CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
MAY 11, 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, Knight, Tetreault, Van Wagner, Vice Chair Cote, and Chairman Mueller
Absent: Commissioner Karp was excused
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Deputy Director Pfost, Associate Planner Blumenthal, Assistant Planner Yu, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
The agenda was unanimously approved as presented.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed two items of correspondence for Agenda Item No. 4. He also reported that at the last City Council meeting the Ordinance clarifying the Height Variation Guidelines and the by-right height limit was adopted and the City Council heard an appeal of a View Restoration Permit and upheld the Planning Commission’s decision.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (REGARDING NON-AGENDA ITEMS
1. View Restoration Permit No. 123: 28541 Palos Verdes Drive East
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report, explaining staff was recommending continuance of the item to the May 25, 2004 meeting to allow staff time for additional research. He noted that the Planning Commission would be receiving the packet with the staff report later in the evening.
Chairman Mueller noted that it was important for the Planning Commission to receive the staff report as soon as it is ready, noting that it would be important to have the staff report in the event there are speakers on the item, as the Planning Commission will make the decision as to whether or not an item is continued.
Commissioner Knight moved to continue the public hearing to May 25, 2004, seconded by Commissioner Van Wagner. Continued, (6-0).
2. Review of the City Tree Review Permit process (Case ZON2004-00160)
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report, explaining that staff needs time to work with the City Attorney to incorporate the suggestions of the Planning Commission from the last meeting into the draft language.
Chairman Mueller noted that he was not at the last meeting to give his input on this item, however he had reviewed the tape and read the minutes, and felt there were many good points that were brought up. He wanted to take the opportunity to give some input and asked Vice Chair Cote, who was also absent from the last meeting, if she had any input she would like to include.
Vice Chair Cote stated that she too had reviewed the tape of the meeting and was interested to see the staff recommended language based on the input from the Planning Commission, and would reserve her comments until she could review the proposed amendments.
Chairman Mueller asked staff to clarify the budget for the City Tree Review Permit process.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the numbers in the staff report reflect the budget for the contract trimmers to do the trimming of city trees and do not account for the time expended by staff to do the analysis and monitor the trimming decision. He noted that the current process does not include a fee to the applicant.
Chairman Mueller discussed the idea of imposing a fee for the City Tree Review process, and asked staff for clarification.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that last year the City Council had looked at this issue from a budget perspective and directed staff to establish a fee that would cover staff’s time for these applications, and noted a citywide fee study has been conducted to assess all City fees to make sure there is adequate recovery of cost to cover expenses.
Chairman Mueller felt that if an applicant could prove the City’s foliage grew into their view after 1989, the City should act like any good resident and be responsible for maintaining the view that was established and not charge a fee.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that anything to do with fees in this situation would solely be the purview of the City Council, as they are the body that establishes fees.
Chairman Mueller stated that he would reserve any further questions and comments until the time the item comes back to the Planning Commission with language that can be reviewed.
Vice Chair Cote moved to continue the public hearing to May 25, 2004, seconded by Commissioner Gerstner. Continued, (5-0).
3. Conditional Use Permit – Revision "A" and Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2004-00043): 450 Silver Spur Road
Assistant Planner Yu presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and noting that the existing drive-through ATM area is located within the building footprint on the first floor of an existing office building, and as such, the grading and enclosure will not alter the existing building’s envelope in terms of height and footprint. She stated that staff could make all of the necessary findings, and was therefore recommending approval of the project, with the conditions included in the staff report.
Commissioner Knight asked staff to clarify why, in this particular situation with no walls on two sides, the ATM area was considered as part of the building footprint.
Assistant Planner Yu explained that because there is a building above the ATM area, the enclosure would be considered part of the building footprint since the new enclosed area would be located underneath the existing building.
Commissioner Knight asked staff if they knew how much of the common wall shown on the plans would be demolished.
Assistant Planner Yu answered that it appears from the floor plan that it is just a doorway that will be demolished. She stated that the structural integrity of the building will be reviewed by the Building and Safety Department as part of the plan check process.
Commissioner Knight noted that the Conditional Use Permit originally had a Variance to allow for less parking, and asked if the Variance is still necessary.
Assistant Planner Yu explained that the Variance was no longer necessary, as at the time the site was developed the requirements for parking spaces was more stringent than the current code. She explained that staff analyzed the parking spaces based on the current code and determined there was adequate parking at the site.
Chairman Mueller reviewed Condition No. 12 and asked if it was common practice to require an accurate grading plan prior to submittal to Building and Safety, or would the common practice be to wait until that plan is submitted before approving the project.
