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RDRC Minutes November 18, 2004

RDRC Minutes November 18, 2004


Thursday November 18, 2004 4:00 PM


The meeting was called to order at 4:05 p.m. by Chairman Daybell


COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT: Chairman Daybell, Committee Members, Duncan, Johnson (arrived at 5:00 p.m.), Silber, Coffman
STAFF PRESENT: Chief Planner Rosen, Senior Planner Mullis, Associate Planner Eastman, Assistant Planner Kusch, and Clerical Support Norton


The minutes of the October 14, 2004 meeting were approved as written by a vote of 4-0.

4:00 p.m. Session




Vice Chairman Silber moved to review Item No. 1 at the end of the meeting. Seconded by Committee Member Duncan. Motion passed 4-0.

PRJ03-00432 - PARCEL MAP PM2003-193. APPLICANT AND PROPERTY OWNER: ALI REZA RAMEZANI. A request for design review of four residential dwellings and landscape plan on property located at 2200 North Moody Avenue. (AK)

Present to discuss the project are Mike Kim, Project Civil Engineer; Ali Ramezani, Property Owner, and John Magnus, Architect.

Assistant Planner Kusch stated that this project was previously approved by the Planning Commission and, upon appeal, approved by the City Council. The appeal was from the property owner of the neighboring residence located adjacent and to the north of the subject property. The neighbor was concerned with the compatibility of the subdivision and new residences with their property. The primary concern raised by the adjacent neighbor included how the bulk and scale of the new residences would impact existing views.

Assistant Planner Kusch noted that the Parcel Map approval included a condition to require the residence on Parcel No. 1 to include a front setback from Moody Avenue and the new private driveway easement. The required setbacks for Parcel No. 1 include 20'-0" from the driveway easement and 25'-0" from Moody Avenue. Staff noted that the submitted plans indicate an encroachment of a covered entry porch into the required driveway easement setback. Staff clarified other setback encroachments that were identified in the Staff Report. The Zoning Code allows a 20 percent setback encroachment if the encroachment does not encompass more than 20 percent of the buildings elevation. Each of the other proposed residence's setback encroachments identified in the report meet this Code provision.

At the meeting, staff displayed colored elevations for the proposed project that were submitted after the Staff Report was mailed to the Committee Members. The elevations address a number of discrepancies noted in the Staff Report. Staff has not had the opportunity to review the revised plans in detail, and expressed a desire that the architecture of each residence be unique. Staff reminded the Committee that a condition of approval requires the design of the residences to incorporate a stepped or tiered floor plan and elevations. The intent of the condition of approval was to ensure the proposed design of the residences work with the site's existing topography. The condition was also to limit excessive grading and to limit the bulk and mass of the residential structures. Staff noted that the proposed design of the residences on Parcel No. 1 and No. 4 are not stepped or tiered.

Assistant Planner Kusch explained that the intent for the Redevelopment Design Review Committee's review at this time is to critique the architecture, proposed landscaping and grading plan. Staff recommends that the applicant submit lot coverage and open space calculations, and note building setbacks on plans. Staff also recommends providing a front entry element for the west elevation that faces Moody Avenue for the Parcel No.1 residence.

Committee Member Coffman asked about the driveway design and associated walls. Assistant Planner Kusch described the layout and identified wall heights. Vice Chairman Silber asked staff to clarify what is currently built across Moody Avenue given the neighbor's concerns with the bulk and scale of the building and impact on the view. An aerial photograph was displayed clarifying the location of neighboring residences. Senior Planner Mullis mentioned that a neighbor to the east also had concerns with the view.

Assistant Planner Kusch stated that the applicant's reason for not incorporating a tiered floor plan design for the proposed residence on Parcel No. 1 was that the grading scheme would be more compatible with the neighboring residence located to the south. The location of the proposed building pad would be setback to maintain existing privacy for yard areas. The applicant also felt the proposed design limited the bulk and mass of the structure while minimizing grading. Chairman Daybell asked if the landscaping along the north side of the property would be preserved. Assistant Planner Kusch said he was not sure where the property line is in relationship to the landscaping, but believes it is on the neighboring property.

Mr. Kim, Project Civil Engineer, touched on a few of the issues that deal with grading. He did not recall a lot of issues with bulk and scale of the project as much as the view. With the exception of an existing single family residence, the land has been undeveloped. The view on the neighboring property directly north of the property is severely limited because of the obstruction of existing trees. In addition, the neighboring property to the north includes an illegally constructed wall adjacent to the common property line. As part of this project, the applicant is negotiating with the neighbors to remove this wall which, according to the applicant's survey, is encroaching onto the subject property.

