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Planning Commission Meeting Minutes

MINUTES OF THE REGULAR MEETING OF THE FULLERTON PLANNING COMMISSION

COUNCIL CHAMBERS - FULLERTON CITY HALL

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 24, 1997 7:00 P.M.

CALL TO ORDER: The meeting was called to order by Chairman Simons at 7:00 p.m.

ROLL CALL: Chairman Simons; Commissioners Ballard, Munson, Godfrey, Richmond, and Sandoval

ABSENT: Commissioner Ranii

STAFF PRESENT: Director Dudley, Chief Planner Rosen, Senior Planner Commerdinger, Associate Planner Bane and Recording Clerk Stevens

ALSO PRESENT: Deputy City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow


MINUTES: MOTION by Commissioner Richmond, seconded and CARRIED by a 4-0 vote, with Commissioners Godfrey and Munson abstaining, that the Minutes of the September 10, 1997, meeting be APPROVED AS WRITTEN.

PUBLIC HEARINGS:

CONVENE AS BOARD OF APPEALS

ITEM NO. 1a
APPEAL OF A NOTICE AND ORDER OF THE BUILDING OFFICIAL TO VACATE THE BUILDING.

Staff report dated September 17, 1997, was presented pertaining to an appeal hearing to determine whether an existing law school should be vacated for violations of the Uniform Building Code, on property located at 233 East Commonwealth Avenue (Pacific West College of Law) (northwest corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Lemon Street).

ITEM NO. 1b
CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT CUP-955. STATUS UPDATE

Staff report dated September 17, 1997, was presented pertaining to an update on the progress of compliance with conditions of approval attached to Conditional Use Permit CUP-955 and work required to be completed under the Notice and Order of the Building Official, on property located at 233 East Commonwealth Avenue (Pacific West College of Law) (northwest corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Lemon Street).

Chairman Simons announced that Items 1a and 1b would be heard simultaneously. He asked those persons who would be testifying on these items to stand and be sworn in.

Senior Planner Commerdinger reported that since the writing of the staff reports, the applicant had obtain the necessary building and electrical permits. The Building Official believes that the required and approved work can be accomplished within thirty days; therefore, he recommended that any action on the vacation of the premises be delayed for 30 days. Regarding the status of the Conditional Use Permit, Senior Planner Commerdinger reported that there were four outstanding conditions of approval: (1) Building Code compliance; (2) submittal and approval of landscaping plans; (3) compliance with the Engineer's letter; and (4) submittal of documentation to tie the parcels together for parking purposes. As of this date, the building issues have been adequately addressed; the landscaping plans were approved; the street work is underway by the City; and the necessary documentation has been submitted to the Engineering Department and the City Attorney for review and approval. Because of these developments, staff is recommending that any action on the revocation of the Conditional Use Permit also be delayed until October 22, 1997.

Public hearing opened.

Kevin O'Connell, Dean of Pacific West College of Law, was unsure whether all Building Code requirements could be completed within 30 days, and instead asked for a 90-day extension. However, he felt that reporting back within 30 days as a status update would be acceptable.

Public hearing closed.

MOTION by Commissioner Munson, seconded and CARRIED unanimously by voting members present, that this item be CONTINUED to October 22, 1997.

ADJOURN AS BOARD OF APPEALS

RECONVENE AS PLANNING COMMISSION

ITEM NO. 2
CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT CUP-704. PROPERTY OWNER: JAMES ACCORNERO.

Staff report dated September 17, 1997, was presented to consider revocation of an existing Conditional Use Permit for a fraternity use at 2132 Associated Road due to the abandonment of the property by Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.

Senior Planner Commerdinger reported the original Conditional Use Permit was granted to Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity in February of 1988. Under the Government Code, a public hearing must be held before a CUP can be modified or revoked. The site has been voluntarily abandoned by this fraternity for over a year, and the property has been reverted back to a four-plex apartment. Under the current provisions in the Fullerton Municipal Code, Conditional Use Permits have no ending date, even if the property has been abandoned. Staff is currently drafting a proposed amendment to the ordinance which would change this requirement. Because police activity in this area is on the rise, staff is recommending that the CUP be revoked.

Commissioner Ballard asked how staff was made aware that the site had been abandoned. Senior Planner Commerdinger explained that he had conversations with the property owner, and the Greek letters had been removed.

Public hearing opened, but there was no one present who wished to speak on this matter.

There was a consensus of the Commission for approval. The title of Resolution No. 6751 REVOKING a Conditional Use Permit for the operation of the fraternity use located at 2132 Associated Road, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Richmond, seconded and CARRIED unanimously by voting members present, that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS WRITTEN.

ITEM NO. 3
CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT CUP-705. PROPERTY OWNER: JOSEPH ROBERT REDL

Staff report dated September 17, 1997, was presented to consider revocation of an existing Conditional Use Permit for a fraternity use at 2108 Teri Place due to the abandonment of the property by Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity.