Assistant Planner Yu answered that it was common practice to have an accurate grading plan prior to approval of the project; however in this situation the applicant happened to use the plans for construction of the original building as the base plan to demonstrate the enclosure, and the plans seem to include the grading for the original building that was done outside the building footprint. Since staff noticed this after the public notices had been sent, staff was requiring that prior to submittal to Building and Safety the applicant submit plans that show that there is no grading proposed outside of the building footprint.
Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Jerry Sturm 2275 W. 25th Street, San Pedro, stated he was the architect for the project and available for any questions.
Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Sturm if he understood the condition that accurate plans be submitted to the Planning Department prior to submittal to Building and Safety.
Mr. Sturm answered that he understood the condition.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Tetreault moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-20 thereby approving Conditional Use Permit – Revision "A" and Grading Permit Case No. ZON2004-00043 as presented by staff, seconded by Vice Chair Cote. Approved, (5-0).
4. Height Variation Permit (Case No. ZON2004-00041): 27010 Springcreek Rd
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and showing pictures on a power point presentation. He showed pictures taken from the neighbors’ properties and explained that staff had determined there would be no significant view impairment from these homes, as the proposed addition would only be blocking the views of other homes and Springcreek Road. He explained that staff had concerns regarding neighborhood compatibility of the proposed addition. He stated that staff had a concern with the privacy finding and the neighbor at 27002 Springcreek Road and that the neighbors had privacy concerns from their bathroom and backyard. He explained that the bathroom has translucent louver windows and therefore staff did not feel there was a privacy impact to the house. Furthermore, he explained that the Height Variation Guidelines state that greater weight be given to outdoor privacy. He stated that when looking from the backyard, staff noted that with the new 3rd story there will be an additional area of visual observation that the applicant currently does not have, notably from the three windows on the east side of the house and one window on the north side of the house that will allow the applicant to look into the neighbor’s yard. He explained that, if the project is approved, staff was recommending a condition of approval be added that these windows either be removed, be clearstory windows, or be of translucent glass. In conclusion, Mr. Blumenthal explained that staff does not feel this proposed addition is compatible with the existing neighborhood, and as such, was recommending the Planning Commission deny, without prejudice, the proposed height variation.
Vice Chair Cote noted that staff’s concerns with architectural design seemed to be in relation to the proposed third story, and asked staff if they had any other concerns with the architectural design of the project.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that staff was concerned about breaking from the standard design in the neighborhood of California Ranch and split-level homes and going to the two-story stepped structure proposed by the applicant.
Vice Chair Cote asked staff if they were concerned with the bulk and mass of the house, and what the applicant had done to mitigate these concerns.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that the proposed upper addition was pushed back away from the street and the addition of the balcony on the upper floor near the street helped mitigate the bulk and mass concerns of the residence. Furthermore, the applicant is proposing a roof pitch of 1 ½: 1 which helps reduce the apparent size of the structure.
Commissioner Van Wagner asked staff if they still had concerns about the proposed size of the addition.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that staff was concerned about the overall size of the structure.
Commissioner Knight noted that one of the neighbors had an objection to the proposed addition because it would block some of their sunlight, and asked staff if there was any code addressing this issue.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that there is no code addressing the protection of solar access rights.
Referring to a picture, Chairman Mueller asked about the view issue from 27016 Springcreek Road, asking staff to explain the view from this property and why the view was considered to be in the periphery of the view frame.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained the view frame as seen from this photograph, and noted that the mountains that would be impacted were on the edge of the view frame as opposed to being in the middle of the view frame. That, in addition to the small percentage of impact led staff to conclude that the impact is not significant. He also noted that the code states the view should be assessed irrespective of foliage.
Commissioner Gerstner noted that the proposed residence would be approximately 3,600 square feet when finished, and asked staff if, in their opinion, there was another way to get a 3,600 square foot home on this property and address some of the concerns raised by staff.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that in staff’s opinion there were less obtrusive ways to add an addition to the home, but was not sure if the resulting home would be 3,600 square feet. He noted that there are other areas on the property where there is a potential for an addition, however staff had not reviewed any of these options.
Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Luis DeMoraes 27010 Springcreek Road (applicant) explained that before starting the project he had met with his neighbors to discuss the least intrusive way to obtain his desired addition, and concluded that stacking the upper level over the lower level of the house, further back from the house, would cause no view impairment. In terms of privacy, he noted that the house has been designed to have the least number of windows possible near his neighbor’s property. He understood the staff’s concerns regarding style and mass and showed several pictures of houses in the neighborhood with two-story additions, noting that in terms of compatibility and style he was very successful in his proposal. He understood the concerns of his neighbors, however, and showed pictures of a design he felt was a reasonable compromise. He noted that on the upper level the redesigned plan was reduced 5 feet in the back, which would be a reduction of 100 square feet. He also stated that he was proposing to reduce 3 feet on the lower level for a reduction of 120 square feet, for a cumulative total reduction of 220 square feet. He also showed that the new proposal would drastically reduce the mass on the side yard facing his neighbor. Along with the reduction, he was proposing a drop in the ridgeline of one foot, which would be accomplished, by dropping the plate height and reducing the length of the building. With that, he felt that he had made more than a reasonable effort to accommodate the neighbors concerns.
Commissioner Van Wagner asked Mr. DeMoraes if this was now a different project from what was addressed in the staff report.
Mr. DeMoraes answered that this is a different project.
Commissioner Knight asked Mr. DeMoraes if he would be willing to remove or alter the rear windows to address the neighbor’s privacy concerns.
Mr. DeMoraes answered that he would be willing to alter or remove those windows.
Vice Chair Cote asked staff if they had an opportunity to review these revised plans and how this would affect their recommendations.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that staff had not previously seen these revisions and therefore could not comment on how this would affect the staff’s recommendations for the project. He acknowledged, however, that the revised plans did seem to address some of staff’s concerns.
Commissioner Tetreault noted that this revision will change the silhouette of the project, and asked if this now requires a new silhouette be constructed and the process starts over with the notification process.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that it would be staff’s recommendation that the public hearing be continued so that the applicant can prepare the new plans and present them to staff and adjust the silhouette accordingly, noting that at this point it would be considered a revised application.
Rex Holloway 26930 Springcreek Road stated he was speaking in favor of the plan, and noted that the proposed changes seem appropriate. He felt that a building owner should be able to enjoy their property and build according to whatever rules are set forth, which he felt Mr. DeMoraes has done.
Commissioner Gerstner asked Mr. Holloway if he has always been in favor of the project or if the current changes have swayed his opinion.
Mr. Holloway answered that he has always felt that the proposed project would be a benefit to the neighborhood.
Mark Olsen 26927 Springcreek Road stated that the homes in his neighborhood are all from the 1960’s and the key to any addition is to have it look like it fits into the neighborhood. He felt the applicant was trying to make his home look beautiful and pleasing aesthetically, which would only increase the value of the other homes in the neighborhood and make it a more desirable neighborhood to live in. He stated that he was very much in favor of the proposed project, with or without the revisions.
Joe Serritella 27117 Springcreek Road felt that the proposed addition was compatible with the neighborhood, as there are other two-story homes in the neighborhood and this one would be much more attractive than any of the others. He felt that the neighborhood was in transition and there are many families in the neighborhood with children and they need bigger homes. He felt this was a very attractive addition that would lend itself favorably to the neighborhood.
Stephanie DeMoraes 27010 Springcreek Road stated that her husband has served as a Commissioner on the View Restoration Commission and is very sensitive to the needs of the neighborhoods views. She stated that many of the neighbors are very supportive of her proposed addition and agreed that the neighborhood is in transition and that the needs of the neighborhood have changed.
John Crump 27028 Whitestone Road stated that he has seen the proposed plans and felt that the addition will provide a greater functionality for the family without changing the character of the neighborhood. He stated that many homes in the neighborhood have already been remodeled or enlarged in some fashion. He was confident that the proposed addition would only enhance, improve, and upgrade the look of the neighborhood.
Steve Chelebian 27034 Whitestone Road stated that he was very much in favor of the proposed project and that the neighborhood is changing.
Charles Moore 27007 Whitestone Road complimented the applicant on his suggested revisions. He stated that his major objection to the project is that it violates the nature and style of the home as designed by the original architect. He felt that the monstrous addition will stand out as a three-story home in an area of one and two-story homes and is not, in his opinion, compatible with the neighborhood. He felt this might, in the long run, perpetrate other additions that are not desirable and would like the Planning commission and staff to examine a plan view and elevation to see what the applicant could do to extend the addition at the existing rear yard level from his existing structure, as he has seen other homeowners with the same type of home expand in that manner.
