HomeReal Estate NewsDesign Review Committee Contemplates Way Forward Without Wood Shake Roofs

Design Review Committee Contemplates Way Forward Without Wood Shake Roofs

At its Oct. 5 meeting, the Design Review Committee considered three applications in which residents requested to change their wood shake or shingle roofs to different roofing materials.

The committee narrowly approved an artificial black composite roof material for two of the four structures at 1435 Circle Drive.

Chris Noble of Noble Roofing represented the property owner at the meeting.

“She feels, architecturally, you don’t always have to do exactly the same thing if the structures have different ages to them,” Noble stated.

Noble added that the two rear structures—a garage and sunroom—also “have different roof pitches and have separate configurations from the house.”

Committee Member Kevin Cheng conversed with the homeowner during his visit to the property and appeared to be the only committee member to gain access to the gated property.

1435 Circle Drive
1435 Circle Drive

“The reroofing was to be done because of the fear of fires that she’s read about in the newspaper of the issue with shingle roofs and that’s the purpose of this product, which I believe is fire retardant,” Cheng shared with his fellow committee members.

Cheng added that the material “looked pretty good visually,” noting that the two structures are not visible from Circle Drive or Virginia Road and is just barely visible from neighboring homes.

Vice Chairperson William Dietrick sympathized with the owners’ fire safety concern.

“In San Marino in the past year, we’ve had two shingle roof fires and they’ve caused damage to neighbors, across the street and right next door,” Dietrick said. “I think shingle roofs are a dinosaur and with the drought conditions we have, I don’t think we’re going to have many shingle roofs any more.”

“I also think wood is on its way out. It’s just not a viable material,” Committee Member John Dustin agreed.

However, Dustin and Committee Member Corinna Wong voted against the proposed roofing material, which is not found on the city’s pre-approved roof material list, due to a lack of consistency.

“On a large area like that, in an estate, I think it’s important to have consistency in look and feel,” Wong said.

Chairperson Frank Hsu understood Dustin’s and Wong’s argument, which was supported by city staff’s recommendation.

“In principle I agree with the staff’s finding that it should be consistent,” Hsu said. “But in this particular case, being that it’s not visible from the street, I would probably be fine with varying material.”

“If fire is the owner’s concern, they’d be better off changing all the structures to the same materials,” Hsu added. “Hopefully in the future they’d be able to change that wood shake out.”

Next, the DRC heard the application for 1804 Windsor Road, located seven houses away from 1718 Windsor Road—a home with a wood shake roof—which burned down in July.

Robert Lansford of Lansford Roofing proposed a steel shake material in a weathered wood color with low ridge profile tiles for the visible and steep roof.

“She wants to get the roof done because she doesn’t want her house to burn down,” Lansford said on behalf of the homeowner.

The committee continued the application to its Nov. 16 meeting, however, to allow the applicant time to select a roofing material that would better match the home.

“I would prefer that the homeowner select something else. I understand the product and the purposes for it, I just feel like in this application, it would not be the best to be compatible with itself,” said Cheng.

“I am weary because of the prominence of this roof and the setback of the home is not as far back,” Cheng noted.

“I have mixed feelings about this,” Dustin said. “On the one hand, I totally agree that we have to figure out as a community a way away from wood,” but on the other hand, Dustin thought, the proposed material would appear too uniform.

“This particular location, Windsor Road, the houses are more rustic. You need something a little more natural looking than this,” noted Chairperson Hsu. “In general I’m in favor of having alternative roofing material, but in this particular case, I’m not willing to take the risk.”

Lansford disagreed with the committee’s sentiment.

“The only thing besides this would be a composition [roof material]. I think a composition would look a lot worse, to be honest with you. I think you’re not going to want to see a composition on that house. It’s not going to look like wood at all,” said Lansford.

617 S. Santa Anita Avenue
617 S. Santa Anita Avenue

Lansford also represented the homeowner of 617 S. Santa Anita Avenue, the committee’s final application for the evening.

Lansford proposed the same roofing material for this home, but received different responses from the committee.

“This is a different neighborhood and I think this roofing material would be acceptable for this house,” said Wong.

“The roof is not the outstanding feature on this house,” said Vice Chairperson Dietrick, contrasting this house with the previous one.

The committee unanimously approved the proposed roof.

2900 Sheffield Road

The Design Review Committee unanimously continued the home to its Nov. 2 meeting.

The homeowners have proposed a Spanish-style makeover and single-story addition to the existing Ranch-style two bedrooms, one bathroom home.

While many of the issues from the home’s first hearing in September were addressed, committee members noted, more changes needed to be made.

2900 Sheffield Road
2900 Sheffield Road

Dustin observed that the proposed exterior light fixtures on the garage were “exceedingly large” and “exceedingly bright.”

“They look a little too out of place and grandiose,” Dustin said, demonstrating with his handy measuring tape.

He also criticized the homeowners’ choice of roof tile.

“I’m glad they’re going with the single-piece barrel tiles, that’s much superior to the ‘s-tiles’ that were previously proposed,” he said. “But again, the color choice they’re proposing is a color blend, which is, again, discouraged in the residential design guidelines.”

The committee agreed that a uniform window treatment would be a necessary condition of approval.

“The inconsistent window treatment around the house is not appropriate. I mean you’ve got three different styles of windows, some with muntins and dividers vertically and others going horizontally,” said Dustin.

“The window treatment should be consistent all around,” Cheng agreed. Cheng also recommended the addition of grill work on the proposed windows.

“I think that would be a good addition and a good touch,” he stated.

Chairperson Hsu put the matter more directly.

“The window does not have anything Spanish about it,” Hsu said, noting that the home “looks very bland.”

“If this house is a Spanish house, there’s just nothing that says it’s Spanish other than the tile roof and the entry way and it really doesn’t have a definitive style,” Hsu added, encouraging the homeowners to look at San Marino’s Mission District for examples.

“I know you have a very narrow lot to work with but there are a lot of San Marino homes with a small lot that have a wonderful, charming Spanish design,” said Hsu.

The home currently has one attached garage facing the street and a detached garage at the rear of the 17,000 square foot property. The homeowner intends to demolish the rear garage.

2260 Robles Avenue

Approval was unanimously granted for a two-story home requesting first and second-story additions.

The committee unanimously praised the architect’s proposal at the home’s first hearing on

2260 Robles Avenue
2260 Robles Avenue

Sept. 7. Chairperson Hsu described the proposed addition as “filling the missing piece of the house.”

The proposal was continued from last month’s meeting to afford the applicant time to decide on a new uniform roof material.

At the committee’s Oct. 5 meeting, architect Freeman Han presented a grey color natural slate material by American Slate. Natural grey slate is a City of San Marino pre-approved roof material.

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

DRC Chairperson Frank Hsu instituted a temporary policy in response to the committee’s discussion surrounding an application for 1865 Rose Avenue, which was discussed by the committee at its second September meeting.

“I brought up this issue to our planning director and the thought is that, currently, there are too many opinions, sometimes opposite from each other. There are five committee members, two alternates plus staff report findings, which count as another opinion, for a total of eight opinions and that’s too many opinions floating around. This, in some way, confuses the applicant,” Hsu said.

“Therefore, for the time being, I’m going to limit the committee member discussion to voting members only until all committee members receive the San Marino architecture and guideline training,” he continued, noting that training will take place sometime in the near future.

As a result of the policy, Alternate Committee Members Judy Johnson-Brody and Chris Huang were unable to add their thoughts on applications during the Oct. 5 meeting.


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