HomeCity NewsEmotions Run High At Design Review Meeting

Emotions Run High At Design Review Meeting

The Design Review Committee denied an application for a new one-and-a-half-story home at 1541 Euston Rd. near Lacy Park. The traditional home proposal, which had its fourth hearing at the DRC’s May 17 meeting, was rejected by a three-to-two vote.

Committee Vice Chairperson William Dietrick shared his disappointment with the third rendition of the proposed home, which restored the home’s height to that of the original proposal.

“I really felt when I picked up the plans that the house would be a little bit smaller,” he said.

Dietrick presided over the meeting due to the absence of Chairperson Frank Hsu.

“I think that the height and the mass of this house has been problem since day one,” Dietrick noted.

“It’s a beautiful home. I think it would fit in a lot of other lots in town and neighborhoods in town, but not this particular neighborhood, where you have two one-story houses on either side,” Dietrick explained before he called for a motion to deny the proposed project.

1541 Euston

Committee Member John Dustin was in agreement, noting that the home would be the second largest home on the second smallest lot in legal neighborhood.

“The applicant has been very willing to make the more easily accommodated cosmetic changes, but not really to address the more substantial problem of incompatible massing,” he commented.

Committee Member Corinna Wong cast the third vote to deny the proposal, citing massing as her primary concern.

“This house is very close to [Lacy] Park, where there’s a lot of foot traffic walking on that portion of Euston Road,” she noted.

Committee Member Kevin Cheng also expressed concerns about massing, but did not support the motion to deny the project altogether.

“As far as the height and overall massing, I think it’s still an issue,” said Cheng, adding that the front setback was his main concern.

He suggested that a 180-degree rotation of the home would make it more compatible with the neighborhood.

Cheng added that the designer, Alex Chang of DIG Inc., would have to address the location of the house in relation to its neighbor to take a step in the right direction.

Alternate Committee Member Judy Johnson-Brody was a “lone wolf” in her remarks.

“When you look at the design review guidelines as we understand them—and I hope this committee understands them better than anybody else in this room outside of staff—it is not true that the homeowner does not adhere to those,” she said, addressing comments made to the contrary by an immediate neighbor of the subject property.

“I think the house is an improvement to what’s there today. I think it will be an enhancement to the neighborhood,” Johnson-Brody continued. “Having a large roof versus having a two-story house is different to me.”

More in line with comments in opposition of the proposal, three Euston Road neighbors shared previously stated concerns about the home’s height and the impact it would have on their privacy.

The neighbors’ points of view were contrasted by remarks from the home designer, Alex Chang.

“I think we did everything that we can,” Chang said, stating that the roof would be three-feet seven-inches taller than the existing home. “If we lower the building any more, the back balcony would be exposed.”

“The building height is true to the design,” he added, noting a 6:12 roof pitch would be necessary.

Chang’s statements were preceded by an emotional testimony by the homeowner, Carol Huang.

Huang explained that with a third child on the way, she and her husband decided to expand their home.

“Our home has spoken for itself in that we have carefully followed every procedure and met all codes and regulations in planning this house. But then I learned perhaps there is a bit of a philosophical situation,” she stated, noting that the proposed landscape design would provide privacy for and from both neighbors.

“The [committee] and the city walk between what is the right of a homeowner and their right to their home, versus maintaining the compatibility and the value of the community,” Huang explained, referring to the home as a “definite asset to the community.”

“We’ve previously submitted proof that perhaps there are ulterior motives for some of these complaints. As much as we would like to compromise and work with valid claims, we can’t appease the neighbors who want all of the houses to be one story on our street,” she concluded.

1221 Roanoke Rd.

A proposed two-story Tudor home with a basement and detached three-car garage at 1221 Roanoke Rd. faced a wave of neighborhood opposition at the May 17 meeting of the DRC.

The proposed 4,200 square foot home would be 1,500 square feet larger than the traditional existing home on the lot.

“It’s just too big as far as size,” said Roanoke Road resident Paul Kral. Responding to the project designer’s claim that the home was inspired by the 2017 Pasadena Showcase House, Kral said he wouldn’t make that comparison.

Neighbor Nancy Hoffman commented that the four proposed gables on the front of the proposed home look like “witches hats on top of the roof.”

Hoffman, who lives in a Tudor home on Roanoke, said the proposal “demonstrates how to destroy the harmony of our street.”

Julee Mon Floyd lives across the street from the subject property, which is a corner lot.

“It’s a nice looking house, but it does not fit,” she said, commenting that the four gables appear “busy.” “It is totally going to dwarf the neighborhood.”

