CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
DECEMBER 11, 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, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Cote led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Cartwright, Lyon, Cote, and Vice Chairman Mueller.
Absent: Commissioner Duran Reed was excused.
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Senior Planner Mihranian, Associate Planner Blumenthal, Associate Planner Schonborn, Project Coordinator Nelson, and Project Coordinator Alvarez.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Commissioner Lyon moved to approve the agenda as presented, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. Approved without objection.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed one item of correspondence for Agenda Item No. 4 and a copy of the Draft Minutes for the November 25, 2003 Meeting.
Director/Secretary Rojas reported the new Planning Commission is scheduled to be appointed on January 20, 2004.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE REGARDING NON-AGENDA ITEMS
1. View Restoration Permit No. 116: 4222 Dauntless Drive and 4122 Dauntless Drive
Commissioner Cartwright moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2003-60, thereby approving the View Restoration Permit No. 116 as presented, seconded by Commissioner Lyon. Approved, (3-0-1) with Commissioner Cote abstaining since she was not at the meeting when the item was discussed.
2. View Restoration Permit No. 138: 2 Paseo De Castana
Commissioner Lyon moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2003-61, thereby approving the View Restoration Permit No. 138 as presented, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. Approved, (3-0-1) with Commissioner Cote abstaining since she was not at the meeting when the item was discussed.
3. 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
Senior Planner Mihranian presented the staff report, explaining that the code amendment was for Title 17 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code. He noted that the specific language was prepared by staff and the City Attorney to reflect the City Council’s previous decision pertaining to the 16-foot height limit to residential development applications. He stated that the Commission considered the language presented by staff and adopted specific amendments to the development code, which are presented to the commission in the attached resolution to the staff report. Senior Planner Mihranian explained that took the direction of the Planning Commission from the previous meeting, and in conjunction with the City Attorney, prepared specific code amendment language. He reviewed the language in the staff report and explained that staff is seeking direction from the Planning Commission with regards to the proposed Code Amendment language.
Commissioner Cartwright asked whether the language in the grading finding refers specifically to pad lots, or does it also apply to descending or ascending lots.
Senior Planner Mihranian explained that this finding could be applied to applications that include sloping lots.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if an applicant could build up to 20 feet if he is on a sloping lot that slopes 5% or less.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that was correct and explained that if it is a pad lot, based on the height measurements of the development code, one could build up to 16/20 envelope and that the 20 foot height limit applies to pad lots that have a slight grade difference but less than a 5% slope.
Director/Secretary Rojas further explained that although there is a uniform height limit of 16-feet, the code does acknowledge that there are different types of lots and attempts to describe how to measure that 16-foot height limit on different types of lots as described in section 17.02.040 of the code.
Vice Chairman Mueller was concerned with the impact to adjacent property owner’s homes that could result by exceeding the 16-foot height limit on sloping lots.
Commissioner Cote asked staff to clarify why they were recommending using the language ‘by-right height limit’ in the guidelines. She also asked why situations were being discussed that involve no grading.
Senior Planner Mihranian explained that the height variation guidelines only apply to projects that exceed the 16-foot height limit. He also clarified that some Height Variation applications do not involve grading, whereas if grading is involved a separate grading application would need to be submitted. He added that the term ‘by–right’ is used because the City Council had noted that this was in fact the ‘by-right height limit.’ He added that Staff’s intention was to include the ‘by-right’ term so that it would be clear in the guidelines for applicants’ benefit.
Commissioner Lyon felt that staff has done an outstanding job in documenting reasonable changes to implement the City Council’s desires and the Commission’s.
There being no public speakers, Vice Chairman Mueller opened and closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Lyon moved to accept the staff’s revisions as documented in the staff report, thereby adopting P.C. Resolution 2003- 62 forwarding specific recommendations for amendments to the City’s Development Code, Height Variation Permit Guidelines, and Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. Approved, (4-0)
4. Variance and Site Plan Review Permit (Case ZON2003-00312): 4043 Admirable Drive
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, noting that at the November 11, 2003 meeting the Commission reviewed this item and directed staff to research other properties within the Seaview tract to further examine if there was an exceptional or extraordinary circumstance on the property or if granting the variance would constitute a special circumstance for the property. He explained that staff had researched the street widths in the tract, other setback deviations in the Seaview tract, and other properties within that tract that were built with the same floor plan as the subject property. Staff concluded by stating that after such research, they felt that there is no exception or extraordinary circumstance that exists on this property. Therefore, staff was recommending the Planning Commission deny the Variance, with prejudice, and approve the Site Plan Review, subject to the recommended conditions of approval.
