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Planning Commission Meeting Minutes

JANUARY 12, 2005

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Stopper at 7:02 p.m.

ROLL CALL

PRESENT: Chairman Stopper, Commissioners Bailey, Hart, Griffin, Price, Savage

ABSENT: Commissioner Francis

STAFF PRESENT: Chief Planner Rosen, Senior Planner Mullis, Assistant Planner Sowers, Engineering Director Hoppe, Senior Civil Engineer Voronel, and Recording Secretary Stevens

ALSO PRESENT: Beverley White, City Clerk
Kimberly Hall Barlow, Deputy City Attorney

ABSENT:Commissioner Francis

FLAG SALUTE

Chairman Stopper

MINUTES:

Chairman Stopper asked that on page 181 on the fourth paragraph the word perfected be replaced with completed.

MOTION by Commissioner Griffin, seconded by Commissioner Savage and CARRIED unanimously that the Minutes of December 15, 2004, be APPROVED AS AMENDED.

7:00 P.M. SESSION

PUBLIC HEARING

COMMENTS OF OUTGOING CHAIRMAN

Chairman Stopper wished to make comments as the outgoing Chairman (moved from Other Matters).

He said that it had been an honor and privilege to have served as Chairman, and complimented the Commission for acting on true principles, for the welfare of the citizens. He commended City staff for their professionalism and support. Chairman Stopper had set a couple of goals, one was to assure that the Commission would operate with the safety and security of the general public in mind; the second one was to make sure that on each agenda item everyone would have an opportunity to be heard and voice their position. He believed that he achieved both of these goals. He also wanted to not just look at a specific project, but also to look at its characteristics and the potential impact. He referred to it as the power of integration of a project, and he also believed that the Commission performed this goal. Lastly, he had a goal of initiating an opening dialogue on the need to revisit the Downtown. He had several discussions with staff and City Council members, and he felt that the timing was right to step back and review the Downtown for a new vision and revision. He started a process of meeting with each City Council member to receive feedback on how the Commission was performing. There were 19 meetings, with 50+ agenda items and the Commission decided on 48 of those items, with the City Council only modifying one decision.

ELECTION OF NEW OFFICERS

Chairman Stopper opened the nominations for Chairman of the Planning Commission.

MOTION by Commissioner Savage nominating Pat Griffin for position of Chairman. Chairman Stopper asked if he would accept the nomination and Commissioner Griffin agreed. With no other nominations presented, nominations were closed. The nomination passed unanimously by the voting members present, 6-0.

Chairman Griffin asked for nominations for Vice-Chairman.

MOTION by Commissioner Stopper nominating Dexter Savage for Vice-Chairman. With no other nominations presented, nominations were closed. The nomination passed unanimously by the voting members present, 6-0.

The Planning Commission took a brief recess to reorganize.

COUNCIL DIRECTED APPOINTMENTS TO PLANNING COMMISSION

The Commission proceeded with choosing the City Council directed appointments to the Planning Commission. The City Clerk presented a box of names and each commissioner drew a lot to determine which Councilmember they will be reporting to, and which two Planning Commissioners would be at-large members. The assignments were drawn randomly.

Commissioner Stopper Council Member Shawn Nelson
Commissioner Price - At-large
Commissioner Savage At large
Commissioner Hart - Council Member Don Bankhead
Chairman Griffin Council Member Sharon Quirk
Commissioner Bailey - Council Member Dick Jones

In Commissioner Francis absence, he was given the last name- Council Member Leland Wilson.

Chairman Griffin asked the Deputy City Attorney to explain the process. Deputy City Attorney Barlow explained that the City Council had elected a new method of selecting Planning Commissioners. Each City Council member would appoint individual Planning Commission members, and the City Council as a whole would vote for the two at-large members. It was decided that a random drawing would be held and each commissioner would be assigned to a council member . When Council makes appointments in the future, it will be by this new method.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

ITEM NO. 1
PRJ04-00781 ZON04-0077A. APPLICANT: DOUG BROWNE; PROPERTY OWNER: TIM DE FIESTA

Staff report dated January 12, 2005 was presented pertaining to a request for a Conditional Use Permit to allow an approximately 130-seat church use in a 4,280 square-foot space in an existing industrial condo park, on property located at 1100 East Valencia Drive (southwest corner of Raymond Avenue and Valencia Drive) (M-G zone) (Categorically exempt under Section 15301 of CEQA Guidelines).

