FEBRUARY 26, 2002
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Lyon at 7:03 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Mueller led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Senior Planner Mihranian, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Without objection, the agenda was approved as presented.
Chairman Lyon announced that this was Commissioner Vannorsdall’s last meeting and thanked him for his eight years of service to the City.
Commissioner Vannorsdall thanked the Commission for their hard work and thanked staff for their support over the years.
Director/Secretary Rojas thanked Commissioner Vannorsdall for his support throughout his tenure as a Planning Commissioner.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed four letters and two items of late correspondence regarding agenda item no. 2. He also reported that at the last City Council meeting the City Council heard and continued the appeal of the Kay antenna as well as the General Plan update. He noted the possibility of the formation of a subcommittee to discuss the General Plan, which may include two members of the Planning Commission.
Director/Secretary Rojas reminded the Planning Commission of the Livable Communities Conference on Monday in Torrance. He also noted the Planning Conference in Monterey in March.
Commissioner Long noted a meeting he attended with Kurt Nelson regarding the California Water Service site and the issues of density. He stated that the developer discussed what, if anything, could be done to address the City’s concerns with density. He stated that the developer had expressed the view that if they could get approval for density of seven houses the developer would be willing to make a donation of $250,000 to support development of parks in the City. Commissioner Long suggested to the developer that they convey this at the City Council meeting.
Commissioner Long also noted that he had read the opinion on the case of Abrams vs City of Rancho Palos Verdes. He stated that the opinion hints that the City may be heading in the direction of becoming an antenna farm and if anyone was concerned about that they should write their Congressional representatives.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that Kurt Nelson also contacted him, but he declined to meet with him. He reminded Mr. Nelson that the Planning Commission had approved the project with a vote of 6-0 and he felt there was very little he could contribute at this time.
1. Minutes of February 12, 2002
Commissioner Mueller clarified his statement on page 6 of the minutes.
Commissioner Long clarified his statement on page 7 of the minutes.
The minutes were approved, as amended, (5-0).
2. Height Variation Permit No. 930, Grading Permit No. 2279, and Minor Exception Permit No. 596: 6528 Nancy Road
Senior Planner Mihranian presented the staff report. He began by describing the depicted height of the silhouette that was constructed at the project site with green flags representing the by right height limit and the colored flags representing the proposed ridgeline. He noted that staff has determined that this lot was a pad lot. He briefly updated the Commission on the background of the project. He stated that regarding the height variation, staff believed all nine required findings could be made, provided that specific project modifications be imposed. He explained that the architect had submitted revised plans to the City that afternoon and he displayed an overhead which showed the transparencies of the revised project. He explained that staff felt the project could be modified to minimize view impairment. As such staff listed three recommended modifications: 1) Modify the roof pitch to lower the overall height of the structure. 2) Modify the interior ceiling and wall heights to lower the height of the structure, and 3) Lower the existing building pad with additional grading so that structure would be dropped to further minimize view impacts.
With respect to the finding for cumulative view impact staff analyzed the existing conditions of the neighborhood by considering the topography of the street and the different lot classifications that vary within this neighborhood, which is uniquely different from other neighborhoods. Staff felt that the unique classification directly reflects potential development patterns, and that the development patterns would not result in a cumulative view impact. Staff does believe, however, that each project should be reviewed on an individual basis to make certain the project does not create a view impact. Mr. Mihranian discussed view impacts to neighboring properties and noted that based on the analysis done by staff, it was determined that the project does impair views but does not significantly impair views.
Discussing neighborhood compatibility, Senior Planner Mihranian noted that based on the 10 closest homes the project was larger than the average structure size, but was 249 square feet smaller than the largest home within the range. Furthermore, staff believed that certain architectural elements have been integrated into the proposed project to represent the unique characteristics of the neighborhood. He stated that the project has also received conceptual approval from the art jury.
