CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
JUNE 24. 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.
Ken Dyda led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Cartwright, Cote, Duran Reed, Tomblin, Vice Chairman Mueller, and Chairman Long
Absent: Commissioner Lyon was excused
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas and Recording Secretary Peterson
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
The agenda was unanimously approved as presented.
Director/Secretary Rojas reported that the City Council had not yet approved the RV Ordinance, as there was still some discussion on the language of the Ordinance.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed 2 items of correspondence regarding Agenda Item No. 5, a revised Ordinance for Agenda Item No. 6, and 2 e-mail correspondences received at email@example.com.
Commissioner Cote reported that she had participated in a survey conducted by the Open Space Task Force and encouraged anyone who was asked to participate to do so.
Chairman Long reported that he had received an e-mail from Commissioner Duran Reed regarding view issues and that copies would be provided to all of the Commissioners at the meeting, and a correspondence from Mr. Redfield outlining the comments he will be making on Agenda Item No. 5.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (REGARDING NON-AGENDA ITEMS)
1. Height Variation and Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2002-00388): 6512 Nancy Road
Commissioner Tomblin moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2003-27; thereby approving Case No. ZON2002-00388, seconded by Commissioner Duran Reed. Approved, (3-2-1) with Vice Chairman Mueller and Chairman Long dissenting, and Commissioner Cartwright abstaining since he was not at the meeting where the item was discussed.
2. Coastal Permit, Height Variation, Minor Exception Permit, and Grading Permit (Case ZON2002-00272: 5 Packet Road
Vice Chairman Mueller moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2003-28; thereby approving, with conditions, the Coastal Permit, Height Variation, Grading Permit, and Minor Exception Permit (Case No. ZON2002-00272), seconded by Commissioner Cote. Approved, (4-1-1) with Commissioner Duran Reed dissenting and Commissioner Cartwright abstaining as he was not at the meeting where the item was discussed.
3. Grading Permit – Appeal (Case No. ZON2001-00213): 2700 ½ San Ramon Drive
Director/Secretary Rojas reported that staff has received a request from the applicant to continue the item to a later date, and the applicant and appellant have agreed to a date of July 22, 2003.
Chairman Long opened the public hearing.
Daniel Bernstein 2817 San Ramon Drive stated that he did not know what effect the proposed project would have on the San Ramon Landslide and the surrounding areas, and noted that the staff report stated that there was conflicting information regarding the Southshores Landslide situation and the overall stability of the canyon area. He voiced his concerns regarding the project and felt that more study and more information was necessary before making a decision.
Chairman Long closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to continue the appeal hearing to the Planning Commission meeting of July 22, 2003, seconded by Commissioner Cote. Approved, (6-0).
4. Zone Text Amendment pertaining to density bonus provisions (Case ZON2003-00235)
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report explaining that this item was brought about because of a new state law had gone into effect this year and after review of the law by the City Attorney, the Code was updated to take into account the state law. He explained that there are two parts to the state law, one dealing with second units and the other dealing with density bonuses for affordable housing. He stated that there is currently a provision in the code allowing second units to be approved without having to go through a discretionary process, and the City Attorney felt that no amendments were necessary to that part of the code. He stated that there is also an affordable housing ordinance, and the City Attorney is proposing some changes to those provisions of the current code to make it consistent with the state law requirements. Therefore, staff is recommending the Planning Commission review the changes and forward a recommendation of approval to the City Council, as they will be looking at this Ordinance at their July 1 meeting.
Commissioner Tomblin asked what would happen if the City had a disagreement with the 20 percent density bonus.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the City needs to bring the code into compliance with the state law to avoid any potential litigation. He explained that the new state law does not say that cities have to approve a project with a density bonus, but does require that cities deny projects only on the strongest of findings. He stated that the city still has the discretion to deny a request, it just has to pay very close attention to the findings.
Vice Chairman Mueller stated that the language mentions the civil code and was concerned that the language suggested by staff and the City Attorney be consistent with that in the civil code.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the City Attorney and staff did not propose the language, rather the City Attorney took the City’s current ordinance and incorporated the language from the state law.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked why there was a difference in the number of years affordable housing must be available, based on income.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the state sets the parameters and he did not know the criteria used to set these standards.
