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The San Marino City Council ordered that a new historic assessment report be prepared to determine, once and for all, the historic status of 1470 Virginia Road. As a result, the council deferred decisions to determine the local historic status of the 1938 Tudor home designed by San Marino architect Theodore Pletsch and whether or not to approve the construction of a proposed 6,845 square foot, 6 bedroom Spanish Revival home in the existing home’s place. “The city is reaching out to two additional historic consultants to request a service proposal before selecting a consultant,” Assistant Planner Eva Choi told The Tribune via email. At the council’s Oct. 12 meeting, she told the council that the historic report would cost the city approximately $5,000 and take about one month to prepare. The Historic Resource Group in Pasadena prepared the first historic assessment report, which was paid for by William Chan, the owner of 1470 Virginia Road. That report found that the existing home did not meet the criteria required for historic designation at the national, state or local levels. For the Tribune’s history of 1470 Virginia Road, visit A-21 in this week’s paper. Council Members Steve Talt, Steven Huang and Richard Ward voted to commission the new historic assessment report. “There’s an indication that perhaps further research can be done, given [the city staff’s] limited means of available resources,” Talt observed. “Perhaps, in order for the city to be very comfortable in its decision, an independent third party should be…

At its Oct. 5 meeting, the Design Review Committee considered three applications in which residents requested to change their wood shake or shingle roofs to different roofing materials. The committee narrowly approved an artificial black composite roof material for two of the four structures at 1435 Circle Drive. Chris Noble of Noble Roofing represented the property owner at the meeting. “She feels, architecturally, you don’t always have to do exactly the same thing if the structures have different ages to them,” Noble stated. Noble added that the two rear structures—a garage and sunroom—also “have different roof pitches and have separate configurations from the house.” Committee Member Kevin Cheng conversed with the homeowner during his visit to the property and appeared to be the only committee member to gain access to the gated property. “The reroofing was to be done because of the fear of fires that she’s read about in the newspaper of the issue with shingle roofs and that’s the purpose of this product, which I believe is fire retardant,” Cheng shared with his fellow committee members. Cheng added that the material “looked pretty good visually,” noting that the two structures are not visible from Circle Drive or Virginia Road and is just barely visible from neighboring homes. Vice Chairperson William Dietrick sympathized with the owners’ fire safety concern. “In San Marino in the past year, we’ve had two shingle roof fires and they’ve caused damage to neighbors, across the street and right next door,” Dietrick said. “I think…

The proposed teardown of a one-story home at 1865 Rose Avenue was continued by the Design Review Committee at its meeting last week. In place of the existing home, architect Tingting Lu of SGS International proposed a two-story, four-bedroom, 2,770 square foot French Cottage home with a detached, two-car garage. It took no time for committee members to share their concerns about the proposed home’s excessive massing and lack of compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood “It does seem really, really large because of so much roof facing the street with no other design elements,” said Alternate Member Judy Johnson-Brody, noting that she did not have any issues with the proposed home’s French Cottage design. “When I looked around the neighborhood, I only saw a couple homes that were two story,” Johnson-Brody observed. She recommended, “perhaps we look at the height of the first story and how we can reduce the height of the house by a couple of feet or change the roof line.” “A little bit of articulation would go a long way,” suggested Alternate Member Chris Huang, noting that a great deal of the proposed home appeared to be the same color. “This house is visually massive in light of the neighborhood that it is in,” added Committee Member Corinna Wong. “Most of the houses are single story.” Vice Chairperson William Dietrick agreed that the proposed home appeared massive. He stated that the neighboring home, despite being a two-story home, was smaller in mass and scale. “This house…