Discussing the grading, Mr. Mihranian stated that staff was able to make all of the necessary findings for the grading permit and was recommending additional grading occur under the building footprint and within the immediate yard area to create a lower building pad. Staff however, could not make the required findings for the Minor Exception Permit, as staff did not believe the proposed balcony was an integral part of the structure but rather an architectural feature. He concluded by stating staff was recommending the conditional approval of the height variation and grading permit with the required project modifications, but recommended denial of the minor exception permit.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff if they felt the applicant has agreed to the modifications they suggested.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that it was his understanding the applicant had agreed to the modifications and the recent plans submitted seem to incorporate these modifications.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff if there recommendations were accepted, where the new ridgeline would fall relative to the 16-foot green flag line.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that it would be approximately 1 foot above the green flags. Furthermore, he explained that the revised plans show that the eastern portion of the lot would be lowered by approximately 2 feet and the area where the garage is would be lowered approximately 4 ½ feet with the recommended additional grading.
Commissioner Mueller questioned the lot coverage of the proposed project. He stated the proposed residence was very massive and asked staff if they would compare the total square footage of the house, including the second story, with respect to the lot. He noted that this lot was the smallest of the 10 lots in the area. He also stated that the ratio of the square footage of the house to the lot size was the largest ratio in the neighborhood. He felt that house would appear big given the smaller lot size and the proposal of the architectural structure tends to be quite boxy. He asked how this could be considered compatible with the neighborhood.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that the code was written in a manner where the lot size does not dictate what the structure size is, rather it is based on the character of the neighborhood. He stated that what is reviewed as part of the neighborhood compatibility finding is structure size, number of stories, and architectural style.
Commissioner Long stated that most of the lots in the neighborhood were down slope lots, which helps soften some of the massiveness of a two-story structure. He felt this was in contrast to this proposal which was a pad lot where there would be no opportunity to stage or split the structure to any degree that will help it appear less massive facing the street.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that would be a concern if there weren’t other lots within the immediate neighborhood that were also pad lots with two-story structures.
Commissioner Long agreed there were others in the neighborhood, however they were either on vastly larger lots or were vastly smaller houses, or both.
Senior Planner Mihranian agreed with Commissioner Long’s statement.
Commissioner Mueller asked staff to explain the procedure of the art jury and what a conceptual approval was.
Senior Planner Mihranian explained that any development, as part of the CC&R requirements of the Miraleste area, was required to receive approval from the Art Jury. He explained that the Art Jury had conceptually approved the design and once the City has reviewed the project the Art Jury will then review the project for final approval.
Chairman Lyon opened the public hearing.
Andre Ruggeri (applicant) stated he was representing his in-laws who own the house and he would be building the project once it was approved.
Larry Peha 67 14th Street, Hermosa Beach, stated he was the architect for the project. He explained that the subject lot was a pie shape lot on a knoll, which makes it difficult to place the structure on the site. He explained he placed the proposed structure as far back on the property as the code requires. He stated that after the initial submittal there were many comments from the neighbors and staff had recommended meeting with the neighbors to try to mitigate some of their concerns. He stated that was done and explained the current proposal. He noted that the new proposed ridgeline was at 121.2, which is 4 ½ feet lower than the original proposal. He explained that the plans had been submitted three times to the Art Jury prior to receiving an approval. He stated that the approval was conceptual and prior to final approval he must submit the working drawings to the Art Jury. He noted that the box structure of the proposal was inherent to this type of traditional Spanish architecture. He noted that staff was recommending denial of the minor exception permit and agreed to that recommendation.
Jasmine Ralat 6525 Nancy Road distributed a drawing to the Planning Commission and stated she objected to the project based on the issue of the lot classification of the property. She did not think the lot should be considered a pad lot, but rather a sloping lot. She stated that the lot was very small and felt the proposed design was extremely massive and did not match the rest of the neighborhood. She felt that calling the lot a sloping lot rather than a pad lot would require the structure be redesigned to better fit the lot.
