CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
NOVEMBER 26, 2002
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Cartwright at 7:00 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Lyon led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Duran Reed, Lyon, Mueller, Tomblin, Vice Chairman Long, Chairman Cartwright.
Absent: Commissioner Cote was excused.
Also present were Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Rojas, Assistant Planner Luckert, Assistant Planner Yu, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Commissioner Lyon suggested addressing Item No. 9 before addressing Item No. 5.
Commissioner Mueller felt that a making a decision on Item No. 9 could have a direct affect on Item No. 5, and as Item No. 5 was a continued item, he did not feel it was appropriate to consider a code interpretation until the continued item had been heard. He felt that Item No. 5 should be completely independent of Item No. 9. Further, regarding Item No. 9, he felt it was important that all Commissioners should participate in the discussion, as it was a very important interpretation of a very descriptive item in the Development Code. He therefore felt that the order of items on the Agenda was appropriate and did not support Commissioner Lyon’s suggestion.
Commissioner Tomblin felt that it would be helpful having the interpretation of Item No. 9 when making his decision regarding Item No. 5.
Vice Chairman Long stated that the Planning Commission had continued Item No. 5 for the sole purpose of determining whether the directive adopted to lower one of the walls would cause structural damage. Therefore, he felt the only appropriate item to be discussed in Item No. 5 should be the opinion staff received from the City’s structural engineer and whether or not the prior directive established by the Planning Commission would or would not cause structural damage. He therefore felt that Item 9 was a separate issue and Item No. 5 should be addressed first.
Commissioner Duran Reed felt that Item No. 5 was considered under a certain set of guidelines and did not feel it was appropriate to potentially change the current method to apply to a current, pending application. She therefore did not support discussing Item No. 9 before Item No. 5.
Commissioner Lyon explained that he felt there was a faulty provision in the Code that was being interpreted incorrectly. In the case of Item No. 5, the provision has a direct bearing on the outcome, and felt it was important that the Planning Commission correct a faulty code before making a decision using the old code.
Commissioner Lyon moved to hear Agenda Item No. 9 before Agenda Item No. 5, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. The motion failed, (3-3) with Commissioners Duran Reed, Mueller, and Vice Chairman Long dissenting.
Vice Chairman Long moved to approve the Agenda as presented, with the exception of moving Agenda Item No. 1 after Agenda Item No. 10, seconded by Commissioner Mueller. Approved, (6-0).
Director/Secretary Rojas reported that at the last City Council meeting, the City Council had continued the hearing on the Planning Commission’s denial of CPH’s request to modify existing lots.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed one item of correspondence relating to Agenda item No. 5, one item of correspondence for Agenda item No. 4, an exhibit relating to Agenda item No. 7, and suggested changes to the minutes from Commissioners Duran Reed and Mueller.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (REGARDING NON AGENDA ITEMS)
2. Tentative Parcel Map No. 25896: 3440 Via Campesina
Vice Chairman Long moved to waive the reading of the staff report, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. There being no objection, the staff report was waived.
Commissioner Lyon moved to approve the requested 1-year extension thereby setting the final expiration date as November 28, 2003, with all conditions of approval remaining in full force and effect, seconded by Commissioner Duran Reed. Approved, (6-0).
3. Variance, Height Variation and Site Plan Review (Case No. ZON2002-00361): 4372 Admirable Drive
Commissioner Duran Reed moved to approve the Resolution as presented by staff, thereby adopting P.C. Resolution No. 2002-31, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, (4-1-1) with Commissioner Mueller dissenting and Vice Chairman Long abstaining since he was absent from the meeting at which the item was discussed.
Commissioner Mueller stated that the Resolution correctly reflects the decision made by the Planning Commission, but noted that he was still opposed to the project.
4. Variance and Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2001-00176): 3340 Palos Verdes Drive East
Vice Chairman Long noted that he had not had the opportunity to conduct a site visit, as he was attending a family funeral, and recused himself from hearing the item.
Assistant Planner Yu presented the staff report. She explained the proposed project, and noted that at the July 2002 meeting the Planning Commission had raised a concern that the most impacted neighbors had not been involved in neighborhood meetings regarding the project. Furthermore, staff had expressed concerns regarding the designs of the mechanical equipment enclosure, the amount of grading, and the height of the retaining wall. As such, the Planning Commission had directed the applicant to work with neighbors and staff to address the concerns expressed. She explained that the applicant has since revised the plans to addressed issues raised. She explained the modifications presented in the staff report. She stated that staff has analyzed the revisions and determined that the revised plans address the concerns of the neighbors and staff, and recommends the Planning Commission approve the project with the conditions set forth in the staff report.
Commissioner Mueller asked what criteria were required to grant a Variance.
Assistant Planner Yu answered that in order for the City to grant a Variance, there were four findings that must be made, and noted that these findings were in the staff report.
Commissioner Mueller noted that it was staff’s opinion that the roof top equipment could be allowed as long it was screened. He felt that the Code was specific in that the air conditioning equipment and the screening were not allowed in residential areas.
Director/Secretary Rojas agreed that the air conditioning units and screening on the roof were prohibited in the Code, which was why staff had originally recommended denial of the application. However, he noted that at the last Planning Commission meeting there was some consensus that if the applicant was able to work with the neighbor and address her concerns, the Planning Commission could support the request.
