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RDRC Minutes February 10, 2005

MINUTES OF THE REGULAR MEETING OF THE
REDEVELOPMENT DESIGN REVIEW COMMITTEE

COUNCIL CONFERENCE ROOM FULLERTON CITY HALL
Thursday February 10, 2005 6:00 PM

CALL TO ORDER :

The meeting was called to order at 6:15 PM by Chairman Daybell

ROLL CALL :

COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT: Chairman Daybell; Vice Chair Silber; Committee Members Coffman, Duncan and Johnson
COMMITTEE MEMBERS ABSENT: None
PUBLIC PRESENT: A complete list of those attending the meeting but did not speak is available in the Development Services Department
STAFF PRESENT: Chief Planner Rosen, Associate Planner Eastman, Assistant Planners Kusch and Sowers

MINUTES :

January 13, 2005 approved as written

OLD BUSINESS

None

NEW BUSINESS:

PRJ04-00859 ZON04-00006 (UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS) APPLICANT: THE CSUF HOUSING AUTHORITY; AND PROPERTY OWNER: CONRAD SICK.

The committee reviewed conceptual plans for the construction of a new 13,000 square foot lodge, 145 space parking lot, and 42 attached residential dwelling units `with guest parking located at 1451 Brea Boulevard. (O-P Zone) (A Mitigated Negative Declaration) The presentation included overhead views of a concept site plan, a vicinity map, and architectural design elevations. (JE)

Associate Planner Eastman introduced the applicant as CSUF Housing Authority and their representative, Conrad Sick, Senior Vice President with the Valejo Companies.

Associate Planner Eastman said that the proposal is to subdivide the Elks Lodge site and place a new Elks building on the south and the Fullerton Housing Authoritys condominium project on the north. He reviewed the site plan, pointing out significant areas. There are 42 units in duplex configurations surrounding a community recreation space for the residents. He identified the location of the lodge building and 145 proposed parking spaces, with 216 spaces if valet service is being used.

Retaining walls are located throughout the site; they are engineered for planting on their face. The walls are divided up to allow tiering at certain locations.

To the east is a 10-foot wide sidewalk that runs along the access road for emergency vehicles. This sidewalk will connect to an off-site trail at Helen Drive. The trail will be on the north side of the gully away from the existing residential homes. A secondary turf block emergency access to the residential development is proposed. Because the Fire Department does not support the use of turf block, staff has recommended decorative paving in this area.

The project proposed has significant landscaping. It will include off site landscaping on the adjacent properties with trees that will grow to a height of 40 feet at maturity. The landscape plans will also include trees within the rear yards that will grow to 20-25 feet. These trees will screen the retaining walls, slopes and buildings from view from Harbor and Brea Boulevards. Included in the landscape plan is landscaping on the north side (Brea Dam property) that will help screen the development from the residential area to the north. Currently there is a significant amount of vegetation where the existing drive makes a bend; that will be removed as part of the proposal, but screening will be provided through planting of plant material at that location. Screening will also be provided for enjoyment and shade along the proposed trail.

Regarding architecture, Associate Planner Eastman explained that there are two different unit floor plans. Each town home is three stories in height. He described the variety of finishes, types of material and treatments used on the townhomes. The third floors are designed to step back off the second floor to help reduce the massing. All of the homes will have at least a 10-feet depth in the rear yard.

The new lodge would be 13,076 square feet; segregated into two parts. The east wing is limited to Elks members and their activities; the west wing will be rented to the public for special events. The building would be of Spanish/Mediterranean architecture.

Committee Member Johnson asked what type of lighting is currently at the Elks Lodge and what is being proposed. Associate Planner Eastman said the site has poor illumination, and said the applicant could better speak to what is there now. The proposed lighting plan must be submitted to the Director of Development Services for his review and approval to make sure safety is being met and that the glare does not impact adjacent properties.

Member Silber asked where the off site planting on the adjacent slopes would begin, and how does the off site landscape agreement fit in with the conditions of approval. Associate Planner Eastman said the applicant has identified a specific area on the slope side, along the west and south sides; he indicated that the adjacent property begins at an existing drain culvert. Staff has required that the applicant provide written verification from the adjacent property owners prior to issuance of the building permit. Staff and the applicant have met with the Army Corps of Engineering; the grading work that is being proposed on the Brea Dam Recreation area is not in a sensitive area and does not require extensive Federal permitting.

Committee Member Coffman inquired whether the townhomes could only be sold to university staff and how is the proposed off-site landscaping on private properties protected from being torn out by an owner who wishes to remodel. Associate Planner Eastman said the housing authority will own the property and have the first right of refusal; it will then be sold to faculty and staff. If no faculty or staff member was interested it would then be opened to the general public. The off-site landscaping that is being proposed is on the Fullerton Towers and the Brea Dam property leased by the City, and for the most part it is not developable property. Committee Member Coffman asked for clarification on the sites height requirements and could buildings currently exceed the 34-foot maximum proposed by the SPD Zone. Chief Planner Rosen explained that in the O-P zone the height has no limit except as it relates to other uses next to it.

Chairman Daybell referred to Condition No. 12 of the Staff Report and asked if the applicant has agreed to use decorative paving instead of the proposed turf block for the secondary emergency vehicle access point. The applicant replied that he had. Committee Member Silber asked how the open space requirement was calculated in regards to the slope areas. Associate Planner Eastman said no slope areas were used in calculating useable space, and that certain areas could have counted towards the usable open space, on a 1/3 basis. However, these areas are not included in the Staff Report calculations. Committee Member Coffman asked staff to explain the purpose of the area designated for recreational vehicles. Associate Planner Eastman stated that the area would be used by visiting Elks Club members and the site currently permits up to 12 RVs. One of the recommended conditions of approval is that the RVs be removed when there are events that exceed parking requirements. Staff has some concerns with the proposal in terms of maintaining, enforcing and monitoring the valet and RV parking during special events.

Bill Dickerson, CSF Housing Authority gave an overview of the project and how it differs from a market-rate development. The average yearly recruitment demand for tenure faculty will be more than 50 over the next four years. There is a high demand for moderate-income housing and the Housing Authority maintains an interest list. Some of the challenges are the facultys low salary relative to the regions housing and living cost, making it difficult to afford normal market-rate housing around Fullerton. The housing has to be financially self-sufficient and is not funded by the State or University in terms of financial or subsidies.

He spoke about the Buena Park development in that the homeowner purchases the structure but the land remains the property of the CSUF Authority. Each owner receives a 99 year ground lease. Because the buyers buy the homes considerably under market it is critical that they remain that way even when sold. The house appreciation is limited to the increases in the HUD median income.

The difference between this development and the Buena Park development is that the Buena Park land was acquired from the County and is specifically limited to affordable housing for the first 30 years, with 75 of the homes at 120% of the median income; and 11 homes at 80%. There are no income requirements for the homes in Fullerton. Mr. Dickerson pointed out the benefits of the project.

  • Long-term asset real asset for the CSF Housing Authority to assure ongoing affordability for faculty and staff.

  • A key element to making the homes affordable is that the Elks have negotiated with the Housing authority to take a portion of the purchase price for the land over a period of 99 years.

  • Creates a new lodge, and provides revenue for the Elks Club.

  • The City will continue to receive property taxes.

  • The development will improve the value of the area with the quality of the project.

Landscape Architect Dan Herman spoke about the key elements of the landscaping plan. The project was divided into four elements, the private entry drive, the Elk Lodge, the University Heights housing component and the edges and buffers. Along the hiking trail and emergency access planting would be substantial on both sides and an existing Oleander hedge would be retained as it is a positive benefit. Smaller trees are to be planted within the hedge to grow up through; on the side of the apartment complex the landscape would be increased both over story and under story to help screen the edge. The existing road would be lowered to meet the Fire Department access requirements. Trees would be provided along the retaining walls. A six-foot planting area is proposed between the wall at the residential neighborhood, Lodge and the parking area, with trees within the planter and parking area itself.

The homes have a garden courtyard which allow for a flowering tree and shrubs. Street trees similar to the Melaluca are proposed in front of the homes. The planting on the perimeter of the property would consist of a natural palette of plants that do not easily contribute to fire such as the oak, pepper, sycamore and pine. Flowering trees are going to be used in the larger open areas. He described how the property would be bermed and graded. Three simulations were shown of the planting areas. Except for the removal of some invasive Castor Bean plants, none of the planting on the Corps of Engineers property would be disturbed by this project. Along Avalon Drive the planting proposed is providing a screen. The tree types and spacing are intended to create depth and texture. Additional planting would occur on the trail and the adjacent drainage area. In the parking area of the Elks Lodge one row of parking has been eliminated and the entire slope would be landscaped.