Commissioner Vannorsdall asked Ms. Ralat where she lived in relationship to the proposed project.
Ms. Ralat answered that she lived across the street and stated that this particular project does not block any of her interior views.
Chairman Lyon asked Ms. Ralat what difference it made to her if the staff considered the lot to be a sloping rather than a pad lot.
Ms. Ralat responded that it would it would make a big difference in that the applicant would then have to design a structure that would match the contours of the lot.
Ronald Kawai 6533 Nancy Road stated his property was directly across the street from the applicant’s property. He felt there was too much grading proposed for the project. He felt it would be helpful to put up a new silhouette to show the current proposal with the lower rooflines. He stated his biggest concern was that of neighborhood compatibility. He felt the proposed structure was too massive, especially on the second story level. He was also concerned that the house would appear intrusive at the minimum 20 foot setback of the front property line, as well as being on elevated land. He did not think the cumulative significant view impacts had been addressed in sufficient detail.
Al Hutchings 6520 Nancy Road noted that his home was directly next door to the proposed structure. He stated that he was opposed to the house based on the height variation and the neighborhood compatibility. He explained that when he built his home he adhered to all codes because he did not want to negatively impact his neighbors. He felt that if this structure were allowed to go forward that the applicant should have to adhere to the same codes that he and other neighbors did. He did not think it was right that the owners of this property, who have one of the best views on the street, to improve their view at the expense of others. He felt the proposal was a massive box that does not fit into the neighborhood. He did not think the lot should be considered a pad lot, but rather a sloped lot. He stated that when in his kitchen, which is a primary viewing area, he would be forced to look at a box and would not be able to see the sky if this structure were allowed to be built. He noted that a neighbor was told by staff that if they wanted to get their view back they should go up a second story. He did not feel this was appropriate.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if the current proposal to reduce the structure height by 4 ½ feet changed Mr. Hutchings’ concerns of massiveness or the height of the structure outside his kitchen window.
Mr. Hutchings responded that he wanted the applicants to improve their property, but not at the neighbor’s expense. He was opposed to the applicant’s request for a height variation.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Hutchings what his thoughts would be if the applicant proposed an addition at 16 feet.
Mr. Hutchings felt the applicants had a right to build up to 16 feet in height.
Commissioner Mueller asked Mr. Hutchings what he currently sees when he looks out his kitchen windows.
Mr. Hutchings stated he currently had a view of the Los Angeles basin, mountains, and sky.
Jane Anderson 6517 Nancy Road stated that the definition of a knoll was a sloping hill. She stated she objected to the grading, the earth movement, and the construction of a huge residence. She was very concerned that this proposed structure was located near a busy, blind corner and would create a safety hazard during and after the construction. She felt the proposed design was obtrusive and out of keeping with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Ms. Anderson if lowering the structure as currently proposed affected her opinion.
Ms. Anderson felt that the new proposal was very fuzzy. She stated that her comments addressed the overall impact of the mega-structure.
Chairman Lyon asked staff what would be different if this were considered a sloping lot rather than a pad lot.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that it would change the "by right" height requirements. He explained that sloping lots are allowed to go 16 feet from the highest existing grade to 30 feet from the lowest finished grade, where a pad lot is more restrictive.
Chairman Lyon asked if that meant that if staff judged this lot to be a sloping lot the view obstruction for the neighbors would be greater.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that was a possibility.
Commissioner Cartwright asked which home, of the 10 closest to the applicants, was the largest.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that it was Dr. Hutchings home to the west of the project site.
Commissioner Cartwright asked, if the applicant were to propose a structure at 16 feet, where that ridgeline would be in relationship to Dr. Hutchings home.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that the 16-foot mark would be slightly higher than Dr. Hutchings kitchen elevation.
Bob Ciriello 6545 Nancy Road stated he wanted his name removed from the form that he signed. He stated that he was told this would be a minor alteration and felt he was misled.
