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CITY COUNCIL AGENDA ITEM NO. 14

Meeting Date: April 9, 2002

Subject/Title: Public Hearing –General Plan Amendment (GPA 02-02), a revision in the text relating to the City’s Residential Density Transition Policy.

Submitted by: Community Development Department (Oshinsky/Leana)

Approved by: John Stevenson, City Manager


RECOMMENDATION Pass Resolution 02-XXX approving GPA 02-02 which would enable exceptions to the City’s Residential Density Transition Policy under defined circumstances following review and approval by the Planning Commission during the tentative map review process.

BACKGROUND At its March 5th meeting the Planning Commission, in a 3-1 vote, recommended approval of the attached general plan land use element text amendment relating to the city’s residential density transition policy.

Adoption of the 1993 General Plan in June, 1993, established the city’s residential density transition policy. With the intent to create a high quality residential environment and promote compatibility between and within new and existing neighborhoods, a density transition policy was formulated in order to protect the integrity of existing land use patterns and minimize the impacts on existing uses and residents.

Policy 2.1.2 C. of the Land Use Element of the General Plan states that it shall be City policy to require buffer lots in new residential developments that abut or face existing large residential lots as follows:

1. Lot sizes within new development shall be compatible with lot sizes in adjacent existing development. 
2. Proposed lots facing or abutting existing residential lots zoned Ranchette Estate (RE) or of one (1) acre or more shall have a minimum area of 20,000 square feet. 
3. Proposed lots facing or abutting existing residential lot sizes of one-half (1/2) acre but less than one (1) acre shall have a minimum area of 10,000 square feet.

In most cases, the Planning Commission has enforced this requirement on new residential subdivisions, but has allowed deviations in particular cases when adherence to the standard seemed inappropriate or unjustified. In these instances particular findings were adopted as part of the resolution to justify why the Commission deviated from the city standard. Projects where deviations to the density transition policy have occurred include the Richmond American Homes and Greystone Homes projects along the west side of Fairview Avenue, and the William Lyon Homes project within SPA ‘L’.

On a recent project before the Planning Commission, staff recommended a deviation from the density transition policy based upon prior precedent setting actions and included appropriate findings. The City Attorney felt that due to the “mandatory’ language in the General Plan text, “shall” rather than the “permissive” language “should,” that the Planning Commission had no other option than to follow the mandatory language and require adherence to the policy, even though the staff proposed deviation was consistent with prior Planning Commission actions.

Following additional discussion with the City Attorney, staff proposed a general plan text change to enable the Planning Commission to at least be able to consider deviations from the density transition policy under specified conditions. 


ANALYSIS Staff formulated three instances that would enable the Planning Commission to at least consider deviations from the city’s existing density transition policy, two of which have been utilized in the past. The exact language that staff is proposing is as follows:

At the discretion of the Planning Commission during the tentative subdivision map review process, the density transition policy may be modified, following the adoption of specified findings, under the following circumstances:

1. When the adjacent property has a land use and/or zoning designation that would enable the future subdivision of the adjacent property into lots of a size similar to those planned in the proposed subdivision, even though the property owner has no present intentions to subdivide their property. 
2. When the adjacent property is or will be separated by an existing or proposed arterial street that includes a 30 foot wide parkway. 
3. When the adjacent property is separated by a natural barrier (ie – a creek, streambed, river, drainage basin, canal or similar passageway).

Following input from the public and general discussion among the Commissioners, the Planning Commission voted to modify the wording in the exemptions as follows: (the changes are underlined)
#2 When the adjacent property is or will be separated by at least 120 feet of right-of-way or a proposed arterial street that includes a 30-foot wide parkway.

#3 When the adjacent property is separated by a natural or man-made barrier (ie – a creek, streambed, river, drainage basin, canal or similar passageway). And

#4 was added as follows:
When there is a proposal to deviate from the density transition policy, the developer shall make a good faith effort to acquire a letter from all neighboring and/or affected parcel owners outlining their positions, either in favor of or in opposition to the modification in the density transition policy.

