JANUARY 22, 2002
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Lyon at 7:05 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Long led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Senior Planner Mihranian, Contract Planner Gus Romo, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Without objection, the agenda was approved as presented.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed two items relating to Agenda Item No. 5 as well as a memo regarding recruitment for City Commission and Committee positions and a draft staff report prepared by Councilman Stern for an upcoming City Council agenda item dealing with expanding the scope of the Commissions.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that at the City Council meeting of January 12 the City Council discussed the General Plan and asked staff to present the General Plan policies to the City Council for their review at a future meeting.
Director/Secretary Rojas introduced the new Associate Planner, Dave Blumenthal, to the Planning Commission.
1. Minutes of January 8, 2002
Commissioner Long felt that comments from Commissioner Cartwright were not included on page 3 of the minutes and asked that the tape of the meeting be reviewed and his comments be added.
Commissioner Cartwright agreed.
The minutes were approved as amended, (5-0).
2. Grading Permit No. 2191: Larry Peha (applicant) and Mr. and Mrs. Heru Wiredja (owner), 3815 Palos Verdes Drive South
Senior Planner Mihranian presented the staff report explaining the applicant’s request to delete condition no. 19 from the Conditions of Approval. He explained condition no. 19 and that from a visual perspective, as seen from Palos Verdes Drive South, the requirement to construct a pitched roof would visually enhance the structure’s appearance. Therefore, staff recommends the Commission affirm the condition while the applicant requests the Planning Commission delete the condition to allow a flat roof.
Chairman Lyon opened the public hearing.
Larry Peha 67 14th Street San Pedro, stated that at the original meeting there was discussion about the height of the building in respect to the neighboring properties to the rear as well as slope stability; however, he did not recall there was a discussion regarding condition no. 19. Mr. Peha explained that he was proposing a flat roof over the living room and entry area rather than the pitched roof as recommended by staff. He felt a pitched roof would bring the overall plate level down, thereby reducing the size of the windows. He noted that there was a commanding view from the living room area. He stated that he would bring the grade up at the front of the building where the living room is to try to minimize the height of the structure at that point. He also felt that landscaping would mitigate the mass of the building.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that it was an unintentional oversight by the Planning Commission not to specifically address the condition at the original meeting. He asked Mr. Peha to address staff’s concerns that the flat roof would be a significant distraction for drivers traveling along Palos Verdes Drive South.
Mr. Peha responded that the amount of flat roof he was proposing would be very insignificant in comparison to the entire building. He also distributed a photo board showing other flat roofs in the immediate neighborhood.
Chairman Lyon stated that staff was properly concerned about the appearance of the house and principally that as one drives east along Palos Verdes Drive South this residence would be seen for an extended period of time. He did not think that the fact there were other flat roofs in the area was a dominant consideration. As a general rule, he did not think the Planning Commission should change the architectural style of plans without good cause.
Commissioner Mueller asked what the height of the proposed residence was as compared to the home at the corner.
Mr. Peha stated that he had worked extensive with staff to determine the best placement for this residence on the lot.
Commissioner Mueller stated that because of the size and position of the house he was concerned about the flat roof. He asked about the upper windows and what view would be seen from those windows.
Mr. Peha responded that the upper windows would encompass more of a sky view.
Commissioner Vannorsdall did not think getting more sky view was a good reason to have a bigger window.
Commissioner Cartwright asked what the depth of the proposed flat roof would be.
Mr. Peha answered that it went back approximately 17 feet in addition to the deck area off the master bedroom.
Chairman Lyon asked how much of the sky view would be eliminated with a pitched roof.
Mr. Peha compared it to watching a 42-inch television as compared to a 72-inch television, as it was more encompassing.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that he drove Palos Verdes Drive South several times to try to visualize the residence with a flat roof or a mansard roof. He felt that when this structure comes into view one is looking over the existing white house on Forestall. He stated that house always caught his attention, no matter which way he was driving on Palos Verdes Drive South. He felt that, even when looking over the existing house, it would still be the predominant view because it was stark white and had sharp angles to it. Therefore, he did not think it really mattered what the applicant did with the roof.
