The San Marino Design Review Committee unanimously continued an application for a proposed one-and-a-half story colonial house with a one car attached garage and two-car detached garage at 1541 Euston Rd.
Carol and Frank Huang own the property. They’ve hired architect Alex Chang to design their new home.
“We really wanted to have a true two-story but I know that a true two-story would be massive for the area, especially since the majority [of houses] on the east and the west are single story,” explained Chang at the committee’s Mar. 1 meeting.
Chang defended a proposed front porch, which did not have the support of the committee and city staff.
“We really wanted to articulate the front façade rather than just a flat surface with a story-and-a-half design,” he said, describing the porch, at five feet deep, as “minimal.”
“The porch really creates a ‘welcome home’ effect,” Chang added, noting that the house would be 10 feet closer to the street once built.
Alternate Committee Member Judy Johnson-Brody agreed that the proposed porch—along with most of the house—appeared tastefully designed, but objected to its location on the lot and incompatibility with neighboring houses.
She said the porch “protrudes significantly into what is now the front yard. It is much farther in front than any other house to either side.”
“It’s not the massing of the house. It’s not the square footage. It’s none of the thing you’ve already heard. For me, it really is the porch,” said Johnson-Brody, stating that the porches arches would be too heavy.
Committee Member John Dustin commented that the porch’s beams would be too thick.
“The short front setback on this project exacerbates the visual impact to the neighborhood,” he added, noting the plan indicated the house would be within 28 square feet of the maximum allowed livable space.
“It would be the second largest home in the neighborhood, but it would be on one of the smallest lots. The only larger home that would be in that legal neighborhood is on a lot that’s over 6,500 bigger than this subject property,” Dustin shared.
He also prefaced his stylistic suggestions with the statement, “It’s easy for applicants to focus on comments that we make regarding cosmetic details and they sort of ignore the bigger issue of visual massing because that issue can’t be addressed without taking something away from a homeowner that’s near and dear to their heart, which is square footage.”
“Make the front columns less awesome and maybe redesign the front door a little bit and redesign that porch and push it back,” suggested committee Vice Chairperson William Dietrick.
Chairperson Frank Hsu approved of the proposed house’s style and color selection but noted “It’s towering over your neighbors.” He suggested that the architect reduce the house’s height by about 18 inches.
On Winthrop Rd.
The DRC denied the construction of a proposed new 4-bedroom 2,149 square foot Cape Cod house on an undeveloped legal lot situated between 527 and 585 Winthrop Rd.
The lot served as a garden for the former resident of 585 Winthrop Rd., who owned both properties. The properties have always been separate lots.
The owner, Winnie Tam, explained that she was unable to afford the garden property and sold it to her uncle, Peter Yan, who is listed as the owner on the application.
Architect Cayman Lai indicated that he was aware of ongoing and previous construction projects at properties on the street and promised to have the house built within a year.
“We will do more than 100 percent to work with the neighbors to keep this neighborhood clean and tidy,” Lai said, explaining that the north and south sides of Winthrop Rd. were stylistically different neighborhoods.
Lai changed the proposal to a Tudor house after he incorporated comments from city of San Marino staff.
The committee reminded him that it would only review the submitted Cape Cod design.
And committee members were unimpressed by that proposal, which was one square foot less than the maximum allowable livable space.
“It’s a very small lot. And I’m just wondering why you’d choose to build such a big house on such a small lot,” said Dustin.
“Overall the appearance of this house is dizzying and chaotic. And this is simply the result of trying to enclose an excessive amount of square footage under the roof,” he said, noting he didn’t see any Cape Cod elements in the proposal.
He also expressed concern about the proposed removal of trees from the lot, which he described as a “small forest.”
Alternate Member Johnson-Brody referred to the house as “a big block,” while Vice Chairperson Dietrick said it “looks too vertical.”
“Rather than designing a home that would suit the homeowner or the community, he sort of just picked at random things nearby that home that he felt he could piece together,” observed Alternate Committee Member Chris Huang.
“I don’t like to make this comparison often, but even homes like this are not very well received in Arcadia,” he added, noting that the shape of the house could be improved.
The committee did not approve of the shape of another proposal down the street at 616 Winthrop Rd.
A unanimous decision to deny a new two-story Cape Cod project at that property was also handed down by the committee at its Mar. 1 meeting.
The proposal suggested a 2,356 square foot house to replace the existing one-story traditional 2,499 square foot house.
“It’s not compatible with neighborhood in size and scale,” Chairperson Hsu said of the proposal, which included a basement.
“I’m normally not against two-story but in this neighborhood I don’t think two-story would be compatible no matter how much you try to hide it,” he said of the 300 square foot bedroom on the second floor.
“I don’t think this plan is salvageable. There’s no way we can tweak it and make it work. It would not be consistent. It would be design by committee, and that shouldn’t happen,” Hsu added.
Members Dustin and Johnson-Brody agreed.
“I’m always hesitant to say ‘never’ to a two-story project, but in this neighborhood I think doing a two story proposal causes more problems than it solves, said Dustin, noting that the front elevation would appear awkward and unbalanced.
“I’m never against two -story homes if they can be done in a way that seems right for the neighborhood,” Johnson-Brody stated, adding everything on the house looked large.
“I think that the two- story appearance of a front entry—even though it really is a porch with a railing system—isn’t appropriate. It’s very Arcadia. It’s what we’re trying to avoid,” she noted, advising “less is often more.”
Both committee members also raised concerns with the proposed placement of the new detached two-car garage.
Placed at the opposite end of the property relative to the entry to the driveway, Dustin concluded, “It forces huge amounts of paving to be put in the backyard that would be otherwise completely unnecessary to do.”
In her presentation, house designer Paula Tsukamoto of SLS Design explained that the new house would be set back farther on the front and west than the current house. It would also cover a smaller portion of the lot than the existing house, she continued.
Tsukamoto added that a second floor would create more backyard space for the homeowners.
As in all cases, the applicant may appeal the project within 15 days of the verdict or reapply with a different set of design plans.
The DRC’s decision of 616 Winthrop Rd. was appealed. The San Marino Planning Commission will hear the case of 616 Winthrop Rd. on Mar. 22 at 7 p.m. at city hall.
And Three Approvals
The DRC approved exterior modifications to an office building located at the southeast corner of Los Robles Ave. and Mission St. The committee felt the modifications would modernize the appearance of the building.
The construction of a one-story addition and block wall adjacent to an alley was approved for 2836 Cumberland Rd. with the condition that all windows have a consistent grid system and an unpermitted water softener be removed from the front yard.
Chairperson Hsu said the addition looked like a part of the original house.
Vice Chairperson William Dietrick praised the addition of the alley wall.
“The wall in the back is a real upgrade for the alley,” he said.
The design review committee also approved exterior modification to 1526 Cambridge Rd.
The committee reduced the initially proposed full brick front façade to a wainscoting application.
The DRC added five other conditions of approval, including that there be only two lights—placed around the front door—on the font façade; entryway columns be replaced with simple wood posts; brick sills be installed on front windows; wood sills be installed on side elevation windows; and front windows have a row of bricks in a vertical orientation flush with the wall.
The Design Review Committee’s next meeting will be on Wednesday, Mar. 15 at 7 p.m. at city hall.