FEBRUARY 28, 2006 PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES

CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
REGULAR MEETING
FEBRUARY 28, 2006

 

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Tetreault at 7:00 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.

FLAG SALUTE

Commissioner Lewis led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.

ROLL CALL

Present: Commissioners Gerstner, Karp, Lewis, Perestam, Ruttenberg, Vice Chairman Knight, and Chairman Tetreault.

Absent: None

Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Deputy Director Pfost, Senior Planner Schonborn, and Senior Planner Mihranian.

APPROVAL OF AGENDA

The Agenda was unanimously approved as presented.

COMMUNICATIONS

Director/Secretary Rojas distributed two items of correspondence for Agenda Item No. 3, one item for Agenda Item No.4, and 1 item for Agenda Item No. 5. Staff also welcomed the new Commissioners.

Chairman Tetreault recognized all of the time and hard work Commissioner Mueller had given to the Planning Commission over his tenure.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items)

None

CONTINUED BUSINESS

1. Height Variation Permit (Case No. Zon2005-00230): 27600 Alvesta

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that if the new Commissioners have reviewed the minutes for this project and/or have reviewed the video, they may participate on this application.

Commissioner Lewis stated he has not reviewed the minutes or tape and will abstain from this item. Commissioner Ruttenberg stated he had reviewed the minutes and would participate in the hearing.

Senior Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, giving a brief history of the project. He explained the scope of the project and how this design differs from the original submittal. He stated that staff recommends the Planning Commission review the redesigned project and determine whether these modifications adequately address the Commission’s concerns from the December 13th meeting, and adopt the appropriate Resolution.

Commissioner Karp stated that at the December meeting he and Commissioner Gerstner had requested a study be done to see if it would be feasible to have the living space all on one level. He stated he did not see the study, and questioned if that study had been done.

Senior Planner Schonborn answered that the architect was present at the meeting, and he may be able to answer that question.

Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.

Martin Lonkey 27600 Alvesta Place explained that to keep the addition at a single story he would have to disrupt concrete and a swimming pool. He stated there is nothing left in the yard that is useable for construction. He explained that he needed a larger home to accommodate his growing family, noting that his existing home is one of the smallest in the tract. He noted that in his tract there are 24 – 30 two-story homes which nearly all face the street and all have the second story built entirely over the first story of the house. He explained he was very conscious of the community when designing the addition so that the architecture would blend in and fit well into the community. He noted that none of his neighbors have objected to his proposed addition.

Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Gerstner noted that he had revisited the neighborhood since the first hearing in December and agreed there are more two-story homes in that neighborhood than he had originally realized. He felt it would have been helpful if the architect had shown the Commission why a single story home would not have worked, but that was his prerogative.

Commissioner Perestam felt this project, while not precedent setting, does set the tenor to what will eventually be the redevelopment and changes in the neighborhood, and felt this is a good example of what can be done in the neighborhood. He felt that the foliage softens the bulk and mass of the residence. He therefore was supportive of the project and felt it was a good starting point for the neighborhood.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that at his site visit he was surprised that the proposed addition is not as massive as he expected it might be. He understood the controversy with regard to one story versus two stories, however since the house is at the end of a cul-de-sac it might be better to go up rather than out towards the street or side yards to encroach onto the setbacks.

Vice Chairman Knight disagreed. He stated he was concerned about the mass and bulk of the proposed addition and was looking forward to a redesign that would address his concerns. He did not think the redesign addressed his concerns, as he felt the proposed addition was still incompatible with the neighborhood and the bulk and mass was still very large. He felt that at the December Planning Commission meeting there was a consensus of concern regarding bulk and mass, which in his opinion, has not been addressed. He noted there is a large patio in the rear yard that could help accommodate square footage and help reduce the bulk and mass at the front of the house. Therefore, he could not support the proposed project.

Chairman Tetreault felt that this is a very unique piece of property, being on the end of the cul-de-sac and with the foliage that is present on the property. He felt that the existing foliage, much of which is on the neighbor’s property, will obscure a large part of the addition. He acknowledged this is a substantial project, however because of its location and the foliage, he can support the project.

