CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
AUGUST 26, 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.
Vice Chairman Mueller led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Cartwright, Cote, Duran Reed, Lyon, Tomblin, Vice Chairman Mueller, and Chairman Long.
Absent: Commissioner Tomblin was excused.
Chairman Long left at 9:35 P.M.
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Senior Planner Mihranian, Associate Planner Blumenthal, Associate Planner Schonborn, Assistant Planner Yu, and Recording Secretary Torres.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Commissioner Duran Reed moved to approve the agenda as presented, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. There being no objection, it was so ordered.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed three items regarding Agenda Item No. 1 and seven items regarding Agenda Item No. 4.
Chairman Long noted that he received a letter dated August 22, 2003 from Ms. Clara Duran Reed and Mr. Jim Reed regarding Agenda Item No. 1. Chairman Long also noted that he was unable to perform site visits due to unanticipated work obligations for Agenda Items No. 2, 3, and 4, thus he would be abstaining from these items. He added that due to work obligations he would be leaving early.
Commissioner Duran Reed noted that she received a letter dated August 7, 2003 from Michael and Antoinette Tramontin regarding an item scheduled for the September 9, 2003 Planning Commission meeting.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items)
1. Site Plan Review Permit—Appeal (CASE ZON2002-00001): 30650 Palos Verdes Drive East
Chairman Long noted that the appeal involves Commissioner Duran Reed, and pursuant to State law, she was not permitted to be in the room except when speaking as the appellant, and therefore was excused from the room.
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, giving a brief history of the project and noting that the item before them was continued from the June 10, 2003 Planning Commission meeting. He added that Staff recommendation was to deny the appeal and uphold the Director’s approval since all of the necessary findings for the Site Plan Review application could be made in a positive manner. He added that at the June 10, 2003 meeting the Planning Commission expressed a few concerns with the compatibility of the proposed project. To which the Planning Commission continued the item to a future date allowing time for the applicant to address the concerns and comments raised by the Planning Commission at the June 10, 2003 meeting.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that in response to those concerns raised at the meeting the applicant submitted modified plans to Staff on August 14, 2003. These plans included a change in the architectural style—modifications to certain design elements and location of the proposed residence. Temple style pediments of the roof gable have been revised including a hip-pitched roof design. He added that the entire residence was moved approximately two feet southwest. The entry was also redesigned and simplified to incorporate a hip design.
Associate Planner Schonborn noted that the Planning Commission had raised specific concerns regarding neighborhood compatibility, and staff now seeks direction from the Planning Commission as to whether the revised project addresses the concerns raised by the Commission with regards to neighborhood compatibility. Staff recommends that the Planning Commission review the revised design of the proposed project and determine whether the modifications adequately address the Planning Commissions’ concerns with neighborhood compatibility, and if determined to be acceptable, deny the appeal and upholding the Director’s approval as redesigned.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that the plans that they are reviewing this evening are different than the plans that were originally presented to them at the June 10, 2003 Planning Commission meeting. He asked if these plans have changed enough that staff’s opinion might have also changed with regards to the compatibility of the structure.
Associate Planner Schonborn noted that the approval of the original proposal was due to the fact that the required findings for the Site Plan Review application could be made, by staff, in a positive manner. Some of the comments that were raised by the Commission on June 10, 2003 noted certain elements that could be redesigned, to which the applicant has complied.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if Staff still finds this redesigned plan to be compatible.
Associate Planner Schonborn replied yes.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that in the packet he was unable to find an analysis of the immediate neighborhood in terms of lot size, structure size, and number of stories. He asked if Staff had such analysis and if so he would be able to review it.
Associate Planner Schonborn noted that the June 10, 2003 Staff Report included, as an attachment, the original staff report that was approved by the Director which contained said analysis. He added that he would distribute it to the Commission.
Commissioner Cote inquired on the thought process of how the mass/ bulk has been addressed on the specific lot. She also asked if there was any reduction in the square footage.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that the square footage has not changed and noted the design/ architectural elements that have been modified. He added that the project architect would be most suitable in answering about the approach taken.
Commissioner Cote noted that she too did not have a copy of the original Staff report. She asked if it would be possible to have Staff, in the future, include the original staff report that contain all of the initial findings and comments in the packets.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the original staff report was included to the Commission at the last meeting but was not attached to the staff report that was provided. He noted that a copy of that report would be made and distributed to the Commission.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if the proposed residence touches the set back lines on all sides.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that it did not.
Vice Chairman Mueller noted that the Homeowner’s Association had originally disapproved the originally proposed plans. He asked staff if the Homeowner’s Association has reviewed the revised plans that are presented tonight.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that staff had received written comments from the El Prado Estates Homeowner’s Association in the previous plan that have been distributed tonight and were included as attachments in the previous staff report. However, he noted that with respect to the revised plans he is unable to comment whether the Homeowner’s Association has reviewed the plans.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if Homeowner’s Association would not agree with the present plans, would that have any bearing on the Commission’s decision.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that it should not have any bearing on the Commission’s decision.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if, as far as the City is concerned, the Homeowner’s Association has the right to approve or disapprove plans.
Director/ Secretary Rojas noted that the action on any Association’s part is irrespective of any City decision. A City’s decision does not have to be made with their consensus.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked what is the correct setback measurement from the driveway.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that there is a 20 -foot setback from the property line. There is an additional 15-20 foot easement located on the adjacent property. He specified that the paved portion takes up both easements not just that of the subject property.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if staff was recommending that additional parking spaces be provided on the side of the house but not in front of the garage and asked if that was acceptable.
