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CITY COUNCIL AGENDA ITEM NO. 23

Meeting Date: February 26, 2008

Subject/Title: Public hearing to hear an appeal filed by Matt Ellison of K & E Properties of the Planning Commission’s effective denial of an amendment to an approved design review (DR 05-27) for the City Block retail center to allow for an unsignalized left-in turn pocket for westbound traffic at the main Balfour Road entrance. The center is generally located on the property at the southwest corner of the intersection of Griffith Lane and Balfour Road, west of the In-Shape City fitness center.

Prepared by: Debbie Hill, Associate Planner

Submitted by: Howard Sword, Community Development Director

RECOMMENDATION
Staff recommends that the City Council deny the appeal filed by Matt Ellison of K&E Properties, thereby upholding the Planning Commission’s effective denial of the proposed amendment to a design review (DR 05-27) for the City Block retail center to allow for an unsignalized left-in turn pocket for westbound traffic at the main Balfour Road entrance.

BACKGROUND
The original City Block design review (DR 05-27) was approved by the Planning Commission on March 21, 2006, without direct left-in access for westbound traffic along Balfour Road. On March 6, 2007, the Planning Commission denied an amendment request for a full-signalized intersection at the City Block entrance aligned with Veterans Park. The City Council upheld this denial on an appeal filed by the applicant on May 22, 2007, and referred design alternatives back to the Planning Commission for consideration. At the appeal hearing the surrounding residents spoke out against a signal at this location.

The applicant proposed a design alternative of an unsignalized left-in turn pocket. At the Planning Commission meeting of November 20, 2007, a hearing was held regarding this subsequent design review amendment request for the installation of an unsignalized left-in turn pocket for westbound traffic at the main entrance to the City Block project along Balfour Road. After the close of the hearing and discussion, the Commission voted on a motion to deny the unsignalized left-in turn pocket, however, no action was taken as a majority vote could not be obtained and one Commissioner was absent. Therefore, pursuant to Council Policy 110-1, Rule 16, the item was added to a future Planning Commission agenda.

At the January 15, 2008, Planning Commission meeting, this item was again agendized and heard. The public hearing was closed and after Commission discussion, a motion to deny the project was made. The motion did not pass, with two Commissioners voting for denial and two opposed. Commissioner Stirling did not participate due to a conflict. No further motions were made; therefore, the proposed amendment was effectively denied.

Matt Ellison of K & E Properties has filed an appeal of this denial based on information contained in the traffic analysis prepared for the project and on his opinion regarding vehicle and pedestrian safety issues.

As required by Section 17.880.003.C, Matt Ellison has completed the required application, submitted the required appeal fee, and provided a statement setting forth the specific grounds for the appeal. At the City Council meeting of February 12, 2008, the public hearing to hear this appeal was set for this February 26, 2008, meeting.

PLANNING COMMISSION ACTION
At its November 20, 2007, and January 15, 2008, meetings, the Planning Commission heard from the applicant, other business owners, and some area residents. Issues raised by various individuals included high vehicle speeds and heavy traffic volumes on Balfour Road, the equality with other centers in the City that had left-turn pockets, and whether the design of the shared Griffith Lane entrance into the center was adequate. The City’s traffic engineering staff was available at the meetings to answer questions for the Commission regarding traffic concerns. However, with one Commissioner recused (Stirling), a majority vote to approve or deny the project did not pass.

For more detailed information concerning the discussion at the Planning Commission meetings, please see the attached minutes of the November 20, 2007, and January 15, 2008, hearings.

ANALYSIS
In order to assist the Council with their consideration of this appeal, staff has attached the January 15, 2008, Planning Commission staff report detailing the issues and concerns in regard to this amendment request.

Staff would like to emphasize the following points for Council consideration:

1. The applicant has been promoting an unsignalized left-turn access for westbound traffic for this project since the original project approval. Staff has been consistent in denying this request from initial discussions with the applicant, due to the short distance from the project entrance to the intersection at Balfour Road/Griffith Lane and the potential associated traffic issues.

