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FROM: DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT
DATE: FEBRUARY 20, 2007
SUBJECT: APPEAL TO PLANNING CASE NO. ZON2006-00370 (SITE PLAN REVIEW): REQUEST TO OVERTURN THE PLANNING COMMISSION’S DECISION TO ALLOW THE CONSTRUCTION OF A 4,280 SQUARE FOOT NEW RESIDENCE IN REPLACEMENT OF THE EXISTING, FIRE-DAMAGED, 3,946 SQUARE FOOT RESIDENCE.
Adopt Resolution No. 2007-__, denying Mr. Mathews’ appeal and if the Council agrees that Mr. Hung’s view remains significantly impaired by one of the applicant’s trees, approve Mr. Hung’s appeal to modify the Planning Commission’s condition No. 13 of Exhibit ‘A’ regarding foliage removal, thereby approving with modified conditions Site Plan Review (Case No. 2006-00370) to allow the construction of a 4,280 square foot new residence in replacement of the existing, fire-damaged 3,946 square foot residence.
In November 2006, the Director approved a Site Plan Review application requesting to replace an existing fire-damaged residence with a new residence that required Neighborhood Compatibility analysis. The project was appealed to the Planning Commission by a neighbor who raised a concern with the new roofline. The appellant’s request to overturn the Director’s decision was denied and the Planning Commission upheld the Director’s decision with a modification to a foliage condition to remove one tree and trim/lace the other, rather than remove both trees. The Planning Commission’s decision has been appealed by two separate neighbors with separate concerns; 1) overturn the Planning Commission’s decision on the approval of the new residence due to a continued concern with the roofline of the new residence; and, 2) modify the foliage condition to require removal of both trees. Staff is recommending that the Planning Commission’s decision be upheld with regards to the Neighborhood Compatibility determination. Since the applicant removed one tree and trimmed/laced the other as conditioned by the Planning Commission prior to the City Council meeting, staff conducted a site visit and determined that although the removal of one tree and trimming/lacing of the other tree improved the neighbor’s view, it is not sufficient enough to restore his view. Therefore, if the City Council agrees that the neighbor’s view continues to be significantly impaired by the appellant’s foliage, staff is recommending that the Council approve the Site Plan Review for the new residence with a modification on the foliage condition to remove the remaining tree.
On November 15, 2006, the Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement, after a duly noticed public comment period, approved a Site Plan Review (ZON2006-00370) application to allow the construction of a new 4,280 square foot, one-story residence to replace an existing, fire-damaged, 3,946 square-foot, one-story residence located at 58 Avenida Corona (Mr. & Mrs. Johnson). In accordance with the Municipal Code, a Notice of Decision for the approval was sent to all interested parties. This approval included a condition to remove two Ficus/Carob trees on the subject property that was determined by staff to be significantly impairing a view from a neighboring property, prior to Building Permit issuance.
On November 30, 2006, the applicant’s adjacent neighbor (Mr. & Mrs. Mathews) filed a timely appeal of the Director’s decision requesting that the Planning Commission overturn the approval of the Site Plan Review on the basis that the design, more specifically the roof line of the proposed project, is not compatible with the neighborhood. After a duly noticed public commenting period, on January 9, 2007 the Planning Commission denied the appeal and upheld the Director’s approval of the Site Plan Review with modified conditions of approval for dealing with the two trees that were found to significantly impair a neighbor’s view. Specifically, the Planning Commission required the applicant to remove one tree and lace the other instead of removing both trees, as originally conditioned by the Director.
After a duly noticed appeal period, two appeals were submitted by separate property owners requesting that the City Council overturn the Planning Commission’s decision. Each appeal is discussed separately below.
The site and project description, staff’s analysis of the required findings, letters of concern and staff’s responses to the letters of concern can be found in the attached Director Staff Report dated November 15, 2006. In addition, the Planning Commission Staff Report dated January 9, 2007 and the excerpted Planning Commission minutes from the January 9, 2007 meeting are attached.
In summary, on November 15, 2007, staff determined that the applicant’s proposed replacement residence is compatible with the immediate neighborhood and meets all of the applicable Development Code requirements. This decision was appealed to the Planning Commission by the adjacent neighbor located at 57 Avenida Corona (Mr. and Mrs. Mathews), who felt that the new roofline of the proposed replacement residence is not compatible with the large majority of homes in close proximity. The Planning Commission ultimately determined that the proposed residence is compatible with the immediate neighborhood. As such, the Planning Commission denied the appeal and upheld the Director’s approval, with exception to the amended condition regarding the applicant’s trees as noted earlier. The Planning Commission adopted Planning Commission Resolution No. 2007-02 (attached) memorializing its decision in a 5-2 vote, with Commissioner Tetreault and Vice Chair Gerstner abstaining.