Commissioner Mueller asked, if the Planning Commissioner were to approve the Variance to allow the rooftop equipment, would it then set precedence for future requests and approvals for rooftop mechanical equipment.
Director/Secretary Rojas did not feel this application would set precedence, as the conditions on this property were very unique where staff felt they could support the Variance request. He noted that if someone else were to come to the City with a similar application, the Variance would not necessarily be approved as cases were reviewed strictly on a case-by-case basis.
Commissioner Mueller felt that there were many open areas on the applicant’s property where air conditioning equipment could be placed. He asked if staff felt there were alternate locations on the property where the equipment could be placed.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the Building Official had felt that these types of air conditioning units are not normally seen in residential areas, and did not see how they could be relocated off the roof.
Commissioner Mueller asked if it was the type of air conducting unit that was preventing the applicant from relocating the equipment, rather than topography or area of the property.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that it was his understanding from the Building Official.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked why the Code did not allow air conditioning units on rooftops in residential areas.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the main reason was because they were unsightly and there could be an issue of view impairment.
Commissioner Tomblin asked staff if, based on the fact there was no attic space and there was a flat roof, there was any other way ducts could be installed at the applicant’s house.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that this is what makes this case unique and why the Planning Commission was considering a Variance. He stated if the preferred system is ducting, as the applicant is proposing, the Building Official did not see any other place to put the ducting.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked staff if they had looked into whether the original radiant heating system could be replaced or repaired.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that staff did not know if the radiant heating system could be replaced or repaired.
Chairman Cartwright asked if there had ever been air conducting on the subject property.
Assistant Planner Yu answered that, according to the applicant, there had been air conditioning on the property.
Chairman Cartwright asked what the height of the units on the rooftop.
Assistant Planner Yu answered that the units were less than four feet in height.
Chairman Cartwright asked if staff had proposed an alternative to the applicant of raising the roof rather than installing the pyramids.
Assistant Planner Yu explained that staff had discussed raising the roof, however staff felt that doing so would block the neighbor’s view.
Chairman Cartwright asked if the view being discussed was a protected view,
Assistant Planner Yu answered that it was a protected view, as the view was from the living room of the neighbor’s property.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the view from the neighbor’s property was a protected view, however staff also recognized that the applicant has the right under the current code to build up to sixteen feet in height without a height variation and the protected view finding would not have to be made.
Chairman Cartwright opened the public hearing.
Ray Medak 2814 Baywater, San Pedro, stated that he was the architect for the project. He explained that the units on the roof were air conducting and heating units combined and approximately 3-feet, 7-inches high. He also explained that he and the applicant had researched fixing and/or retrofitting the existing radiant heating unit in the home, and discovered that the ducting in the floor is calcified and restricting the actual flow of water and was therefore no longer efficient. He explained that in order to fix the ducting it would be necessary to tear up the entire concrete floor, which is the structural system in the building. He further explained that one of the reasons the ducts were placed on the roof was that the house is situated on a hillside where there is no room to put the units on the ground near the home. He did think a standard roof could be built on this home, however in doing so would be detrimental to the neighbor’s view and would not correspond to the style of the existing home. Mr. Medak stated that he and the applicant agree with the recommendations in the staff report, however noted that the applicant would prefer the pyramid shape screening rather than the box shaped screening.
Chairman Cartwright asked if one of the purposes of the screening was to muffle some of the sound of the units.
Mr. Medak responded that the screening would not only muffle some of the sound of the units, but also help camouflage the actual units.
Chairman Cartwright asked if the height of the screening was limited to approximately six inches above the equipment and the shape changed slightly to accommodate the shorter design, if the applicant would agree to the change.
Mr. Medak answered that this had been discussed with the neighbors and Mr. Ferrar had been very receptive to this option.
Chairman Cartwright asked Mr. Medak if he felt it would be too costly to replace the old ducting in the slab with new ducting
Mr. Medak responded that the cost was almost prohibitive.
Commissioner Mueller asked Mr. Medak if he agreed with staff’s opinion that the air conditioning units were commercial rather than residential.
Mr. Medak responded that the air conditioning units were residential not commercial, based on the size, volume, and BTU’s produced by the units.
Commissioner Mueller asked Mr. Medak to explain why these units were placed on the roof and not on the ground,
Mr. Medak explained that there was not enough room on the property to put them on the ground. He noted that there appeared to be room near the driveway area, however he pointed out that the only feasible area was where the septic tank is currently located.
Commissioner Mueller asked if there was room to place the air conditioners on the slope on the north end of the house as it faces down the canyon.
Mr. Medak did not think the Planning Department would allow the air conditioning units on hillside or slopes.
Commissioner Mueller felt it could be placed there if a pad and retaining wall were built.
Commissioner Mueller then discussed the idea of baseboard heating, and did not understand why baseboard heating would not work in this home.
Mr. Medak explained that the problem was how to run all of the electrical components through the existing structure. He noted that baseboard heating requires 220 volts and the existing house is 120 volts. The other issue he noted was that baseboard heating does not provide air conditioning.
Commissioner Mueller stated that air conditioning is not required in homes and that the issue should be how to heat the existing home based on the building code.
Commissioner Tomblin asked what the proposed construction materials would be for the squares and the pyramids proposed for the roof.
Mr. Medak answered that the squares would be constructed of a wood siding to match the existing home and the pyramids would be a latticework structure.