Although it was not considered an optimal situation, staff was able to recommend approval of the earlier request for a full-signalized intersection to align with the Veterans Park entrance, as it would stop traffic along Balfour Road, thereby enabling a safe vehicular left-in turning movement, as well as the fact that the proposal included moving the entrance further west away from the existing Balfour Road/Griffith Lane intersection. The applicant agreed to move the entrance further west, but was informed at that time that he would be doing so at his own risk, since the signal had not yet been approved. The surrounding residents were against the signal at this location. The Council ultimately voted to deny the signal request. Without the protection afforded by a signal, the City’s Traffic Engineer does not feel this turning movement would be safe.

2. One of staff’s responsibilities includes independently evaluating the information and conclusions contained within the Fehr & Peers traffic analysis. Although the analysis concludes that a left-turn into the development could be accommodated as long as modifications to the Balfour Road/Griffith Lane intersection are also included, the City’s Traffic Engineer does not support or agree with this conclusion. Generally, drivers accessing the elementary school, park and senior center and travelling along Balfour Road in general would not anticipate cross-traffic at mid-block. Additionally, the situation would be compounded by vehicle speed and the anticipated increase in traffic along Balfour Road.

The Council should note that the improvements required to accommodate the left-turn pocket would require almost a complete redesign of the existing intersection, which would affect traffic during the installation.

For a more detailed analysis of the proposed left-turn pocket, please see the attached January 15, 2008, staff report.

CONCLUSION
In conclusion, staff’s recommendation of denial for the left-turn pocket is consistent with its original direction to the applicant. In addition, although the professional opinion of Fehr & Peers is respected, the City’s Traffic Engineer does not concur with the conclusions contained in the traffic analysis prepared for this amendment request.

Should the Council wish to approve the left-turn pocket, thereby approving the appeal, staff will need to prepare a mitigated negative declaration in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to be presented at a future meeting for Council approval along with the necessary approval resolution.

FISCAL IMPACT
The applicant paid the required $122 appeal fee. If Council approves the appeal to allow for an unsignalized left-in turn pocket, the improvements would be paid for by the developer.

ENVIRONMENTAL DETERMINATION
A mitigated negative declaration was prepared for the previously denied four-way signalized intersection for this project. In accordance with CEQA, no environmental document is required to be adopted to deny a project. Should the City Council desire to approve the requested left-turn pocket, staff will need to return with a revised mitigated negative declaration or other environmental document for the Council’s review and approval.

Attachments:
1. City Council resolution denying the appeal.
2. Appeal application received from Matt Ellison of K & E Properties, dated “Received January 23, 2008”
3. Letter from Matt Ellison of K & E Properties dated January 22, 2008
4. Planning Commission staff report for DR 05-27-A2 dated January 15, 2008.
5. Planning Commission minutes from the meeting of November 20, 2007.
6. Planning Commission minutes from the meeting of January 15, 2008.
7. Memorandum from Fehr & Peers dated August 24, 2007, dated “Received August 27, 2007”
8. Project plans dated “Received November 8, 2007” prepared by SDG Architects, Inc.
CITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION NO.

A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BRENTWOOD DENYING AN AMENDMENT TO A DESIGN REVIEW (DR 05-27) FOR THE CITY BLOCK COMMERCIAL CENTER TO INCORPORATE A LEFT-TURN POCKET FOR WESTBOUND TRAFFIC ALONG BALFOUR ROAD INTO THE MAIN PROJECT ENTRANCE. THE CITY BLOCK CENTER IS GENERALLY LOCATED AT THE SOUTHWEST CORNER OF THE INTERSECTION OF BALFOUR ROAD AND GRIFFITH LANE, WEST OF THE IN-SHAPE CITY FITNESS CENTER (APN 010-110-014).