Architect for the project, Jim Corcoran, explained that the goal was to make all areas livable on all levels, decks are provided. The views are unique. Stepped back all of the massing on the roofs. The architecture is Monterey in style. All of the decks are covered. It is an upside down house because the living is on the second level. The building has mixed materials to create variety and introduced a simple color scheme. The lodge is a Colonial Spanish design so that both the Lodge and the residents have their own identity. Mr. Corcoran said he would entertain any questions.

Committee Member Silber asked Mr. Corcoran to elaborate on the type of planting proposed in the 10-foot back yards what scale and what would grow. Mr. Corcoran said the units all have different orientations. It would depend on whether the location is sunny or shady. Each unit would have a small flowering tree. There would be beds 3-5 feet for shrubs of differing heights. Committee Member Duncan said in regard to the site plan what process did you use to decide where the buildings are and their placements in the parking lot and how it relates to offsite views and wall design. Was the retaining wall more or less a function of economics or based on aesthetics?

Mr. Corcoran stated that the basic concept and the use of expanding the site with the retaining walls is driven by finding the most affordable construction rate. The height and grading of the site was also considered. The developer also looked at ways to bring to some curval nature to the project, making sure there were deeper pockets between property lines and the base of the wall. The biggest design issue came in working the entrance road and the units along the Corp property. The Fire Department was insistence that the access road needed to continue to go straight and not be used as a fire break between the units.

Vice-Chairman Duncan noted for the record that he attended four years of college with the applicant (Conrad Sick Developer for the project) and worked with one of the principals of the landscape architecture firm on the project. He asked the following questions about the project:

The plans show that there would be some type of landscaping along the concrete drainage ditch, please explain what that would be. Mr. Corcoran said that along the swale there is a very narrow place that would be impossible to plant anything but vines, but on both sides it widens allowing for shrubs and small trees. Committee Member Duncan asked Mr. Corcoran to explain why the Elks Lodge was reoriented more towards Brea Boulevard. Mr. Corcoran said because he felt that views are important to the project, the basic decision was to create a more extensive view. Vice-Chairman Duncan said in regard to the two areas adjacent to the walls there is a structural membrane that extends from the face of the wall out -- does the tree rooting affect that structural membrane. Mr. Corcoran said planting would be between the membrane and not on top of it.

Chairman Daybell asked if the applicant had read the Citys design recommendations, and if they are in agreement. The applicant answered affirmative.

Committee Member Johnson inquired whether the lighting in the neighborhood common area was security lighting or just for night-time use, and when would the lights in the parking lot come on. Mr. Corcoran said he believed the proposed lighting would only be for night-time use. The intent is to light the public areas with as much low level lighting as possible. Associate Planner Eastman stated that staff has not conditioned the parking lot lights to go on or off at any particular time.

Member Silber asked Mr. Sick to address the density and population of the Buena Park project. There are 86 homes on 8 acres. Eighty residents work at Cal State Fullerton; and six work at either the University or the Chancellors Office in Long Beach. Committee Member Coffman referred to the retaining wall in respect to the screening. In most cases there is no screening. How tall are the walls that face Brea and Harbor Boulevard? Mr. Corcoran replied that the retaining portion of the walls vary in height from 11 to 22 feet.

Public Hearing Opened

The following people addressed the Committee with their concerns:

John Striker, 128 Avalon Drive.
Kevin Peltier, 132 Helen Drive
Gary Tate, 125 Helen Drive
Paul Noss, 130 Marion
Ron Jones, 119 Helen Drive
Don Crane, 1540 Miramar
Doug Chaffee, 315 Marion
Bill Holt, 122 E. Elsa Helen Haven, 1800 Smokewood

Concerns included:

  1. Obstruction of views from Avalon by the height of the trees.

  2. The elimination of existing trees will no longer act as a buffer between the homes and neighboring backyards to the north and northeast.

  3. The existing design does not take into account the increase in noise that would be a part of this project and would like to see a sound wall along the main driveway.

  4. The extension of the existing trail along Helen Drive should not be just a dirt trail but have landscaping along the new portion.

  5. Increased traffic, noise, light, dust, fumes; idling; dump site; safety (backing out of blind driveways; RVers that are unknown to the neighborhood being allowed to park in the RV lot for an extended period of time, and no screening between the residents and the RV area.

  6. Massive scope of the retaining walls and the buildings.

  7. Grading on the north slope would destroy nature and contour of the hill.

  8. Mature trees should not be destroyed, and removing vegetation would scar the landscape.

  9. Homes on the north side should be reduced to one-story.

Two people spoke in support of the project and made the following comments:

Bob Turner, Member of Elks Lodge
Scott Stevens Member of Elks Lodge

The Elks have been in Fullerton for many years and have been good neighbors. As far as the parking is concerned, the Elks have never needed the 500 parking spaces that are available for any of their functions, and the proposed banquet facilities would not be any larger than what is there currently. The current lodge and banquet facilities are old and need repair. This project would allow the Elks to benefit by new facilities and to be able to remain on the site. It is a win-win situation for both sides.

Public Hearing Closed.

Mr. Herman landscape architect addressed concerns and issues presented by the public. He stated that contour grading on the north side eliminated the 12 feet tall wall. The developer is willing to increase screening while still maintain an attractive view. A block wall will be considered at the entrance for noise and could provide retaining wall at the top of the slope. Banquet and Lodge rooms will not have functions at the same time. Architect is aware of ADA requirements. All existing slopes are graded slopes, and are not natural.

Committee Members Duncan suggest including a section cut of the site to show what would be seen as viewed from Harbor and Brea Boulevards. He thought this would be helpful to address varying mass of the structures. He agreed with concerns of public regarding potential views. The project seems to consider off-site improvements to reduce impacts. He thought the project could provide passive solar amenities. Condition No. 9 needs to be modified because it requires curbs around landscaping; and the project proposes planters in the parking lot that are in tree wells at grade. The tree grates are to be flush with parking lot surface to create more parking for valet stacking.

Committee Member Johnson liked the direction of the project. Recommend preserving mature trees on-side were possible, and perhaps moving and replanting them if economical. The height of the three homes adjacent to the single family neighborhood to the north and northeast should be considered. He thought the existing grades could be shown with the dashed lines; plans should show location of existing trees to replace; the residents close to the single family neighborhood should be lowered to a one story height (not to be over 20 feet in height, but may be 2 stories of space).

Committee Member Coffman was concerned that the parking lot and development would affect the street. He thought the applicant should provide cross section extending down to the parking areas. He thought the developer should be careful to maintain as much healthy landscaping as possible.

Member Silber does not see anything that communicates to him that this is a University related project. He expressed his respect for CSUF, and felt they should be constructing a project that reflects innovated building principals/practices, and captures the spirit of the university intellect. He felt this is a standard residential project with garages oriented to the street, and feels the university could do more. He identified that the Elks lodge is a mainstay symbol of Fullerton at its Harbor and Brea Y location, as is reflect by the visibility of the big Elks lodge sign that will come down with this project. He is concerned that the units have no real back yards. He felt the project contradicts the affordable objectives, and felt the design should reexamine the priorities. He urged the developer to revisit the back yards and sides close to the perimeter. He addressed bulk. He would have liked to see a redesign so that the entrances will not be buried inside the building. He said he is open to revisiting the design of the house. He added the existing contour lines on the site plan do not show clearly the effects the project will have on motorists along Brea and Harbor Boulevards.

Chairman Daybell would like to see a reduced size of the three units closest to the residential access street. He felt there should be some compromise to provide a comfortable transition to the residents to the north and northeast.

All members support the project with Staffs recommendations. Vice chairman Duncan indicated that sections should be provided to the Planning Commission to show the view by motorists on Harbor and Brea Blvd. Chairman Daybell suggested the reduction of the height of the building to the 1 story height. Member Silber clarified that the building should be a 1 story height (20 feet max.), not necessarily just 1 story.

MOTION made by Committee Member Johnson, SECONDED by Committee Member Duncan and CARRIED by a 5-0 vote to RECOMMEND APPROVAL of PRJ04-00859 ZON04-00088 subject to Staffs recommended conditions, the submittal of sections that show the visibility of the site from Harbor and Brea Boulevards, and reduce the residential building at the most southeast corner of the residential area (units 1 and 2) to a 1 story (20 foot) maximum height.

OTHER BUSINESS:

None

ADJOURNMENT:

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:15 PM.

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