CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
MARCH 22, 2005
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Tetreault at 7:13 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Perestam led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Gerstner, Karp, Perestam, Vice Chairman Knight and Chairman Tetreault
Absent: Commissioner Mueller was excused.
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Senior Planner Alvarez, and Associate Planner Schonborn.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
The Agenda was unanimously approved as presented.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed correspondence on Agenda Item No. 3 consisting of a memo from Dave Hayes, a letter from the foliage owner and 8 letters in support of the applicant. He also reported that at the last City Council meeting the Tract Amendment Application on Ocean Terrace Drive was continued to April 29th and that the City council is scheduled to fill the Planning Commission vacancy on March 29th.
Commissioner Perestam congratulated staff on the successful outcome of a recent City Tree Permit decision in the Seaview Tract.
Chairman Tetreault distributed to the Planning Commission a one-page memo regarding Roberts Rules of Order and motions and amendments to the motions.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-Agenda Items)
1. Height Variation Permit (Case No. ZON2004-0019): 7239 Rue la Fleur
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, explaining that at the December 14th meeting the Planning Commission had requested the applicant redesign the proposed addition so that it would largely be contained within the volume of the existing residence. He explained that the applicant submitted a modified plan, however was not able to achieve a build able second story within the existing 18-foot height limitation of the existing residence, largely due to the existing plate height of the first story of 8 ½ feet along with a roof type similar to the existing roof. He stated that the applicant did try to modify the project to address some of the Planning Commission’s concerns. He displayed a picture of the original site plan as well as the revised site plan and explained the scope of the new proposed project. He stated, however, that notwithstanding the applicant’s attempt to address some of the Planning Commission’s concerns, staff is of the opinion that relocating the addition to the front creates more of a bulk and mass concern and appears to be more of a pop up design than the original design. He also noted that staff feels the new design will be more readily apparent and more of a boxy design that will dominate the streetscape. Therefore, staff felt the original location is a better design for this residence. He stated that there was also a concern with the height of the proposed structure, and staff felt that it was possible to reduce the height of the proposed structure from 24 feet to 23 feet, largely by incorporating the minimum plate height for the second story. Therefore, staff is seeking direction from the Planning Commission as to whether the revised project addresses their concerns.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that there is an issue with the Permit Streamlining Act, and a Resolution will have to be adopted at this meeting, as no more extensions may be granted.
Vice Chairman Knight noted that the residence under construction at 7202 Rue la Fleur, as well as another home in the neighborhood currently under construction, have created a second story addition with a split dormer design and felt this was what the Planning Commissioners may have had in mind when discussing this addition. He asked if there was a reason this property could not emulate the second story additions of the other homes in the area.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that the home at 7202 Rue la Fleur is 24 feet in height, which is much taller than the applicant’s home, which has an 18-foot high structure to the ridgeline. Taking into account the plate lines and floor width and pitch of roof, the house will be above 18 feet very quickly with the split dormer.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if there was a reason the house could not go over 18 feet in height.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that it was staff’s understanding that the Planning Commission had directed the applicant to try to stay within the volume of the existing residence, as building over the existing ridgeline may then cause view issues with the neighbors. He explained that staff was pointing out that it is difficult to stay within the volume of the existing residence with the design the applicant was trying to promote, unless the house was completely redesigned. He felt the applicant was attempting to accommodate an addition to the existing floor plan as best he could.
Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.
Wayne Sun (architect) explained that the addition was moved towards the front of the home, as the owner was concerned about blocking views from his neighbor’s home. He also explained that he added details to the house to address the concerns regarding the boxy look of the addition. He stated that he could not make living space on the second floor without increasing the height of the second floor, as the existing house is only 18 feet in height. He asked the Planning Commission to consider the new design, as he felt it met all applicable City codes.
Commissioner Gerstner asked Mr. Sun his opinion of this design versus the previous design.
Mr. Sun explained that this new design is located more toward the front of the residence so as to not have impacts to the neighbor.
Commissioner Gerstner noted on the new plans that the roofline is very similar to a house approximately 5 doors down the street, as well as adding a hip roof, and asked if the architect did that intentionally.
Mr. Sun answered that this was done to reduce the boxy look of the house in the previous design.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if it would be possible to take this current design and put it towards the back and away from the street as had been done with the original design, noting the dimensions of this design are very similar to those in the original design.
Mr. Sun answered it would be possible.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if it would be possible to raise the existing ridgeline, but have more of a sloping roof to match the others in the neighborhood.
Mr. Sun responded that would be prohibitive in terms of construction costs.
Sue Hyung Chang 7239 Rue la Fleur (applicant) explained that her impression from the first hearing was that her immediate neighbor was concerned that her proposed addition would block a portion of his view. Therefore, she tried to accommodate all of her neighbors concerns with this design. She also noted that the present roof on her home is a new roof and she would rather not have to tear the entire new tile roof off for this new addition to the house, as it would be very expensive. She explained the need for the addition was to accommodate her parents who would be moving into the home with her family, and that she could not afford to sell this house and buy a new one in the area.
George Francisco 7245 Rue la Fleur explained his home is next to the applicant’s home. He explained that since Rue la Fleur is a sloping street, his house is five feet lower than the applicant’s house, with the same floor plan. He stated that this height variation will block the morning sunlight he currently gets between the homes and will result in continuous morning dampness, which could cause mildew or mold. Regarding the addition over the garage, he stated the Rancho Palos Verdes Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook discourages this approach to avoid the pop-up look. Therefore, he felt the design is contrary to the handbook.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if the addition were moved more towards the rear of the house, if there would be less sunlight blocked.
