CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Knight at 7:08 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Karp led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Karp, Lewis, Perestam, Ruttenberg, Tetreault, Vice Chairman Gerstner, and Chairman Knight.
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas,
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Commissioner Perestam suggested moving Agenda Item 2 to be heard after Agenda Item No. 5, which was unanimously approved by the Commission.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed 3 items of correspondence for Agenda Item No. 1, a letter for Agenda Item No. 5, a hard copy of the missing page No. 6 of the staff report for Agenda Item No. 5, and a hard copy of the August 22nd minutes. He reported that at the last City Council meeting the City Council heard an appeal of the Trump flagpole, which they continued to an unspecified date to allow the City and Trump representatives to enter into an agreement regarding the flagpole. He also noted that at the October 3rd City Council meeting the City Council will hear the appeal of the Planning Commission decision on the Emergency Preparedness Committee’s antenna and will discuss the cargo container issue.
Commissioners Lewis, Karp, Tetreault, and Vice Chairman Gerstner reported that they had met with the applicant regarding Agenda Item No. 4 and the Chairman stated he had phone conversations with the applicant.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items)
1. Height Variation and Site Plan Review (Case No. ZON2005-00610): 5437 Middlecrest Road
Associate Planner Fox presented the staff report, reviewing the concerns from the Planning Commission at the last hearing. He explained that staff continues to believe the property is not on a ridge or promontory, but rather a graded pad lot surrounded by similar pad lots that were all created when the neighborhood was developed. He showed pictures of the silhouette from several streets, noting that staff did not believe any public views were being blocked. He discussed neighborhood compatibility, noting that staff feels the proposed project is compatible with the immediate neighborhood. He also discussed staff’s privacy analysis, explaining that the Development Code directs the analysis be limited to abutting parcels. Therefore, there are only two parcels that abut the property, and staff determined that there is no unreasonable infringement of privacy to either of the abutting properties. He stated that staff was able to make all necessary findings and was recommending approval of the project as conditioned in the staff report.
Director Rojas explained that there are two houses in the neighborhood that are referred to as split level rather than two-story, and staff may agree that this is the case. However, he noted that the Development Code defines them as two-story homes and the building permits refer to them as two-story homes. Nonetheless, he explained that if there happens to be a neighborhood of all one-story homes, there is nothing in the Code or Neighborhood Compatibility Guidelines saying a two-story home cannot be built in the neighborhood. He stated that the Neighborhood Compatibility Handbook even states that special consideration be given to bulk and mass when a two-story home is being proposed in a single story neighborhood. He explained that there are many techniques used to mitigate bulk and mass, and that is one of the reasons staff is recommending approval of the project.
Chairman Knight asked staff, if the lot were vacant with no development, would staff’s opinion then change regarding this not being a ridge or promontory.
Associate Planner Fox answered that staff’s opinion would not change.
Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.
Sonia Rodrigues 2360 Plaza Del Amo, Torrance (architect) stated that she has read the staff report and agrees with the findings and recommendations. She stressed that the applicant is not trying to block any neighbor’s views or take away anyone’s privacy, and has worked very diligently not to do so.
Commissioner Karp stated that he asked at the last meeting, and will ask again, was there any consideration given to expanding this residence on grade without having to add a second story.
Ms. Rodrigues answered that they had tried to put the addition on grade at the front of the house, however because of the narrow driveway a specific turning radius is required, which will be lost if the addition is on grade. She also explained that the purpose of this addition is to add more bedroom space, and putting the bedrooms in the front of the house next to the garage was not a good, functional design for this house. She explained that adding on to the back of the house would require very expensive caissons, making the project cost prohibitive.
Carmela Bonello 5437 Middlecrest Road (applicant) stated that she does not want to infringe on anyone’s privacy or views. She explained she needs more living area in her home and is available for any questions.
Michael Sulman 5205 Middlecrest Road stated that this will be the only true two-story residence to be contemplated on Middlecrest Road and questioned if this is appropriate on a street of single story residences.
Julie Sulman 5205 Middlecrest Road did not think this proposed design is compatible with the neighborhood, nor is it in character or scale with the neighborhood. She felt that things could be worked out by expanding on a single story. She did not think now is the time to set a precedence of two-story homes in the neighborhood.
Val Gelineau 5430 Middlecrest Road explained that he submitted a series of photographs to Bolton Engineering, who had done some survey work on his property. He asked Bolton Engineering to give an opinion on whether the subject property is on a ridge or promontory, and in their professional opinion they felt the property is indeed on a ridge. He stated that he supports the Bonello’s right to improve their property, but felt that a two-story home is out of character with the neighborhood. He was concerned for the privacy and view impacts to the neighboring properties. He asked the Planning Commission to deny the proposed structure.
Commissioner Ruttenberg asked if the photographs Bolton Engineering reviewed are the ones behind the letter that was submitted to the Planning Commission.