Senior Planner Mihranian agreed. However he added that staff felt that regardless of the type of development that occurred on this lot there will be a prevailing appearance from Palos Verdes Drive South. He noted that there was a condition that required the new home to be painted in earth tones to mitigate such concerns. He also stated staff felt that incorporating a pitched roof into the design was another way to try to soften the visual appearance of the house from Palos Verdes Drive South.
Commissioner Cartwright did not feel a flat roof was a significant issue in regards to softening the appearance of the house from Palos Verdes Drive South.
Commissioner Mueller asked what would prevent the owners from using the flat roof as an extension of the adjacent deck.
Mr. Peha answered that the residents would have to step over the deck railing. Furthermore, the roof would be designed with a different live load than the deck, as it was very rare that there would be people standing on the roof. Mr. Peha added that he has work extensively with staff to come up with a house that was much smaller and less visible from the street than the original proposal.
Commissioner Vannorsdall asked what type of roof covering would be used on the flat roof.
Mr. Peha stated that a colored rock roof would be used on the flat area
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Mueller stated that because of the location of the house in regards to Palos Verdes Drive South and the location of the house on the slope, it would be very visible from the street. He was concerned about the flat roof as he felt it would give the house a massive look from the street. He agreed with staff that anything that could be done to soften the look of the house from Palos Verdes Drive South should be integrated into the design. He did not consider the loss of a sky view from the windows to be a significant reason to eliminate the pitch roof condition.
Commissioner Long agreed with Commissioner Mueller’s comments. He felt that when there was a difference of opinion between the staff and the architect regarding an aesthetic issue, he would be inclined to go with the recommendations of the staff. He did not think that preservation of a sky view was a compelling reason to allow a flat roof with the deletion of condition no. 19.
Commissioner Vannorsdall did not think a flat roof would make an impact one way or the other along Palos Verdes Drive South and therefore supported the architect in this issue.
Commissioner Cartwright felt that larger windows not only provided more of a sky view but also provided more light as well as a feeling of expansiveness. He also felt that since the proposed residence was to be painted in earth tones and when landscaping was completed, that whether or not there was a flat roof would make little difference.
Chairman Lyon stated that as a general rule he was inclined to side with an architect when it came to aesthetic decisions. However, he understood the staff’s concern with the appearance of the residence from people driving on Palos Verdes Drive South. He noted that there have been no public comments regarding the acceptability or unacceptability of a flat roof on the residence. He did not think a flat roof would make much of a difference with this structure.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to delete Condition No. 19 of P.C. Resolution No. 2001-36 as adopted by the Planning Commission on October 9, 2001, thereby amending the conditions of approval to allow a flat roof over the living room, rotunda, and entry foyer, seconded by Commissioner Vannorsdall. Approved, (3-2) with Commissioners Long and Mueller dissenting.
Commissioner Mueller explained that he supported the staff’s recommendation and their expertise in this situation should be considered because of their broad view of City, as compared to the architect. He stated that he looked to the staff for a more fair judgment that would represent all of the residents of the City. Commissioner Long agreed.
Commissioner Vannorsdall raised a question regarding Condition No. 31 regarding outside lighting.
Chairman Lyon asked if that could be discussed as it was not publicly noticed.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that it could not be discussed without a public notice. He noted that the condition read that the exterior lighting would be reviewed and approved by the Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement.
Commissioner Vannorsdall felt that exterior lighting on curved roads should come before the Planning Commission in the future.
3. Height Variation No. 930, Grading Permit No. 2279, and Minor Exception Permit No. 596: Ron and Blanca Letvin (applicant), 6528 Nancy Road
Senior Planner Mihranian presented a brief staff report stating that there had been concerns raised over the accuracy of the silhouette. He explained that the survey of the lot had been done incorrectly, subsequently placing the silhouette in the wrong location. Therefore, the silhouette was corrected according to the new survey and the public notice was sent. Therefore staff requests the project be continued to the February 26, 2002 meeting.
