CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
SEPTEMBER 9, 2003
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Vice Chairman Mueller at 7:08 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 2930 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Tomblin led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Cartwright, Cote, Lyon, Tomblin, Vice Chairman Mueller. Chairman Long arrived at 9:50 p.m.
Absent: Commissioner Duran Reed was excused
Also present were Director of Planning Building and Code Enforcement Rojas, Associate Planner Blumenthal, Assistant Planner Yu, Staff Coordinator Alvarez, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Following a brief discussion, the Planning Commission agreed to hear agenda items 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 4, 7, 8, and 9.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed a letter from Commissioner Duran Reed regarding the proposed code amendment and a letter from the El Prado HOA regarding the Wolf project on Palos Verdes Drive East.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items):
1. General Plan Annual Report
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report, explaining that this is a yearly report to the state how the City has implemented the General Plan through the various decisions that have been made by the Director, the Planning Commission, and the City Council. He stated that staff was recommending the Planning Commission forward the report to the City Council so that it can then be forwarded to the State.
Commissioner Cote asked if there was a section in the report describing the work of the general plan steering committee and their proposed updates to the General Plan.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the introduction of the report makes reference to the general plan being updated.
Commissioner Tomblin moved to accept the report and forward it to the City Council, seconded by Commissioner Cote. Approved, (6-0).
2. Grading, Variance, and Site Plan Review (Case ZON2003-00299): 6417 Corsini
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the various permit applications. He explained that the applicant currently has a usable rear yard for the residence that does not affect the slope in question. Further, staff felt that the properties along Via La Paloma will be looking up at the proposed retaining wall and terraced slope instead of the existing natural slope of the property, the proposed project would, therefore, have a negative aesthetic impact to these properties on Via La Paloma. Mr. Blumenthal explained that since the proposed guesthouse, sports court, and portions of the swimming pool were proposed on an extreme slope, a Variance application was required. In reviewing the findings for the variance, staff noted that the property is similar in size and shape and developed in a similar manner to properties in the vicinity and thus did not feel there was any type of extraordinary or exceptional circumstances on the property. Therefore, staff was recommending the denial of the Grading Permit, Variance, and Site Plan Review.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted two minor changes on the Resolution where the date had been corrected.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked staff if there were any portions of the proposal that were completely off of the extreme slope.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the dressing room was not on the extreme slope as well as a majority of the swimming pool and the portions of the guesthouse.
Vice Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Robert Garstein 2175 W. 236th Street, Torrance (architect) stated that the owners had asked for this design because they eventually would like to use the guest house as a granny flat so that they could continue to be close to their family. He stated that he has presented these plans to the art jury, which has asked that the dressing room be deleted from the project, which he will do. The art jury has also asked for a slight redesign in the slope of the roof of the guest house, which will then require lowering the guest house slightly and in doing so the sports court will move slightly further down the slope.
Commissioner Cote asked Mr. Garstein what exceptional or extraordinary circumstances exist that would justify granting a variance.
Mr. Garstein answered that regarding the guesthouse, the owners have talked to and worked with the neighbors in positioning the guesthouse and that the current location is where the neighbors would like to see it.
Commissioner Lyon asked if it would be possible to construct the necessary elements of the plan off of the extreme slope.
Mr. Garstein answered that it would require several variances and he was not sure the neighbors would like where the structures would have to be placed.
Commissioner Cartwright questioned why the architect and applicant were not responsive to the concerns of the staff but were responsive to the Miraleste HOA’s concerns.
Mr. Garstein answered that the only change the applicant has agreed to with the HOA is in regards to the dressing room, which they felt was very minor. Regarding the height of the guest house and the sloping roof, he noted that he has not made the change requested by the HOA.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that he did not understand the extraordinary or exceptional circumstance on the property that would allow for a variance, and asked Mr. Garstein to clarify.
Mr. Garstein answered that it would be impractical for the guesthouse to be placed on any other portion of the property; making this the only location it can be placed.
Vice Chairman Mueller felt there were other areas on the property, directly behind the home, where a pool could be located. He felt this area would be more in line with conventional type improvements and asked why this area was not being used for the pool.
Mr. Garstein answered that the area in question was the only flat grassy area on the lot and the owners did not want to lose that area. He also noted that the neighbors preferred to have the pool on the lower, south side of the property.
Marie Rees 6409 Corsini Place stated that she was not only a neighbor of the Androsevics but also their daughter. She explained that one of the reasons for this proposal was for the extended family, and noted that her home did not have any front or back yard for her kids to play on. She stated that her parents were propsing this project for the entire family as well as themselves. She noted that there were other neighbors on the street who have pools as well as guesthouses.
Commissioner Lyon asked Mrs. Rees, in order to eliminate the need for a guest house, if she has considered trading houses with her parents.
Mrs. Rees answered that she has not had that discussion with her parents.