Vice Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Robert Sherman 4043 Admirable Drive (applicant) requested 8 minutes to speak, which was granted by the Planning Commission. He began by stating that he has reviewed the staff report and disagreed with the analysis, and that the Planning Commission has the ability to allow true neighborhood diversity. He added that his remodel project s a small project of only 574 square feet on a single story with hipped roofs and that only 145 square feet of that is in question. He believes that his property does entail an exceptional or extraordinary circumstance generating a special circumstance for the property. Mr. Sherman provided pictures that were viewed on the overhead projector as he gave his presentation. He added that the Seaview Community is broken into two tracts (east vs. west) with 262 lots, sixteen of which resemble his lot. He stated that there are 5 additional properties that have the same floor plan as his except for the detached garage. He added that because of this and that he is on a corner lot, they are allowed a different planning circumstance for his property. Mr. Sherman provided pictures that were viewed on the overhead projector depicting a ‘bedroom forward plan,’ a ‘garage forward plan,’ and floor plan comparisons of his present floor plan vs. the proposed floor plan. He explained that his intentions are to keep the amount of remodel to a minimum and that there have been 14 cases that have been approved for minor exceptions and/or variance that have allowed encroachments. He noted that his request is for the allowance of only a 5’10" of encroachment. He stated that 12 letters have been received in support of his project and no negative letters. He concluded by asking that the Commission please pay attention to the neighbors that are most affected by the proposed project.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Sherman if his Homeowner’s Association requires approval of such projects.
Mr. Sherman stated that the Seaview Homeowner’s Association does not require any approval of such projects.
Vice Chairman Muller asked the applicant to explain why this property exhibits an exceptional or extraordinary circumstance and why the addition is unable to be expanded onto the backyard.
Mr. Sherman began by stating that there are at least 14 instances of structures encroaching into setback areas throughout this particular tract. He noted that expanding into the backyard would result in the loss of a 40 year old Brazilian pepper tree and would essentially leave him with no backyard.
Commissioner Cote asked Mr. Sherman if, in his view, he had a situation that ‘generally’ doesn’t apply to other properties in his same zoning district because, as he stated, his situation is similar to only16 (6.1%) of the other homes in the tract.
Mr. Sherman replied that he personally does not think that his situation can be described as ‘generally’ apply to other properties, because his home is similar to only 6.1% of the surrounding neighborhood.
Vice Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Cote asked staff to explain the finding that allowed the approval of a Variance application in 1994, which allowed almost a 6-foot encroachment into the setback at 4232 Exultant Drive.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted that staff did not review the findings for that Variance.
Commissioner Cote asked, in staff’s opinion, if the subject property’s floor plan is found in 6.1% of the homes in the tract, whether staff would consider that as generally applying to other homes in the area.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted that, in staff’s opinion, it would be considered generally applying to other properties.
Vice Chairman Mueller noted that this particular application is asking for the largest encroachment (5’10") in that area to date and asked staff to explain why they felt this particular street is not an exception.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted that there are four other streets with a similar right-of-way width. He added that the distance from the curb to the property line (parkway) is the same on all right-of–ways and that the only difference is that the street (pavement) is narrower.
Commissioner Lyon began by stating that it is usually easy to read the rules and make the findings, however, in this case there is a gray area. He felt that the use of the word ‘generally’ provided the Commission with some latitude with their judgment, enabling them to make the finding if they believe it is justified. He felt that the extenuating circumstances presented in this case are that other lots in the tract are deeper than this particular lot and that the street is wider than the other streets. He added that, in his opinion, these situations represent extraordinary circumstances. He noted that when considering an application, he tries to figure out what is right, what the public would desire, and what would be least harmful to the neighborhood. He noted that when he went to see 4232 Exultant Drive, which involves almost an identical situation where a structure encroaches into a setback, within 2 inches of the requested application, the addition did not look out of place. In fact, he felt that if he did not have the data with him, he would not have known that it encroached into the setback and that the street is narrower than the applicant’s street. He added that the previous Planning Commission found it fit to approve the Variance in 1994 in a situation that appears identical. He noted that he takes into account the 1994 Variance approval by the previous Planning Commission, the support of the neighbors, and the applicant’s desire to not go up and possibly block a view. He felt that it would seem to be more reasonable to expand the property into the front setback area. He therefore was in support of the requested Variance.
Commissioner Lyon made a motion to approve the Variance and Site Plan Review.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that he was not present at the previous meeting where this item was discussed, however he noted that he did view the meeting via television and read the minutes and had conducted the necessary site visits. He stated that the Variance is something that allows the Planning Commission to set aside the Development Code if there are exceptional and extraordinary circumstances, which are generally brought about by topography, size, shape, location, or surrounding properties. In this case, the project location is in the middle of a neighborhood where11 minor exception permits and/or variances have been granted for front yard encroachments, 5 of which are on Admirable Drive. He added that while conducting site visits within the neighborhood, to view previously approved encroachments, he was not able to tell the difference in most, from a perception standpoint. He added that staff is expected to be objective and look at the facts and present them, however the Planning Commission does have discretion to use compassion and common sense. In this case, he felt that he would support the Variance and that the project would be compatible with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Cote began by stating the she agrees with Commissioner Cartwright’s comments that the Variance is a very difficult application for the Planning Commission to approve, especially when Commissioners have to consider exceptional and extraordinary circumstances. She stated that she had considered the floor plan and the uniqueness of the wall of the master bedroom that ends up at the setback line. She felt that typically she does not consider 6.1% as being something that is ‘generally’ applying. She added that after the additional data was collected she felt more comfortable with agreeing that a Variance is necessary because it does not apply ‘generally’ to other properties in the same zoning district and thanked Staff for the additional data provided which enabled her to come to that conclusion. She stated that she supports approval of the Site Plan Review and Variance.