Mark Cruz 3330 Palos Verdes Drive East stated that he has only been living in this home for five days and was not aware of any of the existing issues before buying the home. He expressed his concern to maintain what little view he has. He stated that the view was one of the reasons he bought the property and if he had been aware of the current situation and the possible loss of the view, he may have been influenced to look for another property. He pointed out that if the applicant is allowed to build up to 16-feet in height in this area, he would loose his entire view, and was therefore in full support of the pyramid design. He noted that other neighbors may be slightly impacted by what is ultimately built at this property, but nobody would be impacted to the extent that he would. Mr. Cruz discussed the retaining wall, and was very concerned that it is as close as three feet to the property line at a certain point. He was also very concerned with the drainage at this area.
Chairman Cartwright noted that the air conditioning and ducting at the applicant’s home was existing when Mr. Cruz bought his home and he had to be aware that it was there.
Mr. Cruz stated that he was very aware that the air conditioning was on the roof, however he was willing to look at the ducts rather than have the applicant build his roof line up to sixteen feet in height, at which point he would lose all of his view.
Commissioner Mueller asked Mr. Cruz if he would prefer to have the air conditioning units and duct work off of the roof and on the ground.
Mr. Cruz answered that in a perfect world that would be the way he would like it, however he was very concerned that the applicant was going to build his roof up to the sixteen-foot height limit, and he stressed again that he would rather look at the air conditioning and ductwork than lose his view.
With respect to the retaining wall and the property line, Commissioner Mueller asked Mr. Cruz if he had a survey done to accurately locate the property line.
Mr. Cruz answered that since he has only been in the house and aware of the situation for a very short time he had not yet had a survey done, but intended to do so.
Chairman Cartwright noted a table in the staff report showing the setbacks, which indicated that there was no encroachment of the shed into the setback. He asked staff to comment on the drainage issue discussed by Mr. Cruz.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the previous owners, the French-Campbells, wrote a letter raising issues regarding drainage being directed onto their property. He explained that when plans are submitted to Building and Safety for plan check, a drainage plan is required that is reviewed and approved, and it is not allowed to direct drainage onto someone else’s property. Therefore, all drainage issues would be addressed during the plan check process.
Chairman Cartwright asked to what height the applicant was entitled to raise the roof height.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that he could raise the roof height to 16-feet, and that the code clearly states that any structure over 16 feet in height requires a height variation.
Chairman Cartwright asked if there was any conflict with regard to a view versus that right to build up to 16 feet.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated there was no conflict in regards to building up to 16 feet in height and the loss of views. He noted that there was a Variance before the Commission in which one of the findings was that the proposed structure would not be detrimental to the public welfare. Therefore, the Planning Commission still had the ability to have a zero tolerance for view impacts by denying the Variance, if they so chose.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mr. Cruz if he felt there would be a view impact to his property if the applicant were to build his roof height up to 16 feet.
Mr. Cruz felt there may be an impact, however there would be an impact to his view no matter what the applicant did, and at this point he was looking at the lesser of two eyesores. He felt that covering the roof ducts would be less invasive to his view than allowing the applicant to raise the height of his roof to 16 feet.
Lorie Zorn 3330 Palos Verdes Drive East stated that her main concern was the view, and that she preferred the coverings that the applicant was proposing over building the roof line up to 16 feet in height. Regarding the retaining walls, she was also concerned with the drainage, however as long as it was looked at carefully in plan check and the drainage was not allowed to drain onto her property, she was satisfied.
Chairman Cartwright closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Lyon felt that the applicant, in working with staff and the neighbors, has come up with a reasonable compromise, particularly in regards to the grading and the retaining wall. He felt the pyramid design on the roof made the most sense, as it minimizes the view impairment. He suggested truncating the top of the pyramids to reduce the view impairment even more. Therefore, he supported the project.
Commissioner Tomblin stated that he was relying on the staff report when it stated that the air conditioning equipment could not be placed on the ground, and because of that the only alternative was to place the equipment on the roof. He did feel that all of the ductwork should be covered, including the flat ductwork, as over the years it would deteriorate. Regarding the grading, he understood that with the removal of certain layers of the block wall that would satisfy the situation. He was concerned about the aesthetics of the wall and the finish to be used on the wall. He was also concerned about the shed, as he did not feel it added to the rural nature of the canyon area.
Commissioner Duran Reed did not think that the triangular shaped coverings proposed to screen the heating and air conditioning on the roof were in any way compatible with the rest of the neighborhood. She was also very concerned about the view from the neighboring property. She felt that 30 inches would take away a significant portion of the view from that property, and that the triangular coverings were too large. She was not convinced that there were no alternatives to putting the heating and air conditioning on the roof of the home, and noted there was a lot of space on the south side of the property as well as near the pool. She noted that heating was a requirement in homes, however air conditioning was not. She stated that the fact that the ducting and air conditioning was done without permits was significant to her, especially since the placement affects the views from neighboring properties. She acknowledged that the applicant has been willing to work with his neighbors, however did not feel this proposal was compatible with the neighborhood and could not support it.
Commissioner Mueller asked staff, if in their opinion and knowledge of the property lines, whether the foliage along the entry blocking some of the views was owned by the applicant.
Assistant Planner Yu answered that staff did not determine if that foliage was on the applicant’s or the neighbor’s property, however staff could consult the survey.
Commissioner Mueller asked if there was a condition requiring the applicant’s foliage to be trimmed to 16 feet or ridgeline.
