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REQUESTED ACTION: A REQUEST TO CONSTRUCT A 536 SQUARE FOOT SECOND-STORY ADDITION ABOVE THE EXISTING GARAGE, AT THE FRONT OF AN EXISTING 2,866 SQUARE FOOT, TWO-STORY RESIDENCE IN THE RS-4 ZONING DISTRICT.
RECOMMENDATION: ADOPT P.C. RESOLUTION NO. 2007-___; THEREBY DENYING, WITHOUT PREJUDICE, THE HEIGHT VARIATION (CASE NO. ZON2007-00085).
ZONING: SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENTIAL – RS-4
LAND USE: SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENTIAL
CODE SECTIONS: 17.02, 17.48, 17.80, & 17.96
GENERAL PLAN: RESIDENTIAL – 2-4 DWELLING UNITS/ACRE
TRAILS PLAN: N/A
SPECIFIC PLAN: N/A
CEQA: CATEGORICALLY EXEMPT (CLASS 1)
ACTION DEADLINE: JULY 10, 2007
PLANNING COMMISSION MEMBERS RESIDING WITHIN 500’ OF SUBJECT PROPERTY: NONE
On February 20, 2007, the applicant submitted a Height Variation application to the Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Department for review and processing. The applicant requested approval to construct a second-story addition to the front of the existing two-story residence.
The subject property is currently improved with a 2,330 square foot, two-story residence with a 536 square foot garage. It should also be noted, although the main façade of the residence is setback 21’-0” from the front property line, the front yard setback to the existing front porch measures 16’-0”. The footprint of the existing single-family residence is 1,886 square feet, which includes the residence, attached garage, existing 98 square foot rear yard covered patio/balcony and 70 square foot front yard porch. The existing driveway and parking area encompass 378 square feet. The development code specifies lot coverage to include any building or structure, decks over 30 inches in height and parking areas or driveways. Therefore, the existing lot coverage of the subject property is 2,264 square feet, or 31.4% of the 7,200 square foot lot. According to the project plans, the current residence has a maximum height of 22’-0”, as measured from the highest adjacent grade covered by the structure to the top of the highest ridge and 23’-0” as measured from the lowest finished grade adjacent to the structure to the top of the highest ridge.
The immediate area is characterized by a combination of one-story and two-story Ranch style homes that abut two residential streets (Lomo Drive and Scotgrove Drive).
Staff has determined that the proposed project is Categorically Exempt from the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), under Article 19, Section 15301(e)(2)(additions) of the California Guidelines for Implementation of the CEQA. Specifically, the project includes the minor addition and alteration to an existing structure that will not result in a structure that exceeds 10,000 square feet. Further, the project is in an area where all public services and facilities are available and the project is not located in an environmentally sensitive area. As such, this project has been determined not to have a significant impact on the environment.
CODE CONSIDERATION AND ANALYSIS
1. The applicant has complied with the early neighborhood consultation process established by the city.
The City of Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code requires the applicant to take all necessary steps to consult with the property owners within 500 feet of the project site. The City has established the following guidelines to conform with this requirement, “[applicant must obtain] the signatures of at least 60% of the landowners within 500 feet; or 70% of the landowners within 100 feet and 25% of the total number of landowners within 500 feet (including those within 100 feet) is obtained.”
With exception to the project site, there are 15 properties within 100 feet and 76 parcels within 500 feet of the site. The applicant has obtained 54 signatures from properties within 500 feet (71%) and 11 signatures of landowners within 100 feet (73%) of the project site. As such, the applicant has met both of the requirements by notifying over 60% of the property owners within 500 feet and over 70% of the property owners within 100 feet. As such, the applicant as complied with the early notification consultation process. This finding can be adopted.
2. The proposed new structure that is above sixteen feet in height or addition to an existing structure that is above sixteen feet in height does not significantly impair a view from public property (parks, major thoroughfares, bike ways, walkways or equestrian trails) which has been identified in the city’s general plan or coastal specific plan, as city-designated viewing areas.
