JUNE 27, 2006 PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES

CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
REGULAR MEETING
JUNE 27, 2006

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Knight at 7:07 P.M. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.

FLAG SALUTE

Commissioner Perestam led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.

ATTENDANCE

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

Absent: Commissioner Tetreault was excused

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

APPROVAL OF AGENDA

Commissioner Perestam suggested moving Agenda Item No. 3 ahead of Agenda Item No. 1. The Planning Commission unanimously agreed.

COMMUNICATIONS

Director/Secretary Rojas distributed items of correspondence for Agenda Items 1, 3 and 5, as well as a copy of the June 13th draft minutes. He also reported that the RDSC report will go to the City Council on August 1, 2006 and that an appeal was filed on the recent Planning Commission decision involving a Variance application at Oceanfront Estates.

COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items)

None

CONTINUED BUSINESS

3. View Restoration Permit No. 203

Director/Secretary Rojas presented a brief staff report, explaining the foliage owners have requested a continuance to the second meeting in July due to a traffic accident in the family. He noted that since that meeting was full, staff was recommending that if there is a continuance, that it be to the first meeting in July. He noted that there has been objection from the applicant regarding continuing the item.

Chairman Knight opened the public hearing to discuss whether or not to continue the item.

Ms. Aeloney 3632 Vigilance Drive stated she was against another postponement, as there was a very lengthy mediation period. She stated that this has impacted their lives, as they have missed international medical meetings. She stated that staff has made their recommendation and several Commissioners have visited the site.

Chairman Knight asked Ms. Aeloney if there will be any undue burden placed on her by continuing the public hearing to the next meeting.

Ms. Aeloney answered that she will not have the view for a pre-wedding reception and may miss another meeting in a foreign country.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Ruttenberg felt that grounds offered for a continuance are compelling and would hate to proceed with the hearing at this time, and therefore supported a continuance until July 11, 2006.

Chairman Knight agreed, adding that the foliage owners have a right to speak before the Planning Commission and state their case.

Commissioner Lewis asked, given the circumstances stated in the request, when it would be appropriate for the Commissioners to contact the foliage owners to request a site visit.

Director/Secretary Rojas stated that staff would contact the foliage owner and email the Commissioners with the answer.

Commissioner Ruttenberg moved to continue the public hearing to July 11, 2006, seconded by Commissioner Lewis. Approved, (6-0).

1. Height Variation Permit (Case No. ZON2005-00409): 30831 Rue Langlois

Senior Planner Alvarez presented the staff report, explaining the history of the project and the objections and concerns that were raised by the Planning Commission at the previous public hearing. He displayed a site plan of the revised plan and explained the modifications made by the applicant. He noted that while architectural revisions have been made, staff does note that the applicant has only reduced the size of the proposed house by 206 square feet, most of which is in the garage area. He explained that staff was hoping that the revised plan would show the elimination of the deck, which is not the case. In conclusion, he stated that staff does not believe the revisions are a substantial departure from the original proposal and therefore is recommending the Planning Commission deny the Height Variation without prejudice.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked if the project was re-silhouetted.

Senior Planner Alvarez answered that at the April 25th Planning Commission meeting it was determined that if the footprint were to change then the project was to be re-silhouetted, and in this case the footprint did not change.

Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.

Barry Thomas 5816 Washington Ave, Whittier, stated that he is the architect for the project. He stated that he was disheartened by the staff report as staff did not recognize all of the effort that was put into the changes to the project. He stated that the square footage was reduced by approximately 206 square feet, and reminded the Commission that during the first hearing the size was not really the main concern, but rather bulk and mass. He showed how the eave line was lowered, as well as the slope of the roof. He also displayed the other changes that were made to the residence to address the Planning Commission and staff’s concerns. He showed slides that compared the original proposed plan to the current proposed plan. He stated that there have been objections to this design from the neighbors, the proposed plan complies with the Development Code, and the revised plan has reduced the overall lot coverage.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Perestam appreciated the changes made to the structure, however he still felt there will be too much house on this piece of property. He felt that if the Planning Commission were to consider approving the project, he would strongly recommend some type of condition to address the landscaping to help soften the appearance and mass of the house. He added that he has moved to being opposed to the project to considering the possibility of approving it, but was anxious to hear the opinions of the other Commissioners.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that in the last two months the Planning Commission has approved two applications for homes that are not of a substantially different size than this particular home and in areas where the average size of nearby homes is also not significantly different than the homes in this neighborhood. He also felt that the location of this lot, being on the corner, supports this type of project, noting those on Palos Verdes Drive West will not notice the mass and bulk of the proposed project. He also noted that the neighbors on the street who will be most affected by this project have not objected to the project. He stated that he would prefer the project were it a bit smaller, however he felt the architect had done what he said he would by concentrating on the bulk and mass of the house rather than the square footage.

