CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Cartwright at 7:05 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Tomblin led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Commissioners Cote, Duran Reed, Lyon, Mueller, Tomblin, Vice Chairman
Long, and Chairman Cartwright
Also present were Director of Planning Building and Code Enforcement Rojas, Director of Public Works Allison, Senior Planner Fox, Senior Planner Mihranian, Associate Planner Blumenthal, City Attorney Lynch, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
The Commission agreed to remove item 2 from the Consent Calendar and to hear items 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 6, 8, and 2.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed 15 letters regarding Agenda Item No. 7 and 3 letters regarding Agenda Item No. 6, as well as two e-mail items that were received on the email@example.com. He also noted that there was late correspondence regarding Agenda Item No. 7, which he distributed to the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Cote noted that she was absent from the last meeting, but had read the minutes and reviewed the videotape, and felt she could participate on any continuing matter.
The Planning Commissioners noted that they had received a letter from Mr. Ortolano regarding Agenda Item No. 7.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (REGARDING NON-AGENDA ITEMS)
Before reviewing the minutes, Chairman Cartwright felt the Commission could avoid using a lot of quality time at the Planning Commission meetings in modifying the minutes by having the Planning Commissioners submit their proposed changes to the minutes to the staff, which they will then broadcast to the other Commissioners before the meeting. He felt this would then allow the Planning Commissioners to see the proposed changes before the meeting and would help streamline the meeting. The Planning Commission agreed.
1. Minutes of April 23, 2002
Commissioner Tomblin noted an error on page 2 of the minutes.
Chairman Cartwright noted a change on page 5 of the minutes as well as an omission on page 6.
The minutes were approved as amended, (6-0-1) with Commissioner Cote abstaining since she was absent from that meeting.
3. Coastal Permit, Variance, Site Plan Review and Height Variation (Case No. ZON2001-00032): 120 Spindrift Lane
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report. He explained that the applicant had filed a height variation and constructed a silhouette, and staff had done an analysis. He noted that the applicant had changed the application to add a 480 square foot garage rather than a 470 square foot carport, and as a result of that a variance was required as the garage was not the required 18 x 20 in size. Nonetheless, staff had performed an analysis of the project and believes that all of the findings for granting the variance could be made as well as the height variation. Further, Mr. Fabian, who had originally objected to the project, had expressed to staff that he no longer has a concern regarding impacts to his view. Therefore, staff was recommending the Planning Commission adopt the attached Resolution approving the applications with the conditions of approval.
Chairman Cartwright opened the public hearing.
James Maniscalco 120 Spindrift Lane (applicant) stated he was available to answer any questions.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mr. Maniscalco why he had changed from a carport to a garage.
Mr. Maniscalco responded that they had always wanted a garage rather than a carport, but couldn’t, based on the prior interpretation of story. However, once they applied for a height variation there was no reason not to add the garage rather than the carport.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the smaller garage would be adequate to park the vehicles they now own.
Mr. Maniscalco answered that it would be adequate to park their current vehicles and it would be adequate for almost any vehicles they would own.
Miles Pritzkat 23727 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance (architect) stated that he was also available for any questions.
Commissioner Mueller asked about the change of the height to the lowest point and also asked Mr. Pritzkat for his assurance that the ridge height would be the same as the original proposal.
Mr. Pritzkat explained that by adding walls to the proposed carport to make it a garage the lowest portion of grade covered by structure was pushed out a bit and dropped, however no changes were made to the overall height of the structure.
Chairman Cartwright closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Cote stated that the silhouette was very helpful to her as well as the neighbors to see the true scope of the project and was pleased that the proper procedure and process had been followed. She supported the current project as proposed.
Commissioner Lyon also had no issues and supported the project.
Commissioner Mueller agreed that the silhouette had eliminated the view issues not only for him but also for the neighbors. He felt that the addition of the garage gave the added advantage of allowing the applicant to park both their cars in it rather than parking them on the street.
Commissioner Duran Reed was also pleased that the height variation process was followed and supported the project. She noted that in upcoming Planning Commission meetings there would be at least two other homes on Spindrift that were seeking changes and addition, and asked the Commission take note that this neighborhood was in a period of transformation.
Commissioner Tomblin stated that he supported the project.
Vice Chairman Long was also pleased the height variation process was followed and the findings were made and supported the project subject to a minor amendment he would propose to the conditions of approval.
Chairman Cartwright felt the outcome of this project was favorable and was pleased that the height variation process had been followed.
Commissioner Mueller moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2002-05 thereby approving Height variation, Coastal Permit and Variance (Case No. ZON2001-00032) as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Duran Reed.
Vice Chairman Long suggested an amendment to condition no. 6 which he felt should read that the construction site and adjoining private and public properties would be kept clean.
Director/Secreary Rojas agreed that the language should be changed in the condition.
Commissioner Mueller accepted the amendment.
The motion passed, (7-0).
4. Height Variation No. 941 and Grading Permit No. 2286: 3261 Crownview Dr.
Senior Planner Fox presented the staff report as well as a power point presentation of the proposed project. He stated that, with the exception of the increased structure height proposed with the height variation, the project complies with all of the development standards of the RS-2 zoning district. With respect to the height variation application, he stated that staff believed that all nine findings could be made. He explained that the site was an apparent ridge between Crownview Drive and Miraleste Canyon, however this was the only portion of the site that was developable. He stated that the proposed home had been reviewed for neighborhood compatibility and the size of the proposed home was about average for the surrounding neighborhood. In considering the grading permit, staff felt that all nine findings could be made, and while there was a large amount of grading involved most of it was due to the long switchback type driveway and retaining walls that were necessary. He noted that large retaining walls were not unusual in the Miraleste Hills community or any other similar hillside neighborhoods in the City. He explained that the City’s geotechnical consultant had reviewed and conceptually approved the geotechnical report prepared for the project. Therefore, staff was recommending approval of the height variation and grading permit.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked if the project was required to have approval from the Art Jury.
