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Planning Commission Meeting Minutes

August 11, 2004


The meeting was called to order by Chairman Stopper at 7:00 p.m.


Chairman Stopper, Commissioners Bailey, Francis, Griffin, Hart, Price, Savage

STAFF PRESENT: Chief Planner Rosen, Senior Planner Mullis and Recording Secretary Baker


Commissioner Savage


Commissioner Savage asked that the word unfunded be inserted between states and mandates on page 108.

Commissioner Griffin abstained.

MOTION by Commissioner Francis, seconded by Commissioner Savage and CARRIED by a 6-0 vote, with Commissioner Griffin abstaining, that the Minutes of July 28, 2004, be APPROVED AS AMENDED




Staff memorandum dated August 4, 2004, was presented pertaining to a request to subdivide an existing 9.2-acre commercial center into two parcels on property located at 1001 North Harbor Boulevard (west side of Harbor Boulevard, between Valley View Drive and Berkeley Avenue) (C-3 zone) (Categorically exempt under Section 15315 of CEQA Guidelines).

The applicant requested a continuation until September 8, 2004 of this item. Chief Planner Rosen explained that the applicant was involved in ongoing discussions with City engineers, who are also in agreement with the continuation of this item.

Commissioner Price recused himself and abstained from voting on this item because of a conflict of interest.

MOTION by Commissioner Savage, seconded by Commissioner Bailey to continue this item until the next regularly-scheduled Planning Commission meeting. This item was passed by a vote of 6-0 with Commissioner Price having recused himself.


Staff report dated August 4, 2004, was presented pertaining to a request to construct an automotive repair building measuring approximately 1,740 square feet and allow a Conditional Use Permit for automobile sales and repair on property located at 801-811 West Commonwealth Avenue (north side of Commonwealth Avenue between the northwest corner of Commonwealth and Jefferson Avenues and approximately 135 feet west of the northwest corner of Commonwealth and Jefferson Avenues) (C-H zone) (Categorically exempt under Section 15301 of CEQA Guidelines) (Continued from June 9, 2004 and July 14, 2004).

Senior Planner Mullis reminded the Commission that this item was heard in June and July and that Mr. Tabaja was requesting approval to build an additional building to be used for auto repair. Senior Planner Mullis explained that this property is zoned Commercial Highway and displayed aerial photos of the site.

A portion of this site was used for auto sales without a CUP, but hadnt been used for several years. She displayed the original and revised site plans, which showed the proposed new building, along the north property line. After the Planning Commission meeting in June, several concerns were expressed by neighbors and the public. Those items related to concerns with noise, odor, security of their properties, and compatibility with the neighborhood. The applicant has attempted to address a number of these by changing the orientation of the building, by decreasing the height of the building to 10 ft. tall, and proposing a block wall along the northern property line, (abutting the single-family residential homes) and also along the west property line. Staff has asked the applicant to bring back more articulated building elevations.

Residents along the north property line were concerned about the display of cars/trucks along the north property line. The draft conditions require that these stalls only be used for employee or visitor parking. The driveway along Commonwealth had been narrowed, making it a one-way so the display vehicles will not encroach on the driveway area. The applicant told staff that they had met with the adjacent property owners and that they were satisfied with this alternative. Staff recommends approval and felt that the applicant has worked with the residents to address their concerns.

Commissioner Bailey asked how long the auto sales had been inactive, and if there was glass on the back side of the building. Mr. Tabaja stated that it had been less than a year since the auto sales has operated. Chief Planner Rosen added that there was no glass or openings on the back of the building.

Chairman Stopper asked how wide the space was between the back of the building and the block wall, and if there was a code requiring a setback. Senior Planner Mullis answered that there would not be a significant space, other than the footing requirements, and there was no code requiring a setback between the wall and the building, as long as the building was not more than 10 feet tall.

Public hearing opened.

Abraham Tabaja, applicant, asked for relief for the landscape requirements on Commonwealth Avenue to five feet, instead of 10 feet. He was concerned that the autos would not be very visible by being 22 feet away from the street. Discussion ensued regarding the required setbacks for new auto dealerships and the Fire Departments requirement of a new fire hydrant to be installed.

Commissioner Francis asked if the hydrant would be installed at the owners expense. Staff answered affirmatively.