Associate Planner Schonborn replied that that was correct and acceptable.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if the residence that is across the street, from the subject property, has enough room to park their cars on their own driveway.
Associate Planner Schonborn noted that he it is hard to establish where their easement line is located without having a survey for that particular residence, however the way that residence is physically configured, there appears to be room for cars to park.
Chairman Long opened the public hearing.
Clara Duran Reed 30652 Palos Verdes Drive East (appellant) requested 7 minutes to speak, which was granted by the Planning Commission. She began by clarifying some questions that had come up before the public hearing. She first noted that there was a typo in the letter dated August 22, 2003 with reference to the setback. She clarified that the subject property does not reach the setbacks. She then stated that she intended to convey that the proposed residence reaches across the entire buildable area of the lot and two setbacks: the setback in the back of the house, the setback on the garage side, the edged of the buildable lot to the front side, and then again to the side. She further stated that it was not all of the setbacks, only two of the buildable areas of the lot and two of the setback sides. She added that staff indicated that the setback from the garage begins in the middle of the road. She noted that this is an important element because parked vehicles would end up in the middle of the road. She stated that the lot sizes are misleading because many of the lots, surrounding the subject property, extend into the canyon. She further noted that the buildable areas of the lots should be taken into consideration. She added that the architectural revisions still do not address the bulk and the mass of a home that reaches two setback lines and two edges of the buildable lot. She added that the Homeowner’s Association is having a meeting on September 2, 2003. She stated that the President of the Homeowner’s Association has received a copy of the revised plans and noted that a decision has not been made. Ms. Duran Reed distributed copies of a petition from surrounding neighbors who oppose the project in question and a copy of another petition that was signed by three individuals.
Ms. Duran Reed noted that she and her husband moved to Rancho Palos Verdes in 1998 due to the views and the open space. Ms. Duran Reed provided pictures that were viewed on the overhead projector of her views from her home. He stated that the homes in her tract were designed in a manner where they are all set back. The Commission was presented with pictures from 10 surrounding homes, including her home.
Ms. Duran Reed concluded by stating that presently before them is a bulky, massive home that sits on top of a hill, reaches all edges, reaches all setbacks, and that is overall an eyesore. She added that this home is located on a corner so everyone that goes around the corner has to see the home. She stated that she would like to work with Mr. Wolf on a plan B for this project, so that a better plan can be presented.
Commissioner Cote asked Ms. Duran Reed to clarify what is meant by ‘plan B’.
Ms. Duran Reed stated that in January the possibility of grading down resulting in an underground garage and lowering the home by three feet was discussed. This is what is meant to by ‘plan B’ and what she would like to see happen.
Commissioner Cote noted that ‘plan B’ is not being reviewed this evening. She noted that what is presently being reviewed is a revision of the first proposed plan. She asked Ms. Duran Reed if she has seen ‘plan B’.
Ms. Duran Reed stated that she has not seen plans for ‘plan B’.
Chairman Long asked if the Homeowner’s Association would be looking at the revised set of plans at the meeting of September 2, 2003.
Ms. Duran Reed replied yes.
Commissioner Cote, referring to correspondence by Ms. Duran Reed, asked that Ms. Duran Reed elaborate on the gazebo that she referred to as incompatible with the architectural style of the surrounding homes.
Ms. Duran Reed stated that she has not seen a gazebo remotely similar in the surrounding homes. She also noted that this gazebo is located in an area where it may potentially block the view of the cars passing by. She then suggested that if the homeowner was adamant about keeping the gazebo she suggested moving the gazebo and the garage away to a different location of the property that is closer to the hillside, so that it would be away from the view from the road.
Commissioner Cote asked what percentage of the homeowners are represented in the petition that Ms. Duran Reed had distributed to the Commission.
Ms. Duran Reed answered that she did not have the percentage.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Ms. Duran Reed to clarify the analysis in the correspondence from the El Prado Homeowner’s Association where they state that this home was proposed to reach a height of 17.5 feet.
Ms. Duran Reed noted that the letter is alluding to the initial plans. She added that the new petition refer to the modified plans.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff if the original plans proposed to raise the roof ridgeline from 13 feet to 17.5 feet.
Associate Planner Schonborn noted that if what is in question is the original submittal he would have to check the plans to confirm.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff if a height variation would have been required if the project was proposing to reach 17.5 feet.
Director/ Secretary Rojas noted that there is a 16’/20’ height allowance for pads since the pads are not entirely level. He clarified by stating that 16 feet would be allowed on the high side and 20 feet on the lower side. Concluding that it is possible to propose a home on a pad at a height of 17.5 feet without a height variation.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that Ms. Duran Reed had stated that the house is substantially larger than that of the surrounding residences by approximately 30%. He asked Ms. Duran Reed to please clarify.
Ms. Duran Reed noted that this percentage was based on initial conversations with staff and noted that it was subsequently concluded by staff that the actual home was approximately larger than the surrounding residences by 18%.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that while conducting the site visit he noticed that there was a home containing a driveway located very close to the road.
Ms. Duran Reed noted that this home is located on a very limited lot that is elongated. She added that this particular home could not have been built further back because there is an extreme slope into the canyon.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that the homes that were used as an example of the surrounding homes were within16-25 feet in height. He added that there was one home that was 13 feet in height and stated that this home was also very different from the surrounding homes.
Ms. Duran Reed stated that when the homes where built they were intended to be staggered in height for view purposes, allowing the homeowner’s to have views of the canyon.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Ms. Duran Reed to clarify what she meant in the email that she sent to the Commission stating that the applicant does not intend to continue tonight’s meeting, since the applicant is present at this meeting.
