CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
OCTOBER 12, 2004
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Mueller at 7:04 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Vice Chair Cote led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Gerstner, Karp, Knight, Vice Chair Cote, and Chairman Mueller
Absent: Commissioners Tetreault and Perestam were excused
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Assistant City Manager Petru, Senior Planner Fox, Associate Planner Blumenthal, Associate Planner Schonborn, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
The agenda was unanimously approved as presented.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed one item of correspondence for Agenda Item No. 2 and one item of correspondence for Agenda Item No. 5. He also noted that at their last meeting the City Council heard an appeal of a View Restoration case, which they continued, and appointed Steve Perestam to the Planning Commission.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items)
1. Equestrian Code Amendment (Case No. ZON2004-002640
Commissioner Karp moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-40 thereby denying the Code Amendment (Case No. ZON2004-00264), seconded by Vice Chair Cote. Approved, (3-0) with Commissioners Gerstner and Knight recused, as they live in the overlay district.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that he would have to discuss the vote with the City Attorney to determine whether the Commission’s abstentions can be counted toward the needed quorum, and if not, the action will be null and void and the resolution will be brought back at the next meeting.
2, Lot Line Adjustment and Variance
Senior Planner Fox presented the staff report, explaining the scope and purpose of the requested Lot Line Adjustment and Variance. He explained that staff could make all necessary findings. He noted that portions of the City’s property and portions of the adjacent private properties are currently zoned Open Space Hazard, however the City Council has authorized a General Plan Amendment and Zone Change which will make the developed portions of all of the subject properties will be zoned for residential use. Therefore, staff was recommending the Planning Commission approve the proposed Lot Line Adjustment and Variance. He noted that a revision has been made to the Resolution to add additional language to finding 2d to reflect the impending change of land use for the three properties that would remove the Open Space Hazard designation on portions of the three lots.
Commissioner Knight asked staff why Mr. Thomas on Palos Verdes Drive East is not part of this process.
Senior Planner Fox referred to a photograph in the staff report and explained that the property line is not as close to the eave as it appears in the photograph.
Assistant City Manager Petru added that on that side of the property the building meets the minimum 5 foot setback requirement to the property line, and noted that the very corner of the eave overhangs the property line by one inch. She stated that staff contacted Dr. Thomas to see if he was interested in doing a lot line adjustment with the City to correct the problem and he was not interested in doing so.
Commissioner Knight referred to Exhibit D in the staff report, commenting that the Lot Line Adjustment includes a level area and slope, and asked why the city property needs to encompass the sloped area.
Ms. Petru explained that the City was originally interested only in the level portion, however the property owner wanted the area with fence included, which is half way up the slope.
Commissioner Knight noted that the listing agreement indicates the lot line adjustment will be taken care of, and asked if the escrow was contingent upon this application being approved.
Ms. Petru stated that the escrow is contingent upon approval of this application.
Commissioner Knight asked if there was any compensation given to the property owners.
Ms. Petru answered that there was compensation.
Vice Chair Cote asked staff to explain the revision to the Resolution that was mentioned during the staff’s opening remarks.
Senior Planner Fox explained that in an earlier conversation, Commissioner Knight had noted that the wording of the Resolution should be clarified to explain the current zoning of the property and that it was anticipated that the City Council will be going through a process to change the land use designation in the near future.
Vice Chair Cote asked when this change was scheduled to go before the City Council.
Senior Planner Fox thought it was scheduled to go before the City Council in December.
Commissioner Knight moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2004-40, thereby approving the Lot Line Adjustment and Variance as presented by staff, seconded by Vice Chair Cote. Approved, (5-0).
3. Revision to Height Variation Permit (Case No. ZON2004-00366): 6512 Nancy Road
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, giving a brief history of the project and noting that a similar application had previously been denied by the Planning Commission. He explained the scope of the proposed project and the need for the Variance, noting that staff could not make two of the four necessary findings to approve the project and therefore was recommending the denial of the Variance. He also explained the need for the Height Variation application, noting that staff could not make all of the necessary findings, and was therefore recommending denial of the project.
Commissioner Karp asked how far a one-story addition would have to be built from the rear property line.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that the minimum setback requirement would be15 feet from rear property line.
