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Planning Commission Meeting Minutes



WEDNESDAY APRIL 14, 1999 7:00 P.M.

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Godfrey at 7:00 p.m.
Chairman Godfrey; Commissioners Ballard, Ranii, Sandoval and Simons

ABSENT: Commissioners LeQuire and Munson

STAFF PRESENT: Director Dudley, Chief Planner Rosen, Senior Planner Commerdinger, Program Planner Linnell, and Recording Clerk Stevens

MOTION by Commissioner Ballard, seconded and CARRIED unanimously that the Minutes of the March 24, 1999, meeting be APPROVED AS WRITTEN.


Staff report dated April 6, 1999, was presented pertaining to a request to operate a water-based cleaning agent mixing business in an industrial zone on property located at 1810 East Valencia Drive (south side of Valencia Drive, between approximately 279 and 493 feet east of Acacia Avenue) (M-P zone) (Negative Declaration).

Senior Planner Commerdinger reported that the Commission had recently reviewed a site plan and Conditional Use Permit application for this location; however, the code requires that this type of use also be reviewed. The business in question relocated to Fullerton from the City of Placentia, and the Fire and Building Departments have both reviewed and approved the plans. Any items found by the Fire and/or Building Departments during further inspections and/or plan check will be included as further conditions of approval.

Commissioner Sandoval noted a duplicated item on the Checklist of Environmental Impacts on page 5, under Section 5. Senior Planner Commerdinger indicated that staff would make the format change.

Public hearing opened.

The applicant was present to address any Commission questions, but there were none.

Public hearing closed.

There was a consensus of the Commission for approval. MOTION by Commissioner Ranii, seconded and CARRIED unanimously by voting members present, that the Negative Declaration be CERTIFIED. The title of Resolution No. 6818 APPROVING a Conditional Use Permit to operate a water-based cleaning agent mixing business in an industrial zone on property located at 1810 East Valencia Drive, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Ranii, seconded and CARRIED unanimously by voting members present, that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS WRITTEN.

Staff report dated April 6, 1999, was presented to amend Chapter 15.41 of the Fullerton Municipal Code (Industrial Code) to establish a height limit in the industrial zones and to modify the permitted and conditionally-permitted uses in the industrial zones (Negative Declaration).

Director Dudley reported that this amendment was initiated at the request of Fullerton residents in response to the Con-Agra flour mill issue which had been heard by the Commission, and ultimately the City Council, in 1998. During the debate and discussion of that project, a number of issues were raised by the residential neighborhood immediately east of the site, and from the community at large. Following that hearing, Director Dudley received a letter from two residents requesting that some amendments to the industrial zone should be processed to protect neighborhoods from the impacts of large projects, such as the flour mill. As a result of that letter, staff met with representatives of the neighborhood. Staff reached consensus on two issues with these residents: (1) there should be an overall height limit in the industrial zone and (2) certain uses, when located within a certain distance from a residential zone, should require a Conditional Use Permit.

In December of 1998, staff presented a Resolution of Intent to the City Council, and explained the history of the meetings with the residents. The Resolution of Intention was for a code amendment that (1) created a 45-foot overall height limit in the industrial zone; and (2) added a provision to the Industrial Code to require a Conditional Use Permit for certain heavy industrial uses within 1,000 feet of a residential property, with an exception for uses 10,000 square feet in floor area or less. The City Council adopted the Resolution of Intent and instructed staff to meet with the Chamber of Commerce.

On January 27, 1999, Director Dudley and Mike Hill (representative of the residents) attended the Industrial Chamber of Commerce committee. The issue was explained to them by Director Dudley. Mr. Hill made a presentation on behalf of the neighborhoods. The Chamber was asked to review the proposal and inform staff of any suggested changes or concerns. Director Dudley indicated his desire to work with the Chamber and the residents to reach consensus on this issue. Director Dudley indicated that he never received a response from the Chamber of Commerce. On February 24, 1999, Director Dudley was given a copy of the minutes of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Executive Committee meeting, dated February 10, 1999, which stated that a motion had been made to oppose Director Dudley's recommendation, with no further comments.