Mr. Kim indicated that the split-level requirement is one of the design concepts that is required in the conditions of approval. The condition was taken as an extension of interpretation of the Hillside Grading Ordinance where they tried to conform to the existing grading and work with the contours of the existing land. Mr. Kim believed the intent was to minimize grading and provide a smaller profile for the homes. He also indicated that the residences are also in conformance with the Zoning Code's height limitation.

Vice Chairman Silber asked for a rough approximation of where the roof line would fall on Parcel's No. 2 and No. 3 in relationship to the pad of the neighboring residence to the north. Mr. Kim said the house to the north is at two levels, one level is at an elevation of 350 feet and toward the back it drops to an elevation of 335 feet. The proposed pads for Parcel No. 2 are at 332 and 337 feet. The proposed pads for Parcel No. 3 are at an elevation of 322 and 330 feet. The elevations of the proposed residences are lower or within five feet of the neighboring residence's building pad. The proposed residence on Parcel No. 2 would be most directly aligned to the neighboring residence. The proposed residence on Parcel No. 2 is designed as a split-level, and presents the smallest front elevation profile as viewed from the north. Mr. Ramezani said that the existing house to the north faces east/west and the portion on his property that would profile is the side and not the backyard. Mr. Magnus pointed out that the roof lines are stepped on all four plans to reflect a change in elevation of the residences.

Committee Member Duncan inquired if it was true that the stepping at the roof line occurs at the front of the house, while the stepping of the grade occurs at the rear of the house. He indicated that this is in reverse of where the natural contours of land occur. Vice Chairman Silber asked what determined the size of the homes. He thought that it seemed like the largest homes should go on the largest lots, giving future residents the most landscaping options. In this case, one of the largest residences is on the smallest lot (Parcel No. 1) closest to the Moody Avenue. Mr. Ramezani replied that the average lot size is 13,000 square feet. He indicated that a 5,700 square foot residence on a 17,000 square foot property recently sold in the immediate neighborhood. The property included a driveway area consisting of around 3,000 square feet. Parcel No. 3 and No. 4 measure 22,000-25,000 square feet. Mr. Ramezani stated that in the current housing market, there are no custom-built residences that are below 4,000 square feet. In order to make money on building the homes, it is not feasible to reduce the size of the residences below 4,000 square feet. Most prospective buyers are looking for larger homes.

Committee Member Coffman said he is surprised with the amount of fill that is taking place to create building pads for the stepped floor plan design of residences on Parcels No. 2 and No. 3. He believed the idea is for the homes to step down more in keeping with the natural grade. He thought that there may be different grade circumstances, such as on Parcels No. 1 and No. 4, which may not be conducive to stepping down the grade. He agreed that an entrance to the home on Parcel No. 1 should be oriented toward Moody Avenue. He thought there are general design issues with the proposed architecture. There are a fair amount of architectural features planted onto the building that are not true. For example, a building elevation appears to be projecting outward, and the roof lines look like they are jogging back and forth, when in fact they do not. He supports the general design but suggested that more time be spent on improving the exterior of the buildings.

Committee Member Duncan talked about the tiered grading in respect to where the homes tier down at the rear of the parcels, while the roof line goes up. This concept does not relate to a sensitive grading plan. The tiering should be reflected on roof lines as well. Perhaps something could be done to decrease the roof line at the back of the homes in order to reduce the bulk of the buildings. The residence on Parcel No. 1 should be oriented more toward Moody Avenue to create a nicer street presence. There is an opportunity on Lots No. 3 and No. 4 to do some more sensitive grading and take advantage of the larger lots to create more usable space.

Vice Chairman Silber stated that he agrees with Committee Member Coffman's concerns regarding detailing, particularly in regards to the house design on Parcel No. 1. He also agrees that the house should have better orientation toward Moody Avenue. He thought that the applicant should explore opportunities to place private spaces, such as bedrooms, at the first level and then go up a half a level for living or family rooms that would capture view opportunities. As a result, the architecture could be much more compatible to the character of the land. Further, when land and views are available he queried why not explore courtyard and atrium spaces that can bring the landscaping and sunlight into the body of the house especially in split-level designs. He questioned the reasoning of putting the second biggest home on the smallest lot closest to street when there are other parcels that could absorb a home of that size.

Committee Member Daybell agrees that Parcel No. 1 should be re-oriented so that the main entrance is off of Moody Avenue. He wondered why Parcel No. 4 cannot be moved south. He noted that there is ample space to move it back away from the driveway for a better turn-a-round. He recommended creating a larger front yard and lowering the building pad elevation.

