CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
MARCH 23, 2004
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Mueller at 7:00 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Van Wagner led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Gerstner, Karp, Knight, Tetreault, Van Wagner, and Chairman Mueller
Absent: Vice Chairman Cote was excused
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Senior Planner Mihranian, Associate Planner Blumenthal, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
The agenda was unanimously approved as presented.
Director/Secretary Rojas reminded the Planning Commission about the Community Leaders Breakfast Saturday at Hesse Park. He distributed one item of correspondence for Agenda Item No. 3 and one item for Agenda Item No. 4. He stated that he had late correspondence for Agenda Items 3 and 5 and asked the Planning Commission if they wanted to receive this late correspondence.
After a brief discussion, the Planning Commission agreed to accept this late correspondence, however there would be no guarantee that they would be able to give the correspondence due consideration when discussing the item. The Commission also noted that there should be strict adherence to the time deadlines set for receiving correspondence.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE REGARDING NON-AGENDA ITEMS
1. Appeal of Grading Permit, Site Plan Review Permit, and Lot Line Adjustment (Case No. ZON2003-00349 and SUB2003-00009): 5251 Rolling Ridge Road
Commissioner Gerstner recused himself from the hearing and left the room, as he lives within 500 feet of the applicant.
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and explained that at the last Planning Commission meeting, after hearing the public concerns, the Planning Commission had directed the applicant to set the proposed house further to the west from the street to reduce the apparent bulk and mass of the structure, to reduce the size of the structure, and provide a landscape plan. He showed on a power point slide the proposed new location of the home. He noted that because of this new location, the lot line adjustment has been modified to increase the size of the lot and grading quantities have increased. He stated that the applicant has submitted a landscape plan which staff felt will help screen the residence from Rolling Ridge Road. He stated that based on the revised plan, staff was seeking direction from the Planning Commission as to whether the project addresses the Planning Commissionís previous concerns regarding the bulk and mass of the structure, and if so, staff is recommending the Planning Commission deny the appeal and uphold the Directorís decision as modified.
Commissioner Knight discussed the landscape plan and asked staff if part of the landscaping was proposed in the road easement.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the landscape plan does use area between the paved portion of the road and the edge of the easement.
Commissioner Knight asked, if the HOA decided at some point to widen the road, would they then be able to require that section of the landscaping be removed.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that was correct.
Commissioner Knight asked if there would be any view impact from the home at 5040 Palos Verdes Drive North due to the planting of the cherry trees.
Associate Planner Blumenthal displayed an aerial photograph and explained that the view from 5040 Palos Verdes Drive North was to the west overlooking the city lights and to the north, therefore there would be no view impact.
Commissioner Knight asked if there was a condition requiring the landscaping be maintained.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted that Condition of Approval No. 14 requires the landscape plan shall substantially comply with the preliminary plan that has been presented to the Commission and if the Planning Commission desires, they can add language to require the landscaping be maintained.
Commissioner Karp stated that he was of the opinion that the 8 foot landscaping area should instead be street paving, as he did not think a 15-foot road was adequate anywhere in the City, noting that this was an opportunity to widen the road to 23 feet. He asked if this could be incorporated in the Conditions of Approval.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that there is a HOA that will have to maintain that road, and felt they should be consulted as to whether they wanted to take on the additional cost of maintaining the additional roadway. He also explained that, in order to require the road be widened, there would need to be some issue with the project that warrants widening the road, and if the Planning Commission can make that finding, a Condition of Approval can be added.
Chairman Mueller asked staff if they felt there was a need to widen the road at this area.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that staff did not see anything associated with the proposed project that would necessitate widening the road, however as noted by Commissioner Karp, there could be a benefit to widening the road.
Commissioner Tetreault asked staff if the City has any jurisdiction over this road.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that this is a private street and the City has no jurisdiction over the road, which is why he felt that the HOA should be consulted before requiring the street be widened.
Commissioner Van Wagner asked staff to clarify whether the adjacent lot can or cannot be subdivided.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that there was a condition of approval on the previous parcel map requiring a covenant be recorded preventing the adjacent lot from being subdivided. He noted that with any condition of approval or City required covenants, the applicant can go before the City Council to request a modification to the conditions of approval and have the covenant on the adjacent parcel removed.
Commissioner Knight noted that staff had mentioned that two lots had been merged at 5241 Rolling Ridge Road, and asked which lots staff was referring to.
Associate Planner Blumenthal referred the Planning Commission to lots 2 and 3, and pointed out these lots on an aerial photograph.
Commissioner Knight asked what the total square footage of the lot is that the house at 5241 Rolling Ridge Road sits on.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the lot is approximately 42,000 square feet.
Chairman Mueller asked, if staff were to adjust the size of the lot to match the house at 5241 Rolling Ridge, would staff come to the same conclusions regarding neighborhood compatibility in terms of the size of the house considering the larger size of the lot.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that staff felt the house would still be compatible with the neighborhood.
Chairman Mueller asked staff if they felt the new submittal which shows rotating the house and changing the angle of the front façade mitigates the mass and bulk of the house from the street.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that staff felt that rotating the house and pushing portions farther away from the street would further mitigate the bulk and mass of the house.
Chairman Mueller asked if staff re-assessed the views from the property to the rear taking into account the repositioning of the house.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the ridge height has not increased and there is no view impairment caused by the structure.
Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Diane Wilson 26826 Sand Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, stated she was representing her mother, Betty Slagg (appellant). She stated that she was pleased with the increased setback of the house from Rolling Ridge Road and the increased landscaping, however was still concerned that the proposed structure is not in project is dissimilar in terms of size, scale, and lot coverage, noting that of the 11 properties used in the analysis, only 3 are two story homes. She also noted that the average lot size is 52, 429 square feet whereas the subject property is only 22,050 square feet while the proposed structure size is 43% larger than the average in the neighborhood. She felt the project scale is still incompatible and the design too massive. She stated that the Planning Commission had requested the bulk and mass be reduced and the size reduced, and noted there has not been any change in these issues. She asked the Planning Commission select Alternative No. 2 in the staff report, and direct the applicant to reduce the appearance of the bulk and mass of the structure, noting that she does not object to the square footage of the project.
Dick Johnson 5383 Rolling Ridge Road felt the current plan is a dramatic improvement from the previous plan, however he was still concerned with the apparent mass of the house. He felt that if the house could be graded down a foot or so it would look less massive from the street and not to too expensive for the owner.
Betty Slagg 5287 Rolling Ridge Road stated that she was disappointed that the requests from the Planning Commission to reduce the mass, bulk, and square footage of the proposed house were not honored by the developer of the property. She stated that this proposed residence is not compatible with the neighborhood due to the large mass and bulk and felt that if the Florances were to lower the house 2 Ĺ feet it will appear smaller and more to the contour of the land. She also disagreed with the proposed setbacks of 15í in the rear and 8í3" on the side and supported staff recommendations 10 and 11 of Exhibit A Conditions of Approval.
Douglas Trowbridge 5333 Rolling Ridge Road stated that he was grateful that the mass and bulk of the house have been reduced, however he would like to see the house lowered approximately 2 to 2 Ĺ feet.
Commissioner Mueller asked how lowering the house 2 to 2 Ĺ feet would reduce the mass and bulk.
Mr. Trowbridge felt that lowering the house would reduce the appearance of the mass and bulk.
Vicki Slagg Scrimger 26202 Birchfield Ave also felt that the proposed project was too massive for the neighborhood, noting that large lots and open space characterize the neighborhood. She did not understand why staff included other streets in their neighborhood analysis and stressed that the neighborhood was Rolling Ridge Road, and does not include Via Campesina.
Chairman Mueller understood Ms. Scrimgerís concerns regarding the neighborhood and explained that the neighborhood compatibility guidelines have expanded to include the 20 closest homes in the analysis done by staff.
Bill Gerstner 5317 Rolling Ridge Road explained that because of the way the roads are configured in the area, he felt that even though a home is close to another home, it does not necessarily mean it is in the same neighborhood. He explained that residents of Rolling Ridge Road drive up and down the street daily, however to get to one of the homes adjacent to Mr. Florance one would have to drive Rolling Ridge Road, over Via Campesina, and down a long driveway. Therefore, he felt there was a perceived neighborhood where everyone sees each other and interacts with each other on a regular basis and a neighborhood where people happen to be within 500 feet of each other. He commended the architect for the project, as he felt the location of the proposed home as well as the rotation of the home was commendable. He stated that his concerns were not with the actual square footage or size of the house, but rather with how large the house appears to be, and noted that the applicant has not made an adjustment to the mass or scale of the house as directed by the Planning Commission. He felt that to reduce the appearance of the mass of the house the house could be lowered by some dimension and by doing that the house would be lowered relative to sea level. He felt that in doing this it would not change the character of the house and the house would appear smaller without actually being smaller. He noted that in lowering the house the retaining wall near the pool would likely have to be made higher, but he did not think by much.
Commissioner Karp asked Mr. Gerstner if, in lowering the house, there would be any other serious engineering construction problems.
Mr. Gerstner stated he is not an engineer, but he did not think there would be any major structural adjustments necessary.
Commissioner Knight asked Mr. Gerstner if he would like to see the neighborhood compatibility compare the Rolling Ridge homes and leave out the homes on Via Campesina.
Mr. Gerstner explained that the Guidelines say to compare homes within a 500-foot radius, and felt everything in the 500-foot radius should be considered for a statistical analysis, however he felt more weight should be applied to homes in the immediate neighborhood when considering the subtleties of the neighborhood compatibility.
Commissioner Van Wagner asked what Mr. Gerstner felt were the disadvantages to the Florances by lowering the house.
Mr. Gerstner felt that lowering the house would slightly lower the view from the Floranceís house; if something were to be built on the adjacent property, the height of the structure could be affected; the proposed windows in the back may not be able to go all the way down to the floor as currently proposed; and the retaining wall in the back may have to be increased in height.
Ron Florance 6 Rivo Alto Canal, Long Beach (applicant), explained that in the general area there are many homes that are similar to the type of home he is contemplating, that being one built into a hillside with two or three stories in the front of the house and one or two stories in the back, and felt this was the predominant character of the homes in the area. He noted that of the 11 homes in the immediate area, 4 are two-story homes. Mr. Florance stated that many of the homes in the neighborhood are on very large lots and felt that over the next several years many of these lots will be split into two or more lots.
Commissioner Van Wagner asked Mr. Florance if he would be willing to lower the elevation of his home.
Mr. Florance responded that lowering the home will sink it down and will increase the size of the retaining walls on all sides, particularly in the back. He stated that he was already concerned with the height of the retaining wall in the back. He explained that by moving the house to the west and turning it, he has already lowered the driveway by approximately 2 feet.
Commissioner Karp asked Mr. Florance what he was proposing to do with the second lot.
Mr. Florance answered that he was planning to landscape the second lot.
Commissioner Karp asked Mr. Florance if he planned to landscape the lot perpetually, or if he was planning to sell the lot in the future.