Mr. Francisco answered that moving the addition to the rear of the property would result in more sunlight to his home.
Vice Chairman Knight asked Mr. Francisco if he had any issues regarding privacy in regards to the addition.
Mr. Francisco did not have any privacy issues.
Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Perestam stated that he had an expectation based on the discussions at the December meeting as to what the concerns of the Planning Commission would be at this meeting. He felt that at the December meeting the concerns regarding views had been resolved. Regarding neighborhood compatibility, he felt that at the previous meeting Commissioner Gerstner had some thoughts regarding the design, which he did not feel were radical design changes, but rather modifications that could be done with the addition in the original location.
Vice Chairman Knight felt that choices are somewhat limited, as there is not the opportunity to continue the public hearing if the Planning Commission feels a redesign is needed.
Director/Secretary Rojas agreed, explaining that if the Planning Commission feels a redesign is needed the Planning Commission will either have to be explicit in what kind of changes are requested and realize that the revised plans will not be seen again by the Planning Commission, or deny the project without prejudice to allow the applicant to redesign the project and submit a new application.
Commissioner Gerstner explained that at the previous meeting he had noted that this is a neighborhood where a majority of the roofs are rather monolithic, and he was concerned that this was a design that accentuated the second story element as a unique element. He also noted that at the previous meeting there were concerns regarding the views from the uphill neighbor, and the Planning Commission agreed that it was not a protected view. He stated that he was trying to guide the design toward a solution where the addition would be confined within the existing roof volume. He noted, however, that with the slope and the run of the roof there is not room in the existing house to place a second story addition. Therefore, he felt that something would need to happen to allow the roof to be raised to put in the second story addition. He felt it was important to make sure that roofline and increased volume are located such that it balances the values of the neighborhood. He explained that he had recently walked up and down Rue la Fleur several times and concluded that the roofs are not monolithic as he had originally thought, but rather they are much different than he had originally had understood, noting several houses that have a similar design to the one being proposed. He noted, however, that the difference is that there are several mature trees in front of these houses, so from the street the perception is very different. Therefore, he did not feel this design is inconsistent with other houses in the neighborhood. Regarding the view issue, he recalled the Planning Commission agreeing that the view from the neighboring house is not a protected view, as it was from a second story master bedroom which is not a view protected in the Code. He felt, however, that it would be nice to work with the neighbors and not restrict even a non-protected view, if that was at all possible. He noted that the original design near the rear of the house did have some impact to those views, however the current design has an impact to the neighborhood from the street. He felt that the mass of the house from the street may not be the most important characteristic of the neighborhood, but rather the more unique characteristic may be that each house in the neighborhood has been afforded some type of view from somewhere in the house.
Commissioner Karp did not feel that either design was satisfactory and could not support either design, and suggested denying the project without prejudice to allow the applicant to redesign the project.
Vice Chairman Knight agreed that one possible scenario was to deny the project without prejudice to allow the applicant to redesign the project. He also suggested taking the existing design with the recessed balcony, hip roof, and articulation, and move it away from the front facade a certain distance to soften the bulk of the house from the street.
Chairman Tetreault stated that at the December meeting he was in favor of the original design, as he felt that from a neighborhood compatibility standpoint having the addition at the rear of the house would have a minimal impact on the view from the street. Regarding the re-design, he was very concerned that the mass of the addition was over the garage. He acknowledged that effort had been made to soften the look of the addition that is effective to a certain degree. He also noticed that the houses at 7271, 7265, and 7285 Rue la Fleur all have bedrooms built directly over the garages of the properties, similar to what is being proposed, and therefore he did not think this design would be a unique feature or incompatible with the neighborhood. He felt it could be softened by moving the addition towards the rear of the house, however he was concerned about requiring an extensive redesign of a home on a project where the Permit Streamling Act has had an extension and a decision will have to be made at this meeting.
Commissioner Karp moved to deny the application without prejudice. The motion failed due to lack of a second.
Commissioner Gerstner moved to approve the project as presented, seconded by Chairman Tetreault for purposes of discussion.
Vice Chairman Knight stated that he was not in favor of the motion, as he felt moving the addition to the front of the house has made the bulk and mass worse than the original design. He stated he likes the articulation, but would like to discuss pushing the addition back with further articulation.
Commissioner Gerstner asked Vice Chairman Knight whether they felt pushing the addition to the rear and modifying it would be better than having the mass in the front and trying to soften it.
Vice Chairman Knight responded that pushing the addition all the way to the back was not necessary, and felt that if the façade was farther back from the front to help articulate, then the addition was meeting what he was trying to achieve.
Commissioner Karp felt that the Planning Commission was treading on dangerous ground by trying to design an addition for the applicant that may end up costing the applicant a lot of money. He understood that the Commission is anxious to see the applicant get the addition they want, however he does not think that amateurs should be telling an architect or property owner how to build their addition. He felt that trying to make a quick decision on this addition was doing the property owner a disservice, and the best service the Planning Commission could do for the property owner was to deny the project without prejudice to allow the applicant to submit a new, revised plan.
Chairman Tetreault suggested re-opening the public hearing to allow the Planning Commission to discuss with the architect what he felt was feasible. The Planning Commission agreed.
Chairman Tetreault re-opened the public hearing.
Chairman Tetreault explained to the architect that he has heard the discussion amongst the Commissioners and asked him to respond to the discussion and tell the Planning Commission what he would like for the them to do at this point, understanding there is not a lot of enthusiasm for approving the current plan before them.
