Planning Commission Meeting: June
TO: The Honorable Planning Commission
FROM: Planning Staff
SUBJECT: Appeal 05-005 of the Architectural Review Board’s Approval of ARB 05-060
Applicant: RTK Architects
Property owner: LT Development LLC
Appellant: Karen Grant
Action: Appeal 05-005 of the Architectural Review Board’s (ARB) approval of the design, colors, materials, landscaping and irrigation plans for a new three-story, 5-unit, condominium project with a subterranean parking garage.
Recommendation: Deny the Appeal and uphold the Architectural Review Board's Approval.
The subject property is 7,500 square feet, located at the west
The subject property is currently developed with a vacant single-family dwelling and two accessory buildings and contains no significant vegetation.
Zoning District: R3 (Medium Density Multiple Family Residential) Districts
Land Use District: Medium Density Housing
Parcel Area: 50’ x 150’ = 7,500 square feet
The applicant proposes
to construct a three-story, five-unit condominium building above a ten-car
subterranean parking garage. One guest
parking space will be located to the rear of the first floor. Vehicle access to the on-site parking would
The subject of this appeal is the ARB’s approval of the proposed building’s façade design, colors, materials and landscaping.
MUNICIPAL CODE AND GENERAL PLAN CONFORMANCE
The subject application has been preliminarily reviewed for compliance with the base district’s development standards which address aspects of the plan that could result in significant changes to the project’s design. A complete code-compliance review will not occur until the application is submitted for plan check. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that the plans comply fully with all applicable provisions of the Municipal Code. The applicant has been notified of any significant non-compliant aspects of their plans, and a condition has been added requiring full compliance with all applicable regulations prior to the issuance of a building permit. Any significant changes to the design subsequent to any ARB, or Planning Commission on appeal, approval will require additional Board review and approval prior to the issuance of building permits.
The project is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to Class 3, Section 15303 (b) of the State CEQA Guidelines. Projects located in an urbanized environment designed for not more than six dwelling units are, consistent with the Guidelines, exempt from environmental review. Additionally, the existing structures proposed for demolition are over 40 years old. On March 14, 2005, the Landmarks Commission reviewed the demolition permit application and determined that these buildings are not of historic significance to the City. Therefore, these buildings do not require further analysis to consider the potential environmental impact associated with their removal pursuant to CEQA.
HISTORIC RESOURCES INVENTORY DESIGNATION
The subject property is not listed on the City’s Historic Resources Inventory. However, existing improvements on the subject property are over 40 years in age. The Landmarks Commission reviewed a demolition permit for the existing house, garage and accessory building on March 14, 2005 and determined they are not historic resources.
RENT CONTROL STATUS
Property was Ellised 11/24/89. The site is currently vacant.
There are no special Planning related fees associated with architectural review.
Pursuant to Municipal Code Section 9.32.180, within 14 days after the subject application was filed, the applicant posted a sign on the property stating the following information: Project case number, brief project description, name and telephone number of applicant, site address, date, time and location of public meeting, and the City Planning Division phone number. Staff has verified that the date of the Planning Commission public hearing has been properly posted on the sign (Attachment C). On April 28, 2005, the appellant was notified by phone (voice mail) and in writing of the subject hearing date.
The Planning Commission
agenda and associated staff reports are also posted on the City’s web site
prior to the meeting. In addition, notice
of the public meeting was published in the “
The project will be reviewed for compliance with all pertinent development standards during the building permit plan check process. The scope of this appeal pertains to the Architectural Review Board’s approval of the proposed building’s facade design, colors, materials and landscaping.
The proposed project conforms to the building height and number of stories standards of the R3 zoning district; however, it is located adjacent to a property that is improved with a single-story craftsman home. While other buildings on the block have a similar scale as the proposed structure, the verticality of the building and its modernist design call attention to the differences between the proposed on-site development and the single-family home to the north. The proposed three-story condominium building height rises to 40-feet above theoretical grade. The proposal incorporates the following design elements:
MATERIAL, FINISH AND COLOR
Smooth troweled stucco (White)
Smooth troweled stucco (Sand)
Metal siding, smooth (Silver)
Anodized aluminum glass (Silver)
Anodized aluminum glass (Silver)
Painted metal gate (Silver)
Flat roof with cap sheet roofing (White)
Anodized stainless steel (Silver)
Painted CMU block wall (Grey)
Acrylic and Stainless Steel (Opaque)
Painted stainless steel (Silver at door canopy)
Painted stainless steel (Blue at entry canopy)
Stainless steel cables (Silver)
Smooth troweled stucco (White/Sand)
CMU block wall (Natural gray)
The proposed project is expressive of a contemporary architectural design and is composed of several geometric forms. The structure’s use of different materials and subtle color changes provides additional clarity to the building’s architectural concept. The building is well articulated and its massing well designed. The contemporary design creates an inviting ambience due to its fine level of detail and use of quality materials appropriate to a residential neighborhood. Additional building stepbacks on the north elevation reduces the visual contrast between it and the adjacent single-story house.