Ms. Duran Reed stated that was her understanding.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked for clarification of the petition submitted, and noted that the petition states that the proposed design is incompatible with the architectural style of the neighborhood. He asked if the reason it is incompatible was because of the view, as he did not see anything in the paragraph addressing the architectural style of the proposed home other that the view issue.
Ms. Duran Reed stated that the concern raised by the petition is two fold. She explained that the homes were initially designed with the intention preserving views and if the ridgelines are raised it would cause the disruption of a view. She added that it is also incompatible because of the proposed size, giving the appearance of a large home sitting on top of the hill.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if the only way to address the compatibility issue would be through the view concerns and the gazebo concerns.
Ms. Duran Reed stated that if the applicant is fond of the gazebo and is adamant on keeping it she noted that the applicant could move the gazebo to a different location on the property. She also suggested moving the garage further away from the road as to maintain that area open and reduce the garage’s visibility to the public.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Ms. Duran Reed if the proposed application would improve or hinder street parking, when considering that additional parking is being provided.
Ms. Duran Reed stated that she believes that it would not make an impact, since parking on private property is currently practiced.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Ms. Duran Reed what she meant by her statement about oversized homes previously approved by the Commission.
Ms. Duran Reed stated that in some previous applications before the Commission there were individuals that felt that some approved homes were oversized. However the Commission approved the homes because the mass of the homes was not apparent from the street.
Commissioner Cartwright clarified whether Ms. Duran Reed was suggesting that perception should preside over square footage of a project (referencing a correspondence by Ms. Duran Reed).
Ms. Duran Reed stated that it is not the numbers but rather what the project looks like.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 8:05 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 8:10, at which time they reconvened.
Chairman Long noted that Planning Commission rules state that no new business will be heard after 11:00 p.m., and as the current item may still take quite some time to discuss, he suggested that item no. 5 on the Agenda be continued to a future Planning Commission meeting.
Vice Chairman Mueller moved to abide by the Planning Commission rules not to take any new business after 11:00; therefore item no. 5 on the Agenda will be continued to the next meeting, seconded by Commissioner Cote. Approved, (5-0-1) with Commissioner Duran Reed recused (this motion was taken while Agenda item no. 1 was being heard).
PUBLIC HEARINGS (CONT)
James Reed 30652 Palos Verdes Drive East stated that he was against the present project for several reasons: it would have significant view impacts of the canyon and the ocean from his home; the home appears to be larger in scale than the surrounding residences, thus making it incompatible and unsightly. He stated that the Wolf home was built to a height of 13-feet so that he can preserve the canyon and ocean view from his home. He added that if Mr. Wolf would consider building an underground parking garage he would be in favor of the project. Thus, encouraging the Planning Commission to uphold the appeal and deny the project.
Nagy Backhoum 3800 Pacific Coast Highway, Torrance, stated that he was the architect for the project. He requested 7 minutes to speak, which was granted by the Planning Commission. Mr. Backhoum clarified that what is referred to as ‘plan B’ are the originally submitted plans, which were rejected by the Homeowner’s Association. He added that he has been working with Mr. Wolf on a continuous basis, being sensitive to the concerns of the neighbors by modifying the plans and noted that as a good neighbor Mr. Wolf paid for this appeal. He added that the view, mass and bulk were significantly minimized in the revised plan that is presently before them—various roof and architectural alterations. The architectural style is now considered to be Italian Villa versus Greek Temple. He stated that the project touches the building envelope but not the set backs, anywhere. The project is on a private street and sits back 150 feet away from the street and stated that the entire residence was moved 1’10" back until reaching the building envelope. He stated that that this project is beyond the standard visibility triangle. Mr. Backhoum concluded by stating that he has submitted the project to the Homeowner’s Association and has yet to receive a response.
Commissioner Cote asked if Mr. Backhoum, as the architect, had any geological concerns with grading—as proposed in the original plans.
Mr. Backhoum replied that he did not have any geological issues with grading but that the surrounding neighbors did have concerns.
Commissioner Lyon asked why Mr. Wolf had paid for this appeal.
Mr. Backhoum responded that Mr. Wolf did not want the Reeds to feel as if they had no alternatives.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if the columns, at the entry, were redesigned.
Mr. Backhoum explained that to lower the ridgeline, the entrance and the columns were completely redesigned.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked how this residence compares in buildable lot size to the average homes in the surrounding area.
Mr. Backhoum replied that if compared with the surrounding lots, the buildable lot size of this property is larger than most.
James Wolf 30650 Palos Verdes Drive East stated that approximately 18 months ago he and Mr. Backhoum presented plan B, at the Reed’s residence, to the surrounding neighbors. He stated that during that meeting Mr. Duffy, one of the neighbors, was concerned with the safety and geologic affects of grading in that area. In order to alleviate Mr. Duffy’s, and the surrounding neighbors’ concerns, the plans were modified with minimal amount of grading. He added that in front of his house is an easement and that they have complied with the requirements of the easement. He feels that the gazebo does not result in any view or safety impact to the Reed’s residence. He concluded by stating that there have not been any parking issues for the past twenty-five years.
Garry Chaffin 30648 Palos Verdes Drive East stated that Mr. Wolf has kept the surrounding neighbors informed and finds that there are no neighborhood compatibility issues with the proposed project. He added that the Reeds are contesting a view obstruction that they did not have at the time of purchase. He added that he is in favor of the project.