Commissioner Knight noted the previous approval expired June 24, 2004 and the approvals are now null and void. He asked if the Planning Commission was now reviewing a null and void application.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that this is a new application and was assessed as a new application.
Commissioner Knight asked if the Planning Commission should now completely review the project or do they have to abide by the previous Planning Commission’s decisions.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that the Planning Commission should deliberate on the entire project before them, as it is a new proposal for a height variation and variance.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that technically this is not a revision to the previous approval and the Planning Commission was free to look at any aspect of the project. He also noted that if the current application is denied there is not an approval to fall back on, however there is a provision in the code that allows the applicant to request a null and void application be reinstated.
Vice Chair Cote asked staff if, when looking at the Variance, the addition area would make it one large structure therefore creating a new point of measurement for the entire structure.
Associate Planner Schonborn showed the existing footprint on a power point presentation, and explained that the new lower point of measurement will now be along the rear, as the property has a gentle downslope from the street.
Vice Chair Cote asked if the applicant had detached the structure, what would be the measurement, and would a variance be required.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that even if the area is detached, the rear area is still lower and a variance would be required.
Vice Chair Cote asked about the privacy issue, noting that she did not recollect a roof deck on the garage area and asked if it was part of the originally approved project.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that a small roof deck was part of the originally approved project.
Commissioner Knight stated that the plans show a basement area and asked if staff was in agreement with this basement designation, or did they feel that this is really a three-story structure.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that the plans do not meet the code definition of a basement, however from the street all one sees is a two-story element.
Commissioner Knight asked staff if the section in the back by the garage could be converted to a second unit if a kitchen is added.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that it could, provided it meets the standards of the Development Code.
Commissioner Karp noted that this is an older neighborhood and asked if there are any other two-story houses similar to this one, or is this house unique to the neighborhood.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered this is a unique design to the neighborhood.
Commissioner Karp asked what the new setback area requirement would be.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that it is 15 feet.
Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Leslie Tillmann 6512 Nancy Road displayed her points on a power point presentation. She explained that she would like to keep the function of all rooms in the house as they are. She also stated her goal was to maintain the character and function of the existing residence while accommodating an elderly person with limited physical ability. She stated that the existing bedrooms have inadequate closets and the addition adds needed closet space. She explained that there is no increase in actual building height only an increase of dimension of the lowest adjacent grade. She stated that her mother will not be able to access the entire house unless an elevator is installed. She further stated that she did not want to add hundreds of yards of fill to meet a technical height compatibility while ruining the character of the house and yard. She explained that the previously approved plans would not have been approved by the art jury. She felt that staff was penalizing them because they have the deepest and largest lot in the tract. Addressing the privacy issue, she stated that she currently has a full view of her neighbor’s yard and pool and the roof deck will not infringe on their privacy any more than the house currently does. She stated that she would be willing to plant hedges along the fence to help with the privacy issue.
Commissioner Karp asked if the art jury has approved the current design.
Ms. Tillmann answered that they have, except for some very minor details.
Vice Chair Cote asked about the diagram she displayed, asking if the green area is fill and based on the previously approved project
Ms. Tillmann stated that lighter green is area that was going to be filled to bring ground level up so that the addition will comply, however she would rather build on solid ground and not bring in fill.
Vice Chair Cote asked about the orange area in the displayed diagram.
Ms. Tillmann explained the orange area displays the previously approved building outline and massing.
Commissioner Gerstner asked Ms. Tillman if adding the fill to comply with City codes and building on this fill would change the house and massing from the neighbors or the view from the neighbor’s property.
Ms. Tillmann explained that to keep the house down and low and out of neighbor’s views she felt that it was better to request the variance.
Chairman Mueller asked Ms. Tillmann if the prior application was still valid when she purchased the home.
Ms. Tillmann explained she bought the house with the entitlements granted to them.
Chairman Mueller asked if the previous project had ever been approved by the art jury.
Ms. Tillmann explained that the city had approved the project, however it had not been officially submitted to the art jury for their review. She stated, however, that she had run the previous project by some art jury members, who indicated that they did not like the way the project looked and were concerned with the side yard setbacks.
Chairman Mueller asked Ms. Tillman what she expected to do when she purchased the property, as he felt she was asking the Planning Commission to fix problems with the house that she already knew existed.
