Building Moratorium to Protect Vistas Until Hillside Law Is in Effect
The City Council has ordered a 60-day building moratorium, effective immediately, for a two-block area in southwestern Torrance that recently was included in a restrictive zoning area that protects views.
The emergency ordinance was necessary, city officials said, because the inclusion of the area--bounded by Paseo de Granada, Via Colusa, Calle de Andalucia and Via Pascual--and amendments to the existing Hillside Overlay District will not take effect for five to seven weeks.
City Manager LeRoy Jackson said there are three applications on file with the Building Department for homes in the area. One of the three will be allowed to go forward with plans because they are nearly completed, but Jackson said that to allow new construction without the guidelines of the ordinance would “defeat the purpose of placing the area within the hillside ordinance.”
Minor changes to homes will be allowed.
The City Council rejected inclusion of an area in the west side of the city--which had originally petitioned to be covered by the regulation--after residents there convinced the City Council that the majority of them no longer wanted to be included.
The City Council also tightened the language of the ordinance in the hope of resolving years of haggling over the definition of “significant” and “hardship” as they relate to proposed construction.
“Significant"--as in “proposed development will not have a significant impact upon view, light, air and privacy of other properties in the vicinity"--has been replaced with “adverse.”
“Hardship"--as in denial of a project “would constitute an unreasonable hardship"--now applies when it “deprives such property of privileges enjoyed by other property in the vicinity and under identical zoning classification.”
In the past, there have been been debates before the Planning Commission and City Council over how much view blockage is “significant.” Homeowners seeking a waiver from the building restrictions had argued that denial of their proposed expansion would cause them a hardship because they had growing families and could not afford to move elsewhere.
Assistant City Atty. Bill Quale said the courts generally do not allow family or economic considerations in land-use decisions.
The tightening of the ordinance was a result of meetings held since August by the Community Planning and Design Committee of the City Council and the Ad Hoc Committee of the Planning Commission.
The Riviera Homeowners Assn. had sought changes to eliminate what it called loopholes that allowed residents to make additions to their homes that blocked other homeowners’ views.
“As a whole, we tend to agree with the committee’s recommendations,” said Kay White, a spokeswoman for the homeowners association. “However, we would prefer further refinement.”
The homeowners had sought to have the ordinance say that developments would have “no impact upon the view,” and eliminate all references to hardship as a reason for a waiver from the ordinance. In addition, the homeowners wanted notice of public hearings on proposed projects to be expanded from a 300-foot radius to 400 feet and to protect views from public rights of way. They also wanted proposed developments to be compatible in height, bulk and design with other properties in the vicinity.
The City Council, however, agreed with the committee’s recommendation not to include any of those suggestions.