MARCH 14, 2006 PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES

CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
REGULAR MEETING
MARCH 14, 2006

 

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Knight at 7:08 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.

FLAG SALUTE

Commissioner Ruttenberg led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.

ROLL CALL

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

Absent: Commissioner Perestam was excused

Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Senior Planner Schonborn, Associate Planner Fox, and Associate Planner Sohn.

APPROVAL OF AGENDA

The agenda was unanimously approved as presented.

COMMUNICATIONS

Staff distributed one item of correspondence for Agenda item No. 4, two items for Agenda Item No. 3, and staff information for Agenda Item No. 3.

1. Selection of Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission

Commissioner Ruttenberg nominated Commissioner Gerstner as Vice Chairman, seconded by Commissioner Lewis. Commissioner Gerstner was unanimously elected Vice Chairman.

COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE REGARDING NON-AGENDA ITEMS

None

CONTINUED BUSINESS

2. Revision to Conditional Use Permit (Case No. 2005-00439): Seabreeze HOA

Senior Planner Schonborn presented a brief staff report, explaining the HOA has determined they have decided not to pursue this application and have submitted a letter stating they are withdrawing the application.

Commissioner Tetreault moved to receive and file the request for withdrawal, seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved (6-0)

3. Height Variation, Grading Permit, and Variance (Case No. ZON2003-00620): 6010 Ocean Terrace Drive

Associate Planner Fox presented the staff report, giving a brief background of the project. He displayed the original site plan that was presented to the Planning Commission on January 10th, as well as the revised site plan, and summarized the changes made to the new site plan. He discussed the neighbors’ concerns that were brought up at the January 10th meeting, and how the current plan addresses some of those concerns. In conclusion, he stated that staff was recommending the Planning Commission adopt the draft resolution, which would conditionally approve the requested Height Variation and Grading Permit, and deny the Variance for the five foot tall walls that fall within the 20 foot street side setback area.

Commissioner Tetreault asked staff to clarify the proposed concrete pad in the rear yard and how it could be poured without leveling the out the slope with grading.

Associate Planner Fox explained that the concrete pad would have to follow the contours of the slope, noting that pursuant to the Development Code, grading is any movement of earth in excess of 3 feet deep cut or fill or any cut and fill combined in excess of 20 cubic yards. Therefore, if the applicant were to try to level the area to the extent they would not exceed the grading review thresholds, staff would not consider it would be grading. Therefore, the concrete pad can be somewhat flatter or more level than the existing topography would indicate.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that in reviewing the January 10th meeting minutes there was discussion that the proposed 9-foot retaining walls on the north side of the property could be lowered to a height of 5 feet and asked if that had been followed through with on the new proposal.

Associate Planner Fox answered that the height of the wall has not been revised.

Chairman Knight noted that there appears to be an area on the property that has been somewhat filled in, and therefore the current conditions do not exactly correspond with what is shown on the plan, in terms of elevation. He asked if the allowable grading would be based on what is shown on the original map, or if the engineer bases his calculations on what is currently at the site.

Associate Planner Fox explained that since the Planning Commission is being asked to approve a precise plan of development, the plan before them reflects what they would be approving and would be used as the basis.

Chairman Knight asked staff if the current plans match the grading that was approved under the Tract Map, as it appeared to him that the entire pad is somewhat elevated from street level while the other homes in the neighborhood appear to be flush or below street grade.

Associate Planner Fox answered that staff was not aware of whether or not the current plans match the grading that was approved under the Tract Map.

Chairman Knight referred to Condition 14 of the Conditions of Approval and asked where the 94.4 required rear yard setback would be measured from.

Associate Planner Fox stated it would be measured from the property line.

Chairman Knight suggested it be clarified in the condition that measuring from the property line includes the trail easement.

Associate Planner Fox agreed that should be clarified.

Chairman Knight also noted that on the original plan there were catch basins and flow filters shown, and asked if a condition be added that the property owner is required to maintain those in good working order.

Associate Planner Fox stated that a condition can be added.

