CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
JUNE 8, 2004
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Commissioner Tetreault at 7:00 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Gerstner led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Gerstner, Karp, Knight, and Tetreault
Absent: Commissioner Van Wagner, Vice Chair Cote, and Chairman Mueller were excused
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Associate Planner Blumenthal, Associate Planner Schonborn, Assistant Planner Yu, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Commissioner Tetreault explained that there is currently a quorum present to conduct the Planning Commission meeting, however Commissioner Gerstner will have to leave at 9:00. Therefore, at 9:00 there will no longer be a quorum and the meeting will adjourn.
Commissioner Karp moved to change the order of the Agenda to hear items 4 and 5 before item 1, seconded by Commissioner Knight. Approved, (4-0).
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed 5 items of correspondence for agenda item no. 1, 2 items on agenda item no. 2, 2 items on agenda item no. 5, and distributed a recently approved City Council policy on the distribution of comments from Commissioners on agenda items. He also announced that at the last City Council meeting the City Council approved two development code initiation requests that will soon make their way to the Commission, and that the Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem have suggested that there be a Saturday morning workshop to review the conduct of public meetings, possibly in late July or August.
Commissioner Tetreault noted that there were several items of communications distributed to the Commissioners at the meeting and noted that as much as the Commission appreciates as much input as possible, if they receive it but do not have time to read it, it is of little value. Therefore, he urged residents to submit their items of communication to staff as early as possible.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE REGARDING NON-AGENDA ITEMS
4. Height Variation Permit (Case No. ZON2003-00617): 3410 Starline Drive
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the height variation application. He stated that staff could make the necessary findings for the height variation and was recommending approval of the project.
Commissioner Karp asked what will happen to the existing garage.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that the existing garage will remain, as there are currently no plans to modify the garage.
Commissioner Knight noted that Condition No. 7 states that a minimum two-car garage must be maintained on the property but does not specify where. He asked if it would be permissible under the Code for the applicant to use the existing 2-car garage and convert the new 3-car garage into habitable space.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that it may be permissible, noting that the applicant would have to at least submit a Site Plan Review application to the Planning Department to do so.
Commissioner Karp felt the Planning Commission may want to consider certain restrictions be added to this application. He suggested that the condition include prohibiting cook tops, ranges, garbage disposals, dishwashers, or power venting systems.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that Condition No. 8 requires a Second Unit Covenant be recorded on the property, which will prohibit a second dwelling unit and should cover Commissioner Karpís concerns.
Commissioner Karp stated that his concern was that the area will become a rental unit without the Cityís knowledge and that restrictions should be included that will prevent this from happening.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that staff had the same concerns and could add language that cooking equipment not be allowed in that room.
Commissioner Tetreault asked staff if Condition No. 8 in the staff report would prohibit the use of the guesthouse as an independent dwelling.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that was correct.
Commissioner Tetreault asked if the items mentioned by Commissioner Karp were installed if that would then make the structure an independent dwelling, and if there were other items in the Code regarding the second dwelling.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that the inclusion of the items would constitute a second unit, and noted that the code has standards regulating second units.
Commissioner Tetreault asked if the Code had any restrictions on the maximum number of covered parking spaces that a home can have.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered there are not any restrictions on the maximum number of covered parking spaces.
In reviewing Condition No. 8, Commissioner Knight asked staff if the Covenant would prohibit a second dwelling unit on the property.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that the covenant would allow a second dwelling unit provided all provisions of the Municipal Code Section 17.10 are met.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that a guest unit or guest area is allowed on a single family residential lot but it cannot be converted to have a kitchen because at that time it will constitute a second dwelling unit. The Cityís code allows second units provided certain conditions are met. Therefore, to prevent the unauthorized conversion of the guest house to a second unit, the property owner is being required to record a covenant on their property stating that a kitchen will not be added unless the specific provisions of the code are met.
Commissioner Tetreault opened the public hearing.
There being no speakers, Commissioner Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Karp felt that there should be a statement in the Covenant that at no time in the future will a second unit be allowed on this property.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that to do so would be in conflict with the State law, as the Cityís Second Unit Ordinance was written partly to be consistent with State law requirements that require cities to allow second units if certain standards and provisions are met.
Commissioner Karp felt that if a discretionary permit is before the City, the City has the ability to impose this type of restriction.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that the discretionary permit before the Planning Commission does not involve a request for a second unit, and that such a condition would be more restrictive than what the Development Code allows.