Assistant Planner Sowers reported that churches are conditionally permitted uses in an industrial zone. The church proposes to locate to the Fullerton East Business Park. The church desires to operate on weeknights and weekends, with office use during the weekdays. This item was previously heard by the Planning Commission, and was denied without prejudice. The modifications that have been made are in regards to the location of parking. This portion of Valencia Drive is a private street which has 27 parking spaces allocated to the business park. There is room for 20 spaces along the south side of Valencia Drive. There are five assigned spaces to this unit within the park, which would accommodate the daily office use. The largest parking demand is proposed on Sunday, which will require 45 parking spaces. Staff believes that the church will operate when limited concurrent uses are operating, and adequate parking exists, if street parking is used. Also, because the use would not be detrimental to the general health and welfare of the public, staff recommended approval of the request, with conditions.

Staff highlighted certain conditions of approval. The operations of the church will conform to the conditions presented in the application, i.e. weeknight and weekend use only. The seating is limited to 132, requiring 44 parking stalls, with no concurrent use of the assembly and function area. The applicant must demonstrate access to the 44 parking stalls. This condition has been added since the writing of the staff report, due to a letter receive in opposition. There was a discrepancy among the number of spaces being made available to the church. Approval should be based on the applicant demonstrating non-restricted access to 44 spaces within the park and on the private street. This CUP would be subject to revocation if any of the conditions were not complied with.

Commissioner Stopper asked about the private street parking. Assistant Planner Sowers stated that the street was abandoned and owned by the property to the west. That property owner had a parking agreement which allows 27 of the 45 spaces to be used by the park. She showed the spaces being discussed on the site plan.

Commissioner Price asked if the Owners' Association could allocate the 27 spaces to the individual units. Deputy City Attorney Barlow stated that she had not seen the agreement, but under normal circumstances, it would allow the Association to allocate spaces based on the CC & Rs.

Public hearing opened.

Tim De Fiesta, pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, thanked Assistant Planner Sowers and Chief Planner Rosen for their help with the project, as well as those business owners who offered their parking spaces. He also thanked the manager of the association who has supported him, and congratulated the new Chairman.

Mr. De Fiesta stated that at the previous meeting, the main concern had been parking. He had not been prepared that night and had written a letter to the Board of Directors of the Association and tried to address the concerns. He reviewed what he had accomplished.

  1. Cornerstone Christian Fellowship is addressing security, parking and sanitation issues. Uniformed security is being provided by the 20 members of the mens ministry, and the schedule will be posted on a regular basis. Congregants vehicles will have distinguishing stickers and park in designated areas. Five spaces will be allocated for visitors. Security persons will have radios, a log book and will designate a liaison. The church will provide trash receptacles and will empty them at the conclusion of any activity, and will adhere to all sanitation rules.

  2. All services will be indoors and usually on Sundays when most businesses are not in operation, to not impact the surrounding businesses.

  3. He felt that asphalt deterioration was caused by the weather and also mentioned that the surrounding businesses use the spaces five times a week, where the church would be using it only a few days a week.

  4. The average attendance, including youth, is 130 per Sunday.

Mr. De Fiesta took photos on the previous Saturday and Sunday, and there were only two to three cars there. The Board of Directors stated in the minutes of their November meeting that they were not authorized to approve special requests for parking. The Board of Directors suggested that the church approach business owners to acquire sufficient parking. Mr. De Fiesta did approach the businesses, and acquired 83 parking spaces from 15 nearby businesses. He stated that he now has 138 parking spaces, which would be more than enough parking for their proposed use.

