Most of the proposed Code changes are not thought through, solve problems that don’t exist, create new difficulties and conflict with the General Plan.

The Initial Study violates CEQA and established Case Law.

 

 

1. Amend 7.12.30A, replacing “streets and view corridors” with “a public street”.

 

This change started with an off-hand comment that “view corridor” was unnecessary as a definition. The comment was made not knowing the term was used elsewhere in Article 7, and that it was part of implementation of specific General Plan policies.

 

The proposed change creates two classes of property owners. Those on public streets have greater view protection than those on private streets.

 

The change also conflicts with the General Plan policies it implemented in its original version.

 

Goal 3. Preserve scenic views.

Environmental Resource Management Element Policy 31. Protect scenic corridors to maintain their aesthetic, recreational, cultural, or historic values.

Environmental Resource Management Element Policy 34. Take reasonable measures to preserve scenic views.

Land Use Element Policy 10. The significant primary views of local hills, valleys, city lights, ocean, and mountains enjoyed by residents shall be protected from obstruction by any new development’s structures or landscape elements, to the fullest extent consistent with the property rights of the owner of the site on which the new development is located.

 

What purpose is served in deleting the “view corridor” definition, and the protection of “view corridors” in the Landscaping section?

 

No one has articulated a reason why, other than a thought there are too many words in the Code. That is not a good reason to change it. Leave it alone.

 

 

 

2. Exempt driveway hardscape and grading if driveway is over 35 feet long

 

This is a solution in search of a problem. Not one example of a submitted application that was stymied by the existing Code, and using the existing Standards Modification process, has been provided to illustrate or justify this Code change.

 

After several “examples” of difficulties were presented at the April 2008 Planning Commission meeting, a Public Records request was submitted to see them.

Staff admitted there were NO SUCH CASES and they made them up to justify the change.

 

The alleged difficulty is that someone on a flag lot, or lot with the buildable area deep within the property would use up their hardscape just in access, or that it “forces” applicants to build right next to the street.

However, the Standards Modification process allows grading and hardscape to be exceeded by up to 100%.

On a one acre parcel, that would provide an additional 660 foot length of driveway, beyond whatever driveway one can build with the ministerial Code limits.

Code Committee Recommendation Ignored

 

The Code Committee, at its May 22, 2008 hearing, decided this change was unnecessary and recommended its deletion, and suggested instead additional findings for an extended Standards Modification.

However, the Code Committee recommendations were ignored.

 

Unintended Consequences

 

The proposed change also creates new problems, and unintended consequences.

 

The existing Code hardscape and grading limits have an implicit amount to account for a driveway. The existing Standards Modification limits were created, in great part, to allow flexibility for lots with difficult access.

 

By exempting driveways from hardscape and grading limits, without simultaneously reducing the ministerial limits (12,000 s.f grading/8,000 s.f hardscape on an acre), and Standards Modification thresholds, you are enabling the creation of double the hardscape and grading than intended.

 

 

Public Road/Private Road Discrepancy

 

The proposed change says the exemption is for a driveway beyond point of access to a public road. Does this mean those on a private road have no such exemption?

 

 

General Plan Conflict

 

The proposed changes conflict specifically with the General Plan.

 

Goal 2. Minimize alteration of the natural terrain.

Land Use Element Policy 21. Limit impervious coverage to preserve the rural character of the community and to allow for the natural infiltration of water.

 

How does exempting from limits implement a General Plan policy which specifically requires limits?

 

Corkscrew Driveway

 

At least the Standards Modification process has findings that need to be made in order to allow additional hardscape and grading.

 

Under the proposed exemptions, one could create a corkscrew driveway going round and round until it gets to the house ministerially. There is no qualification of need or minimization of grading required.

 

 

Exempting Pervious Parking Spaces (7.17.40 H)

 

What is the purpose of this change?

La Habra Heights has always required 6 parking spaces.

 

If an applicant wishes to use permeable materials, they already benefit by reduction in SUSMP requirements.

 

 

General Plan Conflict

 

The proposed change conflicts with the General Plan again.

 

Goal 2. Minimize alteration of the natural terrain.

Land Use Element Policy 21. Limit impervious coverage to preserve the rural character of the community and to allow for the natural infiltration of water.

 

Parking spaces are manmade features that need to be limited and accounted for.

 

 

Excessive Exemption

 

The proposed change exempts 100% of the surface area of the parking spaces.

 

Permeable paving must be placed on a compacted base reducing its permeability.

 

So called permeable materials are far from 100% permeable.

See the attached Exhibit 1 showing the specifications for a typical permeable material, turf block.

Only 40% of the surface area is open, on top of a ground surface itself that has been compacted to reduce permeability.

 

 

It’s Your Turn to Vacuum the Driveway!