Commissioner Cartwright explained that in order to grant a variance there had to be an extraordinary or exceptional circumstance on the property, and noted that desire, convenience, or economic benefit were not sufficient reasons for granting a variance. He asked Mrs. Rees what was exceptional or extraordinary in this situation.
Mrs. Rees answered that not granting the requested variance could force her to move and split the extended family apart. She felt that everyone’s considerations are different and that because the neighbors don’t have a swimming pool or sports court was not a reason that her parents shouldn’t have one either.
Dale Ulman 6610 Via La Paloma stated that he had read the staff report and supports most of the findings. He stated that he was very concerned with the construction access to the property, which would come from Via La Paloma. He noted that the path of access travel would be across an extreme slope area, and was concerned about the heavy equipment and the cuts that would have to be made for the grading. He also noted that the path of travel would be right above a slope failure site. He felt it was very important for the applicant to have soils and geology approval not only for his site but for the surrounding areas where construction travel would encroach.
Commissioner Cote asked staff to clarify the areas of construction access.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that the slope along Via Paloma is very steep and to get equipment up to the site would require access from the neighboring properties. In speaking with the applicant, it was his understanding that they would gain access off of the Miraleste Parks District property, go across the neighbors property, and then go up to gain access. He stated that the applicant had indicated that they are currently negotiating with the Miraleste Park District for the access and the neighbors have already agreed to the use of their property. He stated that the applicant’s contractor has reviewed the proposal and did not think a construction access road would be required.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that since Staff was recommending denial of the project, the subject of access for construction had not been thoroughly researched by staff. He explained that if the Planning Commission were inclined to approve some project on the applicant’s property, staff would research the issue of access, and if grading were necessary on any adjoining lots there would be a need for a grading application to be signed by the adjoining property owner and the City Geologist would review the area to make sure there would be no problems.
Commissioner Lyon asked Mr. Ulman if he had any concerns with elements of the project other than the slope instability already discussed.
Mr. Ulman answered that he shared staff’s concerns about building on the extreme slope. He felt that the structures could be placed on other areas of the lot.
Mr. Garstein (in rebuttal) requested that this item be continued so that he and the Androsevics could work with staff to alleviate some of the concerns raised by staff, Mr. Ulman and the Planning Commission.
Vice Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Tomblin felt that it would be possible to address the stability in the area in a way that was satisfactory to everyone involved, and noted that the neighbor’s house has the same sort of situation with the pool and the terracing of the slope. He felt that if the stability items were satisfactorily addressed he would not have a problem with the proposal.
Commissioner Cote was pleased that the applicant had asked for the item to be continued to work with the staff to address various concerns. She did not think the findings for the Variance application could currently be made, as she did not think there were extraordinary or exceptional circumstances on the property. She recommended the applicant and architect analyze the property and find a way to reconstruct the proposed amenities in a way that are not placed on the extreme slope, most notably the sports court and the guest house. She felt that the applicant, in working closely with the architect, needs to prioritize what is important for the amenities and how to place them on the property in a manner in which a variance is not requested. She asked that if the item is to come back, that the staff and applicant provide the Planning Commission more detail with respect to the access issue and how that access will be provided. She concluded that she was in support of a continuance of the proposal.
Commissioner Lyon agreed with Commissioner Cote’s comments and added that there are two fundamentally different elements to the plan, one being a guesthouse and the other is to add a number of sports facilities. He felt that with these two elements he felt that too many things were being proposed to meet the code, and that the applicant might consider modifying or eliminating some elements of the plan. He stated that the access issue needed to be resolved, as well as any concerns that Mr. Ulman may have of a substantive nature. He too did not see any extraordinary circumstances and stated that the applicant needs to work within the code, and therefore also supported a continuance.
Commissioner Cartwright agreed with the comments of Commissioners Cote and Lyon. He felt that the applicant has made a strong argument that they feel these variances should be approved because it will allow them to bring the family together and provide recreation for the children. He agreed that these were important reasons, however they were not reasons that could be used to support granting a variance. He noted that if a variance is denied it will create a special hardship, and it was hard for him to see what that special hardship would be in this situation. He supported the continuance and felt the proposal should come back without a need for the variance. He also asked that a plan be presented to address the access issues that would fit the requirements of the city.
Vice Chairman Mueller agreed with the comments of the other commissioners. He stated that given the lot and the existing home, it was very difficult for him to make any of the findings for the variance, and felt that there was useable land that was not on the extreme slope. He felt it was possible to redesign the project and focus in on the priorities. He felt that a continuance would allow for the applicant to redesign the project and address the access issues that have been raised.
Commissioner Lyon moved to continue the project the meeting of October 28, 2003 to allow the applicant to work with staff to address the concerns of the Planning Commission, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, (5-0).
3. Height Variation Permit – Appeal (Case ZON2003-00009): 6937 Vallon Dr.
Assistant Planner Yu presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and summarizing the points of the appeal. She explained that the applicant has revised the plans to eliminate the second story deck and modified the height of a window. She stated that staff was recommending the Planning Commission deny the appeal and uphold the Director’s decision to approve, with conditions, the requested height variation.
