That's "Above My Pay Grade"

At the August 25, 2009 Planning Commission meeting, discussion ensued on missing information on a proposed project, including missing setback lines, parking spaces, and drainage.

Commissioner Ray Fernandez, while acknowledging that the plans before them had missing required information, said it is "above my pay grade" to check for Code compliance. He added that code checking is the job of staff.

Commissioner Dom DiMario agreed, saying the Commission is not supposed to check setbacks, as that is the job of staff.

See Video Excerpts below

Longtime residents know that depending solely on staff to check for compliance has given us houses built on earthquake faults, landslides, in the middle of blue line streams, 20 feet into the setback, several feet too tall, and so on; not to mention the "Great Wall" at 707 Dorothea, and erosion problems caused by drainage plans that staff approved that were inadequate.

The Planning Commission acts as an "extra set of eyes" in reviewing plans.

City Codes require certain information to be included with project Applications. The Code section is copied below. There is no reason for Applicants not to include simple necessary information.

According to the "Planning Commissioner's Handbook", The duties of the Planning Commission are:

"THE COMMISSION’S DUTIES
The planning commission plays a central role in the
Individual Project Approvals. Review individual
projects for consistency with the general plan,any
applicable specific plans,the zoning ordinance,and
other land use policies and regulations."

So, in fact, the job that the Planning Commissioner has accepted includes reviewing projects for Codes and General Plan compliance. While each Commissioner has different degrees of familiarity with reading plans, they will get better at it over time, and cannot dismiss the responsibility to do so.

Interestingly, Commissioner Fernandez has stated several times that he owns a home building company, and has built many homes. He is likely among the most able on the Commission to read plans.

Commissioner DiMario has also stated his involvement in the building industry.

Ultimately it is up to the City Council if they wish the Planning Commission to fulfill its assigned role, of just act as a "rubber stamp" for whatever comes across their table.

Checking for Codes is
"Above my pay grade" - Ray Fernandez

Quicktime | WMV

Fire Hydrant behind Locked Private Gate

Another issue of contention at the hearing for 1631 Coban Rd was the placement of a driveway gate which blocked access to a neighborhood fire hydrant.

Three of the Commissioners' fears were salved with the requirement that a "Knox Box" would be provided at the gate, which the La Habra Heights Fire Department would have a key to.

However, it was revealed at the hearing, that each City and department has its own Knox key. If Los Angeles County arrived at a fire on mutual aid, they would be unable to open the gate.

Those Commissioners also stated the presence of another hydrant 600 feet away on Coban Rd. However, the other hydrant is on the "Lower Zone", while the hydrant at 1631 is on the "Upper Zone". Depending on how full the lower zone water tank was, insufficient water pressure might be present. When presented with calculations from a resident illustrating this point, Mr Fernandez belittled the speaker's statement.

The nearby lower zone tank has a bottom elevation of 794 feet. The property at 1631 Coban is about 785 feet.

Commissioner McCoy said she was frightened at the threat the hydrant placement posed for the neighbors.

Residents and neighbors speaking at the hearing were unanimous in oppostion to the hydrant placement.

The project passed 3-2, McCoy and Stefflre opposed.


City Code 8.2.30 Land Use and Development Application Process and Procedures

D. General Application Requirements. All project applications must include property
information including title report, legal description and details of all existing development and
uses of the site. Depending upon the proposed project, other required information may
include, but not be limited to, neighborhood location detail and neighbor notification list,
property line survey, view impact analysis, setback and privacy analysis, site selection
analysis, landscape analysis, geo-hazards analysis, storm water runoff analysis, engineering
analyses and traffic impact analysis. These requirements are conceptual and are not intended
to constitute or be a substitute for final, detailed engineering or technical documents. Nothing
in this Chapter shall be construed as eliminating or reducing the requirements that must be
met prior to any construction are identified in Articles 5 and 6 of this Municipal Code.

1. A complete project description must be submitted that includes written detail of all
components of the project including, but not limited to, what is to be built, what is to be
removed or modified, what exists on the site, what alteration of the site is planned and
a description of the detailed use of all components of development.