Vice Chairman Mueller began by stating that he interpreted the data differently and therefore has a slightly different point of view. He stated that there were only 4 Variances out of the 18 encroachments granted and that the rest were Minor Exception Permits, and that only one of the Variances (4232 Exultant Drive) was for an addition into the front yard setback. He added that he did not want to allow the encroachment into the front yard setback because he views the City differently than other Cities where front yard setbacks are enforced and added that generally the City does not allow the encroachment of this amount. He stated that he considers the long-term picture where anything that is done on the first story should be done in accordance to the code, because there is nothing that prevents the owner or a future owner to come in with a Height Variation application for a second story.
Commissioner Lyon repeated his motion to approve the Variance and Site Plan Review as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. Approved, (3-1) with Vice Chairman Mueller dissenting.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that staff would present a resolution reflecting the Planning Commission decision on the Consent Calendar of the January 13, 2004 meeting.
5. Minutes of November 11, 2003
Commissioner Lyon noted a clarification on page 8 of the minutes.
Commissioner Lyon moved to approve the minutes as amended, seconded by Commissioner Cote. Approved, (3-0-1) with Commissioner Cartwright abstaining since he was absent from that meeting.
6. VIEW RESTORATION PERMIT NO. 161: 7256 and 7264 Berry Hill Drive
Commissioner Cote made a motion to grant the applicant’s request for a continuance and table the item to a future Planning Commission meeting, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. Approved (5-0).
7. HEIGHT VARIATION PERMIT (CASE ZON2003-00335): 27820 Palos Verdes Drive East
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, explaining that the project consists of a 910 square foot first story addition towards the rear of the residence and a 1,556 square foot second story addition over the existing garage. He added that the proposed Height Variation requires that view impairment, privacy, and neighborhood compatibility issues be taken into account. He displayed pictures through a power point presentation and explained that staff was able to make the necessary findings. He added that there were a few issues with respect to views from the neighboring property at 28032 Palos Verdes Drive East, but upon further investigation it was determined that significant view impairment would not result from the second story addition. In addition, staff reviewed the proposed addition with respect to privacy issues and determined that privacy infringements would not result from the proposed second story addition. Staff did find that the subject property contained foliage that significantly impairs a view from the viewing area at 28032 Palos Verdes Drive East, and therefore incorporated conditions of approval that the trees be trimmed in a manner that would restore the view. Therefore, staff recommends that the Planning Commission approve the project with the conditions imposed and adopt the appropriate resolution.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that the applicant noted that one of the trees on the driveway was not on his property and asked if staff was aware of that situation.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that he was not informed of that situation.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Staff to further explain what condition no. 10 on page 5 of the Resolution would do to the foliage.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that the silk oak and pepper tree create significant view impairment, and that Staff is attempting to restore the view of the harbor area.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Staff to explain why they are recommending raising the crown of the pepper tree rather than trimming it.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that raising a tree’s crown has been identified as a method to preserve a tree, while still restoring the view.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Staff to explain why the mass of the proposed project is not impacting staff’s recommendation.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that the combination of the lack of visibility of the home, its isolation, the roof design and the location of the second story lead staff to conclude that these factors help minimize the appearance of the project and help mitigate its apparent size.
Vice Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Boyd Zack 27820 Palos Verdes Drive East (applicant) stated that he read the staff report and is wiling to comply with the conditions. He added that he spoke with his neighbor about the pepper tree, and explained to her that the tree was part of the conditions of approval and stated that he would incur the expense of trimming the tree so that he may move forward with the project.
Miguel Hernandez 777 Silver Spur Road (representing the architect) stated that they are willing to work with the neighbors or anyone opposing this project to find possible solutions for any issues or concerns.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Hernandez to address his concern with regards to the bulk/mass of the property.
Mr. Hernandez explained that the façade from the front of the house is not visible from Palos Verdes Drive East and that the current property has a design which almost branches off in various directions. He stated that the architect’s approach was to make it more like the surrounding homes so that it can blend in with the surrounding properties. In terms of it being larger, he added that the mass of the home is only visible from the back yard and noted that it is not visible from the neighbor’s properties as it continues to have its same appearance.