Mr. Sun stated that he discussed this with the owner, and felt that the addition can be moved back to the rear of the property with some adjustments made. He asked if it was going to be possible to have a second story addition approved if the height were adjusted to 24 feet.
Chairman Tetreault asked Mr. Sun if it was possible to move the addition back a few feet rather than move it all the way back to the original proposed location at the rear of the residence, and if so, was that something he wanted the Planning Commission to try to work out at this meeting.
Mr. Sun answered that was possible, and he would like the Planning Commission to discuss this option.
Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Gerstner agreed with the comments made by Commissioner Karp, and did not think the Planning Commission should try to design an addition for the applicant. He felt that there are solutions that can allow a second story to go on this house, but did not feel this current design or the previous one are the solutions. He didn’t think there would be a problem taking the house up to 24 feet and adding a second story, however he did not feel that solution was before the Planning Commission at this time.
Vice Chairman Knight asked Commissioner Gerstner if he felt uncomfortable recommending the proposed addition be moved back from the front of the house by five feet.
Commissioner Gerstner did feel uncomfortable with that recommendation, noting his concerns with the roofline. He also wasn’t sure moving the addition back five feet would satisfy the concerns of the Commission.
Commissioner Perestam also supported the notion that something can be successfully be built at the 24-foot level at this residence.
Commissioner Gerstner withdrew his motion to approve the project.
There being no opposition, the motion was withdrawn.
Commissioner Karp moved to deny the project without prejudice, seconded by Vice Chairman Knight.
Chairman Tetreault stated that he does not have any difficulty with the house being built to the 24 foot ridgeline as proposed, and does not have any opposition to putting a second story on this house. He asked for comments from other members of the Commission to see if they have any objections to either of those two, and would like to give as much direction and guidance to the applicant if possible.
Commissioner Gerstner felt he could approve an addition going up to 24 feet in height with a different design.
Vice Chairman Knight also did not have an issue with a ridge height of 24 feet, noting that he particularly liked the revised articulation of the proposed addition. He stated that on any revised plans he would like to see the addition set back from the front of the house.
Commissioner Karp did not want to make a statement that he was comfortable with a 24-foot high addition until he sees a plan. He stated that he was interested in seeing a proposal that is compatible and blends in with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Gerstner felt the applicant will have better success in solving the problem with the addition placed near the back of the house rather than at the front of the house.
Commissioner Perestam stated that he too would like to see an addition more towards the rear of the house that has less of an impact to the neighborhood. He noted that the Ordinance does not protect a second story view, but asked the applicant to take into consideration the neighbor’s view.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed the Resolution for the Commission’s review, summarizing that the Planning Commission was denying, without prejudice, the application for a second story addition over an existing one-story residence because the Commission could not find that the proposed project was compatible with the immediate neighborhood.
The motion to adopt P.C. Resolution 2004-15 thereby denying the application without prejudice was approved, (5-0).
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 8:40 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 8:55 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
2. Variance / Height Variation / Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2003-00465): 4348 Via Frascati
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the applications. He explained that in doing the analysis for the Variance, staff was not able to make all of the necessary findings to recommend approval for the proposed project. He stated that staff believes the Variance is not necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of the substantial property, acknowledging there are other properties in the neighborhood that contain a deficient setback, but these residences only contain one story elements that project into the front yard setback. He noted this project proposes a full two-story element within the front yard setback. He explained that staff believes granting the Variance will be materially detrimental, as the two-story structure will create an adverse visual impact and present a dominating appearance since the two-story structure will be only 17 feet from the property line. He noted that the right-of-way only measures 40 feet wide, which is substantially less than what other streets in the City measure. Regarding the Height Variation, he stated that staff was able to make all but one of the findings in a positive manner. Regarding neighborhood compatibility, staff does not feel the two-story project will be compatible with the immediate neighborhood. He explained that staff was concerned that the full two-story element close to the roadway will create a dominating appearance. He also noted that on Via Frascati there is no sidewalk or parkway area, making the house appear much closer to the street. Therefore, staff was recommending the Planning Commission deny, without prejudice, the proposed project.
Commissioner Gerstner noted the staff report states that the proposed project will not create any view impairment to neighboring properties, however when visiting the property across the street it appeared the second story would block some of the harbor view from their front living room window.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that because of the topography and view angles, the proposed residence will be in the lower fringe of the view frame and off to the side, and staff did not feel this was significant.
Vice Chairman Knight asked staff how many of the other homes in the neighborhood encroach into the front yard setback area.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that quite a few homes in the neighborhood encroach into the front yard setback, noting that most of these homes are on the other side of the street and there are approximately 6 properties on the same side of the street that encroach into the front yard setback.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if the new home will be hooked up to the sewer or have a septic system.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that the house will be hooked up to the sewer system.
Commissioner Perestam asked staff if any of the other homes on Via Frascati that have a front yard setback of less than 20 feet have been remodeled.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that there have not been any homes that have been torn down and rebuilt on that street, but there have been some additions done but these additions complied with code.
Chairman Tetreault asked staff if the applicant gave any reason why they wanted to encroach into the front yard setback rather than move the house back to comply with the code.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that the applicant did not give a reason, however it most likely so that the new house will be within the existing footprint of the existing house.
Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.