John Silber, architect for the project, explained that he and the applicant had met with the neighborhood to discuss possible modifications to the design. He felt it was a constructive discussion with good ideas exchanged. The economic limitations of Mr. Tabaja, as well as the zoning and allowable activities, all have an affect on the plans. The reorientation and the height of the new building would be used to buffer the noise, along with a 10-foot high block wall. The employee/customer parking would be relocated. Mr. Silber said that the applicant was willing to remove the 15-foot sign wall fence, and the lighting would be upgraded.

Chairman Stopper referred to Page 4, Items #5 and #6 in the staff report and asked Mr. Silber if that was the fence he mentioned and what the plan was for the fence. Mr. Silber stated that there was no plan currently. Mr. Tabaja asked if he could lower it to six feet and not remove it as requested in Condition 1.c., since it screens the back of the service bay. The portion parallel to Commonwealth would be removed and the portion that bridges between the two existing buildings would be retained, lowered to about eight feet, refurbished and renovated.

Commissioner Griffin asked for a clarification on the 10-foot building at the north side of the property. He asked if there would also be a 10-foot fence. Mr. Silber stated that the building would be against property line, forming a 10-foot wall. He wanted to avoid an area behind the building that could gather debris.

Commissioner Griffin asked if the applicant had obtained any estimates on the installation of the fire hydrant. Mr. Tabaja stated that it will be approximately $22,000.

Commissioner Hart asked what the setback was for the other auto dealers on Commonwealth and discussed the fence. Staff responded that the code had changed regarding setbacks for new development, since McCoy Mills Ford and Mullahey Chevrolet had developed their sites and it is 10 feet for all new CUPs.

Commissioner Francis asked what the applicants concerns were with the fire hydrant. Mr. Tabaja was concerned with the added cost, since there was already a fire hydrant across the street. Chief Planner Rosen stated that if the applicant pulls a permit and improves over 10% of the value of the property, he would be required to install a fire hydrant.

Commissioner Hart asked Chief Planner Rosen if the new building were not built, would it still require a CUP for existing car sales, and would the applicant have to install the fire hydrant and provide a 10 foot landscape setback along Commonwealth Avenue. Chief Planner Rosen stated that his inclination was to ask for a setback and if there are no improvements on the site, it might not trigger the demand for a new hydrant. Chief Planner Rosen was reticent to negotiate for the Fire and Engineering Departments without them present, and wanted to continue this discussion to the next meeting because their input was needed.

Commissioner Price asked if the CUP was granted, would it require the installation of the fire hydrant, irrespective of when new construction began. Chief Planner Rosen commented that he could not answer that without checking with the Fire Department.

Chief Planner Rosen stated that, in the past, staff had required landscaping improvements on other CUPs when no construction was done. It was a modest amount of landscaping overall. He supported the recommendation to install a 10-foot landscaping setback.

Commissioner Price asked if the recently approved Mobil gas station on Imperial had a 10-foot setback requirement for landscaping. Chief Planner Rosen answered affirmatively.

Commissioner Savage asked if the fire hydrant was more of a traffic issue than a safety issue. Chief Planner Rosen said that it was both, but more of a safety issue. If there was a fire and they had to run a hose across Commonwealth, there would be a safety and control issue for Police and Fire.

Commissioner Francis discussed developing a condition and then seeking the opinion of the Engineering and Fire Departments.

Commissioner Savage asked the applicant if he would rather wait to get the opinion of the Fire Department. Mr. Tabaja stated that he had a valid DMV license, but could not operate until the CUP is approved. He asked again for a smaller landscaping setback and relief from installing the fire hydrant for this first phase.

Commissioner Bailey asked the architect what particular type of block would be used for the block wall and if he was sensitive to the community. Mr. Silber stated that they are open to using a decorative split face or precision block, however, no final decisions had been made. It would be painted to unify the scheme on the design of building. Discussions on refurbishing the fence and types of blocks and economics ensued.

Commissioner Savage asked about the smog check operations and how many bays would be used for auto repair. Mr. Tabaja told him that his tenant does 10 15 smog checks a day, and uses one bay. The new building would have four bays for auto repair.

Chairman Stopper asked about the neighborhood meeting held by the applicant and the architect. Mr. Silber stated that he had a meeting in his office where various alternatives were discussed. He had lived in this neighborhood and stated they are trying to find the best solution to the concerns raised, however, he would be unable to address every concern of the neighborhood.