Commissioner Tomblin asked if the affordable housing language applies only to units for sale and not for rental property.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that it was his understanding that the affordable housing language could apply to rental properties.
Commissioner Cote moved to recommend approval of the proposed code amendments to the City Council, seconded by Vice Chairman Mueller. Approved, (6-0).
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 7:55 p.m. the Planning Commission to a short recess until 8:10 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
CONTINUED BUSINESS (CONT)
5. Clarification of the 16-foot height limit and other related view protection provisions of the Development Code
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report, explaining that after the joint workshop between the Planning Commission and City Council, the City Council directed staff to present some ideas to the City Council for discussion. He stated that because the Planning Commission has discussed this issue several times, and have several opinions on the issue, he wanted to make sure that the staff report he was writing to the City Council addresses all of the items. Therefore, he was presenting the draft staff report intended for City Council, and was seeking feedback from the Planning Commission. He noted that this item is scheduled to go the City Council on July 15.
Chairman Long asked Mr. Rojas if he was seeking a formal recommendation by the Planning Commission, or did he simply want input on the staff report.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that he was seeking input to the staff report, as staff was not seeking or making a recommendation to the City Council on this issue, and staff’s intent in the staff report was to state the issues, explain how staff has been implementing the 16-foot height limit, and state other ideas that have come forward in terms of how to approach the code. He explained that he wanted to make sure that all of the issues were covered in the staff report.
Reviewing page 4 of the staff report Chairman Long asked staff if, in looking at the findings for a height variation permit, they consider the portion of the view below 16 feet. He referred to the staff report which cites the Guidelines as supposedly clarifying the intent of the height variation findings in the Code by stating two things: "View impairment may be minimized by redesigning the structure to relocate or reduce the size of the portion of the addition over 16 feet in height to lessen the view impact" and "Minimizing view impairment does not apply to the construction or additions 16 feet or less in height even when attached to and a portion of the overall addition which includes which includes construction that exceeds 16 feet." He felt that the Guidelines are meant to say that if one is doing two rooms of addition at the same time, and part of the addition is below 16 feet the view analysis is not done for the height variation, however the portion that is above 16 feet the analysis is done and the entire view is looked at. Therefore, there would never be a circumstance where the view under 16 feet would be considered.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the approach of looking only at the portion above 16 feet is how staff interprets the code for the height variation process, and noted that it is an interpretation that has been supported by prior City decisions. He noted that this approach only applies to the height variation process, and that with a Variance application and some other discretionary applications staff does look at the portion of the view under 16 feet in height. He explained that when a resident calls the Planning Department and asks what they can build on their property without having to go through a discretionary approval process, staff explains that they must stay within the designated lot coverage, cannot go into the setbacks, stay below 16 feet in height, and have no grading.
Commissioner Cote stated that it was important that the staff report clearly frames the issues and that the City Council has a very clear understanding of what the Planning Commission is asking. She felt that it was important that the City Council understand the background of this issue and felt that the staff report should include a history that factually goes through the regulations, when the regulations were passed, and the associated Prop M laws. She felt it was important, if possible, to give the number of cases that the Planning Commission and Planning Department have seen throughout the years with respect to this issue. She then suggested discussing the current staff implementation and then what are some of the thoughts and suggestions of the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that it was his recollection that there was a proposal at the Joint Workshop that this subject be remanded to the Planning Commission. However the City Council decided not to remand the issue to the Planning Commission, as they felt the Planning Commission had been discussing the topic for quite some time and decided that the issue go directly to the City Council, and they encouraged the Planning Commissioners to attend the meeting to provide clarification on the subject. He therefore did not think that the Planning Commission should, at this time, be discussing their personal opinions on the issue but only the content of the draft staff report.
Chairman Long agreed with the comments made by Commissioners Cote and Cartwright and added that the goal of the Planning Commission should be a good report that frames the issues and alternatives for the City Council’s consideration. He felt it would be very helpful to see a revised staff report prior to the City Council receiving the staff report.
Commissioner Duran Reed agreed that more history should be included in the staff report, including the original intent of the framers of the Development Code. She also distributed proposed clarifications and modifications to the staff report that she drafted. She felt that the way the current staff report is written it seems to have a recommendation to the City Council as to how it would like to have the Code interpreted or modified without having the benefit of having some different views by the Planning Commissioners.