A brief conversation with Planning and Building Director Aldo Cervantes In the first part of “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” The Tribune published comments from members of the city’s Design Review Committee and Planning Commission—advisory bodies tasked with residential design and development decisions in San Marino. Committee members and commissioners were asked to share their perspectives on the dichotomy between community interests and property rights, a common theme in many DRC and Planning Commission cases. This week, The Tribune spoke with Aldo Cervantes, the city’s planning and building director and 12-year employee of the city of San Marino, who read part one of “Welcome to the Neighborhood.” Cervantes and his nine-person staff work with the city’s zoning codes every day. The codes are very technical, he explained, and they “don’t deal with identifying between community interests and private property rights.” While working with the city’s zoning codes, Cervantes and his colleagues—Associate Planner Amanda Merlo and Assistant Planner Eva Choi—consider four legal findings for design review cases: That the proposed structure is compatible with the neighborhood. That the proposed structure is designed and will be developed in a manner which balances reasonable expectation of privacy of persons residing on contiguous properties with the reasonable expectations of the applicants to develop their property within the restrictions of [the zoning] code. In the case of a building addition, [that] the proposal is compatible with the existing building, which includes rooflines. That the colors and materials are consistent and match the existing building or structure.…

Case Will Have at Least One More Hearing at A Future City Council Meeting A group of nine San Marino residents which appealed the Design Review Committee’s 3-2 decision to approve plans for a proposed 3,068-square-foot two-story Cape Cod home on a 12,444-square-foot lot at 2630 Lorain Road found unanimous support from the Planning Commission at the commission’s July 27 meeting. “This is not the city where we just try to fit something in and when it’s hard to fit we call it done,” Commissioner Raymond Cheng said to the designer of 2630 Lorain Road, Francis Tang. The commission echoed Cheng’s sentiments in its 5-0 vote, which overturned the DRC’s decision to approve the project. Tang filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision later in the week. The San Marino City Council will have at least one opportunity to hear the case at a future meeting. At the commission’s first hearing on the case, commissioners were left confused about the scope of their authority regarding the property. At the commission’s second hearing on July 27, legal clarification provided by city planning staff and City Attorney Steve Dorsey allowed the commission to examine the case anew. According to Associate Planner Amanda Merlo, the commission could conduct the hearing subject to all the same standards as the Design Review Committee. However, Merlo reported, commissioners were not permitted to consider the proposed 2,880-square-foot two-story home on a 7,568-square-foot lot—abutted by the Rubio Wash—to the east of the subject property. Tang, 70, also owns…

Perspectives from Planning Commissioners and DRC Members What are the city’s planning commissioners and design review committee members looking for? Many architects, designers, contractors and homeowners get an answer to that question for the first time in front of the planning commission or the design review committee, the city’s two advisory bodies dedicated to residential design and development. Members from these two advisory bodies—all of whom are volunteers appointed by the San Marino City Council—tend to not like that. Commissioners, committee members and city planning staff who explain architectural consistency and neighborhood compatibility to a homeowner can, at times, appear to be recommending a complete redesign of the homeowner’s proposal. Add in public comments from neighbors and other residents and a homeowner’s first encounter with one of these two advisory bodies may seem hostile. In most cases, commissioners, committee members, planning staff and the public use the San Marino Residential Design Guidelines, a 68-page document meant to “provide a clear concise summary of the City’s design policies for projects within the City’s residential neighborhoods,” to inform their comments. Adopted almost 20 years ago, the document guides homeowners on matters of home design, architecture, landscaping and a home’s place on its property and in the neighborhood. It also includes graphic illustrations of different architectural styles and the city’s design review process. Though, in a variety of circumstances, city codes may allow for designs discouraged by the guidelines, the guidelines carry a great deal of weight with commissioners and committee members. The…

Five residents began their new two-year terms on the design review committee at the city commission’s most recent meeting on July 20. Kevin Cheng, a returning committee member, and Corinna Wong and John Dustin, former alternate members, were sworn in as members of the committee, with Judy Johnson-Brody and Chris Huang sworn in as alternate members. After taking the oath of office, Frank Hsu was unanimously selected to serve as the chairman of the committee. Committee members also unanimously selected William Dietrick to serve as the committee’s vice chairman. Among their fellow colleagues, Hsu and Dietrick are the longest-serving members of the committee at 13 months of service. Four new cases awaited the fresh and newly reorganized DRC last week. 1807 Windsor Road The DRC unanimously approved a plan for a proposed elevator shaft at the two-story home. The elevator will give the resident—a 93-year-old, longtime resident of San Marino—access to his second-story master bedroom. The owner also plans to enclose his second-story master bedroom balcony to provide an access point for the elevator in his bedroom. The enclosed space will add approximately 150 square feet of livable space, according to the owner’s designer. The enclosed space will “give shelter as you’re entering and exiting the elevator,” he added. The DRC objected to proposed domed acrylic skylights, which are discouraged by the city’s design review guidelines, according to a city staff report about the project. Flat skylights were suggested instead. To avoid damages to the existing roof, the approved elevator…