Dale Venning 28032 Palos Verdes Drive East stated that his property is located directly behind the proposed project. He felt that there is view impairment from his property and that the interpretation of the word ‘significant’ varies from one’s personal perspective and felt that this project would significantly impact his view. He added that currently the foliage obstructs his view resulting in a dark view obstruction with the City lights in the background, and explained that this project would result in an obstruction by a building with lighting. He expressed concern with external lighting, the chimney, and electrical lines. He added that this proposed project would also block the view towards Palos Verdes Drive East and the City, but not the harbor view. He felt that this project would cause a privacy issue from his spa, deck, and pool as it can be seen from this structure and there could also be an auditory factor. He added that the neighbor recently planted nine trees on the fence line and noted that they might cause future view impairment. He further explained that he bought his house in 1990 because it provided absolute privacy and a complete view with no structures directly in front of it. Mr. Venning provided pictures that were viewed by the Commission as he gave his presentation.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff if there are any plans to add external lighting on that property.
Associate Planner Schonborn replied that the plans do not show additional lighting.
Director/Secretary Rojas further explained that the Development Code would not prohibit additional lighting, however it would ensure that the lighting be downcast so that it would not directly shine onto adjacent properties.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if additional lighting requests would require a permit.
Director/Secretary Rojas further explained that it would require an electrical permit, but not a planning approval.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if there could be a condition included in the resolution that external lighting be cast down.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that the Commission could include such a condition.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Venning if he had considered planting foliage on his property around the portion of his structure that is visible from his property to protect his privacy. He noted that this would not impact his view of the harbor.
Mr. Venning felt that this would impact the view in the back bedroom areas.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if there was an agreement with staff on a viewing area.
Mr. Venning answered that it was agreed that the family room was the viewing area.
Commissioner Cote asked if there was a Homeowner’s Association in the neighborhood.
Mr. Venning explained that no CC&R’s are enforced.
Commissioner Cote asked Mr. Venning to express his opinion on the mass and bulk of the proposed project, disregarding any view impact.
Mr. Venning stated that he does not oppose the first story addition, however he does oppose the second story addition. He felt the second story addition would make the home much larger than any other homes in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Cote asked staff to clarify whether the chimney would remain at the same height.
Associate Planner Schonborn replied that it would remain as is. He further explained that the initial silhouette was not complete and the contractor expanded it outward an additional 12 feet to more precisely depict the proposed project.
Commissioner Lyon clarified that the chimney is lower than the ridgeline of the house, therefore it does not appear in the silhouette.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Staff if the code allows the chimney to remain lower than the proposed addition.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that the Uniform Building Code allows the chimney to remain lower than the proposed addition as long as the actual flute is at least two feet above a ten-foot radius on the roof surface. He noted that according to the plans the chimney complies with the code.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Staff to clarify the code restrictions on the sound.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that there are no findings on noise or noise levels that apply to additions or the use of a residence, however pool equipment and gardening equipment are subject to noise level limitations.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Venning to further explain his concern with regards to the power lines.
Mr. Venning explained that the power lines currently run into the garage and stated that a second story addition over the garage might require the relocation of the lines to run from that higher addition ultimately causing view obstruction. He suggested the possibility of running the power lines underground.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked staff if it would be possible to add a condition to prohibit the placement of the power line connection on the second story.
Associate Planner Schonborn replied that if the Commission feels there is a potential view impact it may impose a condition that any new electrical lines be run underground.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that this would have to be explored with Southern California Edison and could be cost prohibitive to the applicant.
Cynthia Venning 28032 Palos Verdes Drive East stated that she has lived in her home for 10 years and initially had an unobstructed view of the Vincent Thomas Bridge. She added that when remodeling her own residence they were contemplating adding a second story addition but did not in order to avoid any obstruction of views, and still managed to double the size of their home. She added that the family room has a 9’ x 10’ window with an unobstructed view. She was disappointed that the Zack’s had added a silhouette which affects her view, planted additional trees, added a gazebo, and have a large tree in the front yard that is growing into her view. She felt that privacy was also an issue because the second story would enable the neighbors to directly see into the backyard and pool area. She felt that with that addition they would have no privacy resulting in a fish bowl type setting. She concluded by stating that more and more of her privacy has being taken away over the years and she was opposed to a project that would take away more of her privacy.
Mr. Zack (in rebuttal) stated that there is no intention of adding any additional external lighting to his property. With respect to two-story properties, he stated that there are a number of two-story properties within the 20 home radius of the house, including a two-story house adjacent to the Venning’s property and that two-story homes are not uncommon in the neighborhood. Concerning the size, he stated that he does recognize that this would be the largest home within the 20 home radius, however he stated that there are at least two other homes in the tract that are as large. Mr. Zack concluded by stating that the initial silhouette was inaccurate and confirmed that there have not been any modifications of the original plans and that the neighbors signatures were acquired after the silhouette was corrected and complete.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Zack if he plans to relocate the electrical lines.