Clara Duran Reed (in rebuttal) distributed a copy of the plans. She stated that the proposed project significantly differentiates from its neighboring residences. The original plan was presented to the Homeowner’s Association but never to the Planning Commission. She felt that the original plan would have blocked her neighbor’s views and that it would have been incompatible with the neighborhood due to its mass and bulk. She added that some neighbors did have concerns with excavation, as did she but that she would favor grading if it was assured that her property would not be impacted and if Mr. Wolf would pay for insurance. She stated that the Homeowner’s Association did receive the original plans and has yet to receive any new or revised plans. Ms. Duran Reed felt that parking is a problem. She concluded by stating that Mr. Duffy opposes this revised plan as stated in his letter directed to the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Cote asked what plans were presented to the neighbors that signed the petition.
Ms. Duran Reed stated that there are two different petitions; the first stamped ‘Received February 10th’ pertains to the plans reviewed at the June 10th Planning Commission meeting and the petition that was submitted this evening pertains to the current proposal.
Vice Chairman Mueller stated that Mr. Backhoum had stated that the entrance including the columns have been redesigned, and asked Ms. Duran Reed to clarify what she meant by stating that the columns are the same.
Ms. Duran Reed clarified that she meant to convey they are architecturally different, but the columns are still part of the design. She added that she found that this property is the only residence with columns and, as such, felt that the columns are incompatible. Furthermore, she felt that if the height was reduced to 13-feet, either by lowering the building or by grading down then she would not have concerns with the project.
Chairman Long closed the public hearing.
Chairman Long asked staff if this project is essentially considered a new house.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated yes in that it is considered a tear down/re-build.
Chairman Long asked if this project was approved, would it be subject to a zone change with further public hearings, to move the open space hazard line.
Director/Secretary Rojas replied that a zone change would be necessary to adjust the open space hazard line as a result of the stabilization of the San Ramon Canyon.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff to clarify whether the road is classified as a private road.
Associate Planner Schonborn replied that it is considered to be a private driveway.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff if the project requires the Fire Department approval.
Associate Planner Schonborn noted that the Fire Department review takes place once the plans are submitted to the Building Department. He further explained that based on the width of the access of the paved road area that it meets the minimum standards for fire access.
Commissioner Lyon began by stating that the Commission has been presented with several different versions of what is considered to be factual. He added that the Reeds strategy could be described as ‘Lawyeristic’ (tactics used by attorneys). He stated that in accordance with recent City Council policy, a homeowner has the right to build up to 16 feet. While addressing the compatibility of the project, Commissioner Lyon stated that when compared to the neighborhood, the size of the project is not out of scale and that the appearance (bulk and mass) is observable only by residents across the canyon. He further stated that the Homeowner’s Association approval or disapproval of this project is irrelevant. Commissioner Lyon felt that the majority of the evidence indicates that Mr. Wolf has diligently addressed his neighbor’s concerns. He added that it does not make sense for Mr. Wolf to have paid for this appeal and then not attempt to follow-up with his neighbor’s concerns. He concluded by stating that he is friends with the Reeds, but that as a Commissioner his job is not to be friendly but to be fair, thus somewhat reluctantly he has found that there is no objective rationale to overrule the decision of staff and the Director.
Commissioner Cote stated that because this project does not exceed 16 foot by right height limit recently affirmed by the City Council, as previously stated by Commissioner Lyon, she is not taking the view issue into consideration. She added she does not have any issues with respect to parking and street access. However, since the property is located very close extreme slope (giving a three-dimensional appearance) she felt that the proposed project would stand out. Commissioner Cote felt that the architectural style adjustments were not significant enough to make an impact on the overall appearance of the home. Thus, concluding that the mass and bulk of the property would still be apparent to the public, therefore leaving her with some concerns with regards to the compatibility of the proposed project with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Cartwright felt that the main concern of this appeal is the possible view impairment due to the raising of the ridgeline. He noted that the Planning Commission cannot deny a property owner’s right to build up to 16 feet in height, as stated by the City Council, therefore he will not be taking the view issue into consideration. Commissioner Cartwright felt that neighborhood compatibility was not an issue with this project. He stated that the architectural modifications soften the mass and bulk thus minimizing the overall appearance of the residence. He added that, while conducting a site visit he was unable to find a dominant theme in the surrounding residences and stated that he found the architectural styles of the residences to be diverse. As to the location of the property, Commissioner Cartwright stated that he had observed additional homes located on similar pads near extreme slopes and found that they too had the same appearance in mass. In addition, he felt providing the additional parking would only prove to be an asset. He concluded by stating that he found no problems with the architectural design, the mass/size, and the driveway.
Vice Chairman Mueller agreed with the comments made by Commissioners Lyon, Cote and Cartwright with respect to the view issue. He began by stating that view is not to be considered as the central issue and noted that the applicant has the right to build up to 16 feet in height without grading. He felt that the revised proposal is a reasonable compromise and noted that the architect did a good job pointing out the current modifications. He felt that the modifications address the view, and mass and bulk issues. He added that this particular lot is large in size; however, with a rather small building pad and stated that building out to the buildable area does not compare to building out to the setback, unlike the other similar lots in the surrounding neighborhood that have built up to the setback. Thus, he felt that the proposed lot coverage is reasonable. He noted that due to possible geologic effects grading is not desirable; therefore, favoring the current proposal. He added that the revisions have addressed the parking issue by creating additional parking spaces. He noted that the applicant has fully complied with the neighborhood compatibility issue and finds the revised plans to be more acceptable. He concluded by stating that he upholds the Director’s decision.