Senior Planner Fox explained that Miraleste Hills did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Art Jury, however staff had notified the homeowners association and they had had no comments regarding the proposal.
Commissioner Tomblin had concerns regarding the driveway and the retaining walls and asked if the neighbors had seen the proposed plans and been made aware of the grading and retaining walls.
Senior Planner Fox answered that as part of the height variation permit there was an early neighborhood consultation process which required the applicant to make the plans available to property owners within a 500-foot radius.
Commissioner Cote asked staff to clarify the geotechnical report process.
Senior Planner Fox explained the process and noted that comments made by the City Geologist could be included in the Resolution and made formal conditions that are part of the action.
Chairman Cartwright opened the public hearing.
Samuel Iskander (applicant) 1901 Flournoy Road, Manhattan Beach stated that he notified all of his neighbors within a 500-foot radius regarding his project and he had heard no objections, with the exception of one family. He explained that the grading was necessary because of the natural slope on the property and the need for the retaining walls. He stated he was available to answer any questions.
Commissioner Tomblin asked Mr. Iskander if this was going to be his residence.
Mr. Iskander replied that this was going to be his residence.
Commissioner Tomblin asked Mr. Iskander if he would be opposed if the Commission suggested some landscaping and some architectural details.
Mr. Iskander did not object.
Lourdes Wan 3249 Crownview Drive was concerned about the grading on the proposed project as well as the stability of the land and the geologic study that was done for the property and if the study done was sufficient. She also was concerned about the existing storm drain and how it would be affected by the proposed home.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked Ms. Wan if she would be more comfortable if there was some type of insurance or bond posted during construction to protect her property.
Ms. Wan answered that she would be more comfortable if there was some type of insurance.
Lawrence Wan 3249 Crownview Drive stated he was also very concerned about the geologic investigation done for the project and wondered if the process through the City was thorough enough. He felt the house would be built on a ridge and wondered how that would affect his property. He was concerned with the significant amount of grading required as well as the height and number of retaining walls required.
Senior Planner Fox explained the geologic review process through the City and noted that even though there is a conceptual approval from the city geologist, once the plans have been submitted to building and safety for review there will be additional reports required in conjunction with the technical details and the engineering plans. He also explained that the construction would be inspected on a regular basis by the City building inspectors to make sure everything is being built per plan.
Chairman Cartwright asked if the lot was approved for development at the time the tract was developed.
Senior Planner Fox answered that the lot was part of a tract recorded in the early 1960’s.
Chairman Cartwright asked if there was anything unique about the slope on this lot versus the slope on adjacent properties.
Senior Planner Fox stated that the front slope is steeper than most homes on Crownview, but the back slope is similar to all of the other homes that back up to the canyon.
Chairman Cartwright asked if staff was aware of any land movement in the area.
Senior Planner Fox was not aware of any land movement in the immediate area.
Vice Chairman Long questioned Finding No. 3 of the height variation. He noted that the finding requires that the proposed structure not be located on a ridge or promontory. He stated that the first sentence of the staff report noted that the proposed structure would be located on what appears to be a ridge. He felt the staff report concluded that the Planning Commission has the authority to waive this finding requirement based on the fact that this had been done before. He asked what, if any, authority is there in the City’s ordinance for waiving the requirement for that finding.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that the Planning Commission could not waive a finding, and the finding must be made in some way. He stated that the staff report was saying that the intent of the finding was to not have a house on a ridge or promontory but since there were already houses located on what appears to be a ridge, staff felt the finding could be made.
Chairman Cartwright asked if some consideration had been given due to the fact that this was a legally subdivided lot that was created prior to the City’s incorporation.
Senior Planner Fox responded that this was a major part of the consideration.
Vice Chairman Long asked if the Ordinance granted an exception to the requirement of the finding that the structure not be located on a ridge even if there is a legally subdivided lot.
Senior Planner Fox stated that the Ordinance does not grant that exception, but the intent would be for the Planning Commission to make a finding in some fashion, therefore staff tried to identify some issues that were overriding considerations to the issue of the placement of the structure on the ridge. He noted that this was a legally subdivided lot and a substantial portion of the lot was not buildable by virtue of the open space hazard zoning and the setback requirements.
Vice Chairman Long noted that the property could be developed without a height variation permit and then this finding would not have to be made.
Commissioner Tomblin was concerned that the irrigation and other type of things that go into landscaping might be the trigger to spur some type of slide activity and asked if that was considered in the geologic review.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that staff relies on the City geologist to tell staff if there is a condition at the site that is of concern, and if so a condition is usually added that all planting must be drought tolerant or there should be no irrigation. However, he noted that there was no such concern from the City geologist regarding this project.
Commissioner Cote asked Mr. Wan if his main concern was the stability of the land and the possible affect on his property as grading was taking place.
Mr. Wan answered that this was his main concern.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mr. Iskander how he felt about providing some type of insurance during the construction of his residence.
Mr. Iskander answered that he would like to protect his neighbor and himself as much as possible.
Chairman Cartwright asked staff how they felt about requiring insurance as part of the planning approval.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that it was not a standard condition of approval that staff placed on projects and it was staff’s position that if everything goes through the proper review and the professionals do their job and sign off on the project then everything should be fine.
Vice Chairman Long asked if the condition for insurance had ever been placed on a project.
Director/Secretary Rojas recalled there had been one or two cases where insurance had been required because of major grading, but he did not recall the cases being single family residences.
Commissioner Lyon was concerned that if the Planning Commissioner were to set a precedent by requiring this type of bond, everyone that objects to any grading at all will want to have a bond. He felt this was an unfair imposition on the developer.
