CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
MARCH 8, 2005
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Tetreault at 7:10 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Vice Chairman Knight led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Gerstner, Karp, Knight, Mueller, Perestam, and Chairman Tetreault.
Also present were Deputy Director Pfost, Associate Planner Schonborn, Associate Planner Blumenthal, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
The Agenda was unanimously approved as presented.
Deputy Director Pfost distributed the packets for the View Restoration case that will be heard at the March 22nd Planning Commission meeting.
Vice Chairman Knight reported on his attendance at the South Bay Cities Council of Government Energy Conservation seminar.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items):
1. Height Variation (Case No. ZON2004-00194): 7239 Rue la Fleur
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, explaining that the plans were submitted to the City on time, however because of the rainy weather during the past several weeks the modified silhouette was only recently constructed, and therefore the applicant was requesting a continuance to the meeting of March 22nd.
Chairman Tetreault asked if there were any time constraints regarding this application.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that the applicant did grant an extension to the Permit Streamling Act, and the deadline is now March 24th.
Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.
Elmer Zirkel 7233 Rue la Fleur stated that he will not be available on March 22nd and would like to present his comments now so they would be part of the record for the March 22nd meeting. He stated that the new structure is taking what was previously proposed and moving it to the front of the house to completely cover the entire three car garage, making a pyramid shape with the roofline. He did not feel the applicant took note of any of the Planning Commission recommendations at the previous meeting, and did not feel the new proposal was compatible with anything in the neighborhood. He stated that he has a copy of the plans and did not feel the silhouette accurately reflects what is proposed.
Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Karp moved to continue the public hearing to the meeting of March 22, 2005, seconded by Vice Chairman Knight. Approved, (6-0).
2. Height Variation Permit/Minor Exception Permit (Case No. ZON2004-00219): 30101 Miraleste Drive
Chairman Tetreault stated that his home is within 500 feet of the applicant’s residence, and therefore recused himself from the hearing and left the room.
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the Height Variation and Minor Exception Permit. Discussing the Height Variation, he explained that staff was able to make the appropriate findings for approval of the application. He noted that staff had received one letter regarding neighborhood compatibility of the proposed structure, and noted that staff determined the resulting structure size of the proposed addition would result in a structure size that is somewhat larger than the neighborhood average however not as large as the largest home in the neighborhood. He also noted that the style of the home would not be uncommon in the neighborhood. Regarding the Minor Exception Permit, staff believed it was warranted due to the practical difficulties of the property. He explained that the entire rear portion of the property is limited by slope and a flood hazard area, and the only place an addition could be placed on the property would be on the north side. Therefore, staff believes the appropriate findings can be made to approve the Height Variation and Minor Exception Permit and recommends the Planning Commission approve the proposed project.
Commissioner Karp asked how far the building was set back from the existing curb line to the front of the building.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that the house is approximately 40 feet from the curb.
Commissioner Karp asked if there are any plans to widen the street.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered there are no plans to widen the street or put in sidewalks.
Commissioner Karp felt that the silhouette appeared to be closer than five feet from the side property line and asked staff if they had verified that the addition will be five feet from the side property line.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that staff relies on the applicant’s surveyor to provide staff with the information on how far the addition is from the property line, and further, if the project is approved there is a condition requiring the setback be surveyed and certified prior to pouring of the footings.
Commissioner Karp noted there is a flood control channel in the back of the property and asked if it were possible to cantilever up and over the flood control channel with a deck.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that the Development Code does not allow for encroachments, at grade or over and above, without authorization from the easement holder, which in this case is Los Angeles County Flood Control.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the City Geologist had reviewed the geology for this proposed project.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that, because this is an addition as opposed to a new house, any geologic review will take place during Building and Safety plan check.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the applicant had presented any alternative plans to staff in regards to increasing the side setback or articulating the front of the residence.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that the architect has incorporated articulation between the two facades, a roof element over the bay window, and several window and façade treatments that are consistent with the existing structure.
Commissioner Mueller asked if the paved parking in front of the house would be retained.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that the paved parking area will remain and it will satisfy coverage requirements.
Vice Chairman Knight asked staff what the net buildable area of the lot is once the easement area is taken away.
Associate Planner Schonborn roughly calculated the buildable area to be approximately 4,800 square feet.
Vice Chairman Knight asked how that compared with other properties in the area in terms of their required setbacks, asking if they had similar restraints on buildable lot area.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that from what staff was able to assess from reviewing assessor maps and tract maps, the other properties in the neighborhood do not have the restrictions that the applicant’s property has.
