CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
JANUARY 14, 2003
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Long at 7:05 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Director/Secretary Rojas led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present:Commissioners Cartwright, Cote, Lyon, Mueller, Tomblin, and Chairman Long
Absent:Commissioner Duran Reed was excused
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, City Attorney Lynch, Staff Liaison Alverez, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Commissioner Tomblin moved to approve the agenda as presented, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. Approved, (6-0).
Director/Secretary Rojas congratulated Chairman Long on his appointment as Chairman of the Planning Commission. He also reported that the City Council would be hearing two appeals of Planning Commission decisions, and that the joint workshop would be held on February 8. He also distributed two items of correspondence received on the email@example.com website.
City Attorney Lynch reported that new legislation relating to conflict of interest now requires that a Commissioner abstaining from an item must announce for the record that there is a conflict of interest and then the Commissioner must leave the room entirely.
Commissioner Tomblin reported that he had spoken to Mrs. Sartori, a past applicant.
Commissioner Cote gave a brief update on the General Plan Sub-Committee.
Commissioner Mueller stated that he had several discussions with residents regarding the RV issue and he encouraged them to come before the Planning Commission to express their comments and views.
Commissioner Cote nominated Commissioner Mueller as the Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission, seconded by Chairman Long. Commissioner Mueller was selected as Vice Chairman without objection.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff to verify the vote regarding the approval of the Agenda on page 2 of the minutes.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to approve the minutes as possibly amended, seconded by Commissioner Lyon. Approved, (5-0-1) with Commissioner Cote abstaining since she was absent from that meeting.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to approve the minutes as presented, seconded by Commissioner Lyon. Approved, (6-0).
City Attorney Lynch stated that the general guidance provided in the past to the Planning Commissioners was to refrain from engaging in discussions and comments with either the applicant or any other property owner. She stated that the Commissioners should encourage the applicant or other property owners to come to the Planning Commission meeting to share their comments with the entire Commission, and note that Commissioners cannot discuss the project and their determination of the project must be made at the open public hearing. She explained that in view restoration cases site visits were mandatory for the applicant’s property, view owner’s property, and any foliage owner that requests a visit from the Commission. She reminded the Commission that there should not be more than two or three Commissioners visiting a site at any one time.
Commissioner Tomblin asked for clarification regarding responses to e-mail that comes through the firstname.lastname@example.org site and if the Commissioners should respond to that e-mail.
City Attorney Lynch felt it was acceptable to acknowledge receipt of the e-mail, but not to enter into discussions via e-mail.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that when e-mail is received at email@example.com he would respond to the e-mail, thanking the sender and letting them know that the e-mail has been forwarded to the Planning Commissioners.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to continue the item to the City Council/Planning Commission joint workshop on February 8, seconded by Vice Chairman Mueller.
Commissioner Lyon felt it was the duty and responsibility of the Planning Commission to make a recommendation to the City Council regarding this item, and therefore the Planning Commission should discuss the issue and make a recommendation to present at the joint meeting.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that there would be a packet prepared for the joint workshop which will contain a staff report that the Planning Commission has already reviewed along with additional information requested by the Planning Commission.
City Attorney Lynch felt that it would be possible to continue this item to the next Planning Commission meeting so that the Commission could review the additional information in advance of the joint workshop and to ask any questions to the City Attorney or staff that they felt needed clarification.
Commissioner Lyon did not object to continuing the item to the joint workshop if the purpose was to get the City Council’s opinions on the issue of insurance requirements.
Commissioner Cote felt it would be very useful to hear the thoughts and comments of the City Attorney on the matter prior to the joint workshop.
Chairman Long suggested agendizing the item to the next Planning Commission meeting in order for the Planning Commission to hear the City Attorney’s report as well as the staff report prior to the joint workshop.
Commissioner Cartwright revised his motion to continue the item to the Planning Commission meeting of January 28, 2003 to review the information presented prior to the joint workshop with the City Council, seconded by Vice Chairman Mueller. Approved, (6-0).
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the View Restoration Commission has been disbanded and the Planning Commission would now be hearing the View Restoration cases. He explained that the process was a very lengthy and detailed process, however the Planning Commission would see very little of that, as most of it would be dealt with at the staff or mediation levels. He further explained that the View Restoration Commission had made suggested changes to the Ordinance that would be reviewed by the City Council and Planning Commission at their joint workshop.
