CITY OF BELMONT
TUESDAY, APRIL 5, 2011, 7:00 PM
Chair Reed called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. at One Twin Pines Lane, City Hall Council Chambers.
1. ROLL CALL
Commissioners Present: Reed, Mercer, Parsons, Horton, Mayer, Wheeler, d’Souza
Commissioners Absent: None
Staff Present: Community Development Director de Melo (CDD), Senior Planner DiDonato (SP), Associate Planner Gill (AP), Interim City Attorney Kane, (ICA), Recording Secretary Turning (RS), Parks and Recreation Director Gervais, (PRD)
2. AGENDA AMENDMENTS
CDD de Melo asked that item 4A, Minutes of March 1, 2011, be continued to the April 19, 2011 meeting.
3. COMMUNITY FORUM (Public Comments)
Richard Hedges, County and City of San Mateo resident and advisor to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, invited Commissioners and staff to visit and tour the Contra Costa Transit Village in order to see and talk to people who are planning and managing a transit-oriented development. The tour meets at the BART Millbrae station at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, April 23rd. Clipper Cards will be provided. All Central Peninsula decision-makers are invited.
Commissioner Parsons asked that staff send Commissioners an e-mail reminder of this event.
4. CONSENT CALENDAR
4A. Minutes of March 1, 2011
MOTION: By Vice Chair Mercer, seconded by Commissioner Parsons, to continue the Minutes to April 19, 2011. Motion passed 7/0 by a show of hands.
5. OLD BUSINESS:
5A. Davey Glen Park Project – Conceptual Design
PRD Gervais, summarized the Staff Report, using photographs and schematic designs. He was assisted in his presentation by Brent Cottong, Project Architect. After review by the Parks and Recreation Commission and City Council, the project will return to the Planning Commission for a Conditional Use Permit and construction could begin in spring of 2012.
Responding to Commissioner Mayer’s questions, PRD Gervais stated that:
• The current estimate of expense is $850,000;
• The City has budgeted $450,000;
• 850 surveys were sent out, with 401 replies;
• Of the 401 replies, 30% wanted no park, 33% wanted a passive park and about the same number preferred an active park.
Commissioner Mayer questioned the advisability of this substantial investment by the City since only 16% of the people in the neighborhood actually wanted a park - i.e., is the City allocating its resources to meet the demand? He loved the design but brought up the other problem areas in the City such as Barrett Community Center and the playing fields, and believed that this fundamental issue raises a serious question.
Responding to Commissioner Parsons’ questions, PRD Gervais stated that:
• The area by the wooden fence is encroaching on City property, and that City Council has approved donating that City property to the neighboring parcel that had already fenced it in.
• Ten or fewer Eucalyptus trees will need to be removed, and they will measure the Oak in the front and determine whether it can be preserved;
• The Police Department has looked at the location of the play lot in the back and is ok with it as long as it is visible from the street.
Commissioner Parsons added that he wished they could make the ramps more aesthetic, especially from up above, and asked that they consider not making the bump-outs the full width of a car and put lines on the street to guide traffic in the desired direction.
Responding to Commissioner d’Souza’s comment that the ramp looked like an attraction for skateboarders, RPD Gervais stated that they would try to protect the edges with metal devices. Commissioner d’Souza reminded that they should use reflective tape or paint on the bollards at the top. Responding to Commissioner d’Souza’s comment regarding the absence of bicycle parking, staff agreed that this would be a good idea and suggested several places where they could add that feature. In response to further issues raised by Commission d’Souza, staff commented that the cost of adding a water fountain would be prohibitive due to requirements for a sanitary line connection, and that the rubberized play surface could have a lifetime of 10-12 years if poured well, is safer and easier to maintain than recyclable tan bark and that it is made of recycled tires.
Commissioner Wheeler asked if they had considered adding picnic tables to the site. Mr. Cottong replied that they looked at areas of use vs. product mainly because of the different community inputs and the desire to keep it natural and not add a lot of things. The retaining walls are functional as seating and gathering places and are more organic. PRD Gervais added that area 24 on the site maps could serve that purpose but after long conversations about picnic areas it came down to trying to keep the natural feel of the site.
Commissioner Mercer raised concerns about maintenance with the limited park staff and asked if it is included in the zero-based budget. PRD Gervais responded that he believed they will be able to maintain it, noting that the park is designed with low maintenance in mind and that he would not have brought the item forward if he didn’t think they could maintain the park in good condition. Mr. Cottong did not have an estimate for the amount or cost of grading that will be required, but stated that it will not be major and they are working hard to keep the size of retaining walls down and to not take off or bring in fill.