Commissioner Karp explained that his intention was that he did not want to see this structure converted into a rental unit for a third party.
Commissioner Tetreault asked if the City had any restrictions regarding renting out a room in a house to someone unrelated to you.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that there was no such restriction in the City.
Commissioner Tetreault felt that because this is a detached structure there would be no difference and there is no prohibition to renting out the unit, even without a kitchen.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that staff believes it is less likely for someone to rent a unit without a kitchen, and to prevent this unit from being converted to a unit with a kitchen, a covenant will be recorded which will allow staff to investigate any complaints that a kitchen has been added to the unit.
Commissioner Karp felt that this would satisfy his concerns.
Commissioner Gerstner moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-25, thereby approving ZON2003-00617 as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved, (4-0).
5. Variance (Case No. ZON2004-00108): 4372 Admirable Drive
Assistant Planner Yu presented the staff report, explaining that staff has reviewed the proposed project and determined that there are no exceptional or extraordinary circumstances applicable to the property to warrant the Variance since the proposed garage could be proposed to meet the required front yard setback. In addition, staff determined that granting the Variance would be detrimental to the publicís welfare, as staff felt that by reducing the length of the driveway the cars parked in the driveway could encroach into the public right-of-way. Therefore, staff determined that the findings could not be made and was recommending denial of the Variance.
Commissioner Knight felt the wording in Finding No. 1 and Condition No. 1 should be changed for clarity to read either "a garage could be constructed" or "a modification of the proposed garage could be constructed".
Commissioner Tetreault asked staff to clarify where the property line is in comparison to the curb, as there are no sidewalks in that area.
Assistant Planner Yu displayed a photograph and explained that it appears from the plot plan that there is 10-feet of public right-of-way, between the curb and the property line.
Commissioner Tetreault opened the public hearing.
Glenn Streeter 4372 Admirable Drive (applicant) explained that his property is only 28 feet across and the house is wedged into the piece of property, noting that there is less than the proper amount of clearance on the right side of the property. He explained that the original garage that was there for 50 years encroached onto the same easement as the proposed garage by exactly the same number of square feet. He stated that re-doing the garage has always made sense, as the old garage was very difficult to access. He explained that with the approved plan for the garage he was led to believe that he would not have to demolish the wall in his residence, however after the stakes were in the ground he realized that he had less space in the new design without demolishing the wall than he had with the old garage. He explained that this room is one that he would like to keep and demolishing the wall would devastate the room. He explained that his home is on a cul-de-sac and in a private area, and did not think the new garage would encroach any further into the easement than the previous garage.
Commissioner Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Knight asked staff if the currently approved garage plan was still valid.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that if the applicant has submitted plans to Building and Safety plan check then the approval is still valid, however if the plans have not yet been submitted to Building and Safety then the approval has expired, as approvals are only good for 6 months. He noted, however that he could simply approve the plans again.
Commissioner Tetreault re-opened the public hearing.
Commissioner Tetreault asked Mr. Streeter what his objection was to building the garage that was submitted to and approved by the Planning Department.
Mr. Streeter answered that to build that garage he would have to demolish a portion of the wall connecting to his residence and it would destroy the room.
Commissioner Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Gerstner stated that he is a strong opponent to anyone encroaching into the setbacks, however in this instance the property has quite a few unique issues. He noted that this project was approved with the existing garage to remain, and the existing garage encroached into the setback a certain amount. He noted that the new garage is proposed to encroach into the same setback an amount he did not feel was greater than the pre-existing garage. He felt that extensive review was done for the remodel of the residence and everyone seemed to be satisfied with the mass of the house and the setbacks with the pre-existing garage encroaching into the setback. He also felt that if this design makes the structure of the housework better and the neighbors donít object, then he would tend to be in favor of approving the proposed garage.
Commissioner Karp felt that this could be a backdoor approach by the applicant to get the garage he wanted approved. He noted that this house is undergoing a complete remodel and that cutting the garage back into the residence will most likely be costly, but he did not feel it would be an undo burden.
Commissioner Knight felt this was a clear case where he could not make at least three of the four required findings noting that the applicant does have an option to build another garage, and therefore, it is not necessary to approve the Variance to build the proposed garage. In addition, there is a reason for the setbacks as there is no sidewalk in the area. Therefore, he agreed with the recommendations of the staff report.