Chairman Long noted that the City Council provided the Commission with guidance regarding view issues. He further explained that when a height application is submitted and proposing a project over 16 feet in height, view issues can be taken into consideration. On the other hand, as it is in this case, as Commissioner Cartwright stated, if an applicant is proposing a project up to16 feet in height then view issues are not to be taken into account. Chairman Long disagreed with Commissioner Lyon’s strategic description as ‘Lawyerisitc’ on the other hand he felt that the efforts of this case could be described as trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. He felt that much of this case had focused on the view, however as a Commissioner he is not permitted to consider the view issue. He noted that he had struggled with neighborhood compatibility at the last meeting and would have liked to have had some input from the Homeowner’s Association, even though their input would not be conclusive on the decision made by the Planning Commission. He concluded by stating that the current changes although marginally satisfactory, are sufficient to establish the project as compatible to the neighborhood and encouraged anyone that is dissatisfied with the Planning Commission’s decision to appeal to the City Council; however, he is inclined to uphold the decision of the Director.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2003-37, thereby denying the appeal and upholding the Director’s amended approval of Site Plan Review Permit Case No. ZON2002-00001 as presented by staff, seconded by Vice Chairman Mueller. Approved, (4-1-1) with Commissioner Cote dissenting and Commissioner Duran Reed recused.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 9:35 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 9:45, at which time they reconvened.
Chairman Long left at 9:35 P.M.
2. Height Variation and Grading Permit (CASE ZON2003-00138): 26834 Springcreek
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for a height variation, grading and site plan review. In reviewing the findings for the height variation staff felt all of the finding could be made; however, staff was contacted by Ms. Rhodes on Hyte Road concerning potential view impact from her house. Staff felt that since the new residence is being proposed is less than 16 feet above the existing building pad height that there is no view impact from the structure itself. Additionally, on the structure is compatible with the neighborhood. With regards to the grading permit finding staff felt that all nine findings have been meet and that proposed additions meet the development code. Staff feels that the site plan review can be approved. Staff was contacted by Ms. Rhodes expressing concerns about the foliage on the existing property blocking her view therefore staff conducted a foliage on the subject property analysis. Staff noted that there were several trees and shrub. However, lines of eucalyptus trees are located in Palos Verdes Estates; which block the view from Ms. Rhodes home. Staff felt that requiring the applicant to remove the trees from their property would not be beneficial since the eucalyptus trees would still be obstructing Ms. Rhodes view. Therefore staff is not recommending any conditions for foliage removal from that property. Staff recommended that the Planning Commission approve height variation, grading permit and site plan review subject to the recommending conditions of approval.
Commissioner Cote asked staff if Rancho Palos Verdes and Palos Verdes Estates have an agreement with regards to foliage causing view obstructions?
Associate Planner Blumenthal stated that to this date Rancho Palos Verdes and Palos Verdes Estates do not have an agreement with regards to the removal of foliage.
Commissioner Cote asked if this resolution could be conditioned so that if Palos Verdes Estates removes the trees in the future then the applicant myst remove the foliage.
Director/ Secretary Rojas replied by explaining that the Code states that the Planning Commission should analyze the cases before them in their present form therefore not basing their decisions on future possibilities.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked staff if there would be any privacy impact to the applicant if the trees were lowered.
Associate Planner Blumenthal replied that due to the 6-foot fence, in staff’s opinion, the applicant’s privacy would not be impacted.
Vice Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Jeff Smith 22850 Crenshaw Boulevard stated that he was the architect for the project. He noted he has no intentions of building a structure that would exceed the dimensions depicted in the silhouette.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if the end of the hip roof is represented in the silhouette.
Mr. Smith replied yes, the tallest part of the silhouette does include the hip roof—he referred to it as the dutch gable.
Geoffrey Tong 26834 Spring Creek Road noted that he was present to answer any questions from the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Cote asked if he would be willing to trim the trees on his property, if in the future, Palos Verdes Estates would also agree to remove the existing foliage within the City.
Mr. Tong replied that he would consider that situation when it would arise, however he noted that at that at this time he does not think that it would be necessary to incorporate a condition to the resolution ensuring such actions.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if the existing foliage assists with privacy concerns.
Mr. Tong noted that the foliage does aid with privacy issues.
Ms. Beverly Rhodes 26829 Hyte Road expressed her concerns with regards to her view from her kitchen and dinning room—described her original view as having been panoramic. She felt that the removal of the trees would not present any privacy concerns. She stated that the restored ridgeline would be affected if the proposed structure would exceed what the silhouette presently portrays. She stated that the trees located in Palos Verdes Estates had recently been trimmed the thus partially restoring her view. She concluded by stating that she feels that foliage is temporary but structures are permanent noting that her main concern is the proposed structure.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Ms. Rhodes why she questioned the accuracy of the silhouette noting that the silhouette is certified.
Ms. Rhodes answered that she felt uneasy with the actual certification of the silhouette.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff what is required for the certification of a silhouette.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted that the Planning Department requires that an architect or a civil engineer certify that a silhouette is accurate and noted that in this case it was the architect who had certified the silhouette.
Ms. Rhodes stated that staff had communicated to her that if the silhouette was inaccurate, that the architectural plan would stand. She noted that she finds herself in a quandary because she thought that the purpose of the silhouette was to accurately portray the plans.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that the silhouette is to give one an idea of the location of the ridgelines. The silhouette should represent the proposed project within reason and typically does not depict the exact footprint of the project.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked whether Ms. Rhodes if she would obtain a view if the applicant were to remove his trees.
Ms. Rhodes responded that her view would increase.
Vice Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked whether Ms. Rhodes testimony would change staff’s opinion with regards to the foliage analysis.
