Mar 17 2015

Planning Commission Meeting of March 9

Meeting of the Planning Commission

on Monday, March 9, 2015

        The Planning Commission meets on the second Monday every month.  The purpose of the Planning Commission is to okay modifications to or construction of buildings and fences in Piedmont.  They also advise the City Council on any planning or building matters.

        Before entering the room tensions were high, everyone was anticipating the crucifixion that comes not only from the board members but from your neighbors who will try to get rid of any improvements to your home, because who likes change?    On the agenda there were at least ten issues, the first subject brought up was the consent calendar with the plans that the commission “Okayed” as is.  Fifteen people got up and smiling ear to ear on hearing that their remodel, construction, or renovation was passed and that they did not have to go down and speak for their plan, and then hear for the next ten minutes from the five commission members rip apart the plans they had spent the past weeks creating and changing to make perfect.

        Juan Perez was one of the lucky people already “Okayed” and set to continue.  Juan Perez is a general contractor and working on a project for a woman in Piedmont.  He and the architect and his client all had to come to the meeting prepared to defend their plans.  Luckily their plan passed,  but if it had not been approved, they would have gone through “many rounds of appeals and more commission meetings”.

        At the meeting on March 9th the issues brought forward were all about the improvement and construction of homes.  For every issue brought forward there were neighbors who either voiced their support or opposition for the project.

       The first application was about 38 Monte Avenue.  The owners wanted  to demolish the existing garage and build a new garage on  Monte Avenue requiring a setback variance and also build a cottage.  The family that owns the house, the designer, and the architect all spoke about the plans.

       The main point that they all made was the goal to keep the integrity of the house and discussion with neighbors.  But even with their many meetings with neighbors to keep everyone happy two of the neighbors went up and spoke against the plan.  One of their concerns was a lack of parking that would increase if the garage was moved.

      One Monte Avenue parking space available at this point would be lost if the garage was moved and a wind tunnel could also be a problem.  Another major issue was the new height of the cottage, which could impede sunlight for neighboring homes and privacy.

      After everyone had spoken the board closed it for public discussion and discussed among the five council members.  Commissioner Simpson supported the plan with a change to the garage plan.  At first all the commissioners had a different plan to fix the remodel. Commissioner Simpson made a motion that would make everyone happy, except the family who owns the house.  The construction was not passed, but not denied.  They were sent back to make a new plan that would not have such a large impact on the neighbors.

      The second agenda item brought forward was about a renovation at 333 Scenic Avenue.  First to speak was the couple that owns the house.  This was not their first time at the Planning Commission.

      The plan had changed; at first they had a roof patio and a large room extension, now they just want a smaller room extension.  The neighbors were still unhappy about the increased loss of privacy and the blocking of sunlight.  Not only did the neighbors speak up against the new plan, but also had their other neighbors speak against it on their behalf.

       When everyone from the public finished speaking the commission discussed what could change, and if it should be approved as is.  Commissioner Simpson supported the new plan and believed that they had changed enough from the old plan and provided enough evidence of the true impact of the renovation.  At first, Commissioners Theophilos and Chase were against the new plan, but through further discussion they agreed to approve the plan with the condition that a fence be put up to increase privacy for the neighbors.

        For the Scenic Avenue renovation the family that owned the home had an amazing presentation with a picture slide show.  And proved that the new plan had very little impact on the neighbors, and I agreed with them.   They changed the plan so much from the first plan and sacrificed their plans to compensate for their neighbors concerns that their plan deserved to be approved.

The report above was submitted by Piedmont High School Student Sarah Mooney

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author. 

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