OCTOBER 24, 2006 PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES

CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
REGULAR MEETING
OCTOBER 24, 2006

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Knight at 7:02 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.

FLAG SALUTE

Vice Chairman Gerstner led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.

ROLL CALL

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

Absent: Commissioners Lewis and Tetreault were excused.

Also present were Deputy Director Pfost, Associate Planner Fox, and Associate Planner Sohn

APPROVAL OF AGENDA

The agenda was unanimously approved as presented.

COMMUNICATIONS

Associate Planner Fox distributed one item of correspondence for agenda item No. 2 and reported that at their last meeting the City Council denied the appeal regarding the non-commercial amateur radio antenna at City Hall, thereby upholding the Planning Commission’s approval. He explained that the City Council remanded the application back to the Planning Commission for further consideration. He also reported that at the November 7th meeting the City Council will be hearing an appeal for the approval of a wall on Pacifica Del Mar as well as the cargo container code amendment.

COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items)

None

CONTINUED BUSINESS

1. Height Variation Permit and Site Plan Review (Case No. ZON2006-00015): 2701 San Ramon Drive

Associate Planner Fox presented the staff report, explaining the applicant has revised the plans but not yet been able to complete the modifications of the silhouette. Therefore, staff was recommending the item be continued to the November 14, 2006 meeting.

There being one speaker, Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.

Sara Dokter 2700 San Ramon Drive expressed her concerns, noting that the second story addition will overlook her driveway and bedroom, which will affect her privacy. She stated that a portion of the balcony was also open to her driveway, yard, and bedroom. She explained that the applicants have agreed to make the windows opaque and remove the balcony from the plans, which should satisfy her privacy concerns.

Commissioner Ruttenberg asked Ms. Dokter if those two changes are made, will she then have any objections to the proposed project.

Ms. Dokter answered that she will have no objections if these two items are addressed.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

The Planning Commission unanimously agreed to continue the public hearing to November 14, 2006.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

2. Height Variation Permit (Case No. Zon2006-00207): 28708 Gunter Road

Associate Planner Fox noted that there was one letter that staff received after the Monday noon deadline and asked the Planning Commission if they wished to receive this letter.

Commission Karp stated that since staff’s recommendation is to continue this item, he preferred to receive the letter in the packet of information for the November 28th meeting.

The Planning Commission agreed.

Associate Planner Sohn presented the staff report, explaining staff had concerns regarding the project and had also received many letters of concerns from the neighbors. Therefore, the applicant expressed the desire to address the concerns and requested continuance to the November 28th meeting to revise the plans and construct a new silhouette.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that he always finds the staff reports very helpful because they help him focus on the issues. He felt that in this case he would have found a full staff report very helpful, as the Commission could have spent a little time discussing the item and possibly providing some guidance to the applicant as to how the Commission viewed the issues before them. He felt that when an item comes before the Planning Commission the first time a complete staff report would be helpful.

Commissioner Perestam agreed, noting that some progress could have been made on this item at this meeting.

Commissioner Ruttenberg noted that there are speakers for this item, and reminded them that the Commission has not seen the details of this project and this item will be addressed in detail at the November 28th meeting.

Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.

Alfred Masse 28709 Gunter Road stated that there is a very large and vocal opposition to the proposed project and with such an active opposition he wanted to make sure everyone has ample opportunity to review the revised plan before the November 28th meeting.

Associate Planner Fox explained that comments received by staff by the Wednesday the week before the meeting will be included in the packet given to the Commissioners and comments received by noon on Monday before the meeting will be distributed to the Commission at the meeting.

Sarojani Verragendar 28629 Gunter Road stated that she very strongly opposes the project as presented, but has not yet viewed the revised plans.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

The Planning Commission unanimously continued the public hearing to the November 28, 2006 meeting.