Chairman Knight asked how the property owner would drain the proposed swimming pool, as there is habitat below this property and he wanted to make sure the pool was not drained into the storm drain.

Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the drainage will be reviewed in the Building and Safety process. He further noted that it was staff’s understanding that pools can be drained into the street provided the pool water is allowed to sit for a few days before draining.

Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.

Director/Secretary Rojas asked Commissioners Ruttenberg and Lewis if they have either read the minutes or watched the video of the January 10th meeting so that they can participate in this discussion.

Both commissioners stated that they had reviewed the minutes of the previous meeting.

Jan Trobaugh 2420 Carson Street, Torrance (applicant) felt staff had done a good job in explaining the proposed project and that he was available for questions from the Planning Commission. He explained that it is not allowed to drain the pool directly into the sewer system and therefore the water has to sit a few days to dechlorinate and then is drained into the storm drain. He also stated that the wall on the north side of the property can be stair stepped back so that it does not exceed 5 feet at any point, however the wall on the south side will be more difficult to do. He also stated that he agrees with all of the conditions set forth in the conditions of approval.

Christy Beggans 6015 Ocean Terrace Drive stated the proposed concrete pad at the rear of the property does not conform to City Resolution 77-22 or the amended Resolution 93-86. She explained that those Resolutions discuss what can be built beyond the BGR Line, noting that the Resolution is clear that no building can be done if the land is not flat and that no construction, grading, or excavation is allowed with any exceptions. She stated that the entire space beyond the BGR Line on this lot is a slope of grader than 10 percent, as noted on the plans. Hence, the plan is not conforming to the Resolution and should not be allowed. She stated the neighbors do not want a permanent RV pad on this lot, reminding the Planning Commission that at the January 10th meeting the owner stated he would not need an RV pad as long as he could park the RV on the street for a few hours to allow for the loading and unloading of the RV. She stated that this solution was acceptable to the neighbors. She also noted that the neighbors understood the need for a small gate into the backyard, but were hoping that the width of the gate would be 6 feet or less. Secondly, she noted that the grading in the neighborhood is limited to minor grading or excavation only. She stated that this is not only written in the CC&Rs, but is also noted in Resolution 77-22 which states that a grading plan submitted to the City shall allow grading for a building pad with only minor grading permitted thereafter. She stated that this plan has proposed grading that far exceeds the minor in scope rating as defined by the Development Code, which is less than 50 cubic yards. She explained that nobody is arguing that there is a need to recompact the top of the pad for safe construction. However, it is the excavation for the garage that is being opposed, as it violates the spirit and letter of Resolution 77-22. Lastly, regarding the CC&Rs and the City’s enforcement of them, she noted that for nearly 30 years the City has been enforcing numerous portions of the CC&Rs, as listed in Resolution 77-22. She felt there is precedent that cannot be ignored, and she asked the City Attorney to look at this issue to determine whether or not the prior 30 years of enforcement can now be stopped or modified. She felt that all of the CC&Rs listed need to be enforced in a consistent manner. She asked that the applicant go back to the one-story, 5,300 square foot home with no RV parking pad that was recently submitted to the Planning Department.

Commissioner Lewis asked if there were any other corner lots similar to this one in the neighborhood.

Ms. Beggans answered that there are no similar corner lots in the neighborhood.

Commissioner Lewis asked if there were any similar situations in the neighborhood where the garage is tucked in under the home.

Ms. Beggans answered that there are some, but not on corner lots.

Commissioner Lewis asked if there were any similar lots in the neighborhood with the type of fall away slope in the backyard.

Ms. Beggans explained that the neighbors across the street from the applicant have a similar lot.

George Walker 6035 Ocean Terrace Drive supported everything that Ms. Beggans said in her testimony, adding that he was very much opposed to an RV pad in the year yard of the residence, as it would be totally out of character with the neighborhood. He also said he was very surprised that the two-story proposal is still before the City, again because it is totally out of character with the neighborhood.

Steve Hiraiwa 32024 Pacifica Drive stated that from his home the 5 foot walls will appear very tall, much taller than 5 feet. He was also very much opposed to the RV parking, as he will be looking at the RV from many rooms from his residence.