 

Permeable concrete, another “permeable” material, is similarly handicapped. Not only is the surface area not 100% permeable, but the “pores” in the concrete clog up with leaves and dirt, needing regular high pressure washing and vacuuming to maintain permeability. That is not going to happen.

 

Realistic

 

If the City is going to proceed with this dubious Code change, the amount of credit for the permeable pavement must be equal to its effective infiltration ability, which is closer to 30% of the surface area, and even that must require a recorded maintenance procedure, and a City monitoring program to ensure it is done.

 

 

3. Minimum Parcel Dimensions

 

This Code change had already been voted and in use, so we can clearly see the unintended absurd result of another un-thought through change.

 

The original Code intends to avoid having long thin lots created, with unrealistic buildable areas. It says that the minimum dimension, which contains 75% of the lot area, must be at least 150 feet long, for an acre parcel.

This is not unclear.

 

However, the implementation of the new language not only creates the absurd circular lines, it focuses applicants on complying with a misguided change instead of the original intention.

This section should be restored to original, perhaps with an illustration.

 

A Suggested Change

 

If you want to make a change to this section, adding the word “buildable” to modify area. As it stands, an applicant might have 75% of the area complying with the language, but the only buildable part might be in the remaining 25%.

Proposed language:

For newly created parcels, seventy-five (75) percent of that parcel’s

buildable land area must conform to the minimum dimension requirements specified in Exhibit 7-12.”

 

 

4. 7.17.40B Hardscape/Grading changes

 

Deletion of “located within the right of way”

 

What is the intention of this change?

 

The sentence containing this phrase is just an example of hardscape, and that all hardscape needs to be accounted for.

Hardscape is defined in Article 12.

 

If you don’t want examples in the Code section, the whole sentence should be deleted.

 

If you don’t want the area of driveways within the right of way to be counted, that should be specifically stated as another exemption, though that would conflict with your other proposed exemption, which doesn’t exempt the first 35 feet from point from the public road.

 

The intent and result of this change is quite unclear.

 

 

Swimming Pool Exemption for Hardscape

 

This is another problematic change, discounting its conflict with the General Plan policies requiring hardscape and grading limits.

 

What does “capable of accepting at least ¾” of additional water mean?

 

Some people put pool covers on in the rainy season.

In order to “accept” the water, they shouldn’t be allowed to cover the pool in winter.

Who will enforce that? How will it be enforced?

 

Many pools have operating levels, below and above which water has to be added or removed respectively. If a pool is at its upper limit already, do the people have to empty it out before it rains? Who will monitor pool levels in the City?

 

If the rainfall causes the pool to exceed the upper limit, who will stop the homeowner from pumping it out?

 

These simple yet seemingly absurd scenarios illustrate the absurdity of this proposed change.

 

Pool Size Limit?

 

The Code Committee recommended that a limit be placed on the exemption. A typical pool has a 15x35 or 20x40 surface area.

Is the intention of the exemption to allow a pool, or any size pool a person desires. One recent pool built in the city is so large it also has an island in the middle.

 

Is there a limit on the pool exemption?

 

 

Recordation of Agricultural Exemption

 

This Code change IS needed.

The only problem is that it intends to make sure an agricultural exemption has a permanent restrictive covenant, but as recent cases all too sadly prove, in “city speak” permanent means only until the next person wants it removed.

 

The Planning Commission needs to ask the City Attorney to provide language that shall be used in the restrictive covenant so the covenant is truly PERMANENT, not easily removed by whim of the next staff person, or desire of the next property owner.

 

5. Exemption of Roads and Driveways

 

The lack of punctuation within this sentence makes it unintelligible, and subject to myriad interpretations.

 

The most likely interpretations create unequal treatment between those living on private roads, compared to public roads.

 

This also conflicts with your exemption proposed in number 1.

 

Besides the grammatical problems and conflict with other proposed changes, this also conflicts with several General Plan goals and policies, including, but not limited to:

 

Goal 2. Minimize alteration of the natural terrain.

Land Use Element Policy 13. Design all development to minimize impacts on the community character, the surrounding neighborhood, and natural features.

Land Use Element Policy 21. Limit impervious coverage to preserve the rural character of the community and to allow for the natural infiltration of water.

Circulation Element Policy 68. Implement policies for the preservation of natural conditions leading to retention of storm water where it occurs.

Environmental Resource Management Element Policy 3. Encourage practices that stress soil conservation as a means to retain native vegetation, maximize water infiltration, provide slope stabilization, allow scenic enjoyment, and reduce flood hazards.

 

Exempting private roads and driveways from hardscape and grading limits means that those on private roads and drives are second class citizens, not worthy of the same open space and privacy benefits of those on public roads. This is neither right nor fair.

 

The General Plan did not create two classes of properties or residents.

 

This change should be deleted.