Commissioner Tomblin noted that there are building codes that must be adhered to when one is building that were not in effect when many houses in the City were originally built, and that should be taken into account when discussing modifications to the Development Code.
Vice Chairman Mueller stated that when discussing the background of the view issues and the code and when looking at code modifications for height variations and view, he felt that one must go back to Proposition M, as certain modifications must be consistent with Proposition M. He suggested that staff include a copy of Proposition M in the staff report, as certain code amendments must be consistent with that proposition.
Chairman Long opened the public hearing.
Marty Doddell 5751 Capeswood Drive stated that the discussion of Proposition M should also relate, not so much to the fact that it was passed by the voters, but overwhelming passed by the voters. He stated that anywhere from 2/3 to ¾ of the voters voted in support of Proposition M. He further stated that since Proposition M was passed there have been guidelines modified and issues interpreted that he felt were extraordinarily subjective, including issues of fairness and equity. He supported the suggestion that a history be included in the staff report so that the City Council would understand the feelings of the community. He strongly urged that the Planning Commission suggest a discussion of the Development Code and to go back to the original verbiage and the original Proposition.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mr. Dodell how high his house is now, and asked if he had a home in front of him that was lower than 16 feet in height but was proposing an addition to 16 feet which blocked his view, what would he suggest the Planning Commission and City Council look at in that situation.
Mr. Doddell answered that his home was right around 16 feet in height and that the question asked had to be put in some sort of perspective. He stated that if the home exists, it exists and nothing can be done. Further, if a home were to be built that prescribed to the Development Code as described by Mr. Rojas, he did not think that there would be an issue. However, when the issue of a Variance arises that is when the issues become vague.
Ken Dyda 5715 Capeswood Drive also agreed that history should be included in the staff report. He stated that the 16-foot history was his fault, and explained that in 1975 he was pushing for some protection of views as homes with views paid a premium for their homes. At the time he felt people should have a right to build a single story home on any lot in the City, and when someone asked how high a single story home was, he responded that his home was 16 feet high. He stated that the intent at the time was to permit single story homes and that 16 feet was meant to be an indication of a single story home and not a definitive measure. He stated that, unfortunately over time, it became a definitive measure. Discussing Proposition M, he stated that the Proposition did not say 16 feet, but talked about view and related back to the Development Code, which at that time, did mention 16 feet. He felt that one of the problems with 16 feet was that some of the Guidelines brought to the City Council included a diagram talking about foliage in the setback area being allowed to grow to 16 feet, which is counter to current City policy in that the City does try to preserve corridor views.
Commissioner Tomblin asked Mr. Dyda what he felt happens now when the standard building specifications of a home typically has a higher ceiling height than in the past as well as attic area which will make the height of the home close to 16 feet.
Mr. Dyda answered that if a new home is built and the expectation is for a "standard home", the property owner has a right to build on his property. He discussed what Palos Verdes Estates refers to as mansionizing where homes no longer meet neighborhood compatibility standards and that the City can now have the opportunity to use its judgment as to the height of the proposed home.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Dyda if he felt it was important to give a person who was considering buying a piece of property or a home in the City a definitive answer as to what they or their neighbors can do with their property.
Mr. Dyda agreed that one should be able to get a definitive answer to the question and added that when it comes to giving someone a very good indication on what is possible on their property, which he feels is the responsibility of the City, should be based on neighborhood compatibility. He realized that it would take a little extra work from the staff, as they would have to look at the property, look at the views, and indicate that one can build a new home however there are some instances where there is an expected view and if one goes above that height they must go before the Planning Commission for a discretionary approval.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Dyda if he felt that property owners should be told they can, by right, build to a certain height.
Mr. Dyda did not think that property owners should be told that they could build to a certain height by right.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Dyda to clarify his comments regarding the 16 foot height limit, noting that Mr. Dyda had stated that the 16 foot height limit came into effect in 1975 and that Proposition M did not have any mention of 16 feet. He stated that in 1989 Prop M was voted in and written all over it was the 16 foot height limitation.
Mr. Dyda responded that he would have to refer to the Proposition, as it was his understanding that the Proposition referred to the Development Code and did not specifically state 16 feet.