Director Dudley stated that the morning of this Planning Commission meeting, he received a letter from the Chamber of Commerce asking that the Commission take no action on this item until it is studied further. Staff continues to recommend approval of the proposed amendment.

Staff believes that this amendment will have minimal impact on the industrial community because the City has, at best, only a few vacant industrial parcels remaining in the City. Director Dudley reminded the Commission that within the recent past, the only industrial project which exceeded 45 feet, was the Con-Agra proposal. Further, a typical industrial building is approximately 28 feet.

Commissioner Simons asked how many Chamber representatives were present at the January Industrial Committee meeting, and Director Dudley answered that there were approximately ten, including Councilmember Dick Jones.

Commissioner Ballard inquired whether staff had received any feedback from the Chamber prior to the receipt of its letter, and Director Dudley answered negatively.

Commissioner Ranii questioned staff on the reasons for listing certain businesses on the proposal as being potentially objectionable to surrounding residences. Director Dudley indicated that the businesses listed were a result of a negotiation process between staff and surrounding homeowners.

Chairman Godfrey wished staff to indicate on the City map where the vacant industrial parcels were located, and Director Dudley did so.

Commissioner Simons inquired whether the proposal would affect the construction of parking structures. Director Dudley stated that if the structure were over 45 feet in height, a Conditional Use Permit would be required.

Commissioner Ballard further questioned whether there would be any business within the City at this point which would be made non-conforming with the passage of this amendment, and Director Dudley indicated that, other than the Hughes property, he did not believe that any other properties would become nonconforming.

Public hearing opened.

Mike Hill, 1937 West Gregory Avenue, reiterated what had been reported at the Chamber of Commerce Industrial Committee meeting, and that the Chamber had not responded until today's letter. Mr. Hill gave a brief review of the minutes of the Planning Commission hearing on the Con-Agra project. He added that this amendment would also protect the citizens of Fullerton against businesses which would add pollutants to the air, or be view obstructing.

Chairman Godfrey reminded Mr. Hill that that the City is run from taxes received from businesses and that it was the Planning Commission's duty to ensure that parcels which are zoned industrial or commercial are allowed businesses which conform to those designations.

Jack Hunsaker, 2011 West Gregory Avenue, was concerned about the height of an existing four-story building on the Hughes property. Chairman Godfrey informed him that any existing buildings would be "grandfathered" under the new amendment.

Bill Wottring, 2052 West Jacaranda Place, spoke in favor of the amendment and urged all Commission members to do the same.

Chairman Godfrey inquired whether there were any Chamber of Commerce representatives present, but there were none. Public hearing closed.

Commissioner Ranii supported staff's recommendation and expressed his disappointment with the lack of representation from the Chamber of Commerce.

Commissioner Sandoval indicated that she was uncomfortable with the proposal at this point because it appeared that "special interest groups" were placing restrictions on industrial zones. She was also disappointed that no Chamber of Commerce representatives were present to express its concerns to the Commission. She wished further study to be conducted on this issue.

Commissioner Simons, while not opposed to the amendment as written, also wished further study on this item. Because he had not heard from the Chamber of Commerce, he also did not wish to support the amendment at this time.

Commissioner Ballard was satisfied that the matter had been heard by the Chamber of Commerce and was given ample time in which to respond to staff. He supported staff's recommendation and added two grammatical corrections to the amendment, which staff said would be addressed.

Chairman Godfrey was hesitant to approve the amendment but stated that he would do so, particularly because there are so few industrial parcels remaining in the City. He inquired whether specific remaining parcels of land could be exempt from the amendment, in light of the fact that they are clearly distanced from any residential property. Director Dudley answered that the amendment was not a prohibition; it just required a Conditional Use Permit for buildings over 45 feet and for certain uses.

MOTION by Commissioner Ballard, seconded and CARRIED unanimously by voting members present, that the Negative Declaration be CERTIFIED as AMENDED. The title of Resolution No. 6819 RECOMMENDING to the City Council approval of an amendment to Chapter 15.41 of the Fullerton Municipal Code to establish a height limit in the industrial zones and to modify the permitted and conditionally-permitted uses in the industrial zones, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Ballard, seconded and CARRIED by a three-to-two vote, with Commissioners Sandoval and Simons voting no, that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS AMENDED.