Mr. Gelineau answered that he believed the photographs behind the letter are the ones Bolton Engineering reviewed.
Chuck Taylor 5441 Middlecrest Road stated that the subject property is definitely on a ridge, there is adequate room in the backyard to extend out on grade, and the current design is not compatible with the neighborhood. He explained that he has submitted an aerial photograph taken in 1957 which shows this property is clearly on a ridge. He stated that the proposed second story would be seen as a massive looming presence from the public right-of-way, especially across Crenshaw Blvd. More importantly, he stated that two licensed engineering firms have stated this property is indeed on a ridge. He stated that the backyard will easily accommodate an expansion without resorting to a second story, noting there is 5,000 to 6,000 square feet of level pad area to the rear of the home. He questioned how a two story Mediterranean villa can be considered compatible with a neighborhood of single story, ranch style homes.
Barbara Gleghorn 28850 Crestridge Road stated that many are at the meeting to ask the Planning Commission to reject his application. She explained that the neighborhood consists of single story ranch style homes, which identifies the neighborhood. She stated that the neighborhood prides itself on architectural compatibility and low density. She stated this means less traffic on the streets, more safety for the children, and caring for the legacy of grandchildren who may inherit the homes. She felt that allowing the mansionization on this lot will open the door for others, as it will set precedents for other two-story homes in the neighborhood.
Sherry Nikolakopulos stated she is reading a written statement from the owners of 5417 Middlecrest Road, who were not able to attend the meeting. The Zigrangs dispute the assumption that their home is a two-story structure, and presented a profile from the assessor’s office that the home is a single story structure. She stated that the finished basement does not even have an inside staircase to the living part of the house. They also stated that if a profile from the assessor’s office was obtained for the residence at 5405 Middlecrest Road it would also show it to be a one-story structure, noting there is only a garage below the kitchen.
Perry Cockreham 5201 Middlecrest Road stated he is the President of the HOA, but is not speaking on their behalf. He stated that he is very concerned that the resulting structure will be 50 percent larger than the largest home existing in the neighborhood, and questioned how that can be considered compatible especially when the majority of the homes are single story homes. He stressed that there are no two-story residences on a flat pad in the comparison area. He felt the silhouette was not constructed per the City Guidelines, noting that sections of the silhouette sag as much as three feet. He questioned on that can accurately show staff and the neighborhood where the proposed addition will be and how it will affect the neighborhood. He felt that because it is against City Code to maintain the silhouette in the condition it is in, he saw no other choice but to redo the entire silhouette and reconsider the issue.
Commissioner Perestam asked Mr. Cockreham if he would have neighborhood compatibility concerns if the project were redesigned to be the same size but a single story rather than a two-story design.
Mr. Cockreham answered that he would not object to the project if it were redesigned to be a single story design.
Sonja Rodrigues (in rebuttal) stated that she has done everything possible to provide privacy and maintain views for the neighboring properties. She noted that this is currently the second smallest house in the neighborhood and the new house will only be 20 percent larger than the largest house in the neighborhood. She stated that the silhouette was correctly erected and the rope is in the correct position, noting it was certified by a licensed surveyor. She stated that building into the backyard is building into the hillside and will be very expensive.
Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Lewis stated he could not support the application as proposed, as he could not make the necessary findings. He stated that the house, in his opinion, sits on a ridge. He also felt the proposed structure is not compatible with the neighborhood, explaining that any time one proposes to build the largest home in the neighborhood the Planning Commission should scrutinize the compatibility issue must closer than in other projects.
Commissioner Ruttenberg disagreed, stating that he felt this clearly is not a ridge. He felt the statement from Bolton Engineering is based on photographs that do not show the situation in the perspective of what is around the home, which would show if it is on an elongated crest or series of crests. He felt the photographs were taken from too close to the subject property to give an overall view of the area. He felt the City has consistently interpreted this type of a lot not to be on a ridge or promontory. With regard to neighborhood compatibility, he felt that even though the neighborhood may be all one-story homes, that is not determinative in what can be built in the neighborhood. He felt that staff properly pointed out that each application is taken on its own merits. He agreed that the house will be the largest in the neighborhood, however when viewing bulk and mass, he noted that the house is set back from the street and not entirely visible from the street and that the house has been designed to reduce the bulk and mass. Regarding privacy, he did not see how the issue could be handled any better than it has been with this addition.
Commissioner Karp stated that common sense will dictate that this house is on a ridge. He also did not think a two-story house was compatible with the neighborhood. He felt there was more than enough room to expand the existing house on grade and felt this proposal is insensitive to the neighborhood.
Vice Chairman Gerstner also did not believe the addition would be compatible with the neighborhood. He stated that his opinion may have been swayed if there were no other choice but to build to a second story, however in this instance that is not the case. He was frustrated that the applicant did not show the Planning Commission, or try to prove to the Planning Commission, that a single story addition was not possible. Therefore, he was not in favor of approving the application based on neighborhood compatibility.