Vice Chairman Gerstner stated that at the last hearing he felt the property could handle the mass of the house that was being proposed, and was in favor of approving the project. He felt this was an exceptional example of what can be done without really changing too much. He noted techniques used to give the house the appearance of being smaller. Therefore, just as he felt the lot could handle the previously proposed house, he felt the lot could handle the currently proposed home and was in favor of approving the requested application.

Commissioner Karp felt that the Planning Commission should try to envision this type of house being built on the adjoining lots and how this would change the look of the neighborhood. He stated that if this house is approved there would be no reason for the neighbors to request the same sort of addition, as was therefore concerned about the precedent this approval would be setting.

Commissioner Lewis also felt that there was too much house and too little lot. He stated that the privacy issue, which was a concern of his, has still not been addressed. He stated that the creation of a new privacy issue and the apparent mass of the house were the problems he had with the proposed residence.

Chairman Knight did not feel the bulk and mass have been reduced enough to bring the house to a level he would consider compatible with the neighborhood. He too was concerned about the privacy issue, noting that even though a neighbor may not step forward and complain about it, it is still part of the code to protect properties in neighborhoods, which is an issue that still has not been resolved. Therefore, he was not in favor of approving the project. He felt suggested a further reduction in square footage and a setback in the side façade for more articulation.

Commissioner Perestam felt that eliminating the deck adjacent to the neighbor’s property would take away the privacy concerns.

Commissioner Lewis moved accept the staff recommendation and deny the requested Height Variation without prejudice, seconded by Commissioner Karp.

Commissioner Karp stated that he would like to hear input from the architect before he votes, especially in light of the fact that a decision must be made on this application by July 11th.

Chairman Knight re-opened the public hearing.

Barry Thomas felt that the important issue of bulk and mass has been addressed in this redesign. Regarding the issue of the balcony, he suggested putting in a screen wall or other type of feature to mitigate the privacy concerns raised by the Planning Commission, adding that the balcony can be removed if absolutely necessary. He felt that this corner lot is unique as there are no houses across the street, the lot is at the bottom of a hill, and there is Palos Verdes Drive West acting as a major barrier. He asked that the Planning Commission approve the project at this time as the owners did not want to go back and make further extensive changes.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Lewis reminded the Planning Commission that at the last meeting the architect had stated that everyone in the neighborhood wanted to start doing something similar to this project with their home, and were considering this to be a test case to see how this project turned out before approaching the City with their plans.

Commissioner Ruttenberg moved to table the current motion to the July 11, 2006 meeting to allow the architect time to make any additional changes to the project before the Planning Commission votes on the project, seconded by Commissioner Karp.

Chairman Knight clarified that the motion to table the item will mean that on July11th the Planning Commission will come back at the point where there is a motion to deny the project.

The motion to table the current motion to July 11, 2006 was approved, (4-2) with Commissioner Lewis and Chairman Knight dissenting.

2. Height Variation Permit and Site Plan Review (Case No. ZON2003-00557): 28217 Trailriders Drive

Associate Planner Fox presented the staff report, giving a brief history of the project, as well as the scope of the project. He explained that staff believes some of the required findings for the approval of the Height Variation can be made, however several cannot. Specifically, staff believes portions of the proposed project above the 16 foot height level result in significant view impairment to nearby homes. He displayed photographs taken from the homes showing the possible view impairment. He also explained that staff could not make the finding that the project had been designed in a manner to minimize less significant view impairment, as well as issues with cumulative view impairment and privacy. He noted a reference in the staff report and Resolution to a privacy concern at 28122 Golden Meadow Drive, however staff is recommending striking the reference to that residence as the privacy finding refer to abutting residences, and 28122 Golden Meadow Drive is not an abutting property. Based upon the analysis prepared by staff, he stated that staff believes the Height Variation cannot be approved and since portions of the project that are below 16 feet were integral to the overall goal of the project to add a second story, staff believes those components of the project cannot be supported either.

Chairman Knight referred to the pictures shown of the potential cumulative view impact, and asked staff if the red lines drawn in represent the maximum height allowed by code.

Associate Planner Fox explained the lines represent staff’s best approximation of a similar size and configuration addition to the adjoining house, and not necessarily the maximum height allowed.

Chairman Knight asked staff why their recommendation for denial was with prejudice.

