The project had a troubled history from the start. At the initial July 7th meeting Mr. Meaglia had asked for approval of a two-story, 6,994 square foot single family home with an unattached 685 square foot recreation room. The Planning Commission indicated that they could not approve such an out of character and Code deficient project, and told the applicant to come back with something that paid a little more heed to City laws and standards for such projects.
Meaglia's second appearance (September 15) before the Planning Commission saw some marginal changes, but they were not what had been requested. These changes had an almost "in your face" kind of feel, or such was the impression made upon those observing the meeting. The building had to been reduced in size to 5,705 square feet, but a large 3 car garage had been added. Something that brought the overall footprint very close to the original proposal. Once again Meaglia was informed that what he was proposing was inappropriate for the community and City Code, and told to come back with something taking the Commission's "bulk and mass" concerns into account.
On October 6th a decidedly more truculent Mr. Meaglia did return, but with little in the way of revisions. This time he had a different strategy, which involved bringing in a couple of people from the neighborhood and having them express a desire that Meaglia be given his CUP. There are always people who are willing to speak against their own interests, and having a very large house looming over a village of homes half the size didn't seem to bother one gentleman in particular. The average home size in that neighborhood is 2,700 or so square feet.
There was a rather odd gambit as well, this about trees being planted to hide the house. But nobody took the bait. For the third time Mr. Meaglia was invited to return with plans more appropriate to the neighborhood, and take into account City Codes on this matter.
All of which set up last night's final match. For this meeting Meaglia lowered the height of the proposed structure by 18 inches, and this house with garage combination were reduced in size from 6,686 square feet to 5,824. The total reduction was 863 square feet. Mr. Meaglia also proposed to plant 4 trees to help hide the house. Again an odd proposal as trees, like all living things, do have a tendency to disappear from this world of woe in time, and can therefore hardly be considered a permanent solution.
The average size of a house on that stretch of Auburn is 2,707 square feet. This number includes the 6,000+ square foot house that Meaglia had been somehow permitted to build previously. The average house size within 300 square feet of this proposed McMansion is 3,677 square feet. All of which makes what Meaglia hoped to build 54% larger than the average home there.
Richard Meaglia, defending his project, offered what I saw as being an attempt to hype his way through the hearing. This rather than make any actual concessions to what the Planning Commission had requested of him on those three previous occasions. Meaglia claimed that he had made substantial revisions to his plans, that many lots in the city have larger houses on less space that what he wished to build, that if you took the City as a whole his proposal would be in character, and that larger houses next to small houses do not detract from other neighborhoods in the City.
However, the Planning Commission can't base its decisions on applicant opinion, requiring instead that people adhere to whatever city codes apply. The process was finally brought to an end by a 4 to 2 vote to reject. Proving once again that when it comes to defending Sierra Madre's neighborhoods from abusive development, along with defending the laws, the Planning Commission stands tall.
Here are what those 4 Commissioners rejecting Meaglia's application had to say:
Gina Frierman-Hunt said that the Commission must be able to make findings as required by Code. She was very firm that in all relevant matters Code must always be followed. She also noted that the house had only been reduced in size a little, and that it was more than double anything else in that neighborhood.
Bob Spears said that the proposal was out of scale for the neighborhood and that mansions are not a fit for Sierra Madre. The building would have been 54% larger than the other houses in the area. Quote of the evening: "If we are going to allow for an exception, it needs to be worthy of an exception."
Kevin Paschall noted that the largest house on the block is already owned by the applicant.
John Vandevelde said that the design was not helping the project. Things could have been done to break down the scale of the house. Vandevelde later noted that the windows were inconsistent throughout this house, with a roof that offered many awkward transitions. The architect came to the podium at that point and said if they had been informed of this they could have made the necessary changes. A claim that seemed odd to many since over the course of 4 separate meetings on this matter there was very little that wasn't covered.
Kevin Paschall informed the architect that public comment was over.
In an odd moment a member of City Staff informed all who cared to listen that there is a 10 day appeal period. She then repeated that. Then she said it again, and added that the appeal could be taken to the City Council and that all the necessary forms are available at City Hall. It seemed to some as if she was practically begging the applicant to appeal the Planning Commission's resolution to deny.
We will be keeping an eye on this.