Friday, November 18, 2011

Planning Commission Nixes McMansion

The Planning Commission last night turned down Richard Meaglia's application for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to build a 5,824 square foot McMansion (with garage) at 756 Auburn. This was the 4th time the matter had been before the Commission, and each time Mr. Meaglia had been warned that City Codes would be the criteria by which this project would be judged. The applicant instead chose to skirt the issue with claims that were besides the point, and changes that were insufficient. The final vote was 4 to 2.

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.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

77 comments:

  1. This is by far the best Planning Commission that we've had in many a year. Thanks to them for holding firm. Interesting to see if an appeal gets as far as the City Council and what they will do with it if it does.

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  2. It seems that the PLANNING COMMISSION is like the General Plan Committee (GPUSC) in that they follow common sense and what the people of Sierra Madre want, rather than pro-development interests.
    The current city council majority of Buchanan, Walsh and Moran, do not, and neither does most of the city staff.
    Spring is coming in 2012, let's clean city hall of pro-development/pro-Sacramento big government scam types and elect city council members who will put Sierra Madre first!

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  3. I am baffled as to why anyone who wants to build a huge house comes here.
    All the cities arouins us welcome McMansions with open arms.

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  4. Sanity reigned last night. Thank God.

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  5. That's a really good question 7:37

    I'm sure the Planning Commissioners wondered the same thing.

    Has nothing to do with the legality, I suppose, but is an interesting question.

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  6. Thank you Planning Commissioners for following the laws! You are a refreshing change from the current council majority!

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  7. I disagree that it was all that odd for city staff to announce the appeals process. I think it's always done, and that the commission and the staff were well aware that Mr. Meaglia is a lawyer and has been in wrangles with city governments before.

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  8. " the 6,000+ square foot house that Meaglia had been somehow permitted to build previously"
    Yes indeed, "somehow."
    How did that big block of concrete ever get approved?

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  9. If this comes to the g3, watch the greenie weenies ignore the energy costs necessary to heat and cool 6,000 sq feet. They say you should live in a rat hole by a bus stop, but building a mansion on Auburn is a good idea. Does the bus make it up to 756 Auburn; maybe we could provide light-rail service to Mr Meaglia.

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  10. I am no fan of Coluntuono and Levin, and think they have wasted our money and hurt us in our efforts to preserve our small town, but that attorney from their office who helps with the Planning Commission, was also on the Canyon Zone and the General Plan Update, does a good job. I don't think there is anything Meaglia can sue about. Except that he didn't get what he wanted.

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  11. If it weren't for honest planning commissions, our hillsides would look like Glendale's and our streets like Arcadia's.

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  12. If some of these people had their way we'd have to change the name of the hillside to "Castle Crest."

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  13. Perhaps Meaglia was going to use John Buchanan's campaign trees to screen the castle. Little, light green, printed on cardboard trees.

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  14. Why isn't that address protected by the Hillside Management Zone?

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  15. Yes, 7:58 am and if we had not voted in MEASURE V, our downtown would look like East Pasadena.
    These development people don't care about anything except making $$$, no matter that it's at the expense of the vast majority of residents.

    Protect Measure V. Support the GPUSC. Get rid of "bobblehead puppets" on our city council.

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  16. John Buchanan is a situational green. He is green when there is money to be made. When somebody thinks there is money to be made by stripping a hillside of everything that grows, he's good with that as well.

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  17. You must be new in town 8:06, or new to politics in town.
    There was a realtor/developer backed movement of hysteria about private property rights that caused the neighborhood that lot is in to not be included in the Hillside Management Zone. Is it in the area of the HMZ? Yes. Is it covered by it? No.

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  18. The announcement of the appeal process is required by law. The proceedings were guided by law, the decision was made according to the law, the conduct of the commissioners and the staff was correct in all obligations.

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  19. Didn't catch the name of the archetectural firm that whimpered that they would have made adjustments if they had only known. This bunch must be realated to the firm of GGG writen about in a column years ago, in the Jan Reed Sierra Madre News, that of Gargantuan, Garish and Grandiose. Wasn't there a Christmas Decoration Storage room in the first iteration of this 'starter castle?' Oh, Lordy!