Louis Skelton 2537 Pacific Coast Hwy, Torrance (architect) explained that this project began as an addition, therefore the entire ground floor with the exception of the garage walls, will remain in its existing form. He stated there will be a small addition for the dining room. He also explained that there will be a large excavation into the hill for the extra bedroom space, rather than placing the bedroom on the second story. As a result, only 20 percent of the house will be contained on the proposed second story addition. He asked for clarification as to whether the Height Variation will be approved if the issues with the Variance are clarified and the Variance is approved. He displayed photographs of 4 other homes in the area that have second story additions in the front yard setbacks, and also noted that there are several homes in the area where the garage is in the front yard setback and the second story above the garage complies with the full setback requirements. He stated that he has revised drawings that move the second story addition back to 20 feet while still requesting the 17-foot setback so that the owner is enjoying the same privileges and rights that are in the neighborhood and respecting the same rights by moving the second story back to 20 feet.
Commissioner Karp objected to the Planning Commission receiving these types of late submittals at the meeting, as he did not feel he could fairly review the plans and vote on the application at this meeting. He felt that accepting these plans at this time would be violating the Planning Commission’s own rules and procedures.
Vice Chairman Knight agreed that it was very difficult to accept plans at the meeting and be expected to make an informed decision on those plans.
Mr. Skelton appreciated the comments made by Commissioner Karp and the Vice Chairman. He stated that another option would be to submit photographs to support the findings to request the application be approved as submitted. He explained that he has been working closely with staff and has already lowered the height of the house, the square footage of the house, excavated into the ground with additional square footage, and researched the neighborhood. He noted that there have been no letters in opposition to the proposed project. He explained that the portion of the view from the neighbor across the street that will be blocked is of the oil fields and derrick fields of the harbor. As a result, she will now see a Tuscany style home with the view over the ridge that she has always enjoyed. He also noted that the house is situated so that the neighbor will continue to have the view of the canyon and harbor she has always had. Further, when the current owners bought the property they trimmed and removed many of the overgrown trees on the property, which resulted in a better view for the neighbors. He stated that if the Planning Commission is uncomfortable accepting the revised plans it would be acceptable to him to withdraw the submittal and have the public hearing continued so that staff and the Commissioners have ample time to review the new submittal. He also stated that the applicant would be willing to remove the stone if that was a problem with the Planning Commission, but would prefer to leave it if possible.
Commissioner Karp stated that for each application the Planning Commissioners take all of their material and go to the site to do a study of the situation, sometimes visiting the site several times. He felt that it was unfair to the constituents and applicants to receive a revision to a plan at this late date. He felt that it if was important enough to be considered, the Commissioners should have enough time to consider it at a leisurely pace and not be forced to consider it at the meeting. He felt the plans should not be submitted and the item continued to the next meeting.
Chairman Tetreault stated that there are two different submittals, one being photographs of the neighborhood to support the current application and the other being revised alternate plans. He asked Commissioner Karp if his objection was to accepting both submittals.
Commissioner Karp explained that he was not making a distinction between the two materials. He stated that if the applicant is objecting to the findings, he would like to have both the applicant’s material and the staff’s material together to be able to make his own conclusion, and he can’t do that at this time.
Commissioner Gerstner asked Mr. Skelton to explain the stonework.
Mr. Skelton explained that the blend of stone and stucco is reminiscent of the Tuscany style of homes and the streetscape found in Tuscany. He stated that the two-story element is also very common in the Tuscan region. He also noted that the front doors of the garage are 17 feet back from the property line, however according to the survey they are 27 feet from the edge of the pavement.
Chairman Tetreault asked Mr. Skelton what he would like to see the Planning Commission do at this time, consider the current application or ask for a continuance to work with staff and submit a revised plan.
Mr. Skelton explained that the intent was to work out a solution that is satisfactory to the Commission and the neighborhood. He felt that he has achieved that with the neighbors, however not with staff. He proposed the Planning Commission discuss the project as originally submitted so he can understand the Planning Commission’s concerns and comments with the intent that it would be continued so he can work with the staff on the other issues.
Chairman Tetreault asked if there was a motion to suspend the rules to receive the photographs submitted by the architect. There being no motion, the photographs were not distributed.
Darnell Johnson 4348 Via Frascati stated his main concern with the project was the issues of zoning and setbacks. He felt that all of the Commissioners had an opportunity to visit his home and the surrounding neighborhood and noted that his house is not easily seen from the street, which he hoped would be taken into consideration when discussing this application.
Bill Lacher 28116 Golden Meadow stated he was in support of the application. He felt that the house is currently in a state of disrepair and granting this application will make the house and the neighborhood better. He stated that the asphalt is 27 feet from the front of the garage. He stated that on Via Subida there are 3 houses that have been granted exceptions to these setback requirements. He felt that the applicants were trying to do the best they can with their property. He asked that the Planning Commission give this application consideration, as he felt it was a lovely addition that fits in well with the neighborhood.
John Harmer 4340 Via Frascati reiterated that before the current owners moved in the applicant’s house was in disrepair, and the current owners are trying to upgrade and improve the house and neighborhood. He explained that Via Frascati has a long curve with many mature trees on it, and the house will not be apparent because of this.
Mr. Skelton (in rebuttal) stated that his intent was to achieve harmony before coming to the Planning Commission and he regrets the results of the staff report, and if he had known it was going to be that strong he would have withheld the application to a later date. He pointed out that the neighbors are very supportive of the proposed project
Commissioner Perestam asked if the two trees shown on the plans were to remain or be removed.
Mr. Skelton answered that the two trees identified were to stay on the property.
Commissioner Gerstner asked Mr. Skelton if it was his contention that the triangular shape of the lot is a hardship or is contributory to why the 3-foot setback is needed in the front.