Mr. De Fiesta stated that the church will not harm the business owners; he felt that their presence would be beneficial. He went to the Police Department and asked if there were any scheduled times that police would patrol. He was told that the police do not have scheduled times, but would respond when there is a need. He displayed a graph showing crime density in this area from the time period covering January through June of 2004, which showed a lesser amount of crime in this area, and very little to report.

Commissioner Stopper asked if the parking spaces were purchased when the property was procured. Mr. De Fiesta stated that there were a number of spaces allotted to each business owner, and they have five.

Deputy City Attorney Barlow stated that she had reviewed the CC&Rs, and each individual owner owned the unit and a percentage interest in the common area parking lot. The Board of Directors can allocate those parking spaces, but the owners do not own them. All owners of a space have an undivided right in the common area and to ingress and egress rights.

Commissioner Stopper asked if 27 of the 45 spaces discussed were not included. Deputy City Attorney Barlow said that the association owns an easement for parking on the private street (27) and was precluded from giving ownership to a particular unit. The association has the right to allocate those spaces. No individual owns any of the 27 spaces; the remaining 18 are covered by a non-exclusive easement and available to any member of the public or property owners on the other side of the street. The south side is non-exclusive parking, but cannot be assigned.

Commissioner Bailey asked if the permission given by other businesses in the complex was in writing. Mr. De Fiesta responded affirmatively.

Chief Planner Rosen added that staff received new information and found that the individuals that signed the letters of support providing parking spaces may not have been authorized to do so. In many cases, tenants signed the letter rather than the property owner. Staff had not verified all the names and signatures at this time.

Commissioner Bailey asked if the building owners could assign parking. Deputy City Attorney Barlow reiterated that the Board could only assign spaces, and they have the right to the allocation. Once the board allocates space, the OWNER has the right to determine who gets to use that space and maybe has further given that right to the USER.

Commissioner Price asked to review the new condition again, and Assistant Planner Sowers displayed it on the overhead projector. He asked if the 44-space minimum could only be satisfied by on-site parking. Chief Planner Rosen stated that the easement parking could be allocated by the board for church use, could be generally qualified as open parking, or could be allocated to individual condo units. The church may need permission from the adjacent property owners for parking. Commissioner Price asked if the 27 spaces on the north side were not assigned, would something have to change to make these for the exclusive use of the church.

Deputy City Attorney Barlow stated that the board could rent the spaces to the church for a fee to make up for the lack of availability for other association members.

Commissioner Price asked if it was accurate information that there are 44 spaces available for exclusive use. Chief Planner Rosen reiterated that there was now conflicting evidence.

Commissioner Savage asked if the applicant was willing to accept the new condition, and Mr. De Fiesta answered affirmatively. Commissioner Savage asked the Deputy City Attorney if the 44 spaces had to be agreed to inside the business park by the owners agreeing to provide them. Deputy City Attorney Barlow explained that a written document needed to be presented to the Director of Development Services by the party or parties with the authority to authorize the churchs use of the spaces.

Commissioner Price asked how the church would enforce what had been promised. Mr. De Fiesta stated that members would only use what was assigned to them. Commissioner Price asked what he would do if the members did not understand or comply with the rules. Mr. De Fiesta said the property manager would help identify those parking spaces that are not permitted, so there would not be any confusion.

Jack Abouchar, owner of three units in the park addressed the Commission. He was on the board when the parking spaces were assigned. The 45 spaces came later, 27 are allocated to the business park, and the other 18 open. The 22 spaces along Valencia are periodically used by semi trucks and trailers, and are left the whole weekend. He noted that the owners of 1102 Valencia were present to protest the church, however, the tenant signed an approval for use of the space. He felt it was still an inappropriate use of the facility.

Chairman Griffin stated that the Commission received a letter from Mr. Abouchar dated January 12, 2005, regarding his concerns.

Commissioner Hart looked at the packet provided and felt that there were conflicting numbers. The business owners at 1108 and 1112 and 1100 seemed to be the only ones in favor.

Commissioner Stopper asked if the board considered assigning parking spaces according to the day or time of day of use. Mr. Abouchar said that it would be impossible to monitor such an arrangement.

