Growth Fears Prevail in P.V. Estates : Residents Win Changes in Proposed Height, Density Standards

Times Staff Writer

Palos Verdes Estates residents, afraid of overdevelopment and wall-like business buildings, won height and density concessions Tuesday from the City Council during a three-hour public hearing on development standards for commercial and multifamily residential zones.

The relatively small zones are in Malaga Cove, near the Malaga Cove Plaza and City Hall, and along Palos Verdes Drive West in Lunada Bay. The city has few vacant lots, so the proposed regulations would apply largely to redevelopment.

Agreeing with opponents, who mustered petitions, letters and an audience of more than 60 people at the hearing, the council modified height controls--initially proposed as a blanket reduction from 40 feet to 35 feet--to ensure that new structures would be no higher than those they replace. Several residents who live behind commercial zones said they fear that older structures built considerably below the permitted height could be replaced with taller buildings that would block their views.

The council also called for a 1,800-square-foot lot area for each dwelling unit in the multiple-residential zone. Even though the council said the 1,400-square-foot requirement originally proposed would allow far fewer units than the existing 349, residents wanted more restrictions on density.

While modifying development controls, the council left intact some proposed parking provisions--including a parking area in front of City Hall and use of a nearby vacant street right of way--that also drew fire at the hearing. Carl G. Allen, who lives near City Hall, said there is "no planning basis" for such proposals. But the council characterized them as concepts that may or may not be carried out.

Among other proposals are specific off-street parking for businesses, an "in lieu" fee that would be paid by businesses unable to provide the required number of parking spaces, and formation of a committee to advise the council on implementing parking plans. Also proposed is a site review process, similar to an existing one for homes, to ensure that developments are compatible with their neighbors.

Officials said the development proposals--put together over the last year by the Planning Commission and a subcommittee of council members, staff and representatives of the Palos Verdes Homes Assn.--are intended to update 40-year-old regulations and to address matters not covered by the code, including condominium conversions, screening of mechanical equipment and the percentage of a commercial lot that a building may cover.

Some critics said the proposals threaten the quality of life for which people moved to the city, but the council contended that the changes would tighten development controls rather than relax them. Councilman James Kinney said the proposals "upgrade ordinances for life in the 1990s. Our existing ordinances are ill-equipped to do that."

The Planning Commission will consider the changes ordered by the council and may hold a hearing on them Sept. 19. A moratorium on commercial construction in Malaga Cove and Lunada Bay will remain in effect until the council takes final action on development plans.

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