Assistant Planner Yu answered that there was a condition of approval requiring the applicant to trim the foliage to open up the view from the neighbor’s property.
Commissioner Mueller discussed the grading and noted that the grading would increase the useable flat area of the property substantially and felt there was more than enough room to turn cars around, and he did not understand why there was not a place on the property to place the air conditioner. He felt there were a number of locations where the air conditioner would fit, and he did not think the Planning Commission should make a Variance fit the particular air conditioner that was purchased by the applicant. He felt there were alternatives to the ductwork on the roof, even if it involved more design and more cost, and suggested a flatter ducting. He stated he was not opposed to the grading as recommended.
Chairman Cartwright stated that at the last hearing, the Planning Commission had given the applicant direction to work with staff and the neighbors to re-design the project. He felt that the retaining wall design is substantially different than the original. He noted that the retaining walls were reduced in almost every case, and in many instances the reduction was significant. He therefore supported the approval of the retaining walls. Regarding the air conditioning units on the roof, he did not see any way around the location on the roof. He agreed that the pyramids should be truncated and the covering of all the ductwork was a good idea. He felt that a condition should be added that all of the retaining walls shall be stuccoed and painted a color to match the home. He commented that he did not support unpermitted work, however in this situation he felt that the Planning Commission should show compassion for the neighbors and their desires.
Commissioner Lyon stated that he agreed with many of the concerns that the Commissioners expressed and did not disagree with many of the factors that were brought up. However, he felt that the Planning Commission as a group are expected to exercise good common judgment in reaching compromises and acknowledged that this was not an easy situation to resolve.
Commissioner Lyon moved to approve the Variance and Grading permit as recommended by staff with two exceptions: 1) to modify the pyramid design in a manner that minimizes the height extending above the top of the air conditioning unit, and 2) add a condition that requires stucco to be added to the walls visible from surrounding properties, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin.
Commissioner Mueller did not see this application as a hardship, but rather as a way to add an air conditioner and not have to put it on the ground. He repeated that he felt the air conditioners could be put on different locations on the ground rather than on the rooftop.
Commissioner Duran Reed supported Commissioner Mueller’s views and noted that staff had recommended no ducting on the roof. She felt the grading should be approved, as it conforms to the Code, however she could not support the air conditioning on the roof and noted that they do not conform to the Code.
Commissioner Tomblin asked staff to clarify the Building Official’s opinion the type of air conditioning equipment and if it could be placed on the ground.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the Building Official had visited the site and did not feel that there was room for this special type of air conditioning equipment, which are larger than units normally placed in residential areas, on the property as it exists. He pointed out, however, that the Building Official had visited the site several months ago and there had been no discussion on creating a location on the ground for the equipment.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the air conditioning unit was oversized for the home and if two smaller units placed on the ground would accomplish the same goal.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that staff had not looked into that issue.
Chairman Cartwright stated that the motion before the Commission follows the Code, as the approval of a Variance application is allowed by the Code. He agreed with Commissioner Mueller that it would be preferable to place the unit on the ground, however he did not think it was practical.
Commissioner Mueller moved to amend the motion to remove the condition to modify the pyramid design and to instead remove the heating and air conditioning equipment from the roof and place it on the ground next to the home.
Chairman Cartwright felt that the amendment substantially changed the intent of the motion, and felt that a separate motion should be made rather than an amendment.
Commissioner Duran Reed seconded the amendment to the motion. The amendment to the motion failed, (2-3) with Commissioners Lyon, Tomblin, and Chairman Cartwright dissenting.
The motion made by Commissioner Lyon to approve P.C. Resolution 2002-32, as amended, passed, (3-2) with Commissioners Duran Reed and Mueller dissenting.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 9:15 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 9:25 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
CONTINUED BUSINESS (CONT.)
5. Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2002-00062): 30822 Rue de la Pierre
Chairman Cartwright disqualified himself from participating in this application by state law, as he lives within 500 feet of the applicant’s property.
Assistant Planner Luckert presented the staff report. He reviewed the request made by the applicant and that the Planning Commission had upheld the appeal and overturned the Director’s decision, and directed staff to prepare a Resolution of approval for adoption at the next meeting. At that meeting, staff had recommended the Planning Commission delay adoption of the Resolution due to evidence submitted by the applicant that lowering the taller of the two walls would affect the structural integrity of the swimming pool. The Planning Commission had directed staff to obtain an opinion from the City’s structural engineer, and noted that the City’s structural engineer believed the wall could be lowered as originally recommended. Therefore, staff was recommending that the Planning Commission review the requested information that staff has supplied in order to reassess he previous action of the Commission.
Commissioner Mueller asked about the function of the planter, and if was intended to be a planter or a fountain.
Assistant Planner Luckert did not know, and felt the question should be directed to the applicant.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the plumbing involved was provided to service the pool or the planter.
Assistant Planner Luckert answered that the plumbing was provided to service the planter and the existing fountain, as recommended by the Building Official.
Commissioner Mueller asked about the one-foot high wrought iron fence on top of the wall, and asked how much of a barrier that would provide to a person standing on the pool deck.
Assistant Planner Luckert answered that it would not provide much of a barrier to an adult, however the fence along with the foliage, may provide a barrier to smaller children.
Commissioner Tomblin asked about correspondence in the staff report which implies that staff had overlooked the proposed six-foot high retaining wall when the plans were originally submitted to staff.
