JULY 25, 2006 PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES

CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
REGULAR MEETING
JULY 25, 2006

 

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order by Vice Chairman Gerstner at 7:03 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.

FLAG SALUTE

Commissioner Tetreault led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.

ATTENDANCE

Present: Commissioners Karp, Lewis, Perestam, Ruttenberg, and Tetreault. Vice Chairman Gerstner arrived at 9:15 p.m.

Absent: Chairman Knight was excused

Also present were Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Rojas, Deputy Director Pfost, Associate Planner Fox.

APPROVAL OF AGENDA

The Planning Commission agreed to leave the agenda as presented, however readdress the order at 8:00 before the joint hearing with the Equestrian Committee.

COMMUNICATIONS

Director/Secretary Rojas distributed 12 items of correspondence regarding Agenda Item No. 1 and 4 items of correspondence relating to Agenda Item No. 5. He also noted there were 7 letters submitted after the Monday deadline for Agenda Item No. 1 that has not been distributed. The Commission agreed to accept the late correspondence and the letters were distributed.

 

COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items)

None

PUBLIC HEARINGS

1. Revision “BB” to Conditional Use Permit No. 163 and Variance (Case No. ZON2006-00328: One Ocean Trails Drive

Deputy Director Pfost presented the staff report gave a brief background of the Trump National Project. He explained that a flagpole was erected which should have been approved through a Conditional Use Permit amendment and a Variance application. He explained the scope of the project, and noted there is a specific condition in the original Conditional Use Permit which requires that all accessory structures are limited to 16 feet in height unless approved through a Conditional Use Permit revision and Variance. He explained that staff was not able to make all of the necessary findings to approve the flag pole, as the height of the flag pole exceeds what was approved in the original Conditional Use Permit. He stressed that staff is not opposed to the American flag being displayed at the property and the General Plan or Zoning Code do not prohibit flying the flag. He explained that staff felt that flying the America flag at the site would be a benefit to the community, however staff’s concern is with the height of the flagpole and the location of the pole. He explained that staff believes a flagpole higher than 16 feet could be approved at the property, however not in the current location. Staff felt that the flag pole and flag at this location causes a view impairment to surrounding properties and that the location of the pole is contrary to the General Plan as the height and location is inconsistent with the goals of the General Plan which state views and vistas should be preserved. Regarding the Variance, he explained that staff does believe there are circumstances associated with the use of the property, being a commercial use in a residential zone, that would permit a variance to be approved for something over 16 feet in height. In conclusion, he explained that staff was not able to make the necessary findings to recommend approval of the flagpole at the current site and was therefore recommending denial of the request.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked staff if a Conditional Use Permit Revision or a Variance would be required if the flagpole were at 16 feet in height.

Deputy Director Pfost answered that neither a Conditional Use Permit Revision or a Variance would be required if the flagpole were at 16 feet in height.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked if the property would be limited to one flagpole if the flagpoles were 16 feet in height or less.

Deputy Director Pfost answered that there is no limit to the number of flagpoles.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked if a flagpole of 30 feet in height at the same location would affect the views to adjacent properties.

Deputy Director Pfost felt that a 30-foot flagpole would still affect views, but not to the extent that the 70-foot flag pole does.

Commissioner Perestam asked staff if it was the height and the location of the flagpole that staff objected to, or was it just the height or just the location.

Deputy Director Pfost answered that it is both the height and location, noting that staff believes there may be another location and another height for the flagpole that would be acceptable, but that would still require a Variance.

Commissioner Tetreault asked staff if it was their opinion that a flagpole would fit into the definition of an accessory structure with a limitation of 16 feet.

Deputy Director Pfost answered that staff felt a flagpole would fit into the definition of an accessory structure if the flagpole were less than 16 feet in height.

Commissioner Tetreault noted that one item of correspondence received cites the California Government Code which regulates the display of the American flag, and asked staff if they had an opinion of this Government Code and if it supersedes any regulations of the City.

Deputy Director Pfost answered that staff forwarded the letter to the City Attorney’s office, noting that the City Attorney did not have a concern that denying this application was inconsistent with State law as the applicant has the ability to install a 16-foot high flagpole on the property to display the American flag.

Commissioner Tetreault explained that he had sent an email to the staff, which was forwarded to the City Attorney regarding the possible impact to First Amendment rights. He stated his concern arose from the staff report which stated that the flagpole may be restricted to the use of displaying the American flag and no other use, and questioned if there would be First Amendment freedom of speech implications with such a restriction. He stated that the City Attorney agreed with his concerns and that the City could not regulate what would be flown from the flagpole.

Commissioner Tetreault asked if the Trump organization had ever contacted the City regarding the erection of a flagpole.

Deputy Director Pfost stated that quite some time ago there was an inquiry and he recalled giving them the regulations regarding a flagpole at that time.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked if the flag pole were in a 30 foot height zone, and it was more than 30 feet high, would it need Coastal Commission approval.

Deputy Director Pfost answered that after speaking with Coastal Commission staff regarding the flagpole, he was informed that a 70-foot flagpole definitely requires a Coastal Permit, and he did not know if a lower flagpole would require a Coastal Permit.

Vice Chairman Gerstner opened the public hearing.

Mike Vandergoes 1 Ocean Trails Drive (applicant) stated he would like to table his speaking time to later in the meeting in order to answer questions or concerns regarding the project.

Ward Harmon 3748 Coolheights Drive stated that he felt the golf course is a wonderful asset to the community and the flag further contributes to that asset. He could not imagine how the flag and flagpole could obstruct any view and felt the size of the flagpole is consistent with the size of the entire golf course. He stated he was very much in favor of allowing the current flagpole to remain.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked Mr. Harmon if he felt the same way if the flag flying from that flagpole were not the American flag.

Mr. Harmon answered that it depended on what the flag was, and as long as the flag were not one with an objectionable message, it wouldn’t bother him.