Vice Chairman Knight noted the plans call out a side yard setback on the south side of the property of 4 feet 9 inches, and asked if the Minor Exception Permit includes making an exception for that side yard setback.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that staff considers that setback legal non-conforming since the residence was constructed under authority of the County.
Vice Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.
John Okorocha 30101 Miraleste Drive (applicant) thanked the Planning Commission for visiting his property and stated he was available for any questions.
Jacqua Rumery 4465 Miraleste Drive began by distributing color photographs to the Planning Commission to help illustrate her points. She explained that her home is immediately to the north of the proposed addition and most likely the only one affected by this addition. She felt that the proposed setback of the new addition is less than five feet from the property line, not including the eaves. In addition, there are numerous windows on that side of the house which will be deprived from all natural light, as well as wonderful views of the park areas. She noted that the Development Code does not protect sunlight and air circulation when analyzing a height variation, however she read in the Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook that open space around a structure achieved by the required setback allows for sunlight and air, provides privacy, as well as enhances the character of the neighborhood. She felt it was obvious from her photographs that the proposed addition will block all natural light to that side of the house and the lack of sunlight will cause the wood siding on that side of the house to rot and possibly cause fungus and dry rot to develop in the wood which will be very costly to treat. In regards to the proximity of the proposed addition to her home, she did not feel the proposed addition was not in keeping with the other homes in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Mueller re-stated Ms. Rumery’s concern regarding how close the applicant’s addition would be to her home at the side yard, and asked staff how close they felt the two homes would be, taking into account the overhang at the eaves.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that staff estimates, from eave to eave, that the two homes would be approximately five to six feet apart.
Jerry Rodin 29600 Western Ave, Rancho Palos Verdes (architect) clarified that any recommendations made by his geotechnical consultant will be incorporated into the plans, and that the foundation will be on piles and grade beams. He also stated that the setback will absolutely be five feet from the north side property line. He stated that the applicant’s property is a difficult one to work with and he tried to design an addition that would not block any views from the neighboring property, and noted that any views obstructed are from the side yard, which he did not think had any of the main views. He stated that if the eave is a problem he can cut that back to one foot. He also explained that the largest footprint in the area is the house adjacent to the north of the applicant’s, and he feels that house is encroaching onto their property rights and the applicant is stuck with a very small developable area. He noted that this proposed addition is not increasing the number of bedrooms.
Commissioner Gerstner felt that the design of the roof above the bay window is not consistent with the design of the rest of the house and asked Mr. Rodin if he felt it was truly appropriate for this house on that façade to draw attention to that particular area of the house, or had he considered making it more understated.
Mr. Rodin answered that the design was created to allow more light into the bathroom and that it would be very easy to put a gable over that area to bring down the roof, which would make the area blend in more.
Vice Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Mueller asked staff what consideration was given to bulk and mass of the house from the street, noting that in driving in the neighborhood he felt that the look of the other homes is not as massive as the proposal is from the street. He asked staff if they had ever discussed with the applicant eliminating the Minor Exception Permit and moving the addition back.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that staff encourages applicants to design something that complies with the Code, however in this instance given the characteristics of the lot, the smaller setback from the property line provided a better architectural and aesthetic balance of the new addition with the existing house. He also noted that the topography between the street and addition is approximately five feet, which aids in mitigating the bulk and mass, as it lowers the height of the structure. Also, he noted that the ridgeline of the addition is lower than the existing ridgeline, again lowering the structure. Lastly, the setback is not apparent since the roadway is approximately 40 feet from the addition.
Commissioner Mueller asked if there are any issues with compatibility regarding the side yard setback where this proposal will bring another two-story structure closer to an existing two-story structure.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that although it brings the structures closer, staff balanced the equity since the two-story addition to the residence on the north side was approved with a Variance in 1982. He explained that although the addition complied with the five-foot side setback requirement, back then compatibility with side yard setbacks was not considered. Nonetheless, staff felt it established a pattern whereby if an addition is proposed to comply with the minimum setback requirements it should not be a cause for denial.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if the bay window encroaches into the 16-foot setback area.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that the bay window does encroach into the 16-foot setback area, however a bay window is considered an architectural feature and the Development Code does allow the architectural feature to encroach into the setback.
Vice Chairman Knight noted that Section 7 of the Resolution should have mention of the Minor Exception Permit.
Associate Planner Schonborn agreed that should be added to be consistent with finding no. 7.
Vice Chairman Knight referred to Section 9 of the Resolution and noted that the language was not included as a condition in Exhibit A.