Ms. Tillmann answered that she was not satisfied with the approved project, as it did not work for their family. She felt that the compelling reasons for the variance are there, and she would rather keep the house low and out of the neighbors view, and did not want to bring in fill.
Marie Forester 6512 Nancy Road explained that she purchased this property however she has not been able to stay there because of health problems. When she purchased this house the multiple floors were not a problem, but they have become a problem because of her broken hip. She stated that an elevator needs to be installed in order for her to live in her home, as she cannot live independently any more and this home is the perfect solution for the family.
Rolf Tillmann 6512 Nancy Road stated that to bring in fill would be difficult and would make no sense logically to go through all of this. He also felt it would make a dilemma for neighbors with more dirt and dust. He explained that the last plans were never approved by the art jury, and never would have been and that the art jury has preliminarily approved their plan. He also explained that he needs the roof height for the elevator to work, and there is no other logical place to put the elevator in the house.
Vice Chair Cote asked about the side yard setbacks required by the art jury.
Leslie Tillmann explained that the art jury has a formula depending on lot width, and the wider the lot the larger the setbacks. She stated that they are at the absolute maximum of their formula with this proposal.
John McKeel 4105 Lorraine Road stated that his home is just below the Tillmann’s residence, explaining that he had worked out an agreement with the previous owner’s plan where his privacy issues would be minimized. He felt that if trees were planted to help preserve his privacy then he would be satisfied.
Commissioner Knight asked Mr. McKeel to explain what portion of the proposed project infringes on his privacy.
Mr. McKeel explained that the new project comes out closer towards his house, and was concerned with the privacy to his pool, back porch, and bedroom area.
Commissioner Gerstner asked if he was suggesting the foliage be on his property or the applicant’s property.
Mr. McKeel answered that the foliage would be planted on his property, noting that he was referring to an approximate 60-foot stretch of his property.
Chairman Mueller asked Mr. McKeel if his concern was with the roof deck or with the project in general, in reference to his privacy.
Mr. McKeel explained that his concern was with the project in general.
Leslie Tillmann (in rebuttal) stated that she cannot see any of Mr. McKeel’s property from their house and did not think that it would change with the proposed addition. She stated that she has not discussed the rear yard setback, but did not think it would be an issue.
Commissioner Gerstner asked Ms. Tillmann if there are any windows in the existing house where she can see into Mr. McKeel’s pool area.
Ms. Tillmann answered that she can only see his roof area from her existing home.
Commissioner Gerstner asked if there would be any area in the proposed addition where one could look into Mr. McKeel’s pool area.
Ms. Tillmann answered that she did not think there would be an issue, as the windows in the proposed addition would be in approximately the same place as the current windows, only a little closer to the property line.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Vice Chair Cote asked staff about the limitations placed on residents by the Art Jury, and asked if these limitations could be considered exceptional or extraordinary circumstances when considering the Variance application.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that staff is aware of the art jury limitation, however, staff does not apply the art jury’s standards and rules to projects. He explained that staff reviews projects based on the City codes and limitations. He also stated that historically staff has not applied the art jury rules as a hardship, and in this case staff does not feel there is any hardship with the art jury as the Variance is needed for the height and, based on statements by the applicant, the art jury is satisfied with the height of the project. He stated that staff has to be careful, as the City is to review cases based on City standards and the variance is to allow an exception to the city standards. He stated that the art jury’s regulations are completely independent and a private agreement between property owners and the art jury.
Chairman Mueller asked if staff was concerned that the rear yard setback was becoming incompatible with the neighborhood, and asked if there was anything in the code or guidelines that can dictate a finding based on the incompatibility of the rear yard setback.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated it was important to clarify that, as part of the new neighborhood compatibility analysis, one is supposed to compare not only the front setbacks but also the side and rear setbacks.
Chairman Mueller asked about the privacy to the next door neighbor, and if the primary issue was the privacy from the roof deck area.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that was correct.
Chairman Mueller asked if the roof deck were removed would the privacy issue be resolved.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that was correct.
Chairman Mueller discussed neighborhood compatibility and the size of the proposed project, noting this application doubles the size of the existing home. He asked staff to comment on neighborhood compatibility in terms of the size of the project.
Associate Planner Schonborn agreed that the size of the home would be much larger than others in the neighborhood, however he noted that staff felt that the appearance of the house would not change from the street if the addition were approved, as the addition will be towards the rear of the home and not visible from the street.