Commissioner Cartwright asked why a height variation was required for this project.
Assistant Planner Yu answered that new habitable square footage was added to create a second story.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if the height of the hedge was restricted in any way or if there was a permit needed for it.
Assistant Planner Yu answered that there was not a Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit issued for this hedge, as it is only required when there is an elevation difference between the two properties.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that hedges such as the one on the property are allowed to grow to 16 feet in height unless a View Restoration decision limits that height.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked staff the height of the proposed window.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that was not called out on the plans, but estimated the bottom of the window to be approximately 16 feet.
Commissioner Cote felt that the appellants property was quite a bit lower than the backyard of the applicant’s property, and questioned why a Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit was not required. She noted that children on the applicant’s property could easily peer over to the appellant’s property, and felt that there could be a privacy concern.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that staff has not measured the elevation difference. He explained that what dictates how high the hedge can be is whether it blocks a view from the applicant’s property. He noted, however, that it would depend on whose property the hedge is on.
Vice Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Mr. Lee 6947 Vallon Drive (appellant) stated that he was very concerned with the privacy to his home, especially with the proposed window. He felt that his neighbors would be able to easily look into his backyard. He felt that the proposed addition is only 7 to 10 feet from his swimming pool and would greatly infringe on his privacy. He also strongly objected to the process involved as he was not notified until late in the process that his neighbor was proposing this addition. He stated that he is the only one truly affected by this addition, yet was not notified in a timely manner.
Commissioner Tomblin stated that the plans have been revised so that the window is now up higher and there is no patio, and asked if he still objects to the revised plan.
Mr. Lee answered that he would like to have the windows up higher and smaller. He added that he didn’t think the applicant should be allowed to have a window overlooking his yard and infringing on his privacy.
Commissioner Tomblin asked Mr. Lee if he would be satisfied if the windows were smaller and higher.
Mr. Lee answered that he would be satisfied if the windows were smaller and higher.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that it was regrettable that Mr. Lee had not been informed and involved in the process earlier on, but noted that staff and the applicant have listened to his concerns and the plans have been modified. He asked Mr. Lee what he would have done differently if he had been involved or received notification earlier.
Mr. Lee stated that he would have had the same objections.
Anthony Chen 6937 Vallon (applicant) explained that when he bought his house the hedge / fence was existing and is 48 inches high, and the hedge was trimmed to the exact height of the fence. He clarified that when Commissioner Cote was at the site, his children were standing on a chair to look over the fence. He explained that the proposed plan was the only way he could get a second floor on his home without changing the existing roof line, and he did not want to change the roof line.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Chen if he had any concern with the window being placed slightly higher.
Mr. Chen answered that he understands the concerns of staff and his neighbor and was not happy to raise the window, as he did not think it was necessary, but would do so if necessary.
Vice Chairman Mueller noted that there was more than one view from the applicant’s property and asked staff what the best and most important view was.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that staff has not been into Mr. Chen’s house and therefore could not make that assessment.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Chen, when looking out the window, if the view was directly over the neighbor’s pool or was it more to the west.
Mr. Chen answered that he has a view over Mr. Lee’s house, but not necessarily into the backyard. He noted that because of the hedge, he could not see into the pool area.
Mr. Lee (in rebuttal) stated that he would like to have the big window to the west rather than the south. He stated that the major view from Mr. Chen’s house is to the west and not the south. He objected to the fact that with the addition he will be able to look directly from his kitchen window into Mr. Chen’s kitchen window.
Vice Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Cote stated that on the applicant’s property is a 4’8" fence with a hedge around it, and there is a first story window with potential privacy issues, she asked staff what the applicant’s rights are with respect to the hedge and how much it can grow and when a permit is necessary and if there are potential view restoration issues involved.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that there was one piece of information missing, which is the actual grade difference between both pads. He explained that per the Code, if the applicant’s property is more than 2 feet higher, then a Fence Wall and Hedge Permit is required. Further, whether a Fence Wall and Hedge Permit is required or if view restoration is involved, the issue is whether the hedge will significantly impair a view from the applicant’s viewing area, and either way the staff’s analysis will be the same. He stated that the analysis would consist of staff going to the applicant’s viewing area, identifying the best and most important view, and assessing whether the hedge can be increased in height. He explained that, assuming the properties were more than two feet height in difference, if the appellant wished to raise the height of the hedge, he would have to apply for a Fence Wall and Hedge Permit and if staff determined that raising the hedge impaired a view, staff would not approve the permit.
Commissioner Cote stated that one of the issues she had was the privacy issue associated with the first floor windows and the way they were situated. She felt that to address some of Mr. Lee’s issues the Planning Commission might have looked at the overall height of the hedge, however based on what staff has said, if the Planning Commission starts to deal with the height of the hedge then view restoration or a fence wall and hedge permit process may become involved.
