails be added to page 13 of the minutes. Finally, he asked that the full vote be shown on page 17 of the minutes.
Without objection, the minutes were approved as amended.
Commissioner Long stated that his law firm has done legal work for Sprint PCS, though he was not personally involved in the legal work. However, as he had done in the past, he recused himself from hearing this item to avoid any suggestion of bias.
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report. He stated staff was able to make all six findings required for the Conditional Use Permit. He stated the proposal was also consistent with the Planning Commission’s Guidelines for Wireless Communications Facilities and therefore staff recommended approval of the Conditional Use Permit.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if Sprint PCS has a master plan on file with the City.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated there was a master plan on file.
Vice Chairman Clark opened the public hearing.
Joe Thompson (Telecom Services) 17870 Skypark Circle, Irvine stated he was representing Sprint PCS. He stated that Sprint agreed with the staff report and that there was a master plan submitted with the application. He did not think there were any other applications in the City and this site was necessary to fill in the dead spots experienced by users.
Commissioner Cartwright stated there was a recommendation by staff that Sprint directly flush-mount the panels onto the existing parapet wall. He asked Mr. Thompson if he was in agreement with this recommendation.
Mr. Thompson answered he was in agreement with this recommendation.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if the City could anticipate additional applications for antennas from Sprint in the next six months.
Mr. Thompson did not anticipate any applications in the next six months.
Vice Chairman Clark closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Mueller moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2001-14 thereby approving Conditional Use Permit No. 224 as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Paulson. Approved, (4-0-1) with Commissioner Long abstaining.
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report. He explained that in 1987 the Planning Commission approved a Variance and Grading application for a new home on the property. The building pad was graded, retaining walls built, however the residence was not built. He explained the current owners were requesting to construct a new two-story residence. He stated that staff conducted a view analysis and found the proposed structure would not create any view impairment issues. He stated that staff also found that the proposed structure would be compatible with the neighborhood and not create any privacy issues. Therefore, staff was recommending approval of the application.
Commissioner Paulson asked about the existing retaining walls and if they were safe.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated the walls were built in 1988 and the current geotechnical reports did address these walls and assessed the stability of the walls and concluded they were safe.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if there were any other entitlements approved in 1987 with the property.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that there were not.
Vice Chairman Clark opened the public hearing.
Arthur Ashai 23670 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance stated he was the applicant and available for any questions. He stated he and the landowners agreed with the staff report and conditions of approval.
Vice Chairman Clark closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2001-15 thereby approving Height Variation No. 921 and Grading Permit No. 2271 as presented, seconded by Commissioner Long. Approved, (5-0).
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian presented the staff report. He stated that information was submitted on Friday that was provided to the Commission. He explained the information consisted of conceptual architectural plans for the 3 lots located off of Via Victoria as well as pad elevations for lots across the project site on Via Victoria. He explained the proposed project was for a division of land of a 3.92-acre lot into 13 residential lots within the RS-4 zoning district. He explained the grading quantities involved. He stated that according to the City’s Subdivision Ordinance the Planning Commission was required to review the tract map and forward a recommendation to the City Council for final review. He explained that in accordance with CEQA the proposed project was determined to have a potential adverse impact to the surrounding environment. However, it was determined with the appropriate mitigation measures, the potential impacts could be reduced to a level of insignificance, thus warranting a Mitigated Negative Declaration. He noted that the original property was once 4.84 acres but was subdivided into 3 parcels in 1978. At that time two of three lots created were located with access off Via Victoria. Discussing the required findings for the Tentative Tract Map, Mr. Mihranian explained that staff believed that the proposed lots comply with the City’s General Plan designation of Residential, 2-4 dwelling units per acre, as well as the City’s development criteria for lots located within the RS-4 zoning district. He stated the proposed lots resembled the density of the surrounding neighborhood, and was considered in-fill development along Via Victoria that would maintain the continuity of the existing neighborhood.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian explained that the proposed project had been reviewed and conceptually approved by the City Geologist. However, prior to issuance of grading or building permits further review would be required at the Building and Safety level. He discussed the recent landslide on the seaward side of Palos Verdes Drive West, and stated the City Geologist had verbally informed staff that the project was not related to that ancient landslide.