Chairman Lyon explained that the form he signed was his acknowledgement that he was notified that the neighbors were planning to make a change to their residence. What he signed does not in any way indicate his approval or disapproval of plans that he may have been shown.
Commissioner Long asked Mr. Ciriello if he had read what he signed and was he offered an opportunity to look at the plans.
Mr. Ciriello stated that he had not read all of what he had signed but he had been assured that the work proposed was simply a minor alteration to the residence. He added that he was offered an opportunity to look at the plans. Mr. Ciriello continued by stating that he was appalled at the staff minimizing the view impairment issue. He felt that the impairment of any view was a very serious issue on the peninsula. He stated that he was below the applicant’s property and he would have a massive structure towering over his property. He objected to creating mansions on the peninsula. He further felt that this home was not being built for a family to live in, but rather as a spec house. He stated that this home was one of the three oldest in Miraleste and should be respected as a historical landmark rather than ignored and turned into a building site for speculation. He was also amazed that the ratio of the house size to the size of the lot has been minimized by the staff, and felt that was a very significant point.
Nenad Viducic 6537 Nancy Road stated his home was directly across the street from the proposed project. He stated he was opposed to the project based on the height and mass. He stated that the proposed project would loom over his property. He noted that the project does not affect his view, but when he steps out of the house he would be looking at looming structure. He asked that the project be kept at the 16-foot height limit.
Chairman Lyon noted that the project was within 1 foot of the 16-foot limit at this time.
Mr. Viducic understood but asked that another silhouette be erected so that he and the neighbors could see what the project would look like.
Robert Boyles 4108 Miraleste Drive stated that he objected to the proposal and height variation because the project would infringe upon his view. He noted that he does have an extensive view and this would be a rather small percent that would be blocked. He was more concerned that these height variations seemed to be unending in the neighborhood. He felt that one height variation leads to another height variation and soon the community atmosphere and views would be nibbled away one small piece at a time.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 8:50 p.m. the Commission took a short recess to 9:05 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
CONTINUED BUSINESS (cont)
Chairman Lyon explained that the Planning Commissioners were volunteers appointed by the City Council and were charged with the duty of listening to the facts, understanding the request being made, considering the concerns of the neighbors, and understanding the property owner’s rights as stated in the Rancho Palos Verdes Development Code. The Planning Commission will then try to make a rational judgment as to what is fair. He stated that the Planning Commission is bound to follow the rules as described in the Development Code.
Victor Furriel 6521 Nancy Road stated that his view was directly over the applicant’s property. He stated he was opposed to the height variation due to the view obstruction it would cause. He explained that if the structure were built at 16 feet he would loose 40 to 50 percent of his view from his primary viewing area, which is taken from his living room and den. Anything built at 17 feet would cause him to loose another 20 percent and a foot above that would cause him to loose another 20 percent of his view. He stated that the applicant currently has one of the best views on Nancy Road and opposed the applicant building at his expense. He felt his house should have been included when looking at the 10 closest homes and noted that his home is a single story home.
Commissioner Long asked Mr. Furriel what the size of his lot was and if it was a pad or a sloped lot.
Mr. Furriel answered that his lot is 9,299 square feet and is a sloped lot.
Bonina Bradanovic 6505 Nancy Road stated that putting a structure that is too big for the property does not fit the community and the ambiance of the community. She explained that this was a close knit community and asked the Planning Commission to remember that there are families that live on the street that would be affected by the project.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Ms. Bradanovic if her remarks were based on the current proposal.
Ms. Bradanovic responded that even if the project were reduced, the size would still be too large for the size of the lot.
Mary Bradanovic 6505 Nancy Road stated that her number one objection to the project was the size of the structure and felt it was too large for the property. She explained that people move into the neighborhood because they love living there. She stated that people should not come to the neighborhood to build a massive structure and then turn around and sell at a higher price. She asked the Planning Commission to consider the people who live on the street in making their decision.