Commissioner Lyon moved to approve the staff recommendations to deny the appeal, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright.
Commissioner Tomblin stated that the window in question is clearly meant to be for light, and did not think that at 5’6" in height there was little chance of creating a privacy issue, and further, if the window were moved up to 6 feet there would almost no chance of a privacy issue.
Commissioner Lyon stated that the window started out below five feet, was raised to five feet to satisfy the concerns of Mr. Lee, and was raised again to 5’6" to again satisfy the concerns of Mr. Lee. He did not feel there was any significant or substantial privacy issue created by a second story window, 5’6" above the floor. He did not think this was as relevant a view issue as that from the first floor window.
Commissioner Cote felt that there are issues with respect to privacy between the two properties, however that was an existing condition. She stated that the Planning Commission is now dealing with an improvement and the privacy from the second floor windows. She felt that the way the applicant has raised the windows has dealt with privacy issue from the addition. Further, concern with the overall height of the hedge and the first floor window was a matter that Mr. Lee will have to consider, as the hedge is on his property, and whether he would like to let the hedge grow or not.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that he could look over the hedge and look down at the neighbors property, and was therefore very difficult for him to see how putting a window up above adds to the privacy issue. He felt that most people would have to stand on a chair to look down out of a window that is 5’6" above the floor. He therefore was in support of the staff recommendations to deny the appeal.
Vice Chairman Mueller stated that he understands both sides of the issue, however he had several difficulties. He stated that he views the addition as being to the side of the house, a view has been identified, and there are enough windows on the first floor to take advantage of that view. His concern was on the second floor and the function of the window on the second floor. He noted that the applicant has stated that the window was for light and to see the sky through the window, and therefore supported Commissioner Tomblin’s suggestion that the windows be moved up to 6 feet in height.
Commissioner Tomblin moved to amend the motion to amend condition no. 19 to raise the window from 5’6" to 6’ high, seconded by Commissioner Cote.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that privacy is very important, however he believed that the applicant can now, without any difficulty, look into the patio and pool area of Mr. Lee. Therefore, he did not see where putting a window up 6 more inches would help with the privacy issue, as the view is already impaired.
The amendment to the motion passed by a vote of (3-2) with Commissioners Lyon and Cartwright dissenting.
Commissioner Lyon repeated the motion to adopt P.C. Resolution 2003-39, denying the appeal and upholding the Planning Director’s decision to approve the Height Variation, with the amendment to raise the window from a height of 5’6" to 6 feet. Approved, (5-0).
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 9:50 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 10:05 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
Chairman Long arrived at the meeting at 9:55 p.m.
5. Grading, Variance and Minor Exception Permit (Case ZON2002-0002) and Tentative Parcel Map and Negative Declaration (Case SUB2003-00006): 30357 Diamonte Lane
Commissioner Lyon moved to continue the item to the September 23, 2003 Planning Commission meeting, as recommended by staff, seconded by Commissioner Cote. Approved, (6-0).
6. Conditional Use Permit (Case ZON2003-00282): 6510 Ocean Crest Drive
Commissioner Lyon moved to continue the item to the September 23, 2003 meeting as recommended by staff, seconded by Commissioner Cote. Approved, (6-0).
CONTINUED BUSINESS (cont)
4. 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
Chairman Long suggested, to be able to complete the remaining public hearings prior to midnight, to continue this item to the next Planning Commission meeting. He asked staff if this would create a problem with the City Council.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that there is no specific timeline for this project, however staff had represented to the City Council that this item would be before them as soon as possible, preferably in September. He stated that staff was hoping to get some comments from the Planning Commission to make sure that staff was heading in the right direction in their staff report.
Commissioner Cartwright was concerned that this item has already been continued once and that the Planning Commission had been critical of the City Council when waiting for a clarification regarding view issues. He did not feel the Planning Commission should take an overly long time in discussing this item and getting a report to the City Council, and looking at the September 23 agenda, he felt that agenda was also very full.
Commissioner Cote suggested the Planning Commissioners submit their comments on the issue in writing to the staff, and these comments to be included in the packet for the next Planning Commission meeting.
Vice Chairman Mueller moved to continue the item to the September 23 Planning Commission meeting, seconded by Commissioner Lyon. Approved, (6-0).
PUBLIC HEARINGS (cont)
7. Height Variation and Site Plan Review Permit (Case ZON2003-00059): 38 Cinnamon Lane
Assistant Planner Yu presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the applications. She explained that staff was unable to make the necessary findings for the height variation, noting the proposed home would be much larger than others in the neighborhood, was the only second story addition in the immediate neighborhood, and was not compatible with others in the immediate neighborhood. Therefore, staff was recommending the Planning Commission approve the Site Plan Review but deny the Height Variation application.
Commissioner Cote asked, when doing the staff report, if staff had looked at other homes in the neighborhood, other than the 20 closest.