Associate Planner Fox explained that staff has discussed design alternatives with the applicant, including redesigning the second floor, moving the addition from the garage to over the body of the house, and making the addition smaller. However, even with those changes, staff felt that while the view impact may be lessened from some homes it will not make a difference to the home at 7009 Cherty Drive in terms of reducing the view impact. Therefore, staff felt that any second story addition to the applicant’s home will likely result in significant view impairment.

Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.

Machas Grinnell (architect) stated that the owner’s have requested her time as well as their own to address the issues, and she will be available to answer any questions later in the hearing.

Lesly Vallin 28217 Trailriders Drive (owner) discussed the view from 28236 Trailriders Drive, and stated that the Code states the view area must exclude the required setback area, which is 25 feet from the front property line. She stated that this home’s garage conversion sits 13 to 14 feet from the front property line, and therefore the view cannot be considered from this area. She then discussed the claim to view from 7009 Cherty Drive, which is Catalina Island and the ocean over RPV and PVE, as clearly stated in the MLS listing. She stated that this view was not considered by the City when cumulative view impacts were calculated. She explained the view is located over her unobstructed backyard and over their abutting neighbor’s home, backyard and front yard. She stated that the claim to view over her backyard is not protected by City Code, noting the section of the Code that states view that are not protected are distant areas not normally visible. She stated that the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu are not normally visible, and therefore the claim to view cannot be taken into consideration. She stated that these homeowners have also voiced concern regarding privacy from her back windows into their backyard. She showed photographs, noting that the only view into their backyard would be of trees. She then discussed size, bulk, and neighborhood compatibility, stating that the proposed two-story addition is compatible with the neighborhood. She indicated that less than 150 feet from her home is a newer 3,600 two-story addition, with the same lot size and more square footage than her proposed addition. She also pointed out that on Golden Meadow Drive there is a 3,037 two-story addition which is just 14 percent smaller than their proposed addition. She did not think the addition will cause any unreasonable infringement of privacy to abutting residents, noting the windows will be placed in such a way as to prevent privacy issues, as well as the much higher grade of her property will make it nearly impossible to view into abutting residents. She also did not think the proposed deck would not impose any unreasonable privacy issues to abutting neighbors, noting similar decks in the neighborhood. She felt the proposed two-story addition is within all City Codes and Guidelines and respectfully requested approval of the Height Variation.

Frances Gomez 11970 Bos Street, Cerritos, stated that she is the owner of the property at 28206 Golden Meadow Drive. She stated that she had concerns regarding the privacy to her home, which she felt the photos taken by staff indicate. She stated that her concerns are that the proposed structure will look directly into her living, dining, and bedrooms. She added that she is not against the applicants wanting to improve their property, and stated she is willing to work with them to address her concerns.

Estell Jones 1056 N. Carey Ave, Lomita, stated that she has lived at 28206 Golden Meadow Drive and was there recently and took photographs that clearly show there will be an infringement to the privacy of the home. She felt that this addition will cause infringement to the current resident’s privacy.

Edel Geissler 28231 Trailriders Drive, which is two houses up from the applicant’s property. She stated that she has a small but lovely view from the kitchen window and if this addition is built the entire view will be taken away. Therefore, she was against the proposed addition.

Mr. Geissler 28231 Trailriders Drive stated he was strongly against the proposed second story addition, as the addition will take away his entire ocean view and sunsets. He asked the Planning Commission to consider his view when determining the outcome of this proposed project.

Diba Wickline 28236 Trailriders Drive stated she is in complete opposition to this proposed addition, as it will obliterate the entire view of the ocean and the sunsets from her den.

Steve Wickline 28236 Trailriders Drive stated he is a realtor and knows very well the negative impact this proposed addition will have on their home. He stated that the addition will block 100 percent of the view from his home and will negatively affect the value of his home. He asked the Planning Commission uphold the Planning Department’s recommendation and deny the project.

Susie Thompson 7009 Cherty Drive stated that she bought her home because the area is terraced and nobody can look into the yard. She also stated that there is a spectacular view of Santa Monica Bay and the Malibu, and that view will be completely taken away by the second story addition. She asked that the project be denied.

Commissioner Karp asked staff if the views being discussed at the different properties are protected views, noting that the applicant feels they are not protected views.

Associate Planner Fox explained that, based on past meetings with the applicant, staff and the applicant have agreed to disagree on whether or not these are protected views. He stated that staff’s interpretation, based on the Development Code and the Height Variation Guidelines, is that these are protected views.