Without objection, the Planning Commission accepted staff’s recommendation and continued the item to the meeting of February 26, 2002.
4. Height Variation No. 938: Lane Building Designs (applicant) and Jeffrey and Laurie Younggren (owner) 4362 Exultant Drive
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that the applicants have requested more time and staff was recommending the application be continued to February 12, 2002.
Without objection, the Planning Commission accepted staff’s recommendation and continued the item to the meeting of February 12, 2002.
5. Conditional Use Permit No. 226, Grading Permit No. 2296, and Environmental Assessment No. 742: Verizon Wireless Services, Mr. John Koos (applicant) 32201 Forestal Drive.
Gus Romo began by explaining he was a contract employee with the Planning Department hired to help out while the City was hiring new staff. Mr. Romo then presented the staff report explaining that staff continues to be in opposition of the proposal, even though it has been revised. He gave a brief history of the project and stated that the applicant submitted a revised project to the City in early January. He stated that, though the project has been revised, it has not been revised to meet all of staffs and the residents original concerns. He explained that staff has received written comments from four surrounding property owners in opposition of the project. He explained that the current antenna is camouflaged as a pine tree and a new view obstruction is being proposed in a spot where there is presently no view obstruction. Taking the view preservation and restoration ordinance into account, staff believes the mono-pine design alone is not the answer, but rather the mono-pine being placed in an area no visible to residents or projecting in front of ocean views. He stated that staff believes this installation of the mono-pine would be harmful to the natural environment by creating adverse impact and is therefore recommending denial without prejudice of the project.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if there were any other mono-pine structures on the peninsula.
Mr. Romo stated that he was not aware of any other mono-pines on the peninsula.
Chairman Lyon opened the public hearing.
John Koos (applicant) represent Verizon Wireless stated that he has met with the residents at the site and with the planning staff to discuss design options for the facility. He stated that a mono-pine similar to the one proposed has been erected in the city of Cypress and he displayed a picture of that pine. He stated that this was a state-of-the-art mono-pine and was very realistic and that the antennas were virtually invisible in relationship to the branches. He stated that he was now proposing cooling cabinets, approximately 7 feet in height and that these cooling system utilizes the natural environment to cool the unit. He stated that the noise created by this unit should be inaudible to the surrounding residents, as it produced a noise level of 65 dba from 4 feet away from the site. Mr. Koos stated that Verizon had a site to the east and a site to the west of the proposed location and there were no other carriers in between that they could co-locate with. He stated that site locations are determined by need and customer complaints.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that other wireless companies have fairly good reception along Palos Verdes Drive South without the need for an antenna tower at Ladera Linda. He was curious as to why other carriers could achieve this whereas Verizon had such trouble with reception in that area and felt they needed a pole at Ladera Linda to achieve the reception.
Mr. Koos answered that at one time Verizon covered the area fairly well. However, due to the increase in usage and subscribers in the area, what was covered by two sites is now being overloaded and a third site was necessary.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Koos if he had looked at other locations at the site.
Mr. Koos responded that Verizon was very flexible as to where the pole could be located at the site, however the City Manager’s office, as owner of the site, initially provided some direction on placement and felt that the raw land near the tennis court was a more appropriate location rather than the area near the school.
Director/Secretary Rojas clarified that the City Manager’s Office and City Council has to grant authority for the application. Once this is granted the application goes through the regular review process through the Planning Department and the Planning Department then looks for the best site on the property to minimize impacts. He explained that he had assured Mr. Koos that the Planning Department was open to any location that could best camouflage the antenna.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff to comment on the area to the southeast, near the field, as an alternative location.
Associate Planner Mihranian explained that the recreation fields are owned by the school district and the City owns Ladera Linda Community Center and the excess parking lot near the tennis courts. He stated that the transition slope by the tennis courts is owned by the school district. He thought that the area Commissioner Cartwright was asking about was owned by the City.
Commissioner Mueller stated that the Planning Commission had approved the location of a Sprint antenna on a telephone pole near the site and asked why Verizon couldn’t co-locate on that telephone pole.
