HomeCommunity NewsPlanning Commission Reviews Ordinances For Livable Area, Fences, Walls

Planning Commission Reviews Ordinances For Livable Area, Fences, Walls

At its May 22 meeting at City Hall, the San Marino Planning Commission was expected to review proposed ordinances related to amending the definition of livable area and the regulations for fences and walls within the city’s zoning code.

As it currently stands, the city’s code exempts all patios and balconies as livable area. Furthermore, structures with more than a 50 percent horizontal coverage only count as lot coverage. According to a city report, balcony design and development have evolved from “mere covered structures to expansions or a continuation of the adjacent enclosed livable area.” Furthermore, many new balcony designs feature the same finishes as interior spaces.

The amendment would define livable space as “the sum of all the gross area of all floors in all buildings on a site, measured from the exterior faces of the exterior walls, including basement.”

However, unroofed floor areas (balconies, courts, porches, decks, patios, terraces and pergolas on the first floor), garages, attics with heating or cooling appliances, and subterranean parking spaces and related turnaround areas would be excluded from the definition of livable space.

The original code presented to the Planning Commission included the following: “unroofed floor areas, including balconies, courts, decks, porches, patios, terraces and pergolas when located on the first story of the building.” This meant only second story open structures, like a balcony, would count as livable space. As amended by the commission, the provision would expand to include any open structure without taking into account what level they’re located on the home, as livable space.

The Planning Commission was also expected to review an ordinance which would amend the regulations for fences and walls. The draft ordinance focuses on only amending the provisions related to walls or fences adjacent to an alley. The intent is “to allow for the ability to construct a new rear yard wall adjacent to the property line and to allow for a height that maintains some level of privacy for the residential property.”

The current code stipulates that any wall adjacent to a street must provide a setback of 18 inches from the property line. Also, the maximum height for the wall is not permitted to exceed 6 feet as measured from the lowest grade. The original intent of the setback was to keep enough space between the property line and the wall for landscaping to be added, which would soften the wall appearance. The city report questioned if the appearance of the alleyway held a “similar appearance value” as a residential street.

As drafted, the proposed provision related to wall height will only apply when the grade between the alley and the residential property exceeds 2 feet. The provision will enable only those properties with this condition to benefit from this proposed code. Language has been included to allow for walls to go over the 6 feet height limit and provide property privacy due to the grade difference between the property and the alley.

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