Ed Cunningham, 808 W. Amerige, lives directly behind the property. He pointed out the following:

  • He said that he appreciated the neighborhood meeting with Mr. Silber
  • He did not feel that the proposed plan was acceptable
  • He suggested that the Planning Commission study the surrounding area because Commonwealth is a main artery and is not being developed like the downtown area.
  • He submitted a picture of the box trucks parked against the 6 ft. wooden fences.
  • He complained about the sound, the exhaust and how the trucks are an eyesore.
  • He mentioned that Mr. Tabaja suggested that he might consider a furniture repair instead of auto repair and wanted to know exactly what was planned for the site.

Commissioner Bailey asked Mr. Cunningham:

  • How long he had lived in his current home.
  • What has the property been used for over the last 10 years.
  • Would having the employee/staff parking at the back of the site be beneficial.
  • Is there only one wood fence?

Mr. Cunningham answered:

  • He had lived there for 10 years
  • It has been a truck sales and repair facility for the last 10 years
  • Having staff/visitor parking would be better than large box trucks
  • Yes, only one wood fence. A 10-foot block wall would be better than a six foot wood fence

Commissioner Francis asked if the box trucks were gone. Mr. Tabaja stated that there was a proposal that the box trucks will be gone. Mr. Cunningham stated that he believed Mr. Tabaja had been providing parking on his property for box trucks being sold across the street.

Barbara Piper, 804 W. Amerige Avenue, told the Planning Commission that she took the pictures on August 6, 2004, that Mr. Cunningham submitted. She smelled the diesel exhaust in her home, with the windows closed. She had major concerns about the site. She had not realized it was a two- phase project and wanted to know the timeline. She was also concerned that Mr. Tabaja was talking about furniture repair instead of auto repair.

Chairman Stopper asked if she preferred a 10-foot fence rather than six-foot block wall. Mrs. Piper preferred a 10-foot high block wall and also requested that the building be moved 10 feet away from her property line, which was discussed at the neighborhood meeting.

Amy Peluso, 800 W. Amerige Avenue, was more upset with this proposal and felt that this was not a compromise. She bought the house in April, is a stay-at-home mom and did not want to have to hear the noise all day long. She was concerned of the possibility that a new fire hydrant would not be required, and that an auto repair was a potential fire hazard.

Commissioner Hart asked Ms. Peluso to identify her home on the site plan and asked if the box trucks and the neighbors motorhome were considered an eyesore to her. Ms. Peluso stated that the visual obstructions did not bother her because she could plant trees. She was more concerned about the sound and exhaust fumes. Commissioner Bailey asked what sounds she hears now from the surrounding properties. Her husband had heard an impact hammer at 10 p.m. She hears the train, traffic and lawnmowers. She does not hear anything from the site currently.

Ted Emmons, 814 W. Amerige Avenue, voiced his concerns about:

  • Lighting spilling over after hours.
  • Trash and the smell from used oil cans
  • A timeline for the two phases
  • The financial limitations of the applicant
  • Noise concerns
  • If the auto bays could face south to lessen the sound
  • A 10-foot fence would block the view.
  • Will it be automotive or furniture repair?

Jan Iring, 740 W. Amerige Avenue, bought the house from John Silber three years ago. She moved from Diamond Bar and felt that the atmosphere was great. She was worried about the noise and felt that the plans sounded better than what they would be. She agreed that the City needed to review a beautification plan for Euclid and Commonwealth.

Mr. Tabaja understood the neighbors concerns about late noise, and said he would check into it. He said he could not control people pulling into his property after hours to work on their cars. He had called the police whenever a car was abandoned, and he encouraged the neighbors to call the police if there is late night noise. He said he was willing to put a gate at the driveway to disallow entrance to his property after hours.

Commissioner Savage asked if people were pulling into the property or the building at night. Mr. Tabaja said that evidently people are pulling into the property, next to the building to do auto repairs.

John Silber wanted to discuss the design issues raised by neighbors. He said there was a possibility to:

  • Push the proposed building south
  • Put in a landscape strip behind the building
  • Move the driveway down, eliminating entry points next to stalls
  • Install an eight-foot wall, as opposed to a 10 foot wall
  • Alternative uses are not settled yet

Chief Planner Rosen reported that the Fullerton Municipal Code allows a building to be 10 feet high, but does not allow a fence or wall to be 10 feet high. Eight feet is the maximum wall height allowed adjacent to a residential area.