Mr. Skelton answered that the shape of the lot and the topography of the lot are contributing factors in requesting the Variance. He noted that the only area that can be built on is restricted to the northeast corner of the site, and to try to move the house back to achieve the 20-foot setback will cause an encroachment into the neighbor’s view. Therefore, the owners chose to keep the addition near the front and apply for the Variance.
Mr. Johnson identified on a photograph the trees that he would like to keep and the trees that will be removed.
Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Vice Chairman Knight asked staff if they had an objection to the stonework proposed for the addition or was it the Tuscany style of home that staff was objecting to.
Associate Planner Schonborn noted that on page 10 of the staff report staff it was discussed that the stonework was not compatible with the neighborhood, and that staff did not have an objection to the actual Tuscany style of the home.
Chairman Tetreault noted that the City requires a five-foot side yard setback, however the PV Homes Association has a 7-½ foot side yard setback, and asked staff if that was considered reviewing the Variance and the layout of the proposed residence.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that was not considered, as the City reviews applications from a Development Code standpoint, and does not enforce CC&Rs in each neighborhood.
Chairman Tetreault asked staff if they felt there was enough room, given the shape and topography of the lot, to comply with the Building Code 20 foot setback and put the garage in where it is presently, meeting not only the 5 foot setback for the City but also the 7 ½ foot setback required by the HOA.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that this is considered a new residence, and staff takes the approach that a new residence can be tailored to meet and comply with Codes.
Commissioner Gerstner stated that, although he would prefer a proposal that complies in all regards to the setbacks, because this is a triangular lot and the encroachment is happening because the applicant is attempting to accommodate views and other things that are desirable to the neighbors, it is under those conditions that he would tend to relax the setback requirement. Therefore, he was not as concerned about the 17-foot setback as he might be on another property. However, he felt that if there was a way of accomplishing what the applicant desires, maintain the views of the neighbors, and maintain a 20-foot setback he would feel more comfortable.
Vice Chairman Knight did not think there was really any deterrent on the preservation and enjoyment of the substantial property rights to the property owner by having them comply with the 20-foot setback. He noted that this was only 60 to 70 square feet difference out of a 5,182 square foot home when the average home in the area is 3,500 square feet. He did not think it would be a burden on the applicant to comply with the Code, and he was inclined to deny the Variance request. He also agreed with staff that this proposed residence with the second story so close to the street would stand out much more than any other residence in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Perestam felt that the trees on the property significantly soften the proposal that is before the Planning Commission. He also felt that due to the shape and topography of the lot there could be a good cause for the Variance request, however looking at the other properties in the neighborhood, he would be hesitant to allow the second story so close to the street.
Chairman Tetreault noted that Codes are in place for a reason, and in a case such as this one that is such an extensive remodel, he felt that every effort should be made to comply with that 20-foot setback. He understood this property is a little unique, however there are reasons for having a 20-foot setback, especially in front of a garage. He felt that if it is possible to maintain a 20-foot setback he would like to see it done, and if it is impossible to maintain a 20-foot setback he would like to see that demonstrated.
Commissioner Gerstner moved to continue the public hearing to the next Planning Commission meeting on April 12th to allow the applicant to submit the revised plans for review and address the concerns of the Planning Commission, seconded by Commissioner Karp.
Commissioner Karp stated he would like to see on the revised plans the setback line that the Miraleste HOA has mandated as well as the possibility of setting the garage back to 20 feet.
Vice Chairman Knight agreed that he would like to see the garage set back to 20 feet, although he might still be concerned with the bulk and mass of the house with the 20-foot setback.
Director/Secretary Rojas asked the Commission if they wanted to see a new silhouette erected to reflect the revised design, and if so, more time would be needed to allow this to happen.
Chairman Tetreault did not know if the re-design would be significant enough or not to require a re-silhouette and re-notice.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt that it was important to get clarification on all aspects of the motion in terms of direction to the applicant before voting.
Chairman Tetreault suggested that the re-noticing and re-silhouetting will depend on how extensive the modifications will be, and perhaps the motion should say to continue the public hearing to the first available meeting after all requirements have been met by the applicant.
Commissioner Gerstner revised his motion to continue the public hearing to the next available Planning Commission meeting after all of the necessary requirements have been met by the applicant, which will allow the applicant to submit the revised plans for review and address the concerns of the Planning Commission, seconded by Commissioner Karp.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that the applicant has informed staff that he will be able to erect a new silhouette and submit revised plans by the deadline set by staff in order to be heard at the April 12th meeting. He noted that a time extension will also be required from the applicant per the Permit Streamlining Act.
Chairman Tetreault re-opened the public hearing.
Chairman Tetreault asked if the applicant is willing to agree to a 90-day extension per the Permit Streamlining Act.
Mr. Skelton stated that the owner has agreed to a 90-day extension and that he would like to be scheduled for the April 12th meeting, as the silhouette will be changed within 24 hours and the revised plans have already been prepared.
Mr. Johnson asked the Planning Commission for clarification regarding the 20-foot setback, and whether moving the addition back to the 20-foot setback would ease some of the main concerns of the Commission, as he was willing to do whatever it would take to get the project approved.
Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Chairman Tetreault asked the Commissioners if they had any additional thoughts or comments to help answer the applicant’s question.
Commissioner Karp stated that was why he asked to see on the drawing the Miraleste HOA requirements for the setbacks, as he was not sure how that would impact the garage. He also felt that there may be some physical impossibilities to setting the garage back an additional 3 feet, which would then create exceptional circumstances.
Commissioner Gerstner stated that the Planning Commission was not saying the garage had to be set back 3 additional feet, but it is an area of concern of the Commission.