Mr. Florance answered that he has no contemplation of selling the property at this time or in the near future. He explained that the landscape architect he has hired specializes in designing and maintaining large landscape areas.
Commissioner Knight stated that there is a condition of approval requiring Mr. Florance to readjust the lot line adjustment to comply with code setbacks, and asked him if he had any problems with this condition.
Mr. Florance answered that he had no problems with this condition.
Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Florance what part of the new proposal addresses the Planning Commissionís original concerns regarding the size of the house in terms of neighborhood compatibility.
Mr. Florance felt that this had been a request from the Planning Commission, and he and his architect had looked into reducing the size of the house, but felt that when comparing the size of his house to others in the immediate neighborhood his is well within the range. He noted that because of the way the house will be built into the hillside, the livable area on the second floor of the home will be 3,231 square feet, which he did not feel was excessive, and on the first floor will be two guest bedrooms and an office. He therefore felt that the request from the Planning Commission to reduce the size of the home was unreasonable.
Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Florance if he looked into any alternatives in regards to reducing the size of the home.
Mr. Florance answered that he moved the house to the west and turned it, and felt that was sufficient.
Betty Slagg (in rebuttal) asked that Mr. Florance reduce the size of his proposed home by cutting into the hillside slightly. She noted that moving the house 10 feet to the west has put it further into her view, however the house does look better from the street. However she felt the house is still very large for the lot size, but by lowering the lot level by approximately 2 feet it would make the house look less massive and be more compatible with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Knight asked Mrs. Slagg if lowering the proposed house approximately 2 or 2 Ĺ feet would address all of her concerns.
Mrs. Slagg answered that lowering the house would address her concerns.
Chairman Mueller asked Mrs. Slagg what view she was referring to when she stated moving the house put it further in her view.
Mrs. Slagg answered that it was the overall view of everything that is out there.
Chairman Mueller felt Mrs. Slagg was referring to a view that includes other homes in the neighborhood, and that if the Planning Commission were to consider view they could only look at significant view impairment to landmarks. He asked if moving the proposed home 10 feet west increased the appearance of the mass and bulk from her property.
Mrs. Slagg responded that there was no mass and bulk there before, and that is why she is appealing the project to the Planning Commission.
Chairman Mueller discussed the proposal to lower the home by 2 to 2 Ĺ feet, and noted that this is not a height variation application, as it is on a sloping lot, and therefore the proposed project meets the current codes for a sloping lot. He felt that asking the applicant to lower the lot 2 feet was asking them to do something beyond what the code requires.
Mrs. Slagg noted, however, that the reduction of 2 feet, or any amount of reduction, would take away from the mass of the structure.
Chairman Mueller asked Mrs. Slagg if she had any other ideas on how to reduce the size of the home.
Mrs. Slagg answered that she is not an architect and therefore did not have any specific ideas on how to reduce the size of the house.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Karp asked staff if there were any serious issues on lowering the house 2 to 2 Ĺ feet.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that lowering the house 2 to 2 Ĺ feet would increase the grading. He stated that retaining walls are currently within the code allowances and grading down will increase the rear retaining wall height to 6 feet, noting that the code allows a rear retaining wall up to 8 feet in height. He stated the other issue would be the driveway, as staff would want to ensure a positive gravity flow is maintained on all drainage out to the street. He explained that staff did a quick analysis and staff felt that lowering the building pad two feet would maintain that flow.
Chairman Mueller asked staff if they have independently looked into options or alternatives to the proposed home to reduce the overall size of the home.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that staff did not directly consider any alternative proposals for the applicant in reducing the square footage, however in looking at the plan staff felt there were ways in which the square footage could be reduced, such as reducing the footprint of the structure or reducing the size of the lower floor which would increase the step in the house.
Commissioner Van Wagner noted that the square footage reduction did not seem to be much of an issue with the neighbors, but more the appearance and the bulk and mass of the house.
Commissioner Karp felt that Rolling Ridge Road was itís own neighborhood and houses on other streets are not relevant to the design of this project. Unless there are serious engineering problems, he recommended the house be lowered 2 feet to address the issues of the neighborhood. He also felt the road should be widened to the maximum on the easement, as it is a matter of life safety, and also felt that a house this size should be fully fire sprinklered.
Commissioner Knight agreed that the homes on Rolling Ridge Road have their own unique characteristic, independent of those on Via Campesina. However, he still felt the scale of the home is not compatible with the neighborhood and felt that the house should be reduced in terms of square footage. He appreciated the house being set back from the street and the addition of the landscaping along Rolling Ridge Road. He also felt that lowering the house seemed feasible and wanted to see if that would be possible.
Commissioner Tetreault felt that Rolling Ridge Road has two portions, a lower and an upper portion, and the house at 5241 Rolling Ridge Road has many similarities to the proposal made by Mr. Florance. However, he was concerned over Mr. Floranceís decision to ignore the previous direction of the Planning Commission to consider a reduction of his project. He felt that lowering the house 2 to 2 Ĺ feet would address most of the concerns expressed to the Planning Commission.
Chairman Mueller was concerned that the Planning Commission gave direction to the applicant to address the mass, bulk, and size of the structure and he was still concerned with neighborhood compatibility, particularly on the square footage. He was not convinced that lowering the house 2 to 2 Ĺ feet would address the problem he is concerned about, as the house was already meeting the 16/30 height limits of the Development Code. He stated that he would rather leave the widening of the road to the Homeowners Association and did not want to burden the applicant with the expense of widening and maintaining the portion of the road. He felt that the house was too large for the neighborhood and was not compatible in terms of the size of the house.