Bill Hughes 26951 Whitestone Road stated he was opposed to the project and his main concern was that of privacy. He showed photographs taken from his home and explained that currently he has privacy at the back of his home and none of the neighbors has the opportunity to see into the back of his home. He explained that the proposed addition would be built at what is his ground level and is very close to his home, only a half a lot away. He stated that the applicant would have a line of sight view into his kitchen, living room, and family room. He also noted that the windows on the applicant’s addition would be view windows and therefore would not be likely to have window coverings on them and these windows would look directly into his back yard. He explained that to maintain his privacy he could plant a hedge in his backyard, however in doing so the hedge would block his own view.
Vice Chair Cote asked what the distance was between Mr. Hughes’s property and the applicant’s proposed addition.
Associate Planner Blumenthal showed an aerial photograph of the two properties and estimated the distance to be approximately 100 feet.
Vice Chair Cote asked staff if the windows staff had recommended be removed or be translucent windows were the same windows that Mr. Hughes had a concern about.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that the windows staff was referring to were the rear windows and the window above the toilet area. He explained that Mr. Hughes was concerned with the view windows towards the front of the proposed project.
Sally Kikuchi 27002 Springcreek Road felt that if the applicant needs more space that there is potential to expand the house in the backyard without going up. She explained that where he home is located the proposed addition would block all of their sunlight on that side of the house and they would lose the privacy in the backyard.
Commissioner Van Wagner asked Ms. Kikuchi her opinion on the staff report’s recommendations to mitigate the privacy issues in the backyard.
Ms. Kikuchi answered that she did not know if it would mitigate the concern or not.
Commissioner Knight asked Ms. Kikuchi if she had been consulted during the early neighborhood consultation process and if she had seen the plans.
Ms. Kikuchi answered that she was not consulted during the early neighborhood consultation process and had not had the opportunity to see the plans.
Commissioner Gerstner asked Ms. Kikuchi her opinion of the proposed changes presented by the applicant.
Ms. Kikuchi answered that she was pleased with the reduction but felt she would need to see the silhouette change to better understand the changes. She still felt it would be better to keep the addition on the ground level rather than be a two-story.
Frank Buzard 29691 Springcreek Road stated that many years ago he too had to increase the size of his home to accommodate his large family, however he did so by moving out the backyard rather than building up. He stated that his objection to the project was that the house was too large and was not in keeping with the other houses in the neighborhood and will overwhelm the other homes in the neighborhood.
Vice Chair Cote asked Mr. Buzard his opinion on the proposed revisions presented by the applicant.
Mr. Buzard answered that he would have to see some type of revised silhouette before he could form an opinion.
Jay Luedde 27120 Springcreek Road stated that he was very happy to have a project such as this move forward to improve the neighborhood. He noted that the neighborhood was changing and this was a favorable change to the neighborhood.
Luis DeMoraes (in rebuttal) stated that he is very sensitive to the views in the neighborhood, and noted that he has never been able to make contact with his neighbor to the north. In response to adding into his backyard, he showed a picture of the area and noted that there is only 25 feet left in his backyard once he does his current proposal, and if he goes any further back he will have no backyard because of the hillside. He stated that he has done everything and studied every angle possible to cause the least possible impact to anyone of the neighborhood. He respectfully requested that the Planning Commission approve the project with conditions added to address their concerns.
Commissioner Van Wagner asked if the revised plan addresses the privacy concerns of the neighbors.
Mr. DeMoraes explained that pushing the house back five feet also pushes back the windows, which will increase the privacy. He stated that he does not have an objection to putting the windows up higher, he just needs a little ventilation in the rooms.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Vice Chair Cote suggested, since there has been a revision proposed by the applicant and the Planning Commission has not had the opportunity to hear the concerns of the neighbors, to continue the item and give the applicant feedback, comments, and issues that are of concern which will allow an opportunity for a revised approach to the project.
Chairman Mueller agreed with the approach, adding that that the applicant seems willing to modify the project. He was reluctant to approve a project without having plans and a silhouette that matches the new proposal. He was still concerned with neighborhood compatibility, noting that it is not so much the size but the way the house does or does not fit into the neighborhood. He felt there was room to expand into the backyard as well as other possible alternatives and options.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 9:00 p.m. Chairman Mueller left the meeting, leaving Vice Chair Cote as the acting Chair. The Planning Commission took a short recess until 9:10 p.m.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (cont)
Commissioner Van Wagner stated he was in agreement with the Vice Chair and the Chairman in continuing this item to allow the applicant to make some revisions. He encouraged the applicant and the neighbors to get together and discuss their concerns. He stated that he could not fully assess the project without seeing the revised plans, the staff report, and the new silhouette.