Mr. Zack noted that the electrical lines were relocated when he initially moved into the residence and that he would have no problem leaving them in their current location. With regards to relocating them underground, he would be more than willing to look into that but felt it may be too costly.
Vice Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that having reviewed the location of the second story with the power pole, the power lines would more than likely have to be moved and that the new location would be determined by Southern California Edison and/or the Building and Safety Division.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Staff if conditions could be placed to ensure that the electrical lines do not impair/obstruct the view.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that as demonstrated in the photos, in staff’s opinion, the power lines would not significantly obstruct a view.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that due to the location of the house he was not concerned with the mass/size of the proposed structure and therefore found it to be compatible with the neighborhood. He added that he does not consider the electrical lines to impose a significant view impairment and was reluctant to impose a condition regarding this issue. He added that, in his opinion, the second story is visible from the Venning’s property, but it does not create a significant view impact. Commissioner Cartwright noted that, although he sympathizes with the Vennings, he does not see that the Planning Commission can do much for their situation. He did not think that the addition would present significant view impairment, as defined in the code, and that the structure has been situated to minimize the view impairment. He concluded by stating that he could make the findings for the Height Variation and the Site Plan Review.
Commissioner Cote found that this project was difficult and appreciated hearing the other Commissioners’ perspectives. She added that because this property is on a flag lot and is so far away from the road, issues with respect to neighborhood compatibility are not the same as that of a more typical neighborhood. She added that compatibility is typically dealt with by assessing how the structure fits into the neighborhood and how it is viewed from the street and other homes. She stated that she agreed with Commissioner Cartwright’s comments regarding the property’s location where it is pretty much tucked away and not visible from the street. She explained that she had not read the staff report before conducting the site visit, and in observing the silhouette she did not realize the size of the addition. She did not feel that the architect had made an attempt to minimize the appearance of the project in terms of bulk and mass. Commissioner Cote did not believe the proposed addition posed a significant view impact to the Venning property, however she felt that from the Venning’s property it did have a bulky appearance. Regarding privacy and the placement of the proposed windows, she felt that although it is quite a distance from the Venning’s residence, this was a unique situation where the second addition can be easily seen. She expressed continued concern with the mass/size of the project, especially as viewed from other properties, and concluded that she would like to hear the remaining Commissioners’ perspectives before she votes.
Vice Chairman Mueller felt that the project appears to be massive and can understand Mr. Vennig’s concern. He stated that when calculating the size of the proposed project, the numbers depict the scenario where this project would result in a home that would be 80% larger than the average home in the neighborhood and approximately 24% larger than the next largest home in the neighborhood. He added that he understands Commissioner Cote’s and Mr. Venning’s concern only after having done the math, reviewed the plans, and then visualized the surroundings. He felt that the square footage of this project seems to be out of place and was having trouble making the neighborhood compatibly finding. He agreed with Commissioner Cote that there did not seem to be significant view impairment from the structure and the electrical lines. He concluded by stating that he is having trouble accepting staff’s approval recommendation of this project.
Commissioner Lyon stated that he agrees with Commissioner Cartwright and noted that it is not how large the property is, it is how it appears to the rest of the world. He added that the numbers can be misleading in terms of appearance and felt that the privacy of the property justifies the size requested. He stated that the project does not appear to be out of scale. He believed that it would not be appropriate to impose conditions on electrical power lines because, even if moved to the upper portion of the second story, they would not appear in the view frame and felt that this is an issue that did not have to be addressed. He concluded by stating that he supports the project.
Commissioner Cartwright felt that Commissioner Cote was right on target when she stated that upon visiting the property that the mass was not as apparent and that it was only after reviewing the staff report and plans that she realized the bulk of the project. He added that if this was the case she was supporting what he and Commissioner Lyon support, which is that the square footage is incidental and that it is how the project appears when one looks at it. He added that, in this case, this home is tucked away and there are only 3 or 4 other homes that can view portions of the project. He stated that it would be a shame to see the denial of this project entirely based on the proposed square footage.
Commissioner Lyon moved to approve, with conditions, the Height Variation Permit Case No. ZON2003-00335 as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright.
Commissioner Cote expressed concern with the neighborhood compatibility issue. She stated that she was unable to make that finding and specified that it is not the square footage of the project rather the design and appearance.
Commissioner Lyon’s motion failed, (2-2) with Commissioner Cote and Vice Chairman Mueller dissenting.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Commissioner Cote what project modifications would lead toward her approval.
Commissioner Cote stated that the architect should modify the appearance of the proposed second story of the home, keeping the intended square footage (specifically in the rear), so as to appear less massive.
Commissioner Lyon made a motion to require the applicant to add foliage in the rear yard to screen the second story addition to the Director’s satisfaction and moved to approve, with amended conditions, the Height Variation Permit Case No. ZON2003-00335, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright.