Commissioner Knight asked staff if fire safety and emergency access would be addressed at some time during the application process.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that if the Planning Commission approves the project, the applicant will be required to go to the Fire Department for approval before building permits are issued.
Commissioner Knight felt a condition should be added that the applicant be required to maintain the landscaping and one added that the pool equipment be covered to help mitigate the noise.
Commissioner Van Wagner stated that the size, in terms of the square footage of the house, is not what the neighbors are objecting to, but rather how the house appears. He felt that neighborhood compatibility is not an absolute, but rather a guideline, and taking into consideration how the house has been moved and the landscaping, a lot has been done to mitigate the square footage issue.
Commissioner Knight moved to accept the proposed revised setback of the project and the landscaping plan, however he wanted to continue the item to allow the applicant the opportunity to address reducing the square footage of the project, seconded by Commissioner Tetreault.
Chairman Mueller amended the motion to include a requirement for covering the pool equipment to reduce the noise, seconded by Commissioner Karp. The amendment was approved, (5-0).
Commissioner Karp moved to amend the motion by deleting the language regarding continuing the item to allow the applicant the opportunity to address reducing the square footage of the project, seconded by Commissioner Van Wagner.
Director/Secretary Rojas clarified that the proposed amendment was to delete the requirement to reduce the square footage, which would make the motion on the table to accept the revised project in terms of the itís location and reconfiguration, the landscaping, and covering the pool equipment to reduce the noise.
The amendment to the motion failed, (2-3) with Commissioner Tetreault, Knight, and Chairman Mueller dissenting.
Commissioner Karp moved to amend the motion to lower the total height of the structure by 2 feet and that a condition be added that the landscaping be maintained.
Commissioner Knight accepted the amendment to his motion as a friendly amendment.
Chairman Mueller stated that he was very uncomfortable in directing the applicant to reduce the height of the structure or lowering the structure to reduce the mass and bulk. He did not think it was the intent of the Ordinance or neighborhood compatibility to not allow the applicant to develop the property to the 16/30-foot height envelope that everyone in the City is allowed to do. He noted that this is a sloping lot and there is nothing special about it that requires it be lowered.
Commissioner Karp stated that the applicant was previously instructed by the Planning Commission to address the size and square footage of the house, which he has not done. He felt that lowering the property by 2 feet was a compromise that almost everyone involved accepts, and guidelines are only guidelines and not etched in stone. He did not think requiring the house be lowered 2 feet was putting any undo burden on the applicant.
Commissioner Tetreault did not think the role of the Planning Commission was to act as mediators in a dispute between neighbors to try to come up with something in which they all agree. He felt the Planning Commission had to work within the framework of the Code and noted if the Planning Commission starts brokering disputes and coming up with resolutions that are not well grounded in the Code, it will be difficult for residents submitting new plans to come to the Planning Department with their proposals with some degree of certainty as to what the result will be. He therefore was uncomfortable with the current motion on the floor.
Commissioner Van Wagner was also uncomfortable with the current motion, as he did not think square footage was an issue with the neighbors.
Commissioner Knight felt that addressing the square footage was a good suggestion in terms of trying to reduce the bulk and mass of the project. He felt that in terms of scale, the proposed house was not compatible with the neighborhood.
The amendment to lower the pad by 2 feet and add a condition to maintain the landscaping passed, (3-2) with Commissioner Tetreault and Chairman Mueller dissenting.
Director/Secretary Rojas clarified that the current motion is now to accept the project in itís new configuration and location, accept the proposed landscaping, reduce the square footage, require the pool equipment be enclosed, the pad be lowered by 2 feet, and the landscaping be maintained.
Commissioner Karp felt the Planning Commission is a discretionary committee appointed by the City Council to use reasonable judgment based on good faith and fair dealings. He felt that every piece of real estate is unique and negotiating a compromise is not violating the instructions from the City Council and the rules are not mandates but guidelines and reasonable discretion can be used in reaching a compromise.
Chairman Mueller was concerned that the Planning Commission was accepting the recommendation of some of the neighbors on lowering the height of the house, and he did not think the applicant has ever indicated that is something he would chose to do. He felt this puts a burden on the applicant that other homes built in the City have to adhere to. He stated that he would like to open the public hearing to see whether the applicant does or does not accept the recommendation to lower the pad.
Chairman Mueller re-opened the pubic hearing.
Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Florance if he would be willing o accept the suggestion that the structure be lowered 2 feet.
Mr. Florance explained that the home in front of his is 7,026 square feet, the home immediately to the east is 4,284 square feet, and his proposed home is 5,482 square feet. He felt it was unreasonable to reduce the size of his proposed house and unreasonable to ask him to do something that is beyond the Code, and he will not do either one.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Tetreault felt neighborhood compatibility is a very subjective matter, as every neighborhood is unique and he did not think this proposed residence is out of character with the rest of the neighborhood, given the size of the house immediately to the north of the applicantís property. He also did not think that the Planning Commission could ask the applicant to lower the house by 2 feet. However, he was concerned that the applicant had not addressed the issues raised by the Planning Commission at the previous meeting regarding the size of the proposed home. Given the two concerns, he was in favor of approving the proposed project and denying the appeal.
Commissioner Tetreault offered a substitute motion to deny the appeal and uphold the Directorís approval of the Grading Permit, Site Plan Review, and Lot Line Adjustment, with the new revised configuration of the house presented by the applicant, and with the additional conditions that the landscaping be maintained by the owner and that the pool equipment be enclosed to reduce noise, seconded by Chairman Mueller.
