PRJ03-00456 - MINOR DEVELOPMENT PROJECT ZON03-00040. APPLICANT AND PROPERTY OWNER: JOHNNY R. LUCERO.
Associate Planner Eastman introduced the item, a request to construct a second unit at the front of an R-2(P) zoned property, which currently contains an existing dwelling at the rear. The project is categorically exempt form CEQA per guidelines section 15303.
Member Blumer excused himself from the conference room to avoid a potential conflict of interest.
Planner Eastman describe the proposed project and project site, which includes rear alley access and an existing circa 1922 bungalow. Eastman explained that the project has been deemed compliant with the City's Zoning Code, and reviewed for consistency with the Design Guidelines for Residential Preservation Zones. He described the proposed parking for the site and explained that the two open stalls are a bit untraditional; one being diagonal off the front driveway, and the other being parallel to the alley.
Planner Eastman clarified that the Staff Report recommended approval of the project subject to 16 conditions, although only 14 are listed at the end of the report. He stated that there should be 15 conditions of approval. As discussed in the body of the Staff Report, a condition was included which required a low wall or fence to be constructed between the rear parallel parking space and the alley. Eastman stated that the purpose of this condition is to ensure that parked cars do not encroach into the alley. It had originally been included as condition number 3, but was unintentionally deleted.
Eastman highlighted Staff's analysis of the project, stating that it was felt the proposed building reads as a "primary" dwelling, which is necessary at the street, and that it has features which make it compatible with the neighborhood, such as wood trim around the windows, a front porch, a raised foundation, etc. The RDRC had no questions for Staff. The meeting was opened for public comment.
Rick Crane with Crane Architectural Group introduced himself as representing the applicant. He presented a colored elevation of the proposed project and a color and materials board. Mr. Crane explained the materials, including thick bud shingles on the roof, a composite cement board siding, wood for the trim, and vinyl windows. Mr. Crane explained that the windows would have depth as identified in the Staff Report, with 3.5 to 4 inch mullions, which would appear like the wood windows in the neighborhood.
He and the owner have read the Staff Report and agree with all the conditions except the one pertaining to the low fence/wall between the parking and alley. He felt the wall would create two problems, one related to general security issues, and the other being the creation of a collision obstacle. Mr. Crane suggested that perhaps a low wall be constructed for only the front four feet of the stall, or perhaps bollards could be used. Member Silber suggested that a curb would work, but it might be a trip hazard. Chairman Johnson stated that people generally have a fear of getting hit or towed in alleys. He said private parking areas should be delineated with concrete so people know where they should park. He thinks a low wall or bollards will have cars backing into them. He thinks a rolled curb might be good to delineate the pace. Member Silber asked if reflective "Bots Dots" could be used, and he thinks a difference in paving is important. Mr. Crane said he thinks "Bots Dots" are a good idea, and he is not in objection to using concrete paving for the parking area.
Chairman Coffman asked what the garages would look like. Mr. Crane said it would look like the house, with the same siding and trim around the garage doors. It would have a shed roof sloping away from the property line. The building is small enough that it does not need a parapet. Chairman Coffman asked about the garage doors. Mr. Crane said that they haven't given it much thought. He said that the garage doors would be submitted for Staff's review as required by the recommended conditions of approval. Chairman Coffman stated that the front garage door facing Amerige will be visible and needs to be a quality door.
Chairman Coffman opened the meeting up for comments from other members of the public. No one present wished to speak, therefore the public hearing was closed and the item was brought back to the RDRC for discussion.
Member Silber thought the building looks nice and will fit into the neighborhood. He has no comments other than that there needs to be measures taken to delineate the parking space from the alley by the use of a different paving and either the use of Bots Dots, bollards, or a low fence. If a fence is used, then it should be just the 4 feet in the front of the car.
Silber motioned to approve subject to Staff's recommended conditions of approval, and the above comments. Member Coffman stated that he was in objection to erecting anything above ground that would need to be replaced if damaged by a car.
Member Silber motioned, Coffman seconded, to approve the project subject to Staff's recommended conditions, except Staff's condition for a low fence or wall shall be modified to only require a different paving and Bots Dots to delineate the space from the alley. The project was approved 3 to 0.
PRJ03-00487 - MINOR DEVELOPMENT PROJECT ZON03-00047. APPLICANT AND PROPERTY OWNER: SUZANNE ALEXANDER.
Associate Planner Eastman introduced the project, which is a request for a second dwelling in an R-2 (P) zone. The proposal is to construct a new second unit over a three-car garage.
Member Silber excused himself from the conference room to avoid any potential conflict of interest.