Assistant Planner Yu answered that staff felt it was limited to the 20 closest homes in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Cote noted that the Planning Commission is allowed to look at homes other than the 20 closest, especially in unique communities such as Portuguese Bend.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff if they had suggested to the applicant any alternative designs for this proposed second story addition.
Assistant Planner Yu responded that staff had asked that the second story be integrated into first story structure by possibly setting the second story back towards the rear of the existing home and by not putting the second story on top of the existing garage.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that the Portuguese Bend community characterizes themselves as a Mediterranean style / ranch style community, and noted that one will see both types of architecture throughout the area.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if there was any restrictions on how much of an addition could be added to a home in this area.
Assistant Planner Yu answered that the area is within the landslide moratorium area and the City Council has recently passed an ordinance limiting additions to a maximum of 600 square feet. She noted that this property has received a landslide moratorium exception permit to exceed the 600 square foot maximum before this new ordinance went into effect.
Chairman Long opened the public hearing.
Olympia Greer 267 Palos Verdes Drive West, PVE (architect) stated that she understood staff’s concerns, however noted that the City Council had given approval for a 618 square foot addition on the first floor and 563 square feet on the second floor. She also noted that the Portuguese Bend Community Association has given their approval of the project. She noted on a diagram the location of the various proposed additions, noting how they would be dispersed throughout the property. She explained that as an architect she was faced with a dilemma in this situations, as on one hand she was trying to abide by the Portuguese Bend Community Association guidelines which require that no second story additions can occur over habitable area, and on the other hand the City’s concerns that no additions be placed over the garage. She displayed a rendering of the proposal, explaining that her solution was an attempt to balance the elevated portions of the projects on various parts of the home in order to create an aesthetically pleasing result. She noted that the garage floor elevation is 2 ½ feet below the street level, which conceals portions of the garage and reduces it’s height. She noted that the height from grade of the garage to the top level of the second story is 19 feet 9 inches. She explained how she softened the appearance of the home with the roof line and that the residence is setback from the street approximately 50 to 60 feet. She explained that the design preserves the view corridors to the north and care has been given to preserve the privacy of three existing neighbors and she has obtained the approval from the neighbors on the existing vacant lots.
Neil Siegel 38 Cinnamon Lane (applicant) felt that Portuguese Bend should be considered as one contiguous neighborhood, as it was such a unique area. He noted that there are some houses in the area that are larger than his proposed project. He noted that he did not have any alternative placement of the second floor addition because of the Portuguese Bend Community Association requirement that no living area placed over living area. He noted that there are several second story additions in the Portuguese Bend area, and some that have placed this addition over the garage area. He asked the Planning Commission to consider their proposal for approval.
Chairman Long closed the public hearing.
Vice Chairman Mueller noted that there is conflicting requirements and directions between the City and the Portuguese Bend Community Association, and asked which set of rules takes precedence over the other.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that the City codes stand irrespective of any local rules or CC&Rs. Therefore, staff does not think there is any conflict because staff goes by the city code to guide development in the City. He noted however that the City has approved projects in the past that are in conflict with local CC&Rs. If the applicant were to proceed to build the project approved by the City that is in conflict with the CC&Rs, they could be sued by the local HOA.
Commissioner Cote felt that the architect had done a good job with the proposed addition in terms of minimizing the mass and bulk of the project. She appreciated the rendering presented by the architect, as it helped her to see how the addition would appear. She felt that the home was tucked in nicely and blended well with the topography of the lot. She therefore supported the project, as proposed.
Commissioner Tomblin agreed with Commissioner Cote’s comments, and noted that the Portuguese Bend area is a very unique community. He also supported the project as proposed.
Commissioner Cartwright commented that staff must follow very specific guideline rules when making their decision on proposed additions. He could understand how staff may be concerned with the appearance of the second story over the garage. After looking at the rendering, he did not feel this proposed addition looked like a pop-up addition over the garage and that the addition fit in well with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Lyon agreed that this was a large house and could understand how staff could not make all of the findings, however in a situation such as this where the Portuguese Bend Community Association has approved the project, and the project is in a private community, he did not have a problem approving the project. He noted that the bulk and mass of the project was sufficiently screened from the street. He therefore was supporting the project as presented.
Vice Chairman Mueller also supported the project, noting that the house and addition are set back from the street and nicely screened by vegetation, and he did not see any design alternatives for the second story addition.
Chairman Long agreed with the Commissioners comments and also supported approval of the project.
Commissioner Cote moved to approve the project as presented with the Resolution to be presented on the next Consent Calendar, seconded by Commissioner Lyon. Approved, (6-0).
8. Height Variation and Site Plan Review Permit (Case ZON2003-00219): 1301 Mount Rainier
Assistant Planner Yu presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project. She noted that staff was able to make all of the necessary findings for the height variation and recommended approval of the project.
Chairman Long opened the public hearing.