Commissioner Karp commented that he felt the applicant was arrogant in his attitude that the Planning Commissionís request to consider reducing the square footage of the proposed home was unreasonable and out of line, however he stated that he could support the motion offered by Commissioner Tetreault.
Commissioner Knight stated that, based on the size of the house, he could not make the finding that the house was compatible with the neighborhood.
The substitute motion to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-12, as amended, passed, (4-1-1) with Commissioner Knight dissenting and Commissioner Gerstner abstaining.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 9:25 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 9:35 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that staff has been speaking to one of the parties of Agenda Item No. 4 who is not feeling well, and the applicant is willing to have the item continued to April 13. He therefore suggested taking this item out of order and staff is recommending this item be continued to April 13.
4. View Restoration Permit No. 165: 5403, 5411, and 5417 Littlebow Road
Chairman Mueller polled the Commissioners as to who had visited the site. All Commissioners had visited the site.
Chairman Mueller felt it was important to ask the applicant and foliage owners if they were in favor of a continuance.
John Lee stated he was speaking on behalf of the Lee family and the two other applicants on Littlebow Road and was in favor of continuing the item to April 13.
The foliage owner agreed to continue the item to April 13.
The item was continued to April 13, 2004, without objection.
2. Height Variation Permit (Case ZON2003-00549): 28600 Mount Lassen Ln
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the Height Variation. He stated that staff has reviewed the proposed request and found that the requested structure does not create any view impairments, it is compatible with the neighborhood, meets all code requirements, and does not create an unreasonable infringement of privacy on the neighbors. Therefore, staff is recommending the Planning Commission approve the Height Variation subject to the recommended conditions of approval.
Commissioner Knight stated that when driving in the neighborhood the predominant style of home was that of a single story garage with a second story behind the garage. He noted that on this application the second story goes straight up from the garage, which is not common in the neighborhood.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that staff had noted that design, however felt that with the design proposed, it will not cause the structure to stand out from the other homes in the neighborhood and was compatible with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Tetreault stated that he had the same concerns, however noted that a home down the street did have a similar design.
Commissioner Van Wagner also noted that there were several homes in the neighborhood that had a similar second story design.
Chairman Mueller asked staff if they had considered if any other placement of the addition would be more reasonable or more compatible with the neighborhood.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that staff felt the addition was compatible with the neighborhood and had not considered other placements. He noted that there was the possibility to change the placement of the second story, however staff would then be concerned with possible view impairment issues.
Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Anthony Radov 28600 Mt Lassen Lane (applicant) stated that he was simply looking to expand his home to accommodate his living conditions while keeping the green area adjacent to his home for everyone in the neighborhood to enjoy.
Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Radov what the disadvantages were of putting the addition more towards the north.
Mr. Radov explained that putting the addition to the north may block the neighborís views of the City lights. He also noted that he has legal RV parking to the north which he would lose by putting the addition to the north.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Karp moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-13, thereby approving, with conditions, the Height Variation (Case No. Zon2003-00549), seconded by Commissioner Knight. Approved, (6-0).
3. Height Variation and Minor Exception Permit (Case ZON2003-00595): 7442 Via Lorado
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the Height Variation and the Minor Exception Permit. He explained that when initially reviewing the project, staff did not feel there was any view impairment caused by the proposed addition, was consistent and compatible with the neighborhood, and did not cause unreasonable privacy infringement to the neighbors. Additionally, when reviewing the Minor Exception Permit, staff was of the opinion that because of the limited availability on the site to add a bathroom to service the bedrooms in this area of the residence, there is a practical difficulty that warrants the approval of the Minor Exception Permit. He stated that there were two pieces of correspondence distributed to the Planning Commission that were not part of the original analysis; one being from the neighbor adjacent to the property expressing concern that the proposed structure is not compatible with the neighborhood, will create an infringement of privacy, and creates view impairment. He stated that staff was able to do a view analysis from the neighboring property and showed on a power point slide the view that the neighbor felt would be impaired. He noted that the view was taken from the kitchen and staff determined that this was not the best and most important view as noted in the Height Variation Guidelines. He explained that from the viewing area, which is the best and most important view, the silhouette is not visible. The second piece of late correspondence was a concern about doing a second story addition in the neighborhood, and noted that there are several two-story residences in the neighborhood. Therefore, staff was recommending the Planning Commission approve the Height Variation and Minor Exception Permit, subject to the Conditions of Approval.
Commissioner Tetreault was concerned about the correspondence received from the neighbors regarding their view, however he noted that there are currently large silhouettes for construction down the street that could completely block this personís view. He asked staff what the silhouettes were for and the status of that project.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that the silhouettes are for two projects scheduled for the next Planning Commission meeting. He noted that they are discretionary applications that are not yet approved.
Commissioner Van Wagner stated that the Larsons raised an issue regarding privacy and asked staff to comment.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that staff looked at the proposed second story windows, and in as much as the windows do look down into the Larsonís side yard, staff did not feel this was an unreasonable infringement of privacy on them.
Commissioner Van Wagner asked staff what they would consider an unreasonable infringement of privacy.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that staff would consider something to be an unreasonable infringement of privacy if the new windows would look down into a pool or spa area that currently cannot be looked down onto.
Commissioner Van Wagner asked if one would be able to look into the Larsonís windows from the proposed second story.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that staff usually does not consider interior privacy when reviewing privacy issues per the Guidelines, as greater weight is given to the outside since inside privacy can be protected by shades or other means.
Commissioner Knight asked staff if they considered safety issues when analyzing the portion of the addition in the encroachment.