Lesly Vallin (in rebuttal) stated that is very specific in the Code that the front yard setback is 25 feet, and that the view considered at 28236 Golden Meadow Drive is taken from a garage conversion that is less than 25 feet from the property line, and therefore should never have been considered. She stated that house was not built as a view home and has a garage conversion that is against code. Discussing the view from 28231 Trailriders, she noted that staff did not feel this was a significant view and was not considered.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Perestam asked if the family room at 28236 Golden Meadow Drive is a permitted addition.

Associate Planner Fox answered that the family room does have a building permit.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked staff to explain their position that the family room can be considered when discussing view.

Associate Planner Fox began by clarifying that the front setback requirement is 20 feet in this area. He explained that the current family room was originally the garage of the house, approximately 14 feet from the front property line. He stated that Mrs. Vallin does quote a section of the Development Code and Height Variation Guidelines that talks about views not being available from setback areas of property, however that section is specifically applicable only to vacant properties. He explained that in this case the room is already legally constructed and staff considers the view to be protected.

Director/Secretary Rojas added that although staff tries to assess views from inside the residences, there are times when the view is looked at from outside the residence, and the Code states that in those cases views from the setback are not considered.

Commissioner Perestam felt it was important to talk about the very large tree at one of the neighbor’s home and how the removal of that tree would open up quite a large ocean view for many of the neighbors.

Commissioner Ruttenberg felt the applicant was interpreting the view restrictions in the Code a little too narrowly, and that the view from two of the three homes will be significantly impaired. He therefore agreed with the staff report and the findings.

Vice Chairman Gerstner also believed the views from two homes would be significantly impaired and was also very concerned with the cumulative view impact. Therefore, he could not see a way to allow this two story proposed addition, and did not see any solutions that would not cause a significant view impact to one or more of the neighbors.

Commissioners Karp and Lewis agreed with the comments of the other Commissioners.

Chairman Knight also agreed, noting there is a process to deal with the trees and this is the process to deal with the proposed structure. He felt there will be significant view impact to 28236 Trailriders and 7009 Cherty Drive, as well as the cumulative view impact. He therefore was in favor of the staff recommendation.

Commissioner Perestam moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-07 thereby denying the proposed Height Variation and Site Plan Review as amended to delete the reference to 28122 Golden Meadow Drive, as suggested by staff, seconded by Commissioner Lewis. Approved, (6-0).

RECESS AND RECONVENE

At 8:40 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 8:50 p.m. at which time they reconvened.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

4. Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2006-00321): 6409 Via Canada

Associate Planner Sohn presented the staff report, giving a brief history of the project and explaining the scope and reason for the request for the revision to the previously approved Grading Permit. She stated that staff was able to make all of the necessary findings and was recommending approval of the Grading Permit.

In reviewing the plans, Chairman Knight noted that the applicant has also added square footage to the residence and asked staff if the Height Variation was also before the Planning Commission, as the scope of work has changed.

Director/Secretary Rojas answered that only the Grading Permit was before the Commission, however the applications are dealt with as a package, and the Planning Commission is able to look at the entire package. He noted, however, that there is no aspect of the Height Variation portion that has been modified.

Chairman Knight asked if the project was increasing in square footage, and if so, isn’t scale part of the Height Variation determination.

Director/Secretary Rojas answered that it is increasing in square footage and neighborhood compatibility is a finding for both the Grading and Height Variation applications, and staff has addressed this in the staff report.

Chairman Knight asked if the staff analysis was only considering the additional 200 cubic yards, or the total of 1,196 cubic yards of grading.

Associate Planner Sohn answered that staff was analyzing the entire 1,196 cubic yards of grading.

Commissioner Karp asked if there will be any exterior modifications to the garage.

Associate Planner Sohn answered that there will be no exterior modifications from the previously approved plans, only the increase in the garage size.

Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.

Mike Nichols Lanco Engineering, 1010 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, stated that he is the engineer for the project and available to answer any questions.

Chairman Knight asked Mr. Nichols what the height of the proposed garage will be.

Mr. Nichols answered that the garage door will have a 7-foot clearance and the garage will be 8 feet in height.

Lou Roupoli 6409 Via Canada (owner) stated that he is not changing any heights, only excavating a little further to allow him to park some classic cars in the garage.

Vice Chairman Gerstner asked why this wasn’t considered when the application first came before the Planning Commission.

Mr. Roupoli explained that he is currently renting garages for his classic cars and was going to continue renting garages. He stated that he assumed he would be able to store his cars in the newly proposed garage, but realized later they would not fit.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Karp felt this was an innocuous change, as this is taking more dirt out and there will be no visible change to the structure from the street, and therefore was in favor of the staff recommendations.

Chairman Knight agreed, however referred to No. 8 of the Conditions of Approval and asked that the language be added that there be no idling trucks before 7:00 a.m.