Vice Chairman Mueller noted that the Proposition mentions the 16-foot height limit in the building height sections, foliage obstruction section, and several other sections.
Mr. Dyda stated that he may have been thinking of the other Proposition on the ballot at the same time, which was Proposition L.
Commissioner Cote asked Mr. Dyda if the 16-foot issue was originally one that was indicative of a new single family home built on a vacant lot.
Mr. Dyda stated that was the original intent.
Commissioner Cote asked Mr. Dyda, given where the City is today, which is a different environment than 1975 where homeowners are now renovating their homes and adding on to their homes, what he felt should be allowed in terms of height and development standards.
Mr. Dyda answered that today’s environment is continually changing, and noted that there is a process in place which one can apply. He stated that this process does not exclude one from building into a view, it states that one must consider the view. Further a home that wants to expand must comply with neighborhood compatibility and the height standards must be carefully designed to respect the views of neighborhood development. It does not mean that there is a view and one cannot intrude on it in any way, rather that there should be a balancing of the rights between people to allow them to build, but not build indiscriminately or in such a manner than specifically blocks the view when an alternative is available.
Commissioner Tomblin suggested some type of disclosure done by the City at the time a house is sold, explaining what permits were on the property and what type of modifications may be allowed at the home when considering views, etc.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that he was looking at the first, original code that was adopted in 1975 and noted that the language said that any individual or person desiring to construct a residence exceeding 16 feet in height may apply for a height variation permit which, if granted, allows the construction to occur. He felt that the language "desiring to construct a residence" could be interpreted to be a new residence. However, he also had a copy of Proposition M and noted that the same paragraph had been changed to say "any individual or persons desiring to build a structure or an addition to an existing structure exceeding 16 feet . . ." He felt that this was a deliberate attempt to acknowledge that there are additions that occur, and implementing this language is why the City has taken the position that any additions under 16 feet in height do not have to go through the height variation process.
Lori Zorn 3330 Palos Verdes Drive East stated that many people move to this City for the views and that many people will only buy a home that has a view. She stated that homes with a view typically sell for $20,0000 to $50,000 more than homes without a view. She did not think someone has a right to take $50,000 away from a property owner by blocking their view. She did not think the right to build to a certain height should be more important than the right to a view and the dollar value added to a home because of that view. She explained the issue she is involved in with her neighbor and the air conditioning that was installed on his roof. She felt that if a law had been in place protecting views, the neighbor would have had to find a different location for the air conditioning, not installed air conditioning, or found a different house that he could have air conditioning in.
Commissioner Tomblin asked Ms. Zorn if there had been a disclosure regarding the air conditioning units and the possibility of building an addition up to 16 feet in height, if that would have affected her decision to buy the home.
Ms. Zorn answered that she was not sure if that would have affected her decision or not.
Marc Cruz 3330 Palos Verdes Drive East reiterated what Ms. Zorn had said and added that most people who buy homes in the City expect to keep the view that they bought. He felt these views and the means to preserve the views was important to the entire community as a whole. He didn’t feel there should be an issue for people who wanted to build where no view was affected, only those with view issues, which he felt was a small number of residents.
Deborah Mitchell-Taylor 2941 Larkvale Drive stated that a big reason she bought her home was because of the view. She explained how a neighbor had recently added on to their house which affected the view of one of her neighbors. She stated that she immediately sympathized with this neighbor and didn’t understand how the City could allow such a thing to happen.
Commissioner Tomblin asked Ms. Taylor if there was a disclosure from the City regarding the property, if that would have affected her decision to buy the home.
Ms. Taylor answered that she may have thought twice about the purchase of her home. As there was no disclosure, when she bought the house she felt that her view was protected no matter what and she was surprised to learn that wasn’t true. She stated that 16 feet doesn’t sound like very much, but when that is built on a hill above you it is a towering structure.
Joan Barry 30770 Ganado Drive stated that she has lived in Rancho Palos Verdes for 30 years and as retired people she and her husband rely on their real estate value highly. She felt that having purchased property with a view, she should be allowed to retain that view. She felt that she purchased a home and property with a view and should be allowed to keep that view. She understood that neighbors that want to build have rights, but did not think they should be able to have those rights if it infringes upon someone else’s rights. She hoped that the Planning Commission and City Council would agree to protect all of the views in Rancho Palos Verdes, whether they are expansive or small.