Associate Planner Blumenthal stated that staff looked at the code defined intersection visibility triangle, and the entire addition is located outside of that triangle.
Chairman Mueller asked if there is any other part of the current structure in the setback area, or was it just that proposed addition.
Associate Planner Blumenthal stated there are parts of the existing structure located in the front setback.
Commissioner Gerstner asked staff what the practical difficulty was to allow the granting of the Minor Exception Permit.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that there are several bedrooms in the area and there is no other place to locate a bathroom to service the existing bedrooms.
Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Barbara Dancy 7442 Via Lorado (applicant) stated that the motivation for the remodel is two-fold: 1) to provide a bathroom for her two boys that is accessible from their bedrooms and to make the new bathroom more serviceable for her son who has cerebral palsy and cannot stand or walk without assistance. She stated that it is for this last reason that she applied for the Minor Exception Permit in order to accommodate a reasonable size bathroom to accommodate the wheelchair and 2) to obtain a master bedroom suite and subsequently provide separate bedrooms for her sons while still maintaining a guest room. She noted that her younger son will ultimately require part time or live in caregivers for which the existing master bedroom will provide the needed accommodations. She stated that she spoke with all of her immediate neighbors about the plans and that architect has tried to minimize any impact to the neighbors. She stated that she just found out today that one of the neighbors felt there was a problem with the proposed addition. In conclusion, she felt the request is not excessive and maintains compatibility with the neighborhood and the addition does not impose a significant view impairment, and therefore respectfully requested approval of the project.
Don Thursby 777 Silver Spur Road, RHE (architect) felt the addition was designed to minimize the potential view impacts, minimize the appearance of mass, maintain the existing character of the house, and minimize the impacts of construction on the clientís family life. He stated that the lot is unique as it fronts three streets and there is not a lot of area to maneuver an addition. He stated that he looked at alternative locations, however these locations caused view impacts as well as created a more massive structure. Regarding the potential view obstruction from the Larson residence, he stated that in designing the structure he did not feel views would be obstructed from their primary viewing area. He noted he had met with Mr. Larson this evening to discuss any potential area where he could modify the design, but was not able to come up with any specific criteria from the Larsons about what he could tangibly do to reduce the impact. He noted that he offered to decrease the size of the windows fronting the Larsonís property or potentially remove them, but he did not think Mr. Larson felt this was an acceptable alternative.
Commissioner Tetreault noted that the windows in question are bathroom and closet windows and that windows of that nature are sometimes frosted which will allow the light to come in but there is not the opportunity for people to see in or out. He asked if that would be a reasonable solution.
Mr. Thursby answered he would be acceptable to such a window.
Commissioner Knight asked staff if they could clarify on the photograph where the windows would be located and how they would look down on the Larson property.
Associate Planner Blumenthal displayed a slide showing the silhouette and the elevation, showing where the fence line would be located. He showed where one bedroom window would have the potential to look into the Larsonís kitchen.
Terry Larson 7430 Via Lorado asked the Planning Commission to deny the second story addition on the grounds of neighborhood compatibility and the loss of privacy to his home and distributed several pictures taken from his home. He stated that one of the unique features of the Via Lorado neighborhood is that there are larger, two-story homes but they are on the east side of the street and tucked into the hillside and the homes on the west side of the street are smaller, single story homes designed so that each house can look over the other. He felt the proposed addition would make the house much larger and much bulkier than any other home on the west side of the street, noting it would be approximately twice the square footage of his home. He submitted eleven sets of signatures from neighbors in the area who feel this addition is not compatible with the neighborhood. He stated that his house is very open and airy, and if this second story addition is built he will look out and see a wall that will block much of the light and air into his home.
Commissioner Knight asked Mr. Larson why his correspondence to the Planning Commission was not submitted in a more timely manner.
Mr. Larson answered that he has been traveling and did not realize that the meeting was happening as soon as it did.
Commissioner Tetreault asked Mr. Larson if he was in agreement that his primary or most important view is facing out towards the ocean and asked what part of his home looks out in that direction.
Mr. Larson agreed that was his most important view and that his living room, great room, and deck look out over that area.
Commissioner Tetreault asked what view Mr. Larson sees from his dining room and library.
Mr. Larson answered that he can see, on a clear day, the Santa Monica Mountains. However, what is more important is the consideration of light and the feeling of openness.
Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Larson his opinion on some sort of translucent window or window treatment on the windows that would overlook his kitchen area.
Mr. Larson stated that he could not answer that question without standing in his kitchen or dining room and visualizing what it will look like.
Linda Larson 7430 Via Lorado stated that this proposed addition does not affect the views of her neighbors, only her view from her dining room and kitchen windows, however the neighbors are concerned about the precedent set allowing two-story homes on the west side of the street. She felt that allowing this addition would diminish her quality of life, as she would not be able to enjoy what she currently has from her library, kitchen, and dining room areas.
Commissioner Tetreault asked Mrs. Larson if, besides this being the first two-story house on the west side of the street, did she have any other concerns or objections to the size or bulkiness of the proposed structure.
Mrs. Larson answered that she felt the size of the house is not to scale with the other houses on the west side of the street.
Chairman Mueller asked Mrs. Larson if there was any property on the west side of the street where a two-story addition could be built that would not impair a view from the neighboring property.
Mrs. Larson answered that there would be significant view impairment to other houses if a two-story house was built next to them.
Chairman Mueller clarified by asking if the view impairment would be from the main viewing areas.
Mrs. Larson answered that if two-story additions were added on the west side of the street they most likely would cause view impairment to homes on the east side of the street and on Via Marie Celeste.