Vice Chairman Mueller felt that foliage is not a permanent solution and may lead to future problems. He noted that he is more concerned with the actual façade of the home. He added that some modification and articulation to the second story is required to make the project compatible with the neighborhood, thus was reluctant to require foliage.
Commissioner Cartwright felt that foliage would help mitigate the appearance of the proposed structure. He felt that it would be appropriate to incorporate a condition that would require the placement of foliage. However, he stated that the structural size and appearance seemed to be a concern to the Commission and felt that the applicant and architect should address those issues. He suggested continuing the project to allow the applicant and architect to consider the Commission’s concerns and make the appropriate modifications.
Commissioner Cartwright withdrew his second on the motion, thus the motion died for lack of a second.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that he would like to hear the applicant’s and architect’s opinion with regards to the possibility of continuing the item to allow them the opportunity to address the concerns of the Commission and making the appropriate project modifications.
Vice Chairman Mueller re-opened the public hearing.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked the applicant his opinion with regards to the possibility of continuing the item to allow him the opportunity to address the concerns of the Commission.
Mr. Zack (applicant) stated that he was wiling to comply with the conditions and to work with the Commission to find possible solutions for any issues or concerns.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked the architect the same question.
Mr. Hernandez (representing the architect) stated that he may be able to decrease the size of the project however noted that the height of the second story addition would not be affected. He asked for clarification as to what type of modifications the Commission is requesting.
Commissioner Cartwright clarified that the Commission is predominantly concerned about mitigating the second story’s size and bulk, and adding articulation to the proposed project.
Commissioner Cote expressed that her concerns are with the massive and bulky appearance of the project as viewed from the rear of the neighbor’s property and that the Commission’s overall issue is with the mass and bulk from a neighborhood compatibility perspective.
Vice Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked staff if there is a time constraint on this particular project.
Director/Secretary Rojas replied that there is a time constraint and noted that if the Commission approves a motion to continue this item to allow the applicant to explore alternate redesigns, the City would need the applicant’s consent to a 90-day extension to the Permit Streamling Act deadline. He suggested that the project be continued the February 10, 2004 meeting.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked the applicant to indicate whether or not he would be willing to allow a 90-day extension.
Mr. Zack (applicant) stated that he was wiling to allow a 90-day extension and noted that he would like to resolve this proposal with the current Commission. He added that he is willing to work with the architect to find possible solutions for the issues and concerns at hand as quickly as possible.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked if the architect would be able to provide alternate designs to the Planning Department by January 5, 2004.
Mr. Hernandez (representing the architect) replied yes, that they would be able to provide the redesigned plans to the Planning Department by January 5, 2004.
Commissioner Cote moved to continue the item to the January 13, 2004 meeting to allow the applicant the opportunity to redesign the proposed second story addition to address the issues discussed by the Planning Commission, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. Approved, (4-0).
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 10:00 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 10:10 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
8. VIEW RESTORATION PERMIT NO. 157: 14 Amber Sky Drive
Staff Coordinator Alvarez presented the staff report, giving a brief background regarding the case. Upon conducting site visits, Staff identified a total of 20 trees on three adjacent properties that significantly impair the ocean view and the Catalina Island view from the Reddy viewing area. Staff recognized that the master bedroom, den, dinning room, and kitchen offer a view, however staff determined that the applicant’s best and most important viewing area is from the living room. Staff displayed photos on the power point screen that demonstrated the amount of view impairment and discussed the staff recommendations for trimming the foliage that is obstructing the view from 14 Amber Sky Drive, noting that staff recommends no action be taken on trees 2, 8, and 9 as they do not exceed 16 feet or the ridgeline of the foliage owner’s roofline.
Commissioner Cartwright asked for clarification regarding staff’s recommendation for tree no. 24.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez explained that the recommendation in the staff report was to lace the tree, or with the consent of the foliage owner, remove the tree. However, after a subsequent site visit, staff was now recommending that the tree be trimmed to 16 feet or to the ridgeline, whichever is lower, to further restore the applicant’s view.
Vice Chairman Mueller discussed tree no. 12, option 1, which is to raise the crown to the red line shown on the view photo. He asked if staff was going to use the photos as the trimming benchmark or if there was a trimming height associated with the tree.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez answered that staff had not measured the trees, and staff was using the red line in the photograph to denote the level of the horizon, and two feet above the red line would be the top portion of the Catalina Island view.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked staff if the Planning Commission should consider the private agreements that were attached to the staff report.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez answered that the tree trimming agreements had not been finalized and that the decision was now up to the Planning Commission based on the City’s code considerations described in the staff report.
