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RDRC Minutes July 24, 2003

Persons addressing the Redevelopment Design Review Committee shall be limited to 10 minutes unless an extension of time is granted by the Chairman, subject to the approval of the Redevelopment Design Review Committee. When any group of persons wishes to address the Committee, it shall be proper for the Chairman to request that a spokesman be chosen to represent the group.

Public comment will be allowed on agenda items at the time the item is considered.

The Redevelopment Design Review Committee's approval or denial of any action on this agenda shall become final and effective ten days after its decision unless an appeal is made in writing within this ten-day period to the Planning Commission by either an applicant or an opponent. The filing of an appeal within such time limit shall stay the effective date of the order of the Redevelopment Design Review Committee until such time as the Planning Commission has acted on the appeal. Anyone interested in making an appeal should contact the Development Services Department for assistance.

4:00 P.M. SESSION - COUNCIL CONFERENCE ROOM

CALL TO ORDER:

The meeting was called to order at 4:15 p.m. by Chairman Johnson

ROLL CALL:

COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT:Chairman Johnson; Vice-Chairman Daybell; Committee Members Blumer and Silber.
COMMITTEE MEMBERS ABSENT:Committee Member Coffman.
STAFF PRESENT:Chief Planner Rosen; Senior Planner Mullis; Associate Planner Eastman.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

Minutes for May 8, 2003 were approved by a vote of 2-0, with Chairman Johnson abstaining from vote since he was not in attendance at that meeting, and Silber abstaining due to a potential conflict of interest. Minutes for May 22, 2003 were approved by a vote of 2-0, with Vice-Chairman Daybell and Member Silber abstaining from vote, as they were not in attendance at that meeting.

NEW BUSINESS:

  1. GRACE MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL REVISED LANDSCAPE PLAN REVIEW. A review of modifications to the landscaping plans for Phase 1 of the overall Grace Ministries project. Phase 1 consists of a remodel of an existing Research and Development Building for use as a high school with a temporary 1500 seat sanctuary, and also includes the addition of a new gymnasium. The property is located at 1645 and 1701 W. Valencia Drive.

    Chief Planner Rosen briefly stated that the public hearing proposal can move forward without the applicant, who was not yet in attendance.

    Associate Planner Eastman briefly described the project, stating that Grace Ministries had submitted and received RDRC approval for a landscape concept. The approved Grace Ministries site plan requires the removal of one of two existing vehicle driveways from Valencia Avenue. The approved landscape concept converted this driveway to a pedestrian pathway. The concept expanded turf berms into the modified driveway area, which is a continuation of the existing landscape buffer along Valencia Avenue. The revised landscape concept removes the driveway and the landscape berm to the west of it. In its place the plan proposes the construction of a pedestrian plaza with a grove of six Ginkgo Biloba trees (36-inch box). Chief Planner Rosen provided additional background regarding the approved plan, and the concepts and concerns which were previously approved. Some footnotes were provided, including: 1) the approval of the Church's CUP requires the existing driveway to be removed because the City's Traffic Engineer believed it was too close to the Valencia/Brookhurst intersection; 2) The intent of the revised plan is to eliminate the landscape barrier between the approved new gymnasium building and Valencia Street, and create a stronger visual and pedestrian connection with the Public. The Church is interested in making their facility more inclusive of the community; 3) The plans show that the on-site drive (east/west) will be widened, which will require the removal of some existing mature trees (pines). This widening and the tree removal is consistent with the Church's plans which have been approved by the City Council; and 4) An existing Coral Tree will be preserved at the corner of the site as required by the Church's approved site plan. Chief Planner Rosen provided some addition description of the landscape design, all of which are not changes from the previously approved concept.

    Committee Member Mark Blumer stated that he felt the landscape changes are more appropriate to a church use, whereas the existing landscaping is more appropriate to a research/industrial campus. Chief Planner Rosen clarified that Staff is not in objection to the proposed changes, but is requiring the RDRC review because the changes are significantly different than what was previously approved.

    Committee Member Silber stated that the canopy on the east side of the front setback needs to be preserved, and it should be brought back into the parking lot. He expressed a desire to preserve as many trees as possible. Chief Planner Rosen asked if it would be beneficial to move the retaining wall farther east to preserve more of the existing grade.

    The project applicant and his landscape planner arrived at 4:23 P.M.

    Samuel Kim, landscape architect for sqLA inc. introduced himself. He presented a photo board to the RDRC to further illustrate the species and design concept. He stated that three existing Callistemons and a small Pine tree will be removed. The existing Coral tree will be preserved as required previously.