Commissioner Karp moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-28 thereby approving the revision to the Grading Permit as amended to add the language regarding idling trucks, seconded by Commissioner Ruttenberg. Approved, (6-0).

5. Conditional Use Permit, Variance, Sign Permit, and Environmental Assessment (Case No. ZON2005-00405: 29421 Western Ave

Senior Planner Schonborn presented the staff report explaining what is currently at the site and the proposal to convert the use to a convenience store. He explained the scope of the project and the need for the various applications. He explained that for the environmental assessment staff conducted an initial study which identified the project could create potential significant impacts to aesthetics and hazards and hazardous materials unless mitigated with appropriate measures. He explained that staff believes with appropriate measures these issues can be mitigated to a level that would be less than significant. He summarized the potential impacts and the mitigation measures. In regards to the convenience store, he explained the various applications and findings that must be made for each application. He noted that there are two changes to the Conditions of Approval, specifically changing Condition 32(b) to limit the monument sign to 43 square feet and Condition 32(d) to eliminate the term “reverse channel letters”, since the current sign has regular channel letters and staff feels it is appropriate to continue using the regular channel letters. He stated that staff had received several letters of concern from the neighbors in response to the public notice, and staff has included several conditions in response to those concerns. In conclusion, Mr. Schonborn stated that staff was able to make the appropriate findings to recommend approval of the project as conditioned.

Commissioner Lewis asked if restricting the time of the delivery of fuel is covered in any of the Conditions of Approval.

Senior Planner Schonborn stated there is not a condition of approval that addresses fuel delivery specifically.

Commissioner Lewis felt some type of condition may want to be added, as this business is very close to a residential neighborhood.

Commissioner Karp noted language stating that employees working between the hours of 10 p.m. and midnight shall be at least 21 years of age, and questioned why the language is necessary if the conditions of approval state the store shall close at 10 p.m. Further, he felt this was an issue for the ABC to regulate.

Senior Planner Schonborn stated this language was added just to reiterate the City’s Development Code and ABC condition and could be removed if the Commission desired.

Chairman Knight asked if the proposed convenience store is a new structure or a remodel of an existing structure.

Senior Planner Schonborn answered that the convenience store is a remodel of the existing structure.

Chairman Knight asked if the current setbacks that are currently in non-compliance will be considered existing non-conforming.

Senior Planner Schonborn answered that was correct.

Commissioner Karp asked when an existing building is no longer considered a remodel but a new structure.

Senior Planner Schonborn answered that once 50 percent of the existing walls are demolished the structure would be considered a new building, which is not the case in this particular proposal.

Chairman Knight noted that letters have been submitted regarding concerns about gas smells coming up into the neighborhood, and asked staff if there will be mitigation measures put into place to address this issue.

Senior Planner Schonborn explained that there will be mitigation and much of it will be contingent upon the vapor recovery system. He explained that AQMD has mandated implementation of these vapor recovery tanks to ultimately get to a level of no emission.

Chairman Knight noted there are certain hours of operation for gas stations that are a part of the OC-4 overlay district. He stated that the station has been operating on a 24-hour basis, but questioned why staff, since this is a new application, was not recommending the new use follow the OC-4 regulations.

Senior Planner Schonborn explained that the location on Western Avenue is unique, in that there are only two gas stations on Western Avenue between Summerland and Palos Verdes Drive North. He stated that staff has not received any code enforcement complaints over the years about the current property use or hours and thirdly, there is a six month review built into the approval. Therefore, staff felt comfortable allowing the continual 24-hour sale of gasoline.

Chairman Knight asked if there are particular findings that have to be made to overrule the OC-4 requirements for operation hours.

Senior Planner Schonborn stated that it is on an individual case based on the uses, and allowing this 24-hour use will not set a precedent for other properties.

Commissioner Perestam inquired about the speaker system at the gas station.

Senior Planner Schonborn stated that a condition of approval was added to ensure usage is infrequent and minimizes noise impact to the surrounding residents.

Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.