Paul O’Leary, resident north of Davey Glen Park, spoke in favor of the park, noting that the closest parks for his neighbors are in San Mateo. Referring to other recent projects in this price range, such as Emmet House and the Manor House, he believed this park will get a lot more exposure. He particularly likes the playground equipment.
Chair Reed asked Commissioners for their comments.
Commissioner d’Souza would like to see something more recyclable rather than rubber. He expects that Council will raise the same issue, especially as the rubber breaks down and gets into the water system. He suggested using the Eucalyptus trees for the benches, referring to a library in Portola Valley that was built with Eucalyptus trees on site and a person in Oregon who comes to sites and mills wood on the site.
Commissioner Horton thinks it’s a great design, with the exception of the appearance of the handicap walkway.
Commissioner Parsons thought they did a good job and will be interested to see more details with a complete design and plant materials. His biggest concern is vandalism and security because it is so far back, and suggested they think about lighting in the back. He added that perhaps the handicap walkway could be made a little “softer”.
Commissioner Mayer believed the design is excellent and had already expressed his reservation about the finance issue. He was disappointed that the neighbors gave such poor support – only 16% came up with a strong support for the park. He again questioned if this is the best way for the community to use limited resources in this time of budgetary crisis when there are so many needs in other City parks.
Commissioner Mercer loved the design and the mystique and the sense of adventure and exploring. She would cut the play equipment and landscaping and suggested the use of crushed granite halfway out to the outlook at point 30. Also concerned about maintenance in view of poor upkeep in her neighborhood parks. Questioned if lawn could grow in point 18 due to current quagmire unless it is sloped. Concurred about traffic bump and striping.
Commissioner Wheeler concurred with other Commissioners’ comments, particularly Commissioner Mercer’s comments regarding point 30 and that the interpretive signs could be interesting. Loved the design of the park.
Chair Reed thanked the Parks & Rec Department and the architect for doing a fantastic job with a challenging site, noting that there are no parks in the central neighborhood and that this is a good compromise. He would not change a thing and would fight very hard to keep area D.
CDD de Melo thanked the Commission for their constructive feedback.
6. PUBLIC HEARINGS:
6A. PUBLIC HEARING – 15 Kittie Lane
To consider a Single Family Design Review to remove a protected tree in association with a slope repair and construction of a retaining wall on site. This is an after-the-fact review, as the slide was repaired under an emergency Building Permit for a retaining wall issued in October 2010. (App. No. 2010-0050)
APN: 045-090-450; Zoned: R-1H (Single Family Residential)
CEQA Status: Categorical Exemption per Section 15269
APPLICANT: Engineered Soil Solutions
OWNER: Jean Huber and Cory Kostrub
PROJECT PLANNER: Rob Gill, (650) 598-4204
AP Gill summarized the Staff Report, recommending approval with the conditions attached to the draft Resolution.
Commissioner Mercer asked questions regarding how high a 100-year flood would come on the property, was concerned about whether the pressure-treated walls would hold up in high water, and also asked if the cut was retained on the property. AP Gill deferred her questions to the homeowner or project engineer for details.
Commissioner Parsons commented that it appeared that the retaining walls are already in place and the Bay Laurel tree has already been removed, which raised the question as to why it had to come to the Commission since it was an emergency decision. CDD de Melo replied that, according to code, thresholds are triggered that have to be met and need to be addressed via a repair. Commissioner Parsons suggested that language needs to be added to the code that would exempt projects like this from having to come to the Commission when it is definitely deemed an emergency.
Commissioner Mayer pointed that during his site visit he determined that the tree in question is gone and asked why a Bay tree isn’t required to replace the Bay tree. CDD de Melo stated that five trees are to be planted, which exceeds the number required by the arborist. AP Gill added that the Public Works Department required that Willow trees be planted in line with the stream bed at a specific location on the site.
Lisa Hobson, Project Engineer with Engineered Soil Repairs, reported that the current homeowner purchased the home with the slide already in place. The previous owners were not working with the City to get it taken care of and the problem kept encroaching closer to the home and became an emergency due to winter storms. The tree in question had to be removed in order to get the lower wall in place; planting and fencing are awaiting final approval from the Commission. Responding to Commissioner Mercer’s question about how high the 100-year flood might be, Ms. Hobson stated that since the current owner has been there the water has not been as high as the lower wall but she was not sure where the 100-year flood line would be. She added that the lower wall has deep piers that go below the base of the concrete boulder and has quite a bit of embankment to resist any soil up near the surface being washed away.
