CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
SEPTEMBER 14, 2004
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Commissioner Tetreault at 7:03 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Karp led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Karp, Knight, Gerstner, and Tetreault
Absent: Vice Chair Cote and Chairman Mueller were excused
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Associate Planner Blumenthal, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that item no. 3 of the Agenda is a request for an equestrian code amendment and because Commissioners Knight and Gerstner live in the equestrian district, they must recuse themselves from the item. Therefore, there will not be a quorum for the item, the public hearing cannot be opened, and will be continued to the next meeting.
The amended agenda was approved without objection.
Director/Secretary Rojas reported that at the last City Council meeting, the Council upheld the Planning Commission decision for the height variation application on Springcreek Road. He stated that the City Council also directed staff to start the recruitment for the recently vacated Planning Commission position. Finally, he announced that the City Council leadership workshop for Committee and Commission chairs and vice chairs has been rescheduled for January 22, 2005.
Commissioner Knight reported that he had received a communication from Mike Chiles regarding agenda item no. 4.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE REGARDING NON-AGENDA ITEMS
1. Revision to Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2003-00349): 5251 Rolling Ridge Road
The Consent Calendar item was approved without objection, (4-0).
2. Height Variation and Tract Map Amendment (Case No. ZON2004-00409): 6270 Ocean Terrace Drive
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report, explaining that staff was recommending the item be continued to the October 26, 2004 Planning Commission meeting.
Commissioner Karp stated that at that meeting he would like to see the pre and post construction surveys of the property as well as a drawing of where the house would have been located if it had been built correctly.
Commissioner Knight moved to continue the item to October 26, 2004, seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved, (4-0).
3. Equestrian Code Amendment (Case ZON2004-00264)
Continued to September 28, 2004 due to the lack of a quorum.
4. PODS Code Amendment (Case No. ZON2004-00265)
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, explaining that while the Development Code currently does not address the use of Portable On Demand Storage (PODS) containers within the City, the containers are considered structures pursuant to the Uniform Building Code and do require a building permit if they are to be used on a permanent basis. He explained that the proposed Code Amendment would permit the use of PODS on private property within the City when used for temporary storage, when used for construction storage provided there is an active building permit, to be used as an alternate building foundation in the active landslide area only, and for permanent storage in the commercial and institutional zoning districts provided there is a Conditional Use Permit approved for their use. He explained that there have been several inquiries to staff regarding the use of PODS on private property and concerns by neighbors regarding the aesthetic quality of the PODS in residential areas. He stated that staff has determined that the long-term use of PODS in residential areas may create a visual impact and may be considered incompatible with the existing neighborhoods in the City. He noted that because this is a Code Amendment, if the Planning Commission determines this amendment is appropriate and warranted, the Commission’s action will be advisory with the final decision made by the City Council. Therefore, staff is recommending the Planning Commission review the proposed language and recommend to the City Council to approve the proposed code amendment.
Commissioner Karp discussed the many sizes of cargo containers, and felt that the size of the container should be defined in the amendment.
Commissioner Gerstner asked how these cargo containers are distinguished from other pre-manufactured metal sheds that can be purchased, and what the difference is between the two.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the primary difference between a cargo container and a pre-manufactured metal shed is that the pre-manufactured shed is not delivered to the property as a contained unit, but rather one usually has to put together the pre-manufactured shed. He also stated that there is an aesthetic difference between the two, as the pre-manufactured units are typically much smaller than the cargo containers.
Commissioner Gerstner felt it was important to be clear in the language the reason the City was trying to control these cargo containers so that the City was not eliminating things that they may desire to have in the City at some point in time.
Commissioner Knight asked staff how this proposed code amendment came about.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that this propose code amendment came about because staff was receiving calls from residents asking if they could put cargo containers on their property. He explained that there is currently no prohibition on these containers, however they do require a building permit if they are over 120 square feet in size. Because the number of inquiries have been increasing, staff felt that the City should be proactive and have a policy in place regarding these containers.
Commissioner Knight asked if there was currently anything in the Development Code regarding the aesthetics of the storage units.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered there was not.
Commissioner Knight asked staff if they knew what percentage of the residents this amendment would apply to, and if areas outside of the Portuguese Bend area had these types of issues.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that staff has not canvassed the City to see where the cargo containers currently exist.