Mr. Eastman described the project, stating that it has a contemporary design, which is not something normally proposed in a preservation zone. He clarified that there is only one floor plan submitted, but the applicant has submitted two different elevations for consideration ("A" being the primary; "B" the alternate). Staff has reviewed the project and determined that it complies with the development standards in the Zoning Code, but Staff has recommended that the RDRC deny the project because Staff believes the project does not comply with the Design Guidelines for the Residential Preservation Zones. However, should the RDRC approve the project, Staff has recommended that 17 conditions be included. He stated that a detailed analysis for denial is outlined in the staff report. Eastman stated that Staff has tried to consider the intent of the guidelines in its analysis. Staff noted that the guidelines are very specific in verbiage, and it portrays a desire for traditional architecture.
Planner Eastman stated that Staff believes the project site layout is appropriate, although conditions were recommended to ensure access from Union Avenue.
Eastman stated that a letter was received today from an adjacent property owner, who has concerns with construction that might impede trash pick-up and vehicular circulation at the intersection of the two alleys. A copy of the letter was distributed to the RDRC members. The project provides a corner cut-off and the proposed structures does not have any more impact than the existing fence; therefore Staff believes the project will not pose a hazard or inconvenience for the neighborhood. Staff has also had a conversation with Fullerton Heritage earlier in the week, and it was Staff's understanding that they did not think the project was consistent with the design guidelines, and they felt the recommendation for denial was appropriate.
Member Coffman asked Staff if the applicant had met with Staff early in the design process. Eastman stated that he had not seen the project until the application was made. He stated that the applicant's architect is very familiar with the City's preservation overlay zone, and it is Staff's understanding that the architect's intent was to create a contemporary building which is still compatible with the neighborhood. Eastman directed the RDRC to a letter the architect had submitted with the application. Staff stated that there is a philosophy that additions to historic properties should be done so that it is compatible with the existing, but also designed to be clearly identifiable from the old. That way the onlooker can tell what is old and what is new. Staff believes that this "thought" is more appropriate when proposing an addition to an individual landmark structure, where the intent is to draw attention to the landmark building. Staff doesn't think this "ying vs. yang" idea is as strong an argument when discussing preservation in terms of neighborhood context. However, Staff feels that it is possible to do a contemporary design in an historic neighborhood provided it is clearly in context and "pays homage" to the historic area, such as maintaining the bungalow massing, front porches, roof pitches, etc. Staff feels the proposed project is not in context because of incompatible materials, scale, massing, roof pitch/planes, and a few other items. While it is recommended that architects work with Staff to come up with a neighborhood compatible design, the idea of what is acceptable is really to be determined by the community, not the individual staff person. The purpose of the design guidelines is to provide direction, and the RDRC represents the community's opinion. Member Coffman asked what the property was zoned. Eastman said it is zoned R-2 (P) and discussed the history of how and why the properties on Union and Glenwood were "P" zoned.
Chairman Johnson opened the hearing to public comment. The applicant's representative, Randal Larsen, presented the proposed elevations stating that part of the strategy was generated from site specifics. A project constrain is that it is across the alley from a car wash. Part of the design is to borrow materials from the neighborhood and apply them to the project without mimicking the forms. He said the shed roof would not be seen from the car wash and alley, and it is the simplest roof to do. Siding and stucco was used to match the neighborhood and to be consistent with the Arts and Crafts movement. Mr. Larsen stated that additional studies of the project have been done. He presented a new plan to the RDRC showing a refined alternative (Plan C).
Larsen presented the revised drawing that uses paneling in a "board and batten" context, and includes a gabled roof at one end. Staff Planner Eastman asked Mr. Larsen to identify whether the stucco is to be smooth or textured, because it isn't identified on the plans. Mr. Larsen said that it would be smooth, consistent with the old Arts and Crafts style. Mr. Larsen said that a big part of the design has been client driven, which is to make the building as "easy" as possible. He said that it is part of the reason the cement paneling has been used, which is to give the project a "board and batten" design.
Member Blumer asked if the Lexan panels were translucent. Larsen showed an example of the panel. Blumer asked if the studs would be seen as shadows behind the panel. Mr. Larsen responeded affirmatively. He said that if the Lexan panels are a sticking point, they would be open to a suggestion of another material. Member Blumer stated that this area is oriented toward the private courtyard, and the public side is more monolithic and more like the Craftsman houses. Mr. Larsen showed sections of the building and identified the "special quality" that the roof allows. He said that the building turns its back on the car wash noise and alley, and is buffered from the property to the east by existing trees, which will be preserved.
Some pictures were presented to the RDRC. Susan Alexander, the applicant and property owner, discussed the pictures, the site's orientation to the car wash and visibility from the adjacent streets. Mrs. Alexander identified that the "technical" entrance for the rear unit (including address numbers and a mail box) will be located at the front gate on the west side of the existing house. Mrs. Alexander said that the property would be a rental. She highlighted security features.