Senior Planner Commerdinger reported that the Conditional Use Permit for this fraternity use was granted in June of 1988. Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity has since left the site and the complex is now being occupied by persons not associated with this fraternity. Staff recommended that the Conditional Use Permit be revoked.

Public hearing opened.

Joseph Redl, property owner, confirmed that Delta Sigma Phi moved out of the complex in 1994.

Rudolpho Zunin, 22465 Ridgebrook, Mission Viejo, asked that the Conditional Use Permit for the site not be revoked.

Byron Witton, 2906 Ruby Drive, informed the Commission that the site is now being occupied by another fraternity, and asked if the Conditional Use Permit could be transferred. Senior Planner Commerdinger advised the Commission that Conditional Use Permits run with the land. However, since the CUP was issued to a different fraternity than the one presently occupying the space, staff would require that that they abide by the same conditions of approval which were originally applied. Senior Planner Commerdinger noted that from recent reports received from the Police Department, these conditions are not being met. Staff would be willing to discuss these conditions with the new fraternity members. Mr. Witton then suggested that this matter be continued to a later date, when representatives of the fraternity can make their presentation.

Commissioner Munson asked how long the new fraternity had occupied the premises, and Mr. Witton answered that they had been there for approximately 2-1/2 years.

Commissioner Munson questioned if the new fraternity would able to utilize the existing Conditional Use Permit, without having to revoke the existing CUP and reissue a new one. Deputy City Attorney Barlow indicated that this could be accomplished with the consent of the property owner.

Chairman Simons inquired if Mr. Witton had any contact with the property owner regarding this matter. Mr. Witton replied that he was not currently taking care of the housing matter, and has had no personal contact with the owner, but the president of the fraternity had spoken with Mr. Redl.

Joseph Redl stated that he would be willing to allow the new fraternity use at this site, providing that all of the conditions of approval are met.

Emile Nazarian, 2108 Teri Place, #B reported that the fraternity has been working to improve the premises, and is ready for any type of inspection conducted by the City. As of this date, no fraternity business is being conducted at this location, because of the lack of an approved CUP. He added that the fraternity would try to resolve any problems which may arise, and will adhere to all conditions of approval.

Kent Gardner, 2606 Amherst Avenue, spoke in opposition of allowing another fraternity use at this site because of parking, noise and trash problems for the surrounding residents.

Antonio Muro, 2108 Teri Place, requested a date from staff on which the fraternity must comply with completing whatever is necessary for the transfer of the CUP. Commissioner Munson informed him that this matter could be discussed with staff.

Sgt. Dan Hughes, Fullerton Police Department, gave a brief report on some of the past occurrences at this site.

  • Had photographs of Greek letters recently being displayed at 2108 Teri Place
  • Responded to numerous calls of fraternity-related activity at this location, and many times students identify themselves as fraternity members
  • Presently an on-going investigation of a rape at this location approximately one month ago
  • Parties where under-aged students are consuming alcohol and being so intoxicated they are unable to walk
  • Students having wild parties, one where a hand gun was shot off in the middle of the street; another where approximately 750 students were in attendance
  • The fraternity president was arrested in 1997 for disturbing the peace

Sgt. Hughes stated that instances such as those mentioned above, are creating a public safety hazard; many times involving the use of many police officers which leaves the remainder of the city underprotected.

Commissioner Ballard asked if the police department felt denying a Conditional Use Permit would change the behavior of the residents at this location. Sgt. Hughes answered that, as a recognized fraternity, the city would have the option of enlisting assistance from the university itself. Deputy City Attorney Barlow added that if the city chose to revoke the CUP, the City Attorney's Office and city staff could seek damages and/or an injunction for operation of the building as a public nuisance.

Commissioner Ballard questioned whether the property owner would still be liable in a civil suit, even if a Conditional Use Permit was granted, and Deputy City Attorney Barlow answered affirmatively. She added that if sufficient evidence is found by the Commission for revocation on the grounds of abandonment, that determination could be made. However, if abandonment had not been proven, the Commission would have to conduct a evidentiary hearing at a later date.

Public hearing closed.

Commissioner Godfrey felt that an evidentiary hearing was necessary, where both sides could prepare and present evidence pertaining to this matter. MOTION was made by Commissioner Godfrey, seconded and CARRIED unanimously by voting members present, that this matter be CONTINUED until October 22, 1997, at 7:00 p.m.

ITEM NO. 4
CONSIDERATION OF FILING A CIVIL CODE COMPLAINT TO DECLARE EXISTENCE OF A PUBLIC NUISANCE.

Staff report dated September 17, 1997, was presented to provide input to staff on the consideration of filing a civil code complaint to declare the existence of a public nuisance at 2100 Teri Place due to repeated police activity and failure to comply with the provisions of the Fullerton Municipal Code relating to fraternity uses.