John Vilicich 953 W 1st Street, San Pedro, stated he was the architect for the project and available for any questions.
There being no questions, Chairman Long closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Lyon moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2003-40, thereby approving Height variation Permit and Site Plan Review Case No. ZON2003-00219 as recommended by staff, seconded by Commissioner Cote. Approved, (6-0).
9. View Restoration Permit No. 153: 26 Coveview Drive
Director/Secretary Rojas asked if all of the Commissioners had visited the applicant’s property.
Chairman Long noted that, because of an unusually heavy work load, he had not made the necessary site visit for this application and therefore recused himself from hearing.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez presented the staff report. He gave the Planning Commission a brief history of the case and described the view and viewing area(s). He discussed the staff recommendations for trimming of the trees to restore the view from the applicant’s property and recommended the Planning Commission approve the permit and adopt the draft resolution.
Commissioner Tomblin asked what the process was for selecting who would trim the trees.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez explained that should the Planning Commission decides that trees must be trimmed, the applicant is required to submit bids from three different bonded and licensed tree trimming services. Staff will review the bids, forward the bids to the foliage owners, and the foliage owners are given the opportunity to choose one of the tree trimming services to perform the work.
Commissioner Cartwright asked who would cover the expense should a trimmed tree die.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez answered that in the Conditions of Approval there is a condition that if any tree were to die within one year as a result of the trimming, the applicant would be financially responsible for replacing that tree.
Vice Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Roy Goern 26 Coveview Drive (applicant) stated that the staff report suggests the foliage be trimmed to a height that is at the maximum height the tree should be and re-evaluated in one year. He noted that if the foliage were to be trimmed to this height, then the foliage will grow in the one year period and again be in violation. Therefore he recommended that the initial trimming go below the suggested height in the staff report to allow for growth. Mr. Goern also asked that tree no. 2 be included in the decision, as it will eventually grow into the viewing area. Regarding tree no. 10, Mr. Goern noted that there is another pine tree behind tree no. 10 on an adjacent property. He was concerned that if the crown on tree no. 10 is raised, as recommended, the pine tree behind tree no. 10 will be exposed and block his view. He stated that he has spoken with the property owner of this pine tree, and the property owner has agreed to trim his pine tree on the condition that tree no. 10 is lowered, rather than crowned.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Goern how much lower he would suggest trimming the trees.
Mr. Goern answered that he could not give a precise answer, as the trees have been growing for quite a long time, but estimated that they could be lowered another foot beyond what was recommended in the staff report.
Christopher Lee stated that he was the attorney for Mr. Parks, the property owner at 24 Oceanaire Drive, and was asked to speak for Mr. Parks because of a language barrier. He explained that Mr. Parks did not feel the foliage on his property amounted to a significant view impairment from the Goern property. Based on the view guidelines criteria for determining view impairments. He argued that since tree no. 1 is located in a small corner on the property, he did not think it significantly blocked the view. He requested that the Planning Commission deny the application with respect to tree no. 1.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that according to the staff report, Mr. Parks had agreed in the past to lower tree no. 1 by 10 feet, which is more than staff’s recommendation. He questioned Mr. Parks as to why, at this time, he did not want the tree to be trimmed at all.
Mr. Lee answered that there was misunderstanding and confusion with his client over the height that this tree was to be trimmed.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Lee if his client had been to the applicant’s property to observe how Mr. Park’s trees impaired the view.
Mr. Lee answered that he and his client had been to the Goern property to look at the view impairment.
Diane Trudell 26 Oceanaire Drive stated that she was fine with trimming the trees as recommended in the staff report, but asked that language be added to the Resolution to ensure the trees are not only topped but shaped as well. She discussed the olive trees, and noted that Mr. Goern was requesting one olive tree be trimmed to 6 feet and the other to 7 feet. She felt that trimming down 8 feet would be too extensive, however Ms. Trudell urged the Planning Commission to follow staff’s recommendation regarding these trees.
Kay Bonanno 28 Oceanaire Drive stated that she had discussed staff’s recommendations with her tree trimmer and he did not feel tree no. 8 could be trimmed to such extent without killing the tree. She therefore asked that the tree be removed and she did not want a replacement for the tree. Regarding tree no. 9, the pepper tree, Ms. Bonanno felt that as long as the tree was shaped after the trimming, she would be satisfied with the recommendation. Regarding tree no. 10, she was satisfied with raising the crown but felt that trimming the tree down would kill the tree.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff what happens in the event a foliage owner believes that a tree in question will not survive the trimming, and therefore requests the tree be removed.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez explained that in this type of situation staff and the City Arborist would re-visit the site to take a better look at the tree and offer an opinion. He explained that the Commission has a bit of latitude in terms of what to do with the tree. He noted that staff has recommended the tree be trimmed in order to restore the view.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if the Planning Commission had the discretion to direct the removal of the tree.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez answered that if it is determined that the tree would die as a result of the trimming, the Commission can order the tree be removed and replaced.