Commissioner Perestam moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2006-08 thereby approving the revised project as presented, seconded by Commissioner Ruttenberg.

Commissioner Gerstner questioned whether a condition can be added that the existing foliage be maintained in a manner similar to the way it exists now, as the foliage seems to soften the appearance of the house.

Commissioner Perestam asked staff if this type of condition has ever been put on an approval.

Senior Planner Schonborn stated it would be a unique situation, noting that most of the foliage is on the neighbor’s property which the applicant has no control over.

Commissioner Gerstner stated he was not prepared to offer an amendment to the motion with regards to the foliage.

Commissioner Perestam agreed, as he didn’t know how to phrase such an amendment.

The motion to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2006-08 was approved, (5-1-1) with Vice Chairman Knight dissenting and Commissioner Lewis abstaining.
PUBLIC HEARINGS

2. View Preservation Permit No. 78

Director/Secretary Rojas explained this item is a View Preservation Permit that was approved by the Director, however the appellant has requested a continuance on this item, as they cannot be present at this public hearing.

Vice Chairman Knight noted that the Director had sent out a letter to the appellant giving a deadline of February 6th to present grounds for the appeal. He stated that the deadline has passed, and questioned whether information received at the next meeting regarding grounds for the appeal would then be moot, as the deadline has passed.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the Code requires that when an appeal is filed, a fee be paid and the grounds for the appeal submitted. He stated that the deadline given to the appellant was an internal deadline warning them that if they did not state their grounds for appeal, staff would have to recommend denial of the appeal. He explained that there is nothing in the Code addressing this, and if the appellant submits testimony stating their grounds for appeal at the public hearing, that is allowed.

Commissioner Karp felt the Planning Commission should grant the continuance, as the request is only for a 2-week continuance.

Chairman Tetreault agreed, that in the interest of giving all parties a fair opportunity, that a two-week continuance was not out of line. However, he stated he would not be in favor of continuing the item beyond the two weeks requested.

Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing, and there being no speakers, closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Gerstner moved to continue the public hearing to the March 14, 2006 Planning Commission meeting, seconded by Vice Chairman Knight. Approved, (7-0).

3. Height Variation Permit and Site Plan Review (Case No. ZON2005-00569): 28455 Cedarbluff Drive

Senior Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the Height Variation and Site Plan Review. He stated that staff received several letters from neighboring properties regarding loss of view from the proposed second story addition. He displayed pictures taken from 6758 Eddinghill Drive, showing the silhouette, and explained how staff determined the addition would cause a significant view impairment from this residence. He also displayed photographs taken from 6742 Eddinghill and explained how staff determined there would also be a significant view impairment from this residence. He explained that from the residence at 6736 Eddinghill Drive staff had a concern with cumulative view impairment. He explained that it was staff’s opinion, based on the cumulative effect, that if a similar second story were to be constructed on neighboring lots on Cedarbluff Drive there would be a cumulative loss of view from 6736 Eddinghill. He stated that there were other neighboring properties that staff visited when doing their view analysis, showing concerns of bulk and mass from several properties. Therefore, he stated staff could not make the findings regarding neighborhood compatibility and view impairment and was recommending denial of the project.

Commissioner Gerstner noted there are several two-story homes in the neighborhood, and asked staff if they were original homes or if they had been expanded.

Senior Planner Schonborn that the existing two-story homes are the original homes from when the tract was developed.

Vice Chairman Knight noted the Planning Commission received a letter from 28140 Braidwood Drive where the owners felt the silhouette directly blocks their view of Catalina Island. He asked staff if they had a chance to visit this property and what determination was made.

Senior Planner Schonborn explained that the letter was received rather late, and staff did not have the opportunity to visit the site.

Commissioner Karp asked staff if there was sufficient room in the backyard of the subject property to add on to the house.

Senior Planner Schonborn answered there are some opportunities in the back and front yards of the residence to add on.

Commissioner Gerstner asked if there was currently a view from the first floor of the applicant’s home.