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  20. I get that the city must inform McLoser of the appeals process. But why did it have to get repeated three times? Is it a Pontius Pilate thing?

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  21. my question is how 2 can vote for it?

    what is their agenda or reasoning?

    whomever they are, they need to get off the commission because they are out of touch with the reality of Sierra Madre.

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  22. Meaglia got away with it once. My suspicion is that he thought if he stuck to his guns he'd get away with it again. He didn't.

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  23. The reason we admire the Planning Commissioners so much is because they honestly evaluate the projects and make their findings according to what they think is accurate. I didn't hear the deliberations last night, but I have heard previous discussions, and the 2 commissioners who had different opinions must have had what they thought were good reasons for what they decided. We don't want slow growth robots - we want thinking adults who form their own opinions based on facts and speak them honestly.
    8:33, you'll have to listen to the meeting if you want to know their reasoning, but until you can present their points of view and rebut them, it's not a good idea to call for them to get off the commission. Kind of Walshian in fact.

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  24. The 4 PC members who voted this down, are hardly slow growth robots. None of them.
    They just did the right thing.
    The council members put them on the commission.
    They are not elected offices, so the lecture by 9:03 is correct in saying it's not up to us to get them off the commission. It is up to us to get rid of councilmembers like Buchanan, Walsh and Moran.

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  25. A couple of things to note here: the applicant did indeed get approval for his first project, though he did have to wrangle a bit for it (and it should not have been approved, but that was a different planning commission). As the owner of a rather small cabin in the canyon, I can attest to the fact that an oversized home built next to a modestly sized one looks ridiculous - my home now appears to be a guest house to the monstrosity next door. And the large house is, on average, over 1,000 sq ft larger than most of the surrounding homes in the community, the one exception being the rambling domicile of Greg Prout, another monstrosity in a community of smaller homes. Where there was once a nice little side yard with the house in question, there is no longer any yard space - the home was built lot line to lot line and exceeded the height limit indicated in the applicable code at the time, but the owner paid for and was given the necessary variances to build it (Kurt Christensen, who later moved on to have a destructive influence in Yorba Linda, was Development Director at the time and Karen Clemons, a woman with close personal ties to the Downtown Dirt community, was the designer). As far as the two commissioners who voted for the McMansion: be prepared to reject them as candidates for city council, because they will probably be tapped by the dirts to campaign for seats to maintain the balance of corruption on that once august body.

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  26. I think this is a terrific excercise taking place. One must thank the developer for his non-stop Planning Commission submittals which reminds people there is a place for sensible zoning laws... They maintains the character and scale of our town.
    We are a town that strongly understands the value in maintaining our areas character, scale, and appropriateness. It has proven to be what has maintained the liveability and properties values in Sierra Madre.
    Property rights and responsibilities donot stop at one's lot lines,but effects those who live around them.
    A strong Planning Commission willing to defend our zoning laws is important.
    I thank them for standing up to an attempt to being pushed around.

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  27. I would like slow growth robots on the city council.

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  28. The only reason to grant variances and a CUP is if there's no other way to solve a functional problem of a structure that's largely within the bounds of the zoning codes.

    Large excesses of square footage are special privilege and can't be granted. Even by City Council.

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  29. It almost seems amazing when government in Sierra Madre works. This was such a contrast to the madness we see every two weeks from the City Council.

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  30. Three cheers for 4 members of thte Planning CommissionNovember 18, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    The announcement that an appeal is allowed is required by law. However, it was announced three or four times in less than two minutes by the Staff member who prepared the report. This is the Staff member who advocated the huge house on Camillo be built. It is also the Development Services Department that is saying the ALF is Measure V compliant. There seems to be a bias by this department to BIG buildings.

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  31. Maybe that is why the name was changed to Development Services Department instead of the Planning Department. They service developers and don't plan for the city's future.

