Planning Commissioners discuss building designs for Signal Hill

Commission also briefed on zoning ordinance prohibiting non-medical marijuana use

During a brief meeting on Sept. 19, Signal Hill Planning Commissioners discussed the architectural aspects of certain buildings in the city and were briefed on the upcoming deadline for a zoning ordinance that would prohibit citywide activities concerning marijuana.

Design
City staff members and the planning commissioners discussed the Director’s Reports– a set of tools and procedures that assists the commission with its duties. Any new building that exceeds 10,000 square feet is reviewed by the commissioners. The purpose of the study was to familiarize the planning commissioners with the City’s theme for building projects and to ease the review processes of new buildings.

This month’s study session focused on the site plan and design review process for commercial and industrial buildings. During the session, the commissioners engaged in an interactive design exercise.

Scott Charney, director of Community Development, showed the commission images of the commercial buildings that make up the shopping center located on 959 E. Spring St. and asked them to discuss why they thought the buildings in question were designed properly or incorrectly.

This exercise was subjective, as commissioners had varying opinions. To help the commissioners reach a common ground, the study session was centered on four points: compatibility with surroundings, general aesthetics of buildings, compatible roof lines, the size and bulk of buildings and the screening-off of equipment protruding from rooftops.

Designers of the Applebee’s restaurant located in the shopping center on Spring Street were praised for deciding to place its entrance facing the street. According to a City staff member, this design choice welcomes pedestrians into the restaurant.

Charney said the views that Signal Hill’s topography offers are always kept in mind when designing a building’s plan.
He also mentioned that the concept of having towers on buildings was a key component to the City’s theme.

Applebee’s entrance is in the form of a tower. He said that even though corporations may have a certain theme that their establishments follow, the City still attempts to negotiate its citywide themes into the building’s design.

“[Applebee’s] did something different with the tower element,” Charney said. “The tower elements at the pet store and the Dollar Tree are all very different.”

Despite the ability to influence design concepts for some commercial establishments, there are some companies that adhered to their building standards.

In-N-Out didn’t change much in terms of matching the other restaurants in the shopping center, however, Charney said the restaurant took advantage of the city’s views and went with larger windows in the dining area.

Marijuana
In November 2016, 57 percent of Californian voters approved Proposition 64– the Adult Use of Marijuana Act– which allows adults over the age of 21 to legally grow, possess and use marijuana for non-medical purposes, with certain restrictions.

Following a public workshop regarding Prop. 64 on Sept. 12, the Signal Hill City Council directed the City staff to prepare a zoning ordinance amendment (ZOA) to prohibit all marijuana-related activities allowed under the proposition citywide.

During the planning commission meeting, the City staff prepared a roadmap with key dates for processing the ZOA.

Staff must prepare a notice and host a public hearing concerning the zoning, which will take place next month. The ZOA is scheduled to be legally effective on Dec. 29.

The ZOA would categorize a non-medical dispensary as a “prohibited activity” to match the council’s stance on recreational marijuana use. However, there is a protocol that allows residents to cultivate marijuana. Charney said the planning commission has strategic choices to make concerning the ability to privately cultivate marijuana, but this will not be part of the zoning ordinance.

Commissioners did not take action on anything concerning the ZOA. Charney said the purpose for mentioning it during Tuesday’s meeting was to notify commissioners that a deadline was quickly approaching.

“The important thing to stress here is that we are working with a deadline,” Charney said. “The council’s ultimate position was that it would be prudent to take a latency position until the impacts associated with the use is understood.”

Charney also said that the City can change its mind further down the line if it chooses to allow the use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

“It’s essentially a one-way street,” he said. “Everybody can make a choice to prohibit now, but after the end of the year that’s no longer a choice. We can always liberalize our rules moving forward.”

The next Signal Hill Planning Commission meeting will take place Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 7pm in the council chamber at 2175 Cherry Ave.

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