Chairman Stopper reviewed the 10 recommended conditions in the staff report and discussed the five items with which the applicant or staff had an issue:

  • 1.C. (will not remove the fence, but keep part of it)
  • 1.D. (Prefer five ft. landscaping setback instead of 10 feet)
  • 1.E. (not require the installation of a new fire hydrant)
  • 2.D. (He recalled that it was agreed to make four parcels into two parcels)
  • 2.D. Senior Planner Mullis stated that the Engineering conditions have not changed, they originally specified going from four parcels to one.
  • Staff discussed changing the hours of operation in Item #11 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Commissioner Francis felt that the project was farther away than last time and the neighbors are more upset and, perhaps, need to meet again with the applicant and architect. He pointed that the applicant did not know:

  • What kind of block wall would be built or what the size of the wall will be
  • Whether or not the fire hydrant was required before the second phase
  • What the setback would be in the front
  • What type of business he will operate
  • What the hours of operation would be

Mr. Silber agreed that Chairman Stopper identified the conditions that Mr. Tabaja was not in agreement with.

Chairman Stopper felt that, without the input of the Fire Department concerning the fire hydrant, and the requirement of the Engineering department to make it one parcel, etc. it was not possible to approve this project as presented.

Commissioner Francis mentioned that moving the proposed building was because of a request and now a neighbor is not in favor, therefore, another neighborhood meeting was suggested.

Chairman Stopper understood supporting a continuation of this item and found out that Mr. Tabaja had not been able to conduct business since he purchased the property without approval of the CUP. Chairman Stopper asked staff if there could be any temporary relief available for Mr. Tabaja. Chief Planner Rosen stated that the non-conforming use lapsed during probate and, per the Fullerton Municipal Code, they are required to have the CUP approved to re-establish the use of the property.

Commissioner Savage suggested to Mr. Tabaja that he remove the new building from the plans and after he evaluates his financial situation, he could return with the request for CUP approval of the building in the second phase.

Chief Planner Rosen stated that the Planning Commission had an option to approve the CUP for auto sales:

  • without the site plan for the additional building
  • with the use as proposed with conditions outlined
  • with installation of a block wall at no higher than eight feet
  • dealing with the issue of the 15 foot fence
  • a landscaping setback of 10 feet (as required with any new CUP)
  • the fire hydrant issue must be referred to the Fire Department for determination
  • consolidations of the parcel would be dependent on the new development
  • correct the condition of the current building that straddles the property line with doors opening at the property lines
  • hours of operation (including the smog check center).

Mr. Tabaja stated he wished to avoid returning for approval of the CUP. Commissioner Francis asked if the fee would be the same. Chief Planner Rosen stated that he would only have to pay of the fee next time.

Ted Emmons discussed with the neighbors and they were concerned with Mr. Tabajas finances and desired for him to be allowed to operate his business. They were not adverse to an eight-foot fence, or any vehicles over eight feet high parking against the property line. They are against the noise and exhaust of a four bay auto repair at 12 15 feet high.

Mr. Tabaja asked the Planning Commission to approve Phase 1 and he would return, if needed, with Phase 2.

Commissioner Bailey recommended to the architect and the applicant to not provide an area between the proposed new building and the fence because the homeless and trash would gather there. He also suggested softening the existing shop so that sound does not reverberate from the facility.

Chief Planner Rosen then summarized the potential Planning Commission action as follows:

  • Denying the site plan to construct a new auto repair building measuring 2,600 square feet
  • Approving the CUP for auto sales and repair only in the existing building on the property, as per the submitted site plan
  • Conditions of approval for CUP as listed on page 5 recommending conditions a) dealing with the layout and display of the vehicles, b) the driveway be modified per the Engineering letter, c) Planning Commission chooses to remove entire 15 foot high fence or a portion facing Commonwealth, d) 10 ft. landscape requirement, e) a new fire hydrant may be required as conditioned by the City Fire Marshal.
  • Applicant may choose to appeal the decision of the Planning Commission
  • The proposed fencing be reviewed by the Director of Development Services, whether it is six or eight feet high
  • Strike all of Condition 2 - which deals with conditions pertaining to new construction
  • Condition 3 - not using exterior speaker systems
  • Requiring Condition 4 - parking for employees and visitors
  • Condition 5 reiterates the existing code requirements
  • Conditions 6, 7, 8 and 9 are all standard conditions of approval for the CUP
  • Condition 10 - implementing the recommendations as found in the Engineering letter
  • Condition 11 - hours of operation 8 7 p.m. for auto repair or smog check

Staff asked the applicant to accept or request the modifications to the conditions. Mr. Tabaja asked if Phase 2 was denied or just put to sleep. Chief Planner Rosen stated that it could be denied without prejudice, which would allow to him to reapply. It would require another hearing process with only of the fees required.

