Staff report dated February 27, 2001, was presented pertaining to a request to consider site and architectural plans for a large group home facility, sheltering up to 18 disabled adults, on property located at 1008-1010 South Highland Avenue (east side of Highland Avenue, between approximately 60 feet and 170 feet north of Hill Avenue) (R-3 zone) (Negative Declaration).
Program Planner Linnell reported that the proposed facility would provide living accommodations and supervision for male adults with mental disorders. The facility is licensed by the County of Orange as a residential care facility and a letter from the County defining this type of facility was submitted to the Commission. The property owner, Juan Chavez, will live on site as act as supervisor for the facility. Mr. Chavez has operated another such facility in Fullerton in the past, and has maintained a good working relationship with the police and fire departments. The neighboring residences had been notified of this proposal, and a community meeting was held at Richman Park to further discuss the operation with adjacent property owners. The meeting was not well attended and staff has received only a few calls concerning the project. Program Planner Linnell explained that staff wished to revise Condition No. 5 as follows: "The facility shall be licensed as a residential care facility or board and care home, to shelter no more than 18 residents, not including the on-site operator of the facility."
Chairman Simons recommended that the two letters received by the Commission, one from the Orange County Health Care Agency and one from Frank Benedetto, be made a part of the public record.
In the staff report, Commissioner Crane noted that none of the residents would be driving a vehicle, thus ample parking is being provided. He was concerned that a resident may reach a point where driving may be an option, and expressed concerned that the on-site parking would not be adequate. Program Planner Linnell reminded that the residents of the facility would not be granted driver's licenses by the state.
Commissioner LeQuire questioned if the facility would need to be reevaluated if the County changed the definition of the term residential care facility. Chief Planner Rosen suggested that a copy of the letter from the County, dated February 28, 2001, be attached to a copy of the final resolution as a point of reference for the type of facility being approved by the Commission on this date. Chief Planner Rosen added that if the facility changed to allow persons who drive vehicles, the Conditional Use Permit would have to be brought back to the Commission and the parking requirements would be revised at that time.
Chairman Simons noted a redwood fence to the rear of the property, approximately 12 feet west of the alley, and asked if this strip was a part of this property. Program Planner Linnell explained that this was private property, owned by the apartment complex to the north, and cannot be used for parking by the applicant. There is an easement agreement in place which allows ingress and egress by the applicant, but staff is unaware whether a trash enclosure could be placed there. Chairman Simons asked where the trash enclosure would be located, and Program Planner Linnell answered that it would have to be placed where it could be serviced off of Highland Avenue.
Commissioner Sandoval asked if the bathroom facilities for the project met all building code and licensing requirements. Program Planner Linnell stated that the project would have to meet all building code requirements during the plan check process.
Commissioner Price asked if Mr. DeBenedetto attended the community meeting and Program Planner Linnell answered negatively. Commissioner Price also asked if staff had received any other letters or telephone calls concerning the project. Program Planner Linnell indicated he had received two calls prior to the community meeting, but those persons attended the meeting and had their questions answered at that time.
Chairman Simons felt that the applicant should have known whether or not the restroom facilities were going to be acceptable. Program Planner Linnell explained that the architect for the project should have made contact with the Building Department to discuss the matter. Commissioner Crane encouraged the applicant to contact the Building Official as soon as possible to address any code deficiencies.
Public hearing opened.
Donna Chessen, Chessen and Associates, gave a brief history of the facility. She emphasized that professional caretakers will transport the residents to programs, activities and medical appointments. There are no scheduled visiting hours, and residents are usually picked up by family members on the weekends. While in concurrence with all of the recommended conditions, there were concerns with Condition No. 4 which dealt with possible revocation of the CUP should three or more complaints be received by staff. Mrs. Chessen felt this was an arbitrary condition, and should be clarified. Chief Planner Rosen stated that this was a standard condition of approval and would provide a threshold for staff to bring back the matter to the Commission for review at a later date. The Commission would then set a date for a revocation hearing, should it so desire. If there is no basis for the complaints, no revocation hearing would be set.
Kae Li, project architect, reported that there would be one restroom on each floor. The first floor restroom would be handicapped accessible, and have an extra toilet and urinal. Each restroom will have two shower stalls. The two restrooms conform to all building standards for dormitory-type units.