The City of Rancho Palos Verdes General Plan, adopted June 26, 1975, identifies viewing points (turnouts along vehicular corridors for the purposes of viewing) and viewing sites (public site areas, which due to their physical locations on the Peninsula, provide a significant viewing vantage) within the City. Due to the location of the property and the topography in the immediate area, the proposed structure is not visible from a public viewing area or viewing site, as defined by the General Plan. Additionally, the subject property is not located within the areas defined in the City’s Coastal Specific Plan. As such, the proposed structure will not impair a view, which has been defined in the City’s general plan, or coastal specific plan. Therefore, staff feels that this finding can be adopted.
3. The proposed structure is not located on a ridge or promontory.
A ridge is defined as, “an elongated crest or a linear series of crests of hills, bluffs, or highlands” (Section 17.96.1610 of the Municipal Code). A promontory is defined as, “a prominent mass of land, large enough to support development, which overlooks or projects onto a lowland or body of water on at least two sides” (Section 17.96.1480 of the Municipal Code). The subject site is located on a pad lot, similar to other lots within the developed area, and is not located on a prominent mass of land that overlooks or projects onto a lowland or body of water on two sides. Therefore, Staff has determined that the proposed structure is not located on a ridge or promontory. As such, staff feels that this finding can be adopted.
4. The area of a proposed new structure that is above sixteen feet in height or an addition to an existing structure that is above sixteen feet in height, as defined in Section 17.02.040(B) of the Development Code, when considered exclusive of existing foliage, does not significantly impair a view from the viewing area of another parcel.
Staff has determined that the portions of the proposed addition that exceed the 16’-0” height limit will not significantly impair a view from the viewing area of adjacent and/or near-by properties to the north, south, east or west, as there are no protected views as seen from neighboring properties. As such, due to the location of the new second-story addition and the fact that Staff did not find any protected views within the immediate and/or greater neighborhood, Staff has determined that the proposed new structure that is above 16 feet in height does not significantly impair a view from the viewing area of another parcel. As such, this finding can be made.
5. If view impairment exists from the viewing area of another parcel but it is determined not to be significant, as described in Finding No. 4, the proposed new structure that is above sixteen feet in height or addition to an existing structure that is above sixteen feet in height is designed and situated in such a manner as to reasonably minimize the impairment of a view.
As noted in the previous finding (#4), the portions of the proposed project which exceed the 16’-0” “by-right” height limit, do not create view impairment to a protected view. As such, staff feels that this finding can be adopted.
6. There is no significant cumulative view impairment caused by granting the application. Cumulative view impairment shall be determined by: (a) considering the amount of view impairment that would be caused by the proposed new structure that is above sixteen feet in height or addition to a structure that is above sixteen feet in height; and (b) considering the amount of view impairment that would be caused by the construction on other parcels of similar new structures or additions that exceed sixteen feet in height.
As indicated above, there will be no view impairment for portions of the structure which exceed 16’-0” in height as seen from the viewing area of another parcel, due to the location of the proposed two-story addition relative to the existing two-story residence. Further, the subject property is located in a neighborhood that is developed with many other two-story homes. As such, there is no evidence of significant cumulative view impairment and this finding can be made and adopted.
7. The proposed structure complies with all other code requirements.
The existing residence complies with the City’s Development Code standards with regard to street side, side and rear yard setbacks, lot coverage and parking (also see project statistics above). The existing residence has a legal, non-conforming front setback of 16’-0”, however the new addition to the front of the second-story would be setback 21’-0”, and would meet the minimum standards set forth in the Municipal Code. Given that the applicant is not proposing to increase the footprint of the structure, the lot coverage percentage will be maintained at 31.4%. Therefore, as the proposal complies with the standards set forth in the City’s Development Code, this finding can be made and adopted.
8. The proposed structure is compatible with the immediate neighborhood character.
Pursuant to Section 17.02.040.A.6. of the Municipal Code, “Neighborhood Character” is defined to consider the existing physical characteristics of an area. The factors to be analyzed per the code language are boldface, and Staff’s analysis is in normal type.
(1) Scale of surrounding residences, including total square footage and lot coverage of the residence and all ancillary structures.