Commissioner Bailey asked what type of uses were in the area, if any worked on Sunday and had the board made a decision on compatibility of use. Mr. Abouchar stated that there are varied uses, but no public assembly uses and none currently working on Sunday. They would like the option of working on Sunday to be left open and six of the Board members stated they did not want a church use in their facilities.

Commissioner Stopper asked what the vacancy rate was, and Mr. Abouchar answered that it was zero.

Philip Kell, from the California Baptist Foundation, assists congregations in finding spaces. This is a permitted use and the issue is if adequate parking can be obtained, and no detriment can be found, the Planning Commission must agree to the church at this location. There are many churches in these types of facilities in many places of this type and there are no complaints of having churches as neighbors. He talked about the religious land use act, which says that a public entity cannot prohibit a use just because it is religious based. If Mr. De Fiesta obtains the necessary parking, as the new condition states, the church should be allowed.

Doyle Braden, Director of the Orange County Southern Baptist Association. They have 18 churches who meet in a business park, and the churches have proven to be an asset to an industrial area. They pride themselves in responding to the needs of the city in which they are located. He asked that the proposal be approved.

Reverend Jason Lang, senior pastor of Calvary Community Church, stated that he has let Cornerstone use their facility and they have done no harm to the property and have been great tenants. The congregants are very respectful, they do not litter, do not take up restricted parking, adhere to the schedules given to them, and there have been no problems. He supported the request.

Denise Eastin owns two units and is on the Board of Directors. She stated that when she came to the last meeting, she was opposed to the project because of the parking. When she left the meeting she had questions. She now is in full support of the project. The church has shown a willingness to work on all of the issues, she concurs with their security plan and felt more secure by their presence. The parking issue has been well addressed. The proposal put before the Board of Directors is adequate and she is willing to allocate her spaces to them. She could not imagine why any business would not want them to be there. She is confident that only the spaces the church is allocated would be used. The church was very willing to work through any issue and will be good neighbors.

Doug Brown, felt it is important that the elements of the conditions are well considered. The new condition is very well written and there are no holes in it. He felt that the condition would protect all parties involved.

Tom Whitney, TJ Whitney Company, owns three businesses in this park. He stated at the last meeting, the Planning Commission instructed the church to get the owners permission and in his opinion, that is not what they have done. He said that 88% of the owners did not give permission; rather the church only has permission of the tenants. The church has other activities, funerals, baptisms, weddings, etc. other than just a Sunday service. He felt it was an inappropriate use and there were problems other than parking over which they have no control. He displayed photos of what goes on in this industrial park, i.e. trailers, trash trucks (which back up), a number of open doors, sand blasters and surface grinders, freight trucks, construction, abandoned cars, hazardous waste, an open flood control channel, and train tracks, which are unprotected. The church representatives have threatened legal action and he asked that the Planning Commission not burden the existing businesses.

Doug Brown asked that the application be judged on its merit and not any code enforcement issues.

Lynn Abouchar, stated that it boils down to the fact that a church needs a certain amount of parking, and a property owner buys land knowing what the restrictions are. He discussed church growth and a potential need for additional parking. He stated that 22 of 24 business owners do not want their parking being utilized by a church. He stated that churches have other activities than only Sunday worship services.

Lelaine Villanueva, a member of church since 1992. She felt that she is a responsible mother and will be able to protect her children and be a good citizen as a member of this church.

Public hearing closed.

Chairman Griffin asked for a clarification of the church uses law. Deputy City Attorney Barlow reported that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) precludes a jurisdiction from excluding religious uses, or treating religious uses less favorably than other assembly uses. Also, a city cannot impose a substantial burden for the religious exercise of a person, including a church, except under certain circumstances. She has researched the law and a religious use must be treated equally. Findings should be made based on the assembly use. She required the Commission to disregard the religious ethic of the church and disregard that it is a church, but only look at it as an assembly use with adults and children. This is a permitted use, but a conditionally permitted use.