Commissioner Tomblin noted that Ms. Barry had recently been before the Planning Commission when a neighbor was proposing a second story addition and asked Ms. Barry how she felt the process worked in protecting her views.
Ms. Barry answered that the process was fair and she was very grateful that her view was protected. She added that she has since heard of many people who were having issues with their views and she wanted to go on record as being concerned that they may lose their views.
Commissioner Tomblin asked Ms. Barry if she felt the process she went through protected both the property owner’s rights as well as the view owner’s rights and if this was a good model.
Ms. Barry thought this was a good model, as they ended up with a compromise with their neighbors.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that in the case of Ms. Barry the Planning Commission was able to use the current code and arrive at a decision that Ms. Barry felt was fair. He noted that the Planning Commission has before them a proposal from the staff to format some issues in a certain way to present to the City Council so that they could decide whether or not to change the interpretation of the current Code, and noted that if they Code is changed the decision regarding the view from the Barry property may or may not be the same. He asked Ms. Barry if there was a particular issue she would like changed or elaborated on.
Ms. Barry felt that all views should be protected, no matter how small, as homeowners purchased a home with a view and it should be protected and it would be unfair not to protect that view. She noted, however, that anyone who buys a home across from a vacant lot should realize that lots were to be built on and they could possibly lose their view.
Commissioner Duran Reed noted that the staff report staff was suggesting a change to finding no. 4 which would restrict the viewing area and therefore the outcome in the Barry’s case would have been different and the Planning Commission would not have been able to protect their view.
Chairman Long felt that staff was saying the current approach, which he has seen in many height variation permits, is that finding number 4 is essentially the same as finding number 6. He noted that finding number 6 says that if one significantly impairs a view from a viewing area a height variation permit cannot be issued, and that finding no. 4. states that a structure should be designed so as to minimize the impairment of view. He feels that staff interpretation is to essentially collapse the two into the same thing by interpreting them to mean the same thing.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the City, including previous City Councils and Planning Commissions, has tried to be consistent in that one finding says viewing area and one doesn’t then viewing area has been applied to both.
Tom Redfield 31273 Ganado Drive stated that he could not support the staff recommendation to make some type of decision at this meeting, as it is premature, more information is needed, the staff report information should be better framed, and more information gathered. He felt that many on the Planning Commission, planning staff, and City Council have polarized their own perspectives on this issue, and the longer they have spent on the Planning Commission or City Council, the more these perspectives have come down as absolutes in regards to the 16 foot absolute by right limit. He felt that this tone has changed during this meeting and encouraged the Planning Commission to set up a process, as some of the City Council members have not have the time and experience with this process and need much more information. He felt that there was a need for discussion and reshaping of the current code to deal with several dimensions of the project including modification of the absolute right to build up to 16 feet high on existing and when homes exceed the 16 foot height the code needs to clarify that the portion under 16 feet in height should be included in the potential loss of view. He explained that he would normally recommend the Planning Commission hold special workshops to work their way through this issue, however he was a little concerned about that because until tonight he saw a lot of defending of the status quo. Therefore, he asked the Planning Commission to reject the staff recommendation and begin to develop a process to deal with all of the ideas and comments that have been shared with the Planning Commission at this meeting.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that at the joint workshop the idea of this issue being remanded to the Planning Commission had been discussed, but the City Council had decided against that course of action. He asked Mr. Redfield if he was suggesting that the Planning Commission should hold hearings despite what the City Council had directed.
Mr. Redfield replied that his research has shown that there is a lack of understanding, agreement, and clarity between the planning staff and the Planning Commission, as well as between members of the Planning Commission. He stated that the research has shown there is a wide diversion of locked in positions, except for two members of the City Council, and those two would like to have a lot more information. He hoped that the Planning Commission would begin a process of developing a plan on how the Planning Commission, City Council, staff, and residents can get input on the subject.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that he felt this issue was already before the City Council and that the Planning Commission was only being asked to make certain all issues and concerns were included in the staff report to the City Council.
Chairman Long closed the public hearing.