Nancy Forbes 7343 Via Lorado pointed out on the aerial photograph how homes on the west side of Via Lorado who added second story additions would potentially block views from homes on Via Marie Celeste. She felt the Planning Commission would be setting precedence by allowing two-story addition be built on the west side of the street.
Don Thursby (in rebuttal) stated that he began this process over six months ago and Mrs. Dancy canvassed the neighborhood and did her due diligence to get all of the required signatures. Further, he noted that the silhouette has been up for over two months, and is somewhat surprised by these last minute objections. He felt that Mr. Larson has not left much room for mitigation and has taken an all or nothing approach, as he does not want the addition to proceed. He stated that given the topography of the neighborhood, the proposed addition does not cause any significant view impairments and that the project should be approved.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Van Wagner asked staff if they have any thoughts on the issue of second story additions on the west side of Via Lorado.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that in looking at the neighborhood compatibility table in the staff report, it appears all of the second story structures do have odd number addresses, leading staff to believe they are on the east side of the street. However, staff feels that since they are within the 20 closest homes, there is not a problem in terms of neighborhood compatibility.
Commissioner Karp felt that the Larsonís view of the Santa Monica Mountains will eventually be lost as the nearby vacant lots will eventually be built on. He stated that the Larsonís primary view is to the west over the ocean and that the Larsonís main concern seems to be that the proposed second story addition will diminish some light coming into the kitchen and dining room, and he did not feel they would lose any privacy. He did not feel the argument regarding precedence was relevant to the discussion.
Commissioner Tetreault felt that even though the proposed addition may obscure some section of the view from the Larsonís residence, it is not a protected view and should not prevent the project from going forward on that basis. Regarding neighborhood compatibility, he felt that it was unique that this proposed addition would be the only second story building on the west side of the street, however the purpose for having the two story homes on the east side of the street is to not impede views. He noted that in this situation this proposed second story addition would not be impairing a protected view from any neighboring homes and should not be an impediment to the applicant. Regarding bulk and size, he noted that the proposed addition would make the house somewhat larger than the other homes on the west side of the street, however not larger or bulkier than the homes directly across the street. Therefore, he was inclined to find the proposed addition was not incompatible with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Knight stated that one of his concerns was the privacy issue to the Larsonís home, and did not agree with staffís statement that privacy impacts interior to a home are not considered because anyone can buy blinds or window coverings. However he was not sure, based on the plans, how much the proposed windows will impact the Larsonís privacy.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted on the silhouette that one proposed bedroom window will be above the kitchen area.
Commissioner Knight stated he would like to see a condition added that the bedroom window be frosted or be a higher type window to allow more privacy to the Larsons.
Commissioner Gerstner stated that the way these houses are built they are all adjacent to each other and the setbacks are designed to accommodate a certain amount of privacy. He further stated that bathrooms and bedrooms are required by the code to have windows for light and air and the side setbacks are in place to accommodate a certain amount of privacy. He felt that requiring the structure to have some type of textured window, the question arises as to why you wouldnít require it of the other neighbor, and he would be hesitant to require such a window in the proposed addition. Regarding the view obstruction, he felt that many homes are fortunate enough to have several views, however the code only allows protection of the best and most important view. Regarding the fact that the two-story homes are on one side of the street and the one-story homes on the other, he felt this was very common and a good planning approach, however he did not feel that this proposed addition was restricting the primary view from the home across the street. He did not think that allowing this second story home was setting a precedent because he would not be in favor of a home up the street adding a second story if it was blocking a primary view from a neighboring home.
Commissioner Van Wagner was in agreement with the staff report, but felt if there was a way to address the privacy issue it should be addressed.
Chairman Mueller pointed out that the required setback is 10 feet on one side and 5 feet on the other, and noted that the setback on the proposed project is 18 feet between the proposed addition and the Larson residence, which is quite a bit larger than the required setback. He did not think there was a view impairment caused by this proposal to the primary viewing area of the Larson house. He did not feel he could prevent the construction of a second story addition which does not impair someoneís view, based on the findings for a height variation. Regarding neighborhood compatibility, he explained that the Guidelines state that the 20 closest homes be analyzed in relation to size and scale, and the proposed structure is not unreasonably large when comparing it to the 20 closest homes. Regarding privacy, he felt the Planning Commission should look at the function of the rooms in question, noting that windows in closet and bathroom areas could easily be translucent, but he did not want to unduly restrict the rights of either neighbor to look out the window.
Commissioner Karp moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-14 thereby approving the Height Variation and Minor Exception Permit (Case No. ZON2003-00595) as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Gerstner.
Chairman Mueller re-opened the public hearing.
Mr. Larson stated that he and his wife would trust the applicant to do what is appropriate with the windows in question.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
The motion to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-14 was approved, (6-0).
5. Code Amendment regarding 16í building height (ZON2003-00417)
Chairman Mueller noted that in order to consider new items after 11:00 the Planning Commission must consider whether to suspend the rules. In looking at the Agenda, he suggested continuing the minutes to the next meeting.
Commissioner Karp asked if there was a sense of urgency to the Code Amendment discussion and if it was something that needed to discuss at this meeting.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the City Council has set the April 6 meeting to discuss this issue, anticipating the Planning Commission would have input before that time. He noted that staff has already noticed the item for the April 6 City Council meeting, therefore at that meeting staff would report that the Planning Commission had not yet discussed the item and wait for City Council input on how to proceed.
Commissioner Gerstner commented that if the Planning Commission did not discuss this item, Commissioners could still go before the City Council and speak as residents, rather than Commissioners, regarding this issue.