Mark LaCharite 38 Moccasin Lane (property owner), clarified that he had originally submitted a single story home, but was later told by staff that they could support a two-story home on the property. He explained that he has no intention of storing his motor home on the property, and the concrete pad is proposed as a somewhat flat area where his children can play. He stated he is trying to accommodate everyone, noting he has already relocated the pool and equipment as well as the air conditioning units. He stated he is trying to make the project work, however people keep telling him that this is a two-story home. He stated that whether or not the garage is under the house, the house is still a one-story house, and does not impact the neighborhood any more or less. He noted that there are other homes in the neighborhood with a garage under the house, as well as living space under the house which is contrary to the CC&Rs. He stated that he was not trying to be difficult, however so many things have been thrown at him that he is about at his wits end, but was still opened minded and willing to listen to suggestions.

Commissioner Karp noted that the plans call for a curb cut for access into the rear yard and asked the applicant, since he did not intend to store his RV, would he be willing to eliminate that curb cut.

Mr. LaCharite stated that he would like to have access into his rear yard, just as other neighbors do. He agreed that the gate can be narrowed to 8 feet to allow a truck to be able to go into the yard for landscaping purposes. He noted that an 8-foot wide gate is not wide enough to accommodate a motor home.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Lewis noted that in the Beggans’ letter to staff there was a concern raised regarding lack of notice for this meeting. He asked staff to comment on that concern.

Associate Planner Fox explained that this item was continued to a date certain from the January 10th meeting to January 24th without new notice, and then again continued to a date certain from the January 24th meeting to this meeting without new notice. He stated that there were no substantial changes to the plans that would trigger the need to renotice the project.

Commissioner Tetreault asked staff to clarify why they are recommending approval of the rear patio slab, which he felt is contrary to the conditions set for in Resolutions 77-22 and 98-86.

Associate Planner Fox referred to the current Conditions of Approval, noting that staff is recommending approval of the patio, provided that no grading is required. He noted that moving dirt on a property where the cut and fill does not exceed 20 cubic yards is not considered grading by staff.

Chairman Knight asked to explain how Resolution 98-86 revised the language in Resolution 77-22.

Associate Planner Fox explained that there was a slight change in the language to provide for minor grading within that BGR Line and limited accessory uses outside the BGR Line.

Chairman Knight referred to the garage, noting that it appears to be a 4-car garage, and asked if there are any other 4-car garages in the neighborhood.

Associate Planner Fox acknowledged that the proposed garage is a 4-car garage, and staff did not feel this was an issue.

Vice Chairman Gerstner stated that the Planning Commission had also had an issue with the height of a wall and gate on the north side, and asked if that had been addressed on the new plans.

Associate Planner Fox answered that this wall had not changed on the new plans, however a condition can be added that that wall be no higher than allowed by Code.

Vice Chairman Gerstner referred to the grading for the patio slab, and asked that there be some math done to show whether or not this patio can be built without grading more than 20 cubic yards of dirt. He stated that he was not inclined to approve the Variance for the walls, as walls can be built that are within the Code requirements. He did not object to the garage as proposed.

Commissioner Tetreault stated that there are necessary findings that have to be made in order to grant a Variance, and if these findings cannot be made they cannot approve the Variance, whether or not there are walls across the street that were approved. He was also concerned with the height of other walls on the property and the impact these walls would have on some of the neighbors looking up at them. He did not feel the plans gave a feel or a sense of scale or size on what these walls will look like when built. He questioned whether the height of the walls was necessary or if there were other options available.

Commissioner Ruttenberg felt that staff in their recommendation that the Variance application be denied has addressed many of the concerns raised. He stated that the proposed RV pad is no longer an RV pad, but rather a patio slab, and the applicant is willing to put a gate in that is not wide enough for an RV to drive through. He felt that staff has done a good job in addressing the issues and concerns and supports their recommendations. He noted that he had expressed a concern regarding the 9-foot retaining wall on the north side and whether it could be reduced, and the architect has indicated that the wall can be stair-stepped down to reduce the size to approximately 5 feet.