Commissioner Gerstner asked staff to explain the alternative foundation clause and how these storage containers are being used as an alternative foundation.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained the method in which the cargo containers are being used as an alternative foundation in the slide area.
Commissioner Tetreault asked if these storage containers have been used in residential areas for any purpose other than storage or alternative foundations.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that staff was not aware of any other use of the containers.
Commissioner Tetreault opened the public hearing.
Mike Chiles 11 Figtree Road stated that for the past 30 years the residents of the Portuguese Bend area have been using PODS for storage. He felt that the proposed amendment is contrary to the needs of the citizens of the Portuguese Bend community, as it is horse property which requires the ability to have storage facilities available. In addition, it is a slide area where the difficulty of maintaining a permanent structure has made the use of the cargo containers an alternative method to be used by the citizens of Portuguese Bend. He felt that this amendment would cause a hardship to the homeowners of Portuguese Bend that have existing cargo containers. He stated that the number of cargo containers in the area are minimal, possible only 30, and are not visible from public areas, and few, if any, are visible from neighboring properties and the private streets in the community. He stated that if the Planning Commission and City Council are concerned with the expansion of the use of cargo containers, he felt it would be appropriate to grant a homeowner that has a cargo container the status to maintain them until they are removed. Regarding the use for alternative foundations, he noted that there are only two homes in the area that using the containers for that purpose, and the community does not want to see these containers used as a foundation system. He questioned the need for a building permit for the containers used as storage, as they do not have a foundation system that affixes them to the ground. He concluded by stating that the cargo containers are very important to residents in the Portuguese Bend area for the needed storage, and to require a building permit for these containers would be very costly. He noted that the Pony Club uses a cargo container for their tack room and did not know of any alternative to that use.
Commissioner Gerstner asked if the current cargo containers are visible to the neighboring properties.
Mr. Chiles stated that very few cargo containers in the area are visible to the neighbors, as they tend to be hidden on the property. He added that he has looked throughout the City to see if there are other containers, and noted that he could only find two outside of the Portuguese Bend area.
Commissioner Knight asked Mr. Chiles if he would be amenable to some type of requirement that the storage containers be screened to address the aesthetic issue of the container.
Mr. Chiles answered that he would be very pleased if storage containers were allowed with a requirement to have some type of screening for aesthetic purposes.
Commissioner Tetreault asked Mr. Chiles why these PODS were preferred over other types of storage structures on the property.
Mr. Chiles explained that PODS are preferred because there are no building or planning regulations for these containers, as they are not affixed to the ground and are mobile.
Richard Bara 1 Peppertree Drive stated that he considers the Pony Club tack room an innovative use of these PODS, which is acceptable to the neighbors as it is screened. He stated there is another POD visible from Palos Verdes Drive South, used for equestrian purposes, that has been made to look more like a building with the addition of a fake roof and windows. He felt that if the City considers banning the use of PODS it should consider grandfathering the ones that are currently in place.
Commissioner Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Karp noted that most of the existing containers are in the Portuguese Bend area and asked if there would be a way to consider that area separately from the rest of the city when discussing the use of PODS.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that it is the Commission’s prerogative to treat the Portuguese Bend area separately if findings can be made that there are different circumstances and conditions in that area. He felt it was important to note that in the Portuguese Bend area there is a landslide moratorium in place and if a permitting process is allowed in that area for PODS staff would not be able to allow a permit for the POD unless it fit into one of the moratorium exception categories currently in place.
Commissioner Karp asked staff if a permit is required for a POD under the Uniform Building Code.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that the Building Official has determined a permit is necessary unless it is less that 120 square feet, as defined in the Uniform Building Code. He noted that the City Attorney’s office has agreed with that determination.
Commissioner Gerstner noted that the City currently has a provision in the Code regarding the aesthetics of motor homes parked on private property and asked staff if a similar approach couldn’t be taken with PODS.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that something like that could work, it was just a different approach than that taken by staff.
Commissioner Gerstner asked if the City had life safety issues with PODS, such as placement too close to slopes.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that was one of the concerns of the Building Official and why a building permit would be required. He explained that the building inspector would be able to inspect the placement of the container to verify it was not placed too close to a slope or that there were no other hazards regarding the container on the site.
Commissioner Tetreault asked if there has been a request for a permit to place a POD on private property.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that no permits have been issued, however there have been inquiries.
