|A couple of LULUs|
The two monstrosities being built on Camillo, one lot up from Grandview, did not go in front of the PC and Danny Castro did not give this a pass. The developer knew the city regulations and did everything as he was allowed. There were two lots of record and as someone earlier posted you can see from google earth the house and garage were very modest. The big mistake here was that the PC did not get the new regulations in place to stop this. We did in the new canyon zone building standards for the second story building envelope and the city now has this for the entire R-1 zone. I am not sure about R-2 and R-3. The second story has to fit in a pulled back area of 45 degrees from a line drawn up 8 ft from the property line.
Sierra Madre resident Judy Gold wrote in to Danny Castro at City Hall to find out on her own what the rest of the story might be. Danny, formerly of Development Services (his portion of the Puzzle Palace is currently being renamed the much sunnier "Planning and Community Preservation"), quickly replied. Danny is pretty good that way, and he writes in a briskly pleasant and efficient style.
Here is how that initial exchange went:
Name: Judy Gold
Message: Mr. Castro,
I have had a difficult time finding building code ordinances on the website. I would like to see info regarding the allowable footage for a house, including setbacks, etc. also, I have questions about the horrible houses at 319 Camillo. These 2 houses are built to cover the entire lot. I can find nothing that allows this. Plus the architecture in no way fits the area as the city plan suggests. Any answers or direction would be appreciated. - Judy
From: Danny Castro
To: 'Judy Gold'
Sent: Tue, Sep 2, 2014 11:04 am
Subject: RE: City of Sierra Madre: Ordinances
Hello Mrs. Gold,
The City's Municipal Code is on the City's website. Click on "Online Services", scroll down, click on "Municipal Code", on left side scroll down to "Title 17 Zoning - Chapter 17.20 R-1 One-Family Residential". Click on it and the entire zoning ordinance is included, such as setback requirements, floor area, parking, lot coverage, etc. This chapter was amended in May 2013.
The houses that are being constructed at 319 and 321 Camillo are in compliance with the City's zoning code in effect at the time they were submitted to the Development Services Department for plan review, or what we call "plan check". Those plans were submitted in January 2013. The City Council approved amendments to the R-1 zoning ordinance in May 2013, which included angle plane height requirements which push the second floors further away from the sides. Also, the calculation of floor area has been redefined to include all areas with a solid covered roof (except first floor porches facing the front of the house), regardless of enclosed walls or not. Unfortunately, these new requirements did not apply to these homes because these rules were not in effect at that time.
The 319 Camillo house is 2,715 square feet in size, and the house at 321 Camillo is 3,136 square feet, both in compliance with the R-1 zoning ordinance in effect prior to May 2013.
You are welcome to review the plans here at the Development Services counter. Please let me know and we can set the plans aside for you to review at your convenience.
DANNY CASTRO | DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT SERVICES
City of Sierra Madre | Development Services Department
Judy Gold had one more question for Mr. Castro, and she wrote her follow-up this way:
From: Judy Gold
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2014 11:52 AM
To: Danny Castro
Subject: 319 & 321 Camillo
Dear Mr. Castro:
I found the codes. Thank you for your help. I have another question or two. If the plans for these 2 structures were submitted today for a plan check, would they be approved? If not approved can you tell me why? - Judith Gold
Here is Danny's rather tragic reply:
From: Danny Castro
To: Judy Gold
Sent: Tue, Sep 2, 2014 12:03 pm
Subject: RE: 319 & 321 Camillo
Dear Mrs. Gold,
If the plans for these two structures at 319 and 321 Camillo were submitted today they could not be approved. It is obvious that they would not meet the angle plane height requirements (building setback areas along the sides) and we would be calculating additional floor area for all covered roof areas like the carports, but not sure if the additional floor area would result in exceeding what’s allowable for the lot sizes in today’s zoning code.
There you go. The developer of the Camillo LULUs obviously had a passing fair knowledge of what was permissible in Sierra Madre at the time, and took full advantage of that situation. At least as far as the applicable zoning codes and ordinances went.
So I've been mulling over the name change at Development Services, and I have come to the conclusion that the exchanges above between Judy Gold and Danny Castro could be called a Development Services kind of conversation. Applicable codes and ordinances were discussed, and then cited as the definitive reasons why things happened as they did. The conclusion being that this is how things are, the LULUs happened because of that, end of story.
So what will the difference be now that Danny's suzerainty within the Puzzle Palace has been renamed Planning and Community Preservation? Or, and as some once troubled children of the late 20th Century might appreciate, PCP?
And my conclusion is that the PCP would not have rolled with these ordinances and codes alone, but would also have brought the General Plan into play as well. In this particular LULU case the 1996 General Plan would have been applicable since it was, and at least for now still is, the one that establishes how this community is supposed to look. Among other things.
Here are the passages from the 1996 General Plan that could have been applied to the Twin LULUs of Camillo Road. The new one will have better protections, but as we've noted it isn't in effect yet. However, if the relevant portions from the "Old '96" GP had been enforced, the necessary protections were there.
From the 1996 GP Introduction:
Page 17 - Overview of Land Use Policy: The fundamental principle behind the land use policy of the General Plan is to maintain the existing low-density, village character of Sierra Madre in the same urban development pattern that exists today.
Page 17 - Residents are able to identify structures which “fit” in Sierra Madre versus those which do not.
I am not sure any residents were consulted when the Camillo LULUs were in their planning stages, which is unfortunate. There is also this from the portion of the 1996 General Plan titled RESIDENTIAL LOW DENSITY:
Page 21 - Require that new development mitigates impacts on the City’s open space, infrastructure, transit services, and other public needs.
Page 21 - Objective L6: Ensure that the massing and scale of new infill construction, additions and alterations to new structures be consistent with that of the existing block.
Page 21 - Policy L6.3: Limit new buildings in height to reflect the prevailing height patterns on the street and within the Sierra Madre community.
So maybe that will be what distinguishes the old Development Services satrapy from the new Planning and Community Preservation model. That is, the General Plan will also be consulted, along with the kinds of codes and ordinances that were the sole guidance used when the Camillo LULUs were being hatched.
Because if the current General Plan had been brought into play, as it should have, neither of those LULU structures would exist today. And we wouldn't have needed to have this conversation.