Staff report dated April 8, 1999, was presented pertaining to a request to allow a used car dealership with a display of vehicles on property located at 1565 West Commonwealth Avenue (northeast corner of Commonwealth and Basque Avenues) (C-H zone) (Categorically exempt under Class 1 of CEQA Guidelines).

Program Planner Linnell reported this was a proposed modification of an existing Conditional Use Permit. There is presently a car service use at this site and the applicant desires to operate a used car dealership at this location. Staff does not anticipate a problem with the proposal and recommended approval. He added that most of the conditions require upgrades to the property that will be needed to meet the City's development standards.

Commissioner Sandoval inquired if the new conditions of CUP-551A would supersede those in CUP-551. Program Planner Linnell replied negatively-that the new conditions would be in addition to those already imposed, including the hours of operation.

Commissioner Simons was concerned about the number of vehicles which may be allowed on site. Program Planner Linnell stated that the plan submitted by the applicant is an appropriate layout for a vehicle display; it is staff's understanding that six vehicles would be displayed and remaining spaces would be utilized for either employee or visitor parking. Also, landscape along the frontage area would be improved.

Commissioner Ballard noted that the original approval was for an "auto electrical and repair" use and is currently operating as "tire sales and installation." He asked if the title of the original resolution should be amended to cover the existing operation, but staff did not feel that this would be necessary.

Public hearing opened.

Ahmad Rizk, applicant, indicated that he had read and concurred with all of the recommended conditions of approval.

Commissioner Sandoval asked what "minor public improvements" were required by the Engineering Department. Program Planner Linnell answered that he was told that new trees and tree wells would be the only improvements necessary.

Linda Herr, 1570 West Amerige Avenue, having heard that only six cars could be displayed, noted that the staff report listed the number as "approximately ten." She feared that if an increased number of vehicles were allowed, the overflow parking would then become a nuisance on the street by hindering street sweeping and trash collection. She also wished clarification on the hours of operation, and inquired whether the outdoor phones could be turned off during the evening hours. Program Planner Linnell noted that in addition to cars displayed along Commonwealth Avenue, the applicant would store vehicles at the rear of the property. Chief Planner Rosen noted a condition of approval which states that no outside speaker systems or telephones may be used.

Public hearing closed.

There was a consensus of the Commission for approval. The title of Resolution No. 6820 APPROVING a Conditional Use Permit to allow a used car dealership with the display of vehicles on property located at 1565 West Commonwealth Avenue, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Simons, seconded and CARRIED unanimously by voting members present, that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS WRITTEN.

Staff report dated April 7, 1999, was presented pertaining to a request to consider setting a hearing for revocation of a Conditional Use Permit originally approved in 1996 for a restaurant (Geckos) and a 500-square-foot dance floor within an existing commercial center on property located at 279 East Orangethorpe Avenue (northwest corner of Orangethorpe Avenue and Lemon Street) (C-2 zone).

Senior Planner Commerdinger reported that since the approval of the Conditional Use Permit for this location, the operation has undergone many changes. Upon recent inspection by the Alcohol Beverage Control, it was noted that there was no kitchen staff present, and both the refrigerator and dry storage areas were severely depleted. It was the opinion of the ABC supervisor that the restaurant was either working on a very small margin of food or the restaurant was no longer in operation. The nightclub use of the facility has conducted "18 and older events", which are outside the limits of the original CUP. Further, there has been an increasing demand on police services and the severity of the offenses on site has escalated to the point where the Police Department has asked that the Planning Commission consider revocation of the CUP.

Staff has met with the management of the business, and the attorney representing the owner was present. Also, Sgt. John Petropolous from the Fullerton Police Department was also present. Staff recommended that the Planning Commission set a revocation hearing for this matter.

Public hearing opened.

Attorney Alan Metcalf, representing owners Alan Merow and Bob Marshall, wished to rebut some of staff's testimony concerning the restaurant. Concerning the lack of kitchen staff on site, he noted that the inspection was made at 11:30 p.m., and all of the kitchen staff had left for the day. Also, a shipment of food was to be delivered to the restaurant the following morning, so the refrigerator and storage areas appeared depleted. The lack of adequate parking (due to the AMC Theatres) caused the restaurant of Gecko's to lose patronage, so the owners attempted to put more emphasis on the nightclub portion of the business. Recently, however, the owners have revised the restaurant menu, and Mr. Metcalf stated that Gecko's is again open for lunch and dinner.