Commissioner Savage stated that he had been a manufacturer for 37 years, and is in an industrial park in Fullerton. His business has constantly changed over that time, in order to complete with the industrial sector. He currently works eight hours a day, six days a week, but he has been known to work on Sundays and he is classified as light but can be light/heavy. He explained the volume and activity of his business.

Deputy City Attorney Barlow asked for a brief recess for five minutes.

Reconvened at 8:55 p.m.

Deputy City Attorney Barlow stated that in light of the Vice Chairmans comments regarding owning property within 300 feet of the subject property on Ash Avenue, it would have an impact if he had a financial interest. This decision would not have a financial interest on the value of his property, given all the circumstances. However, in the interest of ensuring that there was no impact, Vice Chairman Savage would abstain, leave the dais, and not participate in this decision.

Chairman Griffin thanked Deputy City Engineer Barlow for recognizing that issue at this point in the meeting.

Commissioner Stopper stated that when this item was first presented, he felt there was insufficient information provided regarding parking. He felt that there was still insufficient information to make a clear decision. He had no doubts about the church being a good tenant or owner, but there was a discrepancy based on a later decision. He did not want to support the project as presented, but would support a continuance or a denial without prejudice.

Commissioner Price understood the owners concerns, however, the Commission was limited on what they could and could not do, and he could not make a finding that the church would be materially detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the public. He would concur with the recommendation for approval, with satisfactory evidence that 44 spaces be secured.

Commissioner Hart felt that there was no clear cut answer because everyone had the best intentions. She felt it was not the Commissions duty to be the mediator, and must make a decision without divided evidence. Some resolution should be made, the property owner should be able to use it for the purpose they paid for and the church would be a good tenant. She would like to see both parties resolve the issue. At this point, however, she felt there was not enough information to support it.

Commissioner Bailey stated that the parking situation should be resolved prior to the Commission making a finding for a CUP. He was not comfortable basing the CUP on the condition of parking. The Fullerton Municipal Code states that no CUP shall be granted by the Planning Commission, unless the applicant proves that any such use is compatible with other uses in the area. He did not feel this was a compatible use for this industrial park. He would not be supporting it.

Chairman Griffin asked if there was a possibility of a continuance agreed to by the Commission. Commissioner Stopper was in favor, Commissioner Hart was in favor, Commissioner Price would not oppose, Commissioner Bailey would not be opposed to it, but still had concerns with the compatibility issue.

Chairman Griffin asked if the Planning Commission was within their rights to continue the matter. Deputy City Attorney Barlow stated that the public hearing had been closed, so staff would not have to renotice, and could continue the matter to allow for the applicant to obtain permission from owners to resolve some of the Commissioners concerns. The applicant did not have to consent to the continuance.

MOTION by Stopper to CONTINUE this item to a date certain, and seconded by Commissioner Hart. Chief Planner Rosen suggested February 23, 2005 and staff would send another notice as a courtesy. MOTION passed unanimously 5 0 for a continuance to February 23, 2005, at 7:00 p.m.

Commissioner Savage rejoined the meeting.

OTHER MATTERS

COMMISSION/STAFF COMMUNICATION

Chairman Griffin thanked all the commissioners for their support in appointing him chairman. He also thanked Commissioner Stopper for his leadership. He would also like to know when his term would expire with the new numbers being drawn.

Chief Planner Rosen gave information about a community meeting for Providence being held and when it would go to the RDRC. He also discussed the proposed Elks Club development community meeting on January 19th. On January 27th the RDRC will review the Jacaranda project. Chief Planner Rosen mentioned that all of the dates are on the Citys website and the dates will be provided to the Commission in writing.

Commissioner Bailey asked if any investigation had been done on the alley next to Mulberry Street Restaurant. Chief Planner Rosen stated that the City Engineer was reviewing it and would report to the Planning Commission at the next meeting. The Commission also discussed the sale of the Gilbert Fire Station.

REVIEW OF COUNCIL ACTIONS

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

PUBLIC COMMENTS

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

AGENDA FORECAST

The next regularly-scheduled Planning Commission will be on January 26, 2005, at 7:00 p.m.

ADJOURNMENT

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:28 p.m.

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