Vice Chairman Long asked staff about the intent of Finding No. 3 and if there was something other than the Ordinance the Planning Commission could look at to discern the intent.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that in looking at the finding, staff felt the intent was to avoid large, tall structures on ridgelines or promontories that are more visible to the public. He stated that there were undeveloped areas where this could be a concern. However, from staff’s perspective, because there are other two story homes in this area, staff believes the finding can be made in that the intent of the Code is to avoid a second story on a prominent ridgeline that is visible to the public.
Vice Chairman Long asked if "ridge" was defined anywhere.
Director/Secretary Rojas read the definition of "ridge" from the Development Code.
Commissioner Mueller asked what might have created this ridge and if it were possible that part of the ridge was created by a cut when creating Crownview Drive.
Senior Planner Fox stated that staff had looked at old grading plans when the tract was created and believed that the slope along the front of Crownview Drive was created when Crownview Drive was created. He did not think the backside of the slope had been altered. He also noted that a trail might have existed from Miraleste Canyon along the top of the area at one time.
Vice Chairman Long asked for the definition of "promontory".
Director/Secretary Rojas read the definition of "promontory" from the Development Code.
After hearing the definition, Vice Chairman Long did not feel this property was located on a promontory.
Commissioner Mueller stated that he had climbed to the top of the lot and noted that the ridge may have been created by the cut of the road and, in looking at the area it was difficult for him to discuss the area as a ridge. He felt that it blended in with the rest of the neighborhood.
Vice Chairman Long felt that what appears to be a ridge may be a result of man-made alterations and therefore is not a ridge as defined in the ordinance.
Chairman Cartwright closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Tomblin recognized this was a very difficult lot, and he was concerned with the architectural look of the house, as it appeared to be three boxes put on the side of the hill with a large driveway going up the hill.
Commissioner Duran Reed agreed it was a very difficult piece of property. She discussed the insurance requirement and noted that the Wans requested it and Mr. Iskander had agreed to provide it. She did not think this meant the Planning Commission was setting a precedent for all other projects that require grading. She felt that because the two parties were in agreement, it was something the Planning Commission should consider. She was concerned because of an example that had already occurred in Rancho Palos Verdes, namely, the project at Ocean Trails, where everyone was in agreement regarding the building of the golf course on the bluffs. Despite everyone’s claims of safety, the 18th hole fell into the water, which caused substantial loss of land, wildlife, habitat etc., and the repair eventually bankrupted the owners of the project. Although the Ocean Trails project is not on the same scale, she was concerned about geologic issues and the safety of not only the applicant, but the adjoining homeowners, and believes that either insurance or a bond should be something to look into. She felt it was important that no letters had been received nor comments made objecting to the project. She also felt it was important the Homeowners Association had not provided a letter regarding the project one way or the other.
Commissioner Mueller felt there were other driveways in the area that were as steep as the one proposed. He noted that the area was extremely steep and did not think that should cloud the judgment of the Planning Commission. He was relying on the geotechnical reports submitted and reviewed by the City’s consultant to assure the City and the neighbors that it was feasible to build on the lot. As far as the architectural look of the house, he felt that beauty was in the eye of the beholder and did not think it was something the Planning Commission should consider in this case. He was inclined to agree with the staff report and did not see any obstacles.
Commissioner Lyon agreed with Commissioner Mueller’s comments and supported the project.
Commissioner Cote stated that her main concern with the project was with the geological findings, the amount of grading proposed, and the potential unstability or side affects associated with the amount of grading. She would feel more comfortable if the findings and comments from the City geologist were included in the conditions of approval. Her concern with the bond requirement was that she did not understand the extent of the liability to the City if they became involved with that and wanted to know more about the issue before she could support the recommendation.
Vice Chairman Long endorsed a number of the comments by the Commissioners, in particular the comments from Commissioner Duran Reed suggesting the Planning Commission consider, in cases where there are doubts about the geologic issues, conditioning the approval of the grading permit on the provision of insurance. He felt it had been done in the past and there was a mechanism and language by which the Planning Commission could do it. He was not necessarily saying this was the appropriate case for insurance, but the suggestion that the Commission should think it through was a good one. Other than that, he felt all of the findings required by the height variation and grading permits could be made and he was satisfied that he could make the Finding Number 3, as he did not think they were dealing with a ridge within the meaning of the Ordinance. In light of that, he felt this was a project that can and should go forward. He felt that insurance was advantageous to both parties involved, and if the risk is low the premium should be fairly low, and if the premium is quite high it is possible it is a reflection that the risk is quite high. He felt the risk should be borne by the developer, not the people who happen to be the neighbors of the developer.
Chairman Cartwright agreed with most of what had been said. He felt it was a very challenging property to build on. He was comfortable with the geology and the process the City goes through to ensure the geology is satisfactory. He would like to see the comments from the city geologist added to the conditions of approval to ensure the developer will follow the recommendations of the geologist. With regards to the insurance, he did not think the Planning Commission had ever required insurance when constructing a single family residence and was reluctant to do it. He stated that if he had doubts about the geology he would not support the project.
Commissioner Duran Reed moved to approve the Height Variation 941 and Grading Permit No. 2286, as presented by staff, with the added condition there be insurance to cover any problems that might be caused by grading.
Before seconding the motion, Vice Chairman Long proposed an amendment to the motion to instruct staff to determine what, if any, insurance would be reasonably commercially available and to draft a condition based upon the reasonably available commercial insurance and bring this back to the Planning Commission in the form of a Resolution on the consent calendar of the next meeting.
Commissioner Duran Reed accepted the amendment, which would allow conceptual approval of the project, but require the Resolution to return to the Planning Commission for review and approval. The motion was seconded by Vice Chairman Long.
Vice Chairman Long seconded the motion.
Commissioner Lyon proposed an amendment to eliminate the requirement that there be insurance, and in its place add the condition that the conditions of the City geologist be added to the conditions of approval of the project.
Commissioner Duran Reed did not accept the amendment to the motion.