Chairman Mueller asked staff if they agreed with the comments by the applicant that the additional height was needed to construct the elevator, or if there were alternatives to the proposed project.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that with the current floor plan, staff felt that this additional height would be needed. He stated that it was possible that there are alternative designs, however he noted that the applicant is an architect and most likely considered all alternatives and felt this proposal was the best scenario without having to completely demolish and re-arrange the existing floor plan and layout.
Chairman Mueller asked if the original approval had an addition in the back that went out as far as this proposed addition.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that the original approval did not exceed as far into the rear yard. He also noted that at the time of the original approval staff did not assess rear yard setbacks, only front yard setbacks.
Commissioner Knight asked if the elevator could still be built without all of the additional square footage.
Mr. Tillmann explained that the elevator could not be built without the proposed additions, as they would lose the closets and the office area.
Vice Chair Cote asked staff if the amount of fill and the way it would be placed on the lot, as in the previous approval, was something that was unusual or extraordinary.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that in staff’s previous assessment they did not feel the amount of import was excessive.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that the Planning Commission can find that the Variance is needed to minimize grading.
Commissioner Knight stated that he agrees with the staff recommendations, as he cannot make the necessary findings. He did not think that the art jury requirements and findings are any more relevant than CC&Rs. He felt that a smaller addition could be proposed that would not be infringing on the preservation and enjoyment of their property. He empathized with the need to build an elevator, however he did not see a nexus between the elevator and the size of the addition. He felt that the roof deck was an infringement on the neighbor’s privacy and felt that the rear yard setback does deviate from those in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Karp felt this is a very unique property, stating that this addition would not be visible from the street and will not be a problem. He noted that the ridgeline will be the same height as it is currently. He felt that this is an example of a situation where the Planning Commission should make a judgment and find this is a unique property, and should use good common sense. He felt that the findings could be made and was in favor of approving the project.
Commissioner Gerstner understood there are necessary findings to be made, but the Planning Commission should also follow the intent of the code. He felt that the City wants compatibility and in his opinion the specifics of the design of this addition are extremely compatible with the original house. He noted that the art jury feels this proposed addition is compatible with the neighborhood, and that their requirements are stricter than those of the City. He felt that part of the issue with a variance is looking for the best solution that is completely within every technical part of the code and meets the intent of the code, and he felt this project does that. Lastly, regarding hardship, he felt this is a unique area in regards to setback requirements because of the art jury. He felt that if the city were to ask the applicant to bring in the fill to raise the house to technically meet the Code, the Planning Commission could look at that as a unique situation.
Vice Chair Cote discussed the height variation, and felt that the mass and bulk were mitigated and it is compatible with the neighborhood. She stated that the only finding for the height variation she was having difficulty making was that of privacy, especially to the neighbor’s pool, and could not make that finding. She felt that the elimination of the roof deck would allow her to make the finding for privacy. Regarding the Variance, she was having difficulty making the finding for extraordinary circumstances. She also was not sure she could make finding no. 2 which states the variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right of the applicant, and that with a smaller addition the applicant could still enjoy the property.
Chairman Mueller felt that the roof deck is a clear infringement of the neighbor’s privacy, and should be removed. He stated that his concern was how to expand and enlarge this home without making it more distinct from the neighborhood. He explained that adding more to the house would make it more distinct from the rest of the neighborhood and less compatible. He felt the previous approval was a move in the right direction, even though it was 100 percent larger than the largest home in the neighborhood. He didn’t think the current proposal would be such a problem if it weren’t so long in the back of the property. He felt the hardships mentioned are the direct result of the house that currently exists. He felt there were other ways to design the elevator and therefore should not be considered a hardship. Regarding the fill, he stated that he was not convinced that the contours have not been altered. He felt that adding a small amount of fill to a reasonable sized addition was a reasonable approach. He therefore could not make the necessary findings for the variance and was concerned with the privacy issues. He concluded by noting that this will be the largest and tallest home in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Gerstner stated that the proposed addition is not taller than what is currently there. He stated that this house is unique in the neighborhood and the applicant has tried to maintain the compatibility with itself and maintain it’s original character.
