Apparently, our city's hillside ordinance did not move the LCF Planning Commission to deny a proposed project at the top of Vista Miguel at the July 26 meeting, instead continuing hearings.
Many neighbors spoke in unanimous opposition to the project.
Proposed is 7,800 sq. ft. of house plus garage on a hilltop pad 99 vertical feet above street level. Over 11,000 cubic yards of dirt would be excavated from the ridge for the pad, then concrete added to that dirt to "firm it up" then "redistributed" on the property's hillsides, much covering a lovely tree knoll on the west.
An immense driveway 850 by 20 feet would be carved into the western and southern hillside, criss-crossing on its way up in front of BACK yards of neighbors. The sight of moving vehicles (including the applicant's Hummer?) on the driveway from patios and pools was not mentioned as a concern in commissioner's comments, though headlights, noise and driveway lighting were. The large house would be visible from La Cañada Boulevard vantage points. Several commissioners said they thought the hillside would be beautified with new proposed trees; however, the natural scene is lovely now and does not need to be embellished.
Importantly, there is an existing flat pad near street level almost as large as the proposed pad, and in fact five years ago the property's previous owner received a building permit for a similarly sized house there. The applicant used the fact that water currently runs over this area after rains as an excuse to commissioners that he does not want to build in a "drainage area"' but his own hydrology plan, similar to that of the previous owner, provides for a large drainage basin at a higher point on the lot and for redirection of the water flow in this area. Also used was the idea that it is somehow "safer" to build on the "hard" soil of a graded pad but there is no evidence of this either; the permit was issued five years ago for the house on the existing pad and there is no sod problem evidenced on past or present engineering reports.
Several commissioners said they would not want a house "down below" on the existing pad; however, it is a lovely setting with a hillside backdrop on one of our city's nicer streets. The Vista Miguel neighbor closest to the existing pad told the commission he would prefer the house to be built there to "having any more hills in LCF shaved off for homes."
Despite the parcel being 3+ acres, the existing pad is the only NATURALLY buildable area due to the sloped land. The existing flat pad is crucial to our city's hillside ordinance's required findings for project approval since by using the existing pad fire access would be easier and disturbance to existing open space including the ridge and hillside, presentation of bulky house mass, other view impairments including vehicles and the carved hillside and visible dirt fill, and the unreasonable compromise of privacy would be minimized or avoidable. That the Planning Commission did not deny this project at its first hearing citing our hillside ordinance's required findings is very disturbing.
Planning Commission meetings are on second and fourth Tuesdays. Each meeting agenda is posted 72 hours in advance at wwwlacanadaflintridge.com. Watch for continued hearings on 5271 Vista Miguel.
John and Ann McClelland