Commissioner Tetreault stated that his concern was mainly with neighborhood compatibility, noting that one of his major concerns was regarding the north elevation, which is the wall facing the neighbor at 27002 Springcreek Road. He noted that it is not uncommon to have two-story homes in the neighborhood, however noted that in most homes the second story is on the up-slope side of the property which lessens the impact on the next home upslope. He noted that this proposal has the second story proposed on the down slope portion of the property which he felt will have a very pronounced effect on the home below it. He felt that a way to mitigate this may be to add some articulation back of the second story from the first story footprint, which he felt would also reduce the appearance of bulk and mass and reduce the impact to the neighbor directly to the south. He noted that he did not think the Planning Commission could make a decision on this project without seeing a new silhouette and accurate plans.
Commissioner Knight agreed with Commissioner Tetreault’s comments. He asked staff if they felt there was enough room in the backyard to add on without having to make the structure a two-story structure.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that there is enough room to meet setback requirements because of the slope of the property, but noted that there would also be the possibility of a hillside setback requirement based on the height of the slope.
Commissioner Knight agreed with staff’s analysis in terms of neighborhood compatibility, noting he did not think it was compatible with any of the architectural styles or elevations in the neighborhood and was not sure if the proposed changes would address this concern. He agreed that the item should be continued.
Commissioner Gerstner felt that the homes in the neighborhood will change to meet the changing needs of the residents. He felt there needed to be more dialogue between the applicant and the immediate neighbors, even if it is not fruitful. He did not think that all of the desires of those opposed could be physically met by some simple changes. He agreed that a decision could not be made without a change to the silhouette and revised plans. He concluded by stating that it is the right of the homeowners to build houses that comply with the code and he believed that the neighborhood is changing, and therefore he would not oppose some growth in the neighborhood.
Vice Chair Cote stated that the Planning Commission has to make certain specific findings to approve a project. She agreed that the early neighborhood consultation did take place, noting that the process does not require 100 percent participation. She felt that the neighbor at 27002 Springcreek is the most impacted and supported the comments made that the applicant and neighbor try to make sure some communication is made. Regarding view, she did not think there was any view issue to be addressed, and agreed with the staff’s recommendation that the view impact is not significant. She felt there was a concern regarding neighborhood compatibility. She explained that she never looks just at the numbers, but rather she goes to the site to see how the proposed addition is placed on the property and how the proposed addition is articulated to not appear massive or bulky. She felt that the north wall had a massive, bulky appearance from the neighbor’s side of the property. She was intrigued by the suggestion of moving the addition to the uphill side of the property to mitigate some of the neighbor’s concerns. She too felt that the project had to have a new silhouette and revised plans, as she did not think the proposed modifications before the Planning Commission address the concerns of the Commission. She asked staff if there would be issues with the Permit Streamlining Act if the project is continued.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the deadline per the Permit Streamlining Act is May 31, and suggested that if it is the Commission’s inclination to continue the item that the item be continued to June 8, which will be contingent upon the silhouette being changed and the plans submitted prior to May 26th. Further, there has to be a verbal agreement from the applicant to extend the Permit Streamlining deadline.
Vice Chair Cote re-opened the public hearing.
Vice Chair Cote asked Mr. DeMoraes if he will be able to revise the plans and erect the new silhouette by May 26th, and if he will be willing to agree to the extension of the Permit Streamlining Act deadline.
Mr. DeMoraes agreed to the extension, but asked the Planning Commission to clarify their concerns regarding the north wall of the proposed addition. He stated that he cannot lower that wall any further and did not think moving the addition to the other side of the residence would look very good. He stated that the lower portion of the house is the north side and was concerned that moving the addition to that side will make it higher than it is currently proposed.
Vice Chair Cote stated that she would not recommend a continuation of a hearing if she felt that a complete redesign was required, and would in those instances agree with the staff recommendation to deny the project. She felt that in this situation Mr. DeMoraes had made enough changes in his proposal to indicate he was willing to head in the right direction, but the Planning Commission and neighbors need to see the silhouette and the plans to understand the changes.
Commissioner Tetreault agreed with the Vice Chairman, adding that his main concern was with the north wall and that often times that can be remedied by some slight articulation to reduce the bulk and mass and the impact to the neighbor below.
Commissioner Gerstner felt that the applicant was on the right path and some minor modifications could be made to help address the concerns of the neighbors. He agreed with Mr. DeMoraes that moving the addition to the other side would not satisfy the Commissioners concerns regarding bulk and mass and neighborhood compatibility.
Commissioner Knight encouraged the applicant to explore shifting some of the bulk and mass of the second story addition on the north side to the south side of the addition, as he felt that may relieve some of the bulk and mass issues.