Peter Alexander, applicant and property owner, asked if there were specific changes that could be made to move the project in the right direction. Planner Eastman clarified that the design guidelines drive the direction the project should go, and some of the specifics as to how this project is inconsistent were identified in the Staff Report. The real issue here is the construction of contemporary architecture in the preservation zone, which isn't something the RDRC has had to address in the past.
Planner Eastman stated that it is Staff and the RDRC's responsibility to review the project before them and to provide direction as to what works better, or to ask for changes that would resolve or mitigate concerns. Planner Eastman clarified the public hearing process, which includes Staff's presentation of the proposal and analysis, comments form the public, including a presentation from the applicant, and a closed discussion among the RDRC members. Mrs. Alexander asked if the RDRC could provide some direction on which of the two elevations are appropriate. Planner Eastman said the RDRC will address their preferences during their discussion. No one else from the public was in attendance to comment, and Eastman reiterated that a letter was received and Fullerton Heritage had called to express their objection. Chairman Johnson closed the project to public comment.
Member Blumer said that the City has been reviewing projects in the historical zone for quite some time, and a reoccurring trend has been to design big boxy structures with units over garages, and then wrap the building with materials and features from the neighborhood. He thinks it looks funny to use the neighborhood features and elements on buildings that are inconsistent with the neighborhood's mass and scale. Member Blumer appreciates that instead of just slapping traditional features and treatments to a new form, the architect stayed true to the architectural concept while still using neighborhood materials. He does not think a front porch is appropriate for a unit above a garage. He thinks this is a poor site because it is next to the car wash. He thinks that turning its back to the side alley is appropriate, as is siding at the alley. The shed slopes back, making it harder to identify if it's a shed roof or not. He thinks that looking at all four elevations at the same time is a much more shocking than it will be because the west elevation is simple with only horizontal siding and a roof projecting away. He thinks that getting more experimental in the courtyard is appropriate in the historic area because it is private. He feels that this is a good piece of architecture, and part of the reason the guidelines were put in place was to create minimum standards because people were building stucco boxes that destroy neighborhoods. He thinks this architecture rises above the median. He thinks it is appropriate for Staff to recommend denial because it doesn't meet the guidelines, but the Committee is for determining that it is better than normal and appropriate in the context.
Member Coffman agrees in part with Blumer. He said that if it's the intent of the RDRC to determine if the building meets the guidelines, he thinks it's a stretch. He thinks it's a wonderful design, but isn't sure if it is appropriate here. He too thinks that part of the Committee's function is to determine when it is appropriate to deviate from the guidelines; but at the same time establish some framework for future projects. He is concerned with establishing a precedent. Member Coffman respects the fact the applicants are willing to construct a wonderful piece of architecture and aren't even going to live in it. He said that he would find it hard to support the project.
Associate Planner Eastman asked if Member Coffman could identify aspects of the project that work and those that don't. Coffman stated that that would be difficult because aspects that don't work with the neighborhood may be things that make the architecture work well. For instance, changing the shed roof to a gable may ruin the feel of the design, and make the building look as if a California Bungalow roof was inappropriately added to a contemporary structure. He isn't sure what could be done to make it "more compatible".
Chief Planner Rosen asked Member Coffman to simply consider whether the project will support or detract from the preservation zone. Chair Johnson stated that he has been considering whether the building would detract from the charm and historic nature when walking down the street.
Member Coffman said that if there was some way to ensure that future projects which are brought before the RDRC are well put together, then he'd be more comfortable approving this one. Chief Planner Rosen said that that could be achieved by making good findings as to why the project is approved or denied.
Member Blumer stated that, historically, in historic neighborhoods, alley houses are different and more "free" in terms of style than main houses. So there seems to be a historic precedent establishing a difference between the front and back house in historic neighborhoods.
Member Coffman said that this is a good project and will look nice in its location, but it doesn't conform to the guidelines. So he is in limbo.
Chairman Johnson said that the neighborhood is nice, but thinks the properties aren't a pristine replica of the architecture of the era. If they were, he'd be more hard pressed to say the project fits in with the neighborhood. Due to the site and location, he is more apt to support the project with conditions. Johnson said that he recognizes the building is a contemporary interpretation, and it attempts to gather materials from the area, but he thinks there are too many materials and the project looks as if it is trying too hard to fit in. He said he would like to see less materials on the building. He said that if this were in the front of the lot, he definitely would not support it.
