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Planning Commission Meeting Minutes



WEDNESDAY JUNE 9, 1999 4:00 P.M.

The meeting was called to order by Vice-Chairman LeQuire at 4:05 p.m.
Chairman Godfrey (arrived at 4:20 p.m.); Commissioners Ballard, LeQuire, Munson, Ranii, Sandoval and Simons

STAFF PRESENT: Chief Planner Rosen, Program Planner Linnell, Senior Civil Engineer Wallin and Recording Clerk Stevens

MOTION by Commissioner Ranii, seconded and CARRIED by a 4-2 vote, with Commissioners Ballard and Munson abstaining, that the Minutes of the May 26, 1999, meeting be APPROVED AS WRITTEN.


Because of a sig alert on the freeway, the participants in Items 1 and 2 were delayed, as well as the representative from OCTA who was to make a presentation concerning the Urban Rail Centerline Project. For this reason, all items listed on the agenda were taken out of sequence.

Staff report dated June 2, 1999, was presented pertaining to a request to abandon the alleys located at the northeast corner of Basque Avenue and Valencia Drive, bounded by Valencia Drive, Basque Avenue and the Fullerton Creek Channel. (Categorically exempt under Class 1 of CEQA Guidelines).

Senior Civil Engineer Wallin reported that this was an abandonment of all but a small portion of two alleys. Staff was made aware of the alley because the applicant had been using it as a private drive and installing utilities at that location. Because of the cost to remove such utilities, the applicant desires to abandon the alley and take over the maintenance of same. Staff met with both of the property owners to the east, and both concurred that the alley should be abandoned, with a small portion at the eastern end being retained, to provide access for those two property owners.

Commissioner LeQuire inquired whether the abandonment would impact the ability to access or maintain the channel. Senior Civil Engineer Wallin answered that it would not because there are garages and other buildings along the north side which would impede any access to the channel.

Public hearing opened.

Sam Menlo, applicant, spoke in favor of the request.

Jim Cook, PO Box 523, Hesperia, is the owner of the property adjacent to the alley, and also spoke in favor of the request.

Public hearing closed.

There was a consensus of the Commission for approval. The reading of the title of Resolution No. 6831 RECOMMENDING to the City Council the abandonment of the alley located at the northeast corner of Basque Avenue and Valencia Drive was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Ballard, seconded and CARRIED by a 6-0 vote, with Chairman Godfrey abstaining, that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS WRITTEN.

Staff report dated June 4, 1999, was presented pertaining to a request to subdivide into three lots a 1.7-acre property located at 1801 Vista Lomitas Drive (southern terminus of Vista Lomitas Drive) (R-1-20,000 zone) (Negative Declaration). A vicinity sketch was displayed.

Program Planner Linnell reported that the property in question already exists as a flag lot, and the applicant desires to demolish the existing residence and pool. The proposed lots are over 20,000 square feet in area and meet all code requirements for this zone; the development pattern is consistent with surrounding residences. Staff was concerned about the extensive grading which must be done, in addition to the use of retaining walls, some of which will be eight feet in height. Also, this site is a potential resource for wildlife, and preliminary assessments of the parcel conclude that this may be a location for the California gnatcatcher. Because of this assessment, staff added an additional condition which will protect the City's obligation to protect this bird, an endangered species. Staff recommended approval of the parcel map, with the addition of Condition No. 8, requiring additional biological survey of the site. If it is found to be a gnatcatcher habitat, further reviews by the state or federal government will be necessary.

Commissioner Simons asked for the definition of a "custom foundation." Program Planner Linnell answered that this is usually part of a residence which is being built on a hillside to allow a natural slope, as opposed to creating a pad. Commissioner Simons also asked the meaning of the term "drainage disbursal structure." Senior Civil Engineer Wallin explained that the applicant will outlet to a natural swale, which will dissipate the energy of the flow and therefore an excess of erosion will not be created.

Commissioner LeQuire inquired whether staff was aware of any erosion problems occurring in this area, particularly with the heavy rains of the past year. Program Planner Linnell indicated that he was unaware of any such problems.

Chairman Godfrey questioned whether the applicant was involved in any of the surrounding construction which is currently on going. Program Planner Linnell reported that the applicant was one of the principals of an adjoining tract presently under construction. Chairman Godfrey also wished clarification on how much of a gnatcatcher resource would be required for this size of lot. Chief Planner Rosen explained that federal and state laws require that if there is a federally-listed, endangered bird on this property, the City is mandated to identify it, and provide appropriate mitigation measures for the "take" of such bird, regardless of the number of acres involved. He pointed out that a mitigation measure may not require the preservation of their habitat, but provide off-site mitigation. He added that normally the applicant will bear the cost of providing a biological survey, and subsequent analysis of the site. When the Initial Study was prepared, staff was aware of some cactus scrub and coastal sage on site, which are habitat for the gnatcatcher. Responding to a question from Commissioner Simons, Chief Planner Rosen noted that the adjacent six-lot subdivision had more grading and was more developed than the site in question, so the gnatcatcher habitat was not an issue in that tract's review.