Commissioner Tetreault stated that just because there are no two-story homes in the neighborhood doesn’t mean there can never be two-story homes in the neighborhood. He explained that he looks at the proposed addition on the basis of how it appears and fits and integrates with the rest of the neighborhood. Regarding the ridge, he felt the definition of a ridge in the Code is very vague and subjective. He therefore would be hesitant to take its wording literally to deny a landowner the right that their neighbor across the street might enjoy. Therefore, he could not find this residence was on a ridge. However, regarding neighborhood compatibility, he did not think the Mediterranean style design was in character with the ranch style homes in the neighborhood. He felt this design was too much, in terms of bulk and mass, for the neighborhood.
Commissioner Perestam did not believe this property is on a ridge, as it has been a cut pad lot for over 30 years. Regarding privacy, he noted that from 5441 and 5435 Middlecrest there is a wonderful example of what can be done with vegetation to preserve privacy. He stated that he would like to include more vegetation to help soften the privacy between the subject property and 5441 Middlecrest Road. Regarding neighborhood compatibility, he felt that this large lot has a greater capacity to accommodate a two-story home. He felt he could support the project as proposed, but would be happier to see the project reduced in size. He also mentioned the impervious surface in the front yard of the residence, noting almost the entire front is an impervious surface. He stated that he was fairly certain that in looking at the proposed plans the front yard would be more than 50 percent impervious surface, and asked staff to verify that.
Chairman Knight felt it was very difficult, given the definition in the Development Code, to determine whether the property is on a ridge or promontory. However, he felt that in this situation the property is not on a ridge or promontory. He objected to the proposed two-story staircase at the rear of the addition, which he felt would be very prominent when viewed from Indian Peak Road. Regarding neighborhood compatibility, he did not think the two-story addition was compatible with the predominately single story ranch style homes in the neighborhood. He felt there are options available to the applicant, such as extending out as a single story. Regarding privacy, he felt the addition of the privacy walls on both sides of the proposed addition mitigates the issue for both neighbors.
Commissioner Lewis moved to deny the requested application, without prejudice, as the neighborhood compatibility finding could not be made by a majority of the Planning Commission, seconded by Commissioner Karp.
Commissioner Ruttenberg felt that the Planning Commission tries, as much as possible, to give the applicant every opportunity to try to satisfy the Commission that an application should be granted, and if a majority of the Commission is of a position that certain changes could be made to this project in order for it to gain a majority approval, the Commission should do that rather than deny the project. He felt it would be fairer to continue the item rather than deny it.
Commissioner Perestam agreed, stating he was more inclined to recommend a continuance to allow the architect and applicant the opportunity to explore a single story addition or a smaller two-story addition.
Commissioner Tetreault questioned whether the Planning Commission should re-open the public hearing to ask the applicant if they would agree to granting a 90 day extension to allow them the time to redesign the project, rather than having the Planning Commission outright deny the project tonight.
Commissioner Karp did not think an extension was necessary, as the applicant and architect had not shown any desire to expand the house on grade rather than go to a second story. He did not think any change in design would change most of the Commissioners thinking on whether the house will be compatible or not with the neighborhood.
Vice Chairman Gerstner stated that his objection to compatibility is greater than a screen wall that protects some privacy to the neighbors or taking 30 percent off of the proposed second story. He felt the house was incompatible for a majority or the entire second floor, and felt it would be extremely challenging to create a second story addition that would be compatible. He stated that he has not seen any willingness from the applicant to step up and take some bold moves to redesign the house. He felt the only way to make the applicant take a serious look at a single story home is to truly cause that to happen, which he felt was to deny this application without prejudice.
Commissioner Ruttenberg felt that it was important that the applicant know where the Planning Commission stands in regards to allowing a two-story house on the property.
Commissioner Tetreault stated that he does not rule out a second story addition on this house as being compatible with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that there are Commissioners who do not automatically rule a second story addition out, and therefore the Planning Commission should continue the public hearing to allow the applicant a chance to make modifications to the addition, rather than denying the project.
The motion to deny the Height Variation and Site Plan Review, without prejudice, passed, (4-3) with Commissioners Tetreault, Perestam, and Ruttenberg dissenting.
Director Rojas explained that the Resolution being adopted is the Resolution in the packet, however staff will change the title to “Resolution to deny a Height Variation and Site Plan Review without prejudice”. He stated that Section G will be revised to read “The proposed structure is not compatible with the immediate neighborhood character in terms of the scale to surrounding residences including total square footage and lot coverage of the residence; architectural styles, including façade treatments, structure height, open space between structures, roof design, the apparent bulk or mass of the structure, number of stories, and building materials; and front-,side-and rear-yard setbacks. The 2nd-floor addition has not been designed and situated in a manner that integrates it with the overall design of the house and minimizes the creation of unbroken 2-story facades. In addition, the addition is not designed so that it appears similar to the surrounding 1-story residences in the immediate neighborhood.”