Chairman Lyon asked Ms. Bradanovic if she opposed the neighbor’s house that exceeded 4,000 square feet.
Ms. Bradanovic answered that she was not opposed to a house over 4,000 square feet as long as it was on a larger piece of property.
Alan Klainbaum 6529 Nancy Road stated that his property was directly across the street from the applicant’s property. He stated that he was in favor of the proposed project but felt it needed some modifications. He felt there were some assumptions made that were incorrect. Mr. Klainbaum distributed to the Planning Commission copies of his presentation. He stated that the lot currently is not a pad lot, as there is more than a five percent slope to the house and the lot was being converted to a pad lot by a great amount of grading. He felt the proposed design was not the optimal design for the lot and it would be better to do a different design that would minimize the grading required. He felt that staff had spent quite a bit of time analyzing something that was based on an incorrect configuration, and that staff had erred in it’s determination that the lot was a pad lot and the error should be corrected. He noted that staff referred to his lot as a sloped lot even though it has the same slope as the applicant’s lot. He felt there was a problem with the accuracy of the silhouette and only a surveyor could verify the accuracy of the silhouette, not staff. He stated he had a diagram depicting the slope on the applicant’s lot and why he felt it should be considered a sloping lot. He stated that nobody has demonstrated to him what has been done to minimize the view impairment from his property.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Klainbaum to comment on the new proposal before the Planning Commission.
Mr. Klainbaum stated that the new proposal was a vast improvement over what was previously proposed, however he felt the lot has been designed around the house rather than the house around the lot. He did not feel this was the optimal structure for the property. He felt something much better could be designed that followed the topographical contours of the existing lot.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Klainbaum about his concerns regarding view impairment and the new proposal.
Mr. Klainbaum didn’t know if the new proposal was still impairing his view because he felt the silhouette was too confusing. He still did not know what the architect had done to minimize the impact to his view.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that changing the classification of the lot from a pad lot to a sloping lot would allow the applicant to construct a larger structure than what they are permitted to do now. He asked Mr. Klainbaum why he wanted the lot to be considered a sloping lot.
Mr. Klainbaum responded that he was not concerned with the size of the structure, but rather the appearance from the street of the size of the structure.
Commissioner Long asked staff if the modifications submitted to the City by the applicant would change the square footage of the front of the façade of the house.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that the front of the house would be lowered but the front façade would not be changed.
Commissioner Long asked staff to comment on Mr. Klainbaum’s statement that the lot has been misclassified as a pad lot.
Senior Planner Mihranian responded that based on the City’s definition of a building pad which is a site which has an area that is 5 percent slope or less, the subject property does have an area on the lot that is less than 5 percent over which the structure is partially built on and from which the height measurement is taken from. He explained that if there is a portion of the lot that is being developed that goes beyond the pad, the critical 16-foot benchmark must still be taken from the building pad.
Commissioner Long asked if the benchmark was taken from the current structure rather than the proposed structure.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that it was from the current structure.
Mr. Klainbaum objected in that he did not feel the current lot is a building pad as defined by the code.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that there were different components to achieving the net result of lowering the house and minimizing view impacts. He felt the two components that affect the façade are the two that deal with the lowered ceiling heights because the change of pitch will not affect the façade, only the roof.
Chairman Lyon asked staff to display the overhead and point out the façade, which is everything above the ground and under the eaves. He felt it was obvious that if the entire structure were lowered two feet, then the entire façade area would then be reduced by two feet.
Horst Gerjets 4112 Miraleste Drive stated he had spent many hours going through Rancho Palos Verdes documents and could find no definition of "minimize" and "significant" in terms of view impairment. He therefore concluded that the permit procedure is based on judgment calls by city staff and Planning Commission. He also felt that staff had made their conclusions and decisions before visiting his home and observing the view impairment. He felt the impairment to his viewing framing was significant, contrary to the staff report’s determination from the neighboring property.