Chairman Mueller did not think that making a house compatible with itself was necessarily neighborhood compatibility. He felt that any time an addition was made to the top story the height from the finished grade goes up and neighbors will notice that it is sticking out further. He felt that a more reasonable approach would be to articulate the rear, similar to the original application previously approved by the Planning Commission, and stagger it down.
Vice Chair Cote asked if in the original application the rear garage area was approved as an attached or detached structure.
Associate Planner Schonborn showed on the power point presentation the differences between the original proposal and the current proposal, noting that the original addition was approved with an attached garage.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 9:20 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 9:30 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
CONTINUED BUSINESS (cont)
Commissioner Gerstner commented on the mass of the side elevation, and agreed that it is the most massive elevation of the house. He explained that the adjacent house is right up against their setback so that at the most massive and tallest part of this addition is at the adjacent home. He stated that if the applicant were to separate the addition from the house he did not know if that would reduce the mass of the house, and might make the house less compatible with the neighborhood. He felt that the existing and additional vegetation will help reduce the mass and appearance dramatically.
Chairman Mueller felt there were alternatives that should be considered, such as placing the addition on a different part of the property, before he could consider approving the project.
Commissioner Knight moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-41, thereby denying Case No. ZON2004-00366, as recommended by staff. Seconded by Chairman Mueller.
Vice Chair Cote stated that she felt the project could be modified to mitigate the privacy and height issues, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for the variance.
Commissioner Gerstner stated that he was inclined to accept the project as is, however he would not object to revisions that would mitigate the privacy issues with regards to the roof deck.
Chairman Mueller noted that there are both the Variance and Height Variation to consider, which makes the issue more complex. He did not think that denying this project would be denying the applicant the right to build, as a Height Variation was previously approved by the Planning Commission. He felt that a project should be presented that is more compatible with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Karp asked staff to clarify, if this motion is approved and the project denied, can the applicant fall back on the previously approved plans.
Director/Secretary Rojas clarified that while the previous Planning Commission’s decision is null and void, the code does allow the Director to re-issue the previous approval with the provision that no more than a year has passed since the project approval expired and no changes have been made.
Commissioner Karp noted that the applicant has stated that the previous project was not approved by the art jury.
Chairman Mueller stated that the Planning Commission has no facts before them that the art jury has denied the previous project.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that if the applicant were to resurrect their previous application and submit it to the art jury, and the art jury was to reject the application, the applicant can make changes and submit those changes to the City as a revision.
Commissioner Knight felt that there are enough changes needed to this project to recommend denial without prejudice, which would allow the applicant the opportunity to submit alternative plans.
The motion to deny the project failed, (2-3) with Commissioners Gerstner, Karp, and Vice Chair Cote dissenting.
Commissioner Gerstner moved to approve the project as presented by the applicant, seconded by Commissioner Karp.
Commissioner Knight stated that he could not support the motion, as he could not make the necessary findings to approve the variance or height variation.
Vice Chair Cote moved to amend the motion to eliminate the roof deck and to add foliage at the rear of the property, between the addition and the rear property line, to mitigate the privacy issues of the neighbors.
Commissioner Gerstner accepted the amendment to his motion.
Chairman Mueller agreed that privacy is an issue and that eliminating the roof deck is necessary. However, he still did not feel he could make the findings to approve the Variance and was surprised that there has been so little discussion among the Commissioners regarding these findings. He reminded the Commissioners to look at the previous minutes and the discussion that took place on how to revise the project. He felt this approval would be disregarding the previous Planning Commission decision.
Vice Chair Cote stated that at the previous hearings she made it very clear that she had no issues with mass and bulk and that the project was compatible with the neighborhood. She felt that in the previous hearings she was appreciative of the fact that this is a historical home, however life styles have changed since the time the house was built. She felt that this proposal preserves the uniqueness of the home, and sees both unique and extraordinary circumstances that will allow the approval of the Variance. She noted that she did not approve the previous project, however she felt that the current project has merit and could appreciate that the elevation and the overall home will be much lower than it would be if fill were brought in to make the numbers work.
Chairman Mueller did not think that grading was an issue with the previous approval and did not think it should be a problem with this project. He stated that he too would like to see the preservation of a historic home, however when he sees an addition on the back that goes back a number of feet, at one story, he does not think that preserves the historical perspective of the home, but rather he sees a home that creates a problem for the neighboring homes. He felt that there were alternatives that could be considered before considering approval of the proposed project.