Senior Planner Schonborn answered that there is currently a view from the existing residence.

Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.

Stefani Conniff (architect) explained that the owner of the property is the original owner who has requested the addition so that her daughter can live on the second floor and she and her full time caretaker can live on the first floor of the residence. She understood that some views would be blocked because of the addition, however there are many two-story homes in the area and it would be unfair to deny the owner a second story addition, as she is the original owner of the home and should be allowed a second story. She stated that she can redesign the proposed deck so that it does not look directly down into the neighbor’s yard. She also stated she can drop the plate height on the second story approximately two feet and can lower the roof by approximately one foot.

Commissioner Karp asked the architect if she had considered pushing the first floor out when designing this addition.

Ms. Conniff answered that this had been considered, however in building into the backyard the owner would lose her entire useable backyard area.

Commissioner Gerstner noted that the house could be added on towards the street as well as the backyard to maintain some backyard area. He asked if this type of addition had ever been considered.

Ms. Conniff answered that the purpose of the second story addition is to allow the applicant’s daughter and family to live on the second floor. She felt that, since the applicant is an original owner of the house, she has the right to build as it fits her and not as it fits a neighbor.

Commissioner Gerstner asked the architect to approximate how much she could add to the first floor area.

Ms. Conniff felt she could go out approximately 16 feet in the backyard and enclose the courtyard in the front of the house, which will add substantial square footage to the house. However, she did not think it would be a very attractive home.

Ken Sheik (contractor) stated he and the homeowner had checked with the City before beginning this project and both were assured that a second story could be built on this property. With that assurance, the homeowner has spent a substantial amount of money in planning this addition, which cannot be recovered. He asked the Planning Commission to look at this addition and consider compromises. He noted that the views the addition may be blocking are not substantial and that should also be considered. He felt that any second story addition built on that side of the street will upset a portion of somebody’s view.

Pamela Lord 28505 Cedarbluff stated that the proposed addition would block her view of Malibu as well as block the light into her living room and wall up one side of her backyard. She also felt the addition would infringe on her privacy. She felt that the proposed addition will be very much out of place in the neighborhood and asked the Planning Commission to deny the application.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked Ms. Lord where the photo displayed by staff was taken from in her house.

Ms. Lord answered that staff took the photo outside on her patio.

Senior Planner Schonborn explained that this picture was taken more to address the bulk and mass issues from the neighboring property. He stated there are other photos that show the view, and explained that if the structure were built to 16 feet in height, any view in that direction would be taken out.

Mark Wilbur 6742 Eddinghill Drive stated that the photo displayed by staff was taken from his upstairs where the view impairment occurs. He explained that the visual impairment actually begins right at the doorway, however if looking from the first level where his office is, there is a tremendous view impairment caused by the proposed structure. He did not feel it was relevant to consider the age of the applicant or how long a person has lived in their home when considering a Height Variation application. He did not think there was any point on his property that is not severely impacted by this proposed addition. He concluded by stating that he agrees with the recommendations in the staff report.

Todd Sterling 6736 Eddinghill Drive felt that this tract was developed to maximize the views for everyone, noting that there are single story homes on one side of the street and two-story homes on the other. He stated that the applicant currently has a view and has room to expand out in the back as well as the front without having to build up. He objected to having to compromise what he has paid for and enjoys for what the applicant wants.

Commissioner Perestam asked Mr. Sterling if he therefore would object to any proposed two-story addition.

Mr. Sterling answered that he would object to any two-story addition on the subject property.

Ben Felder 28504 Cedarbluff Drive stated that his only view of the ocean is from the upstairs master bathroom, which allows for an incredible sunset view. He agreed that most of the homes in the tract are original and were built to maximize the views for everyone. He also stated that he has a view from his front door over the applicant’s home of the ocean. He stated that if the second story is built he will have a view of a huge house that doesn’t fit into the neighborhood. He referred to the suggestion of building out into the backyard and noted there is a good example of that on the corner of Rothrock and Cedarbluff.