As noted, two separate appeals by two separate property owners on two separate issues have been submitted in response to the Planning Commission’s decision. These appeals are described below.
On January 24, 2007, the property owners of 57 Avenida Corona (Lemuel Paul & Janet Irene Mathews) submitted an appeal in a timely manner on the grounds that the roofline of the proposed new residence on 58 Avenida Corona is not compatible with the immediate neighborhood and will significantly obstruct their view. Mr. & Mrs. Mathews are requesting that the City Council require the proposed new residence at 58 Avenida Corona to be more compatible with the architectural style established by the original subdivider in the 1950’s.
In their appeal letter, the appellants mention that the original subdivider’s (Truman Enterprises) original intent was to have homes constructed with roof lines that would not significantly obstruct views by restricting the roof designs to be low or flat. As discussed in the attached January 9, 2007 Planning Commission Staff Report, staff conducted an analysis to address the appellant’s specific concern regarding the roof pitch. As illustrated in Exhibit ‘B’, ‘C’, and ‘D’ (see attached) of the January 9, 2007 Staff Report, there are 5 single-story homes with a roof pitch of approximately 3:12 or greater within the 20-closest homes of the subject property. The proposed new residence is designed with a roof pitch of 3.5:12, which the Planning Commission felt was compatible with other existing single-story residences within the immediate neighborhood.
Furthermore, as mentioned in previous Staff Reports, the proposed structure is a one-story residence designed within the by-right height envelope of 16’ (as measured form the highest elevation of existing building pad covered by structure) and 20’ (as measured from the point where the lowest foundation or slab meets finished grade). Although staff and the Planning Commission acknowledge the appellants’ concern regarding potential view impairment resulting from the proposed project, view analysis is not an evaluation criterion for structures such as the one proposed that are designed within the by-right building height envelope of 16’/20’.
Lastly, the appellant mentions that the CC&R’s for this tract limit the houses to one-story. Although the City is not responsible for a property owner’s compliance with any CC&R’s that may govern the property and the City does not enforce private CC&R’s, the proposed replacement residence will be a one-story structure.
Staff believes that no new information has been submitted by the appellant to warrant overturning the Planning Commission’s decision and therefore recommends that the City Council uphold the Planning Commission’s decision and deny this appeal.
Foliage Condition appealed by Mr. Jason Hung at 4 La Vista Verde
On January 23, 2007, the property owner of 4 La Vista Verde (Jason Hung) submitted an appeal on the grounds that lacing the Ficus/Carob tree in the front yard will not be sufficient to restore his view which is presently being significantly impaired by the Johnson’s foliage. Mr. Hung is requesting that the City Council modify the Foliage Analysis condition so that both Ficus/Carob trees on 58 Avenida Corona are removed as originally conditioned by staff.
The City’s View Restoration and Preservation ordinance (Municipal Code Section 17.02.040.B.4) requires that applicants seeking to build new structures or additions to existing structures remove any foliage that is found to be significantly impairing the view from another parcel as a condition of permit issuance. As such, since the applicant is proposing to add 334 square feet to the pre-existing residence, staff performed a foliage analysis prior to making the original determination on the project and determined that there were two Ficus/Carob trees on the applicant’s property which significantly impaired the Harbor view from 4 La Vista Verde (Hung). As such, staff imposed a condition on the approval to remove both trees prior to Building Permit issuance because staff believed that lacing or trimming the trees would not restore the neighbor’s view due to the dense trunk and limb structure of the trees. After the staff decision was made, Ms. Johnson requested a meeting with Staff, at which time she noted that she was reluctant to remove both trees and asked if one of the trees could be laced. She noted that she had obtained a report from an arborist stating that her neighbor’s view could be improved by pruning one of the trees. Staff agreed to review her arborist’s report (attached) and re-evaluate the view from 4 La Vista Verde to determine whether the view could be restored by lacing the tree as she requested. In the course of re-evaluating the matter, an appeal of the Director’s decision was filed by Mr. and Mrs. Mathews. Once the appeal was filed, staff could no longer change the tree removal condition. Notwithstanding, Staff concluded from the subsequent site visit, that removing one tree and lacing the other tree would still significantly impair the neighbor’s view.
During the Planning Commission appeal hearing, the applicant and some Commissioners raised a concern regarding the removal of both trees. Since appeal hearings are “de novo” hearings, the Planning Commission was able to reassess the action on the two trees. The Planning Commission determined that removing the Ficus/Carob tree behind the Eucalyptus tree in the rear yard and lacing the Ficus/Carob tree in the front yard will be sufficient enough to restore the view from 4 La Vista Verde, and thus conditioned the project as such. Since the Planning Commission meeting, the applicant has removed the Carob/Ficus tree that was behind the Eucalyptus tree and laced the Ficus/Carob tree in the front yard as determined by the Planning Commission.