Assistant Planner Luckert explained that when the plans were originally submitted to the Planning Department they indicated a proposed six-foot retaining wall that staff inadvertently approved without the required grading application.
Vice Chairman Long asked if an over the counter approval is issued for something that is inconsistent with the Code, is it staff’s position that the matter is then deemed approved, or is it staff’s position that the approval only extends to what the Code authorizes to be approved.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that it was staff’s position that if something is inadvertently approved, the item must be legalized through the proper channels. He noted that the grading application before the Planning Commission achieves that purpose.
Vice Chairman Long felt that is was irrelevant for the property owner to be saying that he thought the wall was approved because it was on a plan that was stamped approved. He did not think that, by mere virtue of accidentally wielding a rubber stamp, that staff could amend the City’s Ordinances.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked staff to clarify what the Planning Commission was considering at this meeting.
Vice Chairman Long felt this matter was before the Planning Commission to determine whether what was previously directed by the Planning Commission to be done would cause a structural problem for the pool or not.
Vice Chairman Long opened the public hearing.
Hector Sartori 30822 Rue de la Pierre (applicant) explained that he never furnished inaccurate information or falsified any information presented. He felt that at the July 22 meeting the Planning Commission was working with an incomplete set of facts provided by the City staff. He explained that in September of 2000 he applied for a Variance and Grading permit, and in September of 2001 he attended a Planning Commission meeting to appeal the City’s rejection for the Variance. At that time there was no mention made of the grading permit and there was no direction issued from the staff on what to do with the grading permit. He stated that in June 2001 he was granted approval to begin the construction of a pool, a six-foot retaining wall, and three sheer dissents. He stated that the shear dissents were constructed per the approved plans. In September 2001 he received approved, stamped plans and began the construction of an 8-foot retaining wall, and in October a city inspector approved the wall and a planner signed off on a correction notice allowing the contractor to grout the block wall. He stated that there was never a word at that time from City staff that a 36-inch dirt fill was required to comply with City codes. In October 2002 an additional Grading Permit was requested by City staff and he stated that he was thoroughly confused. He stated that he paid for his permit in September 2000 and now in October of 2002 he is being asked for an additional grading permit, after everything has been built. He felt that this additional grading permit should have been asked for in 2000 when he originally applied for the application. Mr. Sartori concluded by stating that the contractors had met and conformed to city staff requirements, followed the letter of construction, and complied with all City ordinances. He stated that the recommendation made by City staff regarding the height of the wall was not a correct solution, and the issue of the 6-inch planter would have been avoided if the City staff had mentioned something about it before or during the construction.
Robert Comstock 1228 Shelly Court, Orange stated that he represents Anthony and Sylvan Pools if there were any questions in regards to the pool project.
John Steiner 4059 Verdugo Road stated that in making the statement that lowering the height of the wall could affect the structural integrity of the swimming pool, there was no financial benefit to be gained by making the statement. He did not understand the intent of the Code, and noted that he could build a 6-foot high retaining wall, however he could not then add a small garden wall 2 feet 6 inches from the retaining wall. He did not understand how this made the wall an 8-foot high wall.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the pipes in the wall were there to serve the planter or the pool.
Mr. Comstock answered that the upper planter behind the swimming pool has plumbing that extends out, and showed it to the Commission on a photo board. He explained that dropping the wall down one foot six inches would expose the plumbing.
Mr. Sartori (in rebuttal) explained that his structural engineer has stated that any cut that touches the pool, whether it be a saw cut or a jackhammer cut, could create a potential problem with the pool in the future. Further, he contacted several contractors to see if they could do a saw cut or a jackhammer cut out of his wall to comply with the City requirements, and all of the contractors had an issue with liability.
Vice Chairman Long closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Mueller stated that the Planning Commission had directed staff to get an opinion regarding the wall from the City’s structural engineer, which they did. He reviewed the opinion of the City’s structural engineer, which he felt was very clear. Therefore, he was inclined to agree with the staff report, as the Planning Commission has received the answer to their question.
Commissioner Lyon did not believe the construction undertaken at the applicant’s property was done with any intent to avoid, circumvent, or violate any of the City’s codes. He felt that the City staff unintentionally contributed to a communication problem where the requirements were not fully understood by the applicant. Therefore, he felt the City was at least partially responsible for the situation the applicant found himself in at this time. He did not feel it made any sense to cut anything off of the wall, as the only reason the wall is in violation of the City code is the interpretation of the Code that says the two walls within three feet of each other are to be viewed as one wall. He felt the reason for that Code was an aesthetic reason to not give the appearance of a massive wall. He therefore felt that the only relevant measurement to ensure that does not occur is the distance between the front faces of both walls. He felt that the Planning Commission should find the solution that is in the best interest of the applicant and the neighbors. He noted that there have been no complaints from neighbors regarding the height of the wall. Therefore, he could not understand why the Commission would make a decision that is contrary to what both the applicant and the neighbors desire. He felt that the solution was to interpret the City’s code that the distance between the walls should be measured between the two visible surfaces of the wall. He felt that this solution would satisfy the applicant, the city, and the neighbors and by so doing would make the entire issue go away.
Commissioner Duran Reed felt that the miscommunication between staff and the applicant was unfortunate, however there is a Code that the Planning Commission must uphold. She felt that the staff recommendation to leave the planter in tact in the middle portion would alleviate the issues and therefore supported the staff recommendations.