Nancy Sheps 4101 Lorraine Road stated she was opposed to the height variation. She explained the current backyard has a direct view of her property, and this proposal would further impact the privacy of her home. Secondly, she was opposed to the design and the large footprint of the house in regards to the neighborhood compatibility. She reminded the Commission that this large home was being placed on one of the smallest lots on the street.
Larry Peha (in rebuttal) distributed to the Planning Commission a landscape plan to show how the property would be landscaped and how the landscaping would help soften the façade of the residence. He also noted that the house would be set back 20 feet from the property line and the property line is 7 to 12 feet from the edge of the pavement. He emphasized that he was requesting to build only one foot above the 16-foot "by right" height limit. He stated that this house was not being built for speculation and the owners had every intention to live in the house. He explained that the owners were not building to get a better view, but to get a house that will meet their needs. He stated that the lot has 153 feet of frontage, which makes the lot appear very large from the street. However, the lot tapers back in the rear and because of that it is very difficult, architecturally, to make a deep house.
Commissioner Mueller asked if lowering the pad would have any affect on the façade.
Mr. Peha answered that lowering the pad would have no bearing on the façade, although it will help the appearance of the house from the street as the house will be at a lower elevation.
Commissioner Mueller asked what consideration had been given to minimizing the view impacts of the neighbors.
Mr. Peha explained that he had gone to Dr. Hutchings property and looked at the view. He stated that where the existing house sits takes a slice of the view from Dr. Hutchings.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the house could be lowered to 16 feet in height.
Mr. Peha responded that he has lowered the house as much as he could without changing the entire design. He explained that the slope of the driveway was very critical and was currently at 13.8 percent. He felt that one more foot would make the driveway too steep to be functional. He explained that the garages would be stepped and that one garage would only have a 7 ½ foot ceiling.
Mr. Letvin (owner) stated that he had no intention of selling his home and planned on living in it. In designing his home he had no idea he would offend so many neighbors. He explained that the Art Jury had required the design of a boxy type house, and the house had to blend in with the rest of the neighborhood. He stated that he had done everything the Art Jury required and was now trying to comply with what the Planning Commission asked.
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Long began by discussing the findings for the height variation. He was satisfied that the applicant had complied with the early neighborhood consultation process. However, he felt there were a number of findings that could not be made and he explained he was making that judgment based on the site silhouette he was able to view. He acknowledged that modifications had been proposed, however he had not been able to see a silhouette based on the modifications and therefore he did not think the modifications were before the Planning Commission, or could be considered unless a new silhouette were done. Discussing finding no. 4, which requires the structure to be designed and situated in such a way as to minimize impairment of views, Commissioner Long did not feel that this finding could be made. He noted that the Art Jury has decided to not allow modifications to the design that would minimize the impairment of views. He discussed finding no. 6 regarding view impairment from the viewing area of another parcel. He did not feel there were significant view impairments from 6529 Nancy Road or 4108 Miraleste Drive, however he did feel views were significantly impaired from 6521 Nancy Road, 6520 Nancy Road, and 4112 Miraleste Drive. He also felt there was a cumulative effect on views, because the project created a moderate impairment of views from quite a great number of homes, and accordingly finding No. 5 could not be made.
Commissioner Long discussed finding no. 8 regarding neighborhood compatibility. He noted this finding posed the most serious problems. He felt it was conceivable, with substantial redesign, that something similar to what they had seen might not significantly impact views. However he did not think he had seen anything that would satisfy finding no. 8. He noted the house was on the smallest lot in the neighborhood, yet the proposed project was much larger than the average house in the neighborhood. He stated that one of things that persuaded him most extensively of the massive, boxy nature of the project was the architect’s drawings shown at the meeting. Additionally, he felt the lot was constructed on a pad which accentuates the mass that is visible from the street, unlike the vast majority of houses in the neighborhood built on down slope lots. He noted that the only other houses built on pad lots in the neighborhood are either significantly smaller homes or built on significantly larger lots, or both. He felt the house would be disproportionately massive when compared to everything else in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Long stated that the same findings needed to be made for the grading permit as the height variation in terms compatibility. Since he did not think the findings could be made for the height variation, he did not think they could be made for the grading permit, and therefore neither permit should be issued.