Chairman Tetreault stated that bulk and mass was also an issue and efforts to reduce the apparent bulk and mass should be employed as well.
The motion to continue the public hearing was approved, (5-0).
3. View Restoration Permit No. 184: 2652 Colt Road
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that because this is a view restoration issue which requires a site visit from the Planning Commission, he polled the Commission as to who had visited the applicant’s property. All Commissioners stated they had visited the site and could participate in the public hearing.
Senior Planner Alvarez presented the staff report, beginning with a brief history of the project. He stated that the City Arborist had recently visited the foliage owner’s property to assess the trimming impacts pursuant to staff’s recommendations, and his comments and opinions regarding each tree have been distributed to the Planning Commission. He displayed photographs of the foliage owner’s trees and the view from the applicant’s property, and identified the foliage addressed in the application. He discussed a letter received from Mr. Johnston about the possibility of other trees blocking the view once the foliage owner’s trees are removed. He displayed a topographic map of the area and noted that any such tree would have to be over 100 feet tall, and he was not aware of any trees in that area that were over 100 feet tall.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if the city’s arbitrater had been involved with this matter.
Senior Planner Alvarez answered that she had been involved in a meeting between the applicant and Mr. Vaughn, however staff had attempted two times to have a meeting with Mr. Johnston, which he ultimately refused to attend.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if trimming the trees on the Vaughn property was contingent upon the removal and/or trimming of the trees on the Johnston property.
Senior Planner Alvarez explained that at the mediation meeting Mr. Vaughn did not place any contingencies on the private agreement.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if the view of Angels Gate Lighthouse and the harbor entrance were protected views.
Senior Planner Alvarez stated that the Code does not specifically call out those two features, however staff was aware there are certain elements that are familiar to the residents that they wish to protect. He explained that although the applicant called out these specific features, staff took a different approach in that staff identified the lighthouse, harbor entrance, and breakwater as part of the protected harbor view and further determined that the foliage owner’s trees block that portion of the harbor view.
Vice Chairman Knight asked staff to clarify that staff’s recommendation 15 was to trim the subject foliage to the trim line indicated on the photo rather than the lower boundary of the view.
Senior Planner Alvarez answered that was correct.
Referring to the topography map, Chairman Tetreault asked how staff calculated the potential view impairment height of trees located on the Vaughn property and if the downward angle of the view plane was taken into account.
Senior Planner Alvarez explained that he looked at the applicant’s view and compared the view impairing height elevation of the subject trees to the highest elevation of the Vaughn’s trees, which are approximately the same height elevation. He explained this was done with the understanding that within the line-of-site, any trees beyond the Vaughn’s property are well below, as evident in the displayed topography map. He further added that due to the lay of the land beyond the Vaughn’s property any unknown view obstruction beyond the Vaughn’s property would need to be at the same height elevation as the top portion of the Johnston’s and Vaughn’s trees.
Chairman Tetreault asked staff if they had looked at the foliage site from different angles to see if there are any trees at a height that may be in the view frame in the near future.
Senior Planner Alvarez stated there are tall trees in the view frame, noting a distant palm tree shown in the site visit photo as an example. However, within the line-of-sight of the Johnston’s and Vaughn’s trees staff did not specifically look from different angles at other trees beyond the Vaughn’s property, as staff did not feel it was necessary. He stated that staff had observed the foliage area from another property on Colt Road and noted that there were no obvious trees that were growing within the view.
Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.
Ken Poole 2652 Colt Road (applicant) explained that when his house was built in 1959 there was an unobstructed view of the harbor and lighthouse, and the house was designed to take advantage of that view. He stated that approximately 5 years ago he wrote a letter to Mr. Johnston indicating that his trees had grown up into his view, and as a result the pine trees were laced. He felt, however, that after the pines were laced they grew higher and faster and obliterated his view of the lighthouse and harbor. He acknowledged that there are trees on Via de Anzar on the Vaughn property, however a private agreement has been reached with the Vaughns where it has been agreed that the trees in question will be removed. He felt that once the Johnston trees are lowered or removed and the Vaughn trees are removed he will have his view restored.
Don Johnston 2417 Sparta Drive (foliage owner) stated that he objected to the request for view restoration, specifically the view of the L.A. lights and the harbor entrance, noting that the request was not for the breakwater view to be restored. He did not think this view was of enough importance to cause the destruction of many large, well-maintained, mature trees. He did not think that if these trees were removed that they could ever be replaced and would cause downgrading of the community and the ambiance of the area. He felt that the applicant currently has a beautiful view and cutting all view obstructing foliage requested will do little to improve that view. He did not feel that the foliage that the applicant is requesting be removed has not been properly documented. He also did not think the Planning Commission should make any decision on the foliage until all of the information and data has proven to be accurate and all of the issues for and against have been clearly heard. He stated that all City staff and members of the Planning Commission must maintain their independence throughout the entire process, and those who hold predisposed views must recuse themselves. He noted that once the trees are destroyed they cannot be replaced, however if the City errs on the side of saving the trees, future action against the trees can occur and corrective action can be taken if needed. He noted that the indicated location of his trees are incorrect, and that the tree locations on the photograph are shown in the wrong position, and clarified what he felt was the correct position of the trees. He again asked that the staff and Planning Commission do the entire job from start to finish in a very complete and accurate way, as there is no room for errors. He felt that the trees are too valuable of an asset to kill off through inattention and error, and the application must therefore be denied.
Commissioner Karp asked Mr. Johnston if he was saying that some of the trees in question are actually not on his property.