Commissioner Tetreault noted that the house is situated on a cul-de-sac, there are no sidewalks, and there is most likely very little foot traffic in the area. However, there are reasons for setback requirements and it becomes problematic to ignore these requirements when reasonable alternatives seem to be available. He therefore agreed with the recommendations in the staff report to deny the Variance.
Commissioner Knight moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-26 as amended in Section 1 of the Ordinance, thereby denying Variance Permit (Case No. 2004-00108), seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved, (3-1) with Commissioner Gerstner dissenting.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 8:00 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 8:05 pm. At which time they reconvened.
1. Height Variation Permit (Case No. ZON2004-00041): 27010 Spring Creek Rd
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, giving a brief history of the project. He explained that as a result of the Planning Commissionís direction the applicant has made several changes to his proposal, including reducing the structure ridge height by one foot, reducing the addition by 213 square feet, increasing the rear yard setback from 64 to 67 feet, and increasing the side yard setback for the third floor from 5 feet to 9 feet. He displayed a picture on a power point slide depicting the proposed changes to the plans. He explained that staff had met with the neighbor, Ms. Kikuchi, and she had indicated that the proposed changes were moving in the right direction, however she did not feel the changes went far enough to address all of her concerns, noting that she still has a concern with the bulk and mass of the structure and a concern with the privacy impacts caused by the structure. He also explained that staff spoke with Mr. Hughes who felt that the addition was moving in the right direction but did not go far enough to meet his privacy concerns. He explained that should the Planning Commission determine that the modifications are sufficient to address all of their concerns, staff requests the Planning Commission articulate, for the record, the reasons the neighborhood compatibility finding that can be made in a positive manner, as staff was unable to make this finding. He explained that based on the revised project staff is seeking direction from the Planning Commission as to whether the project adequately addresses the Commissionís previous concerns with bulk and mass of the structure. If the Commission deems the revised project acceptable staff is recommending the Planning Commission approve the height variation, as modified.
Commissioner Karp noted that he was not at the meeting when this project was discussed and asked if he could participate in the discussions at this meeting.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that if he could state for the record that he had reviewed the minutes or the tape of the previous meeting, then he could participate in this hearing.
Commissioner Karp stated that he had read the minutes from the previous meeting. He then asked staff if this was considered a two-story or a three-story house and how that was defined.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that, as stories are defined by Code, this house could be considered a three-story house even though no portion of the house exceeds two stories. He explained that the first story is the garage, the second story is the residence, and the proposed upper floor addition is considered the third story. However, no portion of the residence exceeds what appears to be a two-story house and the basis of Staffís original concern with the project did not stem from it having three stories.
Commissioner Gerstner asked if the back of the proposed addition extends beyond the farthest rear portion of Ms. Kikuchiís house.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the proposed project does not extend as far back as Ms. Kikuchiís house.
Commissioner Gerstner asked if the side windows then look into the side yard of Ms. Kikuchiís house and not directly into her backyard.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that looking straight out of the side windows one would look into Ms. Kikuchiís side yard.
Commissioner Tetreault opened the public hearing,
Luis de Moraes 27010 Springcreek Road (applicant) stated that he and his wife have spent quite a bit of time reviewing the project and have been able to speak with all of the neighbors with the exception of the Kikuchis who, after five attempts, he was unable to reach. He explained that, to address the Commissionís concerns regarding the bulk of the house, he pushed the addition back and lowered the ridge one foot. Regarding the issues of privacy, he cut the length of the upper level by five feet creating a greater distance to the neighbors. He also stated that he would use clearstory windows or obscure glass in the closet window and bathroom. He did not think that this addition should be considered a third story and did not think it was in the Code. He felt that he has made a reasonable effort to comply with the concerns of the Planning Commission and his neighbors and asked the Planning Commission to consider his revisions and approve the project.
Commissioner Gerstner stated that the Planning Commission has received several letters regarding the side windows and asked Mr. de Moraes to explain where the windows are located and what he proposes to do with the windows.
Mr. de Moraes explained that he has proposed to make the windows in the side area either clearstory or obscure glass, noting that the windows are in the closet and bathroom and will be used for ventilation and light.
Stephanie de Moraes 27010 Springcreek Road stated that she was happy with the original design of the addition but is even happier with the revised plan. She stated that the natural crest of the hill has already given her an amazing city and ocean view and they were simply trying to add more space in their living quarters to accommodate the family needs. She stated that privacy is a non-issue and she is not concerned with what her neighbors are doing. However, she respects their concerns and that is why the windows have been made clearstory or obscure glass. She stated that they plan to plant trees to also help with the privacy issues.