Bob Nelson 6612 Channelview Court stated that letters have been submitted to staff showing 42 percent opposed to the project and 58 percent in favor of the project. He stated that it was his understanding that California Law covers both government and public display of the flag, particularly California Government Code Section 434.5, which he read. He noted that it specifically states that no governmental agency shall adopt a rule or an Ordinance that prevents any person or private entity that would otherwise have the right to display the flag on private property from exercising that right. He noted that view impairment was not mentioned and stated that view impairment is discussed in Section 434.5 paragraph D which states that no restrictions solely to promote aesthetic considerations shall be imposed. He felt that solves the view problem. He discussed the height of the pole, noting that the City Manager has stated that the Planning Commission will consider, at their next meeting, approval of a 70-foot antenna to be placed on City property. He stated he was totally in favor of a 70-foot flagpole and it should be allowed to fly a flag as big as the pole can take.

Frank Buzard 26961 Springcreek Road felt that the flag and flagpole are perfectly appropriate for that region and is strongly in favor of it.

Jerry Duhovic 32415 Nautilus Drive stated he and his family endorse the granting of the Variance and the retention of the flagpole. He stated that he recently had 30 to 40 members, mostly from out of state, at his property and every one of them commented favorably on the flag.

Walter Watson 3938 Exultant Drive did not feel the flagpole and flag could possibly block views. He stated that he looks down on the top of the flag and therefore was not worried about the height. He stated that if it were not for the flag he would have a hard time finding the flagpole. He stated that he is very much in favor of the flag and flagpole.

Ali Derek 32430 Nautilus Drive stated that he was not happy with the flagpole and that it is a willful violation of City codes and the height should be reduced. He stated that what little of his view is left is now blocked by this flagpole and flag. He stated that a 30-foot flagpole will still accomplish the same purpose. He invited the Planning Commission to his home to see the true impact of this flagpole to his view.

Commission Ruttenberg asked how high a flag would not infringe on his view.

Mr. Derek answered that currently the flag is situated between the coastline and Catalina Island, blocking the water. If the flag were lower it would be blocking the coastline view. He was not able to estimate the height the flag would have to be at to not block his view.

Joseph Wang 3913 Palos Verdes Drive South felt that the golf course is entitled to fly the American flag, noting that the flag looks very beautiful. However, he felt that the pole is too tall and the flag is too large and it blocks his view of Avalon.

Chris Pisano 3572 Vigilance Drive stated his disapproval for the structure that was built without a permit. He felt it was a bad precedent to allow any landowner or homeowner to build a structure of that height without once talking to the City to see if that would be allowed. He didn’t think there was anyone in the community that would build a 70-foot flagpole in their front yard without first contacting the City. He understood the argument for the First Amendment, however he felt that if, from day one, Mr. Trump had flown the corporate logo rather than the American flag most of the City would have had a different opinion of that flag pole.

Betty Riedman 3668 Cliffsite Drive stated she was appalled by the arrogance of the Trump organization in building this pole. She stated that this is not about the flag, but about the pole and how it was built without permission. She stated that she wouldn’t mind if the pole were 30 feet in height and placed in a lower location. She felt that every ham operator in the community was probably monitoring this pole, noting that if this Variance is approved the City could see quite a few applications for 70 foot flag poles or antennas in the City.

Jack Downhill 20 Vanderlip Drive stated he is very much in favor of the flag pole and the flag, but noted that he was not happy with the First Amendment aspect and hoped that only the American flag would be flown.

Commissioner Lewis asked Mr. Vandergross to approach the podium, and asked why the Trump organization did not get City approval before constructing the flagpole.

Mr. Vandergoes answered that he was not aware of the condition, and the person who usually handles the construction aspect of the project was out of town at the time. He stated that he checked with the person in the organization that constructs the flag poles and was told that he has constructed poles throughout the United States 70 feet tall or taller without the need for City approvals and permits.

Commissioner Lewis asked if the Trump organization was opposed to moving the pole closer to the clubhouse and lowering the height of the pole.

Mr. Vandergoes stated that he would like to keep the flagpole in the present location at the current height.

Commissioner Karp stated that it was his understanding that the contractor took photographs of the foundation and footings, and asked why that was done.

Mr. Vandergoes explained that if anyone questioned how the pole was structured, he would have an answer.

Commissioner Perestam asked what determined the location of the pole at the site.

Mr. Vandergoes answered that the pole contractor determined the location of the pole.

Commissioner Perestam asked why 70 feet was chosen as the height.

Mr. Vandergoes answered that other Trump golf courses have a standard 70-foot pole.

Commissioner Tetreault noted that the public can be within 70 feet of the base of the flagpole and asked Mr. Vandergross if he agreed that if the pole were not properly constructed the pole could topple and injure or possibly kill people who were within 70 feet of the pole.

Mr. Vandergoes stated that he did not know how the pole was constructed and could not answer the question.

Commissioner Tetreault stated that it is obviously a true statement that if not properly constructed the pole could topple, and asked if he agreed that it is a proper role for City government, in order to protect the public, have a role in inspecting and making sure that structures that could injure or kill people are properly installed.

Mr. Vandergoes felt that was a true statement.

Commissioner Tetreault asked if that would generally involve obtaining permits and getting inspections.

Mr. Vandergoes answered that was correct.

Vice Chairman Gerstner closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Ruttenberg referred to comments made by Mr. Nelson, specifically Section 434.5. He asked staff to clarify the City Attorney’s opinion on that section.
Director Rojas explained that the reason the City Attorney believes the City is not in conflict with that specific sub-section is because the City does not have an Ordinance or is attempting to pass an Ordinance that prohibits flagpoles or the flying of the American flag. He stated that the Trump organization or any homeowner in the City has the ability to come to City Hall and request a 16-foot flagpole that could be approved the same day.

Commissioner Tetreault added that his interpretation is that the City is not trying to prevent, but to reasonably regulate flagpoles, which is provided for in the Government Code.

Commissioner Karp stated that he is very proud to see the flag flying, however everyone should follow the same regulations and laws. He felt that wrapping yourself in the flag and saying that denial of this flagpole is unpatriotic is a false statement. He felt the question is where should the flag be displayed. He felt that 70 feet is obtrusive and that the flag should be flown from a pole in front of the Trump clubhouse near the fountain and should be the same height as the maximum height of the building.