Vice Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Naveen Reddy 14 Amber Sky Drive (applicant) distributed photographs taken from his property. He discussed his viewing area and felt that he has multiple viewing areas on his property. He noted that his house is 120 feet in length with picture windows along that area. He disagreed with the staff report regarding tree nos. 5 and 6. He stated that the staff recommendation for tree nos. 5 and 6 is to trim back the fronds allowing the trees to grow out of the viewing area in a few years. He felt this was a very unreasonable solution, as he should not have to wait that long for his view to be restored. He suggested a compromise where one or two of the palm trees could be reduced in height. He also disagreed with the staff report which states trees 22 through 29 are in the periphery of the view, as the trees are in the center of the view from the master bedroom, and therefore he did not think that lacing the trees would be sufficient. Mr. Reddy felt that trees 22 and 24 should be reduced to 16 feet in height, as lacing would not be sufficient.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Reddy if he agreed with the staff recommendation for tree no. 12 to raise the crown of the tree two feet above the red line in the photograph.
Mr. Reddy stated that there are so many trees in question that it was very difficult to determine what should be raised, laced, or trimmed, and therefore he would have to trust staff’s recommendations. However, regarding tree no. 22 he did not think lacing was sufficient, rather trees 22 and 24, because they are so close to each other, should be trimmed to 16 feet in height. He felt that trees 25 and 26 could be left as is, and trees 23, 27, and 28 should be maintained at 16 feet in height.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Reddy if he agreed with staff’s determination of the best and most important viewing area.
Mr. Reddy stated that he may have chosen the bedroom as the better viewing area, as trees 22 through 28 would then be in the center of his view rather than the periphery of the view.
Mr. Velken 17 Amber Sky Drive (foliage owner) stated that of the 10 trees on his property, only the recommendation for tree no. 10 caused him concern. He explained that tree no. 10 enhances his view looking from his house to the ocean. He felt that the staff recommendation would cause the tree to be a stump with no greenery on it, and it would likely die. He explained that the roots from this tree have spread and have a very important stabilizing affect on his property in regards to the slope. He recommended that, rather than trim the tree to 16 feet, the tree be heavily laced. He stated that he would be willing to compensate the applicant by giving him the right to remove and replace trees 16 and 17. He explained that these are big trees with big trunks, and replacing them would give the applicant an unobstructed view of the ocean. He added that he would also be willing to do this for tree no. 11.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff if the Planning Commission should take slope stabilization into consideration, and if so, how.
Project Coordinator Alvarez explained that when a tree is removed, the stump and the root system is required to remain in order to help stabilize the slope.
Commissioner Lyon asked Mr. Velken if he agreed with all of the recommendations in the staff report, except for tree no. 10.
Mr. Velken answered that was correct, and he would also be willing to have trees 11, 16 and 17 removed and replaced if tree no. 10 were heavily laced.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 10:55 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 11:00 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (continued)
Vice Chairman Mueller moved to abide by the Planning Commission rules and not take any new business after 11:00, therefore recommending items no. 9 and no. 10 on the Agenda be continued to the next meeting, seconded by Commissioner Lyon.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that in order to continue item No. 9 beyond this evening’s meeting, the City would need the applicant to grant a one time, 90-day extension per the State Permit Streamlining Act.
The applicant declined to grant the extension and asked that the item no. 9 be heard at this meeting.
The Commission agreed to hear Agenda Item No. 9 and 10 after View Restoration Permit No. 157.
David Cook 19 Amber Sky (foliage owner) stated that the palm trees on his property are a very important architectural aspect of his home and are a special species that are very expensive. He felt that the staff report was excellent and he has complied with all aspects of it. He stated that he has thinned the trees enormously and has a video that will show the trees are half the size they were. He did disagree with the staff report regarding tree no. 7, as he did not feel there was any view obstruction caused by the tree because there are other larger trees existing behind the tree. He explained that if a palm tree is cut and it’s growing crown destroyed, then the tree will die. To replace the tree with a slower growing species would cost more than $1,000. Furthermore, tree no. 7 is one of a clump of three trees, and the roots of the two adjacent palms may be injured to the point where they also may have to be replaced. Mr. Cook asked that the Planning Commission defer the recommendation of the staff regarding palm tree no. 7 until all of the other foliage is trimmed or removed, and then re-evaluate the tree. He explained that the tree is not obstructing a view, and he did not think that it will be a problem when the other trees are removed.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff what size replacement tree would be required for tree no. 7 and if the replacement tree would have to be of comparable monetary value.
Project Coordinator Alvarez explained that the View Guidelines do not require the applicant to replace a tree with one of a similar type or monetary value. He noted that the View Guidelines state that a replacement tree shall be no larger than a 24-inch box size tree.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked staff under what circumstances replacement foliage could be ordered.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the View Guidelines, page 19 section E, state that replacement foliage can be ordered in cases where removal of a tree could adversely affect the privacy, public health and safety, shade, health and viability of landscaping, and integrity of landscaping.