Commissioner Cartwright felt this was a very difficult situation, as the job of the Planning Commission is to try to balance the rights of the property owner with the interest of the City and the concerns of the surrounding homeowners who are affected by the proposal. When driving in the neighborhood, he found similar homes to the one proposed scattered throughout the area. He did not think there was any real consistent feature in the design of the houses in the neighborhood other than the color and roofing materials. He felt that the Art Jury process was an additional effort to ensure that there is some integrity in the design of the remodels of the homes in the area, as they are charged with ensuring there is some consistency in the design, color, and materials used. While it doesn’t control what the Planning Commission does, he felt that it was another board made up of volunteers to ensure that things do not go into the area that are out of place. He stated that his own observations agree with the staff report in that the proposed home, in terms of design and mass, is compatible with the neighborhood. He did not feel privacy was a significant issue
In terms of view impairment, Commissioner Cartwright felt the current silhouette significantly impaired views. However, when looking at the new proposal with the additional lowering of the pad, he felt that the mass, bulk, and view impairment had been significantly reduced. He acknowledged that there would be a lot of grading involved, however he did not think it was excessive and was required to minimize the view impairment. He felt that any approval made should condition that the pine tree be removed.
Commissioner Vannorsdall felt that once again the Planning Commission was looking at a neighborhood that was in transition. He felt it was important economically to have a reasonable balance between the value of the home and the lot that it sits on. If that doesn’t occur, he felt there would be a degradation of the neighborhood over time. He did not think the proposal would cause significant view impairment, particularly if the pine trees were removed. He was bothered by the massive look of the house and would like to see a little more articulation. He felt it was a little disproportionate to put such a large house on one of the smallest lots.
Commissioner Mueller felt the neighborhood consultation process had occurred. He agreed with the staff report concerning findings 2 and 3. However, regarding finding 4, he did not feel the house had been designed to minimize the view impairment from a number of properties. In their approvals, he felt the Art Jury concentrated more on the style of the house as opposed to concentrating on the house and how if fits onto the lot and into the neighborhood. He didn’t feel the Art Jury took into account the views from the area and felt that was part of the duty of the Planning Commission. He felt the modifications presented a start to address the issue of view impairment, he didn’t think enough articulation had been done on the house and it was not at a point where he was satisfied that enough design modifications had been made to minimize view impairment. Therefore, he did not think he could make finding no. 6. Discussing finding no. 8, neighborhood compatibility, Commissioner Mueller felt this was a large structure being put on a rather small lot. He felt the house, because of the location, was going to look a lot bigger and more massive than other homes in the neighborhood. He felt that in a situation where there is quite a bit of discussion about exactly where the flags will be for the revised plan, it would be important to have the property re-silhouetted so that people can actually see what the view impairment will be with the revised plans. He agreed that the pine tree should be removed, and felt there was enough of an impairment from several different properties that one could argue there was a foliage issue. Commissioner Mueller agreed with staff regarding denial of the Minor Exception Permit.
Chairman Lyon felt that many of the Commissioners had made good points. He was particularly sensitive to the concerns of the neighbors. He stated that the Planning Commission had seen many times the situation where someone wants to do something to their lot and it brings out all of the neighbors who are concerned about any change at all. However, he noted that property owners do have rights and the Planning Commission must balance those rights with the seriousness of the concerns of the neighbors. He agreed with Commissioner Cartwright’s comments. He did not have a problem with compatibility because he thought the style of the home was consistent with the neighborhood and was not bothered by its size. He understood and appreciated the view impact that some neighbors felt they would incur however he felt the view impacts, with the changes made in the application, are not significant. He felt the appearance was key. He acknowledged that the house was large compared to the lot size, but noted that people see the house from the front. He noted that there was a 153 foot frontage on this property. He stated that the applicants had met the requirements for lot coverage and house size.
