ABSTRACT: Four Noteworthy 2 November 2010 City Council Agenda Items, namely Receive City’s Year-End and First Quarter 2010-2011 financial reports, an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision to approve the Carmel Sands Redevelopment Project and to adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration, Revised Harassment Prevention Policy for the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Receive report and provide policy direction on circulating a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the management and operation of the Children’s Experimental Theater. Excerpts from Agenda Item Summaries and Staff Reports are presented; uploaded documents include the Revised Harassment Prevention Policy (2010) and Carmel Sands Initial Study (IS) & Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND).
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
4:30 p.m., Open Session
Live & Archived Video Streaming
East side of Monte Verde Street between Ocean and Seventh Avenues
V. Announcements from Closed Session, from City Council Members and the City Administrator
C. Announcements from City Administrator.
3. Receive City’s Year-End and First Quarter 2010-2011 financial reports.
VIII. Public Hearings
If you challenge the nature of the proposed action in Court, you may be limited to raising only those issues you or someone else raised at the public hearing described in this notice, or in written correspondence delivered to the City Council at, or prior to, the public hearing.
B. Consideration of an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision to approve the Carmel Sands Redevelopment Project and to adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration. The Carmel Sands Lodge is located on the northeast corner of San Carlos Street and Fifth Avenue. The appellant is Barbara Livingston.
Description: The project consists of the demolition of the existing 42-room Carmel Sands Lodge and the construction of a new 42-room hotel that includes a 64-space underground garage, a restaurant, a day spa and two retail spaces. The appellant is requesting that the Council overturn the Planning Commission’s decision to approve the project and is requesting that an Environmental Impact Report be prepared for the project.
Staff Recommendation: Deny the appeal and uphold the Planning Commission’s decision.
Important Considerations: The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that a lead agency prepare an Initial Study for all projects that are not categorically or statutorily exempt. An Initial Study is prepared to determine if a project may have a significant effect on the environment.
The City prepared an Initial Study for this project and determined that all potentially significant environmental impacts could be mitigated. The Planning Commission therefore adopted a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the project.
Decision Record: The Planning Commission approved the project and adopted a Mitigated Negative Declaration on 14 July 2010. An appeal was filed on 27 July 2010.
INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
The Carmel Sands Lodge is located at the northeast corner of San Carlos Street and Fifth Avenue in the Service Commercial (SC) District. The lodge consists of 42 guest rooms and a 120-seat restaurant in three buildings. The site also includes a large surface parking lot and a swimming pool. The buildings on the site are not considered historically significant. A Determination of Ineligibility for listing on the City’s Historic Inventory was issued on 1 September 2006.
An application was filed in 2008 for the demolition of the existing hotel and the construction of a new 57 room hotel. The Planning Commission (PC) reviewed this project on August 13th, November 12th and December 10th, 2008. The PC continued the project at its 10 December 2008 hearing. There is a cap on the number of hotel rooms allowed in the City and the applicant had not yet identified where the additional 15 rooms would come from. The PC indicated that more information was needed regarding the addition 15 rooms.
The project was subsequently revised to eliminate the proposal to add 15 rooms. The revised project was then reviewed by the PC at four separate meetings. On 10 March 2010 the PC approved the Design Concept, and on 14 July 2010 the PC approved all development permits and adopted a Mitigated Negative Declaration.
An appeal was filed on 27 July 2010 by Carmel resident Barbara Livingston.
The applicant is proposing to demolish the existing buildings on-site and construct a new hotel (see project plans in attachment “G”). The redevelopment will include the following features:
• 42 hotel rooms in four buildings
• Intra-block walkway and interior courtyard
• Two retail spaces
• Limited use restaurant
• 64-space underground garage
• Day spa facility
• A Porte Cochere vehicle entrance on San Carlos Street
PROJECT DATA FOR A 32,997 SQUARE FOOT SITE:
Site Considerations: Floor Area
Allowed/Required: 44,546 sf (135%)
Existing: 20,780 sf (63%)
Proposed: 39,077 sf (118%)
Site Considerations: Building Coverage
Allowed/Required: 31,347 sf (95%)
Existing: 10,559 sf (34%)
Proposed: 25,052 sf (76%)
Site Considerations: Building Height
Allowed/Required: 30 ft.
Existing: 26 ft.
Proposed: 30 ft.*
*Applicant is requesting height exceptions for tower elements per CMC 17.14.150.
Allowed/Required: 57 spaces
Existing: 42 spaces
Proposed: 64 spaces
The appellant is requesting that the City Council overturn the PC’s decision to approve the project and adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration based on two points, 1) an EIR should have been prepared, and 2) the project has significant drawbacks (see attachment “A”). It is important to note that many of the letters, emails and the petition attached to the appellant’s submittal were addressing the previous proposal of a 57 unit motel, not the current proposal.
The following section addresses comments raised in the appellant’s letter. The numbers below correspond to the numbers annotated on attachment “A”. Staff has summarized the concerns raised by the appellant and has included a brief response.