Compatibility with neighborhood character is based on a comparison to the other structures in the immediate neighborhood, which is comprised of the twenty (20) closest properties. The table below illustrates the 20 properties and structures that comprise the immediate neighborhood and serve as the basis for neighborhood compatibility. The homes analyzed, along with the lot size, structure size, and number of stories, are listed below in the Neighborhood Compatibility Table.
Table 2: Neighborhood Compatibility Analysis
* This number includes a 459 square foot addition that is currently in Building and Safety Plan Check, but Building Permits have not been issued yet.
The immediate neighborhood is comprised of both one and two-story Ranch style homes. The neighboring residences range in size from 1,732 square feet to 3,810 square feet. The average home size for all of the 20 closest homes is 2,442 square feet. The proposed addition would increase the square footage of the two-story residence to 3,402 square feet. While the proposed size will exceed the average home size by 960 square feet, the proposed residence will not exceed the largest home (3,810 square feet) within the 20 closest homes. As such, the proposed project would not create an anomaly, in terms of square footage, and would thereby be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.
(2) 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.
The architectural style of the existing residence resembles Neo-Classical Revival style architecture with a low-pitched gabled roof, evenly proportioned windows, a single story garage to the side of the residence and a two-story portico. The existing design also offers a stone veneer front façade at the first and second floor levels to formalize the entry and a stucco finish across the remaining portions of the residence. Although the residence will maintain a maximum height of 23’-0”, as measured from the lowest grade adjacent to the building foundation/slab to the highest ridgeline of the residence, and 22’-0“, as measured from the highest elevation of existing building pad covered by structure to the highest ridgeline of the residence, the addition over the garage would create the appearance of a massive structure as seen from the street.
After surveying the 20 closest homes in the neighborhood, Staff concluded that the immediate area is comprised of a diverse sense of architectural styles and materials that accent the residences. The surrounding materials range from stucco to wood siding with either shingle or mission tile roof materials. Although most of the surrounding residences appear to have a California Ranch style, a majority of the existing two-story residences have a Neo-Classical Revival style of architecture, and are similar in appearance to the subject residence with single-story garages. It is important to note, Staff was unable to find any two-story residences within the 20 closest homes that have additions over the garage. The existing two-story residences with single-story garages appear to offer relief from front and side yard setbacks in order to offset the appearance of a massive façade as seen from the street or a neighboring property. Therefore, the proposed addition would significantly alter the bulk and mass of the existing two-story residence when compared to other two-story homes observed and Staff is not able to find the proposed addition to be compatible within the surrounding neighborhood.
(3) Front, side, and rear yard setbacks
According to the Development Code, structures shall maintain the following minimum setbacks: 20-foot front yard setback, 5-foot side yard setbacks, and 15-foot rear yard setbacks. As stated above, the structure will meet the minimum street side, side and rear yard setback requirements for the lot. Although the existing front yard setback to the front porch is less than the required 20’-0” (16’-0” existing), the existing residence and new second-story addition would be setback 21’-0” from the front property line. Further, the applicant is not demolishing more than 50% of the existing interior and/or exterior walls, therefore the existing non-conforming front yard setback is not required to be brought into conformance with the current code standards. As such, the proposed addition does not create further deviation from the minimum setback requirements, and the existing and proposed setbacks are consistent with other setbacks in the immediate neighborhood.
Based on the analysis above, it is Staff’s opinion that, although the materials and setbacks are compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, the “scale, architectural style and overall bulk and mass” that would result from the proposed addition would create a residence that is ultimately not compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. As such, Staff feels that the neighborhood compatibility finding cannot be adopted.
9. The proposed new structure that is above sixteen feet in height or addition to an existing structure that is above sixteen feet does not result in an unreasonable infringement of the privacy of the occupants of abutting residences.