Mr. Johnston answered that was correct.
Chairman Tetreault asked Mr. Johnston at what point in time be formed the belief that the subject trees were not on his property.
Mr. Johnston answered that when he received the plot plan from the City he went out and stood in the street, took some measurements, and realized it was incorrect.
Vice Chairman Knight asked Mr. Johnston to clarify which trees he felt were not on his property.
Mr. Johnston answered that trees 1 and 4 are not on his property. Further, he was sure that tree 2 is on his property and questioned the location of tree 3.
Mr. Poole (in rebuttal) stated that he has been working for five years to get the trees in question trimmed or removed and his written numerous letters to Mr. Johnston in that time, and as a result Mr. Johnston laced the trees. He noted that he did not write any letters to any other residents on Sparta Drive, and yet those trees were laced. He felt there was ample time for Mr. Johnston to bring up the issue as to whether the trees are or are not on his property.
Mr. Johnston (in rebuttal) noted that Mr. Poole had sent him four letters over several years, but at no time contacted him personally, and he did not think that Mr. Poole was serious in his requests until this time.
Vice Chairman Knight noted that Mr. Johnston was requesting the trees be removed rather than topped, and asked Mr. Johnston at what point he made that decision.
Mr. Johnston stated that he never requested the trees be removed, rather that he made a statement that the trees would be so disfigured after topping that they would probably need to be replaced.
Commissioner Perestam asked at what point and why Mr. Johnston had the trees laced in the past.
Mr. Johnston answered that he had the trees laced four years ago and trimmed prior to that to promote the health of the tree. He noted that the trees would have been laced in January 2004 had this application not been filed.
Commissioner Karp referred to the allegations that some of the trees in question are not on Mr. Johnston’s property and asked staff, referring to the plat map photograph provided by staff, what the source of the document was and who prepared it.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained the photograph was prepared using the City’s orthographic maps.
Commissioner Karp asked how accurate these maps are.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that they are extremely accurate in depicting topography, however the parcel data that overlays these photos is not accurate enough to ascertain the exact property line.
Commissioner Karp asked what the next step would be if it is determined that the trees in question are not on Mr. Johnston’s property.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that if there is clear evidence that these trees are not on Mr. Johnston’s property the City cannot make him trim these trees and the applicant would have to file an application naming the neighboring property owner as a party. He noted that the only way to know with certainty is to have the property surveyed and staked, and that raised a question as to who would pay for the survey.
Vice Chairman Knight asked which trees Mr. Johnston trimmed in the past.
Mr. Johnston answered that he trimmed all of the trees, including the City trees. He also explained why the same type of trees are on his lot and his neighbor’s lot.
Commissioner Tetreault closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Karp felt that the most efficient way to handle this situation would be to determine if the trees are impairing a view and then determine who owns the trees.
Commissioner Gerstner agreed with Commissioner Karp, stating that the trees do cause a view impairment and need to be trimmed. He felt it was the responsibility of the Planning Commission to make the determination on whether or not the trees impair a view and it is an administrative issue for staff or the applicant to determine whose property the trees are actually on.
Vice Chairman Knight asked staff if the trees are indeed on another property, would the process basically have to start over with the mediation process.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that per the Guidelines and Ordinance, if staff receives information that confirms that one or more of the trees are on a neighboring property, in order for the City to take action they must go through the entire application process. He stated this application can go into abeyance until the new foliage owner is added onto the application and goes through the pre-application procedure, or the Planning Commission can take action on the trees they know are on Mr. Johnston’s property and let the applicant file a second application on the adjoining property.
Vice Chairman Knight asked if the Planning Commission can make a determination on whether or not the trees that may not be on the Johnston property impair a view.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the Planning Commission can make the determination that all four trees significantly impair the view, but can only direct the property owner to trim the trees on his property. Furthermore, the Commission can add as a condition of approval that a survey of the property be performed within a specified time frame, and based on the survey, only take action on the trees on the Johnston’s property.
Chairman Tetreault asked what would happen if it was determined that a tree is on the property line.
Director/Secretary Rojas was not aware of this ever happening on an application, and that if there is clear evidence that the tree is on the property line the adjacent neighbor would have to be added to the application as co-owner of the tree. He also mentioned that the Guidelines state that if the Planning Commission seeks additional expert opinions from an outside consultant in order to make a decision on an application, that burden may be placed on the applicant. He also noted that the Planning Commission may take the position that if staff believes the trees are on the foliage owner’s property, despite the foliage owner’s dispute, the burden can be placed on the foliage owner to pay for the survey.
Chairman Tetreault asked if it was in the purview of the Planning Commission to require a survey, which could be expensive, and it turns out that the trees are on the foliage owner’s property by several feet, can the Planning Commission then determine this was an unnecessary expensive incurred by the applicant and it should be charged to the foliage owner.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that could be done in a private agreement, however now the Planning Commission must abide by the City code and guidelines which place the entire burden on the applicant.
Commissioner Karp did not feel a survey was necessary to make the finding that the trees are impairing a view, and if it is determined that the foliage is on someone else’s property, then they can be responsible for the trimming of those trees.
Vice Chairman Knight agreed that the decision as to whether or not the trees are impairing a view can be made irrespective of who owns the trees, and suggested that a motion could be made that requires the trees be trimmed or removed unless Mr. Johnston shows evidence that he does not own the trees.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt that was an acceptable way to handle the situation.