Vice Chairman Long urged the Planning Commission to reject the amendment to the motion as it would preclude the Commission from considering any possibility for an insurance requirement and get a report back from staff regarding the insurance requirements. As to the geological concerns, these could be incorporated in another amendment to the motion.
Chairman Cartwright stated that he was against adding the insurance onto the cost of building homes in the City without any idea of what that cost will be. He felt that if this was made a requirement in this situation the Planning Commission would end up doing it for almost all situations where grading was involved. He did not understand why this was being considered, as the Planning Commission had not heard anything that says this project would likely cause significant damage to the neighboring property.
Commissioner Lyon asked that there be a roll call vote on his amendment. The amendment failed (3-4) with Commissioners Cote, Duran Reed, Mueller, and Vice Chairman Long dissenting.
Commissioner Cote made an amendment to Commissioner Duran Reed’s motion that geotechnical conditions be made a part of the conditions of approval.
Commissioner Duran accepted the amendment. The motion was now to conceptually approve the project as presented by staff, but to instruct staff to determine what, if any insurance was commercially available and if the cost was feasible. Further, the geotechnical conditions were to be made a part of the conditions of approval. The Resolution would be presented at the next Planning Commission meeting for review and approval, seconded by Vice Chairman Long. Approved, (6-1) with Chairman Cartwright dissenting.
Director/Secretary Rojas was concerned that staff could collect this information by the next meeting and suggested the Resolution be presented at the June 11 meeting. The Planning Commission agreed.
5. Variance, Site Plan Review, and Minor Exception Permit (Case No. ZON2002-00108): 28304 Golden Meadow Drive
Vice Chairman Long recused himself from this application as he was not able to conduct the site visit.
Senior Planner Fox presented the staff report as well as a power point presentation. He explained the proposed project and stated that except for the encroachments the project otherwise complies with the standards of the RS-4 zoning district. He displayed the areas of encroachment to the Planning Commission. With respect to the Variance request, he stated that staff believed all four required findings could be made and felt that the proposed encroachment is the only feasible means to provide a garage that meets the minimum interior dimensions without requiring major structural modifications to the living area of the house. In addition, based on information provided by the applicant and verified in the City building permit records, a large number of homes in the immediate vicinity have front setbacks that are much less than 20 feet, and 4 homes in the immediate vicinity have direct access driveways that are only 10 feet long. Therefore, staff felt there were exceptional circumstances applicable to this property that applied. He explained that the Development Code requires the Planning Commission to review Site Plan Review applications where there are encroachments into the intersection visibility triangle. He noted that Public Works staff inspected the site and determined that the location of the proposed addition would not adversely affect public safety. The Minor Exception Permit request allows for the maximum 20 percent reduction in the required front yard setback. In granting the Minor Exception Permit the Planning Commission must make at least one of three findings. Staff believes that two of the findings could be made. Staff also reviewed the project for compatibility with the character of the immediate neighborhood and staff believes the proposed home will not appear disproportionately large compared to the surrounding homes. In conclusion, staff believes all of the required findings for the Variance, Site Plan Review, and Minor Exception can be made for the project and recommend approval of the project.
Chairman Cartwright opened the public hearing.
Ross Thayer 28304 Golden Meadow Drive (applicant) stated he was available to answer any questions.
There being no questions, Chairman Cartwright closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Tomblin moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2002-06 thereby approving the Variance, Site Plan Review and Minor Exception Permit, as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Mueller. Approved, (6-0-1) with Vice Chairman Long recused.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 9:05 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 9:15 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
7. Height Variation No. 899, Grading Permit No. 2151, Minor Exception Permit No. 573, and Environmental Assessment No. 745: 3787 Coolheights Drive
Senior Planner Mihranian presented the staff report. He gave a brief background of the property and noted that this lot was excluded when the developer sold the Forrestal property to the City in 1996. Regarding CEQA, staff has determined that the revised project before the Planning Commission may result in a significant impact to the surrounding environment. As such, the project may not be considered a categorical exemption, and the appropriate environment documents were prepared. He stated that the impacts identified in the Initial Study are able to be mitigated to less than significant impact, therefore staff is recommending that the Planning Commission adopt the Environmental Resolution.
Regarding the project, Senior Planner Mihranian explained that staff had suggested moving the proposed residence off the pad and toward the slope, thereby minimizing a potential view impairment from the neighboring property. As a result, the grading quantities and height measurements changed and the silhouette at the site reflects the current revised project, as measured from the highest pre-construction grade of the building pad. He discussed the Grading Permit, Minor Exception Permit, and the Height Variation. He stated that staff had determined the proposed project does not result in a significant view impact, does not result in a significant infringement of privacy from neighboring properties, and that the proposed structure in terms of height, size and character is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. He explained how staff felt the revised project reduced the grading quantities originally proposed, and by allowing the structure to be located off the pad outside the potential view corridor from the neighboring property. Regarding the Minor Exception Permit, staff believes this property is unique because of its configuration and location and warrants the approval of the Minor Exception Permit. He noted there is a trail easement that runs along the side property line and with that easement comes potential security and safety issues. Therefore, staff feels the increase in the height of the fence from 42 inches to 6 feet is warranted.
In addition to the applications before the Commission, staff recognized other issues with regard to the project, the first being the turnaround. He noted that a Settlement Agreement in 1998 implied the subject property would be improved with a hammerhead turnaround but did not specify the design or layout of the turnaround. He explained that the City has considered designs of what the hammerhead turnaround should look like and in concept, approved a layout that was approximately 20 feet by 70 feet. However, as a result of staff’s recommendation to relocate the proposed residence off the pad area, the applicant requested the layout of the hammerhead turnaround be modified. He showed a slide of the proposed layout, explaining it was in the shape of an "S" and provided access to the subject property’s driveway as well as access to the neighboring lot and the public trail easement recorded on that property. Mr. Mihranian explained that there was no specific design for the hammerhead turnaround in the Settlement Agreement and that the design presented by the applicant has been approved by the Fire Department and the City’s Waste Management Company. However, in light of public comments received the Director of Public Works and the City Attorney have presented an alternate design which the Planning Commission may wish to consider a more symmetrical design as an alternative to the applicant’s design.