Commissioner Sandoval asked if the addition of Condition 8 would conflict with the Negative Declaration as presented. Program Planner Linnell answered affirmatively, and noted that 4(a) and 4(f) under Initial Study should be changed from "no impact" to "less than significant impact".

Commissioner LeQuire questioned if the "series of site visits" as stated in the staff memo should be more defined. Chief Planner Rosen replied that "site visits" are defined under the U.S. Fish & Wildlife protocol for surveys of gnatcatchers.

Public hearing opened.

Robert Brown, 3117 La Sombra Way, explained that he was also the developer on the adjacent six-lot tract. He had purchased the site from the previous owner after the land already had been subdivided into six lots. Grading and improvement plans were prepared, taking into consideration the hillside grading ordinance and various drainage and erosion concerns of the Planning Commission, and this process took approximately one year. Regarding the issue of gnatcatchers, he indicated that quite a bit of open space in the immediate area has already been set aside for this purpose. However, this property would be carefully monitored to determine if this small piece of property could, in fact, contain significant habitat. There is also a ten-acre subdivision across Acacia Avenue, and any type of mitigation measure imposed on that developer has the ability to be spread over ten lots. This property will only contain three lots in which to split the cost of any mitigation effort. He reminded the Commission that the biologist's survey did not reveal the "presence" of gnatcatchers, only the "potential" for their existence. Mr. Brown stated that he had attempted to contact many of the adjoining neighbors to address any issues or concerns.

Ed Nance, 1408 Vista del Mar, voiced the following concerns:

  • If gnatcatchers are found on the property, would the subdivision be a moot point? Chief Planner Rosen indicated that if federally-endangered birds are found on the property, staff would conduct new public hearings and environmental review processes. The developer would, at that time, determine whether he wished to pursue mitigation measures, or simply not go forward with the project.
  • The proposed lots are substantially smaller than surrounding lots.
  • The project would create two additional flag lots to the existing flag lot.
  • Substantial cutting will be necessary to create the two new pads.
  • Serious landslide problems have already occurred in this area.
  • The engineer's report states that connection to the sewer main west of Parcel 1 is subject to the availability of an off-site easement, and he as the owner of the property would have to approve such easement.
  • He had received no notification of the project from either the developer or the property owner.
  • He was uncomfortable with changing the aforementioned items in the Initial Study from "no impact" to "less than significant impact" when staff was still unsure of what the impacts would be. Chairman Godfrey clarified that, until a gnatcatcher was actually found on the property, staff could make that change, and perhaps change it to an even more impact in the future.
  • His view would be impacted if any higher than a one-story structure were to be constructed on any of the lots. Chairman Godfrey reminded him that in the State of California, a person's view from his property is not protected.
  • He feared that the "park-like" existence enjoyed by homeowners in the area would be jeopardized.

Robert J. Gence, 1809 Vista Lomitas, voiced the following concerns. Also with Mr. Gence was his contractor, Ed Quental, 1838 North Valencia Avenue, Placentia.

  • His view will be impacted by the construction on Parcel 3.
  • Increased traffic will occur in the area.
  • He would like to continue to maintain the unrestricted access easement on the eastern portion of the property. Chief Planner Rosen stated that this type of arrangement is usually a private matter between the two property owners who take access from the easement. Staff will discuss the matter with the developer.
  • How is the roof height determined on a graded piece of property? Chief Planner Rosen answered that an average height is taken around the foundation of the building, based on the existing natural grade at the time a subdivision is proposed.
  • Are there any codes pertaining to privacy glass? Chief Planner Rosen stated that the code only has standards regarding rear property line setbacks.
  • Since the existing home will be demolished, will the new structure have to comply with present building and grading codes? Chief Planner Rosen stated that the developer must comply with whatever codes are in effect at the time building permits are applied for.

Chairman Godfrey suggested that concerned homeowners may wish to purchase a "sight" easement to protect their views.

Public hearing closed.

Commissioner Sandoval felt that this was a legal lot split, and was confident that the property would be developed to protect the views of all involved homeowners. She supported the project, including the modifications to the Initial Study and the inclusion of Condition No. 8. Commissioner Ranii concurred.

Commissioner Munson, while usually not in favor of lot splits, found the project to be within all City requirements. While he understood the legality of not protecting views, he sympathized with the existing homeowners who have maintained their properties and enjoyed their views for many years. However, he supported staff's recommendation.

Commissioner Simons also found the project to be consistent with zoning and building codes and supported the project. Commissioner LeQuire concurred, and hoped that the new construction would have minimum impact on the area and surrounding property owners.

There was a consensus of the Commission for approval. MOTION by Commissioner Simons, seconded and CARRIED unanimously that the Negative Declaration be CERTIFIED AS AMENDED. The title of Resolution No. 6829 GRANTING a parcel map to subdivide an existing 1.7-acre residential lot into three parcels on property located at 1801 Vista Lomitas Drive, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Ballard, seconded and CARRIED unanimously that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS AMENDED, to include Condition No. 8.