The Municipal Code defines privacy as, “reasonable protection from intrusive visual observation.” The Height Variation Guidelines state, “Given the variety and number of options which are available to preserve indoor privacy, greater weight generally will be given to protecting outdoor privacy than to protecting indoor privacy.” The proposed second-floor is located at the front and north side of the existing two-story residence. The existing property is developed with a two-story residence and the addition would expand the second-story footprint by approximately 18 feet. Further, the proposed addition would not have any windows on the north side of the residence, the side that abuts the adjacent property to the north. As such, Staff feels that the proposed two-story addition does not result in an unreasonable infringement of privacy of the abutting neighboring property to the north.
On May 21, 2007, Staff conducted a foliage analysis of the subject property. During this analysis, Staff noted that no trees significantly impair the view from a viewing area of an adjoining property.
As a result of the Early Neighborhood Consultation Process, on March 15, 2007, Staff received a copy of a letter addressed to the applicant from Abel and Sheri Torres, property owners at 28439 Lomo Drive. The letter relayed concerns with natural light, privacy impacts from a second story deck, noise, view impairment and architectural appeal.
The Development Code does not require the City to review issues related to natural light and/or noise impacts when additions are proposed to existing residential structures. Further, with the exception of the front entry, the existing residence meets all the minimum setback requirements and the proposed addition would not affect the setbacks observed on the subject lot.
With regard to privacy impacts from a second-story deck, the applicant is not proposing a second-story deck adjacent to the north side yard. There is, however an existing second-story deck toward the south side yard, at the rear of the residence. The existing balcony/deck is not under review as no alterations to the deck/balcony are proposed. Further, Staff did not find any potential privacy impacts from the proposed addition as windows were not proposed along the north side façade.
The neighbors stated that they have a potential view of Catalina and Santa Monica from the roof of their existing garage which could accommodate an addition at a future date. While “far views” of Catalina and Santa Monica are considered protected under the Municipal Code, views observed from the roof of an existing structure are not protected. Specifically, a viewing area is “[an] area of a structure (excluding bathrooms, hallways, garages or closets) or that area of a lot (excluding the setback areas) where the owner and city determine the best and most important view exists. In structures, the finished floor elevation of any viewing area must be at or above existing grade adjacent to the exterior wall of the part of the building nearest to said viewing area” (Section 17.02.040 of the Municipal Code). Further, the neighboring property is at a similar elevation as the subject residence and Staff did not observe any view impairment as a result of the proposed addition.
The neighbor also feels that the addition over the garage would not be compatible with other two-story residences found within the neighborhood. As noted in finding #8(2) above, Staff has found that the proposed addition is not compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, as other two-story residences in the neighborhood have single-story garages that offer some relief, in terms of second-story setbacks, from the front or sides of the residence.
As discussed, the proposed addition above the existing garage is not compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, and therefore is recommending that the Planning Commission deny the Height Variation as currently proposed. Staff would like to point out, however that there are other feasible, and potentially supportable, alternatives for the property owner to consider in place of the entire second-story addition above the garage. The following alternatives are available for the property owner to consider:
1) No second story addition: Staff believes that the applicant could accommodate two additional bedrooms at the rear of the existing residence on the first floor that may result in a structure that is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.
Staff notified the property owner’s architect about Staff’s concerns with the project and the recommendation for denial. In addition, Staff spoke to the architect about the possible design alternatives described above. The architect noted that he would discuss these alternatives with the property owner and possibly redesign the project to reduce the overall bulk and mass.
Based on the above analysis, Staff concludes that the addition would result in a residence that creates too much bulk and mass as seen from the public right-of-way. Further, no other two-story homes, within the 20 closest homes, have a second story above the garage. As such, Staff was not able to make all of the findings required to approve the Height Variation. More specifically, Staff is concluding that the proposed project is not compatible with the surrounding neighborhood and is, therefore recommending that the Planning Commission deny, without prejudice, the Height Variation (Case No. ZON2007-00085).
In addition to staff’s recommendation, the following alternatives are available for the Planning Commission to act on:
1. Approve the Height Variation (Case No. ZON2007-00085), as submitted.
2. Deny, with prejudice, the Height Variation (Case No. ZON2007-00085).
3. Identify any issues of concern with the proposed project, provide Staff and/or the applicant with direction in modifying the project, and continue the public hearing to a date certain.
-Draft Planning Commission Resolution No. 2007-__