These changes have been reflected in the attached City Council Resolution.

Again, these are instances that will enable the Planning Commission to consider deviations from the density transition policy, and are not intended to assume a developer will be allowed to deviate from this requirement.

As part of this process staff presented this change to the City Council’s Housing subcommittee. The subcommittee endorsed the revised language with the stipulation that in those instances where the Planning Commission adopts appropriate findings and elects to deviate from the density transition policy, the Planning Commissions action would be a recommendation to the City Council.

The City Attorney informed staff that if the City Council desires to review the Planning Commission’s action or deviations to the Density Transition Policy, it would have to be via a public hearing and the entire subdivision would have to be considered. Staff had hoped we could just bring this one topic to the Council for action, not the entire subdivision map.

If the Council desires to amend the existing density transition policy, it should decide if it desires to formally review all requests to modify the density transition policy (and, hence the entire subdivision map), selectively review particular requests, or allow the Planning Commission final action on these requests, (except in the case of appeals of the Planning Commission decision).








CITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION NO. 02-XXX

A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BRENTWOOD APPROVING GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENT 02-02 AMENDING THE TEXT OF THE LAND USE ELEMENT OF THE CITY GENERAL PLAN RELATING TO DENSITY TRANSITION.

WHEREAS, the City of Brentwood adopted a Residential Density Transition Policy as part of the Land Use Element in a comprehensive update of its General Plan in 1993; and

WHEREAS, the City of Brentwood reaffirmed this Residential Density Transition Policy in the update of its Land Use Element of the General Plan in 2001; and

WHEREAS, the purpose of the Density Transition Policy is to create a high quality residential environment and promote compatibility between and within new and existing neighborhoods in order to protect the integrity of existing land use patterns and minimize the impacts on existing use and residents; and 
WHEREAS, there have been and will be instances where adhering to the strict “letter of the law” would create an unfairness to the developer of vacant property that lies adjacent to or across from undeveloped or underdeveloped property, but which could be developed to a higher intensity; and

WHEREAS, it is the intent of the City of Brentwood to provide a forum to consider exceptions to the strict adherence to the Residential Density Transition Policy; and

WHEREAS, the Planning Commission of the City of Brentwood held a Public Hearing on the proposed change and by passage of Resolution 02-08 is recommending revised language for possible exceptions to the Residential Density Transition Policy; and

WHEREAS, a duly noticed public hearing notice was published in the Ledger Dispatch on March 27, 2002, as required by the City Code and Govt. Code Section 65090; and

WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Brentwood held a Public Hearing on April 9, 2002 to consider this General Plan Text Amendment, reviewed the Staff Report, the Planning Commission’s recommendations, and considered all public comments; and

WHEREAS, this text amendment is not considered a “project” under the California Environmental Quality Act.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council:

1. Finds that General Plan Amendment 02-XXX is internally consistent with the City General Plan 
2. Recommends that the City Council approve GPA 02-02 by modifying Policy 2.1.2(c) of the Land Use Element of the City General Plan by adding the following language:

At the discretion of the Planning Commission during the tentative subdivision map review process, the density transition policy may be modified, following the adoption of specified findings, under the following circumstances:

1. When the adjacent property has a land use and/or zoning designation that would enable the future subdivision of the adjacent property into lots of a size similar to those planned in the proposed subdivision, even though the property owner has no present intentions to subdivide their property.

2. When the adjacent property is or will be separated by at least 120 feet of right-of way or a proposed arterial street that includes a 30 foot wide parkway.

3. When the adjacent property is separated by a natural or man-made barrier (i.e., a creek, streambed, river, drainage basin, canal or similar passageway).

When there is a proposal to deviate from the density transition policy, the developer shall make a good faith effort to acquire a letter from all neighboring and/or affected parcel owners outlining their positions, either in favor of or in opposition to the modification in the density transition policy.

PASSED AND ADOPTED by the City Council of the City of Brentwood at its meeting of April 9, 2002, by the following vote: