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Planning Commission Meeting Minutes
WEDNESDAY MARCH 22, 2006 7:00 P.M.
CALL TO ORDER: The meeting was called to order by Chairman Savage at 7:00 p.m.
PRESENT: Chairman Savage; Commissioners Bailey, Fitzgerald, Hart, Musante and Thompson
ABSENT: Vice Chairman Francis
STAFF PRESENT: Chief Planner Rosen, Senior Planner Eastman, Senior Civil Engineer Voronel, Associate Planner Allen and Recording Secretary Pasillas.
FLAG SALUTE: Commissioner Savage
MINUTES: Commissioner Hart requested a change be made on page 34 in the second paragraph to change the words "everyone else's" to "overall".

MOTION made by Commissioner Bailey, SECONDED by Commissioner Musante and CARRIED unanimously that the Minutes of March 8, 2006, be APPROVED AS AMENDED.

OLD BUSINESS

PUBLIC HEARINGS

Items 1 and 2 were heard in reverse order.

ITEM NO. 1
PRJ06-00006 - ZON06-00001. APPLICANT: MOHAMAD HAMADE; PROPERTY OWNER: PETER KIM.


Staff Report dated March 22, 2006 was presented pertaining to a request for a Conditional Use Permit to operate a 2,200-square-foot hookah café (water pipe smoking lounge) within an existing multi-tenant commercial shopping center, on property located at 1335 East Chapman Avenue (northeast corner of Chapman and Victoria Avenues) (C-1 zone) (Categorically exempt under Section 15301 of CEQA Guidelines) (Continued from March 8, 2006) (HAL).

Chairman Savage recused himself from this item, and turned the meeting over to Commissioner Hart.

Chairman Savage left the room.

Associate Planner Allen gave an overview of the project. She explained that the use of a hookah lounge is an unspecified commercial use, and as such is requiring a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). The application is for a hookah lounge of approximately 2,200-square-feet. The site is located in an existing strip commercial center; the other uses are a mixture of restaurant and personal services. The parking situation is already impacted as it exists. For this type of use, staff required parking at the bar or restaurant rate based on the nature of the turnover of patrons, meaning they would require an additional 13 spaces other than what is available on site.

In addition to parking, staff looked at the potential impacts this use could have on the other businesses in the center as well as surrounding properties. Staff believes that conditions can be placed on the operations to mitigate these impacts. Specifically, staff is recommending that air filters be installed so that any smoke that may be generated not leave the premise through the ingress and egress of patrons, or through vents into the adjacent business. Staff also recommends that doors be closed when not in use by patrons to enter or exit. Staff has also included a condition that there is no alcohol served or consumed on the premises. The applicant has suggested, and staff has agreed to, the condition that a security guard be provided to assist during the hours of operation. Additionally, because this is the first of its kind and the operations are new to the City, staff is recommending that the CUP be reviewed after six months to address any issues that may arise during that period, and to ensure that the applicant is complying with the conditions. Because it is a conditional use permit, the use is subject to a review and possible revocation if the conditions are not complied with or the City receives three or more verifiable complaints within a twelve month period.

Staff recommends that the Planning Commission approve this Conditional Use Permit for a hookah lounge subject to the conditions stated. Staff is also proposing that Condition 8, requiring no live entertainment, be removed. Staff feels that because live entertainment and/or dancing would require separate permits, any impacts could be addressed at that time.

Commissioner Fitzgerald wanted clarification on the other uses and hours for the businesses in the complex. Associate Planner Allen explained that most of the personal uses close by 7:00 p.m., and the restaurants currently remain open until 9:30 p.m. Once these businesses are closed there is sufficient parking on site. These businesses do not have any regulations on their hours, and because the hookah lounge will not have a kitchen, it is likely that these restaurants would remain open later.

Commissioner Fitzgerald wanted clarification on whether the parking spaces in the front of the center are shared spaces, and Associate Planner Allen indicated that was correct.

Commissioner Fitzgerald wondered how realistically valet parking would work in this type of situation. Associate Planner Allen stated that it would be a function of the operation of the business. The property is impacted, therefore, if the other businesses are operating and the hookah lounge causes parking shortages, it could create a problem. Staff would need to enforce the use of a valet at that time.

Commissioner Fitzgerald asked if that would be a part of the six-month review. She also asked if parking problems happened immediately, would they be considered a complaint. Associate Planner Allen indicated both statements were correct.

Commissioner Fitzgerald asked if staff had confirmed that the off-site parking arrangement had been made. Associate Planner Allen answered that she reviewed a copy of the agreement and the property owner listed is the property owner of record. She did not have the opportunity to specifically speak with him, however, there are building permits that would be required before this use could operate and staff will speak with the property owner before operations begin.

Commissioner Bailey asked if there was any rule within the City about having places open late at night next to residential areas. Chief Planner Rosen answered negatively, and stated that if it was a special use that requires a CUP, then the hours of operation can be set, otherwise there was no specific rule regarding hours of operation of commercial businesses adjacent to residential properties.

Commissioner Thompson wanted clarification of a building shown in the pictures provided. He wanted to know if it was a home directly across the alley from the additional parking. Associate Planner Allen confirmed that it was a residence. Commissioner Thompson questioned the height of the wall and Associate Planner Allen answered that she was unsure, but perhaps the homeowner or neighbor could address the question during the public hearing.

Public hearing opened.

The applicant's representative, Sam Hind, gave a brief description of his background and intentions for this business. He stated that he owns a similar business in Ocean Beach, San Diego, which is similar to a nightclub but does not serve alcohol. The intent for this business is to open a "Starbucks" type lounge with similar music, not live entertainment, a place to study and a social environment. The applicant has secured the exclusive use of the 15 parking stalls in the back lot of the adjacent property; it is anticipated that up to 35 cars can be accommodated in the lot according to the insurance for the valet company. The project was started five months ago and the applicant has been paying rent during this time. He understands that because this is a new type of business in the City, it may require new regulations. The commercial center currently has no security guard, and his guard will provide security for the adjacent businesses and the parking lot. They will provide valet parking during open hours, and they will encourage their customers to use only valet. By using the valet, they hope to encourage customers to stay longer and spend money. Sixty percent of the stores currently close at 6:00 p.m. which will open up the stalls in the front lot. During the weekend, the parking lot is pretty much open. Michelangelo's and Ben & Jerry's have both seen a dip in their business lately and the proposed move of the adjacent Carl's Jr. will further impact business in the area. They are hoping this new hookah lounge will bring in additional revenue for the existing tenants.

The applicant explained that the age for tobacco use is 18 and over, but they have set a parameter of 19 and older. Alcohol will never be served. The filtration systems suggested to staff have been installed. Each individual unit covers 400 - 500 square feet, and they have installed 10 - 12 units, which will be sufficient. The doors will never remain open for security purposes, and the security guard will be on the premises from a half hour prior to opening until one hour after closing. The valet parking location is ideal. Rather than use the alley, the applicant has stated that the insurance company for the valet requires them to pull out of the front lot, make a left turn onto Chapman, and a left turn onto Hart, to access the off-site parking. Customers will not be allowed to park themselves in the off-site lot. The valet will have restrictions on them so they will not be playing loud music while parking the cars, which will ensure the residences are not affected by added noise. The back door will remain closed at all times. The applicant explained that they have done several tests with the music at triple the level that will be used, and there is no noise that decimates out. They realize that several businesses in the area were concerned with loitering as a previous internet café had some problems (gunshots), and a couple of police reports were taken. This business is not an internet café, and will only provide internet so their customers will have it available for studying, etc. The presence of a sheriff approved security guard, the closed doors, and the collection of ID's upon entering (and return of ID upon leaving), are steps they have taken to eliminate loitering. The location is large and can accommodate up to 60 people, but they are limiting it to 40 people. Most customers will travel to the location in groups of two or three, so parking will not be an issue.

Commissioner Fitzgerald asked the applicant to "walk" her through the business. What kind of customer will patronize the business, what they do once they get there, and how does the business make its money.

The applicant answered that 19 through 75 is the age group, with ages 19 to 35 making up about 40% of their customers. The customer would come in, have a choice of purchasing a canned beverage as well as internet service, and purchase the tobacco. The customer orders a flavor, which is pure tobacco flavored with fruit. The flavor is added into the tobacco and filtered through water as it is smoked, so the harshness and most of the impurities are cleaned through the water's filtration system. The customer will sit and enjoy the hookah and share conversation with other customers. They will have four different plasma televisions, as well as a projector, so there will be segments of videos from different cultures, musical videos, as well as sports and news. People can sit and enjoy these, but there is also space for customers to bring a laptop and other items to do their work, or play card games. The customer comes in, places their order, and the hookah is placed in a location for them to use. Upon completion they walk back up to the counter, pay their tab, and collect their ID.

Commissioner Fitzgerald asked for clarification on the collection of ID's.

The applicant responded that ID's are collected for two reasons: The first is to ensure that no one under the age of 18 is allowed inside per California law, and no one under the age of 19 is allowed inside per their own standard. The second is to prevent customers from leaving without paying, and to give the business some control, i.e. encouraging the customer to use valet the next time since it is available at no cost to the customer. The applicant reiterated that they do meet the parking standards after the hours of 7:30 or 8:30 p.m. and for the two hours that they are open prior to this, they would use the valet. Valet will be provided for the complete time they are open as an added appeal to the location.

Commissioner Fitzgerald asked how many internet stations they will have.

The applicant responded that initially they will only have two internet stations. One access with two seats will be oriented outside of the building. A customer can take a provided laptop and sit outside to use it, where they would not be bothered by the smoke inside. The other station is inside (Ethernet) and is provided next to four of the seven couches so that you can plug directly in with your own laptop. Ben & Jerry's, as well as one other location in the center, has a wireless, open network through which a customer could connect to the internet.

Commissioner Fitzgerald asked how long the average customer stays and the applicant responded about one hour. He further explained that about 15% stay half an hour, about 20% stay over an hour, so an hour is the average.

Commissioner Musante asked if the proprietor had any legal control over loitering, i.e. five or six customers wanted to stay in the lot and "do their thing". He wanted to know if their security person could legally move them.

The applicant answered that they have no loitering signs posted that make reference to the (City) code and they can ask a person to leave. If they do not leave and continue to loiter, the business can contact the police. The parking lot currently does not have much of a loitering problem. The security guard they will use has served ten years in the Marine Corps, and is of sound mind, and would know what to do in that type of situation. Worse case scenario, they will contact the police.

Commissioner Musante stated that experience shows if a business is policed early, and standards are set, there will probably not be a problem. The applicant agreed and said that was why they were going to this extreme to protect their CUP.

Acting Chair Hart asked if the business would be regulated by the tobacco industry or anyone else. The applicant explained that there is a tobacco sales license, which they have. The regulations regarding smoking in the workplace contain exceptions for owner-operated businesses. Because they are the owners, they do not fall under the labor laws. Also, signs are posted stating that smoking is allowed indoors, as well as the 18-year age limit for California and their 19-year age limit. When a customer comes in, they are assuming the risk of entering a smoking location, similar to entering a cigar room.

Acting Chair Hart questioned if someone could bring their own beverage or food into the location. The applicant answered that they are currently discussing the possibility of having a person order food from one of the adjacent restaurants to be delivered to the location. If it is a beverage, it will have to be closed; they will not allow any open container to come into the store for obvious reasons. The applicant stated that alcohol could ruin them, more than forcing them to loose their CUP.

Acting Chair Hart asked if it would be similar to Red Cloud (a Fullerton business), with a membership, your own locker, etc. The applicant explained that it would not be similar (no membership, no lockers, they will not sell cigars). About 70% of their sales will be tobacco and beverages. The health department requires that all beverages and snacks must be in closed containers.

Commissioner Thompson asked what the other 30% of revenue would be, and the applicant answered that it would be the internet, as well as any sort of items they may sell.

Commissioner Thompson asked if he meant the sale of items such as hookah pipes and accessories. The applicant clarified that it would possibly be IPod's or IPod accessories, which would be a minimum part of their sales. Customers probably won't come in to buy an IPod, but they might come in for an accessory. Commissioner Thompson asked if they were going to sell hookah pipes. The applicant indicated that initially he does not plan to sell hookah pipes; possibly in a few months time they may consider it. He indicated that across the street in the postal location there is a store that is a "head" shop which sells marijuana pipes as well as hookahs, tobacco and pornography.

Commissioner Thompson asked if they would sell tobacco that could be removed from the location. The applicant stated that they would only sell the tobacco if they decided to sell the hookah pipe itself. They want to encourage the customers to come back and use their service. There are many other stores in which they can purchase a hookah pipe. Their hookah pipes are exclusive, so once they build an appreciation for them, they might eventually sell the pipe, as well as the tobacco. They do have a license to sell the tobacco. Commissioner Thompson asked if an individual would be able to go into the business and buy an amount of tobacco for his own use, to remove from the property. The applicant answered that you would be able to buy a product packaged by a tobacco manufacturer.

Commissioner Thompson asked about the hours on Friday and Saturday. The applicant explained that their proposal states they would open at 5:00 p.m., although they are likely looking at a 6:30 p.m. start time, and would like to stay open until midnight on weekdays and possibly until 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. If they do not have business at those times, they will close.

Commissioner Thompson asked for an accurate guess as to the age distribution between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. He assumed the average age would go down. The applicant confirmed that there would be a drop in the age. The peak time will be around 9:30 p.m., especially on the weekends. The age will probably be around 29, dropping to 25 years old. Having the location near Cal State Fullerton will bring in 21 and 22 year olds. In answer to the question, the age will drop during that time period, but the environment will be the same. Commissioner Thompson stated that he assumed there would be a lot of 19 and 20 year olds because this is their alternative to a bar, socially speaking. He asked if it would be fair to say that it is a "bar/pick-up joint" type of environment, although fairly high class, to which the applicant answered that the music and noise level set the environment. It is a lounge, but the lights will not be dim, so you will be able to read a document. The conversation, being next to a college campus, will probably lead to some love matches, but they can't control that. Commissioner Thompson stated he did not have a problem with it and asked if it would be a "coffee house" type of crowd doing school work, etc. The applicant answered that it would be similar, but a little edgier. The couches add a bit of class to the environment.

Commissioner Thompson inquired about the home across the alley from the valet parking and asked the applicant of his plan to be a good neighbor. The applicant answered that after 9:30 p.m., the valet would be in use, but that the front lot spaces would be open. They would try to only use the front lot. The initial plan is that before 9:30 p.m. they will use the back lot exclusively. After 9:30 p.m. they are definitely going to use the spaces that are provided in front.

Commissioner Thompson asked if they anticipated the busiest hours being between 9:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. on the weekends. The applicant responded that this was correct for Friday and Saturday. There are 52 on-site parking slots. If, for example, Michangelo's decided to extend their hours until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., there are 52 slots and the hookah lounge is only allowing up to 40 people into their location. With one to two people per car, they will have a significant amount of parking slots available in the front. Before 9:30 p.m. it will be almost impossible to find parking in the front. Only valet is allowed to cross, enter and park in the back lot; no customer self-parking will be permitted. They will try to communicate with the neighbors and have a direct line of communication just in case there ever is a problem; they do not want the neighbors to feel that the business is significantly interfering with the enjoyment of their property. He stated that they do not intend to be the bad guy; they want to be a part of this community. They feel this business will benefit both Fullerton and Cal State Fullerton. Students can find it difficult to find a place for groups to meet, and may have to wait one to two weeks at the school. The hookah lounge will have projectors available, and when a group needs a location quickly they can meet at this location.

Commissioner Thompson asked if the applicant would reserve the right internally to waive the 19-year old requirement, i.e. if a fraternity was to meet there, and they wanted to include the whole fraternity (which may include 18-year olds). The applicant answered negatively. The reason would be that legally they signed a contract that was passed to each Commissioner stating they would commit to the 19-year old age limit. Also, they believe it to be a good idea. They would not lose much business with this restriction.

Commissioner Musante asked, relative to health problems, how hookah differs from cigarette and cigar smoking. The applicant answered that he was not a physician, but has been told that cigarettes have more additives. Hookah tobacco is pure tobacco with the fruit mixed in, it is not usually inhaled, and it is filtered through water. The applicant believes it to be safer than cigarettes, but that was only his opinion. Commissioner Musante asked if there had been any medical studies. The applicant stated that he had read a couple of articles in magazines that compared the two. Commissioner Musante was curious as to whether a 19 year old experiencing this for the first time might be led to smoking. The applicant agreed this was a good concern, but stated that businesses of this type had been around for a long time. The applicant did not feel he could answer whether or not it would lead to drug use, marijuana use, etc.

Commissioner Musante asked if most people who go to this type of environment go for the socialization type purposes and would not be drawn by the tobacco to start with. He stated he had a concern as to whether it was addictive. The applicant stated that it is tobacco and studies have shown tobacco can be addictive. Commissioner Musante asked if there was a buzz created from smoking a hookah. The applicant answered that there is nicotine that is not filtered out in the water.

Chief Planner Rosen advised that this information was not relevant, tobacco is a legal substance that is allowed under State law and the Commission cannot prohibit this use based upon the fact that the product itself may be addicting, as is alcohol and other substances allowed by law in this state. The question before the Commission was whether this was an appropriate use at this location and this is what the Commission needed to deliberate on.

Commissioner Musante asked if the applicant had a plan in place in case a person came in with some type of illegal drug. The applicant answered that it would be a commercial location and he could refuse business to anyone who walked in. He added that if they were to visibly see any illegal substances, the person would not only be kicked out by the security guard, but they would notify the authorities. The applicant thought the question itself to be somewhat prejudice because at any store a person could walk in and have an illegal substance in their pocket. He understands that because there is tobacco in hookah, most people assume it will attract those "types" of people. This will be a place of culture; they are spanning everything from Asian culture to Turkish culture. He believes people will realize this is not a nightclub. It will not be dark enough to pull out a crack pipe and use it. Every single spot in the store is visible from the front, outside of the store. There are windows covering the whole location. The reason it was set it up this way is so the patrons can be seen.

Commissioner Musante clarified that he did not intend this to be a personal attack, but stated that he had never been to a hookah lounge and was trying to learn. The applicant stated that he wants this all on record and wants people to feel comfortable. He realized there are people present that were not familiar with it or were concerned for their properties and the ramifications surrounding it. If they were a restaurant it would be easier for people to accept. If they were a restaurant serving alcohol it would be a little harder to accept. He further stated that they are a hookah lounge and an internet cafe. That is what they want to be and they want to set the standard for everyone else. He feels they have worked closely with staff and that staff has helped them in finding out exactly what was required or needed for this use to be in existence, not just for this CUP, but later on if other establishments want to copy this model.

The following persons spoke in opposition to the project:

Eva Rodriguez, 1340 Victoria #C
Sharon and Ken Avey, 1430 E. Central Avenue
Judy Darcy

Their concerns were:
  • Additional people loitering in the alley
  • Parking in front of their homes
  • Would one security guard be enough
  • Making a left turn on Chapman won't work and the valet will go down the alley
  • Were signatures included in staff package verified to be the property owners
  • Walking to ice cream store with kids will not be enjoyable with this type of business nearby
  • Small community strip center; not the place for a hookah lounge
  • Who will keep track of violations
  • Customers getting more than a "buzz"
  • Late hours of business
  • The more successful the business becomes, the more people it will attract
The following persons spoke in favor of the project:

Laura Dickenson, 1312-B Victoria Drive
Marcelo Pimentel, 408 N. Lee Avenue
Julie Davis, 408 N. Lee Avenue

Their reasons for support were:
  • The applicant, Mohamed, appears to want to be a good neighbor
  • If back door is kept closed, noise will not be a problem
  • Glad that valet will travel on Chapman, not the alley
  • Don't anticipate additional alley usage
  • Provides a diverse cultural experience
  • Will bring additional business to the center
Acting Chair Hart asked if the applicant wanted to respond. The applicant stated that he picked this location because there was no passageway to get to the back alley, without exiting a store through the back or walking all the way around the building, approximately 300 yards. He wants people to understand that if "bums" are currently walking in the alley, their security guard will notify the police which will better the environment for all. He does not see customers walking in the back alley because there would be no reason. The left turn is not an issue because the specialist from the insurance company has allowed a left turn onto Chapman, and has also allowed a right turn and a U-turn at the light. If one of the valet employees goes into the alley to park a car, they will be fired and their contract terminated. There are many valet companies and they will ensure the valet does not drive in the alley. The police reports for Anaheim hookah businesses were due to the nightclub setting, loud music, underage people, and two times when alcohol was served at private parties. The applicant stated again that they will never allow alcohol to be served. He believes this business will give the Fullerton students a reason to stop. He explained that they want to show a profit but will not allow a hundred people in. He added that they have tried to contact all the residences. He was offended at how his character was characterized, specifically questioning whether staff had verified the signatures. The signatures were not required, but they went out and got them, and all could be verified.

Acting Chair Hart asked staff if there was a time line for the applicant's response. Senior Planner Eastman answered that it was typically five minutes, with additional time being granted by the Chair. Commissioner Hart asked the applicant to finish up.

The applicant finished by saying that their establishment would contact the police if an incident were to occur. These types of reports do not count as an occurrence or complaint that is verified. He will protect the business and the location and there is no way the residences will be affected.

Commissioner Bailey asked if the applicant would mind if the Commission imposed a time limit on the back lot. The applicant responded that they were paying a significant amount to use the back lot and would prefer to have no restrictions on its use. They will instruct the valet to not use the lot after midnight, and there should be enough room in the front lot because the other businesses will be closed.

Commissioner Bailey stated that he had a concern with the parking. He understood that many businesses in Fullerton are not open late near residential areas, and his concern was that doors opening and closing and valets driving in and out, could be noisy for the residents. The applicant stated that he respected that opinion and if it was really required, they could have written instructions and try to police it.

Commissioner Thompson asked if there was any way to compel the applicant to have an internal policy with the valet company stating that after 9:00 p.m., when the other businesses are closed, to only use the back lot if there were no spots out front. The applicant agreed that it would be possible to set up such a policy to restrict use of the back lot after 9:00 p.m. Commissioner Thompson said he would like to see that as a policy.

The applicant said it could be done if Associate Planner Allen was willing to work with them. Senior Planner Eastman clarified that it would be up to the Planning Commission, not staff, to make a determination limiting hours. Commissioner Thompson asked if they could compel the applicant to have such a policy. Senior Planner Eastman said it could be made a condition of approval.

Commissioner Thompson stated that he looks at it as having no cost to the applicant, just a policy that says if there is space out front after 9:00 p.m., park out there. The applicant said he would be willing to accept that.

Public hearing closed.

Chief Planner Rosen stated that there was a question regarding violations and how violations are received by the City. Various staff receives complaints, both planning staff and code enforcement, and they are noted to the file. Staff does keep track of them and reviews CUP's periodically. This CUP would have a six-month review done by staff, and then, if necessary, another public hearing and the item would be brought back before the Commission. This could actually happen at any time if staff felt there were an unusual number of complaints on the property. Staff does try to resolve all complaints, talk with the applicant and property owner, the neighbors, and if appropriate then bring it before the Commission.

Commissioner Thompson stated that his only significant concern with the project was the valet parking area. He would support the project if they add a condition that the policy described is put into place. He believes it is a very "Fullerton like" project, and was very impressed with the applicant and the attention to detail on what was important to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood and the concerns of the citizens. He stated that he frequently turns left out of that parking lot and it was not difficult. As for the noise considerations, he believed the Starbucks analogy works very well, and he envisioned this business would be successful with that kind of environment. He liked the unscreened windows. He has been going to this center for 20 years and patronizes most of the businesses, and thought all of the business owners will win for this. He supported the project.

Commissioner Fitzgerald said she echoed what Commissioner Thompson had to say. She thinks overall this is a good project, and really admired the work the applicant had done in reaching out to the neighbors, and being responsible by learning from past mistakes that hookah lounges have made. She also appreciated the Starbucks analogy, and honestly appreciated what everyone had to say, and believed the residents brought up some very good points. She agreed with Commissioner Thompson and would like to see some policy with regards to the valet parking, so that if there was open space in the front facing Chapman, cars would be parked in that lot first to limit the impact of the second lot to the surrounding residential area. She asked if staff indicated Condition 8 in the staff report was the condition they were recommending the Commission remove.

Chief Planner Rosen answered that staff had reviewed all the conditions of approval, and that staff visited a hookah lounge in Anaheim. They spent several hours there and did not feel "high" from the product. They had dinner and it was quiet inside, hardly any noise; music, people talking and playing cards. He spoke of this visit because one of the comments made by that owner was that they would like to have a guitar or some other light entertainment. Staff felt that Condition 8 was overly restrictive, but it would be up to the Commission to allow that type of activity.

Commissioner Fitzgerald said she would support taking out Condition 8. She also pointed out to the resident who mentioned back doors of the business being left open, that Condition 10 would be that exterior doors shall not be left open. She understood that this is a different type of business to a lot of people, and believed that this business will infuse some enthusiasm in a center that needs it. She looked forward to keeping track of the progress this business makes and ensuring that when the commission reviews it, some of the concerns the residents had would be unfounded. She will be supporting the project with the caveats she mentioned.

Commissioner Musante agreed with Commissioner Thompson's recommendation relative to the late night parking that could disturb the residents in the neighborhood. He believed the applicant had "bent over backwards" to try to satisfy people regarding this hookah lounge. He believed it was worth a try, and could be reviewed in six months. The issue was not whether one was for or against tobacco. He plans to be supportive if a further condition as discussed by Commissioner Thompson was added.

Acting Chair Hart asked how he felt in regards to Condition 8. Commissioner Musante answered that he would agree to strike Condition 8.

Commissioner Bailey also agreed to remove Condition 8. He believed the applicant has gone above and beyond what was required of him. The level of involvement with the residents that he has shown is typical of larger developments that hire companies to do what the applicant has done. Regardless of what type of business was there, his concern was whether the business could handle the people, parking, and traffic flow. All of his concerns have been answered except one, and he thinks this will be a great addition to the community. He thinks being within walking distance of a residential area would be good for the business. He felt some of the public were concerned because this type of business is new to the community. He stated that he had been to hookah lounges before and doesn't think they smell smoky; it is more a fruity environment. Fullerton does have a hookah lounge in the downtown and they have never had any problems at that location. His one concern is the parking lot and the close proximity to single-family residences. He was concerned that 2:00 a.m. activity is too late and he would like to see a time limit put on the use of that parking lot. He has seen some parking lots in downtown Fullerton that are near residential with no use after 11:00 p.m., and some businesses actually close at this time. He would like the Commission to entertain a condition that the back parking lot not be used after 11:00 p.m. Other than the parking issue he would be supporting this project including the removal of Condition 8.

Acting Chair Hart concurred with the rest of the Commissioners and felt the applicant had done an excellent job in explaining what type of establishment this will be. It is a little different for this City, but she feels Fullerton is trying to embrace something new and different, with an international flare, which does make them distinctive from other cities. She stated that she would agree to eliminate Condition 8, and would like more discussion in regards to the back parking lot.

Commissioner Thompson was concerned about absolutely eliminating Condition 8, and wondered how the applicant would feel with "no audio assisted" live entertainment. He would not mind a singer and guitar without amplification, and would support "no amplified live entertainment". He asked the other Commissioners how they felt about this issue. He said he was trying to stick with the spirit of what the applicant has characterized this place as being, and the applicant had characterized it as a place that doesn't need entertainment at all. He liked the picture the applicant has painted, on the other hand a guitar and singer without amplification is not really going to destroy the character of what they have going.

Commissioner Bailey responded that he agreed. He said when he was a policeman in Los Angeles there were two different type of permits issued for music, amplified and non-amplified. He felt in this case, however, he would be for striking the condition completely and would say that the rules are such in business that if you have noise that leaves your space and becomes a hindrance to the community, it is handled by laws that are currently in place, and he did not know if there is a real need to address it here. Commissioner Thompson concurred.

Commissioner Thompson stated that he would make a motion that the Commission accept the recommendations of staff with the addition of a condition that after 9:00 p.m. the valet lot would not be used unless there are no available parking spots in the front lot and also striking Condition 8. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Fitzgerald.

Commissioner Bailey questioned if what he was hearing from the Commission was that they did not want to put any hard and fast rules on the back lot.

Commissioner Thompson retracted his motion because he agreed with Commissioner Bailey's point. He then modified his motion by adding a condition that the valet lot only be used after 9:00 p.m. if there are no spaces available out front, and that it not be used at all after 11:00 p.m. Commissioner Bailey and Commissioner Musante concurred.

Commissioner Fitzgerald rescinded her second and said she would not second the amended motion.

Acting Chair Hart felt the motion was a little too restrictive and would not second it either.

Commissioner Thompson retracted his motion. He stated that he wanted to get at the right answer and asked for clarification of the number of spaces available out front and if there were other businesses open after 11:00 p.m.

Commissioner Fitzgerald answered that the reason she rescinded the second on the motion was that she believed it was enough to say that the valet lot was only used after 9:00 p.m. if there are no spaces available up front. She stated that with the occupancy of this business, she felt that the occupancy will dictate more often than not that after 9:00 p.m. the cars will be able to be parked in the front lot. The staff required the applicant to get an off-site parking, which they have worked very hard to do. She felt it was adequate and felt the first motion adequately protected the surrounding residents. She felt it contradictory to require the applicant to obtain off-site parking and then limit the time it can be used.

Commissioner Musante asked what the maximum occupancy for the lounge was. Commissioner Hart answered that the applicant has stated that he would limit it to 40.

Commissioner Musante continued that if occupancy was limited to 40 it would be hard to believe that there would be more than 40 cars that would be using the lot. Commissioner Fitzgerald added that the Commission had to adhere to the parking standards and that was why staff required the applicant to get off-site parking. Commissioner Musante stated that he understood her point.

Commissioner Bailey commented that it was not required for the applicant to get off-site parking right next to residential.

Commissioner Thompson stated that it is an unfortunate circumstance that the best or most available off-site parking for the applicant was physically adjacent to the residential area. If a win-win situation can be achieved by bringing peace to some adjacent residents, at zero cost to the applicant, with the knowledge that vehicles will not be parked in the back lot after 11:00 p.m., the applicant can't loose. His only concern was that if he lived in one of the houses, realistically once or twice a night the valet would be in a hurry and slam a door, but did not think that was a reason not to approve the application. He thought it to be a good idea to quiet that area down adjacent to a residential neighborhood after 11:00 p.m. if it is not going to negatively impact the business.

Commissioner Fitzgerald understood what Commissioner Thompson stated, but asked if staff required the applicant to create an off-site parking plan.

Chief Planner Rosen answered that this was true, and to clarify, the existing space as a retail use would be required to have nine parking spaces. Because it is a commercial use, and the center is under-parked under current code. Staff looked at the difference between that use and the proposed use which is the thirteen spaces, and that is why additional parking for this particular use was required.

Commissioner Fitzgerald stated that the concern from what she understood was the time at which this business, and the other businesses in the center, would be open concurrently. Chief Planner Rosen said it was the overlapping time frame.

Commissioner Fitzgerald asked Chief Planner Rosen what time these existing businesses closed. Chief Planner Rosen stated 9:30 p.m., but there are no restrictions on these businesses and they could stay open later.

Commissioner Fitzgerald stated that it is anticipated that some of these businesses there will stay open later because this new business will exist. Chief Planner Rosen stated that it was a possibility.

Commissioner Fitzgerald stated that her concern was how late can these other businesses stay open, are there any restrictions. Chief Planner Rosen stated that there were no restrictions to his knowledge.

Commissioner Fitzgerald understood what the other Commissioners were saying, but was concerned that if the Commission adds a condition stating that after 11:00 p.m. the applicant can't park in the back lot, and if the other businesses in the center are going to stay open later, the front lot will be full. The result will be that the residents that did not want parking on the street in front of their house, will now have that problem.

Commissioner Musante disagreed, and thought the motion and recommendation for an amendment to restrict parking after 11:00 p.m. would be appropriate to assure the residents that there will not be activity in that lot after 11:00 p.m. Even if another business would extend their hours, he does not see them staying open later than 11:00 p.m.

Acting Chair Hart asked if Commissioner Thompson had a motion.

Commissioner Thompson said that he did not have a motion but wanted to stress the importance to the valet of not parking in the back lot and keeping noise to a minimum. He also reminded the Commissioners that they have the ability in six months to review this CUP and he would support placing a condition at that time if parking becomes a problem.

Commissioner Bailey asked staff if they received numerous noise complaints from that parking lot could they become verifiable and become a means for revocation of the CUP. Chief Planner Rosen answered affirmatively.

Commissioner Bailey said he was comfortable with that, and would not put a limitation on the parking. He felt they should wait and see what happens.

Commissioner Thompson restated his motion to approve staff's recommendation to approve the application with the addition of a restriction whereby the valet lot can only be used after 9:00 p.m. if there was no available space in the front lot, and modify Condition 8 to no amplified live entertainment.

Acting Chair Hart asked for a second and received no response.

Commissioner Fitzgerald stated that if there was no second and the motion died she had another motion.

Commissioner Fitzgerald motioned that the CUP be approved as stated with the conditions recommended by staff, to accept the deletion of Condition 8, and the addition of a condition stating the valet lot will not be used after 9:30 p.m. unless there are no spots available in the front lot facing Chapman.

The title of Resolution No. PC-06-06 APPROVING a request for a Conditional Use Permit to operate a 2,200-square-foot hookah café (water pipe smoking lounge) within an existing multi-tenant commercial shopping center, on property located at 1335 East Chapman Avenue was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Fitzgerald, SECONDED by Commissioner Bailey and CARRIED by a 5-0 vote with Chairman Savage abstaining that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS AMMENDED.

Chief Planner Rosen explained the appeal process.

Chairman Savage returned.

ITEM NO. 2
PRJ04-01164 - ZON05-00024 - SUB04-00013 - TRACT TR-16652. APPLICANTS: NANCY CHANG AND HANK JONG; PROPERTY OWNER: XUE M. REN.


Staff Report dated March 22, 2006 was presented pertaining to a request to construct a two- and three-story, 14-unit condominium project in a Community Improvement District, including applications for a major development project, abandonment of an alley terminus and a tentative tract map for condominium and lot consolidation purposes, on property located at 918 South Highland Avenue (east side of Highland Avenue between 150 and 275 feet south of Knepp Avenue, west to Tamarack Drive) (R-3 zone) (Categorically exempt under Section 15332 of CEQA Guidelines) (HAL).

Associate Planner Allen gave an overview of the project. The request is to develop a 14 unit condominium project in a Community Improvement District (CID) overlay zone. There are three applications included in the request. The first is a major development project which deals with the site plan and architecture. The second is a tract map to consolidate two lots and to develop the condominium units for residential use. The third application is for the abandonment of an alley terminus.

The abandonment application deals with a partially developed alley terminus. The alley terminus is a small hammerhead shape which is used as a turn-around for private vehicles traveling to the adjacent properties. It does not serve any public purpose and the applicant has requested that this be abandoned so that they can use this area to accommodate their development.

The recommendation from staff is for the Planning Commission to recommend approval to the City Council of the project, including the major development project, the tract map, and the abandonment. Typically the major development project and the tract map would receive final approval at Planning Commission level, but because of the abandonment, the entire project was going forward to City Council.

Commissioner Bailey had a question regarding the CID overlay zone. Associate Planner Allen said the CID overlay zone corresponds with a redevelopment area. New construction of this scale in the R-3 zone requires review as a major project by the Planning Commission. Being located in a CID zone means that the site plan and architecture of the project was reviewed by RDRC first.

Commissioner Savage questioned the elimination of the alley and the effect it would have. He wondered if there would be a fence at the end with no turn-around. Senior Engineer Voronel described the alley and stated that the current hammerhead would become part of the project and a wall would separate the development from the public alley.

Commissioner Savage asked if the fire department had any concerns with the lack of turn-around. Senior Engineer Voronel stated she had spoken with the fire department and they indicated they did not use the alley. She added that essentially the current alley serves as a long driveway for the adjacent private properties, and as such the terminus does not serve any public purpose.

Commissioner Savage asked if this type of alley was common in the city. Chief Planner Rosen stated that they are common in the older parts of the city based on how the properties were developed.

Commissioner Bailey wanted to know if there would be a wall at the end of the alley, and if vehicles would be able to turn-around. Senior Engineer Voronel stated that it would be a dead-end. She added that the alley was not currently used, and has never been used as a turn-around, just an unimproved area. Associate Planner Allen added that staff had looked at a modified hammer-head turn-around, as reflected on the plans provided to the Planning Commission. After further consideration it was decided that it would become a nuisance area and attract trash, etc. Chief Planer Rosen added that the wall could likely be block on the bottom and wrought iron at the top to ensure safety and visibility.

Chairman Savage asked to see an aerial view of the alley to determine the number of properties using the alley. He confirmed that three lots fronting on Highland also have alley access.

Commissioner Musante questioned if the abandonment would impact on-street parking. Referencing the aerial, Associate Planner Allen clarified the location of the alley versus Tamarack Drive.

Public hearing opened.

The project's Civil Engineer, Hank Jong, stated that they had reviewed the City's recommended conditions with the property owner and would comply. He stated that the requested abandonment of the alley was similar to one that was done a block away.

Commissioner Bailey wanted to know the sales price of the condominiums. Mr. Jong stated that he was only an engineer. Nancy Chang, a representative of the owner, after conferring with the owner stated that price would be determined based on the market.

Public hearing closed.

Commissioner Hart asked a question regarding building materials. Commissioner Savage reminded her that the public hearing was closed and asked if she would like to reopen the public hearing.

Public hearing re-opened.

Commissioner Hart asked about the architecture. Chris Lau, the designer, stepped forward to answer questions.

Commissioner Hart wanted to know if the driveway was stamped concrete or paving stones and Mr. Lau responded that it would be stone pavers.

Commissioner Hart asked if there would be a detailed or decorative border around the windows. Mr. Lau stated that there would be decorative details around the windows made with high density foam.

Public hearing closed.

Commissioner Bailey remarked that this area is an older, high-density residential area. He liked the ownership opportunities this project would provide, rather than apartments. He does not like the architectural details, feeling that they are generic. However, because it had passed RDRC, he would support the project.

Commissioner Fitzgerald agreed with Commissioner Bailey and would support the project. She felt it would be a good addition to the community and would not intensify use in the area.

Commissioner Hart agrees with the previous Commissioners and believed it would be a good addition. She did have concerns with the architecture looking a little sparse. She would support the project.

Commissioner Musante believed the project will fit with the neighborhood and supported the project.

Commissioner Thompson thought it was a great project that fits the neighborhood and would benefit the community. He also will support the project.

Commissioner Savage stated that he agrees with the other Commissioners. He also does not like the architecture, but agreed that it would be good for the community to have privately owned homes. He would support the project.

The title of Resolution No. PC-06-09 APPROVING construction of a two- and three-story, 14-unit condominium project in a Community Improvement District, including applications for a major development project, abandonment of an alley terminus and a tentative tract map for condominium and lot consolidation purposes, on property located at 918 South Highland Avenue was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Fitzgerald, SECONDED by Commissioner Thompson and CARRIED unanimously by voting members present that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS WRITTEN.

OTHER MATTERS

None

COMMISSION/STAFF COMMUNICATION

Chief Planner Rosen stated that the General Plans had been returned to all Commissioners and that Zoning Codes are available if needed.

REVIEW OF COUNCIL ACTIONS

Chief Planner Rosen gave an overview of the March 21, 2006 City Council meeting.

PUBLIC COMMENTS

There was no one from the public who wished to speak on any matter within the Commission's jurisdiction.

AGENDA FORECAST

The next regularly-scheduled Planning Commission meeting will be April 12, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. Chief Planner Rosen reviewed the items scheduled for this meeting.

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business the meeting was adjourned at 9:15 p.m.
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