Peter Zheng 6758 Eddinghill Drive stated that the main reason he bought his home was for the view, which is from Santa Monica to Catalina Island. He felt that the proposed addition will block the entire view on the left side of his property, which he paid extra money for when purchasing the property.

Mr. Sheik (in rebuttal) felt that the addition was shorter than what is shown on the silhouette, and that much of the view blocked is due to a tree on a neighboring property. He asked if something could be done with the tree to give an accurate depiction of what view will be blocked by the proposed addition.

Chairman Tetreault asked staff to comment on the statement that the highlighted silhouette in the photograph is larger than the actual addition.

Senior Planner Schonborn explained the different highlighted areas in the photograph.

Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Ruttenberg referred to the architect’s statement that the roof can be lowered 3 feet, and asked staff if they could show on the photograph the approximate location of the lowered roofline.

Senior Planner Schonborn estimated the location of a lowered roofline, noting however that the roof would still be above the horizon line.

Commissioner Karp felt this was one of the most insensitive, poorly designed projects he has seen and considered it a poster child of what not to do. He stated that this project is large, it blocks views, it is insensitive, and sets a bad precedence. He stated he is vehemently opposed to the project and felt it should be denied.

Commissioner Lewis stated he visited the site twice and felt the impact of the silhouette to the Wilbur residence is substantial and dramatic and the pictures do not do it justice. He was also concerned that the Planning Commission should not send a signal that simply reducing the height of the structure by 3 feet and modifying the balcony would remedy the problem.

Vice Chairman Knight agreed with staff’s analysis that there is a significant view impact from the Wilbur residence. He explained that even though there may be trees blocking views, that is not part of this application to be considered by the Planning Commission. He felt the scale of the home was massive for the neighborhood, however the main concern is view blockage. He asked staff if their recommendation of denial was with or without prejudice.

Senior Planner Schonborn answered that the recommendation was denial with prejudice.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that the speakers for the applicant were very candid in stating that the design of the structure was done solely with the owners interests in mind and the design was the way to make it the nicest looking home possible. However, he felt that more consideration has to be given to the neighbors when considering the design of the addition. He felt this design has a lot of problems, and whether or not these problems might be able to be resolved is a decision that should be left to the applicant. He stated that this is the first time the application has been before the Planning Commission and the architect has indicated there might be things that can be done to the design that will alleviate some of the problems. He did not know if these revisions will solve all of the problems, however he felt the Planning Commission should consider allowing the applicant, should she choose, to have an opportunity to save this design by revising it. He did not feel the Planning Commission should deny outright the application without giving the applicant the opportunity to make the decision as to whether they want to make the effort to redesign.

Commissioner Gerstner agreed with staff that there is a significant view impairment resulting from the addition. He did not believe there is a simple way to bring the second story below the horizon line, which he felt was critical. He noted that there are many two-story houses in the neighborhood, however they are original houses and the criteria for two-story homes was different when these homes were built than they are today. He stated he could not make the necessary finding regarding view impairment and would not be able to support the addition as it is currently designed.

Chairman Tetreault stated the Prop M defines what a view is, what is a protected view, and what is not a protected view. He agreed with staff’s analysis that this proposed addition does constitute a substantial impairment of a view that is protected, and he did not feel he has the discretion to ignore that. Therefore, he was inclined to deny the project.

Chairman Tetreault re-opened the public hearing.

Chairman Tetreault explained the different options available to the applicant and asked the applicant’s representative to respond to these options.

Stefani Conniff stated that her understanding was that the Planning Commission, as designed, would not approve the house. She requested a 90-day extension of the action deadline in order to redesign the project and bring the redesigned project back to the Planning Commission.

Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.

Vice Chairman Knight asked staff to clarify why they were recommending denial with prejudice.

Senior Planner Schonborn explained that staff felt it would be very difficult to provide a second story on this property without causing some impact that staff may feel would be a significant issue.

The Planning Commission and staff discussed the differences between denial with prejudice, denial without prejudice, and the continuance of the project to a later date, as well as the fees involved in doing so.

