HomeReal Estate NewsDRC Approves Side Yard Wall Amid Opposition

DRC Approves Side Yard Wall Amid Opposition

The San Marino Design Review Committee approved a one-story addition and side yard wall at 2105 Lorain Road, located at the corner of Lorain and Westhaven Roads.

“The addition would fill an existing breezeway and would appear seamless with the existing house,” said San Marino Associate Planner Amanda Merlo, noting that city code prohibits the committee from conditioning a different height and setback for the proposed wall.

Merlo, who made those comments while presenting the project to the committee, noted that the location of the proposed wall would be similar to an existing wall located at the corner property just north, at the corner of Westhaven Road and Sherwood Road.

“This looks more like a continuance of that wall to the north,” said Chairperson Frank Hsu at the DRC’s Oct. 19 meeting. “And as far as the aesthetic goes I think it’s compatible,” he said, noting that the proposed shrubbery would have a softening effect on the submitted 6-foot high, 75-foot long wall.

The wall would be set back 18 inches from the Westhaven Road sidewalk and would stretch from the driveway—next to which an existing wall encloses the backyard—to the master bedroom at the front of the house.

Raymond Cheng, a member of the San Marino Planning Commission and an architect, owns the house. Kevin Cheng, a member of the DRC and Raymond Cheng’s son, recused himself from the hearing.

“We bought this home for a couple of reasons. One, the three children we have, they all live about a mile from this location,” explained Raymond Cheng, noting that his wife is a cancer survivor. “They want to be close to the family to take care of their mother.”

Soon after he moved into his new residence, Cheng noted, he realized that the home’s private quarters—such as the master bedroom and bathroom, office and guest bedroom and bathroom—were along “the busy side.”

“This interferes with our ability to enjoy the home,” said Cheng, noting that nine neighbors approved of the proposed changes. “All the windows along this side of the home are openly exposed to the sidewalk.”

“We’ve been behind closed windows and closed blinds all these seven months,” he added.

Neighbor Stephen Sweeney challenged Cheng’s representation of the sidewalk’s proximity to Cheng’s house.

“Mr. Cheng’s concern that the master bedroom being a few steps from the sidewalk seems to be underestimated,” Sweeney said, noting that the master bedroom is 23 feet away from the sidewalk. “What they have done here is created a second backyard by having this wall.”

“[The wall] feels more like an industrial structure in this beautiful neighborhood,” added Sweeney, who supported the rest of the proposal.

Sweeney used Committee Member Corinna Wong’s and John Dustin’s rationales in his argument against the wall.

“The wall would detract from San Marino’s open and park-like feel,” he noted, quoting Wong’s remark in a Tribune article. “Although these comments are related to a different project, their comments are consistent with the city’s guiding principle which says that development is compatible with the physical setting of the site and the visual character of the neighborhood.”

Two more neighbors spoke in opposition to the proposal, including Steven Tyler.

“Although I do sympathize with the applicant’s situation with his wife—where he’s trying to create a little safer environment—to me it seems like someone who buys a house next to an airport and then says it’s really noisy,” Tyler, a contractor, stated.

Member Dustin was these neighbors’ lone voice on the committee.

“Visually, I do feel that that is a very large expanse of wall that the applicant is asking for,” Dustin said, noting that the house was 18 feet away from the sidewalk at its narrowest point.

Dustin visited the 31 properties presented by Cheng as examples of properties with similar walls in a 1,000-foot radius of his property.

“There is a functional difference between most of them and what the applicant is asking for here and that is that they, due to the orientation of the property and the house, they are serving the function of closing in backyard space,” Dustin said, voting against the Cheng’s proposal.

Cheng did receive support from Vice Chairperson William Dietrick and Alternate Committee Member Chris Huang.

Huang expressed that planting shrubbery in front of the wall would be a “happy medium” between the homeowner’s proposal and the neighbors’ concerns.

“It’s not out of keeping with what he’s got,” said Dietrick, comparing the proposed wall to other homes in the block.

2325 Melville Drive

The committee unanimously voted to continue a proposal for a new front yard wall, driveway gate, patio and walkway.

The project also includes the addition of impervious coverage in the front yard for the driveway and exterior modifications to the front of the house.

“What we’d like to do in general is make the home more family friendly,” said Georgie Kajer, the home’s architect. “The owner’s concern is the safety of the children.”

2325 Melville Drive
2325 Melville Drive

City staff and committee members found the proposal to be compatible with the neighborhood, with the exception of the 8-foot 6-inch wide by 4-foot high driveway gate, which opens out toward the street.

“Most other homes [in the neighborhood] have gates that either open to the back or are located farther down the driveway,” said Associate Planner Merlo, noting staff could support the wrought-iron gate’s open design. “It is not typical for them to open into the front yard, but that’s why it’s before you. It’s something you can determine. Everything about it does meet the requirements for a front yard gate.”

“I don’t think there will be a functional challenge with the gate opening out,” Kajer noted, stating that the gate’s motor would be camouflaged by new shrubbery.

“We don’t have any option about making the driveway any wider between the house and the property line,” Kajer said of the 8-foot 6-inch driveway located at the east of the property. “That’s been the design constraint.”

“Having a mechanism on the outside is not appealing,” said Chairperson Hsu, encouraging Kajer to find a way to reposition the motor.

“The owner doesn’t want to see it either,” responded Kajer, noting, again, that the motor—positioned adjacent to the gate at the front of the house—would be covered by shrubbery.

“If you could do more research, that would definitely help the case,” Hsu suggested, requesting that Kajer explore other gate motors. “Figure out how you can open it inward,” Dietrick added.

The committee will hear the case again on Nov. 2.

677 S. Santa Anita Avenue

The committee voted unanimously to continue a proposed second-story addition and first floor remodel for this ranch home.

DRC members cited several issues with the proposed plan including overwhelming mass and scale, incompatibility with the neighborhood, an inconsistent window plan, a mixture of mismatched materials, oddly-configured dormers and a prominent existing chimney located in the center of the front façade.

677 S. Santa Anita Avenue
677 S. Santa Anita Avenue

“Unfortunately the prominent feature of that home is the chimney,” said Member Kevin Cheng, who suggested that the applicant could consider a Cape Cod instead of maintaining a ranch style.

After a deluge of committee comments about the proposed plan, the home’s owner and architect asked the committee if they’d prefer a Cape Cod, which the owner said he would prefer.

“The task of the design review committee is not to design for you, it’s to look at the property and tell you what our view of it is and whether it’s compatible with itself and the neighborhood,” said Cheng. “And so you as a homeowner need to decide which design you like.”

“You need to address how that chimney is going to play into a two-story ranch style home or a Cape Cod,” Cheng added, noting the possibility of removing the chimney altogether.

The DRC will hear revisions at its Nov. 16 meeting.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]