Mr. Mihranian discussed the easements associated with the project for road, utility, and bridal trail purposes. He explained that according to the City’s Conceptual Trails Plan, no conceptual trails are shown on the property and the easements do not create any linkages to other areas. Therefore, the applicants are requesting the existing easements on the property be removed.
Discussing the grading, Mr. Mihranian stated the maximum height of fill would be approximately 14 feet. He explained that in reviewing the grading, staff identified a concern in regards to views from the existing residences immediately across the street on Via Victoria. As proposed, the applicant is locating four properties off Via Victoria, of which three would be accessed directly from Via Victoria and one would be a flag lot and not visible from Via Victoria. He explained the measures proposed by the applicant to create view corridors which would minimize the amount of frontage on Via Victoria. He stated that the staff report addressed basic development standards in regards to the heights of the proposed homes.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if the lots along Via Victoria could have a structure built to a height of 16 feet, while this proposal was showing a height of 11 feet above the street level. He asked if this was done to maximize the view for the neighbors across the street.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian explained that the existing building pad elevations for the proposed lots along Via Victoria were lower and the 16-foot measurement would be taken from the pad elevation. As currently proposed the garages were proposed to be 11 feet higher than the street to allow for vehicular access directly from Via Victoria.
Commissioner Mueller asked what the height was of the existing retaining wall below Via Victoria.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian answered that the existing retaining wall is approximately 4 to 5 feet high.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the garages were lowered to make a steeper driveway to the garage, how much would the actual garage structure be lowered.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian estimated that the garage would be lowered by approximately 4 feet.
Commissioner Mueller asked if there was any consideration given to accessing the lots in a different manner.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian answered that it was not considered in the applicant’s request.
Vice Chairman Clark asked when the RS-4 zoning requirements were put into place.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that they were put into place in 1975.
Vice Chairman Clark asked if there was anything submitted by the applicant giving a representation of the size of the proposed homes.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian answered that under this proposal, no architectural plans were submitted.
Vice Chairman Clark felt there was a parcel of less than 4 acres that the applicant wants to subdivide into 13 residential lots, with potentially very large homes on each lot. He felt this suggested an in-fill development with a huge density issue. He asked if staff had considered pursuing with the applicant the size of homes to be proposed in terms of looking at the consistency of the proposed subdivision with the surrounding areas.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian responded that the potential size of the homes was a concern raised with the applicant and addressed in the staff report. He explained that it was staff’s proposal that at the time these lots are developed that staff will review each lot independently against the neighborhood compatibility findings.
Vice Chairman Clark felt this had the potential of having huge homes, one on top of another, which was an issue with him. He felt the applicant could propose a sub-division with fewer lots.
In regards to structure size, Acting Senior Planner Mihranian stated that the Planning Commission could restrict home sizes with the approval of conditions for the tract map.
Commissioner Paulson asked if the lot sizes were consistent with the other lot sizes in the area.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian answered the lots were consistent with the lot sizes on Alida Place and Via Victoria.
Commissioner Paulson asked what controls the Planning Commission could place on the proposed homes, other than height.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the Planning Commission has the ability to place development standard restrictions on the tract. These could include height limits, lot coverage limits, limitations on second story footprints, and any other restrictions to establish a development envelope that would have to be adhered to by any future development.
Commissioner Cartwright asked what the average size of the homes were in the area and what size lots they were on.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian replied that the lot sizes on Alida Place ranged from 10,000 square feet to 16,000 square feet. On Via Victoria the lots ranged in size from 10,000 square feet to 11,000 square feet. The structure sizes on Alida Place were roughly between 5,000 to 7,500 square feet and the homes on Via Victoria ranged between 2,500 square feet to 3,100 square feet.
David Olin 1243 Palm Drive, Hermosa Beach stated he was the designer of the homes. He stated that his goal was to try to keep the impact to Via Victoria at a minimum. He understood that people had enjoyed their homes and views for many years and he tried to mitigate that as much as possible with the view corridors. He stated that the project requires no variances or waivers and he has worked within the established City guidelines. He commented on the draft mitigation monitoring program in the staff report which stated that the proposed residences off Via Victoria shall not exceed 16 feet in height. He thought that was supposed to be 24 feet in height. In reviewing the Conditions of Approval on page 9, Item 5 he noted that one of the ridgelines was not to exceed elevation of 400 feet. He requested that be changed to an elevation of 404 to accommodate the window sill heights and was more manageable to work with.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian stated that staff had recommended 400 feet to maintain an unobstructed view corridor.