Associate Planner Blumenthal replied that Ms. Rhodes’ view concerns were taken into consideration, however her present view would not be affected by this project. Therefore staff’s opinion does not change.
Commissioner Lyon moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2003-38, thereby approving, with conditions, the Height Variation, Grading Permit, and Site Plan Review Case No. ZON2003-00138 as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright.
Commissioner Cote noted that her main concern was foliage and not the structure itself. She felt that incorporating a condition to the resolution would be excessive, however, if in the future Palos Verdes Estates would remove some of the foliage, resulting in view improvement to Ms. Rhodes, she noted that Ms. Rhodes would then have an opportunity to go through the view restoration process to deal with her neighbor’s foliage. She concluded by stating that at this time, given staff’s analysis, she does not feel that there is a strong enough reason to incorporate foliage removal as a condition of approval.
Commissioner Duran Reed felt that this proposed project is a good example of grading to accomplish additional living space as opposed to building straight up that would result in the obstruction of views. She added that she observed similar home designs in the neighborhood. With regards to foliage she noted that she is struggling whether or not to incorporate a condition to trim the trees. She felt that this matter could be better handled through the view restoration process.
Commissioner Cartwright agreed with both Commissioner Cote’s and Commissioner Duran Reeds’ comments.
Vice Chairman Mueller began by complimenting the proposed plan and noted that he found it to be compatible with the neighborhood. He noted that Ms. Rhodes’ concerns, based upon the accuracy of the silhouette, were reasonable. He expressed concern with the foliage in the back yard, however he noted that he agrees with staff’s findings because at this point it is difficult to determine any view impairment, however he noted that in the future this could change and asked that the applicant to consider his neighbor’s concerns. He concluded by stating that at this point he is inclined to agree with the motion.
The motion to approve the motion passed, (5-0).
3. Height Variation, Minor Exception Permit, and Site Plan Review Permit (CASE ZON2003-00215): 7316 Via Lorado
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the Height Variation, Minor Exception Permit and Site Plan Review Permit. The applicant is proposing to construct a 233 square foot addition to the east side of the existing building requiring the removal of unpermitted structure on the property, a 171 square foot single story addition located within the entry courtyard on the north side of the residence, and a 1,297 square foot second story addition located in the west side of the residence. He added that the applicant is requesting to obtain after the fact approval for the wrought iron fence through the minor exception permit process. In review of the findings for the height variation staff noted that they were unable to make several findings. The first finding was that the structure is not designed to minimize view impairment. With regards to cumulative view impairment, staff indicated that he had received six letters from six property owners on Via Rivera and noted that he had conducted site visits on these six properties--staff stated their findings. With regards to neighborhood compatibility, staff found this project is not compatible with the neighborhood and would cause it to deviate from the other homes in the area. As for the privacy finding, staff felt with the set back this project would not infringe on other properties. With regards to the fence staff noted that since it exceeds the 42-inch height limit it requires approval of a minor exception permit. Staff analyzed the findings for the Minor Exception Permit and felt that the fence is consistent with the development code would warrant the approval of the fence, as it exists. The final application is for the site plan review for the 533 square foot single story addition. Staff has determined that it meets the municipal code requirements. Staff is recommending that the planning commission deny the height variation and minor exception permit, without prejudice, and approve the site plan review, subject to the recommended conditions of approval.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that according to the staff report it appeared that after learning about staff’s recommendation to deny the project the applicant presented some interest in modifying the design. He asked why was the applicant not given an opportunity to redesign the project.
Associate Planner Blumenthal replied that staff met with the applicant and recommended that the applicant proceed so that he may have the opportunity to obtain feedback from the Commission and neighbors at the public hearing before making any changes to the project .
Commissioner Cote felt that some of the properties do contain view impairment when standing in the backyard and asked staff how the view analysis was performed.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted that view analyses were done from different properties’ viewing areas.
Director/ Secretary Rojas noted that staff recognizes that the proposed project is visible and it would impair some view, however, the view obstruction is not considered to be significant.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked staff to explain how and when foliage is to be considered.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that according to the height variation guidelines if the foliage is on the view holders’ property the view is to be exluded.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the fence would have to be redesigned if it were reduced to 42-inches.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted that at this point staff is unable to make that determination.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the fence exceeds 6 feet.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted that the according to the plans the fence ranges from 70-72 inches, as measured from the adjacent grade.
Vice Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Nabil Salem 7316 Via Lorado explained the scope of his project, and noted that after the fact wrought iron fence was a minimum of 39 inches in height up to a little less than 6 feet in height. He stated that he needed the addition for his four children, and the current house does not fit his needs. He stated that he would like the second story addition and was very sensitive to the neighbors’ privacy and views when designing the house. He stated that he read the staff report and accepts all of the findings. He stated that his architect is available to address questions from the Planning Commission. He noted that there are several houses in the neighborhood that are as large as his proposed addition. He stated that he would like to work with his architect to address all of his neighbors concerns in a way that will still address his needs.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Salem if he was asking for a continuance so that he could work with his neighbors and staff to mitigate some of the concerns.
Mr. Salem answered that he was requesting a continuance.
Commissioner Cote asked Mr. Salem if he was the owner when the fence was installed.
Mr. Salem answered that he was the owner when the fence was installed.
Commissioner Cote asked Mr. Salem if he understood that the fence required City approval prior to being constructed.
Mr. Salem answered that the project was mismanaged and admitted that the project was done incorrectly.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mr. Salem if he was open to changing the fence.
Mr. Salem answered that he was open to suggestions on changing the fence and would do whatever it takes to comply with the city codes.