Commissioner Karp felt that the City Council wanted the input of the Planning Commission rather than the input from individual members, and therefore the Planning Commission should discuss the item.
Chairman Mueller disagreed, and did not think it was necessary for the Planning Commission to discuss the item after 11:00 and would be glad to give his input to the City Council at the April 6 meeting.
Commissioner Van Wagner felt this was an important issue and an important discussion and will take some time to discuss. Therefore, he did not think it was an appropriate time, at this late hour, to have this discussion.
Commissioner Tetreault was in favor of putting forth an effort to have the discussion to present some input to the City Council.
Commissioner Gerstner suggested beginning a brief discussion of the item and providing limited input to staff with the understanding that the Planning Commission would not be able to come to any resolution regarding the topic, and direct staff to ask the City Council to continue the item to a later date.
Commissioner Karp did not feel the Planning Commission should discuss the item, but rather adjourn and ask the Chairman to send a letter to the City Council asking them to postpone the hearing to a later date which will allow the Planning Commission, as a whole, time to discuss the item and prepare a unified report to the City Council.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that the Planning Commission rules state that new business shall not be discussed after 11:00, and noted that technically this is not a new business item and is under a public hearing, and therefore the discussion should be whether to continue the item rather than if the Planning Commission rules should be suspended.
Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
---------------- ---------- stated that he has a pending project and was seeking clarification from the Planning Commission regarding Section 8c(1), section 4 of the Urgency Ordinance. He suggested some clarify language was needed for that section, as the Ordinance as written could be interpreted to mean that with any new structure the Planning Commission has to consider whether the new residence, including the portion that replaces the existing house, impairs a view. He stated that his existing residence involves some view impairment, as many do, and if he tears his house down the new view will open up where it once was. He did not feel it was the intention of the City Council to prevent a family from rebuilding over the area that used to be the familyís current residence. Therefore, to prevent the ambiguity, he urged a clarification of the language to indicate that when the Planning Commission considers whether a new structure impairs a view, that it be defined to mean that portion of the new structure that would exceed the area that was once occupied by the existing residence.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Senior Planner Mihranian presented a brief staff report explaining that historically staff has been interpreting the 16 foot as a by right height limit and in past practices residents have been allowed to build up to 16 feet without having to go through any view analysis. He explained that when residents apply for a height variation, staffís past practice has been that the view analysis would only encompass the area above 16 feet. He stated that this practice was questioned by a previous Planning Commission and brought before the City Council as a concern by that Commission. He explained that the City Council affirmed the 16-foot by right height limit provided that no discretionary applications are being requested, no grading was being requested, and all zoning requirements were being met. He explained that the code amendment language was reviewed by the previous Planning Commission, and recommended to the City Council that in cases where a height variation was being requested, if there was proposed developed directly attached or below the structure being requested, the view analysis would apply to all of those areas. However, if development under 16 feet was being proposed in a separate section of the residence, that area would not be subject to the view analysis. The City Council received this information, however determined that if a resident is applying for a height variation, then all areas of the addition would become subject to the view analysis. It was staffís understanding that the Planning Commission has questions regarding the application of this finding, and because there are questions from the Planning Commission the City Council remanded the code amendment back to the Planning Commission hoping to receive input collectively from the Commission.
Chairman Mueller moved to suspend the Planning Commission rules to continue past midnight to allow the Planning Commissioners to give their individual comments, seconded by Commissioner Tetreault. Approved without objection.
Commissioner Tetreault agreed with the speakerís comments and noted that the present language is ambiguous and presents unreasonable scenarios where there would be challenges to view obstructions on structures that look virtually identical to what was there before construction began, and he did not think this was the City Councilís intent. He felt it was important that some clarifying language be added or substituted into the Ordinance to prevent this type of situation.
Commissioner Van Wagner agreed with Commissioner Tetreaultís comments in that there needs to be clarifying language added to this section of the Ordinance. He also felt it was important to discuss the issue of developing different sections of the property at different times in order to get around the issue, and if this was the intent of the City Council.
Commissioner Gerstner stated he has read the section in question several times and felt it was difficult and ambiguous and that it could be better and the Planning Commission should take time at the next meeting to discuss the issue more thoroughly.
Chairman Mueller was concerned that there were some basic items that may need to be fixed in the Ordinance, and wondered if the entire City should wait for that to happen, noting that there are height variations being processed daily in the Planning Department. He was very reluctant to recommend the City Council continue the item until the Planning Commission discuss the item, as last time this happened it took the Planning Commission several months of discussion to move the item forward, and during that time there will be several height variation permits processed by the City. He therefore encouraged the Planning Commissioners to give their input directly to the City Council. He felt that asking the City Council to continue the item was doing a disservice to the public.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that this item has been noticed and will appear on the City Councilís April 6th agenda and staff will present a staff report giving a summary of what transpired at this Planning Commission meeting. He felt it would be helpful if there is some direction or request from the Planning Commission to the City Council in terms of what the Planning Commission would like to have happen.
Commissioner Karp moved to continue the item to the April 13 Planning Commission meeting and recommend to the City Council they continue their public hearing to the meeting following the next Planning Commission meeting, seconded by Commissioner Knight.
Commissioner Mueller moved to amend the motion to not recommend the City Council continue the item, but rather consider the item. The amendment to the motion died due to a lack of a second.
The motion was passed, (5-1) with Chairman Mueller dissenting.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
6. Minutes of March 9, 2004
Continued to the April 13, 2004 meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:20 a.m.