Commissioner Van Wagner emphasized to the applicant and neighbor to get together and explore the possibilities of addressing the concerns.
Vice Chair Cote closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Knight moved to continue the public hearing to June 8, 2004 with the direction to the applicant to revise the project to address the concerns of the Planning Commission, seconded by Commissioner Van Wagner. Continued, (5-0).
5. Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2004-00201): 2950 Twin Harbors View Drive
Deputy Director Pfost presented the staff report, giving a brief background on the project and explaining that the Conditional Use Permit for the residential component of the project outlines all of the development standards for the residences for the project and therefore if the houses are designed within the standards already approved within the CUP the houses can be approved as an administrative process and do not require discretionary review. He explained that in April 2004 the City Council approved a revision to the CUP which allows some additional habitable area within the homes provided it be within a sub-terrainean basement area. He stated that at this time the applicant is proposing a total of five of the units within the tract and lots 1 and 5 are on the agenda. He explained that lots 1 and 5 require Planning Commission review as the applicant is proposing a basement and the amount of grading exceeds 1,000 cubic yards, as per the Conditional Use Permit. He stated that the Planning Commission is considering only the grading for the proposed basement and does not need to review the residential structure, as it complies with the conditions of the Conditional Use Permit. He stated that staff feels the Grading Permit meets all of the criteria for approval, and therefore recommends approval.
Commissioner Knight asked staff how close the basement will be to the edge of the cliff.
Deputy Director Pfost answered that the basement will not be any closer than 35 feet, as that is the setback in that area.
Commissioner Knight asked what the depth of the light well would be.
Deputy Director Pfost did not know that answer, however noted that the architect was present and could answer that question.
Commissioner Knight asked what type of windows would be in the light well.
Deputy Director Pfost answered the window would be a slider and needs to provide access out of the room.
Commissioner Knight asked if the fire escape ladder goes to the top of the handrail or to the grade level.
Deputy Director Pfost suggested this question be asked to the applicant, and noted that these types of issues would be reviewed for code compliance during the Building and Safety plan check process.
Commissioner Knight asked if the height of the handrails would be three feet.
Deputy Director Pfost answered that detail was not on the plans, however the height of the handrails is a UBC requirement that would be checked during Building and Safety plan check.
Commissioner Knight asked where the roof over-hangs end in terms of the light wells.
Deputy Director Pfost, in referring to the plans, felt the over-hang covered less than half of the light well.
In terms of the soils report, Commissioner Knight asked if there was any information included regarding the pH of the soil, radon content, sulfer content, or clay content.
Deputy Director Pfost answered that the soils report has not yet been submitted, however the soils report typically does include some type of chemical analysis and the City Geologist will review the report for compliance.
Commissioner Gerstner asked staff if this item was before the Planning Commission because the quantity of grading exceeds the specific number in the code, and other than that there is nothing presented that is inconsistent with the Conditional Use Permit of the property.
Deputy Director Pfost answered that the item was before the Commission because the quantity of grading exceeds the threshold established in the CUP Conditions of Approval.
Vice Chair Cote opened the public hearing.
Jeff Kaplinski 1 Ocean Trails Drive (applicant) stated he was available for any questions from the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Knight asked Mr. Kaplinski if the windows are fixed or can be opened.
Mr. Kaplinski answered the windows are double sliders.
Commissioner Knight asked if the fire escape ladder goes to the top of the handrail or just to grade.
Mr. Kaplinski answered that the ladder goes to grade.
Commissioner Knight asked if the soils report would include information on the pH of the soil, radon content, sulfer content, and clay content.
Mr. Kaplinski answered that the soils report would include all of the necessary items to be reviewed by the City to receive an approval.
Commissioner Knight asked about the drainage from the basement.
Mr. Kaplinski answered that there are two sump pumps for the basement and both are backed up by emergency generators.
Vice Chair Cote closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Tetreault moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-21 thereby approving Grading Permit Case No. ZON2004-00201 as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Gerstner. Approved, (4-1) with Commissioner Knight dissenting.
6. Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2004-00202): 2990 Twin Harbors View Drive
Deputy Director Pfost presented the staff report stating that the only difference between this and the previous item was that this project requires less grading, specifically1,210 cubic yards of grading.
Commissioner Gerstner asked if this item was before the Planning Commission because of the amount of grading, and if this grading quantity is less than what has previously been approved by the City Council for another lot in the tract.
Deputy Director Pfost answered that was correct.
Vice Chair Cote opened the public hearing.