Ruling allows 8,000-sq.-ft. guest house on property to be donated to The Huntington The San Marino City Council overturned the Planning Commission’s decision to deny changes to a proposed 8,000 sq.-ft.-guest house and basement and accessory garden house on the Thornton Estate—deemed a historical resource by the State of California Historical Resources Commission—at 1155 Oak Grove Avenue. Charles and Geneva Thornton, the owners of the eight-acre property since 1987, will bequeath their property and a sizeable endowment fund to The Huntington when they die. The council made its decision over the course of three motions. The first motion was to approve a setback variance to the accessory garden house—originally labeled a “bee house”—on the condition that the structure never be used for bees. The garden house, though located at less than required setback, will not be visible from the street. The council’s second motion was to allow the Thorntons to build a basement underneath their guest house that exceeds 60 percent of the guest house’s footprint, which is the maximum allowed by city ordinance. “[The Thorntons] are not going to sell and make any profit off the basement,” noted Council Member Steven Huang, speaking in approval of the modification to the basement size. At 68 percent of the guesthouse’s footprint, the basement will include a grandchild’s entertainment room, gym and storage space. Allowing a larger basement required the council to approve a third motion, which modifies the size of the guest house from 7,500 sq. ft. to 8,397 sq. ft.…

A $12,000 check went straight from signed to delivered at the latest Planning Commission meeting on June 22. The signature on the check belonged to Raymond Zhong, owner of 1001 Rosalind Road, who decided to pay his fee to the City of San Marino in front of the five-member commission. Zhong paid the fee six days late and after his lawyer sent the city a letter challenging the validity of certain violations. The fee is a consequence of 12 violations committed by Zhong and his staff, most of which were documented and reported to the city by neighbors. The owner’s son, Peter Zhong, contested the neighbor method of reporting violations. He asked that the commission only consider violations that were observed and reported by city staff. Planning and Building Director Aldo Cervantes informed the Zhongs that having city staff present to observe violations is not required by city code. Cervantes also notified the commission that he recently asked the San Marino Police Department to “patrol the area more often than not.” The drama at the 1001 Rosalind Road informational briefing was not abnormal in what has become a very unusual and drawn-out case. The eight-year struggle to build an approximately 10,000 sq. ft. home, tennis court and subterranean garage on the 1.37 acre-property has resulted in strong feelings of distrust from neighbors, commissioners and city staff toward the owners. Twelve mutually-agreed-upon conditions spawned from that air of distrust and were enacted by the planning commission and city council to keep…

The Design Review Committee unanimously approved design modifications to 2549 Huntington Drive, One West Bank’s future location, at its June 1 meeting. Currently doing business at 900 Huntington Drive, One West Bank will be moving to the new facility located at the corner of Winston Avenue and Huntington Drive, right across the street from Tony’s Pizza. The bank will have what is known as a blade sign, which will protrude from the front of the building, adorned with the bank’s logo. The storefront will also have an ATM with a fiberglass surround and lighting. A representative for One West said the designs will not impact any of the landscaping on the sidewalk. The Design Review Committee also unanimously continued the case of 2828 Fleur Drive. Located at the corner of Fleur Drive and Ramiro Road, the applicants proposed changing the roof pitch of the one-story portion of this two-story home from a vaulted roof to a flat design. “The roof, you understand, is a no go,” Chairman Bharat Patel told the applicant’s designers, Jesse Emmert and Matt Mori of Hartman Baldwin, at the DRC’s latest meeting. “We will not accept a flat roof.” Emmert and Mori were responsive to the committee’s suggestion. They said they will work with city staff and neighbors to make the design changes so the project will be compatible with the neighborhood. Though the designers agreed to alter their proposal, Mori explained that he hopes the changes to the home, which is a Spanish Colonial Revival,…