The Commission voted (4-1) to amend the motion as proposed by Vice Chair Cote, with Commissioner Knight dissenting.
Chairman Mueller moved to amend the motion to remove the approval of the structure located to the east of the garage from the application with an alternative to place that structure somewhere else on the lot, seconded by Vice Chair Cote.
Vice Chair Cote asked staff what the height of the addition would be without the proposed second unit.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that the height would be approximately 32.3 feet, which would still require a Variance.
Vice Chair Cote asked staff if there would be some other place on the property where the other addition could be placed.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that there is some potential to place it in an alternative location, however he did not feel that would meet the needs of the applicant.
Chairman Mueller re-opened the public hearing.
Vice Chair Mueller asked the applicant if she would be agreeable to the proposed modification.
Ms. Tillmann explained that the modification would be an extreme hardship to her mother, explaining that the only logical place to put the guesthouse was to the side as proposed. She stated that she has many reasons for how she designs structures, and it is based on classic architecture.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Gerstner stated that due to the way the stairs come from the house, the location of the swimming pool, and how the house is designed, it is difficult to spatially find another spot on the property to locate this addition. He cautioned that placing this addition someplace else on the property may make the house look more massive than the current addition.
The motion to amend the motion failed, (1-4) with Commissioners Gerstner, Karp, Knight, and Vice Chair Cote dissenting.
The motion to approve the project, as modified to remove the roof deck and add foliage was approved, (3-2) with Commissioner Knight and Chairman Mueller dissenting.
Chairman Mueller noted that staff will present the Resolution to the Planning Commission at the next meeting.
4. Height Variation Permit (Case No. ZON2004-00087): 28129 Ella Road
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, noting the scope of the project and the difference between the original proposal and the current proposal. He stated that staff has done a new analysis from the neighboring properties and feels that all findings can now be made to approve the project. He noted that staff was recommending an additional condition be added that states that in order to protect the views of the properties on Lomo Drive the two pine trees on the west side of residence shall be removed or trimmed so they are no taller than the existing ridgeline of the residence. Therefore, staff is recommending approval of the project, with the recommended conditions of approval.
Commissioner Knight asked staff to clarify the view from 28221 Lomo Drive.
Associate Planner Blumenthal showed a picture and clarified where the ocean view is and noted that Catalina Island is not in their view frame.
Vice Chair Cote asked if the silhouette at the site represents the revised plan.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the current silhouette does represent the revised plan.
Chairman Mueller asked if there was any question on the property at 28221 Lomo Drive as to the existing foliage and whose property that foliage is on.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that the large trees shown in the photograph are on the adjacent property or possibly in the right-of-way.
Commissioner Knight asked staff to clarify the new ridge height.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the new ridge height is 21 feet as measured from the lowest grade and 20.23 as measured from the highest adjacent grade.
Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
David Moss 613 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, stated that he is representing the owners of the property. He stated that since the last public hearing the architects have redesigned the addition, reviewed the visual implications from multiple neighbor site visits, and staff has taken accurate pictures from the neighboring properties. He felt that as a result, all of the necessary findings can now be made. He agreed with all conditions of approval recommended by staff, and was pleased that there is now a set of base photographs that can be relied on. He was concerned that the lines on the photographs presented by staff are not indicative of what is there, however he felt that his photographs without the lines and showing only the silhouette were more accurate of the views.
Stan Anderson 219 Manhattan Beach Blvd., stated that based on the comments from the last Planning Commission meeting he has reduced the plate heights of the first and second floor, brought down the roof pitch from 4:12 to 3:12 as suggested,
Gene Pledger 6517 Certa Drive stated that the neighborhood on Certa Drive is very happy with the proposed addition. He noted that this proposed addition will improve the neighborhood and will increase the value of his property. He encouraged the Planning Commission to approve the project.
Tony Nafissi 6525 Certa Drive stated that he supports the proposed project, and the revised plans are only an improvement to the neighborhood. He felt that any improvement in the neighborhood will improve everyone’s property value in the neighborhood and this will be a nice beginning to overall improvement of the neighborhood.