1. The appellant argues that the applicant’s attorney stated in a letter that an EIR should be required for the project.
Response: The letter in question was in reference to the previous proposal that included 15 new hotel rooms and not to the current proposal, which does not increase the room count. The applicant’s attorney has submitted a letter to the Council indicating that the proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration is appropriate for the project (see attachment “B”).
2. The primary basis of the appeal is that an EIR should be prepared for the project.
Response: The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that a lead agency prepare an Initial Study (IS) for all projects that are not categorically or statutorily exempt. An IS is prepared to determine if a project may have a significant effect on the environment. Based on the results of the IS, a lead agency may determine whether to prepare a Negative Declaration (ND), a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) or an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). A MND can only be adopted if there is no substantial evidence in light of the whole record that the project will have a significant effect on the environment that cannot be mitigated or avoided. CEQA Guidelines Section 15384 defines substantial evidence as:
“...enough relevant information and reasonable inferences from this information that a fair argument can be made to support a conclusion, even though other conclusions might be reached…Substantial evidence shall include facts, reasonable assumptions predicated upon facts, and expert opinion supported by facts.”
The City prepared an IS for this project and determined that a MND was appropriate as all potentially significant impacts could be mitigated. The IS/MND was then circulated for public comment. The City received 10 comments, most of which simply requested that an EIR be prepared (see attachment “C”). Two comment letters raised questions as to whether sufficient information had been provided in the IS/MND. The City then prepared a Response to Comments that was subsequently reviewed by the PC (see attachment “D”).
On 9 December 2009 and again on 10 February 2010 the PC determined that the MND was appropriate for the project. The PC determined that the comments had been responded to, and that no substantial evidence of significant environmental impacts had been presented. The PC then adopted the MND on 14 July 2010 (see attachment “E”).
3. The appellant argues that the project could result in a canyon effect on San Carlos Street if the properties north of Fifth Avenue were built out to the sidewalk.
Response: The ‘canyon effect’ referred to by the appellant is actually a desirable attribute in the commercial district. The General Plan, Zoning Ordinance and Commercial Design Guidelines all encourage properties in the SC District to be built at, or close to the street to create a pedestrian wall (see O1-11, P1-64, & P1-68 of the General Plan, CMC 17.14.130, & Commercial Design Guideline pg. 8).
Even if the City did determine that a canyon effect at this location could be detrimental, the proposed project would not contribute any more to this effect than the existing two story structure on San Carlos Street already does, which is built to the sidewalk and stretches from lot line to lot line.
4. The appellant argues that public comments were not responded to.
Response: The Planning Commission reviewed and considered all public comments, both oral and written. The Commission determined that all of the comments were appropriately addressed through the IS/MND, the Response to Comments (see attachment “D”) and the deliberation of the Commission.
5. The appellant argues that the mass and scale of the project are inappropriate.
Response: The majority of commercial building sites in the City are between 2,500 and 8,000 square feet in size. Most of these small commercial sites were developed independently with a wide array of architectural styles. The architectural variety and small building sites contribute to the unique character of the City.
Apart from the Carmel Plaza, the majority of sites larger than 8,000 square feet are occupied by hotels. While most of the commercial buildings are modest in size and scale, many of the hotels are much larger in scale and generally consist of a single architectural style. Hotels such as the Pine Inn, La Playa, and the Cypress Inn, for example, are all developed on sites well over 8,000 square feet and are much larger in scale than surrounding development. However, these buildings add diversity and contribute significantly to the character of the City.
Tables A and B (see attachment “F”) provide some additional context as to site size, number of rooms, density and height of many of the hotels in town, including most of the hotels surrounding the Carmel Sands project. While the Sands is the second largest hotel site in the City, the project height, number of rooms, and room density are very consistent with many of the hotels in town, including those in the immediate vicinity.
The total proposed floor area ratio for the project is 118% and the total building coverage is 76%. The floor area is 17% below the base allowed floor area for the site (135%) and 27% percent below the maximum allowed floor area with bonuses (145%). The building coverage is 19% below the maximum allowed coverage (95%).
6. Traffic congestion at San Carlos and Fifth and overall parking has not been adequately addressed.
Response: The analysis shows only slight changes to peak hour and daily trips to the site. The existing surface parking lot accommodates 42 vehicles for the forty two-room motel and the 120 seat restaurant. The site is currently nonconforming by approximately six parking spaces. The proposed project exceeds the on-site parking requirement by 7 spaces, a 13-space improvement based on the City’s required parking standards. The project also creates new on-street parking spaces by eliminating existing access points on Fifth Avenue and on Mission Street. The Porte de Cochere will also allow vehicles to pull off the street while checking in or out of the hotel, thus limiting congestion (see attachment “D” for more information).
7. The appellant argues that it is unlikely an EIR would be required if this project is approved and later additional hotel units are proposed.
Response: If a proposal were submitted to add additional units to this site, an IS would be prepared. Based on the results of an IS, the City would then take the appropriate action. Adding rooms would raise potential concerns related to parking and traffic along with issues related to where the proposed new rooms were being transferred from. All of these issues would need to be addressed in the environmental review. It is impossible to know whether an EIR would or would not be required without a complete project description.