Commissioner Paulson asked Mr. Olin if he could live with an elevation of 400 feet.
Mr. Olin responded that he would accept 402 feet.
Vice Chairman Clark asked Mr. Olin what led him to propose 13 lots in this subdivision.
Mr. Olin responded this was worked out with the civil engineer and was a matter of coming up with a comprehensive plan that works.
Vice Chairman Clark asked Mr. Olin what size homes he envisions on the lots.
Mr. Olin answered that it has not been decided but possibly somewhere between 3,800 and 4,400 square feet.
Vice Chairman Clark asked if he felt there would be side yard setbacks of a minimum of 10 feet.
Mr. Olin answered that this project lent itself to well articulated houses that will have a nice look from Palos Verdes Drive West looking up, or looking down from Via Victoria.
Vice Chairman Clark asked Mr. Olin if he had any design concerns over density.
Mr. Olin responded that he did not because he felt he could work within the guidelines and he could put something together that would be pleasing for the neighbors. He understood the City’s concerns regarding housing density.
Gene Steiger 31034 Via Victoria disagreed with many of the conclusions in the staff report and distributed pictures to support his claim. He felt the proposed project would have a negative impact on the enjoyment of his property. He knew the property would be developed at some time, but felt the Rancho Palos Verdes View Ordinance would protect his views. He noted on page 17 of the staff report the comment that the only window in the living room oriented toward the ocean had only a partial view. He noted the photo he distributed which shows ocean views from the living room, two upper bedrooms, and the major view from the family room. He explained the other photos which show the views he has from the different rooms and how the proposed project will obstruct his current view as well as his view of the sunsets in the evenings. He noted that trees can be trimmed but one cannot trim a garage structure. He suggested sloping the driveways to the proposed garages to lower the rooflines. He commented that keeping the easements currently on the properties would increase the setbacks and create more open space on the lots. He did not think this proposed project was compatible with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Paulson did not think it was right to keep an easement in place that has been determined not to be needed. He understood Mr. Steiger’s point that keeping the easement would create a larger setback, however he did not think it was right to encumber private property with something that was no longer deemed necessary.
Mr. Steiger understood Commissioner Paulson’s point. He was concerned about losing his view and felt the developer could explore other options such as creating fewer lots or gaining access from Palos Verdes Drive West.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Steiger if he had read the View Restoration Guidelines and was he aware of what portion of his view was protected.
Mr. Steiger stated he had read the guidelines and felt that if any houses were going to be built on the vacant land across the street they would be built low enough, because of the slope of the land, that he would still be able to see the ocean. He was not aware that the developer had a right to build a home up to 16 feet in height.
Fay Steiger 30034 Via Victoria requested the proposed project be denied because it would create a very significant ocean view impairment from her home. She felt the proposed homes would be incompatible with the neighborhood and requested neighborhood input on size, mass, and bulk. She requested a new geotechnical report be done on the project, as the last one done was in 1965. She read from a letter from City staff regarding view restoration in which staff determined that City trees significantly impair a view from the viewing area of her property. She questioned why trees could create a significant view impairment but not the proposed houses.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff why the trees were considered significant view impairment.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that a decision was made that the trees located in the City’s right-of-way caused significant view impairment because there was a solid row of hedges along Via Victoria. Staff determined that if this foliage were removed and the project approved, there would be view corridors that would result in view impairment but not significant view impairment.
Tim McElroy 30034 Via Victoria did not feel there was enough information available for the Planning Commission to make a decision. He did not think there was any way to determine what the view impacts would be until the structures are determined for the lots.
Rich Sittel 30020 Via Victoria had several concerns regarding the grading plan and the geotechnical report. He noted that there was an ancient fault identified on a neighboring property. He was concerned that lot designations had not been prepared. He was concerned about the height along Via Victoria, neighborhood compatibility, and setbacks. He stated this area was a very busy walk thoroughfare between Palos Verdes Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes and most people would prefer to see an open visual versus three garages off of Via Victoria. He noted that there had been no other plot plan submitted or reviewed that considered access off Palos Verdes Drive West and he suggested that be looked into more thoroughly.