Chairman Cartwright asked if there was currently an easement for the turnaround.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that the easement for the hammerhead has not yet been recorded. Once an agreement is reached on the design of the turnaround, the easement will be recorded with the L.A. County Recorder’s office. He noted that it would be recorded as a public access easement so that pedestrians and any vehicle could utilize the turnaround.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that, based on the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the property is located in a high fire hazard area, therefore the Fire Department is requiring the removal or thinning of brush. As such the applicants prepared a fuel modification plan which has been reviewed and approved by the Fire Department.
Senior Planner Mihranian discussed the trails on the property and noted that staff was recommending that certain trail easements on the property be conveyed to the City so that the trails recognized in the Conceptual Plan and the Forrestal Management Plan are made available to the public.
Commissioner Lyon asked the Director of Public Works why, at the end of a street like this, there would be a hammerhead turnaround and why it would not be more desirable to put a cul-de-sac in that location.
Director Allison answered that from his standpoint it would be more desirable to have a cul-de-sac at that location, but the Settlement Agreement identifies the improvement as a hammerhead turnaround.
Commissioner Lyon asked what impact the installation of a cul-de-sac would have on the applicant’s proposal.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that the City had looked at the idea of a cul-de-sac but determined that it would probably occupy most of the pad area.
Commissioner Lyon felt a cul-de-sac could be created and using the overhead showed how he thought it could be done with a semi-circle radius beginning at the end of the street. He felt a cul-de-sac was much easier for people to turn around in and it appeared it could be done without impacting the planned structure.
Director Allison stated that public works had not done a lot of studies on the geometry of the turnaround and there may be some possibility of a design similar to what Commissioner Lyon was suggesting. He explained that staff had looked at a standard cul-de-sac design, which staff determined would consume most of the pad area.
Senior Planner Mihranian also explained that whatever turnaround was put there must be approved by the Fire Department and must provide adequate access to the abutting trail as well as the neighboring property.
Commissioner Lyon stated there was an existing swale behind the proposed structure, which ends at the top of the canyon. He did not feel there was any accommodation for the water coming down that swale when the brush is removed and asked what was planned to carry the water safely down the canyon.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that there was a condition on the project that all runoff is to be diverted to the street.
Commissioner Mueller asked for an explanation on the ownership of the lots was generated in the settlement agreement, and specifically, if Mr. Ortolano Jr. was the property owner at the adjacent lot.
City Attorney Lynch answered that Mr. Ortolano Sr. own the existing improved property and there is a small lot between the improved lot and Mr. Nassari’s lot that Mr. Ortolano Jr. had used over the years and after the City purchased the Forrestal property he filed a lawsuit that claimed ownership of the lot by adverse possession, as he had fenced part of the lot, put in landscaping, and put in accessory structures.
Commissioner Mueller asked if there was any reason the street couldn’t be widened on either side, and the logical side to widen the street would be the side with the unimproved lot. He asked if the cul-de-sac could take advantage of the unimproved property.
City Attorney Lynch answered that could only happen if the City were to purchase the property. She added that the Commission could make a recommendation to the City Council that the City should acquire sufficient area from the affected properties to make any type of turnaround the Planning Commission finds acceptable.
Commissioner Tomblin asked if the settlement agreement specified a hammerhead turnaround.
City Attorney Lynch responded that the settlement agreement implies a hammerhead turnaround. She stated that a hammerhead was discussed because it appeared that it might be a more feasible way of getting reasonable access for a turnaround area that would not completely undermine the developability of the subject property.
Commissioner Tomblin noted that there was currently one trail easement on the property and asked if staff was recommending a second trail easement.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that staff would like three trail easements and noted the easements on the overhead.
Commissioner Tomblin asked if there was anything prohibiting the neighbors and applicant from voluntarily giving some of their land to form the cul-de-sac.
City Attorney Lynch answered that there was nothing prohibiting an adjacent property owner contributing their property to try to resolve a situation and make it better.
Vice Chairman Long asked if the unimproved lot owned by Mr. Ortolano Jr. would ever be developable.
City Attorney Lynch responded that it would not, as there were restrictions placed on the lot in the settlement agreement that no new structures could not be constructed on that lot.
Chairman Cartwright asked if there were minimum requirements for a cul-de-sac.
Director Allison answered that the City has adopted the American Public Works Standards which sets the size of the cul-de-sac. He explained the issue was the need to put in a cul-de-sac that preserves the current right-of-way and to do that would push the cul-de-sac further onto the applicant’s property.
Vice Chairman Long asked if the City were to condemn the undeveloped lot belonging to the Ortolano family, would that then improve the type of turnaround the City could construct.
Director Allison felt it was hard to say without actually looking at the site. He felt that some constraints would most likely be removed and there would be more flexibility, but he would like to study the issue first.
Chairman Cartwright asked if the City would accept a sub-standard cul-de-sac.
Director Allison answered that if the Fire Department accepted it, the City most likely would accept it.
Commissioner Cote asked if there would be sufficient signage as to where the trails are located.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that there was a condition attached to the Resolution that requires the turnaround, as well as the trail easements, to be adequately posted with signs that notify the public that it is for public use.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked if the concerns from the Fish and Wildlife Service that were in a letter sent to the City had been addressed in the conditions attached to the Resolution.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that they had been addressed.
Chairman Cartwright opened the public hearing.