WHEREAS, the Planning Commission considered and approved Design Review 05-27 by a 4-0-1 vote for the City Block project on March 21, 2006 by Resolution No. 06-17; and

WHEREAS, Matt Ellison, the applicant, filed an amendment to Design Review 05-27 on November 6, 2006, requesting a full signalized access intersection for this project; and

WHEREAS, the Planning Commission effectively denied the amendment to Design Review 05-27 on March 6, 2007; and

WHEREAS, Matt Ellison filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s denial decision on the signalized intersection on March 29, 2007; and

WHEREAS, the City Council held a public hearing on the appeal on May 22, 2007, and voted to deny the appeal, thereby upholding the Planning Commission action, and referred any alternative design solutions to the Planning Commission for consideration; and

WHEREAS, Matt Ellison has submitted an amendment showing an alternative design incorporating a left-turn pocket into the main entrance of the City Block development for westbound traffic along Balfour Road; and

WHEREAS, the Planning Commission effectively denied the amendment to Design Review 05-27 on January 15, 2008; and

WHEREAS, Matt Ellison of K&E Properties filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s denial of the requested design review amendment on January 23, 2008; and

WHEREAS, the City Council set the date of February 26, 2008, for the public hearing on the appeal at their meeting of February 12, 2008; and

WHEREAS, a Notice of Public Hearing was distributed to all property owners of record within 300 feet of the project site and published in the Brentwood Press on February 15, 2008, in accordance with City policies and Government Code Section 65090; and

WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Brentwood held a public hearing on this amendment at its regular meeting of February 26, 2008; and

WHEREAS, the City Council has considered the staff report, supporting documents, public testimony, and all appropriate information that has been submitted with the proposed project; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Brentwood:

A. Hereby finds that:

1. The proposed left-turn pocket has the potential for causing vehicular conflicts due to eastbound traffic queuing past the project entrance and causing sight distance issues for vehicles attempting a left-in from Balfour Road, thereby causing an unsafe condition if the traffic in the northernmost lane (#1 lane nearest the median) along Balfour Road at the entrance to the City Block project is stopped past the entrance, then a vehicle turning from a westbound Balfour Road left-turn pocket into the site may not have a clear view of the approaching oncoming traffic in the southernmost Balfour Road lane (#2 lane nearest City Block) and attempt to proceed with the turn.

2. The inclusion of a left-turn pocket for westbound traffic along Balfour Road into the main entrance of the City Block project will not create a well-composed urban design, harmoniously related to other facilities in the immediate area and to the total setting as seen from key vantage points in the community as the project would involve unnecessary traffic queuing, an unsafe condition, the removal of landscaping resulting in a loss of visual appeal, and access to the City Block project currently is and will be served by existing and proposed access locations along Balfour Road and Griffith Lane which will allow both eastbound and westbound vehicular traffic along Balfour Road sufficient access to the development.

3. The proposed left-turn pocket into the City Block development would not be of a quality and character appropriate to, and serving to protect the value of, private and public investments in the immediate area as the removal of landscaping and trees could ultimately lessen surrounding property values.

4. The City Block development currently has adequate access to the development through the existing driveways along Balfour Road and Griffith Lane; therefore, a left-turn pocket into the center for westbound traffic along Balfour Road is unnecessary, and left-turn access directly into the City Block commercial project for westbound traffic on Balfour Road is not necessary as the left-turn signalized access can be accommodated by the existing traffic signal at Balfour Road and Griffith Lane, with access to the City Block project through the existing entrance at Griffith Lane.

5. Left-turn access directly into the City Block commercial project for westbound traffic on Balfour Road is not conducive to an orderly, attractive, efficient and harmonious development.

6. The proposed left-turn access would have an adverse environmental effect on adjacent development by reason of potential conflicts with traffic.

B. Hereby denies the amendment to Design Review 05-27, to allow for an unsignalized left-turn pocket for westbound traffic along Balfour Road into the main project entrance at Balfour Road, upholding the Planning Commission’s effective denial of the amendment and denying the appeal filed by Matt Ellison.

C. Design Review 05-27, as approved and previously amended, remains in full force and effect.

PASSED by the City Council of the City of Brentwood at its regular meeting of February 26, 2008, by the following vote:
 
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