Greg Ahn 30129 Via Victoria stated that his home is directly to the east of the applicant’s property, and as soon as the silhouette went up it was obvious that the proposed house will stand out in the neighborhood. He did not think the house and addition would be compatible with anything in the neighborhood. He stated that on the eastern side of his property is the unpermitted recreation room that must be demolished due to the addition and if the new setback will be back to approximately 12 feet, he was agreeable to the new setback. Regarding the height variation, he did not think the staff recommendation to lower the floor plate and change the pitch of the roof was acceptable. Regarding the fence, he was agreeable to the approval of the fence.
Linda Baek 7333 Via Lorado stated that her home is directly in front of the proposed roof deck and addition. She asked that the application not be continued, as she did not think a continuance would address the issues she felt should determine the denial of the second story. She stated that even if the applicant can reduce the height of the project by reducing the roof pitch and plate height, it would not address the total size of the proposed project. She also objected to the fact that this is a two story home, and felt this would set a precedent for other two story homes in the neighborhood, which would cause a cumulative, detrimental affect on people’s views. She was concerned about the proposal as the house is on a corner and is at the top of a hill. She felt the proposal would be an eyesore and would stand out in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Lyon noted that there were already five two-story homes within the 20 closest homes to the applicant, and asked how allowing this second story could create a precedence.
Ms. Baek answered that there are no other two-story homes within this area and that staff had described the situation for these two story homes, which she did not think were analogous to this situation.
Paul Nibarger 7310 Via Marie Celeste stated that he supports the staff recommendations. He was very concerned with the neighborhood compatibility and felt that the proposal would be an eyesore to the neighborhood and reduce property values in the neighborhood. He felt that the fence did not fit into the neighborhood and should be removed.
Heather Oaklander 7321 Via Marie Celeste stated that the fence is an eyesore and that there is still debris on the site from the construction of the fence. She stated that she was originally shown a plan for a single story home and was very surprised when the silhouette was erected for a two-story home.
Brian Oslin 8621 Dalemead Drive, Huntington Beach, stated he was the designer and was available to answer any questions. He noted that he was not made aware of staff’s position regarding the proposal until last week and has not had the opportunity to do any type of redesign. He felt that the height of the ridge could be reduced by at least three feet by reducing the ceiling height on the first floor, the structural thickness on the second floor, and the plate height on the upper floor. He also felt the second story addition could be narrower which would result in a reduction of the ridge height. He also noted that by reducing the width of the second story addition, that it would also reduce the floor area by over 300 square feet. He stated that there is an addition proposed at the side of the garage that the applicant would be willing to eliminate.
Commissioner Duran Reed stated that a previous speaker had stated that even lowering the proposed residence to the height recommended by staff was not sufficient would not be sufficient to avoid view impairment. She asked if there was a reason the house could not be brought down even lower than proposed by staff.
Mr. Oslin answered that the house was about as low as it could go, explaining again the ways he could lower the height of the proposed residence.
Commissioner Cote asked Mr. Oslin if he had ever designed a home in Rancho Palos Verdes and if he was familiar with the neighborhood compatibility guidelines.
Mr. Oslin answered that he had not recently designed a home in this City and was not familiar with the neighborhood compatibility guidelines.
Commissioner Cote felt that it was very advisable for Mr. Oslin to become familiar with the neighborhood compatibility guidelines to advise his client on the proposed design of the home.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked, in light of the discussions at the meeting, what other proposals could be made for the proposed addition, as he did he feel that a continuance of the item would be helpful.
Mr. Oslin answered that if the item were continued he would be able to make adjustments to the plans. He stated that he has already discussed the ways he can lower the height of the structure, however he felt that he could only reduce the floor area by 400 to 500 square feet and still meet the needs of the applicant.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 11:23 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 11:30 p.m., at which time they reconvened.
Vice Chairman Mueller noted that it was after 11:00 p.m. and the Planning Commission rules state that no new business will be heard after 11:00 p.m. thus suggested that items no. 4 and no.6 on the Agenda be continued to a future Planning Commission meeting.
Vice Chairman Mueller moved to abide by the Planning Commission rules not to take any new business after 11:00; therefore items no. 4 and no. 6 on the Agenda were continued to the next meeting, seconded by Commissioner Duran Reed. Approved, (5-0).
PUBLIC HEARINGS (CONT)
Steven Goldstein 30213 Via Rivera stated that he has been empowered and asked by three neighbors to speak on their behalf as well as well as his own. He stated that he and his neighbors purchased their homes because of the views, and felt that they were the most impacted from this proposed addition. He stated that he and his three neighbors were opposed to the proposed second story addition, and noted the sections in the code regarding neighborhood compatibility and view impairment. He noted that two of his neighbors stand to lose 50 percent of their views and one will lose 25 percent of their view if the proposed project is allowed to be constructed, and asked the Planning Commission to justify that. He felt that this proposed addition would also cause severe economic impacts for current and future real estate values. He felt that Mr. Salem’s map of the closest 100 homes which indicated that 32 homes were two story was in error, as he was including split level homes. He noted that there have been three different petitions signed by 40 different homeowners as well as 6 different letters from concerned homeowners, all opposed to the project. He felt it should be obvious that the proposed project was not welcome in the neighborhood and that the neighborhood would like to maintain the status quo. He asked why the City would allow this type of precedent to be set in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Duran Reed noted that Mr. Goldstein had expressed a concern with the scale of the home and that the architect had stated he could take out approximately 450 square feet. She asked if that would be acceptable.