 

7. Increase of approval time limits

 

This proposed change increases approval expirations beyond those of the old Code and beyond even that asked for by local architects and engineers.

 

This change may have resulted by confusion in the difference between expiration of planning approvals, and expiration of building permits.

 

Two or three years is sufficient time to obtain building permits.

 

No Filing Time Prescribed

 

The proposed change does not include a time frame for filing for an extension. The existing Code requires filing 2 weeks prior to the expiration date.

 

Without a proscribed time for filing, one could file for an application AFTER the approval has already expired.

 

 

8. Delete View Corridor Definition

 

See answer to number 1. “View Corridor” implements General Plan policies and should not be removed.

 

 

9. Amend View Definitions

 

Add “open space” exclusion sentence to Local View

 

What is the purpose of this change?

 

Residents enjoy and value their local views of our rolling hills and hillside houses.

The General Plan specifically and repeatedly calls for protection of those views.

 

Goal 3. Preserve scenic views.

Environmental Resource Management Element Policy 31. Protect scenic corridors to maintain their aesthetic, recreational, cultural, or historic values.

Environmental Resource Management Element Policy 34. Take reasonable measures to preserve scenic views.

Land Use Element Policy 10. The significant primary views of local hills, valleys, city lights, ocean, and mountains enjoyed by residents shall be protected from obstruction by any new development’s structures or landscape elements, to the fullest extent consistent with the property rights of the owner of the site on which the new development is located.

 

 

All the land in La Habra Heights is owned by somebody. Of the 3600 acres of the City, there are only about 200 or so acres vacant.

 

When those lots are developed, most of those lots will still be open space, as homes and driveways are limited (at least until everything is exempt).

 

So, as I look across at the natural terrain and open space on Avocado Crest, most of which is part of developed lots, the natural terrain that is part of a vacant lot is to be excluded?

That doesn’t make any sense.

 

What problem is this change intended to solve?

 

The proposed change has no clear purpose, violates specific General Plan policies, and should be deleted.

 

 

Change “Primary View” Definition 12.2.10

 

“Local View” Protection Still Forgotten

 

The impetus to looking at the Primary View definition was Margarita McCoy’s intending to correct the omission of “Local Views” from protection.

The addition of “Local Views” to Primary Views has still been forgotten.

 

Local View protection is required by the General Plan and must be added to the definition of Primary View.

 

View Determination and Appeal

 

A property owner should be able to designate their own view, after being informed of what the Code requirements are.

If a CDD is going to determine a view, the viewing should be done on a day sufficiently clear to appreciate the entirety of the view.

 

Incorrect and/or awkward language

 

The proposed additional phrase states:

and the affected property may appeal the decision by appealing the action taken on the application in accordance with the procedures found in Article 8 of the Municipal Code

 

How does a property appeal?

 

The language can be cleaned up by instead saying:

 

“The affected property owner may appeal the decision in accordance with the procedures found in Article 8.6 of the Municipal Code.”

 

 

10. Definition Changes

 

All Weather Surface

 

This proposed change takes a clear and easily understood Code definition and changes it to an arbitrary, uncertain one subject to whimsy.

 

What is a surface suitable for use by fire apparatus?

Who determines such?

Why can’t it be determined now and put in the Code, sparing applicants uncertainty and expense?

At least put the standards or metrics that will be used to determine whether a surface is suitable for fire apparatus so applicants have at least a clue what is expected of them.

 

Single Story Structure

 

Single Story structures were given additional grading and hardscape to encourage their use on flat lots.

 

Now this change is proposed to reclassifying as single story an effectively two story house, while giving them the additional grading and hardscape limit of a single story house.

 

This is more sleight of hand to allow more building.

 

If this change is allowed, the hardscape and grading overage allowed for a Single Story house should be proportionately reduced, so the Code is indifferent to whether the 2-story “single story” uses the single story hardscape/grading limit or the two story one.

 

CEQA

 

The proposed Code changes will have considerable cumulative effect on Drainage, causing additional erosion and likely need for new manmade drainage structures, especially considering that the changes will result in additional grading, hardscape and larger structures on the remaining steep lots most susceptible to those impacts.

 

The proposed Code changes will result in additional lots to be created in the City.

 

The proposed Code changes will result in significant, cumulative, negative impacts to Aesthetics, in that substantial additional grading, hardscape, building, and erosion will result from these changes, and degrade the scenic views enjoyed by residents.

 

The Initial Study did not look at any of the impacts of these changes, postponing their study until development applications are submitted, in violation of CEQA and established case law, as described in my letter of March 18, 2009, and previous communications.

 

The Initial Study did not examine whether these Code changes are consistent with the La Habra Heights General Plan, in violation of CEQA and established Case Law.

 

The Negative Declaration is a faulty document based on inadequate analysis and should be rejected.