While the ARB staff report recommended approval of the project as submitted, the report also recommended that the ARB consider the following design issues: First, vertical design elements emphasize the building’s three-story height, especially on the south elevation; second, the front elevation has the potential to appear rather dark and imposing given the shadows that will be cast by the second floor balcony overhang. Similarly, the ground floor front elevation could further develop its pedestrian orientation by further orientating building features, such as entrances, patios and landscaping towards the street; there is an opportunity to strengthen the building design by providing more variation to the individual unit façade designs to support the strength presented by the individuation of each unit; and as one of the larger buildings on the street that has a strong vertical presence, the staff report suggested incorporating additional horizontal elements to aide in reducing the visual scale and proportion of the structure as well as providing additional layered reading to the project.
On April 18, 2005, the project was presented to the ARB. After considering the staff report and comments from three residents, members of the ARB expressed support for the overall design and in particular, the additional stepback from the single-story house and the vertical elements used on the south elevation to maximize glazing and natural lighting. One ARB member expressed concern regarding the design of the front façade and second floor balcony design. An additional condition was added to replace Creeping Fig plants with Boston Ivy and the ARB approved the project pursuant to a six to one vote. The Board also suggested, but did not require, adding Boston Ivy on the alley and front façade to soften the building and create a horizontal impact. The ARB’s Statement of Official Action (STOA) and the April 18, 2005 staff report and minutes are contained in Attachment B.
On April 25, 2005, Appeal 05-005 was
filed by Karen Grant, a
ARB inappropriately delegated verification of design changes to staff
The ARB conditioned their approval on changes to a small portion of the landscape design requiring the Creeping Fig plants to be replaced with Boston Ivy prior to the issuance of a building permit. The appellant contends that such a condition denies the public from verifying that the design change is appropriate or in conformity to neighborhood compatibility, or in conformity to the ARB’s direction. This contention implies that the ARB lacks authority to conditionally approve a project and therefore, any revision required by the ARB must be resubmitted for full review by the Board.
The appellant’s concern has been addressed since the revised landscape plans are included in Attachment E of this report. However, the ARB acted within its legal authority in imposing this condition. SMMC Section 9.04.32.140, specifically authorizes the ARB, or Planning Commission on appeal, to approve a project with conditions. Condition 2 merely requires a different species of landscape material with similar appearance to the Creeping Fig, but with better long term maintenance attributes. The substitution species was specifically identified. The change prescribed by the ARB has negligible impact on the overall landscape design or the appearance of the proposed building design.
Design over emphasizes height and mass
The appeal statement contends that the proposed building design “over emphasizes” building height and mass, that some of the proposed building’s vertical features should be replaced with horizontal lines to address this concern.
This design issue was presented in the ARB staff report, included in some of the public comments and discussed by the Board. The R3 District permits three- stories and 40 foot tall buildings. The proposal is three-stories and 35 to 40 feet tall. The overall character of this area is defined by multi-family apartments and condominium buildings similar in mass and scale to the proposed project. Most nearby properties are developed with two and three story buildings with only five foot setbacks and no stepbacks or upper level articulation to reduce their visual size and mass. The proposed development provides more front and side yard setback and stepback articulation than other properties in the neighborhood. This additional setback and stepback articulation visually reduces the size of the building and makes it compatible with the area’s scale of development, while expressing a clear architectural concept.
The design is especially sensitive to the single-story house to the north. It provides additional building stepbacks to help reduce the visual contrast between the north elevation and the existing single-story house. These ample setbacks and stepbacks increase the separation between buildings, minimizing shading and protecting solar access to adjacent properties. Given the sensitivity and compatibility of the proposed design, the Board did not support potential redesign. However, while the ARB determined that the proposed building will be compatible with its R3 neighborhood, the building design could benefit by additional horizontal elements on the south elevation, which would mitigate the building’s vertical appearance. A condition has been added to require such a revision.
Large windows violate neighbors privacy
The appeal statement indicates that “large windows violate neighbors’ privacy.” The appellant also raised this question during the ARB hearing. The stepped back portion of the south elevation is glazed from floor to ceiling. Staff believes the appellant’s concern pertains to the two-story, six-unit apartment that is adjacent to the south elevation.
The size of the glazing on the south elevation could be reduced and still comply with the building code, but requiring smaller window area is contrary to City policy to increase solar access and natural lighting. In this case, the stairs are placed adjacent to the south facing windows in a manner that will screen view and separate the second and third floor bedroom areas from the glass walls to improve privacy. Because this floor plan design is not discernable when looking at the façade renderings, the appellant may not be aware that a reasonable degree of privacy is provided.