Commissioner Gerstner did not think there would be any type of second story addition above the horizon line on this project that he would find acceptable in order to make the finding that there is no significant view impairment.

Commissioner Karp moved to deny the project with prejudice, seconded by Commissioner Gerstner.

Commissioner Karp felt, in listening to the Planning Commission comments, that a second story addition on this property would not be approved. He questioned why the Planning Commission would allow a 90-day time extension or deny without prejudice when any second story addition will not work and a single story addition under 16 feet in height will not even come before the Planning Commission. He felt the most efficient way to deal with this was to deny with prejudice, which will allow the applicant to submit a new design for a single story residence, if they so desire.

Vice Chairman Knight agreed that a two-story home will not work on this project, and allowing a continuance may only add more expense to the owner. Therefore, he was in favor of the motion on the table.

Chairman Tetreault agreed, however he favored giving the applicant as much opportunity as possible to find a solution to the problem. He felt that the Commission has discussed the issue in depth so that the applicant understands where they are and what their options are. He therefore was opposed to denying the project with prejudice.

The motion to deny the application with prejudice failed, (3-4) with Commissioners Lewis, Perestam, Ruttenberg, and Chairman Knight dissenting.

Chairman Tetreault re-opened the public hearing.

Stefani Conniff stated that the applicant wishes to submit a single story design for the project and abandon the two-story addition.

Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Ruttenberg moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-09 as amended thereby denying the project without prejudice, seconded by Commissioner Perestam. Approved, (7-0).

RECESS AND RECONVENE

At 9:05 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 9:15 p.m.

PUBLIC HEARINGS (cont)

4. Height Variation Permit (Case No. Zon2005-00074): 29225 Oceanridge Dr.

Senior Planner Mihranian presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the applications. He explained that certain findings have to be considered when analyzing the application, and staff can make favorable recommendations for the findings with the exception of neighborhood compatibility. He showed a series of pictures of the homes in the neighborhood to give the Planning Commission an idea of the character of the neighborhood. He explained that with regards to neighborhood compatibility staff has identified three concerns, noting that these are solely staff concerns as staff has received no public comments. He discussed the three concerns regarding the master bedroom loft, the 4-car garage, and the southern side yard setback. He explained that the master bedroom loft is introducing an element that is not found within the neighborhood, which has a pop-up appearance when looking at it from the street. He noted that staff was recommending the loft off the master bedroom be removed. With regards to the 4 car garage, staff has a concern that a 4th parking stall will give the appearance of an elongated home that stretches from side yard setback to side yard setback, which is permitted under the development standards, however staff is concerned that this will take away from the open feel that prevails throughout the neighborhood. Therefore, staff was recommending the Planning Commission consider staff’s concerns and direct the applicant to redesign the project and continue the hearing to a later date.

Vice Chairman Knight asked if the unheated solarium is included in the habitable square footage calculation and lot coverage calculation.

Senior Planner Mihranian answered that it is included in both calculations.

Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.

Bruce Krause 777 Silver Spur Road, RHE (architect) explained that the master bedroom loft is a relatively small area incorporated into the design for the owner’s use as a retreat, and is 5.9 percent of the overall footprint of the structure. Regarding the 4 car garage, the main interest was to have parking for 3 cars with space for a wood working area. He stated that he had submitted an option to staff to eliminate the fourth garage door and replace that door with a window, however that was rejected by staff. He explained that reducing the garage to a 3 car garage will greatly impact the second story where there are two bedrooms and a bathroom are located and that there is enough setback of the second story and undulation in the plan to mitigate the appearance of the four car garage and the southern side yard setback. He requested that the Planning Commission approve the project as submitted, but was here to listen to any concerns and suggestions of the Commission.

Donald Ritter 29225 Oceanridge Drive explained that another reason for the master bedroom suite in the existing location was to try to capture some of the small ocean view that is available from the property. He stated that other locations for the suite were considered, however these locations may have caused objections from the neighbors. He stated that his intent for the 4-car garage was to have a workshop, noting that the driveway apron will stay as a two-car garage and will not change. He stated that he will be willing to work with staff to do whatever needs to be done.

Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.

Vice Chairman Knight agreed with the staff report’s comments regarding the 4-car garage and the side yard setback. He also felt that the way it is designed creates a block of building that basically runs the entire width of the property, as viewed from the street. He felt that staff had included excellent alternatives in the staff report. He agreed with staff that the loft is not in character with the neighborhood and should not be there. He also had concern with the foyer tower as being too massive.

Commissioner Perestam stated his greatest concern is the mass and bulk. He felt that eliminating the 4th garage stall to another location to open up the side yard will address the concern of mass and bulk. Regarding the loft, he felt from the outside it was hard to distinguish and the design was not out of character with others in the neighborhood.

Commissioner Lewis felt staff’s concerns regarding the garage and setbacks were valid and the proposed loft not out of character with the neighborhood.

Commissioner Ruttenberg agreed.

Commissioner Karp did not think the loft belonged there and was unnecessary. He also did not think the 4 car garage was appropriate.

Commissioner Gerstner felt the design of the proposed addition is consistent with the side yard setback requirements. He also felt the design is consistent with the setbacks of the houses across the street. He noted there are properties in the neighborhood that have wider side yard setbacks, there are also many houses in the neighborhood which use their entire allowable set back area. He felt that if this house is designed to keep its 5-foot side yard setback, then it is consistent with many of the houses in the neighborhood. Commissioner Gerstner was more concerned with the 4-car garage and the wide apron that will go with it, as he felt that was a lot of concrete and will be quite noticeable from the street. He did not feel the loft defines the character of the house, and had trouble taking that one feature and saying that is what makes this house incompatible with the neighborhood. He noted that the Planning Commission often suggests breaking up the scale of a house by using varying planes, setting the second story back from the first story, and using eaves and different roof lines to help distinguish different parts of the house. He noted that this has been done with this proposed addition.

Chairman Tetreault felt this design is putting as much house onto the lot as it possibly can, which is allowed by Code, but brings up issues of neighborhood compatibility. He agreed there are many homes in the neighborhood that have substantial side yard setbacks, however there are also homes that have 5-foot side yard setbacks on both sides. His concern was with the lineal mass of the house that is right up to the street, as the house is already closer to the street than it should be. He stated that he did not see that type of situation anywhere else in the neighborhood. He stated that his biggest concern with the project is the width of the house that encompasses the 4-car garage with the second story above, which he felt was very imposing from the street.

Vice Chairman Knight moved to continue the public hearing to March 14, 2006 to allow the applicant to redesign the project, seconded by Commissioner Karp.

Chairman Tetreault suggested giving the architect some feedback as to what the Planning Commission felt should be changed in order to make this a more viable project.

Commissioner Karp strongly objected to the loft, as he felt it was a 3rd story in a 2-story neighborhood. He also objected to the 4-car garage and the amount of concrete that will be present in the driveway area.

Vice Chairman Knight agreed, adding that he also objected to the foyer tower. He felt this tower adds quite a bit of mass and bulk to the house. He suggested reducing the lineal front from the 4th garage and eliminating the loft and foyer tower.

Commissioner Ruttenberg agreed with the Chairman’s comments regarding the side yard setbacks.

Chairman Tetreault re-opened the public hearing.

Bruce Krause requested continuing the item to a meeting after March 14th, as he didn’t think he could redesign the project in such a short amount of time.

Director/Secretary Rojas suggested April 25th, to which Mr. Krause agreed. He added that the property owners have already granted a 90-day time extension

Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.

Vice Chairman Knight amended his motion to continue the public hearing to April 25, 2006, seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved, (7-0).

5. Variance/Coastal Permit (Case No. ZON2006-00085): 32042 Isthmus View Drive

Chairman Tetreault noted that items 5 and 6 are virtually identical projects located at two different addresses. He stated that they do have to be treated as separate applications, however he requested that the staff report and any comments made by speakers address both items.