Commissioner Perestam stated that he was disappointed with the Trump response that they were unaware any permits were needed. In reviewing the request for a Variance, he noted that to grant the Variance there must be unusual or extraordinary circumstances involved. He did not think there were any unusual or extraordinary circumstances that would allow a Variance to be granted for a 70-foot flagpole. He therefore felt that the City’s position in the staff report is correct, as he could not make the necessary findings to grant a Variance.

Commissioner Lewis stated that his view on the project is not based on the Trump organization’s failure to get a permit. He felt that the height of the pole is insensitive to the area and that the staff findings are correct, and supports the staff’s recommendations.

Commissioner Tetreault stated that, based on the fact that the applicant is one of the better known commercial developers in the country and the fact that they took photographs of the footings to verify what they had done, tells him that a deliberate decision was made to erect the pole without the proper permits from the City. He felt the applicant was challenging the City to order them to take down the American flag, knowing it would create a lot of controversy in the community. He stated that if the applicant had erected a 70-foot antenna, or any other structure, or instead of flying the American flag they displayed the corporate logo he did not feel that many of the community supporters would be in support of the application. He felt that the American flag is a symbol of the nation and all it represents, and that we are a nation of laws that all citizens are bound by, and nobody is above the law. He was very disturbed that the applicant chose to ignore the laws of the City openly and defiantly and use the American flag as a wedge between those who love the flag and those who respect the laws. He felt the applicant did this as a publicity stunt to purposely create a controversy. All of that aside, he felt that he was bound to make necessary findings to either approve or not approve the structure. In this case, he was not able to make the necessary findings to grant a Variance request and agreed with the staff’s findings. However, he noted that he was not opposed to a flagpole taller than 16 feet at another location on the property, preferably closer to the clubhouse.

Commissioner Ruttenberg also did not believe this issue is one of patriotism and does not relate to the issue of the flag, but rather the pole. He stated that this is not a popularity contest, but rather a matter of whether or not this particular application meets the City ordinances that would allow the application to be granted, a Conditional Use Permit revision and Variance. For reasons indicated in the staff report, he did not believe the necessary findings could be made. He stated that if Mr. Trump felt that flying the American flag lower than 70 feet is not patriotic, he suggested flying 5 flags at 16 feet to show his patriotism.

Vice Chairman Gerstner was very disappointed that the flagpole was built without a permit, and felt it was quite insulting that such an organization would state it was ignorance that led them to that. He stated that permits have been necessary for every phase of the project and the applicant knew that a permit would be necessary for the 70-foot flagpole. He reiterated that this issue is not about the flag, but rather the flagpole. In the case of the flagpole, he felt that it would be appropriate for the correct application be submitted to the City showing the proposed location and height of the pole. He stated that he also could not make the necessary findings to approve the project.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that he felt many of the comments made by the Planning Commissioners were too harsh, as he did not believe this was such a cut and dry application. He noted that there were seven findings that could not be made, and that those findings related to the integration on the property, He felt that the property is unique and did not believe that the comments with regard to the Trump organization should be as harsh as they have been, as he felt the Trump organization merely made a mistake.

Vice Chairman Gerstner stated that several Commissioners have expressed their thoughts that they may not have objections to a flagpole in another location that can be higher than 16 feet. He felt there was an opportunity at the site for a flagpole that is higher than 16 feet at a different location on the site.

Commissioner Tetreault agreed, noting that a flagpole might be placed near the clubhouse and that flag should be able to stand above the clubhouse so that it can be seen from the front, rear, and all sides. He did not think he would have an objection to a flagpole near the clubhouse that might be as tall as 50 feet in height.

Commissioner Karp agreed with Commissioner Tetreault, however he was not sure how high above the structure he would be willing to consider.

Commissioner Tetreault moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-37 thereby denying the request for the Conditional Use Permit revision and Variance, without prejudice, seconded by Commissioner Perestam. Approved, (6-0).

RECESS AND RECONVENE

At 8:30 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 8:40 p.m. at which time they reconvened.

Vice Chairman Gerstner and the Planning Commission agreed at this time to skip Agenda Items 2, 3, and 4 in order to begin the joint meeting with the Equestrian Committee.

JOINT MEETING OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION AND EQUESTRIAN COMMITTEE

EQUESTRIAN COMMITTEE ROLL CALL

Present: Committee Members Kay Bara, O’Neil, Bojorquez, Kelly, Ryan, Vice Chairman Richard Bara, and Chairman Leon.

Absent: Committee Member Simpson

CONTINUED BUSINESS

5. Code Amendment for Equestrian Districts (Case No. ZON2006-00082

Associate Planner Fox presented the staff report, giving a brief background of the Code Amendment. He explained that the draft Code language focuses on changes to Section 17.46.060 A of the Development Code which is the section that establishes the development standards for horse keeping facilities and horse keeping in general. He stated that there are three major points that are the gist of the proposed changes, and proceeded to explain these proposed changes. He explained that staff and the Equestrian Committee believe that these proposed revisions will have the desired effect of retaining useable area for horse keeping on lots in the Q District while providing enough flexibility for non-horse keeping residents to allow them to make reasonable use of these areas for other purposes. Therefore, staff is recommending adoption of the draft Resolution recommending approval of the proposed Code Amendment to the City Council.

Commissioner Karp asked staff if, under the proposed Ordinance, there would be any possibility that a lot that is required to reserve a horse keeping area would prevent the adjoining property from building up to their allowable setback line.

Associate Planner Fox answered that this may happen at the rear property line. Because of the 35-foot setback standard, structures built on a property could potentially affect the development of structures on other properties. He gave the example of a corral or barn currently on a property that does not meet the setback requirements and a development is proposed on an adjacent property. He explained that the adjacent property must meet the 35 foot setback from the horse keeping facility, which might result in structures on that adjacent property being located further from the property line than their property line setback would otherwise allow.