Mr. Goldstein answered that it would still be a two-story home. He felt that even with taking out 450 square feet, the proposed structure would still be too large for the area.
Commissioner Duran Reed asked Mr. Goldstein what would be acceptable.
Mr. Goldstein did not know.
Commissioner Cartwright understood the concerns of view impairment, but did not think that allowing a second story would set a precedent, as there are second story homes in the neighborhood. He stated that it was unclear to him how allowing one more second story home in the neighborhood would set a precedent, and felt that maybe the issue was more of view obstruction.
Mr. Goldstein responded that most of the existing second story homes are on flag lots and weren’t on the main thoroughfare.
Commissioner Cartwright felt that the precedence had already been set, and that it was important to separate the view impairment issue from what was causing the view impairment.
Mr. Goldstein felt that was a point well taken.
Commissioner Cote asked if lowering the second story, as suggested by the architect, would help with the cumulative view impact issues.
Mr. Goldstein answered that lowering the height would only have a minor effect and would not make any difference in the overall picture.
Kathy Anderson 30219 Via Rivera stated that she lives on a view lot and has recently been through a two-year process of view restoration, and now that she has her view restored she may lose it again to this proposed addition. She was concerned about the cumulative view impact and the protected views that residence are entitled to.
Douglas A. Bell 30149 Via Rivera stated that he supports the staff findings. He felt that Rancho Palos Verdes is a unique City in terms of the style of homes and the views from the homes. He was concerned about two story additions that would be allowed to block the neighbor’s views and was very concerned about the cumulative affect of this project. He agreed that there are some two story homes in the neighborhood but are mostly on the non-view side of the street. He objected that the applicant’s home is not currently a view home and the addition would then allow it to become a view home at the expense of the neighbors.
Nabil Salem (in rebuttal) noted that he respects all of the feedback. He added that the pictures that were taken from view areas from each home and he guaranteed that if the new design does not take care of the view issues he would not proceed. He felt confident that if the roof were to be lowered by three feet the view concerns would not be present. He added that he would work with the Planning Department to modify the plan and the silhouette. He concluded by stating that the statistics that he had presented were provided to him by a title company, thus should be accurate.
Vice Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Duran Reed felt it is a good idea to continue this matter to allow the applicant to meet the concerns of his neighbors, Planning Department, and the Planning Commission. She concluded by stating that she is looking forward to seeing the modified plans.
Commissioner Cote complemented staff on the staff report and noted that she was pleased to see that the applicant expressed interest in receiving feedback. She expressed concern given the gravity of the staff report that entailed so many negative findings. She noted that she would like to see both the applicant and architect to work more closely with staff so that they can better understand the various regulations and required approvals in Rancho Palos Verdes. She concluded by stating that given the gravity of the issues she would be inclined to suggest a denial without prejudice, however, she noted that she would go along with a continuance if the rest of the Commissioners are inclined to do so.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that he is in support of a continuance. He felt that the applicant has responded in good faith and that he should have an opportunity to address the concerns raised by his neighbors, staff, and the Planning Commission. He added although the Planning Commission has some discretion they do have to operate within the development code. Therefore he noted that there would be no point for the applicant to come back not having addressed the cumulative view impact. He encouraged the applicant to make the drawings available to his neighbors and to appropriately readjust the silhouette so that they may feel satisfied that he has addressed the issues. He concluded by stating that the applicant deserves the opportunity to address most, if not all, of the concerns therefore he is in support of a continuance.
Commissioner Lyon agreed with Commissioner Cartwright. He felt that a continuance is justified. He felt that the applicant needed to revise the plans so that they may meet the development code. He noted that Commissioner Duran Reed questioning the size of the residence pointed out a subjective matter. He felt that the size that is acceptable really depends on the location of the house and noted that, in this case, this house is located where it is visible and therefore, in his opinion, should be no larger than 4,000 square feet, which is the same as the largest home in the area. He felt that a continuance would allow the applicant to work these issues and noted that he would move to continue the item.
Vice Chairman Mueller agreed with Commissioner Lyon’s comments and noted that he would like to see the applicant make an effort to bring the home up to code and felt that the applicant should first bring the fence up to code since it is visible from the street. He stated that he is having some difficulty with the proposed size of the home because it is so close to the street. He added that he was more concerned about cumulative view that would be affected by the size of the home and noted that he does not feel that lowering the house by three feet would solve the view issue, however, he would like to see the silhouette revised so that he may assess the outcome. He felt that, in his opinion, because of its location and of the view from his neighbors it would be difficult to reduce the cumulative view impairment. He stated that if a continuance is supported it would be in the applicant’s best interest to come back with a more feasible plan, given the amount of interest in the neighborhood. He concluded by stating that he would support a continuance.
Commissioner Duran Reed moved to continue the project to the meeting of October 14, 2003 to allow the applicant to work with staff and address the concerns of the Planning Commission and to adjust the silhouette, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. Approved (5-0).
4. Grading, Variance, and Site Plan Review Permit (CASE ZON2003-00299): 6417 Corsini
Continued to the meeting of September 9, 2003.
5. Code Amendment to clarify the application of the 16-foot height limit and the view findings for Height Variation and Grading Applications (Case No. ZON2003-00417): Citywide
Continued to the meeting of September 9, 2003.
6. General Plan Annual Report: Citywide
Continued to the meeting of September 9, 2003.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
7. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of September 9, 2003
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that there is a View Restoration permit on the September 9, 2003 Planning Commission agenda thus requiring that each Commissioner to conduct a site visit to the applicant’s property, and the foliage owners property, if requested by the foliage owner in writing, in order to participate in the hearing.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:08 p.m.