Sidney Croft 3858 Carson #127, Torrance stated he was the attorney for the applicant. He noted that the applicant has basically yielded on every recommendation made by the staff. He requested that on the trails condition no. 28 the trail location be changed slightly, which would be discussed by the architect. He also noted that the condition called for the spa to be 10 feet from the edge of the property and asked that it be modified to 5 feet. He asked that bio mitigation measure no. 1 be waived. He noted that a condition restricted landscaping to 42 inches in height along the proposed wall and requested that where the trail parallels the property line, that landscaping be permitted at 6 feet. He stated that it would not interfere with views and was for security and privacy. He discussed the hammerhead turnaround and noted that it had been approved by the Fire Department and Waste Management and was what the applicant and the architect relied on when designing the proposed house. He objected to a cul-de-sac design and felt it would take too much of the applicant’s property.
Alex Chang 8730 Huntington Drive, San Gabriel stated he was the project architect. He distributed a drawing depicting the proposed trail easement that was located further from the home than shown on the staff report. He discussed the proposed 6-foot high fence in the front yard and noted that it would not block the view from the neighbor’s property. He felt the applicant’s hammerhead turnaround was a good proposal and felt it was unfair for the City to propose a cul-de-sac at this late stage.
Chairman Cartwright asked if there were any other hammerhead turnarounds in the City.
Director Allison answered that he was not aware of any.
John O’Connor 3729 Coolheights Drive stated there were many children in the neighborhood and the issue of a cul-de-sac versus a hammerhead turnaround was a safety issue. He explained that currently garbage trucks and other large vehicles have to back down the street, which he felt was very unsafe. He felt this was a tragedy waiting to happen as there are so many children in the neighborhood and the trucks backing down the street had limited visibility behind them. He wanted to be sure that whatever was proposed had adequate room for trucks to turn around before heading back down Coolheights Drive.
Commissioner Tomblin asked Mr. O’Connor if he had a preference between a hammerhead design or a cul-de-sac.
Mr. O’Connor answered that he did not care, as long as it actually worked.
Joan Ortolano 3776 Coolheights Drive stated that the City has the full cooperation from her husband and herself to resolve the issue of the turnaround. She clarified that the undeveloped property was solely her son’s property and not part of a family property. She felt that if the Director of Public Works, the City Attorney, Mr. Nassiri’s attorney, her son, and herself were to sit down there may be a positive solution to the problem. She discussed whether the turnaround should be private property with an easement for public access or whether it should be a publicly dedicated street. She asked who would have jurisdiction to resolve any problems on the street and noted that there is no other street in the City with the configuration that was being recommended. She did not know, and did not feel anyone could know, what type of problems might arise in connection with this turnaround in the future. She wanted to know to whom the residents in the City may turn to resolve any problems with the street in the future. For these reasons she urged the City to make this a publicly dedicated street.
Ralph Ortolano 3776 Coolheights Drive stated the residents of Coolheights Drive have been promised a cul-de-sac from Rancho Palos Verdes since 1975. He stated that this configuration appears on several plot plans for city approved tentative tract maps and was known by the parties involved when the Nassiri lot was purchased several years ago. He explained that a cul-de-sac is a standard turnaround in Federal, State, and County jurisdictions and is based on years of safe engineering practices and scientific study. He stated it has been the City’s acknowledged policy and past practice to follow these standards and nowhere in the City is there an existing hammerhead turnaround. Therefore, he felt that departing from City policy and past practice to approve a hammerhead is a deliberate non-compliance. He stated that when the hammerhead was proposed in lieu of the cul-de-sac, none of the residents of the street were consulted for opinion, approval, or discussion, even though it meant not delivering on commitments existing for many years. He also noted that the Traffic Committee was not consulted. He felt that the proposed narrowing of the street, decorative block hammerhead suggests that it is a private driveway and felt the turnaround will not be used by the public. He stated that during the last week a petition was circulated on Coolheights Drive and 102 signatures were collected favoring a publicly dedicated cul-de-sac rather than the proposed hammerhead turnaround. He noted that this was 95 percent of the households contacted. Therefore, he felt a publicly dedicated cul-de-sac was in the best interest of the residents of the street, as well as the applicant, while fully complying with the City’s policies and practices and should meet with the approval of the Traffic Committee and the Department of Public Works.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mr. Ortolano for clarification on the foliage on his property and if he would be willing to allow foliage to grow from 42 inches to 72 inches.
Mrs. Ortolano stated that the applicant was entitled to 42 inches and anything over than height would destroy her view out of the dining room window.
Chairman Cartwright asked Mr. Ortolano who had been making the promises for a cul-de-sac at the end of the street, as suggested in his presentation, and if there was anything in writing.
Mr. Ortolano answered that the intention to put in a cul-de-sac existed before the incorporation of the City and appeared on numerous tract maps.
Mrs. Ortolano added that Sharon Hightower, a former Director of the Planning Department, had verbally assured the neighbors that a cul-de-sac would be built.
Ralph Ortolano Jr. 3776 Coolheights Drive stated that it was his understanding that he had an agreement for a publicly dedicated street fronting his property. He felt that putting a wall right on the hammerhead limits the utility of it, as this would diminish the actual useable roadway area. He asked that the proposed trails be determined through a public notice and input process. He felt if a trail were placed on a steep part of the slope, human nature would be for the public to trespass onto Mr. Nasiri’s property where it would be more easily hiked. He was concerned with the drainage plan and wanted to make sure his lot did not become inundated with mud during the rainy season.
Vice Chairman Long asked if the agreement for a publicly dedicated street was in the settlement agreement.
Mr. Ortolano Jr. answered that the settlement agreement states the easement he granted will terminate in the extension of Coolheights Drive right-of-way. He stated there was difference between an easement and a right-of-way.
Vice Chairman Long read section 3.1.4 of the settlement agreement and felt it only said the City will be granted a 10-foot public trail easement and asked if the reference to the terminus of Coolheights Drive right-of-way was a reference to a terminus different from what existed at the time the settlement agreement was signed.
Mr. Ortolano Jr. answered that it was understood the Public Works Department was going to review it and be approved, and it was understood there would be a right-of-way extension to the street as it currently exists.