Mr. Koos explained that the Sprint site on the telephone pole was a micro-cell and the power provided was very minimal and very targeted as compared to the cell site Verizon was requesting.
Commissioner Mueller asked if Verizon could substitute two or three smaller antennas at various sites for the one big mono-pine site and get the same type of coverage.
Mr. Koos stated it was not economical for Verizon to do that and there was also a design issue involved. He felt there would have to be three separate freestanding facilities in the vicinity as compared to the one.
Commissioner Vannorsdall stated that the Planning Commission has asked for an overall present and future plan with each antenna application, and asked if one had been submitted with this application.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that staff had a plan, but did not have it available for the meeting. He noted that the plans are always changing.
Don Richardson 32206 Helm Place stated that the open space in question was used frequently for soccer and there was always something going on in the field. He did not think it would be right to prevent the use of the open space by putting the facility in that location. He noted that Mr. Koos had commented that the reason this antenna was needed was because of increased customer use and it was a demand issue. He was concerned that a precedence was being set and that in the future there could be a Ladera Linda mono-pine forest. He acknowledged that the City was required to allow the wireless companies to provide service in the City, but felt the City should encourage the companies to look harder and longer for acceptable alternatives.
Commissioner Vannorsdall asked Mr. Richardson how this proposed mono-pine would impact him.
Mr. Richardson responded that the proposed tree would impact him less than the previous proposal, however he did not know what the noise impact would be at 65 db.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 8:50 p.m. the Commission took a short recess to 9:10 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (CONT)
Cecil Fleener 32206 Valor Place stated that outside of his living room is a pool and deck where he does much of his entertaining during the summertime. He stated that he enjoys the view looking up the slope as there is a lot of natural vegetation. He was unhappy that, if approved, he would have to look at the mono-pine, which he did not think looked like any kind of tree he has ever seen. He said that the area was unique, in that at night it was extremely quiet and they could hear anyone who was out on the slope talking. He was concerned about the air conditioning cabinets and the noise the air conditioning units would make.
Commissioner Vannorsdall did not think the units were noisy, however he suggested placing the cooling units twenty feet back from the edge of the slope toward the ocean.
Commissioner Cartwright agreed that if the cabinets were moved back Mr. Fleener would not be able to see them from his house or yard. He asked Mr. Fleener if he would have a concern if the mono-pine were done sufficiently so that it looked realistic.
Mr. Fleener did not feel that the tree would blend in with anything and would stick out like a sore thumb.
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Long noted that at previous hearings regarding this matter he had recused himself erroneously as he had thought the applicant was a client of his law firm. He has since confirmed that the applicant was not a current nor former client. He stated that he was absent from a portion of the previous hearing but has since reviewed the record and is familiar with the minutes of the meeting. Therefore, he did not feel he should recuse himself from this application.
Commissioner Vannorsdall asked staff if there was a time constraint due to the Permit Streamlining Act, as he felt it may be very difficult to make a decision on the application at this meeting.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that with the original application there is a time frame in which a decision must be made. He noted that State law allows a 90 day extension, which the applicant has already granted, making the deadline January 23. He felt that even if the Planning Commission were to approve the project, a Resolution of approval would have to be prepared and brought back for adoption after the January 23 deadline. However, State law also says that if there is a revised application a new clock commences. He stated that the applicant submitted a revised plan on January 11 but requested that it not be considered a revised application. He noted that if the applicant agrees to consider the new plan a revised application, a new 60-day time period would commence.
Chairman Lyon re-opened the public hearing.
John Koos disagreed with Mr. Rojas in that he felt the Planning Commission did have the option to approve the project despite the recommendation of denial from staff. He also felt the Planning Commission could find the project categorically exempt from CEQA requirements in that the applicant was proposing the mono-pine.
Commissioner Long understood the discretion that the Planning Commission had but asked Mr. Koos if he wanted to force the Planning Commission to make a decision on the project now even if they felt the staff report was correct and the necessary findings could not be made; or did he want to start a new clock to give the applicant and staff more time to gather and present information such that the Planning Commission could make the findings necessary to approve the project.