“Most of the houses are three and four bedroom, and I see over and over more of our traditional [and] beautiful San Marino houses being torn down, [for] something new, that blends a variety of styles being put up, and then they sit vacant,” Floyd observed.

“Our neighborhood needs children. And when you take some of these regular, normal houses like what we have out, and you replace them with something that is going to cost $4-5 million and you put in five to seven bedrooms, who is going to come to our neighborhoods now and who’s got the money?” she continued.

Floyd noted that she is not anti-development or anti-redevelopment.

“You can not save every house, nor should you. But that doesn’t mean that you bring in a new house that doesn’t fit with the neighborhood,” she concluded. “We need to have a house there that honors the neighborhood.”

Dr. Ananth Natarajan of Roanoke Road expressed his opposition to the proposed project.

“Never have I seen anything galvanize our community as much as this project,” he said. “No one wants it.”

“I would just hope that the designer and the owner, San Roanoke LLC, would consider keeping our community a community and not an investment opportunity,” Natarajan said, announcing that the evening’s meeting was his first time attending a DRC meeting. “I would really prefer for the character of the neighborhood to stay the way it is.”

Jonathan David echoed the sentiments of his neighbors.

He disagreed with the design of the proposed home and questioned the motivation for the increase in size.

“Is this a flip?” he asked, later receiving a response from home designer Phillip Chan that the home is a speculative home.

Chan argued that all homes should be treated equally before the committee and stated that he would request that his surveyor survey the heights of all the homes in the legal neighborhood.

An attorney representing San Roanoke LLC, Steven R. Garcia, explained that 3,700 square feet of the 4,200 square feet would be above ground.

He added that the proposed home would be the sixth largest home on the second largest lot in the legal neighborhood.

“There are different visions of what constitutes English style architecture,” Garcia said of the style.

Noting that the designer will work with the neighbors, he added, “I’m pleased that so many of the neighbors are passionate about this because the owners are as well.”

It was Garcia’s final comment that appeared to leave Roanoke Road neighbors offended.

“A lot of times though, I understand with people who have been in a neighborhood for a long time, it’s very difficult to consider anything that would amount to change and that’s what we’re really looking at here—fairly significant change,” Garcia concluded.

Alternate Committee Member Johnson-Brody said she did not take issue with the proposed square footage of the home, but rather the way that it was presented on the lot.

She advised the designer to come back with a design that would not be as much of a “frontal assault.”

Of the design elements, Johnson-Brody said, “There is a lot of Disneyland-esque design here.”

“It appears that this home would visually dominate the neighborhood,” Committee Member Dustin said. Describing the neighborhood’s wide streets and oblique angles, he noted “[The proposed house] is going to have a visual impact far reaching outside the legal neighborhood.”

“The most important thing that I would advise to the applicant would be to be very sensitive of the siting [of the house],” said Committee Member Cheng, noting the plate heights and roof ridgelines.

The application was continued to the committee’s July 19 meeting pending the installation of story poles, which the committee members said will influence their understanding of the proposed home’s massing.

2735 Canterbury Rd.

The DRC continued an application for a new one-and-a-half-story Tudor home at 2735 Canterbury Rd., which is situated in a neighborhood of predominantly one-story traditional and ranch-style homes.

The committee arrived at a consensus that any home other than a one-story home would be incompatible in this neighborhood.

“When you have a one-story neighborhood, you have to be sensitive to that,” said Committee Member Cheng.

“When a two-story dwarfs its neighbors, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” said Committee Member Wong, noting that 15 of the 17 homes in the legal neighborhood are one-story homes.

Dustin called the two two-story homes in the subject property’s legal neighborhood “aberrations” from the rest of the neighborhood.

Vice Chairperson Dietrick and Alternate Committee Member Johnson-Brody noted that a second large dormer would be out of proportion with a smaller dormer on the roof and call attention to the home.

2735 Canterbury

Neighbors and residents agreed with the committee’s assessment of the proposed home.

A resident on Davenport Road who abuts the subject property noted that the proposed home “would dominate over my property.”

“It would kind of stick up by itself compared to the neighbors,” he said.

A resident of Coniston Place stated that ranch-style homes do better in shallow and wide lots, which are a characteristic of many of the lots in this neighborhood.

A Gainsborough Road resident stood up in opposition to the project.

“You let one in and all of a sudden you’ve got a lot,” she said of two-story homes, drawing an analogy to the experience of her street.

“If you want a two-story home, you should buy one,” she commented.

Phillip Chan is the project designer.

In a presentation that opened the public hearing, he explained that the proposed second story would be less than 1,000 square feet, include two bedrooms, and omit any rear-facing windows.

The committee will hold a second hearing for this proposal at its July 5 meeting.

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