Chairman Lyon did not think cumulative view impact had anything to do with the fact that a project may impact the views of many people. Rather, he felt cumulative view impact meant that if the project were approved then others may then come forward and want to propose similar changes to their home and the cumulative impact would be that of many people wanting to do the same thing and does that have a negative impact on the neighborhood. He did not think this was the case in this neighborhood as each case would be distinctly different and must be weighed on its own merits.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2002-01, thereby approving the staff recommendations as presented, seconded by Commissioner Vannorsdall.
Director/Secretary Rojas suggested that because revised plans were delivered to the City today that implement the modifications, and because grading quantities are still pending from the applicant, staff would recommend that if the Commission is inclined to approve the project that it be a conceptual approval with the Resolution coming back to the Planning Commission at the next meeting.
Chairman Lyon felt that the Planning Commission would be approving the project contingent on the plans coming in as they understand them to be.
Senior Planner Mihranian noted that condition no. 9, establishing the height requirements, should be modified to include the actual benchmarks which are based on the revised plans. He stated that the maximum ridgeline would be 121.5 feet, the height measured from the highest existing grade would be 104.95, and the lowest finished grade would be 97.2 feet.
Commissioner Long urged his colleagues to vote against the motion. He said he was very concerned with neighborhood compatibility. He realized that this house would not be the largest house in the neighborhood, but he felt that given the nature of the other lots which were mainly down slope lots, many people may come in with proposals for much larger additions and will be able to show that those additions look much less massive from the street than this one will look. He was concerned that this neighborhood could go from the existing 2,500 square foot homes to homes as large as 5,000 square feet. He stated that the purpose of the neighborhood compatibility ordinance was not just to determine if proposals looked like other houses in the neighborhood and generally fit in, but to also set some upper limit on density in the neighborhood. He felt this house would be the beginning of a major change in the density of the neighborhood.
Commissioner Cartwright argued that a 3,200 square foot house was not exceptionally large. He did not think any precedence was being set by the approval of this project, as every application that comes before the Planning Commission has to stand on its own merit. Additionally, any proposed project in Miraleste has the approval of the Art Jury, which he felt was a very conservative body. Therefore, he did not think there was anything the Planning Commission was doing that should cause anyone else in the area to feel they can come forth and get the same thing. He also felt that if there was anything consistent in the neighborhood it was the inconsistency of the design of the homes. He also noted that there were other homes in the neighborhood with the same rectangular shape as the proposed project.
Commissioner Mueller questioned whether the Art Jury was conservative in their judgment when considering square footage and noted that homes are much bigger in Palos Verdes Estates than in the Miraleste area. He also discussed the narrow streets in the area as compared to the much wider streets in Palos Verdes Estates. He discussed the need to put a new silhouette on the property so that the modifications could be viewed by the neighbors and suggested the item be continued until the new silhouettes have been constructed
Commissioner Cartwright stated the he was sensitive to the need for all to understand the height of the proposed structure, however in this case the green flags currently at the site are very close to the modified design height.
After a roll call vote the motion was approved, (3-2) with Commissioners Long and Mueller dissenting.
3. Coastal Permit, Variance, and Site Plan Review Case No. ZON2001-00032: 120 Spindrift Lane
Commissioner Long moved to waive the reading of the staff report and continue the item to the meeting of March 26, 2002, seconded by Commissioner Mueller. Approved, (5-0).
4. Review procedure for exterior lighting for homes on curved roads
Commissioner Vannorsdall felt that staff could best handle exterior lighting through conditions that are appropriate based on the project.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt that was the best approach and the Planning Commissioners agreed.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:20 p.m.