Mr. Ramezani stated that the Planning Commission approved the residence on Parcel No. 1 with an entrance behind the proposed gate. Chief Planner Rosen said the intent was to have the orientation of the residence face Moody Avenue. Staff would allow the house behind the gate while maintaining an entrance off of Moody Avenue. Vice Chairman Silber offered an alternative way to develop the design for the residence on Parcel No. 1. He suggested placing the entrance facing Moody Avenue and designing it in such a way that incorporates a patio space off of a dining room. The alternative design would allow opportunity to incorporate the site's available views in an outdoor space.

Mr. Ramezani said that the existing adjacent home to the south is 3-feet from the property line. If the residence on Parcel No. 1 is re-oriented toward Moody Avenue, it would change the side yard setback, forcing the house to be located closer to the adjacent residence. He mentioned that the desire was to create an entrance from the common driveway. Mr. Ramezani went on to say that because part of the site is in a natural gull, this is where the grade is the most sever and, as a result, has the deepest fill.

Associate Planner Eastman said that the Committee has provided their comments and at this point, it appears that both staff and Committee members recommend that the item be continued to allow the applicant to respond to the Committee's concerns and comments.

Chairman Daybell called for a motion.

MOTION made by Vice Chairman Silber, SECONDED by Committee Member Duncan, and CARRIED by all present to CONTINUE PRJ03-00432 - PM2003-193 with a 4-0 vote with Vice Chairman Silber abstaining due to arriving late.

PRJ04-00874 - ZON04-00091. APPLICANT: GEORGE BEHNAM; PROPERTY OWNER: PACIFIC PLUS INVESTMENTS, LLC. A request for a proposed 8-unit condominium development located on property at 321-323 East Amerige Avenue. (AK)

Present to discuss the plans is George Behnam, Property Owner.

Assistant Planner Kusch stated that the property is zoned R-3. The proposed condominium units would include two-bedrooms, a den and 2 1/2 bathrooms. The Staff Report noted Code deficiencies namely having to do with required guest parking and open space. What staff is seeking from the Committee is guidance in terms of architecture and compatibility of the proposed development with the existing neighborhood. Assistant Planner Kusch described the neighborhood. Adjacent and to the west of the property is a historical residence and along the block are single-story, single-family residences and two-story apartment complexes. Most of the residences and apartments have wood siding. The property is also located within a block of the East Townsite District, which includes a preservation overlay zone.

Assistant Planner Kusch clarified the code deficiencies. For a parking space to qualify as guest parking, the space has to be open and uncovered. In order for an area to qualify as private open space, it needs to have a dimension of at least six feet and have an area of 100 square feet.

Mr. Behnam responded to the comments in regard to the noted Code deficiencies. He said he was not aware of deficiencies until the Staff Report brought it to his attention. In response to those deficiencies, two parking spaces were assigned to each unit to meet the parking requirements. The driveway width was increased and the open space has been increased from 95 to 100 square feet. The development is also meeting height limitations.

Vice Chairman Silber said in his opinion, perhaps the proposed condominium development might meet the letter of the law, but it is not meeting the intended spirit. His biggest concern is that there are architectural features planted onto the building, but the building's mass does not respond. The design is very regimented and a straight shot repetition of floor plans flipped, mirrored, and cranked on the side, and there is very little change in roof profile. A project such as this should not consist of all three stories with little outside spaces buried on the interior providing light and ventilation. Those spaces need to go to the perimeter of the building to try to help step the building. The project needs to be much more articulated in terms of the heights of the building volumes as they enclose useable space; such as variation in the unit's floor plans. Perhaps roof gardens could be considered. There may be parts where it is possible to go three-story, but it is not absolutely required. He recommended that the project be continued.

Committee Member Coffman said it is interesting that the project's design started out having a gabled roof but perhaps a hip roof would be more consistent with the streetscape. He struggled with the idea of a design so starkly contrasting in the neighborhood, but came to the conclusion that this style of architecture would work within this neighborhood. He would like to see the impact of the three-story buildings softened to fit within the context of the streetscape. He agrees with Vice Chairman Silber that the design takes on a boxy image, and that the design could use more work.

Committee Member Johnson also felt that the design could be improved upon as it takes on the look of many of the mixed-use projects, and agrees with the comments of both Vice Chairman Silber and Committee Member Coffman regarding the heights.

Committee Member Duncan stated that he does not mind the contrast in architectural styles, but suggested that perhaps the design could be done with more innovation and creativity. He would like to see some modifications to the units such as variation in the size.

Chairman Daybell said that the applicant needs to comply with the Code requirements and thought that the building should be limited to two stories. The proposed three-story design is too much building for the neighborhood. The flat roof makes it look institutional.

Vice Chairman Silber added to his earlier comments. The architectural style does not have to match the adjacent structure to fit into the neighborhood and does not believe a change in the roof line is necessary. Just a simple architectural change could make the difference.

Chairman Daybell called for a motion.