Director Rojas stated that Section 2 will be revised to read: “The Planning Commission finds that, although the proposed 962-suare foot 1st-floor additions to the existing 1-story single-family residence are consistent with the development standards of the RS-2 zoning district and other relevant provisions of the City’s Development Code, the additions are an integral part of the proposed 2nd-story addition, and thus the requested site plan review application is denied as well.”
Director Rojas stated that Section 4 will be revised to read: “For the foregoing reasons and based on the information and findings included in the Staff Report, Minutes and other records of proceedings, the Planning Commission of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes hereby denies without prejudice a height variation and site plan review (Planning Case No. ZON2005-0010 for the construction of 962-square foot 1st-floor additions and 1,292-square foot 2nd-story additions to an existing 1-story single-family residence, located at 5437 Middlecrest Road.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 8:50 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 9:00 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
3. Appeal of Site Plan Review and Grading Permit (ZON2005-00593): 29664 Grandpoint Lane
Associate Planner Sohn presented the staff report, explaining the history and scope of the project. She explained that Mr. White and the other appellants appealed the Director’s decision of approval on the following grounds: 1) The destruction of the natural contour of the hill. She explained that staff felt the grading is proposed on a non-extreme slope for the west and south portions of the residence, grading on the extreme slope is restricted to the construction of retaining walls to create flat areas around the proposed residence, and grading has been designed to minimize disturbance to the natural contour of the area; 2) Gross underestimation of lot coverage resulting in appearance of bulk and mass. She stated that staff recalculated lot coverage and lot coverage is under 40 percent of the lot area. Further, staff feels the house has been designed in such a manner that the bulk of the house is behind the front façade; and, 3) Mischaracterization of the illegal retaining walls being described as garden walls and therefore creating major safety issues. She stated that walls under 3 feet in height are not considered retaining walls, but rather garden walls. She stated that for these reasons staff feels the Director’s decision can be upheld and recommends the appeal be denied.
Chairman Knight referred to page 13 of the staff report and the discussion regarding the concern about access off of the private street. He asked staff if the discussion referred only to equipment related to the construction of the project or if there was an analysis done for any possible interference to a private easement after the building is constructed.
Associate Planner Sohn answered that it was only for the period of construction.
Commissioner Karp asked if staff verified the applicant has legal access over the driveway easement.
Associate Planner Sohn answered that staff will have to research that.
Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.
Rod White 2952 Crownview Drive (appellant) began by discussing the garden wall. He stated that the wall is, without question, well over 2 feet 11 inches tall, and is therefore a retaining wall. He noted that the applicant’s own geologist has stated that if a retaining wall is built at that location, it should be built on caissons. He stated that the lot in question is a fill lot, and bedrock is almost 55 feet down. He stated that he has been trying to get answers about the walls on the property for 3 years, and was adamant that the walls are not garden walls, but taller retaining walls, and there are no caissons present.
Commissioner Karp asked if the walls are existing.
Mr. White answered that they are existing, and are located right in front of his yard.
Commissioner Karp asked Mr. White if he would be objecting to the walls if they were built according to the engineering recommendations.
Mr. White answered that he does not have an objection to the applicant building his home, but he does have an objection when the applicant’s home infringes upon the safety of his home.
Commissioner Lewis asked, if this matter were to be continued, if Mr. White would make himself available to walk the property with any one of the Planning Commissioners.
Mr. White answered that he would be available.
Commissioner Karp asked staff if all geologic, engineering, and safety issues must be met before being given a building permit to build the house and that the wall must be built correctly before given a permit.
Director Rojas answered that was correct.
Jamie Blessum 29664 Grandpoint Lane (applicant) felt that the proposed residence meets his family’s needs as well as the Planning Department requirements for a new single family residence. He stated that the plot plan available at the City shows a legal easement for ingress and egress not only for his property but his neighbor’s property also. He stated that before he built his wall he checked with the City and was told that no Planning Department approval or building permits were needed for the proposed wall under 3 feet in height. He stated that he has soils reports regarding the walls, and has letters from his soils engineer stating the walls do pose a level of safety that is consistent with the requirements of the Building and Safety Department.
Vice Chairman Gerstner asked Mr. Blessum if he could explain the discrepancy between Mr. White’s discussion of the height of the walls and his discussion of the height of the walls.
Mr. Blessum answered that just because someone says it’s true doesn’t mean it’s true. He invited the Planning Commission to look at and measure the existing walls.
Vice Chairman Gerstner asked if any part of the wall is below grade or backfilled, noting that the wall could be 8 feet tall with 6 feet of backfill.
Mr. Blessum answered that that condition would still not meet the definition of a retaining wall. He stated that the walls are gravity walls and have been approved by all necessary agencies.