3. Height Variation Permit (Case No. ZON2006-00349): 6115 Ocean Terrace Drive

Associate Planner Sohn presented the staff report, reviewing the scope of the project and the need for the Height Variation. She explained that staff was concerned about privacy issues due to several proposed windows on the new structure and suggested clearstory or translucent windows. She stated that staff received several letters of concern regarding the height of the structure, which point to the CC&Rs which restricts the building heights to 16 feet. She noted, however, a City Resolution which states that a Height Variation can be applied for and approved in that tract, and in this case staff can make all of the findings to recommend approval of the Height Variation. She also noted that there are currently several homes in the neighborhood that are over 16 feet in height. She stated that staff was able to make all of the necessary findings and was therefore recommending approval of the proposed project as conditioned.

Commissioner Karp noted that staff had an objection to the size of the proposed chimney and asked staff what their recommendation is for the proposed chimney.

Associate Planner Sohn stated that staff was recommending the chimney height be reduced so that it not exceed the minimum requirement as required by the Uniform Building Code, which is 2 feet above the ridgeline.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that in the 20 closest homes, six of them are two-story homes, and asked how tall those homes are.

Associate Planner Sohn answered that the house at 32025 Searidge Circle was approved at 18.5 feet, the house at 32033 Searidge Circle was approved at 20 feet, and the house at 32003 Searidge Circle was approved at 26 feet. She stated that she did not have the heights of the other three houses.

Chairman Knight asked staff to clarify if they were able to make the privacy findings for this project.

Associate Planner Sohn explained that staff was able to make the privacy findings assuming the balcony on the west side is eliminated and the clearstory windows or translucent or opaque windows are installed on the east and west side of the building.

Chairman Knight noted that he was not able to find Conditions of Approval for the balcony, windows, or chimney.

Associate Planner Sohn noted that conditions of approval for the chimney, balcony, and windows would be added.

Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.

George Shaw 23727 Hawthorne Blvd (architect) noted that the subject lot is the smallest of the 20 in the immediate neighborhood, which is why it is proposed as a two-story home. He stated that the front is aligned with the house to the west and the front setback is well back from the 20 foot required setback. He explained that by angling the house it creates much larger side yards with large setbacks. Regarding the chimneys, he stated it would not be any problem to lower them to Code minimums. Regarding the windows in the bedrooms, he noted that the windows on the west side are 165 feet from the living area of the neighboring house and asked the Planning Commission to eliminate the window requirement for the west side. He felt that this house is compatible with the neighborhood and asked the Planning Commission to consider the approval of the project.

Vice Chairman Gerstner noted that, aside from the height of the chimneys, they are an unusual style, and asked why they were designed in such a manner.

Mr. Shaw explained the chimney style is a very traditional style in Europe.

Chairman Knight noted that there is quite a bit of side yard towards the west rear and asked Mr. Shaw if he had considered taking any of the front bulk and mass and putting it more towards the rear on the ground floor.

Mr. Shaw answered that if he puts too much more on the ground floor there will be very little outdoor yard space. He felt it was important to keep a large front yard setback because of the second story on the house.

William Glantz 32037 Searidge Circle stated this is another example of a large house put on a small lot and felt this is a complete reversal of what was just resolved 6 months ago with respect to another house proposed in the neighborhood. He felt this house would be much too tall in the neighborhood. He asked the Planning Commission to consider this very carefully, as it is not compatible with the neighborhood.

Christy Beggins 6015 Ocean Terrace Drive stated that the letter her husband submitted is not a CC&R discussion, and was not happy that staff characterized the letter that way and felt that was a total misrepresentation and attempt to color the letter in a bad way. She stated this is a matter of neighborhood compatibility and precedence. She stated that just 6 months ago she was before the Planning Commission regarding a proposed house across the street from her, noting that the Planning staff recommended denial of that project because of the size, bulk, and mass of the house. She asked why there is a change of opinion from one project to another. She stated that it is the same tract, the same buildable area, and the same size, and referred to the pictures submitted with her husband’s letter. She felt that because the residence at 6010 Ocean Terrace was denied less than 2 years ago there is a precedence in the neighborhood and if staff approves this home the owner of 6010 Ocean Terrace has the right to reapply and to request compensation for their efforts. She felt that the City needs to stay consistent in their dimensions and a 26-foot tall home next to two-foot tall homes is not compatibility. She felt that the statistics presented by staff are not correct and are skewed, and failed to take out the BGR setback when discussing lot size. She explained that the BGR line reduces the buildable area on a lot, and as the BGR line is unique to this tract, the City should adjust the lot size to the amount of lot area inside the BGR line, as only then could staff get an accurate comparison to determine neighborhood compatibility. She stated that she does not want a house of this size built across the street from her home, and asked the Planning Commission to take into consideration that there are still 7 open lots in the tract, most with 16 foot homes on either side.