Vice Chairman Mueller stated that he understood the process involving the City Arborist to determine whether or not trimming would kill the tree, but asked staff if there would be a cost to the applicant for this service.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez responded that the applicant would have to pay for the City Arborist’s visit.
Commissioner Tomblin noted that staff was recommending raising the crown of tree no. 10 and asked in doing so if branches would be removed, or if it would just be the smaller limbs of the branches.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez explained that when raising the crown of a tree, the trimmer attempts to maintain the integrity of the tree by leaving supporting branches in place and the smaller branches would be thinned out. He did not know what would happen in the case of tree no. 10.
Commissioner Lyon stated that with this particular tree there appears to be four trunks emanating from the ground and asked how many trunks would be removed and how many would remain.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez stated that he had not visited the Bonanno property and could not answer this question, since he could not observe the tree close up.
Ms. Bonanno clarified that one of the trunks is a lateral type trunk and could likely be removed. She stated that the main trunk splints into two trunks and there is a third trunk that splits off.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez clarified that in situations such as this staff would ask the City Arborist to make a recommendation as to which trunks could be cut without harming the tree.
Commissioner Cote discussed the height of the tree trimming and asked staff how they deal with the growth cycle, what is reasonable, and what is taken into consideration when determining the height to which the tree should be trimmed.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez answered that there are a variety of trees involved in the request, some of the trees are considered fast growing, that requires more frequent trimming and others are considered slow growing. He noted that for the trees in question, a one year maintenance cycle should be sufficient. He stated that Mr. Goern previously requested the trees be lower than what staff’s was recommendation in order to allow some growth. He noted that the Planning Commission has the discretion to incorporate a more frequent maintenance trimming into the Resolution if they felt it was necessary.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that the Ordinance gives the Commission the authority to only deal with trees that significantly impair a view. Therefore, the Commission cannot compel a foliage owner to trim lower than the point where view is no longer impaired. He stated that one would hope foliage owners trim lower than recommended so that the trees do not have to be trimmed as often. However, most foliage owners do the minimum amount of trimming.
Mr. Goern (in rebuttal) felt that the tree on Mr. Parks property is in his view and showed a picture taken from his property, pointing out where Mr. Parks tree was located. Regarding the birch tree on the Trudell property, he was not asking the tree be trimmed down, only that it be included as part of the base line, so that if it grows, there will be a record of decision for trimming it down to be consistent with the height of the rest of the trees. In regards to Mrs. Bonanno’s comments, he did not understand why, if she agrees to removing the tree in question, that it could not just be done.
Commissioner Cote asked Mr. Goern if he was willing to pay the costs to remove the tree in question on the Bonanno property.
Mr. Goern answered that he would be willing to remove the tree if that was what Mrs. Bonanno wanted.
Vice Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff how the trimming line is established while the trees are being cut.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez answered that it was done by eye, based on the photograph and recommendation of the Planning Commission.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that there would also be another staff member standing at the viewing area communicating to the other staff member at the foliage site.
Vice Chairman Mueller stated that there has been an offer by a foliage owner to have a tree removed without a replacement tree, and asked if a replacement tree was necessary.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez explained that it was up to the foliage owner as to whether or not they would want a replacement tree.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that there may be situations where the Commission may find that the removal of a tree causes a public safety issue, they could mandate a replacement tree be provided accordingly.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if staff was aware of another tree behind tree no. 10 that may present a view obstruction from the applicant’s property.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez answered that after driving through the neighborhood, he believed there was a tree behind tree no. 10, on another property not on the application, however he did not know what the impact of that tree would be on the view once tree no. 10 was removed.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked, if tree no. 10 is removed and the tree behind it is found to cause a view obstruction to the applicant, then would that tree become part of the application or would the applicant have to submit a new application that addresses that specific tree.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez explained that if that tree is found on the foliage owner’s property and causes a view obstruction, there is a condition within the conditions of approval that addresses all other foliage not analyzed and identified in the conditions of approval.
Commissioner Cote asked if the Planning Commission had the latitude to require the foliage be trimmed below the level of view impairment to allow for growth of the foliage.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that could be done only if the foliage owners agree to perform the extra trimming.
Commissioner Cote asked if the Planning Commission could require maintenance more often than once a year in situations where the foliage grows quickly.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the Planning Commission could require more frequent maintenance in the Conditions of Approval.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if the Planning Commission has the discretion to require the tree be cut down a foot or two below the view line, or is it just a recommendation to the foliage owner.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez answered that the Planning Commission can, at a minimum, require the foliage be cut to restore the protected view line. He stated that in this situation he was not sure where the ocean view starts, but assumed it was at the red line shown on the photograph. He explained that if the Planning Commission required the trees be trimmed below that level, assuming the protected view is below the recommended level, that would be at the discretion of the Planning Commission.