Commissioner Karp asked if there is no existing non-compliance on a property if it would be conceivable that a horse keeping lot requirement can impose an impediment on an adjoining property for them to increase their setback from the property line.

Associate Planner Fox answered that the only instance would be from the rear property line because the horse keeping area could be allowed to come up to the rear property line, and then the abutting properties to the rear would be required to maintain a 35 foot setback for habitable space from that property line.

Commissioner Karp asked what the current rear yard setback requirement is.

Associate Planner Fox answered that on lots created before incorporation the rear property setback is 15 feet and for lots created after incorporation the setback is 20 feet.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked how many properties are in the equestrian zoned areas and how many have horses on their properties.

Associate Planner Fox stated that staff does not know how many equestrian zoned properties have horses on them, but did state there are approximately 1,100 properties in the Q Districts.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked if the exceptions listed meant to be exclusive or would there be a way for a homeowner to seek a Variance based perhaps on particular topography.

Associate Planner Fox stated that the specific list of improvements is meant to be exclusive, however there is a provision for properties that are unable to meet the requirement to provide either 800 square feet or meet the 35 foot setback to be allowed to deviate from those standards based on a finding by whoever the decision making body is on the case that there is a physical constraint on the property that makes it impossible to do so. He noted that a Variance application would not be required, as it is simply an additional finding that would be made.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that it is very important to him to know the number of properties that presently have horses on them to know the magnitude of this draft Resolution.

Associate Planner Fox felt it was safe to say that of the 1,100 equestrian zoned lots in the City the vast majority of those lots do not currently have horses on them.

Commissioner Tetreault understood that many of the lots in the Q district are long, narrow lots and therefore it makes sense to direct the horse keeping areas to the rear of the lot. He asked if staff knew how many homes might be adversely affected by the restriction on the rear property setback.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that based on the lots staff has observed, the size of the lots in the Q District, and given what staff has seen in the past, staff did not believe there would be many instances where residents would be adversely impacted. He noted, however, that staff has not gone lot to lot to try to quantify the situation.

Vice Chairman Gerstner noted that staff had estimated 1,100 lots in the Q District and asked how many lots there are in the entire City.

Associate Planner Fox stated that there approximately 15,000 parcels in the City.

Vice Chairman Gerstner asked if this discussion is centered around just horses, or if other animals can be kept on the properties in the Q District.

Associate Planner Fox answered that properties are allowed large domestic animals defined as horses, sheep, and goats. He noted that there is also a provision for keeping a cow.

Vice Chairman Gerstner asked why a 35-foot setback between horse keeping and residential structures was chosen and a smaller setback not considered.

Associate Planner Fox answered that it is a health and safety issue and a number the City inherited from the Los Angeles Health and Safety Code, which was incorporated into the City’s Zoning Code.

Equestrian Committee Chairman Leon discussed the comments about imposing restrictions on adjacent lots. He acknowledged that is true in theory, however in practice to be able to site a horse keeping facility up to the lot line would mean that structure that happens to already be there has to be more than 35 feet away, otherwise the horse keeping facility cannot be sited up to the lot line. Therefore, what is restricted would be the major remodeling of a residence after the horse keeping facility has been put in place. He discussed the trade-off of property values, and noted that in Rolling Hills Estates having horses actually increases the property values as opposed to decreasing the values.

Committee Member Kay Bara explained that she is not only an Equestrian Committee member, but also a board member of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Horsemen’s Association and stated that she has a letter from that Association that she would like to distribute to the Planning Commission. She read a brief statement from the letter stating that the Association feels the heart of the issue is neighborhood compatibility. Over time, however, this neighborhood compatibility can be fractured as some resident’s maximize their lot coverage in such a manner that their properties are no longer capable of supporting horses. The often unintended consequence when the over developed property comes up for sale is that the property is no longer of interest to anyone owning a horse. Over time, when a significant number of properties are no longer of capable of maintaining horses, it becomes the horse owners who are no longer compatible with their neighbors, and the new residents may band together to restrict horse keeping and close trails. She felt that if some restrictions are not put in place, as two other cities already have, the equestrian use will be eroded and eventually disappear. She noted that the General Plan does call for a semi-rural environment and certainly the horses add that to the City.

Committee Member O’Neil clarified that the Los Angles County Health Code stated that the 35-foot setback would be taken from nearest door or window of a structure to the horse keeping facility. She felt the Committee is looking at the future for ones children and grandchildren to try to save some space for people who choose to have horses in the Q District. She hoped to preserve the Q District just as the City is preserving open space in the community.

Committee Member Bojorquez felt that the key word is “preserve” and that has been the Equestrian Committee’s goal all along, to preserve the semi-rural atmosphere in Rancho Palos Verdes. She stated that in the language of the Code Amendment the Committee and staff worked very hard to consider all of the possibilities for different homeowners. She stated the intent was not to force anything on homeowners, rather to preserve the Q District and the uniqueness found in this area.

Committee Member Richard Bara felt the County regulation was 35 feet from the door or window of a habitable structure. He considered the 1997 amendments to the horse keeping rules a blow to the horse keeping opportunities in Rancho Palos Verdes. He stated that it went further than the County by saying 35 feet from a habitable structure and changed numbers regarding lot sizes and the number of horses allowed on certain lot sizes, downgrading those numbers in every instance. He felt this was a stealing of the opportunity to keep horses. He stated that the rule changes were all detrimental to horse keeping and the Committee is trying to figure out ways to get at least half way to where they were before.

Committee Member Ryan stated that the properties, at least in her neighborhood, are ½ acre or more and 800 square feet is not a significant amount of square footage when looking at the size of the lot. She did not believe this would stymie anyone’s reasonable development. However, horse owners feel stymied when new residents move in and build on the property so that horses can never be kept on that property again. She stated that within the last three years four properties within a neighborhood have been developed so that horses will never be allowed on those properties. She also noted that City staff is not obligated to inform people that property is located in the Q District and is horse property.

Vice Chairman Gerstner opened the public hearing.