There being no speakers, Vice Chair Cote closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Knight explained that the reason he voted against the last item and the reason he has an issue with this item was because of Finding No. 9 which deals with public safety, and that this was not an ordinary grading permit for a foundation, but rather a request to create a subterranean, habitable space. He felt the plans were not detailed enough to show him the railings on one side where the light well is. He discussed problems with the sulfer content in the soil in this area which can be very corrosive to concrete and makes it porous to moisture intrusion. He also explained that he was not a fan of sump pumps when needed to create habitable space.
Commissioner Gerstner asked Commissioner Knight if his concern was with the potential structural integrity of the concrete in the basement walls and retaining walls.
Commissioner Knight answered that was his concern along with issues of mold problems because of the moisture and other issues relating to moisture. He explained that was why he was concerned about the contents of the soils report and if the sulfer content would be addressed. He explained that the sulfur can be converted to caustic hydrogen sulfide and sulfuric acid and can cause damage as evidenced by the ACLAD dewatering wells in Abalone Cove.
Deputy Director Pfost stated that the soils report will be submitted to the City Geologist and the chemical makeup of the soils is part of what the City Geologist reviews, therefore he relies on the City Geologist during the Building and Safety plan check process.
Vice Chair Cote re-opened the public hearing.
Jeff Kaplinski 1 Ocean Trails Drive explained that he will be using Type 5 concrete, as recommended in the soils report, and the retaining walls and foundations will be water proofed. He was confident that all issues will be included in the soils report.
Vice Chair Cote closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Van Wagner asked if this was the normal process to have the soils report submitted after the public hearing before the Planning Commission.
Deputy Director Pfost explained this was not unusual in a large project such as this, as there has already been extensive soils and geology work done to allow the residential homes to be placed in this area. He noted that the soil report in question will deal with the specific individual lots.
Commissioner Tetreault moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-22 thereby approving Grading Permit Case No. ZON2004-00202 as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Van Wagner. Approved, (4-1) with Commissioner Knight dissenting.
7. Definition of a hedge
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report, explaining why this issue was before the Planning Commission and explained the current definition of a hedge per the City’s Development Code. He explained that staff reviewed the language in Prop M which says that if there is foliage that exceeds 16 feet or the ridgeline, whichever is lower, and significantly impairs a view, it is subject to view protection through restoration or preservation. As a result, he noted that there may be situations where there is foliage less than 16 feet in height that blocks a view and may not be subject to view restoration. In further review of the hedge issue, staff was having difficulty in making a distinction between hedges cut so that they are not a barrier at ground level but join together over a person’s head level versus trees that are spaced apart but whose canopies happen to touch to form a dense wall of foliage. Both instances involve foliage that is considered not a barrier and also not subject to Prop M because there is an allowance in Prop M for certain vegetation to impair a view if it is less than 16 feet or the ridgeline. He acknowledged that there could be a clarification to the definition of a barrier. He stated that staff was asking the Planning Commission whether to come back with a more specific definition of a hedge. He added that Chairman Mueller handed him his thoughts on the subject before he left and former Planning Commissioner Clara Duran Reed also distributed her recommendations on the subject.
Vice Chair Cote noted that Ms. Duran Reed suggested the topic be clarified through an interpretation rather than a Code amendment and asked staff their opinion.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained there is an interpretation process through the code, however he felt the City Attorney may feel that it is better to clarify the issue through a code amendment, if possible. He also explained that if the Planning Commission chooses to make a code amendment staff will have to go to the City Council to get their affirmation, as all code amendments are initiated by the City Council.
Commissioner Gerstner asked staff to clarify what the unique characteristics of a hedge are versus those of a tree.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that a hedge is limited to 6 feet in height, depending on where it is located on the property, and if it is not a hedge there is no height limit, although its height could be reduced if it is subject to view preservation or restoration.
Commissioner Gerstner asked if this discussion was then concerned with the foliage that was between 6 and 16 feet in height and if it was considered a hedge or a tree.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that was correct, although he also noted that there is a section in the Code that allows hedges, in certain situations, to be up to 16 feet in height, again provided it isn’t subject to Prop M.
Commissioner Knight gave the example of a hedge in the front that is cleared so that a person could walk through at 42 inches but is allowed to canopy at 43 inches, and asked if that would be considered a barrier.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that is such a situation staff would say that since one cannot walk through, it would be considered a barrier, and thus a hedge.