Chairman Long agreed with Commissioner Cartwright in that the Planning Commission cannot decide the issues regarding this matter and can only make suggestions to the staff regarding the staff report, unless the City Council elects to send the matter back to the Planning Commission. Therefore, he felt the goal of the Planning Commission should be to pass the staff report prior to the presentation to the City Council. He felt that it would be appropriate to ask staff to move forward with bringing a revised staff report to the Planning Commission and providing any additional input requested.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 10:30 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 10:45 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
CONTINUED BUSINESS (CONT)
Commissioner Cote felt a section should be added to the staff report discussing neighborhood compatibility and how views can be triggered by neighborhood compatibility and when that assessment is triggered. Also, in discussing findings, she felt that the staff report only addresses finding no. 4 and she would like to see finding no. 6 addressed.
Chairman Long added that finding no. 6 raises the issue of the definition of viewing area of the definition of viewing area explicitly, and asked staff to review that.
Commissioner Cote stated that she would like to see the Planning Commission and City Council at least entertain the issue of holding a joint workshop, as the Planning Commission can then receive direction from the City Council on the issues but also implementation of that direction.
Commissioner Duran Reed agreed with the comments of Commissioner Cote and added that the Planning Commission has been debating this issue for a very long time and she now felt very uncomfortable just having one meeting with regards to the City Council. She did not think the Planning Commission has had the opportunity to get full citizen input on the subject and felt that the idea of a workshop was very important. She stated that this topic does not only affect the members of the Planning Commission, City Council, and planning staff, but also all of the 41,000 residents of the City and felt that it was important that the City Council and Planning Commission understand if the residents want to limit views, protect views, or do something in between. She felt that it was important to address the staff report in such a way that it was content neutral, and felt that the only part of the staff report that was underlined was the part that actually limits views. She asked that her suggested changes to the staff report be included in the revised report as well as any other suggestions made by the Planning Commission. She felt that maintaining what was currently in the staff report but with the added suggestions of the Planning Commission would make a more complete staff report.
Commissioner Cartwright felt that the Planning Commission has been debating for many years the issue of what views should be taken into account and whether a view under 16 feet should be taken into account on a height variation, but there has been almost no debate on the right to build up to 16 feet. He felt that the Planning Commission agreed that everyone has the right to do that under the current code. He stated that a workshop had been held and that the City Council felt very strongly that there probably isn’t much benefit to sending the issue back to the Planning Commission because there would always be a split vote on the subject. He felt that the City Council had made it very clear that they wanted the issue to go before them. He therefore recommended that the Planning Commission give advice on the items they felt should be included in the staff report or suggest a better way to frame or format the report. He stated that the Director, in deference to the Commission, is showing them what the staff report will look like. He was not in favor of trying to hold additional hearings on the subject or delay sending the staff report to the City Council.
Commissioner Tomblin was in favor of the staff report as written, with one comment on the viewing area. He felt that the viewing area should be defined clearly and that the viewing area should be allowed to be on the second level.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that Proposition M has a provision that allows for the viewing area to be on the second level of a home, and staff will clearly document that.
Commissioner Tomblin felt that neighborhood compatibility was important as it could be used as a tool to be able to help keep viewing areas and view corridors. He felt that the view issues being brought before the Planning Commission were there because individuals bought a piece of property and never really understood what could be built. He stated that there is a history that shows 16 feet is a standard height that can be built to. He felt because of the uniqueness of this area, it is important to have a city inspection and disclosure when a house is sold by the City, the owner, and the agent.
Vice Chairman Mueller felt there was some urgency to this matter, and noted that while more input is always important, this input could be given directly to the City Council. He agreed with Commissioner Cartwright that the City Council wanted the issue to come before them rather than the Planning Commission. He felt it was very important to include history and background in the staff report, as well as examples. Regarding disclosure, he felt that it was the responsibility of a potential buyer and the burden should not be placed on the City. He felt that the staff report tries to tighten the code and gives options to the City Council on how to tighten the code, however he felt some of the restrictions might be a little too restrictive.
