Most people move to, and live in, La Habra Heights because the rural environment, large lots, scenic views and privacy are scarce in the Los Angeles Basin.
There have always been those who see those same large lots and views as an opportunity for profit and grandeur, if they can get Codes changed to allow urban estates, additional lots, less vegetation and less animal keeping.
However, they realize that the majority of the community would oppose that, so they act in "clever" ways using catch phrases like "property rights", "increasing the tax base", and "additional revenue for the city" to cover true intentions.
The development interests have been sounding a steady drumbeat of gloom and doom; that the new Codes have prevented people from building.
Coming before the City Council at their June 11, 2009 meeting are a number of Code changes that will allow increased building, more subdivision, reduction of view protection, and loss of ruralness. An upcoming Planning Commission "study session" will look at limits on animal keeping.
The Code changes are related to exempting swimming pools, portions of driveways and parking, and private roads from grading & hardscape limits.
The benign sounding changes are actually a subterfuge to allow more building and land subdivisions.
Rather than simply increase hardscape and grading allowances directly, the City Council uses these sleights of hand to hide the true intentions and results.
The changes include exempting driveway grading and hardscape from existing limits; exempting private roads and driveways from hardscape and grading limits; exempting required parking spaces; exempting swimming pools from hardscape limits; and weakening view protection.
Exempting driveways and swimming pools sounds fairly harmless, but by exempting those from hardscape limits, it allows for building bigger houses and accessory structures.
For example, the Code currently allows 12,000 square feet of grading and 8,000 square feet of hardscape (any manmade ground covering, like house, driveway, pool, etc) on a one acre lot. With a Standards Modification 24,000 square feet of grading and 16,000 square feet of hardscape could be allowed if the findings are met. Using a driveway of 100 feet long and 15 feet wide, a 20 x 40 pool, and four 10x20 parking spaces; the proposed exemptions effectively increase the hardscape limits by 3,100 square feet.
See Table comparing Old Code and New Code BEFORE these proposed changes. Does it look like more is needed??
Although the changes violate the La Habra Heights General Plan, unless residents call the City Council on the violations, the changes will go through. "All it takes for bad to triumph is for good men to be silent."
The changes will be retroactive to existing approvals. An example of the impact of this can be seen at the 5 lot Mabey subdivsion on El Cajonita, an area of high water table and seasonal flooding. This subdivision was allowed after 10 years of hearings, proposals, and hydrology studies that provided for limiting hardscape and drainage improvements, so as to protect surrounding properties.
The proposed code changes will negate all the limits imposed by previous City Councils and Engineers, allowing up to 3 times the building that was deemed safe for the surrounding neighbors.
Several subdivisions are waiting for the Code changes to go through, which will allow more lots to be created, and more building to occur.
A Code Committee, consisting of Councilmembers Baroldi and Bergman, and Planning Commissioner Larry Black, was created by the City Council in 2007. Most meetings were held behind closed doors. Staff cited examples of projects that could not be built because of the Codes. A resident submitted public records request to see those "examples". Turned out there were no such examples, and the staff had to "create" them to support the Council desired Code changes.
After resident objections, a public meeting was held on May 22, 2008. At that meeting, public testimony convinced the Committee, or so it seemed, to reverse their recommended Code changes of exemptions of driveways, parking spaces, and pools. However, City Staff did not bring the Code Committee recommendations to the Planning Commission, and Committee members never voiced objection to their recommendations being ignored.
What Can You Do
Attend the June 11, 2009 City Council meeting at 7:30 p.m.
Write letters to the City Council opposing the Code Changes, and supporting our General Plan.