MOTION made by Vice Chairman Silber, SECONDED by Committee Member Duncan and CARRIED by all present to CONTINUE PRJ0-00874 -ZON04-00091 with a 5-0 vote, subject to the comments provided and reflected in the minutes.

PRJ03-00804 - ZON03-00071. APPLICANT AND PROPERTY OWNER: OLSON COMPANY. A request to review conceptual landscape plans for a 120-unit condominium project located at 115 East Truslow Avenue. (JE)

Travis Theobald, landscape architect, was present to discuss the plans.

Associate Planner Eastman said that this project is known as SOCO Walk (formally referred to as Fullerton Transit Village). The project was approved by the City Council in April 2004. The approval was subject to a number of conditions. One of those conditions was that the architecture and landscape plans come back for staff's review and a final approval by this Committee.

The project has previously been reviewed by the RDRC as it progressed to City Council. When the final architecture came back to the Committee, there was a motion to approve it; however, that motion was conditioned that the landscape plans come back to the Committee for final review and approval. The final concept landscape plans (site and plaza) were submitted to staff for review. In reviewing the plans, staff identified that some of Council's conditions of approval were not being complied with, or that information was lacking to indicate that the conditions were being met. In addition, a lighting plan and specifications were also included for RDRC review. Staff asks that the Committee review the conceptual plans and recommend approval of in terms of scale, massing material, and quality of design subject to the condition that final landscape plans come back to staff to make sure the conditions of approval are being met. Five conditions of approval are recommended for this project.

Committee Member Duncan referred to Condition No. 1 and asked what condition of approval does not appear to be met as far as lighting is concerned. Associate Planner Eastman said most of the conditions had to do with the landscape plan, and less to do with the lighting. One of the objectives when the original design was looked at was to tie this development into the Transit Center. Some of the features of the train station include the date palms. The applicant wanted to try to incorporate the date palms into the other side of Walnut Avenue, and the concrete light poles with glass globes on the south side of Walnut Avenue. Generally speaking there is little concern with the lighting proposed. Maintenance Services has provided feedback and Community Services commented that certain types of trees would not be appropriate around the trails -- specifically the Olive tree.

Mr. Theobald, landscape architect explained that the project is tied together with a brick pattern throughout. The main features are a central three-level fountain. There would be a creative paving pattern which extends the concrete around the fountain and up to the raised planters and will include the date palms. Another main feature is a recreational trail connecting the bridge over Harbor Boulevard/Walnut Avenue. Mr. Theobald said the new landscaping will coincide with the existing planting off of the transit area and down across the bridge. The actual paved trail will be maintained by the City and the planting material will be maintained by Home Owner's Association.

Chief Planner Rosen questioned how the continuation of the trail down Walnut Avenue is being addressed. Mr. Theobald stated that the developer is responsible for the front paving area. This section would have tree wells 5-foot wide along the 10-foot walk, spaced 35 feet on center. Associate Planner Eastman clarified that the trail requirement is a 10-foot wide clear space and would not include any encroachment.

Committee Member Coffman asked how the focal tree occurred at the recreation trail behind the Ice House. Mr. Theobald said that it is intended to draw people into the project.

Associate Planner Eastman said staff is very comfortable with the direction of where the project is going; the general concept of the plantings, and recommended that the RDRC approve the concept that has been provided and let staff work the details out with the developer.

Committee Member Coffman is prepared to support the project.

Committee Member Johnson said the most used pedestrian areas are in the center and requested that the patio walls and benches should be constructed so as to fend off skaters.

Committee Member Duncan noted that the vertical trees by the garage and the driveway are very close to the buildings and suggested something smaller or continue the same theme as in the center, with magnolia and date palms. The tree wells should be kept outside of the 10-foot trail to maintain a 10-foot width. Although he could support the more modern lighting fixtures he would prefer a fixture that is more consistent with what the City uses to carry out the industrial feeling into project. Some variety in trees along the street is encouraged; something that could offer focal interest.

Committee Member Coffman mentioned that the plans showed the base of the archways with cultured stone and asked if the Committee had previously reviewed that feature. Associate Planner Eastman replied that the final architectural plans had been slightly revised. Committee Member Coffman said he noticed the base of the archway supports have a plastered foam trim. He thought it is a bad place to put foam trim because it might become broken. He questioned why a part of the trim is cast and a part of foam. Mr. Theobald advised that ledger stone would be used in lieu of foam for the edge.

Chairman Daybell called for a motion.

MOTION made by Committee Member Johnson, SECONDED by Committee Member Duncan, and CARRIED by all present to APPROVE concept landscape plans for PRJ03-00804 - ZON03-00071 by a 4-0 vote, (Silber absent) with the final details to be reviewed by Staff.


There being no further business, Chairman Daybell adjourned the meeting at 6:00 p.m.