Mr. and Mrs. Brewster 28221 Lomo Drive stated that they love the view they enjoy from their home and do not want anything to interfere with that view. Mrs. Brewster stated that she is not happy with this project and does not feel there is any difference between the original project and the revised project in regards to their view. She felt that the proposed addition will detract from her property values and urged the Planning Commission to deny the project.
Mr. and Mrs. Nyek 28327 Lomo Drive objected to the project, also noting that the revised project makes no difference to the loss of their view. He felt that this proposed addition adds to the cumulative view impairment from his home and if one more home on Certa Drive adds a second story they will completely lose their ocean view. Mrs. Nyek did not feel the home was compatible with the neighborhood, as most of the homes are single story homes.
Young Oh 28215 Lomo Drive opposed the project, noting that there is no difference from the previous plan in regards to her view impairment.
David Moss (in rebuttal) did not feel this project was about interference of views or change, but rather if this project causes an unmitigated, potentially significant impact on either primary views from two homes or a cumulative view from one additional home. He felt there was no longer significant view impairment from the two homes on Lomo Drive, and distributed photographs to the Planning Commission to demonstrate his opinion. He felt that, collectively with staff and the neighbors, he has satisfied the concerns and hit the three targets before the Planning Commission: privacy, view issues, and neighborhood compatibility.
Chairman Mueller asked Mr. Moss if he was suggesting a panoramic picture was more accurate than the photographs shown by staff.
Mr. Moss felt that the panoramic pictures he submitted were taken by staff and he felt they are more accurate than the other pictures. He felt that the heavily zoomed view was not realistic with anyone’s normal vision and could be misleading.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Knight asked staff if the block wall shown on the plans is within the setback area and meets the Development Code standards.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that the wall shown on the plans is allowed to be built to a height of 6 feet, even though the garage is existing, non-conforming.
Vice Chair Cote asked staff to clarify what was worked out between the neighbors and the applicant with respect to privacy issues.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that staff identified a privacy issue on the north side of the residence. He stated that staff has added a condition that the window on the second floor on the north side of the residence either be removed, translucent, or a clearstory window. He noted that the neighborhood on the south side of the property contacted staff regarding privacy, however staff felt that currently there is no fence or wall between the two properties and therefore the addition will not create a new privacy impact and does not need to be addressed at this time.
Chairman Mueller asked staff to clarify the differences between the photographs shown on the power point presentation and those distributed by Mr. Moss.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that the photographs distributed by Mr. Moss are the same photographs displayed by staff. He noted, however, that when staff does their analysis they do not rely on the photographs, but rather what is observed at the site, and the photographs are used to help describe to the Planning Commission what the analysis is.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 11:10 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 11:15 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
CONTINUED BUSINESS (cont)
Vice Chair Cote asked the Planning Commissioners if they felt specific guidance was given to the applicant at the previous meeting as to what the Planning Commission would like to see on the revised plans, as she felt the neighbors were still dissatisfied with the current project.
Chairman Mueller felt the Planning Commission gave direction in terms of reducing the height of the project and lowering the pitch.
Commissioner Gerstner stated that the photographs displayed at the last meeting did not represent the views from the neighboring properties because of the weather at that time. He therefore did not feel comfortable making a judgment at that time without seeing the view that existed.
Commissioner Knight felt that specific direction had been given at the previous meeting and he was satisfied that the applicant had reacted to that direction.
Vice Chair Cote felt that in view related issues when the applicant has been given specific direction to lower the proposed addition, and does so, the individuals who have the view related issue are typically very pleased with the change. She stated that she was a bit disappointed with the response from the neighbors that they didn’t feel any adjustments were made. She stated that she no longer had the concern with individual view impacts, however she still had issues with the finding regarding the cumulative view impact. She noted that she could make the findings for mass and bulk, architectural style, and neighborhood compatibility.
Chairman Mueller stated that the difficultly he was having with the project was also with the cumulative view impairment. He felt that the neighbors on Lomo Drive will lose a portion of their blue water view, and the blue water view is an important view. He stated that he was not convinced that the revised plans make enough of a change to make a difference in the way he viewed the cumulative impact on the neighbors.
Commissioner Karp asked, if the blue water view is so important to the neighbors, why haven’t they trimmed the trees on the property that block this blue water view.
Chairman Mueller noted that the trees and foliage may not be on the neighbor’s property and they have no control over the trimming of the trees.