Doug Maupin 27601 Palos Verdes Drive East stated that he does not want a horse of his own or a horse on a property. He did not feel there should be an Ordinance forcing him to accommodate a horse on his property or lot that some potential equestrian in the future might want to buy or use. He felt this would deprive him of his property rights. He explained that he is currently designing a home on another property on Palos Verdes Drive East and under the new Ordinance it would completely eliminates his ability to propose the house he would like to propose. He would have to do significant grading and foundation work to move the house closer to the front of the lot. He also noted that the back of his property is the front of his neighbor’s property. He stated that he understood the needs of the many over the needs of the few, however he felt this was a reverse condemnation. He noted the staff report stated that there are only approximately 1,100 horse lots and the vast majority of those lots don’t have horses on them. However, this Ordinance would force others to accommodate horses they don’t want to have. He felt there was a lot of room for horses in the City without having to impose such restrictions upon non-equestrian residents. He asked that his letter be distributed to the Commission.

Sunshine 6 Limetree Lane stated that the County Sanitation Code states 35 feet from the nearest door or window of the animal keepers residence and 35 feet from any part of the building on the adjacent properties. She explained that in 1997 the Code changed to 35 feet from the setback so that potential builders who did not want to have horses would not be imposed upon by neighbors who currently have horses. She felt the City Council bent over backwards to try to make sure keeping of horses would impose as little as possible upon the neighbors. She noted that developers are buying lots that are currently in the Q District and the idea that there is a lot of room for horses is not true. She felt there should be some way to get this Ordinance in place and start looking at it so that there is an easy mechanism to look at each lot case by case. She stated that already one cannot keep horses on many of the lots in the Q District and asked that this not be allowed to get any worse.

Ken Dyda 5715 Capeswood Drive gave a brief history of the City’s incorporation and the development of overlay districts, he noted that overlay zones are, by nature, permissive and not regulatory, and there was no intent to make it regulatory such that it would deny adjacent property owners the ability to develop their properties consistent with the zoning. He felt this was borne out in a 2-year special committee effort to refine the residential standards and look at the zoning as it applies to the entire City, especially the portion of the City in the Eastview area. He felt that the current proposal is flawed in that it has the unintended consequence of overriding the zoning ordinance, explaining that a property owner who wishes to have horses can unilaterally override the zoning and deny an adjacent property owner the right to use some portion of his property. He felt this was akin to a taking without compensation.

Richard Ceman 5 Bridle Lane felt the suggestions made by the Equestrian Committee are punitive to a property owner. He stated that he lives in a 1,450 square foot home on a 15,000 square foot home, however most of the lot is not usable as it is on steep slopes. He stated that in the Lower Rockinghorse Association area where he lives there are no horses. He also did not see a trend towards horse ownership in his neighborhood. He felt that there is ample room in Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, and the Portuguese Bend area for horses, and did not want a restriction on his ability to expand his residence and enjoy his property.

Dick Johnson 5383 Rolling Ridge Road stated that as far as he knew there is only one horse owner in his neighborhood, and felt that his neighborhood is very rural, even without horses. He did not want horses forced into his neighborhood, and questioned why the very few horse owners should have such protection.

Warren Sweetnam 7 Top Rail Lane stated that he does not dislike horses and acknowledged he enjoys living in an Equestrian zoned area. He felt the proposed revision is a very poor way to treat the people who have smaller houses on a larger lot that they may want to expand on. He noted that on Rockinghorse Road most of the rear property lines run down at the bottom of canyons. He stated that these slopes are very steep, and therefore a 20,000 square foot lot may have less than 10,000 square feet of useable land. He therefore requested the City leave the Q District alone, as he did not feel changes were necessary or needed.

Ken Swensen 28981 Palos Verdes Drive East stated that he does not have any horses on his property and is not looking to expand his residence on his property. He stated that he shares many of the same opinions as the members of the Equestrian Committee, however he was concerned as to who was going to use these areas and where are they going to ride. He stated that in the northeast area of the City where he lives there are very few, if any, purchases made in the area by people who are interested in owning horses. He stated that there are also very few places to ride, and is really not suitable for horse riding anymore. He felt it was important to preserve land and preserve some of the rural flavor of the City, but did not think this particular Ordinance was the way to do it.

Vice Chairman Gerstner closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Karp asked staff if there was a way to poll the residents in the Q District to get their collective opinion on the situation.

Director/Secretary Rojas stated that staff attempted to get input from the residents by sending letters to every lot owner in the four Equestrian Districts, and received input from 30 to 40 people. He did not know what staff would gain from putting out a new questionnaire.

Commissioner Tetrault asked staff if they had any comments to the points raised by Mr. Dyda regarding the Overly District and his comments on regulatory versus permissive types of language.

Director/Secretary Rojas responded that that it is correct that Overlay Districts are meant to be permissive and not regulatory, however he explained that in 1995 there were extensive public hearings regarding the Q District and much of the original Ordinance was significantly changed at that time.

Committee Member O’Neal referred to the speaker on Bridle Lane who lives in a 1,400 square foot home and much of the property is in canyon area. She stated that in situations such as this one where there is a steep backyard and there is no place to even put a horse, that property would not even be subject to these proposed regulations. She also stated that the Committee’s intention was not to force horses in neighborhoods, only to preserve land so that there can be horses for future generations. She stated that there are trails on the East side, noting there is the Martingale Trail off of Palos Verdes Drive East and one off of Bronco Drive. She addressed the comment that there is plenty of room for horses on the Peninsula, noting that there are 5 public and private stables on the Peninsula, and every one of them have at least 50 people waiting to board their horses.

Commissioner Perestam asked if horses could be kept on lots outside of the Q District.

Associate Planner Fox answered that it is a permitted use, explaining that before the adoption of the current Conditional Large Domestic Animal Permit process there was a Special Animal Permit process and there were approximately 14 of those permits applied for with 11 permits being issued, mostly for keeping of horses on lots outside of the Q District. He explained that under the current Code, an applicant anywhere in the City can apply for a Conditional Large Domestic Animal Permit provided they have the required lot size and setbacks.

Commissioner Perestam asked if the City Attorney has reviewed and commented on this proposed Ordinance.