Patrick Fiedler 2322 W. 3rd Street, L.A. (project engineer) stated the storage area behind the station will be cleared out and cleaned up and the wall will be increased in height to screen the vapor recovery tank so that the view from the side street will be completely obscured. Regarding fuel delivery, he noted that this site has been in operation for over 40 years and there has not been an issue with fuel delivery during this time. He explained that the owner has no control over when the fuel is delivered, as Chevron dictates when the fuel is delivered. He discussed the height of the proposed canopy, explaining that the height has been increased to incorporate the Mediterranean design. He explained that this project will incorporate the latest in technology for vapor recovery in regards to the gasoline smell. He stated that he had reviewed the conditions of approval and is in agreement with those conditions. He asked for clarification on Condition No. 20 which references the gasoline sales. He explained that currently the auto repair closes at 10:00 and all gasoline purchases are done through the transaction drawer, and the purchase of small snacks does take place through this transaction drawer. He requested that this procedure be allowed with the new business, as it has been taking place for 15 years without any complaints. He suggested allowing this to take place and include it in the 6 month review, and at that time if it is considered to be a problem they will discontinue the practice. He referred to Condition 32(f), which he felt piggybacks on the amendment suggested for 32(d), removing the reverse channel letters. Finally, he asked that two 80 watt bulbs be allowed in the spanners, as that is what is currently being used. He stated that he was available to answer any questions.

Commissioner Lewis asked when fuel trucks normally arrive at the station for fuel delivery.

Mr. Fielder answered that there is no set time that the trucks arrive.

Commissioner Lewis asked Mr. Fiedler if he knew if the Shell station down the street was open 24 hours.

Mr. Fielder answered that the Shell station closes at 10 p.m.

Commissioner Lewis asked about the underground storage tanks and if they will have to be upgraded or changed with this remodel.

Mr. Fielder answered that the current underground tanks meet all current codes and standards.

Commissioner Karp asked Mr. Fielder if he realizes that the City of Rancho Palos Verdes sets delivery hours and not Chevron.

Mr. Fielder answered that he was aware of that.

Commissioner Karp stated that the maximum height of a truck on the road is 13 ½ feet, and questioned why the canopy clear height was proposed at 16 ½ feet.

Mr. Fielder answered that the canopy is a Chevron standard given to the owner to follow.

Chairman Knight asked Mr. Fielder if there would be a problem limiting the use of the intercom, and not allowing the use after 10 p.m.

Mr. Fielder did not have a problem with that condition.

Arthur Vasconcelos 1835 MacArthur Street stated that when he looks out his window he will see a large canopy that will disrupt his view of the harbor and City. He asked for a Negative Declaration for the Chevron Station because he knows this project has a negative impact to the community. He asked the Planning Commission to request an EIR for the project and made available to the community.

Linda Jimenez 1835 MacArthur Street stated she was opposed to the expansion and conversion of the gas station. She stated that she resides directly behind the gas station and can only see an increase in noise pollution, traffic pollution, lighting, trash, and gas smell. She felt her privacy will be very highly impacted and her view will be obstructed. She felt her quality of life will be impacted.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked Ms. Jimenez why she felt there would be an increase in gas smell with this new project.

She stated that the parking lot will be expanded which will cause an increase in the smell and exhaust of the vehicles as well as the extra gas.

Commissioner Ruttenberg noted that there will be no increase in the number of gas pumps at the site.

Douglas Decastro 1829 MacArthur Street stated he was concerned that behind the property there is currently a mess and additional equipment will placed back there that will add to the noise. He was also concerned with the height of the canopy, the traffic impacts, and the potential for an increase in crime. He was concerned about the sale of alcohol at the site, as well as the setback to his property. He discussed the fuel truck that makes deliveries, noting that he has heard and smelled the trucks there as late as midnight.

Elaine McGee 1820 Crestwood Street, which is directly across the street from the side of the gas station. She was concerned that she had not read any type of traffic accident report for Crestwood and Western in the staff report, as she frequently hears cars crashing into each other at Crestwood and Western. She stated there is tremendous congestion at the area. She also stated that she frequently steps out of her house to find beer cans on her lawn and sidewalk, and felt that selling alcohol at the convenience store will only increase the problem. She stated that just because she doesn’t complain about the late night delivery of fuel or the gasoline smell or the noise or the traffic congestion doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Chairman Knight asked Ms. McGee what she would propose to change that would help mitigate her concerns.

Ms. McGee answered that she was against the sale of alcohol, as there are many other stores on Western Avenue where alcohol can be purchased. She felt there should be some way that the street could have extra sweeping and cleaning, as there is always trash from the gas station on the street. She wasn’t sure how the traffic flow was going to work, and felt that should be carefully looked at. She stated that the intercom will create a very loud noise in the residential neighborhood.

Mr. Fiedler (in rebuttal) explained how the vapor control system works and noted that it is very carefully monitored by the AQMD. He stated that all parking will be on site and the parking lot will be increased in size to accommodate extra cars. He acknowledged the fact that there is quite a bit of traffic on Western Avenue, but noted that the City Engineer has looked at their plan and was comfortable that the proposed modifications will not cause problems in the area. Regarding the noise from the intercom, he was in agreement that the intercom should be cut off at a specific time. He also discussed the canopy height and stated he would work to lower that height as much as possible.