Commissioner Cote asked staff if the City Arborist had been consulted regarding the lowering of tree no. 7.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez stated that staff had not consulted with the City Arborist regarding tree no. 7.
Mr. Reddy (in rebuttal) stated that there is nothing rare or special about the trees in question, including the palm trees, as they are seen throughout California. He did not think that trimming the fronds on the palm trees was sufficient to restore his view. He stated that trees 22 and 24 also block views on Oceanaire Drive, and that should be taken into consideration.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Reddy his opinion on the offer by Mr. Velken to replace trees 11, 16, and 17 if tree no. 10 could be heavily laced.
Mr. Reddy responded that it was very difficult to judge that particular clump of trees, however if Mr. Velken were willing to add tree no. 22 to the list of trees to be removed and replaced he would be willing to bargain.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked staff if a replacement tree had to be put in the same place as the tree it was replacing.
Staff Coordinator Alvarez answered that the replacement tree did not have to be placed in the same spot as the tree it was replacing.
Vice Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Reddy if the owner of tree no. 7 agreed to removal of the tree, would it be acceptable to him to have a replacement tree put somewhere else on the property, away from the center of his viewing area.
Mr. Reddy responded that it would depend on what type of replacement tree was selected.
Mr. Velken (in rebuttal) repeated his offer regarding his trees and stated that he would not agree to cut tree no. 22 to 16 feet or the ridgeline, as it is a shade tree that is used in the summertime. However, he would be willing to trim down the tree slightly and lace the tree.
Mr. Cook (in rebuttal) repeated that he objected to the trimming of tree no. 7, as the trimming would kill the tree. He also said that removal and replacement would ruin the aesthetics of his landscaping.
Vice Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Vice Chairman Mueller discussed tree no. 7 noting that the foliage owners had asked to defer the decision on that tree until other trees had been cut and thinned. He noted that staff has determined that the tree is in the center of the viewing area and asked staff if there is a procedure to defer the decision on this tree.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that a condition could be added stating that tree no. 7 could be evaluated after the other foliage has been trimmed. However, he noted that if staff has to subsequently determine if tree no. 7 significantly impairs a view after all of the other foliage has been trimmed, staff may likely determine that the subject tree will not significantly impair the view.
Commissioner Cote moved to support the recommendations regarding the foliage at 19 Amber Sky Drive with the exception of tree no. 7, which should be deferred and reevaluated by staff after all other foliage is trimmed or removed and if staff subsequently determines the tree significantly impairs the applicant’s view, then the tree shall be trimmed to the 16-foot level as described in option no. 1 of the staff report; regarding foliage at 17 Amber Sky Drive, tree no. 10 shall be heavily laced, tree no. 11 shall be removed, tree no. 12 be trimmed per staff recommendation, staff option 1 on trees 13, 14, and 15 and staff option 2 on trees 16 and 17, and staff recommendations on trees 18 through 23; follow staff recommendations on the foliage located at 15 Amber Sky Drive, seconded by Commissioner Lyon.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to amend the motion regarding tree no. 22 to trim the tree down four feet and heavily lace. Commissioner Cote accepted the amendment to her motion, seconded by Commissioner Lyon.
Vice Chairman Mueller moved to amend the motion to trim trees 24 through 28 to the ridgeline or 16 feet, whichever is lower.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that the red line on the photograph is the horizon line and felt that trimming the trees to that level would only open up a view of the sky.
Vice Chairman Mueller stated that trimming the trees down to 16 feet or the ridgeline would restore the ocean view.
The proposed amendment died due to a lack of a second.
Vice Chairman Mueller discussed tree no. 7 and stated that any tree in the center of a view should be considered significant view impairment.
Commissioner Cote agreed, but felt that staff should make the determination as to whether this tree causes significant view obstruction after the other foliage is trimmed.
Commissioner Cartwright added that it was common for the Planning Commission to defer this type of decision to the planning staff and did not think anything would be lost by deferring this decision.
Commissioner Lyon agreed adding that it did not make sense to make an irrevocable decision on the tree until it was known how the view was affected once the other trees had been trimmed.
Vice Chairman Mueller disagreed, supporting staff’s recommendation on tree no. 7.
Commissioner Cote’s motion passed, thereby adopting P.C. Resolution 2002-63, (4-0).
9. GRADING PERMIT (CASE ZON2002-00239): 30120 Cartier Drive
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that during the recess he had received a request from the applicant to continue the item, along with a 90-day extension to the Permit Streamling Act. Therefore, the item did not have to be heard this evening.
Vice Chairman Mueller moved to continue the items 9 and 10 to the meeting of January 13, 2004, seconded by Commissioner Cote. Approved, (4-0)
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES
10. Minutes of November 25, 2003
Continued to January 13, 2004.
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
11. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of January 13, 2004
The meeting was adjourned at 12:09 a.m.