Chairman Tetreault felt that a survey may very well be needed, and asked staff how that could be accomplished through a Resolution at this meeting, where a survey can be done to determine the ownership of the trees, and if that can then be enforced.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that this situation has not come up before and that it could become a very complicated situation and therefore, given the complexity of the situation, he had no qualms with continuing the public hearing and allowing staff to consult with the City Attorney. He also explained that the Planning Commission could make a decision by following the Guidelines and placing the burden of the survey on the applicant.
Commissioner Karp felt the Planning Commission should make a decision as to whether or not there is view impairment, noting that if the Commission determines there is no view impairment caused by the trees there would be no reason for staff to consult with the City Attorney.
Chairman Tetreault asked staff if there was some utility in just making the determination as to whether or not the trees in question block the view of the applicant.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt that it would help to have the determination of view impairment made by the Planning Commission before making the determination of what property the trees are actually on.
Commissioner Gerstner moved to determine that the trees 1 – 4, as identified in the staff report, are significantly impairing the applicant’s view, seconded by Commissioner Karp.
Vice Chairman Knight moved to suspend the Planning Commission rules to accept the memo from the City Arborist as late correspondence for the purposes of discussion, seconded by Commissioner Perestam. Approved, (4-1) with Commissioner Karp dissenting.
Vice Chairman Knight noted that the arborist recommended a window period for trimming the trees as the period between November 1st and May 1st, however the Resolution says November through January, and asked staff for clarification.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the Guidelines only allow for 90 days for the trimming to occur, and therefore the Resolution is consistent with the arborist’s recommendation.
The motion to determine that trees 1 – 4 significantly impair the applicant’s view was approved, (5-0).
Chairman Tetreault felt that the Planning Commission should get the applicant’s thoughts on paying for a survey and also if the foliage owner will allow a survey to be done on his property.
Commissioner Karp stated that one should assume that, with the finding that the trees cause a significant view impairment, reasonable people, being the adjoining property owners, will come to an understanding among themselves on how best to deal with the trees. He felt the Planning Commission was pushing the envelope, and should allow the parties a chance to talk among themselves on how to resolve the issues.
Commissioner Perestam agreed, noting that the Planning Commission should also clarify what the next step in the process should be.
Director/Secretary Rojas reminded the Planning Commission that even if the adjacent neighbor consents, the City cannot compel them to do the trimming, as they are not a party to this application. He stated that presently there is information presented at a public hearing that staff was not aware of, and suggested continuing the item to allow staff to consult with the City Attorney and come back with a recommendation on what to do. He also noted that there is a process that all applications go through before they come before the Planning Commission, and if it is determined the foliage is on another property those procedures must be followed. Therefore, there was a chance that this could be resolved without having to come back to the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Perestam moved to continue the public hearing to the meeting of April 26th to allow staff to come back to the Planning Commission with recommendations, seconded by Vice Chairman Knight. Approved, (5-0).
4. Proposed amendment to the PC Rules and Procedures regarding the distribution of late correspondence to the Planning Commission
It being after 11:00 p.m. Commissioner Perestam moved to suspend the Planning Commission rules and hear this item, seconded by Vice Chairman Knight. Approved, (6-0).
Commissioner Karp explained that this meeting was another example of the Planning Commission being bombarded with information which the Commission does not have the time to read. He felt the deadline for submission of correspondence should be noon on the Friday before the meeting so that the Commissioners have the time to read and understand the information. He felt that receiving correspondence on Monday night before the meeting and to be expected to read the information was unfair to the Commissioners as well as those submitting the information.
Chairman Tetreault asked staff if there is a Friday noon deadline will staff be able to distribute that information to the Planning Commissioners before the weekend.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the public does not receive their staff reports for an item until the Thursday before the meeting, and much of the correspondence that is received is in reaction to the staff report. He stated that this change could be taken to mean that whatever residents have to say in reaction to a staff report will have to be said at the public hearing or at the site visit, which some may say is forcing them to attend the meeting or be at the site visit.
Commissioner Gerstner felt that there should be a separation made between a written document prepared in response to the staff report and exhibits or presentation aids that are brought to the meeting to be distributed or shown at the meeting. He agreed with Commissioner Karp that it is difficult to read and take into consideration letters that are handed to the Commission at the meeting, however he felt that presentation aids and/or photographs are often helpful to the Commission when shown as part of a presentation.
Commissioner Perestam did not think that the Planning Commission was routinely overwhelmed with the amount of correspondence presented at the meeting, and felt that it would be best to handle this on a one-by-one basis and vote on whether or not to accept the correspondence, as he felt that there is too much uncertainty from meeting to meeting to have a hard fast rule.
Chairman Tetreault asked if it was possible for staff to forward email correspondence to the Planning Commissioners that was received by staff, rather than print a hard copy and distribute it at the meeting.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the email correspondence that comes in is sent to the email@example.com address and therefore the Commissioners already receive that information via email.
Chairman Tetreault asked if faxes could be scanned and emailed to the Planning Commissioners.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the City does not have that capability. He did note that the items that tend to generate a larger amount of correspondence are the view items, and those staff reports are available two weeks before the Planning Commission meeting. He suggested changing the rule for the View Restoration items that correspondence must be received so that it can go out in the Planning Commission packets.
Commissioner Karp moved to continue the item to the next available meeting to allow staff to put together some suggestions that the Planning Commission can review, seconded by Commissioner Perestam. Approved, (6-0).
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
5. Minutes of March 8, 2005
It being after 11:00 p.m. the minutes were continued to the next meeting.
ITEMS TO BE PALCED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
6. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of April 12, 2005
The pre-agenda was briefly reviewed.
The meeting was adjourned as 12:05 a.m.