Vice Chairman Gerstner asked Mr. Fiedler if he objected to lowering the canopy, as long as Chevron is satisfied with the height.

Mr. Fiedler answered that as long as there is government required clearance, he has no objection to lowering the canopy.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked how many parking spaces are currently available at the site.

Mr. Fiedler answered there are currently 10 parking spaces on the site and there will remain 10, however 2 spaces will be relocated from the side street to the front of the building.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked Mr. Fiedler to explain his objection to reverse channel lettering.

Mr. Fiedler explained that Chevron has developed a new type of channel letter that doesn’t use neon, but rather a light emitting diode which reduces energy consumption by approximately 90 percent, and is not designed to be used on reverse channel lettering.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Perestam discussed the entrance/exit on Crestwood closest to Western Avenue, and asked if that entrance/exit is really needed and if eliminating that will have a benefit to the neighbors.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that this was reviewed by the Public Works Department, who stated that this is an existing condition and the traffic was not sufficient to warrant a traffic study or review by the Traffic Committee.

Commissioner Perestam asked staff if there has been any study done as to the current noise level at the site.

Senior Planner Schonborn answered that there has not been a noise study.

Commissioner Perestam suggested that the applicant conduct a noise study and present it to the Planning Commission at the six-month review.

Chairman Knight asked staff if there were any conflicts with the OC-4 or any other regulations to allow transaction drawer snack sales 24 hours.

Senior Planner Schonborn explained that staff’s rational behind allowing for only fuel sales after hours is consistent with the Chevron station located on Hawthorne and Highridge, where the sale of non-gasoline items is prohibited after 10 p.m.

Chairman Knight asked staff if they had concerns with allowing 80 watt light bulbs in between the spanners.

Senior Planner Schonborn stated that staff was concerned with glare and additional lighting and the 80 watt bulbs will create additional glare.

Commissioner Karp did not think this was an improvement for the area, noting that this use would not be allowed if it were a new structure being proposed rather than a remodel. However, if the project is approved it should be conditioned that the height of the canopy be no higher than 14 feet in clear height. He also felt that gasoline delivery should be limited to after 7 a.m. and before 10 p.m. He was very concerned about the overall noise at the site and was very much against the project.

Commissioner Lewis stated that this is an existing gas station and this is a good opportunity to bring this station into conformity with some of the City standards and goals. He stated that the eyesore behind the existing building can be screened away and other much needed improvements can be made. He explained that he understood the concerns of the neighbors and agreed with many of their concerns, but he was leaning towards approval of the application.

Commissioner Perestam agreed that this is a good opportunity to improve the site. He noted that over the past 25 years it has been a trend that these type of gas stations are going out of business and can’t live on 8 gas pumps. He felt it was important to not lose gas stations that are nearby and convenient. He stated he was supportive of the project with some modifications, such as lowering the canopy.

Commissioner Ruttenberg noted that this is a business that has been on Western for 40 years and did not think all of the negatives in the area can be blamed on this one business. He stated that some of the objections are trying to compare what the situation would be like with a business there and without a business there at all, and he did not think that was a relevant comparison. He stated that the major complaint seems to relate to the fact that if this business is upgraded then the business will do more business and will create greater issues for the neighbors. He felt that this proposed change is designed to allow this business to compete as a modern gas station. He felt that if talking about an area other than Western Avenue the issues might be different, but for Western Avenue this type of business and this type of change is appropriate. He did not think this was a massively different type of business or amount of business, and was therefore in favor of the application. He noted, however, that there does not appear to be any need for the canopy to be as large as it is and should be modified to be the minimum it is required to be.

Vice Chairman Gerstner felt the project is an improvement to what is there now, and although it might be nice to see a whole new facility at the site, he didn’t know if that would be easy or even possible to plan. He was therefore in favor of the improvements, with the modification of lowering the canopy to the lowest and safest level. He was also concerned with the noise level and the noise of the mechanical equipment that will be necessary for the business, and mitigating that sound is important.
Chairman Knight also felt this proposal is an improvement and there is an opportunity to mitigate some of the aspects of the station that currently the City has no control over. He felt that the Planning Commission can possibly improve some of the negative impacts to the neighbors. He agreed that the canopy height should be lowered as much as possible. He agreed with Commissioner Karp that the fuel delivery hours should be limited. He did not want to add the condition regarding transaction drawer sales, as he wanted to be consistent with other applications that have been before the Planning Commission. Regarding Condition No. 29, he was concerned with the glare of the additional illumination between spanners and was in favor of leaving the condition as proposed by staff. He stated that Condition No. 31 should be modified to make reference to Condition No. 30 rather than Condition No. 28. On page 10 Condition 32(b) he had no objection to changing the size to 43 square feet, and did not object to allowing the channel letters so that the newer energy saving technology can be used. On page 11, Condition No. 43, he wanted to ensure the intercom use in the fuel area is limited to the hours of the convenience store. On page 12, discussing the sale of beer and wine, he noted that there is no discussion on the limitation in the condition on how much space in the store will be dedicated to beer and wine, and questioned if that should be addressed in this section. He stated Condition No. 51 should be corrected to eliminate midnight and have it correspondence to the hours of the operation of the convenience store.
Commissioner Perestam did not see an issue with allowing the sale of snacks through the transaction drawer. He acknowledged that it is not allowed at the Chevron station on Hawthorne Boulevard, however he felt this was a different area and a different situation.
Commissioner Perestam agreed with Chairman Knight’s amendments, with the exception of two items. He agreed with Commissioner Perestam and did not see any downside to allowing small sales through the transaction window. Secondly, regarding the illumination, it was his understanding that the 80 watt bulbs are currently being used and therefore this wouldn’t be a change from the existing conditions at the site, and he was in favor of allowing this condition to remain.
Commissioner Perestam requested that the Traffic Engineer or the Traffic Committee look at the curb cut on Crestwood to see if there is possibly a better position for the curb cut.
Senior Planner Schonborn explained that the curb cut on Crestwood closer to Western Avenue serves as an exit for fuel delivery trucks, and eliminating or modifying that curb cut may have impacts to delivery trucks.
Commissioner Lewis suggested that, since there is a six-month review involved, ask that the Traffic Engineer look at the traffic patterns and frequency as part of the six-month evaluation.
A discussion followed regarding the language for the height of the canopy, and Commissioner Ruttenberg suggested language stating the overall height of the canopy will be no higher than 21 feet, and the Planning Commission agreed.
Chairman Knight discussed the sale of snack items through the transaction drawer and asked the Planning Commission their opinion on whether or not to allow this use. The Commission had no objection to the sale of items through the transaction drawer.
Director/Secretary Rojas suggested specifying and limiting what items can be sold. He suggested the applicant submit a list specifying what they intended to sell.
Chairman Knight felt that this could be left to the discretion of staff.
Discussing the idea of the illumination between the spanners, Vice Chairman Gerstner agreed with staff’s recommendation to not allow it, noting this is very near a residential neighborhood. The Planning Commission agreed.
The Planning Commission agreed to the modification to allow the 43 square foot sign and to eliminate the condition requiring the reverse channel lettering as long as the channel lettering is LED illuminated. They also agreed that the intercom will only be in use during the hours the convenience store is open.
Commissioner Ruttenberg wanted to be sure that noise levels are addressed at the six month review.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that staff does not do any noise measurements at sites, and suggested the Planning Commission add a noise study be performed by the applicant. He stated that this is the only way the Planning Commission will have a definitive answer on the noise being generated at the site.
The Planning Commission agreed to add this type of language to the Conditions of Approval.
Chairman Knight asked the Planning Commissioners if they wanted to add language restricting the amount of space the beer and wine shall occupy in the convenience store.
Commissioners Ruttenberg and Lewis did not think this should be restricted, and the Commission agreed.
Commissioner Ruttenberg moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-29 thereby certifying the Mitigated Negative Declaration and adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-30 thereby approving the Conditional Use Permit, Variance, Sign Permit and Site Plan Review, as amended. Seconded by Commissioner Lewis. Approved, (5-1) with Commissioner Karp dissenting.
NEW BUSINESS
It being after 11:00, Commissioner Karp moved to suspend the Planning Commission rules to vote on the approval of the minutes only and continue all other business to a future meeting, seconded by Commissioner Lewis and unanimously approved by the Commission.
6. Review of past decisions on project approved by the Planning Commission
Continued to the meeting of July 11, 2006
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
7. Minutes of May 23, 2006
The minutes of May 23rd were approved as presented, (4-0-2) with Commissioner Karp and Vice Chairman Gerstner abstaining since they were absent from that meeting.
8. Minutes of June 13, 2006
Commissioner Karp noted clarifications on pages 7 and 13 of the minutes.
Chairman Knight noted a typo on page 14 of the minutes.
The minutes were approved as amended, (6-0).
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
Chairman Knight noted he would not be at the last two meeting.

ADJOURNMENT
The meeting was adjourned at 11:18 p.m.