Associate Planner Fox answered that the City Attorney has read this Ordinance and her only suggestion was adding clarification language that was discussed in the staff report.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked how many members of the Equestrian Committee own horses.

The Committee Members indicated, by a show of hands, that seven of the seven members present had horses.

Commissioner Karp asked staff if they had a definition for semi-rural.

Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the General Plan has a definition of semi-rural, noting that he did not have a copy of the General Plan with him to read that definition.

Vice Chairman Gerstner discussed the comment by Committee Member Ryan that 4 lots have been lost from the Q District and asked staff if they knew how many applications for significant renovations in the Q District have been received.

Associate Planner Fox answered that staff did not have that type of information, however there are neighborhoods in the City that seem to be getting a lot more development than other neighborhoods. He noted that the Q District, by virtue that the lots tend to be larger, has seen more subdivision applications than other areas in the City.

Commissioner Tetreault discussed trails and places one can take their horses to ride, noting that if there aren’t places one can take their horses that are readily accessible and therefore have to trailer the horses out to be able to ride, the enthusiasm and attractiveness of keeping the horse on the property may be lost. He asked the Equestrian Committee what they thought was more important: maintaining horse keeping facilities versus preserving or enhancing access to trails.

Committee Member Bojorquez answered that she purchased her home on Mustang Road approximately 12 years ago and has spoken to people that remember everyone having horses in the community several years ago. She stated that many opportunities and values that are learned through horse keeping have been lost over the years because there was nobody there to help preserve that life style. She stated that the Ordinance is intended to in no way deprive anyone of their rights and it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation.

Commissioner Karp felt that the area in discussion is not semi-rural but semi-urban, as there is more developed land than there is undeveloped land. He stated that the right to own a horse is well protected and didn’t think the City has any intention of prohibiting horse ownership. He stated that he has a problem telling a homeowner that he must preserve land for future, because if he doesn’t it may impact my horse keeping ability. He felt land set aside for horse keeping greatly diminishes the usability and utility of a property and he didn’t hear anyone volunteering to pay a property owner for the loss of a section of the property to maintain a horse keeping area for some future use. He could appreciate someone wanting to keep horses but he did not think horse owner’s wishes should be imposed upon someone else’s property to protect that interest. He felt it was a selfish and self-centered attitude and something the City should not be doing.

Commissioner Lewis stated that his thoughts on this proposed Ordinance has nothing to do with whether or not this Ordinance constitutes a taking of property, as the City Attorney has reviewed the language and is satisfied with that language. He stated that this is a horse keeping area, and people know that when they move here. He also noted that this is a City Council initiated Ordinance and his understanding of that is that it is the policy of this City to preserve horse keeping activity, which is a change from the policy of 20 years ago. He felt that if that is the policy, then he hasn’t heard anything during these discussions that would say this Ordinance isn’t a good way of achieving that policy. He questioned whether the Planning Commission was being asked to decide whether or not it is the policy of this City to seek to preserve horse keeping activities or if the Planning Commission was being asked what is the best way to achieve that goal.

Vice Chairman Gerstner felt that the Planning Commission was being asked what the best way was to achieve the goal, as the Planning Commission does not set City policy.

Commissioner Lewis stated that he was in agreement with the staff report and the findings made by staff.

Commissioner Perestam stated he was uncomfortable with taking any action at this meeting, as he still had many questions and needed to better understand the “loss” of lots through subdivisions. He was also concerned with the comment made regarding the waiting lists for horse boarding at the stables on the Peninsula, and what that meant regarding the want or need to have horses in the City. He questioned if this Ordinance was the right vehicle to address these issues. He didn’t understand the incremental loss of uses and the reasons why, and would like to see some examples out in the community. He suggested a continuation of the discussion and some concrete direction to the staff.

Commissioner Tetreault stated that he was very surprised when he received the staff report to see how different this proposal is from the proposal made a few years ago and how it seemed to address many of the concerns he and other Commissioners had expressed during that time. He felt that this Ordinance addresses the balancing of rights and interests, and appreciated all of the work that has gone into this Ordinance. He questioned whether or not the proposed Ordinance would achieve the goals of the City regarding horse keeping. He stated that he likes living in a horse community and seeing horses throughout the community. He also questioned whether enhancing the trail system and access to the trail system may better achieve the goal of the City, or possibly a combination of the two methods.

Vice Chairman Bara liked the idea of a dual approach of enacting the Ordinance to help preserve, but also working on the preservation of trails. He explained that the Equestrian Committee has been working on trails, explaining that as they find trails that are closed or obstructed the Committee attempts to take action.

Commissioner Ruttenberg respectfully stated that he did not believe the Equestrian Committee was representative of the people in the Q District, noting that 7 of the 9 members of the Committee own horses and of the 1,100 properties in the Q District, very few of the residents own horses. He felt the Equestrian Committee wants the Planning Commission to legislate values of a small minority of people onto an entire community. He could not accept the argument that the Ordinance would not harm property values, as horse property will be restricted and restrictions reduce property values, particularly when so few people on these properties own horses. He felt the Committee wants to preserve certain values that they cherish, and respected the desire to do so, but presently most people in the Q District do not agree with the Committee and he was not prepared to support legislation that supports values of a very small minority of the people living in the Q District.

Chairman Leon stated it was not the intention of the Equestrian Committee to be representative or a cross sectional sample of people in the Q District. He stated that this is a zoning issue and something and the City Council directed the Committee to look into ways to preserve the semi-rural character of the City. He stated that it happens to be somewhat synonymous with horse keeping, however it is not equal to horse keeping. He stated that it was the intention of the Committee to search for a means of preserving the Q District from the slow degradation that has taken place over the years through zoning.

Commissioner Ruttenberg understood and appreciated the comments, however he felt that the rest of the community is entitled to representation. He stated that the proposed Ordinance affects 1,100 properties and he did not believe that the benefits being proposed in 2006, based on the number of horse owners, outweighs the harm that will be done to the balance of the community. Therefore, he could not support the current proposed Ordinance.