George Shaw (in rebuttal) stated that he stands behind his design and felt the design does a god job in terms of neighborhood compatibility, setbacks, and impacts to the neighborhood.

Commissioner Karp asked if it would be possible to lower the pad level to accommodate the height of this house.

Mr. Shaw answered that the pad is just about at street level, and lowering the pad would not allow him to get the fall from the northeast corner to the southeast corner.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that he was not on the Planning Commission when 6010 Ocean Terrace Drive was heard, and asked staff if they had any comments regarding that project.

Associate Planner Sohn explained that she was not too familiar with the project at 6010 Ocean Terrace Drive, however she explained that when staff conducts a neighborhood compatibility analysis they are responsible for comparing the proposed project to the 20 closest homes from the subject site. She stated that based on that analysis staff felt that the proposed project is comparable with the immediate neighborhood. She noted that 6010 Ocean Terrace Drive is not within the 20 closest homes to this proposed development.

Vice Chairman Gerstner asked if there may be a sub-set of homes within the 20 homes, noting that on one side of the street many of the homes are two-story homes and on the other side of the street all of the homes are single story homes.

Deputy Director Pfost felt that a good point was raised, however staff felt that there are enough two-story homes within the 20 closest to determine that this proposed residence is compatible with the immediate neighborhood.

Commissioner Karp noted that the houses on the ocean side of the street are set back farther from the street so they can maximize their ocean view, while the houses on the other side have a canyon and steep drop behind them. He felt that this may be a large lot but the pad is not that big, and that should be kept in mind when discussing this project. He felt that the chimneys were too tall and should be lowered, but other than that he felt the house is generally compatible with the neighborhood.

Chairman Knight noted that the architect was in agreement with staff’s recommendations about removing the balcony, however he disagreed with the recommendation regarding the clearstory windows. He asked staff if this would affect their recommendations regarding privacy.

Associate Planner Sohn answered it would affect staff’s recommendation, as staff was not able to contact the neighboring property owner.

Chairman Knight asked, if the clearstory windows were not a condition of approval, would staff still feel there was an infringement of privacy.

Associate Planner Sohn answered that would be staff’s opinion, unless staff was able to meet with the property owner and shown how it would not be an infringement of privacy.

Commissioner Perestam stated that his comments are not related to the CC&Rs of the tract. He stated that he was concerned that this is a small lot with a very tall houses proposed on the lot. He felt that the proposed house will be front-loaded compared to the other houses in the neighborhood. He stated that he has a major concern with the height of the house and did not feel it was compatible with the neighborhood. He felt that if the house could be reduced in height a few feet he would be much more supportive of the project than he is right now.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that he was not sure where he stands on the project at this point.

Vice Chairman Gerstner stated that it is frustrating to have a 17,000 square foot lot, and because of the size only a two-story home can be built on the lot. He felt that the characteristics of the design accentuate the vertical mass of the home and that the house, along with the chimneys, is not compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

Commissioner Karp noted that the buildable pad area of the lot is approximately 13,000 square feet with a proposed residence of 5,173 square feet, and if this is all on one level there will be 38.8 percent lot coverage. He stated that he is torn on the neighborhood compatibility issue of this residence.

Chairman Knight was concerned with the tower elements at the front of the house which he felt added to the bulk and mass of the house. He was also concerned that staff is unsure about the privacy issue if the applicant does not want to make the windows on the one side of the house clearstory. He stated that he was unable to support the project as currently proposed.