Although typically staff would have no reason to revisit the Planning Commission’s determination with regards to the tree trimming condition, since an appeal was filed on this specific issue and due to the Johnson’s timely removal and trimming of the trees as conditioned by the Planning Commission decision, prior to the Council’s appeal hearing, staff felt compelled to reassess the view from 4 La Vista Verde (Hung) to provide some guidance to the Council on the appeal issue. ‘Exhibit B’ shows the recent photos taken from the Hung’s living room. Staff believes that although the removal of one tree and the lacing/trimming of the other tree improves Mr. Hung’s view, staff believes that the laced/trimmed Ficus/Carob tree still significantly impairs the Harbor view from Mr. Hung’s viewing area. If the City Council agrees with staff’s determination, staff recommends that the City Council amend Condition No. 13 of ‘Exhibit A’ to remove the Ficus/Carob tree in the front yard.
On February 13, 2007, the Johnson’s submitted a letter dated February 6, 2007 (attached) which raises a number of concerns about the review process that they have had to endure to rebuild their fire-damaged house as well as concerns with the appeals that have been filed. The issues related to the appeals are addressed in the Discussion portion of this Staff Report. The concerns and questions regarding the review process that the Johnson’s have had to endure, which were also raised in a previous letter dated January 2, 2007 that was provided to the Planning Commission (attached), are addressed below.
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson’s home at 58 Avenida Corona experienced severe fire damage in September 2005 and thus the proposed project is to rebuild (and slightly enlarge) the pre-existing house. As with any house that is rebuilt or renovated, new structures have to be designed to meet current building code standards and need to go through the City’s planning and building and safety review process. Recognizing the sensitivity of such matters, it has been, and continues to be, the Department’s policy that if and when plans for a repair or replacement of a fire damaged dwelling are submitted, that the approval of the reconstruction plans is expedited. Under this policy, planning approval is immediately granted in cases where the replacement structure is the same square footage as the pre-existing structure and Building and Safety plan check is expedited. Case in point, for the last 3 projects prior to the present project that involved the repair of fire-damaged homes, planning approval was granted within 1 to 2 days of the repair plans being submitted. Most notably, there was house that was severely damaged by fire in January 2004 that necessitated a complete rebuild of the structure. The reconstruction plans were submitted to the City on July 6, 2004, planning approval was issued on July 8, 2004 and after going through Building and Safety plan check, the building permit was issued on October 26, 2004.
With regards to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson’s reconstruction project, it has been a series of unfortunate circumstances that have resulted in a longer than expected review process.
The second unfortunate circumstance is that the applicant’s new roofline (that is approximately 4 feet higher than the previous roofline) happens to impact a neighbor’s view. Although the new roofline is within the 16-foot by right height limit, the applicant’s neighbor is clearly not happy about the new roofline and as a result appealed the Director’s decision to the Planning Commission and appealed the Planning Commission’s decision to the City Council. The appeals have added about 3 months to the review process.
Given the Johnson’s situation, Staff has set this appeal hearing for the earliest City Council date possible and has allowed the applicants to prematurely submit their plans into the Building and Safety Plan Check process. In most cases, an applicant cannot submit plans to Building and Safety Division for plan check until a planning approval is final.
There are no fiscal impacts related to this project. If the City Council decides to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision in regards to condition No. 13, Mr. Hung is entitled to a full refund of the appeal fee ($1,222.00). If the City Council decides to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision in regards to the roof design or height of the proposed structure, the Mathews are entitled to a full refund of their appeal fee ($1,222.00).
In addition to Staff’s recommendation, the alternatives available for the City Council’s consideration include:
1. Deny both appeals and uphold the Planning Commission’s decision.
Joel Rojas, AICP,
Paul D. Bussey,
RESOLUTION NO. 2007-
A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES DENYING THE APPEAL OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION’S DECISION TO ALLOW THE CONSTRUCTION OF A 4,280 SQUARE FOOT NEW RESIDENCE IN REPLACEMENT OF THE EXISTING, FIRE-DAMAGED, 3,946 SQUARE FOOT RESIDENCE AND GRANTING THE APPEAL REGARDING VIEW IMPAIRMENT CAUSED BY EXISTING FOLIAGE AND THEREBY MODIFYING THE PLANNING COMMISSION’S DECISION TO REQUIRE REMOVAL OF ANOTHER TREE.