2. Every application shall include site information:
a. A site description including an explanation of the reasons for selection of the
particular development areas of the site as compared to other areas and the
relative impacts of each;
b. Topographic detail sufficient to evaluate the project;
c. Identification of all existing storm water drainage channels on or across the site;
d. Proof of property line locations where there is any reasonable possibility that the
proposed development would be within thirty-five (35) feet of a property line;
e. Identification of all existing development on the site;
f. Identification of all existing legal non-conforming structures and uses on the site;
g. Identification of the location of the project development with respect to
neighboring development;
h. Identification of all property owners to be notified regarding the project;
i. Appropriate reports from licensed engineers and/or geologists if the project is
located in any geo-hazards area including the Alquist-Priolo Zone, or on any site
known to have existing faults, landslides or other identified adverse geologic
conditions; and
j. Information sufficient to establish that any required SUSMP mitigation or
compliance can be accomplished.
3. All planned development information must be presented to the Planning Division in
the degree of detail prescribed in the specific application materials. The detail
provided must be adequate to identify the impact of the project upon the neighbors’
views and privacy and upon community character. Typically this will require complete
presentation of structural plan and elevation views of any structures or structural
modifications, often including three-dimensional renderings from viewpoints of
potentially affected neighbors and of the public.

Any alteration of existing topography must be thoroughly identified as to location limits
of grading, depths of cuts and fills and height and length of retaining walls and
provisions for maintenance of existing drainage characteristics. Any trees to be
removed or drainage patterns to be altered must be identified.
include, but not be limited to, neighborhood location detail and neighbor notification list,
property line survey, view impact analysis, setback and privacy analysis, site selection
analysis, landscape analysis, geo-hazards analysis, storm water runoff analysis, engineering
analyses and traffic impact analysis. These requirements are conceptual and are not intended
to constitute or be a substitute for final, detailed engineering or technical documents. Nothing
in this Chapter shall be construed as eliminating or reducing the requirements that must be
met prior to any construction are identified in Articles 5 and 6 of this Municipal Code.

1. A complete project description must be submitted that includes written detail of all
components of the project including, but not limited to, what is to be built, what is to be
removed or modified, what exists on the site, what alteration of the site is planned and
a description of the detailed use of all components of development.

2. Every application shall include site information:
a. A site description including an explanation of the reasons for selection of the
particular development areas of the site as compared to other areas and the
relative impacts of each;
b. Topographic detail sufficient to evaluate the project;
c. Identification of all existing storm water drainage channels on or across the site;
d. Proof of property line locations where there is any reasonable possibility that the
proposed development would be within thirty-five (35) feet of a property line;
e. Identification of all existing development on the site;
f. Identification of all existing legal non-conforming structures and uses on the site;
g. Identification of the location of the project development with respect to
neighboring development;
h. Identification of all property owners to be notified regarding the project;
i. Appropriate reports from licensed engineers and/or geologists if the project is
located in any geo-hazards area including the Alquist-Priolo Zone, or on any site
known to have existing faults, landslides or other identified adverse geologic
conditions; and
j. Information sufficient to establish that any required SUSMP mitigation or
compliance can be accomplished.
3. All planned development information must be presented to the Planning Division in
the degree of detail prescribed in the specific application materials. The detail
provided must be adequate to identify the impact of the project upon the neighbors’
views and privacy and upon community character. Typically this will require complete
presentation of structural plan and elevation views of any structures or structural
modifications, often including three-dimensional renderings from viewpoints of
potentially affected neighbors and of the public.

Any alteration of existing topography must be thoroughly identified as to location limits
of grading, depths of cuts and fills and height and length of retaining walls and
provisions for maintenance of existing drainage characteristics. Any trees to be
removed or drainage patterns to be altered must be identified.

The final architectural and precise grading plans subsequently submitted to the
Engineering Division must conform to the materials upon which the approval was
based or the project will require re-submittal.

Article 7 of this Municipal Code provides all of the Development Standards that apply
to the planned development. The Applicant will certify that the project meets all of
those standards except those for which a Standards Modification or Variance has
been requested.

Development detail must also address the mitigation of any impacts of the project,
either direct or cumulative. Typical mitigation detail includes conceptual landscape
plans evidencing capability to screen the development without causing view
impairment. Cumulative impacts include the impact of new development when added
to the impacts of existing development on the site. Address of cumulative impacts
may require mitigation of existing impacts.
4. At the time of submittal, the Planning Division may require additional information to
determine the environmental impact of the project or to assess feasible alternatives or
mitigation measures for such impacts as required by the California Environmental
Quality Act (CEQA) and the La Habra Heights CEQA Guidelines.
5. The Findings provided in Article 7 of this Municipal Code must be made for any
approval to be granted. The application must include specific address of the methods
employed to ensure that each of the Findings can be made.