Associate Planner Schonborn noted that the language would be added in Exhibit A.
Commissioner Karp felt this was a difficult property to build on, however he felt that the proposed addition was insensitive to the neighbors to the north and very intrusive and was incompatible with the neighborhood. He also felt that the north wall should be brought in, if possible. He therefore could not make the appropriate findings to approve the project.
Commissioner Gerstner agreed that this is a difficult property. He discussed the front yard setback and the proposed reduction from 20 feet to 16 feet, noting he would be hesitant to allow an additional few feet of encroachment for the bay window because he didn’t feel this was truly a bay window but more a projection of the wall. Regarding the side yard area, he felt that the architect was trying to keep from eliminating certain views with the addition and keep the depth of the house from the front side to the back side relatively consistent with the neighbor. He felt if the new structure were to project deeper into the flood zone area it would effectively block some views out of the back of the neighbors house, but by lining it up it would only affect those views immediately adjacent. He felt that if one person was allowed to build a two-story house with a five foot setback to the side property line it would be hard to deny that same right to a neighboring house simply because the houses would be too close to each other. He felt that if one didn’t want a house too close, then don’t build your own house as close as you possibly can to the property line, and if you do you should expect that your neighbor can do the same thing.
Commissioner Mueller stated that he agreed with Commissioner Gerstner’s comments regarding the five-foot side yard setback. He stated that his main concern was with the bulk and mass of the house from the street, and if the bay window is compatible with the neighborhood. He felt that the bay window may help mitigate the bulk and mass of the addition from the street, however noted that there could be some other alternative articulation that would achieve the same goal. He was not concerned with the size of the addition, as the house would still be substantially smaller than the largest house in the neighborhood. He acknowledged the architect’s offer to cut the eaves back one foot, and felt that would help mitigate the concerns of the neighbor. Given that, he stated he could make the findings and was inclined to approve the project.
Commissioner Perestam agreed with Commissioner Karp in that this addition may be somewhat insensitive to the neighbor, however the Code does allow for a five-foot side yard setback, noting that the neighbor has a five foot side yard setback and the applicant deserves the same right. He felt that both neighbors could be jeopardized and impacted in the long run from this addition and the proximity to the side yard property line. He appreciated the offer from the architect to cut back the eaves on that side of the property. He concluded by stating he could make the necessary findings to approve the project.
Vice Chairman Knight stated that in driving in the neighborhood he did not see any other homes that are this massive or this close together, and he empathized with the neighbor to the north. He also empathized with the neighbor in regards to loss of solar access, noting that the City does not have a solar access ordinance, and that the applicant has complied with the requirements of the Code. He felt that the bay window was troublesome in terms of the setback and architectural style, noting there is no other bay window in the neighborhood that is similar. He stated he was in favor that the bay window be redesigned to be more compatible with the other structures in the neighborhood.
Addressing Commissioner Mueller’s comments about the bay window, Commissioner Gerstner felt the bay window actually increases the massiveness of the front of the house rather than decreasing it. He felt that because of the way the roof has been adjusted over the top of the bay window the appearance of the mass of the front of the house increases.
Commissioner Mueller appreciated the comments made by Commissioner Gerstner, and felt that in crafting a motion it would be wise to give the applicant and architect a chance to redesign the window rather than eliminating the window.
Commissioner Gerstner suggested re-opening the public hearing to ask the architect his opinion on what can be done with the bay window.
Vice Chairman Knight re-opened the public hearing.
Jerry Rodin stated that there would be no problem in pulling back the bay window, explaining that the reason it was put there was to change the look of the flatness of the elevation. He stated that he could also change the gable roof to more of a hip roof to follow the same lines of the existing roof.
Commissioner Gerstner felt that adding a hip roof would still draw attention to the area and not help reduce the appearance of bulk and mass.
Mr. Rodin replied that he could remove the bay window, making the window flush with the wall, and take the eave and run it straight through. He felt by doing so, the issues of bulk and mass would be satisfied.
Vice Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Gerstner moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2005-13 thereby approving Case No. ZON2004-00219 with the following changes: 1) make the changes discussed in Section 7 of the Resolution and make Exhibit A consistent with Section 9; 2) require the north face eaves, both first and second floor, of the residence be reduced from the current 2 feet to 1 foot; and 3) the walls around the master bathroom be taken back to be in the same plane as the current wall and that the roof and eaves in the front be consistent all the way across, seconded by Commissioner Mueller. Approved, (4-1-1) with Commissioner Karp dissenting and Chairman Tetreault recused.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 8:50 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 9:00 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (cont)
3. Conditional Use Permit (Case No. ZON2004-0-0503): 32201 Forrestal Drive
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented the staff report, explaining that Verizon has existing equipment cabinets at this address for the phone system that services the Seaview Tract. He explained that the current equipment was installed in 1989, however at that time the City did not require Verizon to obtain a Conditional Use Permit. He explained the scope of the project, noting that staff determined that a Conditional Use Permit would be appropriate for this application. He stated that staff could make all necessary findings and was recommending the Planning Commission approve the application.