Mark Olsen 26927 Springcreek Road stated he was representing the 10 to 12 neighbors that support the project. He felt that the applicant was addressing the needs of the entire neighborhood, noting that there is a challenge in this neighborhood to increase the square footage of the homes while still remaining aesthetically pleasing to the neighborhood.
Commissioner Tetreault asked Mr. Olsen where he lives in relation to the applicant.
Mr. Olsen stated that he lives six houses down the block on the opposite side of the street.
Jeffrey Sax 333 S. Hope Street, L.A. stated that he is the attorney representing the Kikuchi family. He stated that the Kikuchis are in favor of improvement of the neighborhood but it is the question of methodology and how one goes about it and the impact to the neighbors. He stated that it has been his experience in the past, and is consist with what is happening now, that neighbors who are not immediately adjacent to the improvement are generally in favor of it because it increases their property values. However the neighbors who are directly affected by the project are the ones who should have more consideration given to their concerns, as they have to live with it day after day. He felt that if the applicant wants more space there is room in the backyard on the first floor to make more living space. He did not think that the applicant should not be allowed to add a third floor at the expense of the neighborís privacy, light issues, etc. He explained that if one stands down below and look up at the structure, whether or not there is a privacy issue, it is perceived that way and it is a very uncomfortable feeling. Regarding the sidewalls, he would prefer skylights, however the clearstory windows would be acceptable. However, it is the rear facing windows where one can see into the Kikuchi backyard very clearly and there should be made some adjustment made on privacy concerns there. Finally, he stated his concern regarding the planting of trees on the applicantís property, as they may impact the lighting and increase the imposing nature of the property.
Commissioner Gerstner asked for clarification from staff as to whether the applicant had proposed clearstory and/or obscure glass for the rear windows.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted the applicant has proposed mitigating measures to all four windows.
Commissioner Gerstner noted that these included the rear windows and asked Mr. Sax if this was satisfactory.
Mr. Sax answered that it is vague, but on the surface it would appear so, as it has not been addressed specifically in the plans, application, or the staff report. He requested that it be more specifically presented so that he knew exactly what was being proposed.
Robert Beck 3828 Carson Street, Torrance stated that he is the attorney representing Mr. and Mrs. Hughes of 26951 Whitestone. He explained that the Hughes have a very small but private backyard. He felt that the proposed third story addition would deprive the Hughes of their privacy in their backyard area. He stated that he has reviewed the staff report and minutes from the May 11th meeting and feels this issue comes down to one of neighborhood compatibility. He noted that the average house size in the neighborhood is approximately 2,276 square feet, making the proposed house 151 percent larger than the average home in the neighborhood. Further, he did not feel the architectural style of the home was compatible with the neighborhood, as it is a three-story house. He felt that the Planning Commission should be aware that they might be setting a precedent if this addition is approved.
Commissioner Knight asked staff to clarify what type of windows is being proposed for the four windows in the side and back yard.
Associate Planner Blumenthal replied that the plans show the windows will be clearstory windows, additionally Condition No. 14 of the Resolution specifies that the windows are to be removed, clearstory, or translucent glass.
Mr. Beck did not realize that the windows from the master bedroom on the north elevation would be clearstory or translucent glass.
Commissioner Knight noted that there would be one window from the master bedroom that would be a regular window, and asked Mr. Beck if that would present a problem to his client.
Mr. Beck felt that would impose an infringement of privacy to his client. In addition, the applicant has added an outside balcony which will add more intrusion of his clientís privacy.
Commissioner Gerstner explained that he did not visit the Hughesí property and asked if from the Hughesí property one could see down into any part of the backyard of the applicantís property.
Mr. Beck believed that one could see the applicantís house but not the backyard from the Hughesí residence. He pointed out that the Height Variation Guidelines state that greater weight shall be given to the outdoor privacy issues.
Frank Buzard 26961 Springcreek Road stated that he recently walked in a nearby neighborhood that he remembered being mostly single story homes, which now was a neighborhood of large two-story homes. He felt that the applicant has worked hard to make his proposed addition compatible with the neighborhood and address the concerns of the neighbors, however he wondered if Springcreek Road would begin to look like the neighboring areas if this addition and others like it were approved. He noted that there are at least 20 homes in the neighborhood that would benefit from building a large addition to have a better view of downtown and the ocean.