Chair Reed opened the Public Hearing. There were no requests to speak.
MOTION: By Commissioner Parsons, seconded by Commissioner Mayer, to close the Public Hearing. Motion passed 7/0 by a show of hands.
Chair Reed determined that no one on the Commission had any ex parte contacts with anyone associated with this project.
Commissioner Mercer argued against changing the code so that this emergency would not need to come to the Planning Commission. She believed that on principle it needed to come back to the Commission because they do not want to encourage other residents to wait until it’s too late. She did ask that in the future staff would update the report so that it is current. She was willing to accept the species of trees recommended by Public Works. She re-stated her dislike of hauling soil on and off a site, and hoped that Public Works would want to do everything possible to retain the soil on all projects. She could make the findings.
Commissioner Horton commented that this emergency was not the applicant’s. The property has changed hands many times and she believed there have been some legal issues. The trees that have been specified are the natural trees that grow on property along the creek and she did not know why Bay trees are protected because they multiply so readily and are host to Sudden Oak disease. She personally felt that reviewing this project was a waste of time and money and that they should approve it and move on to the next item.
Commissioner Mercer apologized; she did not intend to imply that this applicant was negligent but there are plenty of others in town who would ignore a problem until it became an emergency.
Commissioner d’Souza was glad it came to the Commission and believed that the code should be changed so that these kinds of situations can be prejudged. He did not like anything about the project and felt that it is really difficult to look at it after the fact and try to come up with some kind of judgment.
Commissioner Parsons suggested that when an emergency project comes in to Public Works perhaps it should come to the Commission for a preliminary review so that they could identify things that they consider issues up front. He did not see why the Commission could not have been briefed on this at some point by Public Works. He stated that fences are required on the 5’ and 6’ retaining walls and wanted to assure that this requirement is shown on the drawings.
Commissioner Mayer added that he wished the Staff Report had reflected the current situation; he went to the site looking for the Bay tree that had already been removed.
Chair Reed concurred that this review of an emergency repair was a waste of time and money.
MOTION: By Commissioner Mayer, seconded by Commissioner Horton, to adopt the Resolution approving a Single-Family Design Review at 15 Kittie Lane (Appl. No. 2010-0050).
Ayes: Mayer, Horton, Wheeler, Parsons, Mercer, Reed
Motion passed 6/1
Chair Reed announced that this item can be appealed within 10 calendar days.
6B. PUBLIC HEARING – 553 Seagate Way
To consider Single Family Design Review and Detailed Development Plan Amendment approvals to construct an approximately 1,506 sq. ft. addition to the existing 2,050 sq. ft. single-family residence for a total of 3,556 square feet that is below the zoning district maximum for the site. (Appl. No. 2010-0056)
APN: 040-382-010; Zoned: PD (Planned Development)
CEQA Status: Categorical Exemption per Section 15303
APPLICANT: Mondragon Partnership
OWNER: Maroan Jaber
PROJECT PLANNER: Damon DiDonato, (650) 637-2908
SP DiDonato summarized the Staff Report, calling attention to the fact that this project is in a Planned Development. Staff recommended approval with the conditions attached and answered questions from the Commission. At Commissioner Parsons’ request, he explained parking requirement issues for this type of development.
Jorge Mondragon, representing the owner, thanked Planning staff for their help and showed an overhead presentation depicting the proposed project. He stated that the only exception they have to the conditions of approval is the request for reduction of the concrete pad on the north side, since that is the wet side and is not a good area for planting. They did not receive any response to their neighborhood outreach.
Chair Reed opened the Public Hearing. There were no requests to speak.
MOTION: By Commissioner Parsons, seconded by Commissioner Horton, to close the Public Hearing. Motion passed 7/0 by a show of hands.
Chair Reed determined that no one on the Commission had any ex parte contacts with anyone associated with this project.