The front elevation is not pedestrian friendly
First floor should be level with sidewalk
The Appeal Statement does not explain the appellant’s position. However, Board Member Fischer expressed concern regarding the second floor balcony and how shadows would impact the entryway.
Generally, the front elevation is well designed, using multiple layers of architectural elements, such as large windows, multiple wall plane stepbacks, open hand rails and a winged canopy over the garage stairway to enhance pedestrian orientation. While the ARB staff report suggested the design of the semi-enclosed second floor balcony could cause uninviting dark shadows, upon further analysis, the proposed balcony design appears to enliven the front façade.
While the large windows, balcony, and overall interest in the building façade design provides a pedestrian oriented proposal, this can be further improved by reducing the height of the planter on the southeast corner, and a condition has been added to require such a revision.
The appeal contention that the ARB
lacks authority to conditionally approve a project is incorrect. SMMC Section 9.04.32.140, specifically
authorizes the ARB, or Planning Commission on appeal, to approve a project with
conditions. Moreover, this issue is now
moot. The design’s ample setbacks,
stepbacks, articulation and landscaping
reduce its apparent mass, making the proposed three-story condominium building
compatible with the scale of development in the surrounding R3 area and does
not over emphasize height and mass. Privacy
to second and third floor bedrooms is provided by the stairs which are placed adjacent to the south facing windows to
screen view through the glass walls. In
The architectural design of the proposed five-unit condominium building is expressive of a contemporary architectural design and is composed of a variety of geometric forms with clear architectural intent. The contemporary design is able to create an inviting ambience that is appropriate to a residential neighborhood.
It is recommended that the Planning Commission deny the appeal and uphold the Architectural Review Board’s approval of ARB 05- 060 based on the following findings and conditions.
A. The plan for the proposed building or structure is expressive of good taste, good design, and in general contributes to the image of Santa Monica as a place of beauty, creativity and individuality in that the massing of the proposed three-story condominium building is compatible with the scale of development in the surrounding area. It is expressive of a contemporary architectural design and is composed of a variety of geometric forms with clear architectural intent. Use of a variety of subtle colors and materials provides additional definition to the formal concept. The contemporary design is able to create an inviting ambience that is appropriate to a residential neighborhood.
B. The proposed building or structure is not of inferior quality such as to cause the nature of the local neighborhood or environment to materially depreciate in appearance and value in that high quality material, including smooth-troweled stucco and anodized aluminum glazing system, as detailed in the application submittal and as presented to the Architectural Review Board will be used.
C. The proposed design of the building or structure is compatible with development on land in the general area in that the structure has a comparable scale with multiple family properties in the immediate neighborhood. Many of the properties on this street are improved with multi-family buildings similar in size and scale to the proposed project. The proposed development proposes setbacks that are compatible with the immediately adjacent properties and the additional stepback requirements visually reduce the size of the building and keep it compatible with the area’s scale of development. Stairs are placed adjacent to the south facing windows in a manner that will screen view and separate the second and third floor bedroom areas from the glass walls to improve privacy.
D. The proposed development conforms to the effective guidelines and standards adopted pursuant to Chapter 9.32 – Architectural Review Board, and all other applicable ordinances insofar as the location and appearance of the buildings and structures are involved. As conditioned, the plans will fully comply with all applicable regulations prior to the issuance of a building permit.
1. This approval shall expire when the discretionary entitlements previously granted by an associated approval have lapsed. If no such permit has been issued, this approval shall expire one year from its effective date, or otherwise implemented pursuant to applicable municipal regulations.
2. Prior to the issuance of a building permit, the applicant shall provide a substitute species, such as Boston Ivy, to replace the Creeping Fig and demonstrate compliance with the City’s Water Conservation Ordinance subject to staff approval. The applicant is encouraged to add vine material to soften the west building façade. Modifications to the landscape plan that effect less than 150 square feet of area may be reviewed and approved by the Staff Liaison to the Board.
3. Prior to building permit application, the applicant adjust the design on the south elevation to include additional horizontal elements at the floor lines, and reduce the height of the planter at the southeast corner.
4. Prior to the issuance of a building permit, the applicant shall demonstrate that the plans comply with all applicable provisions of the Zoning Ordinance. Significant changes to a project’s design shall require review and approval of the Architectural Review Board. Minor changes may be approved administratively pursuant to all applicable guidelines.
A. Appeal Statements of Karen Grant
B. ARB Statement of Official Action, Staff Report & Minutes
D. Rendering, Plot Plan, Floor Plans, Elevations & Photographs of Site & Surrounding Properties