Chairman Long agreed that there was some urgency in solving some of the issues involved with this issue. He felt that this was on the agenda because the code is being read differently by different Planning Commissioners. He felt that it was not correct for the Planning Commissioners to applying different sets of rules to their decisions. He felt that these rules should be understandable and not require to have been on the Planning Commission for years to understand the tradition behind the decisions. He felt a new Commissioner should be able to pick up the Code, read it and understand how to apply the rules when making their decisions. He further that the public should be able to do the same. He felt that neighborhood compatibility was an issue, and referred to the neighborhood compatibility handbook discussion on how the height of the structure should be carefully designed to respect the views from neighboring properties. He felt the issues of neighborhood compatibility and code amendments regarding views were intertwined and should both be considered. He too agreed that the staff report should contain a full background of history on the subject. He also felt that there should be a precise and clear understanding of what all of the issues are, which is not just how do we make the code conform to what we have always been doing. Rather, he felt the question was what are the issues and possible solutions to the issues. He also felt the question to be answered was that, consistent with the intent of the voters who adopted Proposition M and consistent with the intent and desires of the citizens who live in the community now, what sort of view protection do we want? He stated that the issue then becomes does the Planning Commission then ignore in the height variation process all of the aspects of the view under 16 feet. He also felt that one question to be answered were findings 4 and 6 of the height variation permit process one and the same. He stated that if the answer was yes it would suggest eliminating one or the other and writing a single finding to incorporate the two, or if the answer is no then the differences need to be clearly defined. Finally, he felt the issue of whether there is an absolute right to build to 16 feet when a grading permit, variance, or height variation is not needed should be discussed, and if there is not that absolute right, should there be. He asked staff if will possible to have the revised staff report available to the Planning Commission at the next meeting.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that he did not think he could have the staff report ready for the July 8 meeting, however could possibly have it ready for the July 22 meeting. He stated that he would speak to the City Manager as to how to proceed.
Commissioner Cote moved to continue the item to the meeting of July 22 or such other date that the Planning Director may choose, seconded by Commissioner Duran Reed. Approved, (6-0).
6. Coastal Sage Scrub habitat protection ordinance
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report explaining that the City is always very concerned when there is an attempt to clear brush that may affect habitat and the nesting gnatcatchers. He explained that staff had information that there was going to be some brush clearance and felt it was important to get an Urgency Ordinance adopted by the City Council saying that such clearance cannot be done until a biology report has been done that shows that there will not be an impact to habitat. He stated that City Council adopted that Urgency Ordinance at their May 20 meeting and per the City Attorney he was presenting a non-urgency version of the Ordinance for adoption. He stated that the Ordinance before the Planning Commission was generally the same Ordinance that the City Council adopted, with minor changes made by the City Attorney, and staff was recommending the Planning Commission forward this ordinance to the City Council for their July 1 meeting.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked for clarification as to how much land was being considered under this Ordinance.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that in the Ordinance passed by the City Council there was a definition of weed abatement, with no reference to acreage. However, the intent was to prohibit the conduct on properties greater than 2 acres. Therefore, in the new version of the Ordinance there is a change to the definition of weed abatement that includes a 2-acre size reference.
Commissioner Cote asked staff to clarify the changes made by the City Attorney.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the definition of weed abatement and the paragraph regarding prohibited conducted were made consistent, both having a reference to properties greater than 2 acres in size. Under exemptions, additional language was added to ask that, along with the fire order, the owner also submit a copy of the plan showing how much habitat is being removed. He stated that this request was made for accounting purposes. Additional language was added to discuss removal of coastal sage scrub or other non-coastal sage scrub when there is issuance of a 4(D) Permit or 10(A) Permit. He also noted that the City Attorney clarified that the focus of the concern is ensuring that the specific area where the work is going to be performed is not occupied.
Chairman Long opened the public hearing.
Jim Knight 5 Cinnamon Lane discussed Section 1D and compared that with Section 17.01.020 of the Code and noted that section only refers to removal of occupied habitat and felt that needed to be clarified. Under exemptions and the references to biological reports, he suggested that the biology reports be ordered by the City and paid for by the applicant. He explained that this would address the problem of the biologist who is hired by the person with the vested interest in the outcome of the report and receiving a report that is in their best interest.