Peter Hadad (architect) stated that the walls on the property have been put in place for soil erosion mitigation until a house is built. He explained that the garden will be eventually be retained by two other walls in front of it, and will not act as a retaining wall. Regarding bulk and mass, he explained that this house has been kept as low as possible and the massing has been broken up by a series of ridges and a series of rectangles throughout the design, noting that the ridge is only at 12 feet.
Peggy Fussganger: 2960 Crownview Drive, stated that the applicant put in two walls on the property without permits, and the wall on the east side of the property is close to 20 feet tall. She clarified that she is not against the building of a new house on the property, however she was concerned that the applicant, who is a contractor, has changed the footprint of the lot. She stated that the applicant pushed the property out, built the tall wall, and put in quite a bit of fill dirt to expand the lot eastward. She stated that she could not say what the height of the wall is next to Mr. White’s property, however she was sure that there is a significant portion of the wall that is below the dirt. She also noted that there are two slides that have occurred in relation to this property, one from the property above that has slide onto the applicant’s property and one to the side. She noted that all of the lots in the area are on fill, and she had an issue with the compaction of the lot.
June Mendez 2930 Crownview stated that she has had landslides on her property in the past and she is concerned that building such a big house above her will jeopardize her property. She stated that the applicant has already chopped the tops of her trees off without her permission and she was nervous about what else will happen on the property that she is not aware of.
Mr. White (in rebuttal) stated that it is in the deed on his property that the ridgeline of the house on the applicant’s property cannot be any higher than 12 feet. Mr. White was adamant that there is much more than 6 inches of wall below the exposed wall section. He stated that he has been disrespected and his intelligence insulted by the applicant and City staff when they say the wall is only 2’11”. He stated that the wall is a safety issue and asked that his concerned be addressed.
Chairman Knight asked Mr. White when the photographs he distributed of the wall were taken.
Mr. White answered that those photographs were taken as the wall was being built. He also stated that he has photographs that were taken before the walls were built, and didn’t think the Planning Commission would recognize the property.
Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Karp asked staff to clarify the wall situation on the property.
Director Rojas explained that Mr. White has contacted the City on numerous occasions regarding the wall, and City staff visited the site but could find no walls that needed permits. He stated Mr. White then went to the City Council where he showed the photographs of the wall, and he then directed his staff to go back to the site and find that wall. He stated the wall then became a code enforcement issue. He stated that fill has been placed in front of the wall so that it now does not appear as tall as it once was, however whether that wall is acceptable or not will be determined in the Building and Safety process.
Commissioner Karp asked if the City Geologist has reviewed the reports regarding the wall, and if he was satisfied with the report.
Associate Planner Sohn answered that the City Geologist has read and approved the reports regarding the wall.
Chairman Knight asked if the fill placed on the property was illegal fill.
Director Rojas assumed that it was, as there was no permit issued to place the fill on the property, however he noted that the applicant is working with Building and Safety. He noted that there are clearly many unanswered questions regarding this application, and if the Planning Commission wants to continue the public hearing, staff can get the answers for the Planning Commission.
Vice Chairman Gerstner stated that he would like to know exactly what wall is built on the property and the height of that wall from the footing up, and by doing so staff will be able to determine exactly how much fill was placed around that wall.
Vice Chairman Gerstner moved to continue the public hearing to November 28, 2006 to allow staff to respond to the questions raised by the Planning Commission regarding the walls built on the property, seconded by Commissioner Karp. Approved, (7-0).
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 10:00 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 10:10 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (cont)
Commissioner Karp noted that this item will most likely go well after 11:00 and questioned if the Planning Commission should vote now on whether or not to hear new business after 11:00, as per the Planning Commission rules. He noted that there are audience members waiting regarding Agenda Item No. 5.
The Planning Commission discussed whether or not to suspend the rules, and the applicant for Agenda Item No. 5 expressed the opinion that they would rather continue the item to a future meeting rather than wait until well after 11:00 for their item to be heard.
Commissioner Karp moved to not take any new business after 11:00 p.m., as per the Planning Commission rules, seconded by Commissioner Lewis. Approved, (7-0).
4. General Plan Amendment, Zone Change, Coastal Specific Plan Amendment, Coastal Permit, Tentative Tract Map, Variance, Height Variation and Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2005-00536 and ZON2005-00178): Nantasket Drive
Commissioner Perestam noted that he knows the proposed builder for this project, however he does not feel that will be a problem in his decision regarding the project.
Associate Planner Sohn presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the various applications. She reviewed the Initial Study and the subsequent Mitigated Negative Declaration that was prepared, noting that staff felt the potential impacts were either insignificant or can be mitigated to a level of insignificant provided that the appropriate mitigation measures are imposed on the project. She described the unimproved site and gave a history of the site. She stated that staff determined the proposed General Plan Amendment is consistent with the General Plan and the residential land use would not be contrary to the goals and policies of the General Plan. She also stated that staff determined the proposed rezoning of the site would be consistent with the existing surrounding uses, and therefore staff determined the rezoning would be appropriate. Regarding the Coastal Specific Plan Amendment, she discussed the various concerns in the Coastal Specific Plan and stated that staff was able to support the proposed amendment. She also noted that staff determined all necessary findings could be made with regards to the Tentative Tract Map, as well as the Variance. She explained that staff is omitting any discussion on the Height Variation and Grading Permit, as staff was not able to conduct any view analysis in the last month. She stated that staff was recommending the Planning Commission review and provide comments on the proposed General Plan Amendment, Zone Change, Coastal Specific Plan Amendment, Coastal Permit, Tentative Tract Map, and Variance and continue the meeting to November 14th to review the proposed Height Variation and Grading Permit.