Commissioner Ruttenberg stated that he is still unsure about some of the aspects of the project, however if asked to vote today, he would support the staff recommendations and support the project.

Chairman Knight re-opened the public hearing to allow the architect to address the Planning Commission’s concerns.

George Shaw stated that currently there is a 9 foot plate on the second floor and an 8 foot plate on the first floor and those plates could be lowered approximately one foot, as well as lower the highest tower by approximately one foot. He felt that designing a single story residence would push the house closer to the street and the side yard setbacks, which he didn’t want to do. He also noted that he would lower the chimneys.

Commissioner Perestam asked Mr. Shaw about the windows on the west side of the residence.

Mr. Shaw stated that he did not see the need to make the windows on the west side of the residence clearstory, as the outdoor living area and swimming pool area are 170 feet away.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Ruttenberg moved to approve the Height Variation application as recommended by staff, with the modification that the roof be lowered two feet and the chimney be lowered as recommended by the architect.

The motion died due to the lack of a second.

Commissioner Karp stated that he would like to see some sketches by the architect depicting some ideas for a single story residence on this property. He felt that a single story residence would be more compatible with the neighborhood and would still fit nicely on the buildable pad.

Vice Chairman Gerstner agreed, noting that this current design is too massive and did not feel it was compatible with the neighborhood. He did not feel that this house necessarily had to be a two-story residence.

Commissioner Perestam noted in the staff report there is a statement that the Development Code limits lot coverage in an RS-1 zone to 25 percent, and asked staff if that was 25 percent of the whole lot rather than the buildable lot area.

Associate Planner Sohn answered that it is 25 percent of the entire lot.

Commissioner Ruttenberg noted that of the 20 closest homes, there are at least 8 that are larger than could be built on 25 percent of the lot. He felt that if the Planning Commission is going to require this applicant to build a one story home, then his home will have to be on a smaller percentage of his lot than 8 of his neighbors. He felt that this was too extreme.

Chairman Knight stated that he was not against a two-story home, only that the bulk and mass of this proposed home is too close to the street and not compatible with the neighborhood. He felt it was possible to design a two-story home with not as much bulk and mass facing the street that would be compatible with the neighborhood.

Vice Chairman Gerstner asked staff to research and try to explain to the Planning Commission at the next meeting, if this item is continued, why several of these homes have more than 25 percent lot coverage.

Commissioner Perestam moved to continue the public hearing to December 12, 2006 to allow the applicant an opportunity to consider the comments and concerns raised by the Planning Commission regarding the design of the proposed residence, and to reconstruct the silhouette to reflect the proposed changes, seconded by Vice Chairman Gerstner.

Chairman Knight re-opened the public hearing.

Chairman Knight asked the architect, as the representative of the applicant, if he would consent to a 90-day extension.

Mr. Shaw answered that he consented to a 90-day extension.

Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Karp stated that he would like to see an architectural discussion and justification as to why the design has to be two-story and why it can’t be a single story design.

Commissioner Perestam moved to amend his motion to include an architectural discussion and justification as to why the design has to be two-story, seconded by Vice Chairman Gerstner.

Chairman Knight stated that he was willing to support the motion, however he noted that the changes will have to be substantially more than the minor changes discussed by the architect for him to be able to support the project.

Commissioner Perestam added that his concern with the current project is the height and the bulk and mass associated with the height of the project.

The motion to continue the public hearing to December 12th was approved, (3-2) with Commissioner Ruttenberg and Chairman Knight dissenting.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

4. Minutes of September 26, 2006

Commissioner Ruttenberg noted a typo on page 18 of the minutes.

Chairman Knight noted a clarification on page 16 of the minutes.

The minutes were unanimously approved as amended.

ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS

5. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of November 14, 2006

The Planning Commission reviewed the pre-agenda for the November 14th meeting.

ADJOURNMENT

The meeting was adjourned at 8:45 p.m.