Deputy Director Pfost presented the staff report, giving a brief background on the City’s Coastal Specific Plan and the Coastal Act, as they relate to this project and what has happened in the City with past developments. He displayed aerial photographs of the tracts that have been approved by the City in the coastal area, noting that in the final City approved tract maps there is a coastal setback line and a coastal structure setback zone. He noted on these tracts that there are no pools or structures built within the coastal structure setback zone. He discussed the request to build a swimming pool and spa on lots 9 and 10, which will be within the coastal structure setback zone. In reviewing the necessary findings to approve a Variance, staff was not able to make the first two findings, specifically that there are exceptional or extraordinary circumstances that apply to the lot that do not apply to other properties in the zoning district and that a Variance was necessary for the property owner to enjoy a substantial property right. He explained that staff felt there was enough room on the property to build a pool and have a fairly large size home on the property without the proposed pool being constructed in the Coastal Structure Setback Zone. For those reasons, staff was recommending denial of the Variance for lots 9 and 10.

Vice Chairman Knight asked why these applications are not a revision to the Conditional Use Permit.

Deputy Director Pfost explained that the Conditional Use Permit does not address the Coastal Structure Setback Zone, therefore there is nothing to vary from in the CUP.

Commissioner Karp asked staff, assuming the Planning Commission grants the Variance, how the Coastal Commission would feel about this Variance.

Director/Secretary Rojas answered that, from a past experience with the Coastal Commission involving a proposed request to move the Coastal Setback Line to allow a pool, the Coastal Commission would have concerns.

Commissioner Karp asked if there were any engineering or soils concerns by putting a pool in this area.

Deputy Director Pfost explained that the project’s soils engineer would have to prepare a soils report that would be reviewed and approved by the City Geologist before any building permits could be issued.

Commissioner Perestam asked if any Variance requests of this type have been granted in the newer tracts along the coast.

Deputy Director Pfost answered that the City has not granted any similar Variances for the new tracts along the coast. He noted that a Variance was approved for the Long Point project for a deck and swimming pool in the Coastal Setback Zone, however several public amenities were included in that such as public bathrooms and showers. He also stated that Long Point is located in a different zone than the subject properties and the old Marineland site had structures in that location at one time.

Chairman Tetreault asked staff if their concern in granting the Variance was mainly that there is enough room on the lot for a pool in another location outside of the Coastal Structure Setback Zone.

Deputy Director Pfost acknowledged that staff felt there was room on the property for a pool outside of the Coastal Structure Setback Zone, however he noted that staff was also concerned about placing any structure in that Coastal Structure Setback Zone, as the zone was established prior to the subdivision being created and the developer knew the line was in existence.

Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.

Vincent Stellio 1 Ocean Trails Drive (executive vice president for development for the Trump organization) stated he was requesting from the Planning Commission an approval of the Variances to allow for the swimming pools. He explained that when he learned about this Coastal Structure Setback Zone his first inclination was to apply to adjust the cul-de-sac, but the sewer lines and utilities had already been put in for the tract. Therefore, he felt that he had no flexibility to make adjustments to put a pool in on Lot 9 and because of the basement on the house there was no other place for the pool. He explained that there is currently an offer to buy the house on lot 9 for $10 million, however these buyers want a pool on the lot. He pointed out that the Variance request for the pool at Long Point was for a pool located 120 feet beyond the Coastal Setback Line while their request is for pools only 20 feet beyond the line.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked Mr. Stellio to explain the exceptional or extraordinary circumstances on these two lots that would allow the Planning Commission the opportunity to grant the Variance request.

Mr. Stellio explained that lots 9 and 10 are the only two lots in the entire development with this problem. He also stated that he currently has two solid offers for lot 9, however in order to build a swimming pool the size of the house will have to be significantly reduced and neither buyer is willing to accept the smaller house. He stated that he would be willing to have the Variance conditioned that only a swimming pool, and no other structure, is allowed in this coastal setback area.

Commissioner Perestam noted that there appears to be sufficient room in the back yard of lot 10 to build a pool without going into the coastal setback area, and asked Mr. Stellio why he felt the pool couldn’t be built closer to the house.

