October 28, 2003

Which Door Has The Lady and Which Has The Tiger?

By Fred H. Arm
Finally that long-awaited Planning Commission hearing of November 6th is just around the corner. At that hearing it will be determined whether there should be a revocation of the building permit obtained by a developer, Randy Chandler, on 130 East Scenic for building on a sub-standard lot. Mr. Chandler attempted to sell his lot and permit, however, his plan was thwarted when the City Council unanimously voted to hold the hearing before the Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission will make a determination of revocation on two issues—1) Whether the permit issued has been illegally granted without having gone through the necessary variance hearings; and 2) Does the applicant have to go through another design review hearing since the hearing that he attended was not properly noticed to all the neighbors.

Recently, I was contacted by Mr. Chandler. He conceded that his project should have been built on the two adjacent lots he owns rather than the single undersized lot (3,900 sq. ft.). One could always construe this offer for settlement as a victory of sorts; however, the outcome may not be what most people desire. Many neighbors may prefer that the matter be heard at a public hearing as an indicator or warning to the Planning Department that they have exercised too much authority by granting a summary variance with the stroke of pen.

In the event the revocation hearing proceeds as scheduled, two negative situations could arise—1) he could very well have a result favoring his position to build on a lot less than 6,000 square feet; or 2) he could lose the hearing and be compelled to go through the design review process again, thus allowing further community input. Thereafter, in the process of construction on his land, he could very well spitefully remove the possibly endangered Black Walnut trees (juglans hindsii). In either event, the loss to the community could be substantial.

However, if we agreed to a settlement and perhaps were able to persuade Chandler to plan his construction to save the Walnut Trees, it could be a win-win for all. We may not receive the redress some of you yearned for at the public hearing, but we would be able to save the trees and still have the structure built on both his lots as the law provides.

I need to hear from all of you as to how you would like the matter dealt with. Your response would be most appreciated as soon as possible.

Posted by fredarm at October 28, 2003 11:24 AM

Two issues are raised by Mr. Chandler's proposed construction:

The first is specific to the Chandler property. If Mr. Chandler agrees to build one house on the two lots, doing everything realistically possible to preserve the natural beauty of the site, we would be satisfied. After all, the record indicates that initially he expected to go through the variance process, and that it was the Planning Department that sidestepped the process. A settlement appears to be the happiest solution both for him and for his prospective neighbors (including us).

The second issue is the less-than-optimal performance of the Planning Department. In the case of the Chandler property, the recommendation of the Point Richmond Neighborhood Design Review Committee that the house be built on two lots was ignored by the Planning Department. That department then disregarded code requirements that a variance be obtained prior to the granting of a permit to build on a substandard lot. We suggest that in order to avoid chaos and favoritism, if there is a regulation on the books, it should be enforced uniformly. For the future well-being of the community, this is the broader issue that needs to be addressed. We wonder whether a specific revocation hearing is the best venue for doing so.

It is noted that already there has been improvement in the notification process, in that we did receive notice of the Nov. 6 hearing!

Posted by: Sharon Halpern, Victor Morales at October 29, 2003 03:47 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?