BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
In a 3-2 vote during its Tuesday night meeting, the Signal Hill City Council sustained the Signal Hill Planning Commission’s approval of a plan for the construction of a two-story house that will significantly block the next-door neighbor’s view. The planning commission had approved the plan on October 13, 2009. Ten days later, Kathleen Ashraf, who owns a house adjacent to the planned two-story house, filed an appeal.
Gary Jones, director of community development, told the council that in November 2005, Mike Bailey, who owns an existing duplex at 1866 Stanley Avenue, submitted plans to the city to convert the duplex into a three-bedroom, single-family dwelling and to construct a separate two-story, three-bedroom dwelling on the same lot.
Jones explained that, because several neighbors had expressed concerns over how the new house would impact their views, planning staff has met with Bailey and the neighbors several times in the last four years and the planning commission conducted two workshops to vet the plans with the community.
In response to the meetings and workshops, Bailey modified the plans to lessen the view impacts. The new plans met with the approval of everyone but Ashraf.
Jones pointed out that several trees recently removed from Bailey’s property had been blocking Ashraf’s views for several years and she did not have the panoramic view of the Long Beach skyline until fairly recently. He added that one tree still on Bailey’s lot is impairing part of Ashraf’s view. Jones showed the council pictures of the view while the trees were still on Bailey’s property and the view after the trees were removed.
“I need this (new home) for my son and his wife,” Bailey told the council, insisting that he is not planning to sell the property. He added that he is willing to remove the remaining tree, which would restore a portion of Ashraf’s view that would not be affected by the construction of the new home.
“When I bought my house 11 years ago, the trees were not as tall as shown in the pictures,” Ashraf told the council. “When I bought the house, I had the view.”
Jones and the council members discussed the city’s building code, which requires preservation of primary views to the extent possible without denying a nearby landowner’s right to build on his or her property. Jones acknowledged that knowing how to balance view protection with a person’s right to build is a difficult task.
Councilman Mike Noll pointed out that when a person buys a home next to a vacant lot zoned for building, it is reasonable to expect that eventually something will be built there. “When you build in Signal Hill, there are challenges in every way,” he added.
Councilwoman Tina Hansen said she could not sustain the planning commission’s approval. “It’s not just taking away the view, it’s putting a house (a few) feet away from you,” she said, adding that losing the view of the Long Beach skyline would amount to a major loss for Ashraf.
Mayor Ellen Ward, Councilman Larry Forester and Noll voted to sustain the planning commission’s approval. Hansen and Vice Mayor Ed Wilson voted against it.
The next meeting of the Signal Hill City Council is scheduled for 7pm on Tuesday, Dec. 1 in the Council Chamber of Signal Hill City Hall.