Vice Chairman Gerstner stated that he is very much in favor of preserving the semi-rural atmosphere of the City, however he felt that could be a better solution to that than the proposed Ordinance. He felt that better solution could revolve around the 35-foot setback area. He felt that the degradation in horse keeping in the community is more related to the degradation in the ability to use and ride the horse more than the ability to have a horse on the property. He felt that the best way to preserve the equestrian use is to enhance the things that make the community want to be an equestrian community. He discussed the trail system and its gradual decline over the years, and felt that it was a shame to have an Equestrian District that has absolutely no access to a trail system. He felt it would be inappropriate to require those people to give up anything on their property to keep a horse when the community can’t give them anything that makes them want to have a horse. He stated that he would rather try to solve this problem through enhancing the equestrian characteristics in the community to make people want to have horses in the community and buy the properties so that they can come and ride and enjoy. He stated that he currently cannot support the proposed Ordinance, however he very much wanted to see a way to keep the equestrian uses in the City.

Committee Member Ryan stated that the Q District was designated for the purpose of keeping horses for the people who do want to keep horses and gave the properties the right to keep horses, and the Equestrian Committee simply wants to preserve that right. She asked the Planning Commission what they felt the Q District should look like.

Commissioner Tetreault appreciated how difficult and frustrating this must be for the Equestrian Committee, as they have been charged with a task by the City Council and spent a lot of time, never speaking with the Planning Commission who has to review this at some point, and presenting it to the Planning Commission to accept or reject and never knowing what the concerns of the Planning Commission are. He stated that there are many aspects of the Ordinance that he likes, however he would like to see some quantification for the problem, as there has to be a weighing of property interest rights. He felt this was too important an issue to make a decision based upon issues that he felt could be quantified.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that there is currently a trend in the City to tear down an existing residence and rebuild a new, larger home up to the maximum allowed. This trend is what prompted the Equestrian Committee to go before the City Council, because in theory if everyone tore down a home in the Q District and rebuilt a new one to the maximum allowed, eventually there would be no opportunity to keep horses in the Q District. He explained that staff’s approach in drafting the proposed Ordinance was to address this tear down and rebuild cycle, which may be only four houses a year, but over time could become significant. Likewise, a property owner in the Q District has a right to keep up to two horses on the property without the need for a permit, and staff wanted to acknowledge that right. He stated that the idea in writing this Ordinance was to look at the issue which is prompting the Equestrian Committees concern, focus on what people are allowed by right, and from the lesson learned from the last proposed Ordinance, allow uses in the area that is proposed to be reserved for horse keeping. He felt that improving trails and incentives for people to keep horses are great ideas, however staff felt one should not lose sight of what staff sees everyday, which is property owners trying to maximize their properties because of the potential increase in value. He stated that staff was looking for direction from the Planning Commission as to the action to be taken.

Commissioner Perestam felt that it might be more productive to reject the proposed draft Ordinance and with direction define a path forward, rather than continue the item and be stuck and trying to fix what is before them.

Commissioner Karp agreed and felt that there should also be a better understanding of what trails are available. He felt it was hard to make the argument, as proposed, when there are no horse trails in certain areas.

Commissioner Lewis felt it would be a mistake to reject this Ordinance completely, and with some adjustments, it could be a valid Ordinance.

Commissioner Tetreault suggested that staff research the 35-foot setback area required in the County Code and get clarification on that subject, then have the Committee see how it can be incorporated to the advantage of the property owners on all sides.

Commissioner Tetreault moved to continue the public hearing and request the Equestrian Committee look at rear yard setback exceptions for the purpose of minimizing the potential impact upon neighbors, report on trail related issues and direct staff to look into the 35 foot setback requirements set by the County to find out how much discretion the City has in sighting these facilities, provide trail maps to the Planning Commission, and help with quantification of the problem with the respect to the number of lots involved.

The motion died due to the lack of a second.

Director/Secretary Rojas pointed out that if the draft Ordinance is denied it will not go to the City Council unless appealed, and the Equestrian Committee will have to begin again with a new Ordinance. He explained that if the Planning Commission wants a continuing dialogue with the Equestrian Committee on this subject, then they can’t deny this application, but rather continue the public hearing. He also noted that if the hearing is continued to a date certain, it will not be renoticed unless specifically requested by the Planning Commission.

Commissioner Tetreault reintroduced his motion to continue the public hearing to a date certain and request the Equestrian Committee look at rear yard setbacks, report on trail issues within the City, and direct staff to look at the 35 foot setback requirement set by the County, provide trails maps to the Planning Commission, and help quantify the problem with respect to the number of lots involved and how many of these lots currently have horses, seconded by Commissioner Perestam.

Commissioner Perestam moved to amend the motion to include the public hearing be re-noticed and Commissioner Tetreault accepted the amendment to his motion.

Commissioner Ruttenberg moved to amend the motion that the new public notice inquire of the people to whom it is served as to whether or not they own horses and include a return envelope to the City, seconded by Commissioner Karp.

Chairman Leon suggested it might be faster and less costly to drive through the Q Districts and take a head count of horses on the properties rather than a voluntary mailing, noting that the Q Districts are not very large.

Commissioner Tetreault did not know if the City could rely on any data received through a return request in the notice, as it may not be too accurate if not many people respond.

Director/Secretary Rojas did not think either method would be very accurate, noting that most horses are in the backyard and not visible from the street.

Chairman Leon stated that the Equestrian Committee can use its resources and try to get some sort of count of the number of horses in the City.

Vice Chairman Gerstner re-opened the public hearing.

Sunshine stated that the question asked in the notice should be very specific, suggesting that the question be how many horses currently reside on the property.

Vice Chairman Gerstner closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Ruttenberg agreed with Sunshine’s clarification.

The amendment to the motion to have a questionnaire in the public notice as to how many horses are residing on the property failed (3-3) with Commissioners Tetreault, Lewis, and Vice Chairman Gerstner dissenting.

The motion to continue the public hearing to a date certain, being the first meeting in October, failed (3-3) with Commissioners Ruttenberg, Lewis, and Vice Chairman Gerstner dissenting.