City Attorney Lynch explained that since the current ordinance had been challenged in court and upheld, she was very reluctant to make changes to the Ordinance unless it was absolutely necessary, as it would open up a new statute of limitations.
Director/Secretary Rojas gave a power point presentation that gave an overview of the view ordinance, which involves view restoration and view preservation permits. He described the procedures involved with processing view restoration permits and appeals of view preservation permits that the Planning Commission would be hearing.
Chairman Long asked how many Commissioners would constitute a quorum in a view restoration hearing.
City Attorney Lynch stated that was a good issue to discuss at the joint workshop, and there should be a change made in the guidelines to clarify what constitutes a quorum.
Director/Secretary Rojas discussed the necessary findings the Planning Commission would be required to make for the view restoration and view preservation cases and showed some examples of cases where the trees were determined to cause significant view impairment.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 9:15 p.m. the Planning Commissioner took a short recess until 9:30 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
NEW BUSINESS (CONTINUED)
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the Commission had requested that staff discuss the procedures involved with the commercial antenna process. He noted that this item was prompted by the approval of an antenna at the Miraleste School site that the school board was not happy with. He stated that the City Council had a meeting with the school board and as a result, certain procedures were agreed upon in the approval of antennas on school property, and noted that attached to the staff report was the outcome of the meeting and the agreed upon solution. Regarding commercial antennas in general, he noted that the Commissioners have a copy of the Code and the Guidelines which sets forth the requirements for the application procedure and the review process.
Chairman Long felt it was very important to have documentation from the school board stating that they understood and approved the design, location, and height of any proposed antennas. He felt this documentation would best be done in the form of a resolution from the school board.
Commissioners Cartwright and Lyon felt that the current guidelines and procedures have worked very well in the past, were entirely adequate, and did not think there was a reason to change them.
Vice Chairman Mueller felt it was important that there always be a mock-up of the antenna required, as he did not feel most people could truly understand what the antenna will look like but simply reviewing the plans.
Commissioner Lyon moved to leave the current code in its present form, recognizing that the guidelines are used by the Commission as an adjunct to the Code, and secondly that staff continue their dialogue with the school district concerning the specific process used in dealing with antennas on school district sites, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin.
Chairman Long suggested an amendment to the motion to instruct staff to strictly enforce the requirements of mock-ups as required by the Guidelines. Commissioner Lyon agreed to the amendment and there was no objection from the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Cartwright felt that the Guidelines and Code are very thorough and work very well and he would be reluctant to change either because of a problem with the school district that he felt came about because of miscommunication.
Vice Chairman Mueller felt it was important to amend the Code so that it is consistent with the height variation guidelines, as the Planning Commission would be seeing many antennas in the future, and each one requires some concern about view.
Chairman Long was inclined to agree, however he felt that the Commission would be looking more broadly at the antenna ordinance because of recent lawsuits, and he would like to do the changes all at once rather than in bits and pieces. Therefore, he felt the Planning Commission could achieve their goal simply by implementing the motion.
The amended motion passed, (6-0).
8.Proposed code amendment – wall height
Director/Secretary Rojas explained the current Development Code requirement that walls less than three feet apart shall be measured as a single units for purposes of height, which staff interprets meaning from the closest points – the face of the upslope wall to the back of the down slope wall. He explained that there had been discussion that since the intent of the code was to address aesthetics, perhaps a different approach would be to measure from face to face, as that is what one would be looking at. He stated that staff was looking for direction from the Planning Commission as to whether they wanted to initiate a code amendment, and if the Commission agrees to clarify or change the way the wall is measured it would have to go before the City Council for their approval before going through the more formal code amendment process.
Commissioner Cartwright felt that the further apart walls are the more it softens the appearance of the walls, and walls that are too close together begin to look like one large wall. However, he was not sure what the optimum distance between the walls was that would create the perfect balance.
Chairman Long agreed that a line had to be drawn somewhere, and the question was exactly where that line should be drawn to achieve the goal of looking like two walls as opposed to one wall. He noted that the code is very specific in that the walls shall be measured at their closest points, and he felt there was only one conceivable interpretation to what the words of the code say regarding how the distance between the walls shall be measured.