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  32. Commissioner Pevsner (a doctor) who voted for it also said that he saw no problem with Dr. Sami's project not having enough parking.

    Big buildings-no parking

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  33. Thanks to Shirley Moore and others who are watching out for us.

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  34. John,

    Who are the two planning commissioners who voted to approve this monstrosity?

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  35. Can any one out there in the intellent pool of Tattler bloggers figure what we can do with the fact that there will never be enough parking for the downtown. A few days ago I witnessed a Starbucks worker jump out of his car, quickly parked in the Kirsting Court with apron in hand (late?) and dash across to start work. So, for the period of his shift there was a space unavailable for the would be customers. For the City Council and Planning Staff and the Chamber of Commerce to help with the economic viability of downtown there needs to be a policy (I do believe there is a time limit on parking, isn't there?) to keep this type of unregulated parking from happening.

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  36. Think about the size of parking at the mall--big enough for the one day of yearly shpping needs--the day after Thanksgiving! And how far are people willing to park to get into the mall to start their day of walking and walking and walking to get to all their favorite shops. Waya out there somewhere.

    Then in a small downtown everyone wants to park right in front of where they want to shop.

    Maybe parking for health care facilities should all be handicapped for those who are actually not able to move easily or without help. If you are on the way to the docter in Sierra Madre with a runny nose you get to do a bit of walking to make you fit when the cold goes away.

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  37. If only 6 voted last night on this agenda item does that mean there is an opening on the Planning Commission? Fill out the application for the seat and turn it in!

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  38. Not Crawford, but I play one on TVNovember 18, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Repugle and Pevsnor voted to approve. Pendlebury was off and gone.

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  39. My understanding is Pendlebury has to rescue himself because the applicant approached him at one time to be the architect.

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  40. Thee is plenty of parking in the downtown if you are willing to walk a short distance. Think how far you walk at the mall just to get to the building. Then you walk another 1/4 mile once you are inside to get to the stores you want to shop at. Sierra Madreans are spoiled and whinny.

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  41. Where is Lisa when you need her?

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  42. The favorite child's storybook character for many in Sierra Madre is Whiney the Pooh. Unless you live near Dapper Field. Then you drop the last "h" ...

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  43. From a whine to a yelpNovember 18, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    There's a great way to discourage long hours of occupying a prime parking space - meters.
    And how would the average Sierra Madrean react to that?

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  44. 9:56, yes, and it was Mr. Bart Doyle, a man recently once again in the news, who changed the name to developer servicing. Fruit of the Building Industry Association connection.

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  45. Parking meters in Kersting Court.
    Have a button to push for 15 minutes free parking. Or coins for extra time.

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  46. The Development Services Department is there to assist developers.
    If we could get it back to being a Planning Department, maybe they'd be more inclined to assist residents in carrying out the planning that is in the community's best interest long-term.

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  47. Parking meters are like stoplights in this town. Don't even try it.

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  48. The City seems hell bent on destroying our town for the benefit of an Administration and their financial backers. It really needs to stop and the Planning Commission allowed to correctly do its work. Staff is not in charge of how we manage our City.

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  49. In my opinion staff is told in no uncertain terms by Buchanan and those other two that unless they deliver on the CC's agenda, they're gone. Working for those 3 must be hell.

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  50. I agree 12:05.
    It is the council that calls the shots - just the nature of the beast.
    To focus on others as having more power or responsibility than they do is wasted energy.

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  51. The G3 thinks nothing of getting staff to peddle their lies.

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  52. parking meters in Kersting Court????

    finally our cops would have something to do

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  53. Diaz will demand that the city hire 10 meter maids to check them.

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  54. Here is how it is going to work. 15 minutes parking for free, but if you go over the ticket is $95 plus a $5 service fee.

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  55. don't forget the boot for your tire.
    HAHA

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  56. Read that some Starbucks are closing their bathrooms to the public and closing the electricity used to power laptops. Hope that happens at Starbcks here. It will open up tables and parking spaces. Two hours to drink a cup of coffee...give me a break. Just a bunch of cheapskates that won't buy internet.