Commissioner Tomblin stated that he has mixed emotions about this issue and would have liked to have had the benefit of the discussion in Agenda Item No. 9 regarding how to interpret the measurement of the walls. He explained that if the Code clearly states the wall cannot remain at the current height, then he would support the staff recommendation to reduce the height of the wall.
Vice Chairman Long read the relevant code section to the Planning Commission. He stated that if one does not like the Code, one should propose to amend the Code and not interpret the Code in ways that are contrary to the plain words of the Code. Therefore, he did not think Agenda Item No. 9 would help in making a decision for this application. He stated that the Planning Commission must apply the existing words of the Ordinance to the application, and when applying those words there could be no dispute that the wall in question is an 8-foot wall. Vice Chairman Long further felt that staff may from time to time make a mistake, which does not mean that an exemption has been created or the Ordinance has been amended. Therefore, he felt the Planning Commission should accept the staff’s recommendation and adopt the second recommendation under their discussions.
Commissioner Tomblin reviewed the language in the recommendation and was concerned about the cost to the applicant. He suggested language that the middle portion of the wall adjacent to the planter, in a linear footage of 15 or 20 feet, be left in tact for aesthetic reasons.
Commissioner Lyon did not think that it made any sense to cut a foot and a half off of a wall, when that action would not do anything to the aesthetics of the situation.
Vice Chairman Long stated that there may very well be a defect in the current Code, however he felt it was the responsibility of the Planning Commission to apply the Code, as they understood it.
Commissioner Mueller moved to approve the staff recommendations by approving the Grading Permit with the following conditions: 1) the upper wall adjacent to the pool structure shall be lowered by a height of one foot, 6 inches and the middle portion of the wall adjacent to the planter be left in tact for aesthetic reasons, and 2) a maximum one foot high wrought iron fence be allowed to be placed on top of the wall, seconded by Commissioner Duran Reed.
Approved, 4-1 with Commissioner Lyon dissenting.
Vice Chairman Long explained that this action will result in the item being brought back on the Consent Calendar, and the Consent Calendar item will be to simply discuss whether or not the Resolution prepared by staff accurately reflects the decision made by the Planning Commission.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 10:35 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 10:40 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
CONTINUED BUSINESS (CONT.)
6. Height Variation (Case No. ZON2002-00193): 2156 Mendon Drive
Vice Chairman Long noted that he was absent from the meeting when this item was originally discussed, however he reviewed the minutes and felt he could discuss and vote on this item.
Assistant Planner Luckert presented the staff report. He explained that the project has been redesigned and re-silhouetted since the last meeting, and pointed out the previous proposal and current proposal on a power point presentation. He noted that staff has determined the current proposal is not compatible with the neighborhood, as it would be the only flat roof design within the 10 closest residences. Further, staff still felt that the amount of view impairment to the residences above the applicant’s property was significant on a cumulative level. Therefore, staff has prepared a Resolution recommending denial of the project.
Commissioner Lyon commented that staff’s interpretation of neighborhood compatibility would seem to require that there be an identical design within the 10 nearest homes. He did not think that was what meant by compatibility, as being compatible with something might be that the design in question may not be identical to what it is being compared with, only compatible. He did not see the incompatibility of a flat roof home in the area, and while he acknowledged there was not a flat roof home within the 10 closest homes, there were several in the neighborhood.
Chairman Cartwright asked staff if they had been able to see the view impairment from 2227 Sparta with the new silhouette.
Assistant Planner Luckert answered that staff had not been able to view the new silhouette from 2227 Sparta, and had taken the previous photos and modified the silhouette on the photos.
Commissioner Tomblin asked staff about cumulative view impact and how the Planning Commission and staff could determine cumulative view impact on things that have not yet been built, or may never be built.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the findings say staff must consider the effects of the proposed structure in combination with other future similar structures, and he agreed that the other future structures may be hypothetical. He further explained that individually, from different properties viewing the proposed residence, staff feels there is no significant view impairment resulting from the proposed addition. However, the Guidelines direct staff to consider significant cumulative view impairment when the individual structure may not significantly impair views, but when the effect of the structure could, in combination with other similar future structures, create significant view impairment.
Vice Chairman Long stated that the Code is requiring the staff and Planning Commission to consider, when looking at cumulative view impact, hypotheticals that may never occur.
Commissioner Tomblin asked if the Planning Commission could restrict the size of the proposed second story addition so that there would not be a cumulative view impact situation.
Assistant Planner Luckert felt that was a possibility.
Chairman Cartwright opened the public hearing.
Dennis Sevilla 2156 Mendon Drive (applicant) explained that he has lived in his home for 10 years and has a growing family. Therefore, he has a need for a larger living area. He noted that a part of the view from 2227 Sparta Drive is blocked by bushes and trees, and if they were cut they would have a better view, and he wondered if his addition would then cause a significant view impairment. He also stated that he would cut his palm and two pine trees to create a better view for his neighbors. He pointed out that the residence at 2227 Sparta Drive has views from seven rooms in the home. He did not think it was fair that his addition be denied because of possible additions to other residences that may never happen.
Ronny Levy stated that he was the architect for the project. He too did not feel it was fair to judge this project on a cumulative view criteria that may or may not be an issue in the future. He noted that staff had found that in all other aspects of design, this second story addition was compatible with the neighborhood. He felt that neighborhood compatibility issues should be judged on a case-by-case basis when discussing cumulative impact, and noted that if judged the way that was currently discussed then no other homes in the area could have a second story addition.