Commissioner Lyon agreed, and explained that it was not a matter of interpretation but rather a matter of changing a few words in the Code. He stated that his proposal was to say, rather than measured from their closest point, to say as measured between their front faces. He felt that the critical issue in making two walls not appear as one wall is the distance between front faces. He also agreed that there needed to be sufficient room in between to plant vegetation, as the vegetation would break up the massive appearance of the walls. He therefore did not think the wording in the current code was relevant when concerned about aesthetics.
Vice Chairman Mueller stated that when reviewing these types of situations he goes to the General Plan where it discusses altering the natural terrain and encouraging structural techniques that conform to the terrain rather than altering the terrain to support the structure. He felt that the Code was clear in that there should be a separation between the walls, and measuring the walls from front face to front face would not give this separation, as one could add a front face of bricks to the bottom wall to create a larger area of separation without having to actually create a larger area of separation between the two walls. He agreed that there was some reasonable amount of distance between walls that would create the perfect balance between the two walls. He was not willing to change the current Code or the interpretation of the Code.
The Planning Commissioners discussed methods of measuring the distance and their duty to uphold the code, as well as the option that applicants have of applying for a variance in certain cases. Commissioner Lyon stated that he would be willing to back off of the proposal to change the code, as long as the Planning Commission recognizes they have the prerogative to make exceptions to the code by following the proper procedures.
Chairman Long clarified that the Planning Commission could grant exceptions, however they would have to be done within the confines of the code.
Commissioner Cartwright felt that the Planning Commission has the latitude to have some compassion, show the human touch, and use common sense when making decisions. He felt that the Code was not so rigid that the Planning Commission could not make exceptions when the circumstances warrant it, and therefore he was not willing to change the Code.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that he did not participate in the hearing on the walls at Rue de la Pierre, and nothing he has said at this meeting should be taken as a judgment on the decision made by the Planning Commission on that case.
Vice Chairman Mueller moved to make no change to the current code, seconded by Commissioner Cote.
Commissioner Lyon suggested amending the motion to state that the Planning Commission recognizes that they have the authority to make an exception to a code requirement through due process, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright.
There being no objection, the motion was amended.
There being no objection, the amended motion was approved, (6-0).
As it was after 11:00 Commissioner Tomblin moved to suspend the Planning Commission rules, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. Approved, (6-0).
Looking at the time line in the staff report, Chairman Long asked if there was a way for draft reports to be issued earlier with supplements distributed when the reports are final.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that because of the 30 day notice period and because staff could not form their recommendation until all input has been received, he did not think that it would be possible to provide a draft report at an earlier date.
Commissioner Long noted that the timetable in the staff report only accurately describes the timetable for height variations, and asked if staff could provide packages to the Planning Commission earlier for everything but height variations.
Director/Secretary Rojas acknowledged that in theory such staff reports could be provided earlier but that he honestly did not know for certain, as he would have to look at how changing the delivery schedule would affect the rest of the City’s work load, especially the preparation of staff reports for the City Council.
Commissioner Tomblin agreed that it would be nice to have a longer period of time to make site visits, but felt that it would not only be difficult for staff but the applicant to collect all of the needed materials and information earlier as well.
Chairman Long stated that he was not only concerned about the Planning Commission receiving the staff reports enough in advance to be able to read them, but the applicants as well.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff if it was possible to change the Planning Commission meting date to Wednesday or Thursday, which would then give the Commissioners a few more days to read the staff reports.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that he would have to look into the procedure for changing the day of the Planning Commission meetings and if it was even possible, and noted it would likely require City Council approval. He felt that if the day of the meeting were moved and if there was any way to get staff reports out on Wednesday evenings instead of Thursday, that would give the Commission almost a week to review their packets.
Commissioner Cote discussed the idea of e-mailing the staff reports to the Commissioners in addition to receiving the packets.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt this was something the staff could do but that the attachments could not be e-mailed.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to direct staff to look into the possibility of sending out the packets one or two days earlier, the implications of moving the Planning Commission meeting to another day, and the possibility of e-mailing staff reports to the Commission, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, (6-0).
The meeting was adjourned at 11:28 p.m.