Commissioner Karp stated he was still concerned about the proposed curb cut and the potential for RV parking, and suggested a condition of approval that the gate opening be no wider than 7 feet, which is the same width as a normal single car garage door.

Commissioner Lewis agreed with Commissioner Karp’s suggestion regarding the gate opening. He referred to the finding in the Resolution which states that deviation from the Code is warranted, as tucking the garage under the residence will keep the residence compatible with the neighborhood, thus preserving the scenic character of the neighborhood. He felt that the west elevation with the four-car garage and the cut into the hillside was not compatible with the neighborhood, and therefore he could not make the necessary finding.

Chairman Knight stated that at the last meeting he questioned the 10 percent slope and staff had indicated the applicant’s engineer had certified the slope. He asked if the current conclusion that the slope is more than 10 percent was based upon a re-evaluation by the applicant’s experts or if it was from staff.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained there was a misinterpretation of the original survey by staff, and that the survey does show the slope to be greater than 10 percent.

Chairman Knight stated that he was not able to make the findings necessary to approve the Variance. He also had difficulties with the Grading Permit not conforming to the 35 percent gradient limit and the 9-foot retaining wall. He noted there are exceptions, however he does not feel this design achieves the purpose, as he did not feel a 4-car garage is harmonious with the neighborhood. He noted that most of the other homes in the area have their garages coming off of Ocean Terrace Drive. He felt that the house needs to be redesigned, suggesting the possibility of taking the area where the garage is and making that area into a basement with two bedrooms and putting the garage where the two bedrooms currently are placed in the front of the house. He stated that he would like to see some alternate designs before he was willing to look at the possibility of approving something with many extraordinary exceptions to the rules involved. He stated that he was not in favor of the 4-car garage, as he could find no other comparable residence with a 4-car garage. He felt that, with the explanation of grading given by staff, that the patio slab could possibly be built, and agreed with the suggestion that the gate width be limited. He recommended that this item be continued to allow staff and the applicant to consider the input from the Planning Commission and allow the applicant to try to address the issues raised.

Commissioner Ruttenberg moved to adopt staff recommendations, with the amendments that the gate width not exceed 7 feet, the north retaining wall to be stair stepped so not to exceed 5 feet in height, and that the wall at side yard north elevation not exceed the maximum height per the Code, seconded by Commissioner Tetreault.

Vice Chairman Gerstner suggested adding to the motion that on Condition No. 14 the trail easement be noted, and on Condition No. 16 it is noted where the visibility triangle is specifically located.

Commissioners Ruttenberg and Tetreault supported the amendment.

The motion to adopt the staff recommendation, as amended, failed (3-3) with Commissioners Lewis, Tetreault, and Chairman Knight dissenting.

Commissioner Tetreault explained that he could have supported the first motion if there had been some treatment regarding the retaining walls along the driveway.

Commissioner Lewis moved to continue the public hearing to a date certain to allow the applicant to consider the comments made by the Planning Commission, seconded by Commissioner Karp.

Chairman Knight re-opened the public hearing.

Chairman Knight asked the applicant if continuing the item to April 11th was acceptable to him.

Jan Trobaugh stated that continuing the item to April 11th is not acceptable, as he would rather not have a continuance and have the Planning Commission add a condition regarding stair stepping the retaining wall so as not to exceed 5 feet in height.

Commissioner Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Tetreault stated that he felt the Commission could find a solution at this meeting and not have to continue the item to another meeting.

The motion to continue the item to April 11, 2006 failed, (3-3) with Commissioners Ruttenberg and Tetreault and Vice Chairman Gerstner dissenting.
Commissioner Tetreault asked that the Planning Commission have some input from the architect regarding what can be done with the walls along the edge of the driveway.

Chairman Knight re-opened the public hearing.