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  57. Maybe the city should make the farmers mkt a wifi hot zone. That way people would go there. Be nice to see a lot of people with their laptops nibbling on $3 carrots.

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  58. Parking then Walking to SM center is easier from outside the "lazy" bubble and safer/easier, too. Also, the overuse of poorly designed signs in the shopping area has been a bust for years. Spend some of that $$ for a traffic flow SAFETY study and we would really all benefit. Remember when the DSP suggested multilevel parking behind the south side? Concentrating double,triple the number of cars there with four puny exits (across from the park playground, by the bank and the Only Place, and lastly the post office) was a disastrous idea!

    PS. Don't need the "no U turn" signs posted. It is the Cailfornia DMV code anyway and doesn't need to be posted. Take down those signs and put up some signs that help shoppers and parkers. You could repaint the center double do not cross and add some Botts Bumps as a visual reminded (forget the sad failed planter dividers--idea was of merit, the results a flop. Parking meters? Don't see that as being well received.

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  59. IMO the bigger story was that 2 of the Planning Commission members voted to approve a project that in NO way conformed to the Sierra Madre code.

    "Lucy, you got some 'splaining to do!"

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  60. Good point, Chris. Maybe these two confused committee fellows need a sit down chin wag with the city atty.

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  61. They did explain, at great length. Did you listen?

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  62. If explainin' was what made city laws and code, John Buchanan would be the Pope of Sierra Madre by now.

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  63. The planning commission will be replayed tonight at 5:30 and Sunday night at 5:30.

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  64. Will those Planning Commission replays be inbetween those delightful propaganda films about low income housing and homeless shelters?

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  65. I take that as a "No' 2:27, that you did not hear what their reasons were for their decisions.
    I disagreed with their decisions, but not their right to make arguments to support what they thought was the right course of action.

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  66. I love those propaganda films! They're so, so....civil.

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  67. The thing that is most frustrating and disappointing about the PC's decision last night to stay true to the neighborhood in terms of bulk and massing, is that it could easily be ignored by a council. Pretty good chances that this council majority would love the Meaglia mansion/s, doncha think?

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  68. Succumb to the will of your government. Sacrifice your safety and those of your family members. Welcome the homeless. Welcome the poor. Welcome your collapsed real estate. Welcome whoever it is you are told to welcome. Do it with a smile. Volunteer to help these new residents become acclimated to their community. It's not just yours anymore. Drink the Kool Aid. Pay more and more taxes. Pay higher fees. Write letters to Joe in London. Don't worry. Be happy. Everything is being taken care of for you. You really are incapable of understanding what it is your city government does. So do something useful instead. Go shopping.

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  69. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  70. Someone could take a cue from Mr. Crawford, and if they know the reasons the 2 members voted to approve the Meaglia project, they could share them with the readership. I don't think there would be a Tattler if Mr. Crawford's attitude was "I know something you don't know, and I'm not going to tell you what it is."

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  71. As i recall it was because the two guys who said yes thought that enough had changed to make the house OK. But I have to admit, it didn;t make much sense to me.

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  72. I know Pevsner for a thoughtful member of the Planning Commission. I have not heard the meeting from last night but some times I witness commissioners who give in when it "appears" the applicant has made useful changes. It would be interesting to know the vote for this guys other big "home" on Auburn extension. Drive up there and have a look at that mess!

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  73. All that really matters is the plug was pulled on the damn thing. Let's leave the personalities out of it.

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  74. Pevsner said I think it is going to fit. And I support it as is. Pevsner also said he checked out the property.

    Repogala said he supports it and it was greatly improved

    Both basically ignored the City code and findings that had to be met.

    Both made an error in judgment by ignoring the law.

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  75. Received the annual Sierra Madre Police Association solicitation for money today. Has this been cleaned up where 100% goes to worthwhile couses and nothing to the Police or Administrator or is it a largely a scam?

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  76. Replogle is a builder who gets into trouble other cities for not following the regs. Way overbuilds.

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