John Silber asked about rebuilding sidewalks and driveway curb cuts. He felt that some repair was necessary, but extensive improvements were not timely.

Senior Planner Mullis read the following: portions of curbs and gutter and sidewalks, adjoining the site that are deteriorated and broken shall be removed and replaced, subject to review and approval of the Director of Engineering.

Chief Planner Rosen was reticent to modify the Engineers Letter without the Engineering being present.

Commissioner Francis asked if Mr. Tabaja was sure he did not want to take more time and work out the details. Mr. Tabaja stated that the only feasible situation was to compromise. He asked staff if the landscaping required in the back was still necessary along Jefferson, since he will not be building Phase 2. Chief Planner Rosen stated that it was acceptable not to modify, if no improvements are made. Chief Planner Rosen felt it would be reasonable to not require landscaping along Jefferson, however, landscaping along Commonwealth and along the north property line is required.

Commissioner Savage asked if the landscaping along northwest property line islands would be required. Chief Planner Rosen stated that there were code requirements for landscaping parking area, which is a code requirement.

Commissioner Griffin noted that Chief Planner Rosen was going to require landscape improvements and the applicant was questioning it.

Commissioner Price stated that since he would be using the back parking lot, the CUP would require the landscaping along Commonwealth Avenue and parking lot landscaping.

Mr. Tabaja asked why the landscaping was required if he was not building Phase 2. Senior Planner Mullis stated that for a parking lot the amount of landscaping is per parking stall, and not dependent on a building.

Chairman Stopper stated that the block wall and landscaping along Commonwealth and the northwest corner are required.

Commissioner Bailey asked where the trash would be located. Mr. Silber stated that it had originally been tied into the location of the new building and now will be relocated somewhere acceptable to staff and as far away from the neighbors as possible.

Commissioner Savage asked Mr. Tabaja if he understood what was decided. Mr. Tabaja stated that he did understand, but that he needed to operate his business.

Public hearing closed.

The title of Resolution No. PC-04-27 DENYING without prejudice a site plan to construct an automotive repair building measuring approximately 2,625 square feet and approving a conditional use permit to allow automobile sales and repair on property located at 801-811 West Commonwealth Avenue was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Price and seconded by Commissioner Savage that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS AMENDED.


The Commissioners discussed the height of the block wall. Commissioner Savage said he would accept eight feet or six feet. Commissioner Bailey said eight foot was to code. Chief Planner Rosen said six feet is standard, the maximum is eight feet. Commissioner Francis said he realized the cost of block wall can be almost $100 per linear foot. He suggested the applicant check into it before the Planning Commission makes the ultimate decision. Commissioner Francis felt six or eight feet was acceptable. Commissioner Hart desired six feet, which was not as high as the neighbors requested. Greenery was more attractive and eight feet is too high. It was cost prohibitive for an eight foot wall, but she did not know the benefit with adding that cost. Commissioner Price felt that a six foot block was is better than a wood fence.

Commissioner Price amended his motion to include a block wall at six feet in height, seconded by Commissioner Savage, all in favor, motion passed unanimously by members present.

Chief Planner Rosen told Mr. Tabaja that this matter can be appealed to the City Council within 10 days.



    The Commission discussed the pros and cons of having all items heard at 7 p.m. It was the consensus of the Commission to agendize most items at 7 p.m. When there are more items than are feasible for only a 7 p.m. meeting, a 4 p.m. will also be scheduled. The Commission discussed using this new schedule for a trial period. The September 8 meeting will be scheduled for 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., and because of the amount of items being heard, dinner will be provided.


    Staff distributed the Mitigated Negative Declaration, Specific Plan and Technical Appendices for St. Jude and recommended that the Commissioners review the summary. Staff also distributed the new Planning Commission handbook, and asked Commissioners to fill out the Direct Deposit form and return with a cancelled check to reduce the cost of preparing and mailing checks.


    Chief Planner Rosen gave a brief update on recent City Council meetings.


    There was no one from the public who wished to speak on any matter within the Commissions jurisdiction.


    The next regularly-scheduled Planning Commission meeting will be September 8, 2004 at 4:00 p.m. and 7: p.m. Staff reviewed the five proposed items listed in the agenda forecast.

    Commissioner Griffin asked for an update on the Commission/Committee appointments. Chief Planner Rosen reported that staff was waiting for direction from the City Clerk until they can proceed.


There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:30 p.m.

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