Seal Beach City Council drops guidelines from new Zoning Code

The City Council on Monday, Aug. 9, voted to continue a public hearing on the new Seal Beach Zoning Code until October. Ultimately, the council voted to remove voluntary community guidelines and the administrative use permits from Title 11, a revised version of the city Zoning Code.

Staff had originally requested that the council introduce on Aug. 9 for first reading an ordinance adopting Title 11.

Director of Development Services Mark Persico presented the staff report. He said the Planning Commission considered four issues raised by public comment on Title 11: home occupancy (business) permits; administrative use permits that would allow staff to approve minor uses instead of the Planning Commission, A-frame signs on Main Street and interim community guidelines.

Persico said the Plannign Commission recommended a limit on the number of people who could visit a home based business to six people, once a week. The commission recommended keeping the AUP process that would allow the director of Development Services to approve some projects. Persico said the planners felt that A-frame signs should be dealt with as part of the review of the Main Street Specific Plan.

District 5 Councilman Michael Levitt asked why visitors to a home business should only be allowed once a week. “I don’t agree with that,” he said.

Persico said the Planning Discussion had a lot of discussion on that subject. The over-riding issue for the Planning Commission was that the businesses were located in a residential area. He said business owners could apply for permits to allow more visitors.

“I don’t buy that,” Levitt said. He didn’t see the rationale.

Home business owner Doreen Stevens of College Park East agreed. She said she had been in business for 40 years in the same house with no complaints from neighbors.

Planning Commission Chair Ellery Deaton said the goal of the commission was to balance the needs of the neighborhood with the right to have a business. She said the commission would allow six visitors to a home business once a week by right. She said all the commission was doing was asking the council to look at the issue.

“Councilman Levitt, I’m not asking you to buy anything,” Deaton said.

Business people in general were concerned about the issues of A-frame signs and the city’s recent crack down on Main Street benches without permits.

Property rights activist Eldon Alexander said that from what he’s gathered, the issue of home based businesses was based on a few complaints here and there. Alexander said the city needs a help desk to log complaints.

Joyce Parque, an Old Town businesswoman and local activist, said, “Why don’t we wait until after the election?”

Seth Eaker, making his last public appearance as the president of the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce, asked everyone in the audience who supported the business community to stand up. Twenty-five people stood.

Addressing the issue of A-frame signs, Eaker said he agreed there was not a lot of private property on Main Street sidewalks. However, he objected to a ban on A-frame signs. Eaker urged the council to form a Main Street Plan Committee that night.

He said Seal Beach was considering a regulation where a regulation wasn’t needed.

Deaton said residents liked the benches on Main Street, but the benches did present a potential liability.

Jim Klisanin of Baytown Realty said there were liability issues on Main Street, but not all of them involved merchants. He said three years ago, tree roots grew out of a toilet on the second floor of one of his properties. It cost him $13,000 to repair the damage. Insurance covered $12,000.

“I would be surprised if you don’t have more of these things come up,” he said.

Klisanin suggested palm trees for Main Street.

Bridgeport resident Robert Goldberg spoke in favor of the community guidelines, a set of voluntary standards for architectural features that the planning staff would make available to anyone planning a building project in the city.

Goldberg said Seal Beach was made up of unique neighborhoods and said the consensus on the Hill was that they had waited a long time for regulations concerning “mainsionization.”

Goldberg suggested staff come up with regulations relating to bulk and mass of buildings.

Councilman Levitt made a motion to postpone the Zoning Code issue until after the November election. Mayor David Sloan seconded the motion. The vote was 2-3, with council members Charles Antos, Gordon Shanks and Gary Miller voting against the motion. The motion failed.

Miller said College Park East didn’t have an issue with mansionization. Miller was opposed to the community guidelines.

He also said he would like a “clean” version of Title 11 before voting on it. As to home businesses, Miller said he would like to allow people to visit a business every day.

Antos said Seal Beach has never allowed A-frame signs in the public right of way. He said that rule had been in effect for 27 years.

Miller said the island of Maui didn’t allow A-frame signs. He said Maui allowed marquee signs and had a successful business district.

Shanks agreed with Goldberg’s comment that Seal Beach was made up of unique areas. He called Leisure World “an island unto itself.”

“Problem free,” Levitt said.

Shanks opposed voluntary guidelines. “We ought to have an ordinance effecting the Hill,” he said.

He thought a 75 percent limit on the second floor of a house was a good idea.

Shanks said he didn’t like telling people in Surfside or Leisure World what to do.

Persico recommended dealing with A-frame signs during the review of the Main Street Specific Plan.

Sloan wanted to remove the administrative use permit from the new Zoning Code. He preferred having the Planning Commission look at minor plans.

Antos objected to guidelines on the grounds that people could simply ignore them.

Miller also opposed the voluntary community guidelines proposed in Title 11.

Shanks asked Miller what he wanted for College Park East.

“Just leave us alone,” Miller said.

Levitt continued to oppose limits on visitors to a home business throughout the hearing.

City Attorney Quinn Barrow suggested postponing a decision until September.

Ultimately, the council voted to remove the community guidelines and the administrative use permit proposals from Title 11.

As mayor (and chair of the meeting), Sloan directed staff to bring Title 11 back to the council in October.