Commissioner Paulson asked Mr. Sittel what additional geologic studies he felt should be done on the property.
Mr. Sittel did not think the existing geologic studies done for the two lots recently built on had been looked at. He stated that American Geotechnical had identified an ancient fault from Palos Verdes Drive West through the property.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian stated that the City Geologist has reviewed the reports and information submitted and has given conceptual approval, however additional information will be required before the issuance of grading or building permits. He did not know if the City Geologist had reviewed the specific report from American Geotechnical. He noted that the geologist for the applicant was present and the Commission may want to ask him specific questions regarding the fault. He also noted that the lot with the ancient fault has a home built on it and that the City Geologist had reviewed and approved all reports submitted for the lot prior to the house being built.
Andrew Mottrem 30103 Via Victoria stated his concerns were with the construction process. He was concerned with the pollution, dust, and noise generated during the construction and how the neighbors would be protected during this time.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian stated that those items were addressed during the initial study. He explained that those concerns had been mitigated to a level of insignificance and had been included in the mitigation monitoring program as conditions of approval.
Mr. Mottrem asked specifically about his swimming pool and what the developers were proposing to do to keep the dirt from settling in his and neighbors pools and property.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian responded that, as proposed, the conditions would require the developer to water the site continuously during grading to prevent dust from flowing onto other properties and cease grading in excessive wind conditions. He added that these conditions are available for review at City Hall.
Bill Regan 1508 Via Lazo Palos Verdes Estates, stated he had two primary concerns with the project. He did not think the project was compatible with the neighborhood, as 13 homes was too dense for the neighborhood. He was also concerned with the footprint and square footage of the proposed homes and felt they should be more in line with those existing on Via Victoria. He stated that to achieve the project goals, massive grading would have to take place at the site. He stated that the amount of grading would require approximately 2,000 dump trucks full of material. He was concerned that this would affect slope stability and flood plains within an area of recorded seismic faults, slippage, and erosion issues. He stated he had done research and discovered there may be abandon wildcat oil wells within the area. He suggested an extensive soils study be done with 3 or 4 borings on each building site. He was concerned with liability to the City and discussed the slide in Palos Verdes Estates several years ago at Bluff Cove. He stated that the slide cost the City of Palos Verdes Estates millions of dollars because of liability issues. He understood the property may be developed, he was concerned the proper diligence will be performed before beginning. He asked if performance bonds would be required from the developer.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian answered that performance bonds were a condition of approval proposed for the project.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that in looking at the geotechnical report for the project, there were approximately 18 exploratory trenches done for the project in 1998. The report addresses the underlying geology and the issue of faults at the site. He stated this had all been reviewed and approved by the City Geologist.
Jack Remp 30008 Via Victoria stated he has lived on Via Victoria for 31 years and have seen many houses built over the years. He stated that most of his view has already been taken away, however he stands behind his neighbors in their view issues. He had serious concerns about the development and felt the Planning Commission should take a second look at the project before approving it.
Sandy McElroy 30034 Via Victoria explained that she and her family moved to this area because of the peaceful, spread-out homes in a family environment. She hoped the Planning Commission would look at alternatives to the proposed building development.
Mr. Olin (in rebuttal) stated that the geology has been submitted and approved as required by the City. He stated that access off Palos Verdes Drive was considered, however because of the grade it was more logical to have some of the access off Via Victoria. Regarding the view corridor, he stated he had designed the proposed house to give Mr. Steiger a 60-foot view corridor right in front of his window.
Vice Chairman Clark asked Mr. Olin if he had met and talked to the neighbors in the area and if he had tried to bring the neighbors together for some type of group discussion to explain the totality of the project and address their concerns collectively.
Mr. Olin answered that he and Mr. Esfahani had met with each neighbor, with the exception of Mr. Regan. He stated he had not met with the neighbors as a group, however.
Keith Ehlert 927 Deep Valley Drive, RHE, stated he was the project geologist and available for questions.