Commissioner Cartwright felt that the Planning Commission had concerns about the project and would like to work with Verizon to resolve these concerns. He felt that anything that could be done to improve service on the south side of the peninsula deserves consideration, however the concerns of the neighbors were significant and must be considered. He did not feel Mr. Koos had done an exhaustive search of alternative locations at the site, much less other areas. Therefore, if forced to vote tonight, he would vote to deny the application. However, he hoped the applicant would consider the revised plan as a new application and continue to work with staff to find alternative locations and solutions for the proposal.
Mr. Koos felt it was a procedural matter and agreed to consider the revised plan submitted on January 11 as a new application.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that he would like the applicant to come back at the next meeting and state that they had looked at the entire property and made every effort to locate the antenna in the best possible location.
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Chairman Lyon explained that the Commission now had more options available. He felt the Planning Commission wanted to accommodate the concerns of the citizens as well as try to help Verizon provide the service they wanted to provide in a manner that is not offensive to the residents. In looking at different locations, he felt it was important not to trade one set of owners concerns with another set of owners concerns and asked Verizon to be sensitive to that when looking at alternate sites.
Commissioner Mueller asked if there were any locations on the property that did not obstruct some type of view, or was the Planning Commission asking the applicant to find a location that did not exist.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt there were locations on the property where a pole or antenna could be placed that would not impair a view or impact the residents. He stated that staff would work with the applicant in looking at alternate sites.
Chairman Lyon felt that the pole could go higher than 30 feet if going higher would allow the pole to be placed in an area that would eliminate view and noise concerns from the residents.
Director/Secretary Rojas suggested the application be continued to a date certain. He noted that since the applicant requested at least 45 days to explore alternate locations the item be brought back to the Planning commission at their March 26 meeting.
Commissioner Long moved to continue the item to the Planning Commission meeting of March 26, 2002, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. Approved, (5-0).
6. Neighborhood Compatibility Update
Senior Planner Mihranian presented the staff report. He stated that a draft Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook had been prepared and the document was before the Commission for review. He stated that staff recommends review of the handbook for content and format and provide staff with further direction.
Chairman Lyon felt the Commission should discuss the draft document, however recommend not taking any definitive action on the publication until the Neighborhood Compatibility Steering-Committee has had a chance to meet and make their decisions.
Commissioner Long felt that when discussing neighborhood compatibility, the term "neighborhood" should be defined. He felt that there was no clear definition of neighborhood and it might be useful to have somewhere a set of criteria that deals with the issue of defining what is the neighborhood.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt that was an excellent suggestion, but felt that it should wait until the Neighborhood Compatibility Steering-Committee has finished with its findings. He stated that the handbook attempts to illustrate the existing guidelines and code and not propose any changes. He explained that the Neighborhood Compatibility Steering-Committee may propose changes to the guidelines and code. He noted that the definition of neighborhood could currently be found in the Height Variation Guidelines.
Commissioner Cartwright suggested the document explain why the guidelines were needed and an overall picture of why the City uses these guidelines. He explained that when he read the document he found it difficult to visualize how a resident new to the community put this document into perspective. He also felt that the document was a little hard to read and referred to the document from Pacific Grove which was easy to read and offered different size prints, large pictures, and various graphics. He felt the Pacific Grove document was very easy to read and these techniques should be incorporated into the Rancho Palos Verdes document.
Commissioner Cartwright felt it would be helpful for the steering-committee to have a copy of the draft document for informational purposes only.
Chairman Lyon suggested tabling the item until the sub-committee had met. The Commission agreed.
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
Commissioner Long asked that at the next meeting an item be added to the agenda to discuss ways to summarize Planning Commission decisions by creating some type of institutional memory file. He felt this could consist of one-paragraph summaries of the decisions that one made by the Commission immediately after the decision was made.
The Commission agreed to agendize the item for the next Planning Commission meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:15 p.m.