Vice Chairman Long responded that the settlement agreement does not say that and asked if that wording was anywhere else in the settlement agreement.
Mr. Ortolano Jr. answered that there was nothing else in the settlement agreement.
Recess and Reconvene
At 10:40 p.m. the Commission took a short recess until 10:45 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (CONT)
Chairman Cartwright suggested interrupting the hearing for Item no. 7 to hear Item No. 6. The Planning Commission agreed.
6. Height Variation, Minor Exception Permit, Site Plan Review, and Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2002-00029): 6 Headland Drive
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented a brief staff report. He stated that staff had determined that all findings could be made for the Height Variation, Site Plan Review and Grading Permit. However, regarding the Minor Exception Permit, staff analysis found there were no noted practical difficulties, unnecessary hardships, or inconsistencies with the Development Code that applies to this property and therefore recommend the Minor Exception Permit be denied. He explained that there was one minor view impact noted from 98 Headland Drive from foliage on the applicant’s property and staff has recommended that the subject tree that causes the impact be trimmed.
Commissioner Cartwright opened the public hearing.
Robert Shahnazarian 6 Headland Drive (applicant) disagreed with staff’s finding on the driveway. He felt there was a practical difficulty as they had a turnaround driveway that one could not turn around in. He explained that cars had to back out of the narrow driveway and it was dangerous to back out of. He explained that he was planning to build a beautiful home and would like to have the full effect of the turnaround driveway for safety and convenience. Regarding the tree in the backyard, he stated he had already cut part of the tree, which upset another neighbor as it provided shade to their property and blocked the view of the telephone pole and wires. He stated that a member of the View Restoration staff had visited his home and felt there was only one branch towards the south end of the tree that needed to be removed to restore the view for his neighbor, which he agreed to do. However staff was now recommending raising the entire canopy up 20 feet and asked why the recommendation had changed, as he would rather cut the one branch.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Shahnazarian to address the staff recommendation that the excess 1 percent lot coverage for the driveway could be absorbed somewhere else on the property.
Mr. Shahnazarian answered that he could not see taking any square footage from the house, as the main living floor is 6,800 square feet and the other 2,200 square feet were basement and garage. He noted that it would take removal of 780 square feet to meet the City requirement. He felt the bathroom at the side of the house and move it to the back, but this would make one wing of the house longer than the other, where now they are symmetrical.
Chairman Cartwright asked staff if they had any suggestions on how to absorb the 780 square feet to meet the minimum lot coverage.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that staff’s opinion was that the easiest way would be to narrow the driveway. However, if the applicant wishes to maintain the larger driveway, the master bathroom at the north side of the master bedroom could be moved to the west side of the house. This would eliminate the courtyard on the north side of the house, which counts as lot coverage.
Rosa Velazquez 1842 S. Elena Avenue, Redondo Beach stated that she was the architect for the project. She felt that given the large size of the lot, that one percent additional lot coverage was not excessive and would not hurt the open space of the lot. She stated that lot coverage was increased for safety at the driveway and the backup area near the garage. She felt that the bathroom could be moved, however it would break the symmetry of the proposed house. She noted that there were two large "U" shaped courtyards that were open and landscaped which counted as lot coverage. She felt that by moving the bathroom the amount of excess lot coverage would be reduced to approximately 392 square feet.
Commissioner Lyon suggested reducing a portion of the driveway to a one-car width and leaving half of the driveway where several cars could be parked on the left.
Chairman Cartwright closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Tomblin asked if the request to exceed the maximum lot coverage was a common request, and if the Planning Commission had ever granted such a request.
Chairman Cartwright could not remember when the Planning Commission had allowed the maximum lot coverage to be exceeded.
Commissioner Duran Reed felt that a 4-car width on a driveway was rather large and there was room for reduction in the width. She also discussed the tree trimming and noted that it was a standard requirement before issuance of permits that all foliage above 16 feet in height be trimmed to a height of 16-feet. As an accommodation to the applicant and the neighbor, staff had agreed to allow the crown to be raised to 20 feet, which she felt was very reasonable.
Commissioner Mueller agreed with the staff report’s suggestion regarding the trimming of the tree. Regarding the lot coverage, he supported Commissioner Lyon’s suggestion to reduce the width of a portion of the driveway.
Commissioner Lyon felt a compromise on the lot coverage was reasonable.
Commissioner Cote also felt the compromise in lot coverage was reasonable, given the fact that there was quite a bit of open space in the courtyards and landscaping.
Vice Chairman Long supported the staff recommendations. He understood the concept of trying to compromise, but he did not feel this was the best way to analyze the issue. He pointed out that the Minor Exception Permit requires the Planning Commission to make a finding, and he did not feel the finding could not be made. He did not want to set a precedent in this case by allowing a designer to disregard the code and design something in excess of what the code permits and then allowing a compromise which still exceeded what the code permits. He noted that this was a large house and a large lot, which is not the kind of thing a Minor Exception Permit was designed to address. He felt that in this case the architect designed a project, not paying close enough attention to the code, and after the design was finished the property owners became attached to the design and could not imagine any change in the design whatsoever.
Chairman Cartwright agreed with Vice Chairman Long’s comments and he too supported staff recommendations. He felt the architect designed a very beautiful home, however he too could not make the findings to support the Minor Exception Permit and felt there was the potential to re-design the house.
Commissioner Lyon moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2002-07 thereby approving the Height Variation, Grading Permit and Site Plan Review, and denying without prejudice the Minor Exception Permit (Case No. ZON2002-00029) with the modification that the tree trimming requirement be changed to provide a view that is no longer significantly impaired, rather than raising the entire canopy of the tree.
Vice Chairman Long suggested a modification to the motion to read that the tree trimming be whatever the staff determines necessary to eliminate any significant impairment of view caused by the foliage. By not specifying raising or lowering the canopy this would allow staff the discretion to determine what was necessary.