Commissioner Knight felt that there is a fundamental difference between views being blocked by structures and views being blocked by trees, as there is an Ordinance regarding trees blocking views. He felt that many of the neighborhood compatibility issues have been addressed, however he was still concerned with the views being impacted. Regarding 28327 Lomo Drive, he did not think that the project would significantly impact these views from this address. With regards to 28221 Lomo Drive, he felt that there may be a cumulative view impact with the new ridgeline. With regards to 28215 Lomo Drive, he felt that cumulatively if this particular ridge height were built out on the street would take out the blue water view, and felt that this would be significant.
Commissioner Gerstner felt that the cumulative view impact is very difficult to determine, as you are anticipating something that is going to happen in a maximum condition over a period of years. He was not convinced that the view impact was significant from the properties on Lomo Drive, and was pleased with the changes made by the applicant to mitigate the view impacts.
Commissioner Karp moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2004-41 thereby approving the height variation as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Gerstner.
Commissioner Knight felt this was a very difficult decision, as the applicant has done everything the Planning Commission has asked they do, however he feels that there is still a significant cumulative view impact to the home on Lomo Drive.
Vice Chair Cote agreed that the applicant has done everything they can do to address the Planning Commission concerns, however despite these efforts she felt there were still neighbor concerns and Planning Commission concerns.
Chairman Mueller felt that, based on what he has seen in the photographs, he could support the neighbors’ concerns regarding view impairment, especially the cumulative view impact.
The motion to approve the height variation failed, (2-3) with Commissioner Knight, Vice Chair Cote, and Chairman Mueller dissenting.
Vice Chair Cote moved to deny the application without prejudice, seconded by Commissioner Knight. The project was denied, (4-1) with Commissioner Karp dissenting.
Chairman Mueller noted that the Resolution will be brought before the Planning Commission at the next meeting.
5. View Restoration Permit No. 171: 6100 Arrowroot Lane
Commissioner Knight moved to accept the withdrawal of the application, seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved, (5-0)
7. Height Variation Permit (Case No. ZON2003-00174): 3450 Via Campesina
As it was after 11:00 Chairman Mueller suggested asking the applicant if he was willing to grant a time extension to allow the public hearing to be continued to the next Planning Commission meeting.
Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Lamar Robinson 2360 Plaza Del Amo, Torrance, felt this was a very straight forward project and preferred to have the item heard at this meeting. However, he would be willing to grant the extension if necessary.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that if the item is continued it will most likely be the second item on the agenda, however it is already a very full agenda.
Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
After a brief discussion, the Planning Commission decided to hear the item.
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the Height Variation. He stated that staff was able to make all of the necessary findings to approve the height variation and the grading application, and recommends approval of the project.
Commissioner Knight asked if the drainage swale shown on the plans is existing or proposed.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that the drainage swale is existing.
Commissioner Knight asked if hydrology or drainage have been reviewed.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that hydrology and drainage will be reviewed in the Building and Safety plan check.
Commissioner Knight asked if the residence is on a septic or sewer system, and if there would have to be cooperation with the City of Palos Verdes Estates.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that most properties are on septic but some are converting to sewer, and that Palos Verdes Estates would have to be involved in the approval of the sewer installation.
Chairman Mueller opened the public hearing.
Lamar Robinson 2360 Plaza Del Amo, Torrance stated that he is the architect of the project and agrees with the staff report.
There being no questions of the speaker, Chairman Mueller closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Karp moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2004-41 thereby approving the Height Variation and Grading Permit as presented by staff, seconded by Vice Chair Cote. Approved, (5-0).
Commissioner Gerstner noted that this area has traditionally been ranch style homes and slowly, one at a time, new homes have come in that are California and Mediterranean styles. He had no objection to this style, however he wanted to note that if a ranch style home is proposed for the area he did not think it should be denied because it is not compatible with the Mediterranean style homes in the neighborhood.
CONTINUED BUSINESS (cont)
6. Minutes of September 14, 2004
Continued to October 26, 2004
8. Re-establishment of the View Restoration Commission
Continued to October 26, 2004
9. Disclosure of CC&Rs
Continued to October 26, 2004
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
10. Minutes of September 28, 2004
Continued to October 26, 2004
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
11. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of October 26, 2004
Vice Chair Cote noted that she would be absent from the October 26, 2004 meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:06 a.m.