Staff report dated June 4, 1999, was presented to a request to modify or remove Condition 3 from the requirements established by the Landmarks Commission in 1991 with its approval of proposed exterior improvements and "seismic retrofitting" of the Villa Del Sol building, a designated Historical Landmark, at 305 North Harbor Boulevard (northeast corner of Harbor Boulevard and Wilshire Avenue) (C-3 zone) (Categorically exempt under Class 1 of CEQA Guidelines). Condition 3 states that as part of a submittal of a new sign program for this building's tenants, the existing elliptical sign identifying the Cellar Restaurant will be relocated and/or removed.

Commissioner Ballard abstained from this matter and left the Council Chambers.

Program Planner Linnell reported that this request was made by the current property owner. At the time the Villa Del Sol underwent rehabilitation in 1992, a condition was imposed on the previous owner that because the existing Cellar Restaurant sign did not conform with Central Business District (CBD) Guidelines, it would have to be removed or relocated. Program Planner Linnell displayed slides showing the sign in question, adding that staff still felt the sign did not conform to the guidelines, because of its size and location, and should be either removed or modified.

Chairman Godfrey was curious as to why the sign, which had been in existence since the 1970's, was not "grandfathered" when the building underwent rehabilitation. Program Planner Linnell explained that with any action which comes before the Commission, staff has the ability to address any violations which exist.

Commissioner Ranii questioned whether the downtown sign ordinance had undergone any revisions since 1992. Program Planner Linnell answered that the design guidelines had been revised and updated, but there were no changes which affected this particular sign.

Commissioner Munson asked if staff had been in contact with the current property owner concerning this issue. Program Planner Linnell answered affirmatively; further, the new owner has been informed that no new sign permits would be issued until this matter was resolved. Commissioner Munson further wished to know if removal of this sign would be detrimental to the business itself. Program Planner Linnell indicated that, while the business owner would have to attest to whether or not this would be true, he felt that the sign is utilized more as a "sign post", but not to attract new customers who travel along Harbor Boulevard.

Commissioner LeQuire expressed concern that in 1970 the sign was in compliance, but because the center was required, by law, to conduct a seismic retrofit, the sign then became unacceptable and the issue is now placing any sign program for the Villa del Sol on "hold."

Public hearing opened.

Paul Dunlap, 175 S. Kingsley Street, Anaheim, gave a brief history of the Villa del Sol after he became the owner in 1994. He reported that he had been unaware of the sign restriction until after all the seismic retrofit plans had been approved. The creation of an overall sign program had been delayed until the identity of all the tenants were known. He added that they wished to stay away from "readerboard-type" signs which list all the businesses in the center on one plaque.

Jim Macdonald, 2600 E. Nutwood, Suite 250, attorney for the owner of The Cellar Restaurant, stated that Mr. Zingg of The Cellar is not an owner of the center, but a tenant. At no time did Mr. Zingg sign off on Condition No 3 agreeing to remove or modify the sign. Also, Mr. Zingg recently spend $1900 to refurbish the sign, which he feels is extremely important to his restaurant business.

Ernest Zingg, owner of The Cellar restaurant, stated that his customers feel the sign is a landmark in itself, and should remain. He also noted that he was never informed that at some point the sign would have to be relocated or modified-only the landlords had been aware of this restriction. He asked that the sign be allowed to remain as is.

Judith Kaluzny, 400 North Malden Avenue, spoke in favor of allowing the sign to remain.

Mr. Dunlap again spoke to inform the Commission that an application had been made to place the Villa del Sol on the National Historic Register. Because of the two-story addition in 1965, the application had been denied. The sign is placed on that two-story addition.

Public hearing closed.

Commissioner LeQuire reiterated his concerns about requiring the owner to take action, only because the owner had complied with the City's regulations. He suggested alternate wording to Condition No. 3 for approval by the other Commissioners.

Commissioner Munson did not support staff's recommendation to remove or modify the sign. Commissioner Simons and Commissioner Sandoval concurred.

Commissioner Ranii also felt that the sign had value to the community and should remain as is.

There was a consensus of the Commission to allow The Cellar restaurant sign to remain, and modifying Condition No. 3 of Resolution No. 6426 as follows: "the owners shall submit a new sign program for the commercial tenants, and the elliptical sign identifying The Cellar restaurant may remain." The title of Resolution No. 6829 APPROVING a request to modify a condition of Resolution 6426 established by the Landmarks Commission in 1991 with its approval of proposed exterior improvements and seismic retrofit of the Villa del Sol building on property located at 305 North Harbor Boulevard, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner LeQuire, seconded and CARRIED unanimously by voting members present, that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS AMENDED.


Commissioner Ballard returned to the Council Chambers.

Terry Galvin, Redevelopment Operations Manager, gave a brief description of what the Urban Rail Centerline Project is, and introduced Dinah Minteer, Project Manager from OCTA, 550 S. Main Street, Orange.

Ms. Minteer gave an overview of the project, including: (a) where the line will be located; (b) costs involved; (c) the next steps in the process; and (d) who will benefit most from the project.

Chief Planner Rosen gave a brief report on recent City Council meetings.
There was no one present who wished to speak on any matter within the Commission's jurisdiction.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting will be July 14, 1999. The June 23, 1999, meeting has been canceled.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 6:52 p.m.
Becky Stevens
Clerk to the Planning Commission
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