Senior Planner Commerdinger reported that this was an informational item only, no formal action would be taken; however, staff would welcome Commission comments. Staff and the City Attorney's office are seeking to file a public nuisance action against this site. The action will be filed under provisions of the Civil Code against the property owner at 2100 Teri Place. This action is being taken because of violations of the Municipal Code pertaining to fraternity uses and the generation of considerable police activity. The property is owned by alumni of Sigma Pi, and, in 1990, staff filed a similar action against this property and prevailed.

Commissioner Munson asked if this location was a recognized fraternity house, and if fraternity business is actually being conducted at this location. Senior Planner Commerdinger replied that, when officers arrive, residents identify themselves as members of this fraternity. However, the affiliation of the residents is secondary to the fact that there is an on-going public nuisance issue.

Commissioner Ballard expressed concern as to who would be named as a defendant in this action, and how it would be determined who would be held in contempt of a court order.

Deputy City Attorney Barlow explained that the City would be filing an action against the property owner for maintaining a public nuisance at this location. From the prospective of the court, it is irrelevant whether the activities being conducted are fraternity-related or not. The injunction would be against the property and property owner, but anyone using this property in violation of a court order would be held in contempt. Commissioner Godfrey asked if any Greek fraternity would be named as a defendant in this action. Deputy City Attorney Barlow reiterated that unless the property were owned by a fraternity, they would not be named in this action.

Public hearing opened.

Sgt. Dan Hughes, Fullerton Police Department, reported specific instances relating to this location from 1992 to June, 1997. Seventy-four cases were reported, including 14 disturbances; 3 assaults, 3 vandalisms, 7 thefts, 1 rape, 2 robberies, and over 80 calls for service. A pattern established for this location is that the Police Department will be called to issue a first response, and, if called out again, the residents will refuse to answer the door. The City Attorney's Office had previously requested that force not be used to gain entry, thus the disturbance would continue.

Commissioner Godfrey asked if the university had any control over these fraternities. Sgt. Hughes stated that, from past contact with university officials, they do not wish to be involved with the fraternities, and the Cal State police do not go outside the boundaries of the university.

Jeff Lawrence, president of Sigma Pi Fraternity, distributed letters to the Commission, and reported the following:

  • 2100 Teri Place is not operating as a fraternity house. There are eighteen spaces available in the house, and only 10 are occupied by Sigma Pi. The remaining spaces are either vacant, or occupied by other CSUF students. The National headquarters of Sigma Pi has not recognized 2100 Teri Place as a fraternity house since 1990, nor does the university.
  • No fraternity letters are exhibited at this location, and any parties at 2100 Teri Place are conducted by the tenants--not advertised as a fraternity function. All fraternity business is conducted on campus. The fraternity has recognized a problem with the location, and has expelled uncooperative members from the premises.
  • The fraternity has asked for meetings with the City Manager, but to date a meeting has not been set.
  • Over 30 of the 74 complaints were parking/traffic related in 1997, and 14 of them were either pedestrian checks or patrol checks.
  • Mr. Lawrence also claimed that he has never been arrested, as reported by the police.
  • The owner intends to sell the property and, at that time, all of the tenants will be asked to leave.
  • Most problems are resolved during the first response call, and members cooperate with the police.
  • The property, while owned by a Sigma Pi alumni, is not considered to be owned by the fraternity itself.

Commissioner Munson was concerned that a public nuisance action may have a negative effect on the sale of the property. Deputy City Attorney Barlow replied that, until the property is in escrow, the City Attorney's Office would proceed with the action. However, they would be willing to meet any potential buyers to discuss the situation. She reminded the Commission there was no guarantee that the existing tenants would vacate the premises when the property is sold. Commissioner Munson reiterated that any potential buyer should be aware of the circumstances surrounding this property. Commissioner Godfrey concurred.

Commissioner Richmond felt that the property owners should be held responsible for the actions of their tenants, and concurred that a civil action was in order.

Commissioner Ballard pointed out that the focus of the civil suit is the problems associated with the property itself, not a particular fraternity, as stated in the staff report. He agreed, however, that the City Attorney's office should proceed with the civil action.

Commissioner Sandoval wished the record to reflect that the university does not recognize 2100 Teri Place as a fraternity, and asked that all correspondence received pertaining to this matter be entered into the record. She also favored the action of the City Attorney's office.

Chairman Simons concurred that the property owner should be held liable, and felt that the university and city should attempt to find a suitable location for fraternities and sororities. He supported staff's recommendation.

MOTION by Commissioner Ballard, seconded and CARRIED unanimously by voting members present, that this item be RECEIVED and FILED.

OTHER MATTERS

REVIEW OF COUNCIL ACTIONS

Chief Planner Rosen gave a brief report on recent City Council meetings.

PUBLIC COMMENTS

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

AGENDA FORECAST

The next regularly-scheduled meeting will be October 22, 1997, at 7:00 p.m. The October 8, 1997, meeting has been canceled.

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:53 p.m.

Becky Stevens
Clerk to the Planning Commission
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