Regarding the "18 and over" and "promotional" events, Mr. Metcalf emphasized that the Police Department was notified whenever any such event was held. However, because of the problems associated with these types of events, the management decided to cancel any "18 and over" events on March 18, 1999, and the facility will no longer allow them. Upon inspection of the logs for the number of police calls at this facility, Mr. Metcalf informed the Commission that although Gecko's had 129 calls over a specified period, the following establishments also logged police response calls as follows: Taco Bell--47, El Torito--115, AMC Theaters--237, In Cahoots--187; Off Campus Pub--157. He also stressed that the types of calls for Geckos were not as severe as those at other locations, i.e. drug problems, murders, rapes, and assaults.

Mr. Metcalf concluded by saying that the owners were anxious to work with the City to mitigate any problems, and that Gecko's wished to remain at this location. He suggested that the Commission may wish to impose a six-month review of the operation, and that it was not necessary to revoke the Conditional Use Permit at this time.

Commissioner Simons noted that the letter from the applicant indicated that they have two security officers present at all times, and have hired four additional off-duty Fullerton Police officers to assist with large events. He inquired if six officers were present at all times. Mr. Metcalf clarified that on March 18th, a large event was held and the off-duty officers were hired at that time. Because the "18 and over" events have since been cancelled, only two security personnel are now necessary. These officers will escort customers to their vehicles in the parking lot when asked to do so.

Alan Merow, 15582 Sunburst Lane, Huntington Beach, is the of the owners of Gecko's. He informed the Commission that a taxi service is available at no charge to the customer. In answer to a question from Commissioner Simons, Mr. Merow stated that he has the need to call a taxi approximately 2-5 times per month.

Chairman Godfrey reminded Mr. Metcalf that although other restaurants in the area may have as many or more police responses on record, Gecko's was brought to the attention of the Planning Commission, while the others were not. Mr. Metcalf concurred that it was most likely the 18 and over crowd, which brought this matter forward.

Sgt. John Petropolous, Fullerton Police Department, informed the Commission that the reason Gecko's was brought to his attention was because of the violent crimes in or around the location, and it was becoming a drain on police resources. He cited an instance in February where he responded to a call of an argument, started in the club, and ending up in the parking lot where a bottle had been thrown through the window of a moving vehicle. Because approximately eight customers were involved, it was necessary to dispatch an additional six to eight police cars to the site. Chairman Godfrey inquired whether calls to this location have decreased within the last thirty days, and Sgt. Petropolous answered affirmatively.

Public hearing closed.

Commissioner Sandoval felt that this business was not being utilized as a restaurant, as originally approved, and is operating as a nightclub only. She favored staff's recommendation to set a revocation hearing, but wished the wording changed to "revocation/modification" of a Conditional Use Permit. Commissioner Simons concurred.

Commissioner Ranii was satisfied that Gecko's was making an attempt to meet all of the conditions of its CUP, and was working to mitigate problems experienced in the past. He concurred that the hearing should be a revocation/modification hearing. Commissioner Ballard concurred, but added that he would prefer the hearing be held the second meeting in May.

There was a consensus of the Commission to accept staff's recommendation. The title of Resolution No. 6821 SETTING a revocation/modification hearing for May 26, 1999, for the operation of a restaurant with a 500-square-foot dance floor on property located at 279 East Orangethorpe Avenue was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Ranii, seconded and CARRIED unanimously that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS WRITTEN.

Chief Planner Rosen gave a brief report on recent City Council meetings.
There was no one present who wished to speak on any matter within the Commission's jurisdiction.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting will be May 12, 1999, at 4:00 p.m. Commissioners Simons and Ranii indicated that they would be absent from that meeting.
There being no further business, Chairman Godfrey adjourned the meeting at 8:42 p.m. in honor of Senior Planner Ted Commerdinger, who recently accepted a new position with the City of Cypress.
Becky Stevens
Clerk to the Planning Commission
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