Commissioner Lyon accepted the modification, and Vice Chairman Long seconded the motion.
The motion was approved, (7-0).
7. Height Variation No. 899, Grading Permit No. 2151, Minor Exception Permit No. 573, and Environmental Assessment No. 745: (continued)
Mohammad Farooq 3777 Coolheights Drive stated he had a significant concern regarding the view from his property and felt the proposed home would obstruct the sunset view from his backyard and dining room. He stated his ocean view from his backyard would also be obstructed. He also stated that if the Planning Commission allowed the Minor Exception Permit to raise the height of the fence to 72 inches, more of his view would be blocked. He asked if the location of the jacuzzi could be moved further back on the property to ensure the applicant’s privacy as well as his own privacy and view protection. He asked if, in the future, he could have some type of view easement to ensure his view will not be obstructed.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff if any part of Mr. Farooq’s view was protected.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that the only protected viewing area, according to the Code, would be the view from the dining room and noted that the lower level and the backyard were not protected view areas. He displayed a photo showing the view from the dining room at 3777 Coolheights Drive.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the photo was taken from a sitting or a standing position.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that it was taken from a standing position.
Commissioner Mueller agreed that the main viewing area of the house was the dining room and asked if the portion of the structure that obstructs ocean and cove view is above 16 feet in height.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that it was above 16 feet.
Commissioner Mueller asked Mr. Farooq if, in sitting down in the dining room, he could see the point on the coastline and asked if the silhouette obstructs that view.
Mr. Farooq answered that he could currently see the point and the silhouette does obstruct that view.
Senior Planner Mihranian reminded the Commission that the intent in locating the proposed residence on the slope rather than on the pad area was to address staff’s concern that if the structure was built to a height of 16 feet it would impair Mr. Farooq’s ocean view. He clarified his previous comment by stating that the view impairment is caused by the portion of the proposed structure that is below the permitted height limit of 16 feet.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked if, in a height variation application, there were potential view impairments up to 16-feet would those view impairments be taken into consideration.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that a resident can build up to 16 feet in height by right and if there are view impacts they are in the by-right height limit.
Vice Chairman Long stated that when a height variation application is required one of the findings that must be made is there is no significant impairment of view, and asked where in the ordinance it was stated that view impairment was only considered from the portion that was over 16-feet in height.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that this requirement was in the height variation section of the code.
Commissioner Lyon recalled having this discussion at past meetings.
Vice Chairman Long stated that this was an area where there are alternative interpretations among the Planning Commissioners.
Nick Trutanich 3751 Coolheights Drive showed a slide of seven houses on Coolheights which represented 13 children under the age of 11 in the neighborhood. He then pointed out other homes in the neighborhood, including an in-school house that had 15 children under the age of 8. He discussed the trucks that come down the street that have to back down because they can’t turn around. He stated that as homeowners, they would accept nothing less that a cul-de-sac for safety reasons.
Chairman Cartwright acknowledged that Mr. Trutanich’s main concern was that trucks not have to back down the street, but asked what difference it would make if it was a cul-de-sac or a hammerhead turnaround, as long as the trucks could turn around.
Mr. Trutanich answered the trucks could not easily turn around in a hammerhead turnaround and would still have to back up, possibly into a driveway.
Sunshine 6 Limetree Lane displayed an approved Tract Map from 1996 which showed a cul-de-sac and trail connections. She felt the project should be completely denied and could not understand why the City did not buy the project site at the time it acquired the Forrestal property. She did not think the current proposal equals those trails shown on the approved tract map. She felt all trails easements proposed should be trails that could physically be built and used and did not require stairs.
Chairman Cartwright noted that it was now past midnight and asked the Commission, per the Planning Commission Rules and Procedures, if they wished to continue the discussion on the project or continue the item to the next meeting.
The Planning Commission unanimously agreed to continue the item to the meeting of May 28, 2002.
Commissioner Lyon suggested that during that time the applicant, staff, and neighbors get together and try to work out the issue of the turnaround.
Vice Chairman Long asked the Director of Public Works to think about what type of cul-de-sacs could be constructed and with what sort of purchases or condemnations of which private properties would be required. He also wanted to know if a cul-de-sac would be an improvement over the proposed hammerhead design.
Chairman Cartwright was troubled by what appeared to be different opinions from the staff and hoped that by the next meeting the staff could agree on what type of turnaround would be best for the project.
Director/Secretary Rojas clarified that in his opinion there is no difference of opinion among staff with regards to the turnaround design. Staff agreed that a cul-de-sac would be the preferred alternative but the Settlement Agreement alludes to a hammerhead design.
Director Allison clarified that given a choice, he would prefer to have a cul-de-sac at the site, but the fact of the matter is there is a settlement agreement that the City must abide by.
Commissioner Mueller asked that staff consider a red curb cul-de-sac where no parking was allowed and would be used for turn around purposes only. He also asked that staff consider a design to include the unimproved lot in the hopes the property could be purchased so that it could become part of the equation and allow the buildable lot to remain a buildable lot.
Vice Chairman Long agreed with Commissioner Mueller’s comments. He asked staff to clarify if the settlement agreement required the City to do any particular thing and if it prevented the City from doing any particular thing, whether it be a cul-de-sac, a hammerhead design, etc.
City Attorney Lynch stated that was correct.
Vice Chairman Long stated that the concerns of the Commission as a whole could be looked at with complete freedom. The Planning Commission could look at the alternatives, and regardless of what was decided on the application, make a recommendation to the City Council regarding the design of the turnaround.
The Planning Commission unanimously continued the item to the next meeting on May 28.
CONSENT CALENDAR (CONT)
2. Adoption of new Planning Commission Rules and Procedures Resolution
The Planning Commission continued the item to the meeting of May 28, 2002.
8. Institutional Memory Table
The Planning Commission continued the item to the meeting of May 28, 2002.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:15 a.m.