Commissioner Tomblin noted that one of the biggest concerns of the Andersons was the loss of their blue water view due to the second story addition. He asked Mr. Levy if there was any way to move the proposed second story addition a few feet more to the west to help keep the Anderson’s blue water view.
Mr. Levy answered that he has already lowered the addition, however he was wiling to work with the Planning Commission so that they could have their addition.
Chairman Cartwright did not think that moving the addition would solve the problem of cumulative view impairment or neighborhood compatibility.
Chairman Cartwright asked Mr. Levy for his response to the staff’s concern that the flat roof was inconsistent and incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood.
Mr. Levy responded that there were indeed no other flat roof homes in 10 closest homes, however there were many homes in the neighborhood with flat roofs. He also noted that the flat roof would have a parapet and covered with a tile to give the house the same Spanish look that is currently existing. He therefore did not think he was changing the over all look of the house.
Becky Anderson 2227 Sparta Drive began by explaining that the applicant has never been to her home and therefore she did not think he or his architect were in any position to understand the affect of his addition to her view. She discussed the trees, and noted that the Ficus Tree shown in the pictures and on the slides has recently been thinned and trimmed to almost nothing. The hedge along the right side has been taken down two to three feet, and noted that she does this several times a year. She admitted that she currently has an expansive view of the mountains, city, harbor, and bridge, however this proposed addition would take away her only view of the blue water. She objected to the flat roof, and did not know of any flat roof homes in the entire neighborhood. She stated that the neighborhood was ranch style rather than spanish style and a red tile roof was not even very common in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Tomblin asked if the second story was moved to the left slightly, if it would help her view.
Mrs. Anderson felt that moving the second story to the left would help her view, as her view of the water was more to the right. She also noted that if the Cypress trees were trimmed or removed it would make the addition less objectionable. She stated that if the neighbors to the right or the left of the applicant were to propose a second story addition, she would again have to object due to the cumulative view impact.
Chairman Cartwright asked staff when they make a determination on cumulative view impact, what are they looking at when determining the impact is significant.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that staff is looking at the fact that the view impact is central in the view frame and that the proposed addition is taking out the view of the water.
Delfina Iacono 28628 Enrose Ave explained that her back yard and the applicant’s back yard are separated by a six foot wall, and she felt that the second story addition would take all of her privacy away in her back yard. She felt this would also take away from the value of her home.
Chairman Cartwright asked Ms. Iacono if she had a deck in her back yard.
Mrs. Iacono answered that she currently has a deck, however they are going to have it removed as it is no longer used.
Chairman Cartwright asked if there was a view from the deck.
Mrs. Iacono responded that there is not a view from the deck, and added that the proposed addition would not take away any views from her property.
Dianne Kaloper 28622 Enrose Ave stated that in the past other people have been able to thwart the growth of homes in the neighborhood with a single objection, and noted that in this situation there were several valid objections. She was concerned that the neighborhood would become too over built.
Chairman Cartwright closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Tomblin was concerned that in making this decision with the cumulative view impact that the Planning Commission was setting a precedent that would restrict second story additions being developed in the neighborhood. He felt the size of the second story could be reduced and a view corridor established to satisfy the cumulative view issue. He felt it was possible to eliminate or reduce the size of the windows in question to relieve the privacy issue of the neighbor. He also felt that removal of trees would enhance the blue water view of the Andersons. He added that a minor pitch could be added to the roof to alleviate the issue of the flat roof.
Commissioner Duran Reed stated that the first time she went to the Anderson’s home she noted that the proposed addition took away a substantial portion of the water view. When she visited the house again it was a much clearer day, and she noted that the Cypress trees take up a substantial amount of the water view. She felt that the new flat roof would take about 25 percent of the water view, which she felt was significant. She agreed with the staff report and conclusions and felt that when considering cumulative view impairment, the Anderson’s home would be affected by other homes in the area adding a second story addition. Concerning neighborhood compatibility, she agreed that there were no flat roofs on the ten closest homes, and did not feel that the Planning Commission could look at a further radius as it was not allowed in the Code as it was currently written. She felt that view corridors was generally a good idea, however she did not want to create view corridors at the expense of homes by putting up second stories that would block portions of views.
Commissioner Mueller felt that the proposed second story addition would block a significant portion of the Anderson’s water view, and he tended to give the water view some value. He stated that the important issue for him was the cumulative view impact, and tended to agree with the staff report. He felt that staff had done a good job in depicting what could happen in the neighborhood if other homes were to add a second story addition to their homes, and it wouldn’t take much to change the character of the neighborhood.
Commissioner Lyon appreciated many of the thoughts expressed on the cumulative view issue, but could not recall this being a barrier to approvals in the past. He acknowledged that this was a difficult decision, and noted that while a cumulative view consideration could be a significant issue, it did not say that the Planning Commission would have to approve applications that are at this point only hypothetical. He stated that the Planning Commission would have the authority to not approve a similar, but not identical, construction project that is part of the cumulative view analysis associated with this project. Regarding neighborhood compatibility, he felt that the ten closest homes was a guideline and that the Director and Planning Commission had the prerogative to expand that beyond the ten homes.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that the Guidelines did not specifically limit the analysis to ten homes only, but rather at a minimum, to other structures on the immediate block or the ten nearest structures, whichever is greater. He stated that staff has always used ten for consistency because neighborhoods vary so much however the Planning Commission has directed staff, in the past, to expand the analysis to greater than ten.