Commissioner Wheeler stated that she could make all of the findings, with the exception of the bulk finding. She believed the current landscaping on the property is appropriate for a 1-story him but will not be appropriate for a 2-story home. She felt that the 2-story home will fit well in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Mercer concurred with Commissioner Wheeler, adding that the only thing that is lacking is something to screen and buffer it. She suggested that a window from the kitchen facing the citrus garden would bring in southern light and citrus fragrance. She recommended that tall trees planted at the back would improve the view of the neighbor’s blank wall and help block noise from Hwy. 101. She concurred with staff’s recommendation for landscaping, would require that the trees recommended by staff be 30’ crowning trees, and asked that a landscape plan for the front yard be brought back to staff to assure that there is irrigation and that it gets rebuilt. She also concurred with staff’s recommendation about removing a portion of the concrete on the side yard so that moisture will be absorbed, adding that there are many shrubs or vines that love a lot of moisture and shade.
Commissioner Mayer liked the design and believed it fits well into the neighborhood. He did not believe the issue of bulk terribly serious in this instance and encouraged the owners to do some more plantings, but was not in favor of requiring them to put a particular tree in a particular place.
Commissioner Parsons did not believe that trees are necessarily the solution for bulk when there is an architectural solution. He did not see the necessity for a two-story-high living room with windows that are hard to clean and where heat rises and would not be environmentally intelligent. He would prefer that the design be integrated with the existing roof line and eliminate that corner of the house as a high area. He supported larger trees as recommended by staff and suggested that pavers could be used along the side of the house rather than concrete. He was not sure whether or not he could make the finding for bulk.
Commissioner Horton agreed that the house fits in the neighborhood and concurred with the conditions of approval as provided by staff. She asked that, if trees are going to be required, staff have the City arborist specify a type of tree that will grow in that area due to the saline conditions of the soil.
Commissioner d’Souza could make the findings. He believed the bulk and design elements fit in with the neighborhood. His only concern was how the water will be mitigated since the area is on landfill and the water table is low.
Chair Reed thanked SP DiDonato for great work on the Staff Report. He could make the findings as conditioned by staff. He concurred that the bulk could be mitigated by tree plantings and that pavers along the side would give the feel of concrete but still provide a porous surface.
MOTION: By Commissioner Horton, seconded by Commissioner Mayer, to adopt the Resolution approving a Conditional Use Permit and Single-Family Design Review to amend an approved Detailed Development Plan for 553 Seagate Way (Appl. No. 2010-0056)
Ayes: Horton, Mayer, d’Souza, Wheeler, Parsons, Mercer, Reed
Motion passed 7/0
Chair Reed announced that this action can be appealed within 10 calendar days.
7. REPORTS, STUDIES AND UPDATES:
CDD de Melo reported as follows:
7A. Ralston/US-101 Landscape Project
On hold until after completion of the Bike Bridge project.
7B. San Mateo Development – North Road/43rd Avenue
No update at this time.
7C. Parking Study – Downtown Village Areas
Will get a copy of the study to the new Commissioners.
7D. Emmett House
One tenant moved in over the past weekend. This item will be removed from future agendas.
The 6th and O’Neil street reconstruction project is on the next Council agenda. The Engineer’s cost estimate is $680,000 to be paid from RDA funds. Bid package is scheduled to begin in May, with work to start in June or July. This will become Item D on future agendas.
7E. US–101 Pedestrian/Bike Bridge Project
Schedule for middle to late summer 2011 opening. Some delays due to wet weather in March.
Commissioner Mercer mentioned 5’ tall weeds on the frontage of Ralston Avenue from the base of the construction up to the Arco station that need to be cropped down.
7F. High-Speed Rail (HSR)
Next Ad Hoc Committee meeting to be held Thursday night.
The Owner/Builder Workshop will take place Thursday, April 14th at 6:30 p.m. in EOC Room of City Hall, 2nd floor. Commissioners are encouraged to attend.
Belmont Village Zoning was discussed at the 5th Tuesday City Council meeting. Parameters for an ad hoc subcommittee for this project will be discussed at the next Council meeting, which will potentially consist of two Council members, two Planning Commissioners, and one staff member each from Finance, Planning and Public Works Departments. Selection of the two Planning Commission representatives will be agendized for the April 19th meeting.
RS Turning confirmed that she will send an email to Commissioners regarding the Contra Costa Transit Tour discussed by Rich Hedges at the beginning of the meeting.
8. CITY COUNCIL MEETING OF TUESDAY, APRIL 12, 2011 – 7:30 P.M.
Liaison: Vice Chair Mercer
Alternate Liaison: Commissioner Wheeler
The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 p.m. to a Regular Planning Commission Meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. in Belmont City Hall.
Carlos de Melo
Planning Commission Secretary
CD’s of Planning Commission Meetings are available in the
Community Development Department
Please call (650) 595-7416 to schedule an appointment.
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