Mr. Stellio explained that if the pool on lot 10 is kept closer to the proposed area there is less chance of caissons being required. Since caissons have to be founded in bedrock, and these lots have been built on fill, and because he did not know where bedrock is located, he felt these caissons could be 20 feet deep which would make the cost of building the swimming pool very high.

Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.

Vice Chairman Knight agreed with staff’s findings, as he could not find any exceptional or extraordinary circumstances to grant the Variance. He was not convinced, however, that the proposed pools do not violate the policy of the Coastal Specific Plan. He felt the two lots could be fully developed without having to infringe upon the coastal setback zone.

Commissioner Lewis agreed with staff recommendations, adding that because the former owners did not catch this problem when planning the lots, it is not a reason to grant a Variance.

Commissioner Perestam felt that a pool could be built on lot 10, possibly costing more than the developer wanted to spend however. He felt that lot 9 is problematic, however he was not able to make the necessary findings to grant the Variance.

Commissioner Gerstner felt that, given the $10 million selling price of these lots presented by the applicant, an additional cost to build caissons into a pool seems like a drop in the bucket. He therefore did not feel a Variance could be granted for lot 10. Furthermore, if lot 9 is a problem, he felt there might be other ways of solving the issues, such as a lot line adjustment. He stated that he could not find a hardship with lot 9 and could not make the findings to grant a Variance for lot 9.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that after visiting lot 9 he has more sympathy for the developer’s position than he did before he viewed the property, as the pad is very large and there appears to be plenty of room to place a swimming pool safely on the property. However, he is bound by the requirements of granting a Variance, and he did not feel he could make the required findings to grant the Variance.

Chairman Tetreault agreed with Commissioner Gerstner’s comments regarding lot 10, as he felt there appeared to be room to place the pool without the need for the Variance. While he had sympathy for the situation on lot 9, he felt constrained by the regulations of the City and could not make the necessary findings to grant the Variance.

Chairman Tetreault re-opened the public hearing.

Vincent Stellio understood the Commission’s concerns with lot 10, noting that the pool can most likely be worked out with caissons at an additional cost. He felt the real problem was with lot 9. He explained that there is much discussion at Planning Commission meetings regarding neighborhood compatibility, and as these are the first homes one sees when entering the City, the developer has made a lot of improvements on the project since buying it, as well as making a considerable reduction in density from the original project. He felt this should be taken into consideration if he comes back to the Planning Commission asking for a 14 foot Variance for the pool only on lot 9.

Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Karp stated there are certain findings that must be made to grant a Variance, and did not think there was any latitude in that.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked staff if there was anything they heard from the speaker that would influence their recommendation with regards to exceptional circumstances with regards to lot 9.

Deputy Director Pfost answered that there was not.

Chairman Tetreault felt that the Planning Commission often hears cases that require very difficult decisions, however there are certain findings that must be made in order to approve the application. He did not feel comfortable granting a Variance against the rules established by the City. He felt that if a decision is made to make an exception, it is best to be made at the City Council level rather than at the Planning Commission level.

Vice Chairman Knight moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-10 thereby denying the Variance request as recommended by staff, seconded by Commissioner Lewis. Approved, (7-0).

6. Variance/Coastal Permit (Case No. ZON2006-00076): 32045 Isthmus View Drive

Deputy Director Pfost stated staff had no additional information specific to this application.

Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing, and there being no speakers, closed the public hearing.

Vice Chairman Knight moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-11 thereby denying the Variance request as recommended by staff, seconded by Commissioner Lewis. Approved, (7-0)

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

7. Minutes of February 14, 2006

Commissioner Karp moved to approve the minutes as presented, seconded by Vice Chairman Knight. Approved, (5-0-2) with Commissioners Lewis and Ruttenberg abstaining since they were absent from that meeting.

ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS

8. Pre-Agenda or the meeting of March 14, 2006

Director/Secretary Rojas noted that an item will be added to the agenda to select a Vice Chairman.

Commissioner Perestam stated he would not be present at the March 14th meeting.
ADJOURNMENT

The meeting was adjourned at 10:50 p.m.