Commissioner Karp felt it was important that the Code define the size of the PODS being discussed, suggesting a size no greater than 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet high, which will cover 90 percent of the containers being used. Secondly, he felt Portuguese Bend is a very unique area in the City and should be addressed separately. He felt that an amendment should be added that in the event of an emergency a homeowner can have a container to store household goods until such time he gets a building permit, and can get the container prior to getting the building permit. Finally, he stated that if the POD cannot be seen from the public right-of-way, why does the City really care, if it is not a detriment.
Commissioner Gerstner agreed that there should be some sort of definition included in the code amendment for clarity. He also felt that the amendment suggested by Commissioner Karp for the use of a POD in an emergency situation was a good suggestion. He felt it was important to split the Planning Department issues away from the Building and Safety issues, and did not think the Planning Commission had any purview in saying a POD does or does not need a foundation or building permit. Therefore, he was focusing on the aesthetic issues, and agreed that if a POD cannot be seen he did not have an objection to it. He felt that a clear definition could be created as to what is expected for the PODS to be compatible in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Knight agreed with the comments made by Commissioner Gerstner. He noted that he was concerned with the citizens in the Portuguese Bend area and the restrictions they face being in the slide area and was also concerned with the impact of the amendment to the Pony Club and their use of a POD. Therefore, he felt that there could be ways to screen the PODS so they are not seen from neighboring properties. He suggested dealing with the issue through a neighborhood compatibility process. He noted that he did not want to see a proliferation of PODS because there is a code that allows them, however a reasonable amount of containers for storage is acceptable.
Commissioner Tetreault felt that the area of the City where the PODS are being used is the area of the City that needs them the most. He noted that they are not aesthetically pleasing, however Portuguese Bend, because of its geology, has a greater need for these units. He understood the desire to keep PODS out of a lot of neighborhoods, however he would not be in favor of making this a blanket ban throughout the City when they are predominately being used in an area where there seems to be justified needs for them. He agreed that there are many ways to screen the PODS so they are more aesthetically pleasing to the neighborhood.
Commissioner Karp asked how this proposed amendment would affect commercial or industrial properties.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that the approval of a storage container on a commercial or industrially zoned property would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis through the approval of a Conditional Use Permit.
Commissioner Tetreault felt staff should explore the option of adding language to address whether or not certain PODS should be grandfathered in, if appropriate.
Commissioner Knight felt that this item should be continued to allow staff to analyze the comments made by the Planning Commissioners and make appropriate changes to the proposed amendment.
Commissioner Gerstner summarized the topics of concern: 1) the definition of a POD; 2) clarification on the use of a POD in the use as a foundation and whether or not it should be encouraged in the future; 3) use of a POD for emergency purposes; 4) grandfathering of existing PODS; 5) the aesthetic issues of PODS; and 6) separating the issues of Portuguese Bend from the rest of the City in terms of the use of PODS.
Director/Secretary Rojas recommended, if the Planning Commission continues the item, that it be continued to November 9th.
Commissioner Knight moved to continue the public hearing to November 9, 2004 with direction to staff to consider the input given by the Planning Commission, seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved, (4-0).
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 8:20 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 8:25 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
CONTINUED BUSINESS (cont)
5. View Restoration Permit Application No. 171: 6100 Arrowroot Lane
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report, explaining that the parties involved are attempting to work out a private agreement, and therefore staff is requesting a continuance to October 12, 2004.
Commissioner Knight moved to continue the public hearing to the meeting of October 12, 2004, seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved, (4-0).
6. General Plan Annual Report
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report, explaining this was a procedural item required yearly by the State so the City could report how it has implemented the General Plan in the last fiscal year. He explained that the State requires the Planning Commission review the report, forward it to the City Council, and the City Council will forward the report to the State.
Commissioner Karp moved to accept the report and forward it to City Council, seconded by Commissioner Knight. Approved, (4-0).
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
7. Minutes of August 10, 2004
Commissioner Gerstner noted that since the Vice Chair and Chairman were absent the approval of the minutes should be continued to the next meeting.
Commissioner Karp noted a changed to page 17 of the minutes, where Commissioner Knight moved and seconded the motion.
Commissioner Knight noted a change to page 22 of the minutes, changing the word "can" to "cannot".
The minutes were continued to the next meeting, without objection.
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that Item No. 2 on the pre-agenda will be removed to make room for the Equestrian Code Amendment that was continued from tonight’s meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:40 p.m.