WHEREAS, on November 15, 2006, the Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement approved a Site Plan Review (ZON2006-00370) application to allow the construction of a new 4,280 square foot residence to replace an existing, fire-damaged, 3,946 square foot residence;
WHEREAS, on January 24, 2007, Lemuel Paul and Irene Mathews submitted a timely appeal that requested the Planning Commission to overturn the Director’s approval of the Site Plan Review application on the basis that the design of the new residence is not compatible with the existing neighborhood; and,
WHEREAS, on January 9, 2007, the Planning Commission determined that the design of the new residence is compatible with the immediate neighborhood and adopted P.C. Resolution No. 2007-02, denying the appeal and upholding the Director’s decision, thereby approving the Site Plan Review. In making their decision the Planning Commission amended condition No.13 of ‘Exhibit A’ requiring the applicant to remove the Carob/Ficus tree located behind the Eucalyptus tree and lace the Carob/Ficus tree in the front yard; and,
WHEREAS, on January 23, 2007, the property owner of 4 La Vista Verde (Jason Hung) submitted a timely appeal requesting the City Council overturn the Planning Commission’s decision related to condition No. 13 of ‘Exhibit A’ and modify said condition to require the removal of two Ficus/Carob trees on the subject property (58 Avenida Corona) due to significant view impairment; and,
WHEREAS, on January 24, 2007, the property owners of 57 Avenida Corona (Lemuel Paul and Janet Irene Mathews) submitted a timely appeal requesting the City Council to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision of the Site Plan Review on the grounds that the roofline of the proposed new residence (58 Avenida Corona) is not compatible with the immediate neighborhood and causes significant view impairment; and,
WHEREAS, pursuant to the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code Sections 21000 et. seq. ("CEQA"), the State's CEQA Guidelines, California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 15000 et. seq., the City's Local CEQA Guidelines, and Government Code Section 65962.5(f) (Hazardous Waste and Substances Statement), Staff found no evidence that the Site Plan Review would have a significant effect on the environment and, therefore, the proposed project has been found to be categorically exempt under Class 3 (Section 15303); and,
WHEREAS, on February 20, 2007, after notice issued pursuant to the provisions of the Development Code, the City Council held a public hearing to consider the appeals to the Site Plan Review decision, at which time all interested parties were given an opportunity to be heard and present evidence; and,
NOW, THEREFORE, THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES DOES HEREBY FIND, DETERMINE AND RESOLVE AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1: That the approved Site Plan Review includes a 4,280 square-foot, single-story new residence to replace the existing, fire-damaged, single-story, 3,946 square-foot residence.
Section 2: That the Hung’s appeal, which requested removal of the remaining Ficus/Carob tree in the front yard is warranted, since it significantly impairs the Harbor view from 4 La Vista Verde. There were originally two Ficus/Carob trees on 58 Avenida Corona property. In response to the Planning Commission’s decision, the applicants removed one tree and trimmed/laced the other tree as required by the Planning Commission’s determination on January 9, 2007. Although removing one tree and trimming/lacing the other tree improved the view from 4 La Vista Verde, it was not sufficient to eliminate the significant impairment of the view from 4 La Vista Verde. Accordingly, the City Council hereby grants the Hung’s appeal and amends the Planning Commission’s decision to require removal of the Ficus/Carob tree, which is located in the front yard of the subject property.
Section 3: That the Mathews’ appeal is not warranted, since the roof design of the proposed new residence is compatible with what exists in the immediate neighborhood because there are single-story residences with pitched roofs that are similar to the proposed new residence within that neighborhood. Therefore, the proposed roof style is compatible with other homes in that area. Further, the proposed structure is a replacement of an existing home and will be placed in the same relative location, orientation, and design of the original dwelling with only a 334 square foot addition. As such, the new residence is compatible with the immediate neighborhood. In addition, the overall height of the approved new structure will increase to the maximum allowed by-right height of 16’/20’, which complies with the requirements of Title 17 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code, which does not require a view analysis. For all of these reasons, the Mathews’ appeal is hereby denied.
Section 4: For the forgoing reasons, and based on information and findings contained in the public record, including the staff reports, minutes, records of proceedings, and evidence presented at the public hearings, the City Council of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes hereby denies the Mr. Mathews’ appeal to modify the proposed roofline of the new residence and approves Mr. Hung’s appeal by modifying Condition No. 13 of Exhibit ‘A’ to remove the Ficus/Carob tree in the front yard, subject to the conditions that are set forth in ‘Exhibit A,’ which is attached hereto and incorporated herein by this reference, and are necessary to protect the public health, safety and general welfare. Except as expressly modified by this resolution, all other conditions of approval that have been imposed on this project shall remain in effect.
PASSED, APPROVED AND ADOPTED this 20th day of February 2007.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA )
Site Plan Review