    Member Blumer asked if the retaining wall will affect the roots of the existing trees. Mr. Kim clarified that the retaining wall is intended to save existing trees because it will preserve the existing mounding, while allowing the east-west drive lane to be widened. He stated that it is their intent to preserve as many of the existing trees as possible.

    Member Daybell asked if the retaining wall can be "tweaked". Applicant David Choye stated that the retaining wall is to allow a wider drive lane, and isn't itself a design feature, so there are no specific reasons why they could not further modify the retaining wall if need be.

    Member Silber asked how tall the retaining wall is, to which Mr. Kim said 3 feet.

    Mr. Kim added that granite pavers are to be used at the entry to Valencia Drive to create a pedestrian connection with the sidewalk, and that "Microtop", which is a polymer covering, will be used over the existing paving. Also, grass "panels" will be brought out to the street to continue the gymnasium entry's pattern to the sidewalk. The revised plans show Ginkgo trees for an accent, but Elms might also be used. The mounded areas will have Fountain Grass and Papyrus to give a "meadow prairie" look, which is intended to go with the Church's "Dandelion" missionary theme. Lighting will have a "halo" type of bollard, and the bollards will help to accentuate the vehicle areas. Mr. Kim pointed out that they recently determined that water service can be taken off of Brookhurst, so the existing water connections and backflow devices will be removed.

    Chairman Johnson opened the project to public comment. No one from the public wished to address the Committee, therefore Chairman Johnson closed the public hearing.

    Vice-Chairman Daybell said that the project is a positive step in the ongoing design. He would like to see the retaining wall moved to the north to save as many existing trees as possible. He also expressed a preference for the Ginkgo tree, as his experience with Elms has not been positive. Member Silber stated that he is comfortable with the design, but would also like to see the design refined to save as many trees as possible. He identified a Pine tree at the east end of the proposed retaining wall, and an Olive tree on the west end. Member Blumer stated that he likes the proposal a lot. He appreciates that the applicant is identifying and focusing on individual portions of the site, rather than trying to do it all at one time. Chairman Johnson stated that he likes how the plan opens up the front and creates a pedestrian space. He supports the idea of supporting as many mature trees as possible. He asked the applicant if the retaining wall could meander. He suggested that a serpentine wall be used to work around the existing trees as much as possible. He also stated that he thinks either the Elm or the Ginkgo tree is o.k.

    Landscape Architect Kim stated that the wall could meander, and that he thinks the idea is a good one.

    The Committee had no additional comments. Vice-Chairman Daybell motioned, Member Blumer seconded, to approve the revised landscape plans subject to a condition that a serpentine retaining wall be used to preserve as many trees as possible. The motion to APPROVE the project with condition CARRIED by a vote of 4 to 0.

    Chairman Johnson adjourned the meeting to the City Council Chambers.

  2. PICO-CARHART DESIGN GUIDELINES. A review of the proposed design guidelines for the Pico-Carhart neighborhood.

    A report was presented by Senior Planner Mullis. She provided a brief history of the Pico-Carhart rezone project. She clarified that a subdivision request was made for a property in the area, which initiated community concerns regarding the areas development potential. As a result, a petition was presented to the City asking to rezone the area to a "larger lot" single family zone. In response to the community, the City conducted some studies of the area, and ultimately proposed an R-1-10,000 zoning designation with a new "Rural Street" overlay designation. Senior Planner Mullis pointed out that most of the streets in the Pico-Carhart area are designated as "rural" streets, which mean that the streets are intentionally narrower, and that the ultimate right-of-way will not be improved with sidewalks or curb-and-gutters like the rest of the City. The creation of a new Rural Street overlay zone necessitates that the City create design guidelines to direct the future development of the area. Staff has prepared draft design guidelines, which are now being presented before the RDRC for comments and suggestions. The project is before the RDRC at the direction of the Planning Commission.

    To create the Draft Rural Residential Design Guidelines, staff surveyed the community and solicited feedback from the public. The most unique feature of the community is that there is little uniformity. However, some characteristics of the area do stick out, including: narrow lots (50 ft. wide) with long depths; many structures constructed in the 1920s; mostly single story homes; a variety of architectural styles; and an average lot size of between 11,000 and 12,000 square feet. While the neighborhood is very eclectic, there are homes in the neighborhood which appear out of place. The most egregious of them appear to have one thing in common; they are out of scale two story structures. Characteristics of properties which are not compatible with the overall community aesthetic include buildings which have second stories too close to the street; garages which dominate the frontage; masses which aren't consistent with adjacent properties; and unarticulated second stories.