Commissioner Ruttenberg questioned, on page 15 of the staff report, why staff chose to use the CR zoning when analyzing the Variance, rather than the proposed residential zoning.
Associate Planner Sohn explained that staff was trying to show that, as existing, the property is in contradiction to the General Plan.
Commissioner Ruttenberg felt that the analysis for the Variance should be consistent with the other analysis done throughout the staff report, which was based on a residential zoning.
Director Rojas agreed, noting that staff will come back with a new analysis for the Variance.
Commissioner Tetreault stated that, per the staff report, the lot is sub-standard for residential as it does not have the 100 foot lot depth for an RS4 zoning, and asked if it is a buildable lot.
Associate Planner Sohn answered that it is a buildable lot, as each of the lots proposed contain the minimum contiguous lot area and meet the minimum size and width requirements.
Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.
Dana Ireland 1 Sea Cove Drive (applicant) distributed information regarding bulk and mass to the Planning Commission that he felt may help them during his discussion of the project. He discussed the Coastal Specific Plan and the subregions found within the Plan and the designated uses, stressing the amount of public access and trails throughout the different subregions. He explained that in order for the Planning Commission to grant a zone change, three findings must be made. He stated that the first finding is that there is a change in street access, and displayed a photograph that depicted the parcel and access to that parcel through residential neighborhoods. He stated that the second finding is that the new zoning is compatible with the surrounding zoning, and showed how the surrounding neighborhoods are zoned RS4 and RS1. He stated that the final finding is timing of development, explaining that the intent of the finding was to not change the zoning until it was known what would be developed in the surrounding areas. He stated that it is well known what is being proposed at the former Marineland site. He therefore felt he meets all three findings necessary in the Code to grant a zone change. He displayed a drawing showing the five lots and how the proposed houses would fit on each lot. He stated that a lot of time has gone into designing the project in a way that will fit into the existing neighborhoods without presenting a lot of bulk and mass from the street.
Juan-Carols Monnaco 6619 Beachview Drive stated he was opposed to the project, as it will cause a complete obstruction of the view that he currently enjoys. He stated it will also greatly affect the value of his property
Mr. Monnaco stated that he will be available for any of the Planning Commissioners to view the proposed project from his property.
Commissioner Karp asked Mr. Monnaco if realized that if this land is rezoned and the houses are kept at a height of 16 feet, that s a permitted by right use of the land, and asked Mr. Monnaco if he was suggesting the City not rezone the property.
Mr. Monnaco answered that he was aware of the 16 foot by right height, and he was opposing this project based on land use and height.
Commissioner Karp asked Mr. Monnaco, if the zoning isn’t changed on the property, what would he reasonably expect to be put on that land.
Mr. Monnaco answered that he would like to see something that is compatible with the rest of the neighborhood. He stated that he would rather the land remain zoned CR and wait until a new proposal for the land use is made and address his concerns at that time.
Commissioner Ruttenberg explained to Mr. Monnaco that the City is very protective of views and there are ordinances in place to protect views, however there are some views that are not protected, and that is why it is very important for the Planning Commissioners to visit his property.
Mr. Monnaco agreed, noting that his concern is his view and his opposition to the change of the land use.
Michael Woodward 1999 Avenue of the Stars Los Angeles, stated that he is an attorney representing the property company. He asked to distribute photographs taken from various homes in the community illustrating the view impacts of the proposed homes. He began by stating the agenda description of houses 25.4 feet high, which does not conform to the application materials or the Mitigated Negative Declaration, which says 26 feet high. He questioned the staff report which states the application is “generally complete”, asking what “generally complete” means. Regarding the Mitigated Negative Declaration, he felt there are certain categories covered by CEQA that should be addressed in connection even with the General Plan Amendment. He stated that these include policies related to view that are in the General Plan and in the Coastal Specific Plan, noting that his specific questions are included in the letter that is in the staff report. He hoped that when the Planning Commission discusses the General Plan, Coastal Specific Plan amendment, and zone change, they also consider the bulk and mass and view impacts in connection with that discussion. He felt that trying to separate the physical aspects of the project from the land use and zoning aspects is a bit disconnected and it should all be considered together. He stated that he hasn’t done much of a view analysis yet, however he has identified approximately 33 units on Nantasket Drive whose views will be affected by this proposed development. He noted that the Code says if the property is being graded, there is no 16-foot by right height limit on the property, and that on a commercially zoned property any development over 16 feet in height must apply for a Variance. He felt the proposed houses are way out of scale, more like mansions at nearly 7,000 square feet, than simple single-family residences.