Chairman Long was concerned that if the City were to hire the biologist, they may become liable for the actions of that biologist. He suggested a solution where there is a pre-approved list of biologists that the applicant’s can choose from and this keeps the City from being involved in the contractual relationship.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that staff was comfortable with reports that are submitted from a qualified registered biologists. He agreed that the City would not want to get involved in a contractual agreement with biologists, and also noted that in the past the City has tried to put together a list of biologists, however staff has had trouble putting that list together. He stated that he would like to discuss the issue with the City Attorney before making any recommendations to the City Council.
Barbara Sattler agreed with the staff report but felt that the 10 day window for comment was an extremely short amount of time and requested the time period be extended so that there can be a more complete dialogue.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked Ms. Sattler if she had any suggestions on how the public could be made more aware of the comment period.
Ms. Sattler suggested putting the information on the web site or on a list serve type of system. She felt that mailing information to interested parties was not efficient as too much time was lost in the mail.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that there is no noticing involved with this and if the Planning Commission wanted to add that there would have to be noticing language added and a time frame set.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked Ms. Sattler if she had a list of biologists that could be used.
Ms. Sattler answered that she did not have a list but thought it would be an interesting concept for the City to consider.
Commissioner Tomblin asked if there was already a biological report on record and why that report couldn’t be updated and used.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that there are biological reports, however every nesting season there could be changes to the nesting patterns of the gnatcatchers and they could be in areas they have not nested in before. Therefore, the Ordinance was requiring that the survey be no older than 6 months.
Commissioner Tomblin asked why the current report couldn’t be updated.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the current NCCP study was a funded five year project done by Dr. Atwood, which has now ended. Therefore, individual property owners now have the responsibility to hire a biologist to prove to the City that these areas are still unoccupied by gnatcatchers.
Gary Weber 6610 Palos Verdes Drive South stated he was representing York Long Point Associates, which is opposed to this proposed ordinance. He stated the objections were based on the following facts: There is currently State and Federal law, which adequately protects Coastal Sage Scrub habitat. He stated that York Long Point has always complied with those laws. Secondly, the Ordinance lacks the standards and objective criteria from which any decision makers need to make a decision on this issue. He felt that the Ordinance, as written, could be interpreted differently by different people which would allow for selective interpretation and selective administration of the Ordinance. He felt that the appeal process in the Ordinance is onerous and inappropriate. He noted that the Ordinance calls for criminal penalty for violating the ordinance, which he felt was quite unusual for a zoning or development code issue. He stated that he would like to work with the City and staff to establish a less onerous process whereby the York Long Point land can be taken into account.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if this ordinance applies to large areas of land that are not under NCCP or habitat that is not managed by the City. He noted that there are HOAs that own over two acres and do annual weed abatement and wondered if this ordinance would apply to situations such as this.
Director/Secretary answered that this Ordinance applies to all land in the City.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that this was the first time he had heard of this Ordinance and asked if the HOAs or individual homeowners had been made aware of this Ordinance.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that HOAs had not been notified of the Ordinance, but added that the intent of the Ordinance was to exempt fire department orders for brush clearance.
Commissioner Cartwright was concerned that residents and HOAs are not aware of this ordinance and that the Ordinance calls for criminal penalty for violating the ordinance.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt that Commissioner Cartwright brought up a very good point and that there was no plan to notify the residents individually other than putting the information on the website.
Chairman Long asked if this was an issue that staff should discuss with the City Attorney, as he felt the Ordinance should define precisely where the Ordinance is going to apply and take steps to make sure those who have obligations to comply are notified.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt that was a good idea, and noted that the intent of the Ordinance was not to affect regular weed abatement, but noted that in some areas where weed abatement is expanding, it may be a concern. He stated that Staff would discuss these changes with the City Attorney to improve the Ordinance but, in the interim, the Urgency Ordinance will need to be extended by the Council on July 1.
Vice Chairman Mueller moved to continue the item to the meeting of July 8, 2003, seconded by Commissioner Cote. Approved, (6-0)
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
As it was after midnight, Commissioner Cote moved to continue the remaining items to the next meeting, seconded by Vice Chairman Mueller. Approved, (6-0).
7. Minutes of May 27, 2003
Continued to the meeting of July 8, 2003
8. Minutes of June 10, 2003
Continued to the meeting of July 8, 2003
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
9. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of July 8, 2003
The meeting was adjourned at 12:42 a.m.