8. The appellant argues that an EIR was required for the Plaza del Mar Project and should therefore be required for this project.
Response: There are several aspects to this project that make it very different from the Plaza del Mar Project (SE Cor. Dolores & 7th ). The Plaza del Mar project was located adjacent to an historic district, involved a potentially significant architectural structure, required the removal of significant trees, involved a significant intensification of use and was requesting exceptions to several General Plan and Zoning standards.
The Carmel Sands project is not adjacent to an historic district, does not involve historically or architecturally significant structures, does not include the removal of any significant trees, is not significantly intensifying the use on the site, and is not requesting any variances. There are two potential zoning discrepancies that do exist that are discussed below. However, these discrepancies can easily be remedied and would not alone justify the preparation of an EIR.
Planning Commission: On 14 July 2010, the Planning Commission approved the project with a 4-1 vote. One of the primary topics of discussion was whether it was appropriate to have each building include variations in materials, colors and styles, as shown on the drawings. The concern expressed by the Commission was that having several variations in materials and styles may appear unauthentic and contrived. The Commission approved the project with a condition that all of the buildings be clad with stucco siding with only slight color variations. The applicant is required to return to the Commission for the final review of the exterior treatments prior to building permit issuance.
This decision appears to conflict with CMC 17.14.120, which states that projects on building sites larger than 12,000 square feet are required to be broken up into two or more distinctively different developments to avoid the appearance of a single large project. The project was designed with separate buildings with variations in materials and styles specifically to address this issue. If the appeal is denied, the Council may want to discuss whether it prefers a unified appearance, as conditioned by the Planning Commission, or variations in materials and styles, as proposed by the applicant. The Council could then provide direction to the Planning Commission on this issue.
Setbacks: An oversight was made regarding the front setback of the northern building on San Carlos Street. The code requires a five foot setback for sites that abut the RC District. The northwest building currently has no front setback. The applicant has indicated that the plans can be revised to comply with this setback requirement. If the Council denies the appeal, the Planning Commission could review the revised plans at the same time it reviews the finished details for the project.
The following are potential options for the Council to consider regarding this appeal:
Option 1: Deny the appeal in full
This option would uphold the Planning Commission’s decision to approve the project and adopt a MND.
Option 2: Grant the appeal in full
This option would void the Planning Commission’s approval of the project and would require the preparation of an EIR before taking further action on the project.
Option 3: Grant the appeal in part
If the Council determines that an EIR is not required, but would like to see changes in the project design and/or additional information in the MND prior to final approval, this option could be selected. The Council could remand the project back to the Planning Commission with instructions.
Option 4: Continue Consideration of the Appeal to a Future Date
This option would allow the City Council to request additional information prior to making a final decision on the appeal.
Option 3: Deny the request to require an EIR but remand the design back to the Planning Commission to address CMC Section 17.14.120 related to providing more distinction in the project design and to address the front setback along San Carlos Street.
Carmel Sands Appeal IS and MND
Carmel Sands Initial Study (IS) & Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND)
XI. Orders of Council
B. Revised Harassment Prevention Policy for the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Harassment Prevention Policy Revised 2010
Harassment Prevention Policy (Revised 2010)
The only instance in the eleven page Harassment Prevention Policy (2010) of “if the alleged harasser is the City Administrator,” as follows:
Complaints Against Volunteers or City Council Appointees.
3. If the alleged harasser is the City Administrator: the report must be given to the Mayor. The Mayor must review the findings and make recommendations accordingly to the entire City Council.
F. Receive report and provide policy direction on circulating a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the management and operation of the Children’s Experimental Theater.
Description: Stephen Moorer of the Pacific Repertory Theater (PacRep) informed staff that he is authorized to manage the Children’s Experimental Theater (CET) and requested that his lease with the City for the use of the Forest Theater include using the CET indoor theater. PacRep has the keys and oversight of CET’s assets and indoor theater. Forest Theater Guild (FTG) board member Safwat Malek also inquired about using the CET indoor theater and asked for FTG’s contract to be amended to manage CET. Since the lease agreements for both PacRep and FTG have expired, now is a good time to review each lease to determine which agreement should be amended to include managing and operating CET and its indoor theater.
Overall Cost: The current leasing rate for use of the indoor theater is $160/month, plus any user charging admission or collecting a donation as a condition of admission must pay 10% of gross receipts. Staff recommends as part of evaluating any RFPs received that consideration be given to revising this fee structure.
Staff Recommendation: Provide policy direction.
Important Considerations: Preparing and circulating an RFP is the most equitable way to select a manager/operator of the CET indoor theater. At minimum, the RFP should include goals and objectives for the operation of the CET indoor theater, operational budget, qualifications and evaluation criteria.
Once the RFPs are received, an independent evaluation committee must review and recommend to the Council the most qualified candidate. Council will make the final decision on who is selected. Another alternative based on the attached letter submitted by the PacRep, would be to forego circulating an RFP and instead direct staff to negotiate a lease agreement with them.