Commissioner Lyon continued that he was not too concerned with the neighborhood compatibility, however felt that adding 18 inches of pitch to the roof might aesthetically improve the appearance of the house. He did not think the flat roof was inappropriate.
Vice Chairman Long felt that Commissioners Mueller and Duran Reed had covered his feelings on the views and neighborhood compatibility. He stated that he was inclined to accept the staff report and staff’s judgment. He did not think the required finding that there is no significant view impact could be made. He noted that if the Planning Commission were to approve this application, the resulting structure would be the second largest house on the smallest lot in the neighborhood, thereby resulting in a degree of density far higher that what is typical for the neighborhood.
Chairman Cartwright felt the two issues were neighborhood compatibility and the cumulative view impact. Regarding neighborhood compatibility, he understood what had been discussed by the other Commissioners, however in driving in the neighborhood he did not feel there was one main style and he did not have a problem with the flat roof from a compatibility standpoint. He did think it would be better to raise the pitch of the roof slightly. Regarding the view issue, he felt it was very difficult to deal with this type of issue as the Planning Commission was being asked to deal with structures that may never be built, and that if other applications were to come in that significantly impacted a neighbors view, that project would be denied. He believed there was a cumulative view impact, however he did not think that it should be considered significant.
Vice Chairman Long moved to suspend the Planning Commission rules to allow the Commission to go fifteen minutes past midnight to resolve this item, seconded by Commissioner Duran Reed. The motion was unanimously approved.
Commissioner Tomblin felt this decision may mean that any resident in the neighborhood that was within the scope of the cumulative view issue would be restricted to a single story home, which would affect the value of their homes if they were to sell their home.
Vice Chairman Long stated that in making his comments and in his vote, he was not voting to ban second story homes in the neighborhood. He understood what Commissioner Tomblin was trying to point out, the danger of a precedent being created, however he specifically disclaimed this precedent as the Planning Commission was dealing with a particular situation of a particular proposed second story design situated on a particular lot, that because of its situation has effects on other lots. He felt that without addressing the issue of cumulative view impact, the view impairment is significant.
Chairman Cartwright felt that what was particularly difficult about the application was that generally a project may create a significant view impact which is also cumulative. In this situation, he felt there was no significant view impact and anyone in the cul-de-sac, if they follow that logic, could propose a second story addition and not significantly impact a view. He felt that at some point, after two or three second story additions, there could be a significant cumulative view impact. However, he was not sure when that would be and he did not want to deny this applicant the opportunity to improve their property based on potential future development.
Vice Chairman Long felt that the Planning Commission should determine if this particular design on this particular property, when taken in conjunction an assumption that similar designs be constructed on other properties, constitutes a cumulative view impairment.
Vice Chairman Long moved to approve the staff report and adopt the staff’s recommendations, seconded by Commissioner Mueller. The motion failed (3-3) with Commissioners Lyon, Tomblin, and Chairman Cartwright dissenting.
Commissioners Duran Reed and Mueller noted that their votes in no way decide any other applications and do not prevent other people in the neighborhood who want to apply for a second story addition from doing so, and this was not meant to be an overall determination on whether or not second story additions would be approved in the neighborhood.
Chairman Cartwright did not think that the Planning Commission could deny this project based on cumulative view impact and say that it has nothing to do with future applications. He felt that this decision would say that if anyone else in the neighborhood wanted to build this type of second story addition, it would have to be denied.
Chairman Cartwright moved to approve the project with the modification that the roof be raised approximately 12 inches, the trees trimmed, and the structure moved to the left (when facing the house), seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. The motion failed, (3-3) with Commissioners Duran Reed, Mueller, and Vice Chairman Long dissenting.
Chairman Cartwright asked staff for clarification on procedure when the Planning Commission is deadlocked.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated the rules read that any tie vote shall constitute a denial of the motion and may be reconsidered by a motion offered by any member who voted on the matter. If there is no action by an affirmative vote the result is denial of the application.
With that explanation, Chairman Cartwright noted that the project has been denied.
7. Sign Permit (Case No. ZON2002-00448): 28500 Western Avenue
Vice Chairman Long moved to continue the item to the meeting of December 10, 2002, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, 6-0.
8. Commercial Antennas – Application Requirements
Vice Chairman Long moved to continue the item to a future Planning Commission meeting, as deemed appropriate by the staff, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, 6-0.
9. Interpretation of how fences, walls and hedges shall be measured as defined in Section 17.76.030 (E)(1)
Vice Chairman Long moved to continue the item to a future Planning Commission meeting, as deemed appropriate by staff, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, 6-0.
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
CONSENT CALENDAR (CONT.)
1. Minutes of November 12, 2002
Commissioners Mueller and Duran stated that they had submitted their proposed changes to the minutes to the recording secretary and those changes had been distributed to the Planning Commissioners.
Commissioner Lyon noted a typo on page 3 of the minutes.
Chairman Cartwright noted a typo on page 4 of the minutes.
Commissioner Lyon moved to adopt the minutes as amended, seconded by Commissioner Duran Reed. The minutes were approved as amended, (5-0-1) with Vice Chairman Long abstaining since he was absent from that meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:25 a.m.