Member Coffman stated that the property owner has alluded to the building being hard to see from the street; therefore it has no impact on the public. He thinks the RDRC's discussion should be that the building is really good architecture, and therefore the building should be seen. If approved, he doesn't want the basis to be because it isn't seen. If approved, it should be because the architecture is good and it is worth being seen by the public. Planner Eastman identified that for a second unit in the rear, the building will be pretty visible from both Union and Glenwood Avenues because of its the north-south running alley. Additionally, while there are trees, the adjacent car wash doesn't have any massive buildings at the property line.
Member Blumer stated that the project site is a bridge between a "not pleasant" car wash and the other preservation zone properties. Member Coffman agreed that this is at the end of the P zone, and he thinks that something different could be done as a transition.
Associate Planner Eastman asked the applicant if they had brought a color or material board. Mrs. Alexander presented some color schemes and an example of the Lexan panels. She envisions a dark taupe color with an orange front door. There was some discussion of the existing house's color, and she said the existing house would be repainted to be compatible with the proposed structure. Mr. Larsen said that there has been some thought regarding colors, but no decision.
Chairman Johnson said that the first time he opened the plans he was shocked, but after walking around the site, he asked himself what he'd think of the neighborhood with the structure, and would it fit. He doesn't think it would fit, but he thinks its good architecture, and it would be good for the neighborhood.
Planner Eastman asked the committee if adequate detail has been provided to make a determination, or if a continuation might be appropriate. Chairman Johnson said that a colored elevation and material board help, particularly related to massing, and he would support asking the applicant to provide them if the other members though the project was approvable. Member Blumer feels the project can be approved without the colors and material board. Planner Member Coffman understands the materials and is comfortable with the general colors, and thinks it would only waste time and money.
Eastman stated that there are two issues at hand: 1) is whether the project is compatible with the neighborhood; and 2) whether the compatibility is an overriding consideration for approving a project that doesn't comply with the design guidelines. Coffman stated that the project is not compatible with the area and it doesn't meet the guidelines, but he could find support for the project on the basis that it is extremely well designed, it doesn't crowed the site and is well positioned on the property, and it is adjacent to the commercial zone at the edge of the preservation zone. He would not support the project if it were in the middle of a block and behind a building that was the epitome of a California Bungalow, or in the middle of a block of pristine historic buildings. But he thinks the adjacency to the car wash alone would be a stretch for approval. He doesn't want to make the argument that its okay because it can't bee seen, because he thinks it can be seen, and he thinks good architecture should be seen. Member Blumer said that previous projects the RDRC has reviewed which have strayed this far from the guidelines have done so by accident. He thinks the RDRC's responsibility is to recognize when things are well done. He thinks hideous projects can meet the guidelines. Blumer agrees that it shouldn't be approved because it's hidden. Member Blumer said he might have concerns with the south elevation because it sticks up above the front house, and it doesn't look like it relates well to the front house. He would be more comfortable if the applicant took another look at that elevation. He acknowledged that attention has been given to the neighborhood context on the elevations with the siding facing the public, and the "wild" elevations are on the private side. Member Coffman thinks the building will "jump out at you" when driving down the street. Planner Eastman asked if there were some changes to the south elevation which could be made to associate the building with the front structure. He identified the lattice venting of the existing house, and wondered if a repetition of pattern could be incorporated at the top of the south elevation, even if it were at a different scale. Member Coffman said that there could be some subtle changes to tie it to the existing building, but he wondered if it would detract from the new building's good architecture. He thinks changing the architecture just to make the approval easier isn't appropriate if it lessens the architecture.
Mr. Alexander stated that the previous owner of the existing house had put siding over shingles which were in the gables, and it is his intent to remove the siding and re-shingle it.
Mark Bloomer made a motion to approve the project (revised elevation "C") with an added condition to tie the south facade design with the existing house. Member Coffman asked if it were to come back to the RDRC, and Blumer answered affirmatively. Coffman said he would rather they not bring it back to the RDRC. Planner Eastman stated that if the motion, as made, were approved, then the project would come back only in regard to the one item, and the RDRC wouldn't need to revisit other items. Member Blumer commented that one small change might necessitate a number of other changes; therefore the project could include things that are different, which they could comment on.
Member Blumer motioned, Chairman Johnson seconded, to approve the project subject to Staff's recommended conditions and a new a condition that the south elevation return to the RDRC with revisions to associate it better with the exiting house. The project was approved by a vote of 3 to 0, based on the findings that the proposed building is at the edge of the Preservation Overlay zone; is directly across an alley from an existing car wash in a commercial zone; has been well designed in relation to the car wash use; orients the more creative materials toward the private courtyard; uses materials on the public elevations which are consistent with the neighborhood; the structure is a rear alley house, not a dwelling fronting a public street; it is a newly constructed freestanding dwelling, not an addition to an existing "historic" structure; it represents good architectural design; and it clearly is a positive investment in the neighborhood.