    Senior Planner Mullis stated that the Rural Street Design Guidelines will guide Staff's review of projects in the Pico-Carhart area. If Staff determines that a project does not comply with the Guidelines, then Staff could deny the request. An appeal of Staff's decision would then be sent to the RDRC for review. An appeal of the RDRC's decision can be made to the Planning Commission.

    The Draft Rural Residential Design Guidelines were created with eight suggested rules. Staff presented these rules to the RDRC and the Committee discussed each proposed guideline individually. There was a consensus to clarify guidelines in the following ways:

    A - Revise the language to state that the garage should be behind the front plane of the house;
    B - No changes;
    C - No changes;
    D - Language should be added to address the impacts of grading and the raising of pads can have upon the character of the neighborhood. They requested that language be added to minimize impacts to natural contours, existing drainage courses shall be maintained and that cross-sections be provided when grading is proposed so impacts can be assessed.
    E - Language should be added that clarifies the guideline to not allow blank, unarticulated walls;
    F - No changes;
    G - No changes; and
    H - No changes.

    Ann Bardin is with Associates of Real Estate. She owns two lots on Arroyo Drive, but has no plans to subdivide. Her concern with the design guidelines has to do with the clarity of requirements, and the ability to have design freedom. She was particularly concerned with rule "F", which requires floor plans to be different. She asked if varied architectural style is what is intended, and a problem she perceives is that there isn't a way of knowing how much a floor plan needs to change to be different. She also stated that as guidelines, the "shalls" and "will" should be "shoulds".

    Vice-Chairman Daybell stated that the guidelines reflect the spirit of law, and "shall" and "will" are appropriate for these guidelines. He stated that the language makes sense to him. Member Silber stated that he wouldn't change the language in "F", and the changing of floor plans changes massing, rather than just exterior treatments. And regarding the "shall" and "will"; he thinks that strong language is needed because if the guidelines read "should", then some people would take the guidelines to heart, others wouldn't. He feels that everyone needs to work with the guidelines, and not ignore them. Member Blumer stated that he thinks the floor plan language is fine.

    The RDRC unanimously recommended that the City Council approve the Pico-Carhart Design Guidelines with amendments as discussed.

REDEVELOPMENT DESIGN REVIEW COMMITTEE/STAFF COMMUNICATIONS:

Associate Planner Eastman stated that the "Redevelopment Design Review Committee/Staff Communications" heading has been added to the agenda for topics which are not agendized, but are of concern to the RDRC. Planner Eastman stated that the RDRC had a number of comments and questions regarding recent articles in a local paper. Mr. Eastman expressed Staff's availability to answer concerns or questions of the Committee.

Vice-Chairman Daybell stated that he had inquired with Staff in regard to an article in the local paper. He stated that he was disturbed by comments made in the article, which was about the Florentine Restaurant sidewalk encroachment at Harbor and Commonwealth. He was disappointed that the project didn't come before the RDRC for review, because he felt it is a significant downtown issue. Chief Planner Rosen responded by stating that the project had not come before the RDRC because the encroachment went before the City Council for approval. It did not come before the RDRC as a recommendation item because it isn't required by the City Code, the design was consistent with the existing building, and it has been Staff's approach to streamline projects which are consistent with direction given by Council.

Member Blumer asked if this is an Engineering Department vs. Planning Department issue. He wanted clarification as to whether or not the encroachment permit effected how the project was handled. Chief Rosen stated that there was an encroachment permit requested, and that normally an encroachment permit is simply reviewed administratively by Engineering. However, Chief Rosen did state that this encroachment is more significant than a normal request, which is why it was part of the Council's approval.

Member Silber thought the Florentine project (i.e., encroachment permit) should have come before the RDRC, although he understands the need to encourage and expedite projects. He believes that a Staff level review would make some projects happen which would otherwise not move forward if RDRC review was required. However, he believes that deciding which projects require review in downtown is more difficult because downtown is an important community asset, which is of interest to a broader group than just the downtown business and property owners.

There were no additional comments on the Florentine project.

Associate Planner Eastman stated that the agenda shows one item for the next agenda, but there might be two. One is a second unit in an historic preservation zone at 135 N. Yale, and the other is a second unit in a CID zone at 319 W. Wilshire. However, Staff is still waiting for revised plans from both applicants. It may be that neither item will be heard.

PUBLIC COMMENT:

None.

ADJOURNMENT: There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:40 p.m.

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