Mr. de Moraes (in rebuttal) felt it was unfortunate that some of his neighbors did not feel he had gone far enough to satisfy their concerns and felt the only way they would be satisfied would be if he didnít do the addition at all. He stated that he can currently see the Hughes residence from his home and that has not created a problem, as he does not care to look up 60 feet at the home. He stated that he has made several attempts to contact the Kikuchis with no success. He stated that he did not know what else to do, as he did not think his neighbors wanted to see any changes in the neighborhood, and felt he had presented a very reasonable compromise.
Commissioner Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Tetreault asked staff if the applicant has formally presented his proposal to add screening foliage.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the applicant had mentioned in his letter his intent to use foliage towards the rear of the property for screening purposes. However, any such foliage would be subject to the view restoration process.
Commissioner Tetreault asked staff if there was a finding for privacy on any property or was it only for adjacent properties.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that the finding for privacy states that it is for abutting properties. Therefore, staff focused its review on the Kikuchi property rather than the Hughes property, as the applicant does not share a property line with the Hughes.
Commissioner Tetreault asked if the distance between properties is taken into consideration when addressing privacy concerns.
Associate Planner Blumenthal stated that distance between properties is not usually taken into consideration, as the finding language specifically states "abutting properties".
Commissioner Karp was concerned about allowing a three-story house in the neighborhood, however he understood the need for larger houses for growing families. He was concerned that if the City begins to limit the expansion of houses, neighborhoods may become obsolete and people will tend not to live there. However, he noted that there is some balance that needs to occur, but did not know if allowing a three-story home was the appropriate action to take. He stated that he would like to hear the comments of the other Commissioners before making a decision.
Commissioner Knight appreciated the efforts of the applicant to address the bulk and mass and architectural style of the home, however he did not think the current proposal meets his criteria for the neighborhood compatibility finding. He noted that the neighborhood consists of ranch style, split level homes and this is definitely a deviation from that style. He felt that if the applicant felt he needed additional square footage, he could further explore adding more toward the backside of the house.
Commissioner Gerstner explained that he was struck by how diminutive this house currently looks, noting it has lower roof lines than the houses around it. He stated that one of the concerns of the Kikuchisí is that this proposed addition will block the light coming into their property, and the Planning Commission suggested the applicant pull the second story away from the Kukuchi property to mitigate that problem. He felt that this is what the applicant did by pulling the second story away from the Kikuchi property, reduced the size of the second story addition, and moved the stairs more towards the center of the property. He felt that the applicant has done quite a bit to bring the house as close as it reasonably can be to satisfying all of the concerns while still having some amount of space on the upper level. He did not think there was any more the applicant could reasonably do, other than eliminate the upper story, to mitigate the concerns any further. Regarding the privacy issues, he felt that this house starts with less of a privacy issue than many of the houses that the Planning Commission has approved. He felt that the Hughes may be able to look down into the Kikuchi property more than the applicant will be able to and he did not feel that the applicant looking up into the Hughes property created a significant privacy concern. He discussed the issue of the three-story home, noting that this would not be three stories stacked one right on top of another and the highest part of it is not going higher than what the code allows. He therefore felt this proposed addition falls well within the guidelines and could approve the project.
Commissioner Tetreault agreed with Commissioner Gerstnerís comments and was pleased that the applicant was able to address the Planning Commissionís concerns. He felt that the revisions to the plans have addressed his concerns regarding privacy and have mitigated the appearance of bulk and mass of the house. He noted that the house has three levels, but does not appear as a traditional three-story structure, noting that the total height is within the code guidelines. He did not think this would open up the floodgates to everyone building three-story homes in the neighborhood. In terms of neighborhood compatibility, he noted that the proposed home is larger than others in the neighborhood, but felt that a lot of effort has been put forth by the applicant to reduce the apparent bulk and mass of the structure so that is not as imposing as it could be. He also felt that an effort has been made to make the house blend into the neighborhood. He therefore felt that he could approve the project.
Commissioner Karp stated that the point that addressed his concern was that it is a three-story home, however the floors are not stacked on top of each other and it does not exceed the height limit. Therefore, his inclination was to approve the project.
Commissioner Gerstner moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-27, thereby approving the Height Variation (Case No. ZON2004-00041) as amended, seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved, (3-1) with Commissioner Knight dissenting.
As Commissioner Gerstner had to leave the meeting, the meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m. due to the lack of a quorum and Agenda Items 2, 3, 6, and 7 were continued to the June 22, 2004 Planning Commission meeting.