LUT Special Meeting, March 27, 2013

The Cherrywood Land Use and Transportation (LUT) Committee held a special called meeting on March 27, 2013 at 7:15 p.m., at Taqueria Los Altos. The meeting was chaired by Girard Kinney.

PURPOSE OF SPECIAL CALLED LUT MEETING: For Daniel Word from the COA Residential Review Department to address questions posed by Cherrywooders.

AGENDA: There is only one agenda item; i.e. for Mr. Word to first address questions previously conveyed, then to address questions from the attendees.

Many issues have arisen over the past few years and some even just this year relating to commercial and residential construction centered around the impacts on our neighborhood residential properties
and our streets.  Here is a list, organized to some extent into relevant categories:

1.     ACCESSIBILITY: What are the current accessibility requirements for single family residences and duplexes (and dothey differ between the two)?  We areaware of the requirement for a 32”  (i.e. 30” clear opening) door into one bathroom of the ground floor in a duplex; does this also include single family residences and, if so, at what level would a residential renovation/addition  trigger this requirement in projects where the planned renovation/addition does not involve a bathroom?  What is the status of the push by some to require residences to be more accessible?

2. COMMUNICATION: How can we as a neighborhood remain “in the loop” on projects (residential and commercial) planned in our neighborhood, in cases where no zoning change or BOA  variance is being sought.  Several projects in our neighborhood have been approved by residential review staff, a building permit issued, and only after construction has begun have we had an  opportunity to see the plans and have discovered errors in the review.  In a recent example, a project on LaFayette had three code violations not caught by the residential review, and in that case has resulted in an illegal “snout garage” duplex.  We are willing to help with the review process, but to do this we have to know about it and be able to review the plans before the building  permit is issued. What can we do to improve this process?

3. FOR WHAT IS A BUILDING PERMIT REQUIRED?:  In the past, it has been very simple; “flat work”, defined as anything less than 30” high, was “flatwork” and did not require a building  permit.  This included sidewalks, drives, patios and decks; as long as they were less than 30” high they did not require a building permit.  Of course they still had to be built, AS ALL THINGS DO, to city code, but it was not until one extended columns or guardrails or other structure 30” and above measured from grade that a buiding permit was required.

a.     Concrete or masonry sidewalks and patios; at what height above grade triggers the requirement for a building permit?

b. Porches and Decks (uncovered); same question.

c. Fences?  Assuming no variance in height is sought, do any fences require building permits and, if so, what are the determining factors?

d.     Overhead structures; awnings, trellises, etc.; do they all need a building permit; again what triggers the BP requirement?

4.     DEFINITION OF “STRUCTURE”:  Recently a new definition of “Structure” has gotten into the lexicon, which would appear to include just about anything purposely built, and composed  of materials. This definition has apparently caused city officials to decide that all kinds of things not previously required to have a building permit to now require one, but has also has caused  things that were previously allowed to be built in sideyard and rear yard setbacks to no longer be built without a variance from the BOA.

a.      Recently staff required a resident on Robinsion in Cherrywood to obtain a building permit for a deck less than 30” high to have a building permit, AND required a BOA variance for  it to be built in the rear and side yard setbacks.  The reason given by staff was that is a “structure”

b.     If the above deck had been a concrete or masonry patio, say 7” above grade, (constructed purposely and of materials) would it have been a structure and therefore have been required to have both a building permit and a BOA variance?

c.      What can be done to either better define “structure” or to de-couple “structure” from what construction requires a building permit?

5.     DEFINITION OF “FAÇADE” ? “GARAGE”:  Recently in the LaFayette Duplex case the applicant argued that their garages did not violate code because

a.      Their interpretation of the façade included the area above the garage, and thus the total area occupied by the garage wasless than 50% of the façade and therefore legal.  Is it a certainty  that (and will residential staff respect this) the rule is simply that the WIDTH of the garages must be less than the WIDTH of the façade?

b.     If part(s) of the structure (in this case the entrances) are located back farther away from the street than are other parts (in this case the garages), does their width get counted as a part of the width of the façade?

c.     Some have argued that the width of a garage is actually only the combined widths of the garage doors.  May we be certain that the definition of the width of a garage will continue to be  the width of the garage, outside of garage wall to outside of garage wall?

6.     DEFINITION OF “BEDROOM”:  We are aware of the BOA definition established last Fall (but please provide a copy).  That definition seemed to be saying that if a room is located near  a bathroom and has the required egress it will be counted as a bedroom, regardless of how it is labeled on the drawings.  Please address these questions:

a.      Does this current definition apply to all residences, or only duplexes?

b.     Does this mean that if the ground floor has a Study or Dining Room, it becomes important for it NOT to have a nearby bathroom and a window to allow egress in case of fire for it to  avoid being considered a bedroom?

c.      Same question for attic spaces that can function as bedrooms.

d.     In a recent example at Robinson & Concordia the application describes it as a Two Family Residence with 6 bedrooms and 10 baths.  In addition to three bedrooms in each unit on the  second floor, there is a Study on the first floor that can easily be used as a bedroom, and there is a very large Media room in the attic and a bathroom, which can easily be used for two more bedrooms, making this structure effectively a 12 bedroom structure.  Given the definition from BOA, how was this project allowed to proceed?

e.      What are the current code requirements for the number of bedrooms in (1) single family residences and (2) duplexes?

7.     OFF-STREET PARKING: “super duplexes”, especially when they have additional spaces that can serve as bedrooms, and particularly in the inner loop where the 20% parking reduction applies,  cause a great deal of on-street parking to occur on the abutting streets; often extending across the street and to points beyond the property line extensions of the subject property.  Please address these questions:

a.      What are the current off-street parking requirements for residences and duplexes, and how, if at all, do the number of bedrooms for each have an impact on the required number of parking spaces?

b.     Are we correct that required off-street parking spaces cannot occur in the space between the curb and the property line (i.e. infringing into the street r.o.w.)?

c.      Are we correct that the current interpretation (as differentiated from the policy up until about three years ago) is that a required parking space MAY occur on drives that are composed of the 36” concrete Strips?

d.     Are we correct that the parallel parking available on the street MAY NOT be counted toward the required parking for a residence or a duplex?

8.     DEFINE “KITCHEN” AND “HABITABLE”:  Questions:

a.      Does the code prevent a person from having a second Kitchen in their home, whether or not they have other, unrelated people living there?

b.     At what point does a shed, storage building, portable building (on wheels, skids or slab) become defined as “habitable”?



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