Commissioner Tetreault noted that it was now midnight and that the Planning Commission, per their rules, needs to vote on whether or not to suspend the rules to continue hearing this item and any other item on the Agenda.

Commissioner Tetreault moved to suspend the Planning Commission rules to continue hearing this item, seconded by Commissioner Perestam. Approved, (6-0).

Commissioner Ruttenberg moved to deny the proposed Code Amendment, seconded by Commissioner Karp.

Commissioner Perestam asked staff what the next step would be if the Code Amendment was denied.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that an appropriate Resolution would be prepared by staff for the Planning Commission to vote on, and at that point the item is finished unless appealed to the City Council. He stated that staff will then report to the City Council that the Planning Commission denied the Ordinance.

The motion to deny the proposed Code Amendment failed (3-3) with Commissioners Perestam, Tetreault, and Lewis dissenting.

Vice Chairman Gerstner felt that if there are not the votes to reject the amendment as proposed then the Planning Commission has little choice other than to accept a continuation of some form.

Commissioner Perestam asked what the difference would be between continuing the hearing to a date certain or continuing the public hearing without a date certain.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that continuing to a date certain would specify when the next public hearing would be and re-noticing the hearing is not necessary. Continuing the public hearing without a date certain would allow staff to select a date for the next hearing based on available agenda and a new notice will be provided to the public.

Commissioner Perestam moved to re-introduce the original motion to continue the public hearing, however without a date certain, and include the previous directives to staff and the Equestrian Committee contained in Commissioner Tetreault’s original motion, seconded by Commissioner Karp. The motion was approved, (4-2) with Commissioners Ruttenberg and Lewis dissenting.

Commissioner Karp moved to suspend the Planning Commission rules and hear the next item on the Agenda, seconded by Commissioner Perestam. Approved, (5-1) with Commissioner Lewis dissenting.

CONTINUED BUSINESS:

6. Cargo Container Code Amendment (Case No. ZON2004-00265)

Commissioner Tetreault suggested waiving the staff report and beginning the hearing by questioning the Building Official, agreed to by the Planning Commission.

Commissioner Karp stated that he was very concerned that the Building Official felt that cargo containers will require a foundation. He stated that he sees cargo containers, sometimes stacked 5 and 6 high, that do not have foundations. He asked the Building Official, based on good engineering, scientific principles, why he felt cargo containers need foundations.

Roy Bronold, City Building Official, stated that most cargo containers are used for a short time period, usually for less than one year. He explained that the Building Code has a very clear definition of a structure, and he was convinced that a cargo container is defined by the Building Code as a structure. He then explained that the California Building Code states that this type of structure can be placed temporarily for less than one year, however once it has been in place for more than a year it must be placed on a foundation. He also noted that the Building Code discusses how a foundation is defined.

Commissioner Karp asked what type of foundation can be used with cargo containers.

Mr. Bronold explained that a conventional foundation can be concrete with footings to carry the load uniformly, and that how that is done is determined by a structural engineer and possibly with input from a soils engineer. He noted, however, that the Portuguese Bend area being discussed has highly expansive and unstable soils and therefore this type of foundation may not be practical there. He explained that it would be up to an engineer to determine what type of foundation would function in such an area.

Commissioner Karp asked Mr. Bronold if what he was saying was that he is charged by law to do something and he has no latitude.

Mr. Bronold answered that was correct, however there is some discretion. He explained that discretion for a Building Official is not that he gets to make the decision, rather he can confer with the resources he has around him such as the City Geologist and the City Engineer regarding his interpretation of the Code.

Commissioner Lewis asked Mr. Bronold if he felt there were any safety ramifications in allowing a cargo container to be placed in the area without a foundation.

Mr. Bronold explained that the State has identified the Portuguese Bend area is an earthquake induced landslide zone, and geologists have determined that in an earthquake, the land in such an area will move much differently than in surrounding areas. He explained that there are structures in the area that could collapse in an earthquake yet not move very far, however a cargo container could move very quickly as they do not collapse. Therefore, he did not feel they are safe in the long-term when not placed on some type of foundation.

Equestrian Chairman Leon noted that in the landslide area the land is, in many places, always moving. Therefore, he questioned why they had to be considered permanent when they are not in the same place for long periods of time.

Director/Secretary Rojas noted that in many of the areas the homes are also moving, however they are still governed by the Building Code. Therefore, there would be no difference when discussing a cargo container.

Equestrian Committee Member Kelly asked if there have been any problems with the containers that are currently placed in the Portuguese Bend area.

Equestrian Chairman Leon asked what the difference is between being unsafe for a period of one year and being unsafe for a period of one year and one day.

Mr. Bronold answered that the Building Code, like all codes, has to draw the line somewhere and establish acceptable thresholds.

Chairman Leon questioned why, if cargo containers are so terrible for the residents, the City will be allowed to keep then.

Director/Secretary Rojas stated that City property is for the use of the public and if there is a need for a cargo container it will be for the benefit of the public and subject to the same building code standards as those on private property.

Commissioner Tetreault stated that he has looked over the proposed language and feels it reflects what the Planning Commission has discussed. He stated that he is satisfied with the wording.

Commissioner Tetreault moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-38 thereby approving the proposed language for the cargo container code amendment, as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Lewis.

Commissioner Karp stated that, as much as he feels this Ordinance is needed, it flies in the face of common sense by requiring a foundation for cargo containers. He understood the Building Official does not have the discretion to rule otherwise, and therefore would rather defeat the motion and leave things the way they are. He stated that he has seen too many containers that would become non-compliant with the passage of this Ordinance and would not like to try to fix a problem that would then create more problems. He therefore could not support them motion.

The motion was approved, (5-1) with Commissioner Karp dissenting.

PLANNING COMMISSION
REGULAR MEETING (cont)

NEW BUSINESS

2. Review of past decisions on projects approved by the Planning Commission

Continued to August 8, 2006

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

3. Minutes of July 11, 2006

Continued to August 8, 2006

ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS

No action taken.

ADJOURNMENT

The meeting was adjourned at 1:16 a.m.