Vice Chairman Clark asked Mr. Ehlert to address some of the concerns addressed by the neighbors regarding the project.
Mr. Ehlert discussed the fault discovered by American Geotechnical and stated he was the one who found the fault during an investigation of the property. He stated it was a local ancient fault and there were probably over a million local faults on the Peninsula that are inactive ancient faults. He stated this fault does not present a threat to the property or development whatsoever. He explained that ancient faults are very different from ancient landslides. He briefly discussed the failure in Palos Verdes Estates on Paseo del Mar. He stated that that was a local failure that has nothing to do with this project. He further stated he was not aware of any wildcat drilling that was done on the property and he had checked old oil and gas maps for the area.
Commissioner Paulson asked Mr. Ehlert if he had determined where the bedrock was in the area.
Mr. Ehlert responded that he had a rough idea. He stated the bedrock surface was very irregular and there were pockets of thick and thin fill. He stated that during the grading process there would be a review of the characteristic of the fill and thickness to see what must be done to mitigate the thick fill in the area. He did not think the fill exceeded 25 feet in any area.
Marshall Esfahani 1416 Via Arco, PVE, stated he has met personally with all of the speakers with the exception of Mr. Regan.
Vice Chairman Clark asked how long he and his partner had owned the property.
Mr. Esfahani answered that he had owned the property approximately 3 years.
Vice Chairman Clark asked Mr. Esfahani asked what his basis was for proposing 13 houses on the property.
Mr. Esfahani replied that he could theoretically put 15 lots on this property but had proposed 13 to work with the neighbors. He felt 13 lots were compatible with the neighborhood and had not considered less than 13.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff about the driveway setback and garage setbacks on the west side of the street and how they compare to what is being proposed.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian responded that he had not analyzed the length of the driveways from the property line. He estimated the driveways were 20 to 25 feet in length.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff how the Planning Commission could ensure the view corridor was maintained.
Acting Senior Planner Mihranian felt that it could be achieved by restricting the length and height of the residence portion that would be above the street elevation.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if there were any other comparable tracts developed in the City in regards to lot size and house size.
Other than the Alida Place development Acting Senior Planner Mihranian could not think of any, but Mr. Esfahani suggested Wallace Ranch with a lot size of approximately 10,000 square feet and homes of approximately 5,000 to 6,000 square feet.
Lee Wallack 28 Via Porto Grande stated she lives in Wallace Ranch. She explained that the lots in Wallace Ranch are all flat and the homes are between 3,500 and 4,500 square feet in size.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 9:25 p.m. the Commission took a short recess until 9:35 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (CONT.)
Continuing the discussion on Agenda Item No. 4, Commissioner Paulson stated that based on what he had heard at this public hearing he had a comfort level with the geology as it stands for this phase of the project and did not feel it was a significant issue at this time. However, he did not think he had sufficient information on all of the alternatives that could be explored on the site to address some of the concerns of view impairment and density. He felt additional work needed to be done by the developer and staff to give the Commission a better feel for the size of homes, lot coverage, and footprint so that when the Commission makes a final decision on the tract map they have a better understanding of what they are approving or not approving. He wondered if it were a possibility to build the lots along Via Victoria that have no structural view impairment. He stated that he did not have enough information to make a decision on the project.
Commissioner Cartwright agreed with Commissioner Paulson’s comments. He added that he was very concerned with view impairment and wanted to make certain all possibilities were considered to mitigate the impairment. He was also very concerned with density and lot coverage and wanted to make certain the Planning Commission could define perimeters that would ensure the lots would not be overbuilt. He was concerned about the City trees and foliage along Via Victoria and felt the City should reprioritize the trimming and tree removal activity. He felt it would worthwhile for the developer to meet with the neighbors to discuss issues and concerns of the neighbors regarding view impairment and neighborhood compatibility and discuss the possibilities of alternative designs.
Commissioner Mueller stated his biggest concern was the height of the structures. He suggested looking at alternatives to access off of Via Victoria and to consider reducing the density without getting into trying to levy lot coverage requirements or height requirements on the different properties.
Commissioner Long agreed with the comments of his fellow Commissioners and agreed that the way the current project was designed would not fit in well with the remainder of the community. He felt he needed more information before he could make a decision.