Jan Trobaugh stated that the overall width of the driveway can be reduced, and in doing so, the maximum height of the north wall and south wall can be reduced to 5 feet each. He explained that narrowing the width of the driveway will allow them to change the overall slope next to the driveway from 35 percent to 67 percent, which is allowed by Code.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that two 5-foot walls can be approved as long as a finding can be made that allowing the two walls will minimize impacts to the property.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Tetreault moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-12 thereby accepting staff’s recommendation to conditionally approve the Height Variation and Grading Permit and deny the Variance, as amended to require the easterly side yard wall not exceed the maximum height allowed by Code, the trail easement be noted in Condition No. 14, the visibility triangle be identified in Condition No. 16, the access gate in the BGR area not exceed 7 feet in width, and the retaining walls along the north and south side of the driveway be no higher than 5 feet, seconded by Commissioner Ruttenberg. Approved, (4-2) with Commissioner Lewis and Chairman Knight dissenting.

RECESS AND RECONVENE

At 8:35 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 8:50 at which time they reconvened.

CONTINUED BUSINESS (cont)

4. Appeal of View Preservation Permit No. 78

Senior Planner Alvarez presented a brief staff report, stating the applicant has requested a continuance of the hearing to March 28, 2006. In addition, the appellants have submitted a letter to staff indicating they are in agreement with the continuance request to March 28th. Therefore, staff is recommending the item be continued to the March 28, 2006 meeting.

Commissioner Tetreault moved to continue the item to the March 28, 2006 meeting, seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved, (6-0).

PUBLIC HEARINGS

5. Height Variation Permit (Case No. ZON2005-00586): 28714 Mt. Shasta

Associate Planner Sohn presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the Height Variation. She stated that staff was able to make the necessary required findings and was therefore recommending approval of the Height Variation.

Commissioner Tetreault noted that staff had not received any correspondence or objections from the neighbors, and asked if there was any late correspondence regarding the project.

Associate Planner Sohn answered there has been no late correspondence or objections from the neighbors.

Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.

Sang Kim 611 S. Catalina St. L.A. (architect) explained the scope of the project, noting the addition is behind all of the setback lines and will match all features and use the same materials that are currently on the house.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Chairman Knight stated that the project is introducing a new element to the neighborhood, a gable roof that is facing the street. He noted that the gable roofs in the neighborhood are parallel with the street while this one is perpendicular to the street. He did not think it was egregious enough to deny the project, however.

Commissioner Tetreault moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-13 thereby approving the Height Variation as recommended by staff, seconded by Commissioner Gerstner. Approved, (6-0)

6. Height Variation Permit (Case No. ZON2005-00296): 7239 Rue la Fleur

Senior Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, giving a history of the project and the need for the Height Variation. He explained the scope of the project and stated that staff was able to make all of the necessary findings and was therefore recommending approval of the Height Variation.

Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.

Wayne Sun 3345 Wilshire Blvd. (architect) stated that he worked closely with the neighbors to create a design that he felt was agreeable to the neighbors and the applicant.

Elmer Zirkel 7233 Rue la Fleur stated that he had objected to the previous two proposed designs, but was in support of this new project. He felt this design was very compatible with the neighborhood.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Tetreault commended the applicant and the neighbor for working together to design something that is agreeable to all parties. He stated that he had concerns with the other designs, but was inclined to approve this current design.

Chairman Knight agreed, noting this is a fine example of the applicant listening to the concerns of the neighbors and the Planning Commission, and designing something that is very compatible with the neighborhood. He therefore was in support of this new project.

Commissioner Karp moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-15 thereby approving the Height Variation as recommended by staff, seconded by Commissioner Tetreault. Approved, (6-0).

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

7. Minutes of February 28, 2006

Commissioner Tetreault moved to approve the minutes as presented, seconded by Commissioner Gerstner. Approved, (6-0).

ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS

8. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of March 28, 2006

Commissioner Karp requested that the Planning Commission place an item on a future agenda where the Planning Commission can look at completed projects that were previously decided on and approved. He felt it was important for the Planning Commission to see the end results of some of their decisions to make sure they were on the right track. The Planning Commission agreed.

Director/Secretary Rojas stated that he would agendize the item for the first meeting in June.

ADJOURNMENT

The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 p.m.