Commissioner Mueller asked if this equipment services wireless phones as well as land lines.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the equipment is strictly for the land lines.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if the trailer at the site is part of this permit.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the trailer is a temporary trailer in place to help re-establish phone service in the area after it partially failed last year, and the trailer will be removed once the new service cabinets are in place.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if this could be made a condition of the Conditional Use Permit.
Associate Planner Blumenthal responded that such a condition could be added.
Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.
Jess Aguilera (representing Verizon) explained that approximately one year ago there had been a power surge in the area that damaged the equipment, and temporary circuits were transferred to the temporary trailer at the site, and as soon as the new equipment is in place the trailer will be taken off of the site. He stated that he was available for any questions.
Vice Chairman Knight noted that the manhole in front of the trailer is wooden, and asked what Verizon’s plans were for that particular manhole.
Mr. Aguilera explained that once the equipment was in place the manhole will be replaced with a traditional manhole cover.
Chairman Tetreault asked if there would be any additional noise or any other way that a passer by using the facility would take notice that something is back in that area that wasn’t there before.
Mr. Aguilera answered that there will be no indication that there is any equipment back there.
Vice Chairman Knight asked how Verizon will access the area to put the new panels in.
Mr. Aguilera answered that Verizon will access the area from the front.
Vice Chairman Knight asked how large the truck will be that installs the equipment.
Mr. Aguilera answered that Verizon uses regular vans for that type of use.
Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Mueller referred to the Vice Chairman’s concern regarding the temporary trailer, and wanted to make sure that if a condition were added about the removal, that it not preclude the use of a temporary trailer if there were a need for one in the future.
Vice Chairman Knight agreed, adding that he would also like to add a condition that the heavy metal manhole cover be in place.
Commissioner Perestam asked staff what was making this site not visible from any adjacent properties.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that the location of the equipment is what was making it not visible from adjacent properties, as it is downslope and hidden from adjacent properties.
Commissioner Perestam asked if there was a need to shield the equipment from the parking lot area.
Associate Planner Blumenthal answered that there is some existing slats already in the fences that help hide if from the Ladera Linda parking lot.
Commissioner Perestam felt that the equipment cabinets will be taller than the existing fences and would like to see a condition that the cabinets are better shielded from the parking lot area.
Associate Planner Blumenthal suggested the Planning Commission could add a condition to require the fencing be revised so that it is taller than the equipment and that some type of slating is added to the fence.
Commissioner Mueller agreed with that suggestion.
Commissioner Perestam moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2004-14 thereby approving the Conditional Use Permit with the amendment that the area be shielded by a fence that is 6 inches higher than the tallest container at the Verizon site, seconded by Commissioner Mueller.
Commissioner Mueller suggested an amendment to the motion to add a condition that the wooden manhole cover be removed at the completion of the project and replaced with a metal cover.
Commissioner Perestam accepted the amendment.
Vice Chairman Knight suggested an amendment to the motion that the trailer shall be removed upon completion of the proposed cabinet installation, but the condition not preclude a temporary trailer for emergency purposes.
Commissioner Perestam accepted the amendment, seconded by Commissioner Mueller.
The amended motion was approved, (6-0).
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
4. Minutes of February 8, 2005
Vice Chairman Knight noted a clarification on page 10 of the minutes.
Vice Chairman Knight moved to approve the minutes as amended, seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved, (4-0-2) with Commissioners Mueller and Gerstner abstaining since they were absent from that meeting.
5. Minutes of February 22, 2005
Commissioner Karp noted a clarification on page 14 of the minutes.
Vice Chairman Knight noted a spelling clarification on page 12 of the minutes.
Chairman Tetreault noted a clarification to page 15 of the minutes.
Commissioner Knight moved to approve the minutes as amended, seconded by Commissioner Perestam. Approved, (5-0-1) with Commissioner Gerstner abstaining since he left the meeting early.
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
6. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of March 22, 2005
The Planning Commission discussed the pre-agenda for the March 22nd meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:32 p.m.