Director/Secretary Rojas added the Planning Commission could require the foliage be cut to the line represented in the photograph, however in the field if it is determined that additional trimming will be necessary to restore the view, the foliage can be trimmed down to the level where there is no longer impairment.
Commissioner Tomblin felt that the efficient and fair way to handle the situation was to trim the foliage down to the line identified in the photograph and establish a one year maintenance plan.
Director/Secretary Rojas agreed that was the easiest method from a staff perspective, noting that the foliage would be cut to the line on the photograph, the view would be documented, and one year later the foliage will again be trimmed. He felt it was important that all participants understand that no additional trimming would occur for one year.
Commissioner Lyon moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2003-41, approving VRP No. 153 as amended: trim trees no. 1 down to the red line on the photograph without shaping; to follow staff recommendation for trees 2 through 7, with the added requirement that all trees be shaped; tree no. 8 shall be removed with the approval of the foliage owner; follow the staff recommendation for tree no. 9, with the additional requirement that it be properly shaped; and leave tree no. 10 as is unless the foliage owner has a specific alternative, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin.
Commissioner Tomblin asked Commissioner Lyon if he would consider an amendment to shape tree no. 1 if necessary.
Commissioner Lyon answered that it could be shaped if necessary, however he was influenced by the lack of cooperation by the foliage owner, Mr. Park.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to amend the motion to trim and shape tree no. 1, seconded by Commissioner Cote.
Commissioner Lyon accepted the amendment to the motion.
Vice Chairman Mueller did not think the foliage owner was requesting tree no. 1 be shaped and therefore he was reluctant to require it be shaped, as it would be an added expense to the applicant that the foliage owner was not requesting. Regarding tree no. 10, he understood the problems and issues with that tree, and felt that raising the crown was most likely the appropriate thing to do given the location of trees in its close proximity. He did not think that doing nothing with tree no. 10, unless the view owner agrees. Another option was leaving the decision up to the foliage owner, which he was reluctant to do.
Vice Chairman Mueller suggested an amendment to the motion to raise the crown on tree no. 10 as indicated in the staff report.
Commissioner Tomblin stated that normally he would agree with the staff recommendation to raise the crown, however on this particular tree he felt that raising the crown would do more harm than good, and would tend not to support the amendment.
Commissioner Cartwright understood the reasoning behind Vice Chairman Mueller’s suggestion, however he noted that the applicant did not necessarily want the crown on tree no. 10 raised, and did not think the Planning Commission should require something that the applicant did not accept.
Commissioner Cote agreed with Commissioner Cartwright stating that the applicant does not want the crown to be raised and questioned why the applicant should spend money on something he does not want done.
Vice Chairman Mueller felt that a baseline was being established and if the tree is not included in the application then the applicant will have to file a new application for tree no. 10 and go through the entire process again.
Vice Chairman Mueller re-opened the public hearing.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Goern if he wanted to rely on the staff report recommendations for tree no. 10 or if he had an alternate suggestion for the tree.
Mr. Goern stated that rather than do nothing with tree no. 10 he would prefer to raise the crown of the tree.
Vice Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Lyon stated that he would support the amendment to his motion regarding tree no. 10 to accept the staff recommendation, since the applicant appeared to support raising the crown of the tree.
Director/Secretary Rojas suggested adding a condition that is noted in the View Guidelines that says if foliage that is located on the same property and is in the view that was analyzed by staff but was not specifically designated in the view analysis because it was behind other foliage which was specifically designated in the view analysis, then said foliage shall be trimmed to the same height that was established by the Commission.
The Planning Commission agreed to the added condition.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that it was important to note in the motion that there should be a condition that states that since the trimming levels described in conditions 1 – 8 are approximations, adjustments to the trimming levels may be made in the field to ensure the applicant’s ocean view is restored, and once trimming is complete the restored view shall be documented. Any subsequent growth will be allowed to occur up to one year after the initial trimming.
The Planning Commission agreed to the added condition.
Commissioner Lyon restated the motion to approve P.C. Resolution No. 2003-41 as amended to approve the staff recommendations for all trees except tree no. 8, which will be removed, shape all of the trees, and add the two suggested conditions from staff (5-0-1) with Chairman Long abstaining.
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES
10. Minutes of July 22, 2003
Commissioner Cartwright noted a slight change on page 19 of the minutes.
Commissioner Lyon moved to approve the minutes as amended, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, (6-0).
11. Minutes of July 30, 2003
Commissioner Lyon moved to approve the minutes as presented, seconded by Commissioner Tomblin. Approved, (4-0-2) with Commissioner Cote and Vice Chairman Mueller abstaining since they were absent from that meeting.
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
Director/Secretary Rojas asked the Planning Commission if they wanted to consider moving the definition of a hedge discussion to a later meeting
The Planning Commission agreed to move the discussion of a hedge to a meeting that was not yet full.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:20 a.m.