Vice Chair Cote recalled that at the meeting in October 2003 one of the reasons the Planning Commission had directed staff to look at the definition of a hedge was because at that time the Director had felt there might possibly be a loophole with respect to the code definition of hedges. She noted that in the staff report staff now felt the situation noted was addressed by the City’s View Restoration and Preservation Ordinance and was not a loophole that should be addressed. She asked if staff was asking the Planning Commission to give staff direction, if they felt there was a need to better define "hedge" and initiate a code amendment.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that was correct.
Commissioner Knight felt that the Code works well as it is and there would be a problem if the Code were to try to address what happens with foliage below 16 feet and above 6 feet in height. He felt that to change the code to address the foliage below 16 feet, the View Restoration Ordinance would have to be changed to comply. He felt that the physical barrier was a good test as he felt there was a nexus between what a hedge can create and a wall, which is what the code is trying to address. He felt staff may want to expand on what a physical barrier is, however he felt that the current system works well and one would have to be very careful in changing the code on how it would impact the View Restoration Ordinance.
Commissioner Van Wagner was not convinced a code amendment was necessary, and was concerned that there would be many possible ramifications if there was an amendment to the View Restoration Ordinance.
Commissioner Tetreault felt there were a number of potential hazards and problems in amending the code. He felt that this proposal was an attempt to reach out and capture more view restoration opportunities and perhaps find more circumstances by which one could get their view restored. He felt that the challenges involved to fashion some sort of change to the ordinance to make this work were enormous and did not think they could be practically done. He did not think that the changes were necessary and that the current system seems to be working.
Commissioner Gerstner understood the problem and the conditions that could exist that might be objectionable to some people, however he felt it would be extremely difficult to fashion something that would resolve that and felt it would come down to discussing different densities of vegetation. Given the information he has, he did not think he could make any reasonable suggestion to try to amend the code, however he would be open to the suggestion that staff continue to think about how that situation would be resolved. However, he would only want that to happen if there are specific situations where this is an issue and would want to know if there are conditions where the public thinks there is a problem.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that there have been specific situation where this has been an issue, including two that staff is currently dealing with.
Vice Chair Cote stated that she was involved in the original discussions in October and felt there could be a loophole in the code, however after reading the staff report and hearing the discussion from staff she agreed that there are Ordinances in place that deal with the issue and protect the residences quite well. She did not think there needed to be any further definition of a physical barrier, as a physical barrier is a physical barrier. Therefore she was satisfied with the Ordinances that are in place and the guidance the Planning Commission has been using in order to determine a hedge and did not see any reason to pursue this matter any further. She noted that the Chairman had left his written comments on the subject and asked staff to read those comments.
Director/Secretary Rojas read Chairman Mueller’s comments which stated that his concern was that the City does not allow structures to be placed in the side or rear yard setbacks without a Variance, but the Code allows trees or shrubbery to be up to 16 feet or the ridgeline, whichever is lower, without so much as a Fence, Wall and Hedge Permit. He felt that this was the loophole and noted that the key is we are talking about possible view obstruction in the side and rear yard setbacks, not just anywhere on the lot, and it would seem that at some point a row of trees or shrubs becomes a hedge should be subject to the Fence Wall and Hedge Permit provided it is located within the side or rear yard setbacks. He felt that one possible approach would be to adopt the following: if a contiguous row of trees or shrubbery forms a closed, non-open air fence-like barrier and is located in the side or rear yard setback it shall be considered a hedge and require a Fence, Wall, and Hedge Permit. For all other foliage, the View Restoration Permit process shall apply.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that the Commission could continue the item to the next meeting to allow further discussion with Chairman Mueller or receive and file the staff report and direct staff to take no further action on this matter.
Commissioner Van Wagner moved to receive and file the report and take no further action on the item, seconded by Commissioner Knight. Approved, (4-1) with Commissioner Gerstner dissenting because there are specific situations where this is an issue.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
8. Minutes of April 13, 2004
Commissioner Knight noted on page 14 of the minutes a comment he made regarding a change to the previous meeting’s minutes was not included and asked that it be included.
Commissioner Knight moved to approve the minutes as amended, seconded by Commissioner Tetreault. Approved, (5-0)
9. Minute of April 27, 2004
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that Chairman Mueller left a correction to page 8 of the minutes in which he asked that a sentence be added to the third paragraph, which he read into the record.
Commissioner Tetreault moved to approve the minutes as amended, seconded by Commissioner Van Wagner. Approved, (4-0-1) with Vice Chair Cote abstaining since she was absent from that meeting.
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
10. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of May 25, 2004
The Planning Commission approved the Pre-Agenda, without objection.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:57 p.m.