Vice Chairman Clark stated that if this subdivision is approved, this City would have to live with whatever the manifestation of it is. He stated that the residents of the City had for many years made it very clear to the Planning Commission and the City Council that they wanted their quality of life protected. He was very concerned about the density of the project and felt the number of lots should be reduced.
Commissioner Mueller moved to table the project and return it to staff to consider alternatives to the proposed number of lots in the tract and alternative access to the lots to help reduce or minimize view impairment from Via Victoria.
Commissioner Paulson asked if Commissioner Mueller would consider amending his motion to include that staff include recommendations on how the Commission should look at controlling size and density from the standpoint of recommendations on lot coverage.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Commissioner Mueller to include in his motion a direction to staff to meet with the developer and neighbors to explore thoughts and ideas the neighbors may have to help in generating additional options and alternatives.
Commissioner Mueller amended his motion to include these two suggestions, seconded by Commissioner Paulson. Approved, (5-0).
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE REGARDING NON-AGENDA ITEMS
Tom Redfield 31213 Ganado Drive stated there was a very blatant letter writing and personal appearance campaign in support of the Long Point project. He agreed with the comments made by the Planning Commissioners at previous meetings that there is not enough information available to make an informed decision and wondered what the rush by the developer was about. He complimented the Planning Commission on the thorough job they were doing with this project and hoped they would be very proud of the decision they would ultimately make.
5. General Plan Amendment No. 27, Zone Change No. 30, Conditional Use Permit No. 210, Grading Permit No. 2163 for the Proposed Indian Ridgecrest Gardens Senior Housing Project.
Acting Senior Planner Pfost presented the staff report. He discussed the May 8 Planning Commission meeting where the Commission gave some general direction to the developer regarding potential changes to the design of the proposed project. He explained that on June 15 the developer submitted some revised plans. While staff had envisioned presenting a detailed analysis of the revised plan and required findings, given the timing of the submittal to staff and the deadline to complete the report, staff was unable to present a detailed analysis. He explained that the report does provide some analysis that staff feels the Commission should consider at this time. He reviewed the concerns presented by the staff and Planning Commission at the May 8 meeting in regards to grading and the overall aesthetic impacts of the project. Mr. Pfost discussed the proposed changes to the project staff received on June 15. He noted that the number of units had changed from 54 to 52 which was done to take the building off of the extreme slope. He also noted that the north end of the building is still proposed partially over an extreme slope. He stated the applicant would need to apply for a Variance or redesign the building to address the issue. He explained the applicant moved the building approximately 10 feet closer to Crestridge Road, decreasing the setback from Crestridge Road. He noted the wall along Crestridge Road was changed from a crib wall to a mechanically stabilized engineered wall and the height of the wall increased from 7 feet to 8 feet along Crenshaw Blvd. and from 3 feet to 5 feet along Crestridge Road. He stated the applicant had replaced the two crib walls behind the building with two new retaining walls, which are smaller in size. He discussed the other new retaining walls proposed for the site.
Mr. Pfost discussed the findings necessary to approve the Conditional Use Permit and the Grading Permit. He stated that there were six findings necessary for the Conditional Use Permit and nine grading criteria necessary for the Grading Permit. Mr. Pfost discussed the Conditional Use Permit finding which states that the site must be adequate in size and shape to accommodate the proposed use. He explained that staff is concerned that the site may not be adequate in size and shape to accommodate the building as currently proposed. He stated that staff was concerned about the height of retaining walls and the number of retaining walls needed to support this site to build the proposed structure. Staff was also concerned regarding the number of two-story elements that would be visible from Crenshaw Blvd., since the site is visible from both Crenshaw Blvd. and Crestridge Road. He stated that staff recommends the Planning Commission look at the issues related to potential visual impacts, discuss them, and provide feedback to the applicant.
Discussing the streets and traffic, Mr. Pfost explained that the Traffic Committee has reviewed the project on three occasions and requested that the developer provide additional updated traffic counts as well as include the proposed 100 unit senior condominium project immediately adjacent to the project as part of a more detailed cumulative impact analysis. He noted that at the May 31 meeting, the Traffic Committee conditionally recommended approval of the project from a traffic standpoint.