Commissioner Crane felt that there were some access issues which needed to be addressed, particularly to the front door area and van spaces, and exiting issues with the upstairs units. He reiterated the need for the architect to meet with the Building Official as soon as possible.
Juan Chavez, property owner, stated that the previously facility had been in operation for 15 years. He explained that the facility did not house persons with drug or alcohol-related problems, or those with emotional or behavioral problems. He will occupy one of the structures, and his clients will reside in the other structure.
Commissioner Sandoval asked if residents are allowed to leave the facility. Mr. Chavez indicated that all residents may leave the facility, however they must sign a log when leaving and upon their return. Commissioner Sandoval also inquired if the County makes periodic visits to the site, and Mr. Chavez replied that they are inspected once per year, unless problems arise.
Francis Chavez, 14712 Livingston Avenue, Tustin, is the parent of one of the persons who had resided at the former facility. She is pleased with the care that her son receives, and described Mr. Chavez as professional and responsible. She urged the Commission to approve the Conditional Use Permit.
Betty Byars, 326 West Hill Avenue, was one of the neighbors who attended the meeting at Richman School. She was concerned about the possibility of Mr. Chavez selling the facility to another owner, and if the new owner would be as conscientious as Mr. Chavez. She also pointed out that there is a nursery school in close proximity to the site.
Commissioner LeQuire inquired how the residents are monitored to ensure that they are back on the premises by 10:00 p.m. and that they remain on site. Mr. Chavez explained that there are four members of his family who assist him in supervising the patients. In addition there are cameras and monitors in and around the facility.
Commissioner Allred-Blake asked if the patients were referred through the county, and Mr. Chavez answered affirmatively. A history on each patient is also given to Mr. Chavez.
Commissioner Wilson was uncomfortable with the fact that the facility was in close proximity to the nursery school. Mr. Chavez reiterated that he only takes in patients who suffer from mental illness which can be controlled by medication, and he accepts no patients with criminal histories.
Johnnie Day, 327 West Southgate Avenue, wanted confirmation that Mr. Chavez would be responsible for dispensing medication to the patients. Mr. Chavez assured her that all medications were kept by him, and charts are kept on each patient. Chief Planner Rosen added that the County specifically requires that all medication must be kept in a locked area, and staff must dispense all medications at the appropriate time, as well as arranging transportation for scheduled doctor's appointments.
Public hearing closed.
Commissioner Crane supported the request as presented, including the amendment to Condition No. 5. Commissioner Sandoval concurred, adding that facilities of this type are desperately needed in the community.
Commissioner LeQuire did not support the project because its proximity to the nursery school, park and grammar school. Also, because the Conditional Use Permit runs with the land, he was concerned that another owner could take over the facility and not be as selective as to the type of client allowed. He was also uncertain as to whether or not the design of the facility, i.e. bathroom facilities, conformed to all building standards.
Commissioner Allred-Blake thanked those who spoke on this matter. She favored the project, however she was unclear as to the parking requirements listed in the staff report, particularly if there should be a change of ownership. Program Planner Linnell suggested that Condition No. 5 specifically state that the facility would only be for those patients who do not drive, and any change in use would require another review by the Planning Commission to consider if additional parking would be needed.
Commissioner Price supported the project and was satisfied that any problems would be reported by the neighbors. He felt the project would be an improvement to the property.
Commissioner Wilson and Chairman Simons supported the project; however, expressed concern over the possible change in ownership, particularly since the city would not be notified if this occurred. Chief Planner Rosen emphasized that the Conditional Use Permit was specifically for a Level l board and care facility, and any change in this use must be reviewed by the Planning Commission.
There was a consensus of the Commission for approval. MOTION by Commissioner Sandoval, seconded and CARRIED unanimously that the Negative Declaration be CERTIFIED. The title of Resolution No. 6912 APPROVING a site plan to construct a large group home facility sheltering up to 18 mentally disabled adults on property located at 1008-1010 South Highland Avenue, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Sandoval, seconded and CARRIED by a six-to-one vote, with Commissioner LeQuire voting no, that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS AMENDED, adding language to Condition No. 5 that the parking requirements will be reviewed by the Planning Commission should the approved use change, and to add, as an attachment, the letter from the County of Orange Health Care Agency dated February 28, 2001.