Commissioner Tetreault referred to the photographs taken from the different properties in regards to views, and stated that it would be helpful to specify over which lot or lots these apartment look out over.
Chairman Knight asked staff how the Code addresses protecting views from apartments.
Director Rojas explained that the finding is whether the project impairs a view from the viewing area of another parcel. He stated that staff will have to consult with the City Attorney on what that means in regards to apartments.
Matt Novobilski, Pacific Property Company, Irvine explained they are the new owners of the Villas Apartments, and that his comments and concerns are from a financial standpoint. He stated that the views from many of the apartments on Nantasket Drive will be seriously impacted or eliminated due to this project and that the financial impact to the complex will be significant. He stated that this property gets premium pricing because of the views, and if the views are taken away the property will not get premium pricing.
Commissioner Lewis asked Mr. Novobilski if a financial analysis has been done taking into account the building of a commercial type use on the property.
Mr. Novobilski answered that he has not done one for a commercial use on the property.
Bob Nelson 6612 Channelview Court stated he was speaking on behalf of his Homeowners Association and not as an individual. He asked that the Seabluff HOA comments be included in the attachments at the end of the staff report so that it will be a part of the administrative record. He also asked that the Planning Commission remove an April letter, which was not a letter from the HOA and does not represent the HOA. He read comments from the October 5, 2005 City Council minutes from members of the public who felt the General Plan should not be revised or changed. He also read from the minutes that Director Rojas suggested the only thing that could go there that would compliment the Long Point project would be some sort of small bed and breakfast or a restaurant. Mr. Nelson discussed the Variance, noting that the property is zoned CR and is surrounded on three sides by CR zoned property. Therefore, he did not feel the necessary findings could be made to approve the Variance, as the owner enjoyed the same rights on his CR zoned properties as others in the City who are on CR zoned property. He challenged the Planning Commission to make the finding that granting the Variance will not be materially detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to property and improvements in the area where the property is located. He asked the Planning Commission to deny the zone change and let the applicant come back to the City with a proposal for a CR use.
Chairman Knight asked staff if it was possible to remove the April letter from the record as requested by Mr. Nelson.
Director Rojas answered that it was not possible to remove the April letter from the record, however it will be noted that the letter is not from or endorsed by the Homeowners Association.
David Emenhiser 6620 Channelview Court extended an invitation to the Planning Commission to meet with the residence in the area who are most affected by this project. He stated that he did not feel the General Plan should be changed, as placing these two-story homes on such a small piece of property may set a precedence in the area. He was disappointed to learn from staff that the parking issue had not been addressed, as he felt these homes would impact street parking. He discussed golf safety, referring to a City golf safety report for Teranea which states that no development should be allowed within 150 feet of the golf course. He stated that these houses will be 20 feet away. He was concerned with the financial impact to some of the homeowners because of the loss of their view due to this development. He stated that Mr. Ireland has many friends at City Hall, and asked that the Planning Commission look at this application objectively.
Commissioner Karp asked if the houses were proposed at 16 feet in height or less, would he still have the same opinion of the development.
Mr. Emenhiser stated that he is confused about the grading and where the 16 feet would be measured from.
Commissioner Karp asked Mr. Emenhiser if he would be opposed to whatever is built on that property.
Mr. Emenhiser stated that he was opposed to the zone change request when it was heard by the City Council and is still opposed to the zone change.
Commissioner Karp noted that there are permitted commercial uses for the property and asked Mr. Emenhiser if he would be opposed to that type of construction.
Mr. Emenhiser answered that he did not believe it was a commercially viable piece of property for that type of construction and that either the City Council or the Coastal Commission would not allow that type of use on the property.
Commissioner Karp asked Mr. Emenhiser if he would therefore be opposed to any development on this piece of property.
Mr. Emenhiser answered that he would be opposed to any development on this property.
Regarding the parking, Commissioner Karp felt that the apartment complexes do not provide enough parking for their tenants, and asked Mr. Emenhiser where it says in any City Ordinance that the City must provide parking for a complex that is under parked.
Mr. Emenhiser noted that these apartments were approved and built prior to the City incorporation, and did not know if there was any Ordinance regarding parking.
Commissioner Karp stated that in his letter and also during his public testimony, Mr. Emenhiser had made a reference that Mr. Ireland may receive special preference at City Hall. He asked Mr. Emenhiser if he still felt that way, and if so, what is he basing this on.
Mr. Emenhiser answered that he does feel Mr. Ireland gets preferential treatment, noting that City Councilman Clark recused himself from the City Council hearing as he is a friend of Mr. Ireland.
Brian Bajania 6615 Beachview Drive stated he moved to this area for the view and location. He stated that if the proposed homes are built he will lose his view and it will seem as if he is living in a box. He was also concerned about the property value.