Mr. Pfost discussed and clarified the other findings that must be made. He noted that the General Plan indicates that review of the location and site design of future institutional uses be done very carefully to ensure their compatibility with adjacent sites. He stated again that staff was concerned with various visual impacts of the project.
In regards to the grading permit, he noted the nine criteria the project must be evaluated on as identified in the staff report. He stated staff has particular concern with visual impacts and the specific standards of grading the project must meet. He noted of the six standards, the project does not meet four of the standards.
Mr. Pfost stated that the applicant has recently notified the City they would like to propose an alternative to the project, that if approved, would allow the units to be sold as condominiums as opposed to being leased as apartments. He stated the units would increase in size but there would be fewer units, possibly 40 or 42 units. The building footprint would remain the same. He stated the City Attorney had concerns regarding the condominiums and a letter was included in the Commissioner’s packets. He stated staff was currently working with the developer in regards to those particular issues.
In conclusion, Mr. Pfost recommended the Planning Commission ask questions to the staff and developer, open the public hearing for comments, and provide any comments and/or concerns to staff and the developer regarding the project specifically relating to the visual impacts of the project, and continue the item to the July 24 meeting.
Commissioner Cartwright discussed the many changes that have occurred with this project. He felt that in the past the Commission has been able to make minor adjustments and continue the discussions. He felt that the proposal to change to condominiums was a major change and that if this was the plan then there were a whole series of questions that went well beyond any discussions that have taken place to this point. He felt it would be a waste of time for the Planning Commission to discuss the issues and concerns in the staff report if the developer plans to pursue the condominiums.
Principal Planner Pfost agreed that the project has changed many times. He stated a tentative tract map must be filed as a result of the condominium request and issues would have to be addressed relating to the use of the site. He explained that staff had begun to discuss with the applicant the requirements and issues pertaining to the change of use from apartments to condominiums. However, since the applicant was proposing to not change the basic footprint of the building, staff felt the Planning Commission might be able to address the issues regarding the proposed structure’s bulk and mass.
Vice Chairman Clark stated that the reality of the issue was that there was some very serious land use applicability issues with the new proposal that go well beyond the issue of bulk and mass of the building.
Commissioner Cartwright felt the focus of the developer was more on other opportunities and options and not what was being addressed in the staff report or discussed with the Commission. He did not want to take time to discuss the issue unless the developer could tell the Commission that this was a serious change and would be a fruitful use of Commission, staff, and the public’s time.
Commissioner Long felt that it was important to know if the developer was going to propose a condominium project and if so, when would they present a tentative tract map to the Planning Commission and how would the Commission go about considering that tract map. He also felt the Commission should consider those topics before considering visual impacts of the building. He also raised the subject of whether condominiums could be put in an institutional zone. He stated that he had no idea what type of project he was now considering. He wondered if it was apartments or condominiums and if it was somewhere between 40 and 50 units that may or may not be built over an extreme slope that may or may not provide services to seniors.
Vice Chairman Clark felt that maybe the applicant could provide some input to the Planning Commission as to the status of the potential conversion to condominiums and what their reasoning was for this proposal.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that the City is the owner of the land and the City Council will have to ultimately decide whether to allow the filing of a tentative tract map on the property for condominiums. However, because it does bring to the forefront the use issue, he felt that input from the Commission on this issue may be worthwhile to the City Council when they consider this subject.
Vice Chairman Clark opened the public hearing.
Charles Brumbaugh 100 W Broadway #1250, Glendale (applicant) stated that on May 8 he stood before the Planning Commission and suggested the project would be moved in the direction of condominiums. He stated that was their intention and felt that condominiums were more compatible with the community in general. He stated that the reason the proposal was for either 40 or 42 units was because the housing application before the City has not been fully addressed with regards to how many affordable housing units had to be built. If the City desires to build 5 or 6 units they would build 40 condominiums, if the City requires more affordable units they would build 42 condominiums. He noted in the City Attorney’s letter the comment that the development standards for a condominium project and the development standards for an apartment building are exactly the same. He stated that a tentative tract map could be filed at any time during the hearing process. However, if the Planning Commission desires the developer to file a tract map he will somehow have to get to the City Council and get their permission, since he doesn't own the property. He felt he was in a catch 22 situation as he was trying to meet the concerns of the community, trying to reduce the number of units, and trying to reduce the number of trips. In doing this the project has changed several times.