Danka Neimar 6605 Beachview Drive expressed her opposition to the project, as she will lose a portion of her view, it will cause increased traffic in the neighborhood, and the size of the proposed home in relation to the lot size.
Dana Ireland (in rebuttal) pointed out that there will be a 68-foot tall structure built at the Teranea site that will most likely be blocking views well above anything at his project. He stated that he is very willing to work with everyone to minimize the impact of his property.
Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.
Chairman Knight asked staff if, when doing the view analysis for Mr. Ireland’s property will there be any consideration of the potential project that will be in back of his, specifically the Teranea project.
Director Rojas answered that will be taken into account when doing the analysis.
Commissioner Ruttenberg discussed the General Plan amendment, explaining he feels it is important to amend documents at the appropriate time for the appropriate reason. He understood why the property may have originally be zoned CR, however over the years the property has become accessible only through residential zones, which shows why this particular parcel is more appropriate to be zoned as residential rather than CR.
Commissioner Lewis agreed that the appropriate zoning for this property is residential.
Commissioner Karp felt this property is currently mis-zoned and not compatible with the neighborhood, and took exception to those who wanted to keep the CR zoning so that nothing will be built at the site. He felt the best and most compatible zoning for this property is residential.
Vice Chairman Gerstner stated that over the years the property has been zoned for projects that never happened. He felt that now that Teranea has started construction there is a much more definitive use for area, and allows Mr. Ireland’s property to now be adjusted so that it conforms with the neighborhood.
Commissioner Tetreault felt that as wise as the City’s founders were and those who came later and developed the General Plan, he felt it was a stretch to say it is a perfect plan for all times. He felt that if something can be done to improve upon the General Plan, he felt it should be done. He felt that the property is much more suitable and compatible as a residential lot, and that the opportunity to changing the zoning is really an effort to prevent any development on the property. He felt the property owner has a right to develop the property, and didn’t think the City can deny any reasonable request to develop the property.
Commissioner Perestam stated he was very supportive of the zoning change and looked at it as an opportunity to clear up an area that is mis-zoned for today’s uses.
Chairman Knight asked staff to go back to the 1982 City Council Resolution, regarding the creation of the CR zone on the lot, and see if there is something staff or the Planning Commission is missing on why the City Council created the CR zoning.
Regarding the zone change, Commissioner Lewis was comfortable making the changes suggested by staff, and was anxious to receive more information at the next meeting.
Commissioner Ruttenberg was also is agreement with staff’s recommendations that were before the Planning Commission, noting however that he has formed no opinion on the proposed Height Variation or Variance that will be before the Commission at a future meeting.
Vice Chairman Gerstner agreed with Commissioner Ruttenberg’s comments.
Commissioner Tetreault stated that he is in favor of adopting a recommendation to the City Council for a zone change to residential, however he was not sure he agreed that it should be RS4. He stated that he would be interested in hearing more information on what type of residential zoning could be designated for this area before he could make the recommendation that it be zoned RS4.
Commissioner Perestam supported the zone change to RS4.
Chairman Knight stated that zoning usually follows the General Plan, and as he is agreement with the General Plan amendment the zoning follows suit.
Commissioners Lewis, Ruttenberg, and Vice Chairman Gerstner all stated that they were in favor of both the Coastal Specific Plan amendment and the vesting tentative tract map.
Commissioner Tetreault also was in favor, however he was cautious about leaving some room for options, given there is more information coming at the next meeting.
Commissioner Perestam was in favor of the proposed Coastal Specific Plan amendment.
Chairman Knight referred to page S2-7 of the Coastal Specific Plan regarding buffer areas and outdoor light shielding, and asked staff to address those issues. He stated that there is a critical view corridor that transverses the site that he asked be carefully reviewed and analyzed. He also questioned the Coastal Commission’s involvement with the project and asked staff to include that in their next staff report.
Associate Planner Sohn explained that because the applicant is proposing to change the land use specified in the Coastal Specific Plan, the ultimate approval lies with the Coastal Commission.
Chairman Knight discussed drainage with regards to the Tentative Tract Map and wanted to make sure that whatever happens is coordinated with the Teranea project, as this street drains into a riparian corridor and into the Teranea project. He noted that the drainage at the Teranea project is currently under review in the City as well as the Coastal Commission and there needs to be some type of coordination. He stated that the same goes with the trails and the trail connections.
Director Rojas stated that the discussion of this project will be continued to November 14, 2006.
5. Maintenance review for View Restoration Permit No. 161:
Continued to October 10, 2006
CONTINUED BUSINESS (cont)
2. Discussion of possible re-zoning of Elkmont Canyon from RS-4 to OH
Continued to October 10, 2006.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
6. Minutes of August 22, 2006
Continued to October 10, 2006
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
7. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of October 10, 2006
The meeting was adjourned at 12:55 a.m.