Vice Chairman Clark asked how he responded to the City Attorney’s concern over the zoning issues.
Mr. Brumbaugh responded that the institutional zone was a broad sweeping statement about what uses can be placed in the zone. He did not think a condominium project could not be built there, it was merely a policy decision. He felt the City Council may be able to take up that decision with the recommendation of the Planning Commission. He described the condominium project and stated that all units will be restricted with deed restrictions to 55 and older. He stated these restrictions would run in perpetuity with the property. Additionally, there would be affordable housing units available which he felt was an institutional type activity or a public benefit activity. Additionally, there would be a very large community room as well as library space and senior activities. He added that they were in the process of discussions with the Canterbury to provide additional social services.
Commissioner Cartwright stated he did not recall the comment from Mr. Brumbaugh at the May 8 meeting that the developer was going to consider building condominiums rather than apartments.
Commissioners Long and Paulson also stated they had not heard the comment at the May 8 meeting.
Commissioner Cartwright felt the development standards were not the same for condominiums and apartments. He stated the condominiums had the added issue of the tentative tract map. He felt that the City used certain funds to purchase the subject property that were earmarked for affordable housing. He felt there was a fundamental issue as to the proper use of the land. He felt from a process standpoint, they were out of step and needed to step back.
Commissioner Long stated that if the project is going to be condominiums rather than rental units, there will be a different owner of the project, which he felt was one of the points in the City Attorney’s letter. He asked what guarantees the City would have that the services necessary to meet the institutional zoning requirement will be met. He felt this was a very substantial issue and should be addressed before spending time on other issues.
Mr. Brumbaugh replied that the developer had proposed to take an ownership interest in the affordable units that would allow them to become a non-voting member of the homeowners association to ensure the longevity of the affordability covenant. It would also allow them to facilitate any other uses or social services that would be provided. He reminded the Commission that there were no social services proposed with the apartment project.
Commissioner Long felt the Commission should see the proposal and plan in writing, as well as a tentative tract map application before proceeding. He stated that it was obvious there was going to be a significant change in the application and wondered why the Planning Commission should proceed further with the application before them.
Mr. Brumbaugh understood Commissioner Long’s concerns however he noted his concerns that he must first go to the City Council for them to make a policy decision as to whether or not condominiums fit in an institutional zone. He also noted that he is not the owner of the property and cannot apply for a tentative tract map without going to the City Council to obtain permission to do that.
The Commissioners agreed that they should not proceed further with the application until they knew what the actual project was.
Commissioner Cartwright made it clear that there was nothing said that should cause the developer to feel the Commission was supporting or not supporting the apartment concept or the condominium concept. He also asked that when the project returns to the Planning Commission the plan not include building over the extreme slope or else apply for a Variance.
Commissioner Paulson added that regardless of what direction this project may take in the future, when the project is returned to the Planning Commission he asked the developer pay heed to the concerns the staff has raised.
Vice Chairman Clark closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Long moved to table the item until the Planning Commission or staff has received direction from the City Council on the issue of the proposed condominium status, seconded by Commissioner Paulson. The item was tabled, (5-0).
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
Commissioner Mueller was concerned with the use of City land and proposed that on a future agenda the Planning Commission reserve some time to discuss the use of the City owned land, particularly in regards to the Long Point application. He felt that in order to have this discussion he needed information from staff to clarify the current and proposed uses of all City owned land.
Commissioner Long agreed and was interested in seeing what the anticipated growth in uses and needs of public land are.
Vice Chairman Clark felt it would be more appropriate to bring this topic up next time Long Point is on the Agenda and a discussion can then occur.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that he had raised this issue at the last meeting with regards to the currently proposed Long Point project and staff had responded that this topic could be discussed during the discussion of the zone change, during the discussion of the proposed General Plan amendment, or as part of a separate issue on the use of city land.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated it was staff’s intent to give the Commission information on the subject so that the Commission could deal with the issue at the July 10 meeting.
Vice Chairman Clark adjourned the meeting at 10:50 p.m.