By Jane Northrop
The planning commissioners unanimously approved plans for a new home on a new street, Oddstad Way, in the public right of way just south of Rockaway Creek, off Rockaway Beach Avenue and Bay View Road.
They added conditions of approval requiring the monitoring of the hauling route prior to construction from Highway 1 to the project site to detect any potential impact from construction vehicles. Also, construction of the curb and gutter on the south side of the project will be deferred.
A new three story home of 3,800 square feet and a two car garage will be built on an undeveloped 38,765 square foot lot. The home will have five bedrooms, three full baths and one half bath. This is in the single family residential hillside zoning district. The area is now covered in dense vegetation. On three sides the home would be flanked by retaining walls about six to eight feet high. They would create yard areas wrapping around the residence. A parking bay will accommodate all the cars.
The street extension will be 26-feet wide, 360-feet in length, in a southeast direction. A new granite sidewalk for the development will be maintained by the city. A prior draft of the plan called for a 20-foot wide street.
“The street is being widened. There will be enough room for pedestrians and bicycles,” said Sam Bautista, city engineer.
A fire apparatus turnaround will require a continuous retaining wall on three sides to create a desirable grade. Grading will total 1,975 cubic yards of net cut. This is a revision from a previous draft of the project to make it 27 percent less grading, said Senior Planner Christian Murdock. The widest part of the building will be aligned parallel to the contours of the land to minimize grading.
Three heritage trees will be removed because there is no other way to access the development site. They will be replaced in other locations. This is also a revision from a prior draft of the plans that called for more than 20 trees to be removed, said Murdock. All stormwater will be treated on site to avoid adverse impacts long term. A bioretention area will convey stormwater to a catch basin. From there, it goes underground.
Murdock reviewed the project for potential environmental impacts, traffic, noise, air, light, aesthetics, natural features, monotony, potential degradation to the hillside, grading, among others, and found all could be mitigated within the conditions of approval. Compliance with the environmental mitigation monitoring and reporting program is a condition of approval.
“To address neighbors’ concerns, some clarification and more detail was required on the mitigation measures for resources,” Murdock said. “We did a noise analysis with mitigation measures limiting the amount of equipment. We requested a more impactful review for landslides. Low debris walls are desired.”
The design fits in with the character of the neighborhood. It will have low pitched rooflines, a pedestrian path from the street, and enough changes in materials to add visual interest. Earth tones and wood will be used in the building materials. Eighty percent of the lot will be landscaped.
The original plan called for 30 outdoor fixtures but that did not adhere to the city’s design guidelines because it proposed three exterior lights that were likely to shine on the neighbors below. Murdock worked with the property owner to have that feature removed. Outdoor lighting will appear only when required for safety on the deck and around the garage door and along the pedestrian paths.
The owners purchased five lots to be able to build their one home because of the steep terrain. A prior draft called for them to build two homes on two substandard lots, but that would have required a general plan amendment so they abandoned that plan four years ago, Murdock said.
Neighbors worried this development would potentially lead to others.
“The retaining wall would close off Oddstad Way from future development,” Murdock said.
Many Rockaway Beach residents complained about the neighborhood’s narrow street, Rockaway Beach Avenue, and about how the neighborhood is already prone to flooding. They said they worried about another home adding to their already taxed neighborhood infrastructure.
“One development will not affect the effectiveness of the sewer system. It has capacity,” said Bautista. “Bioswales collect storm water in that area.”
The neighbors asked for the neighborhood to benefit from a future planning session that would define ideas, limits and create overall priorities that would give Rockaway a unique feel in a positive way instead of feeling dumped on one project at a time.
“The neighborhood feels very neglected. They need a major upgrade. We can’t address that. This one development will not break it, although the neighborhood deserves better.” Commissioner Tygarjas Bigstyck.
Commissioner Samantha Hauser said she really liked the design but had questions about drainage that have been answered by city staff. Storm runoff will not impact another property in the neighborhood, said Javier Chavarria, the project engineer.
Commissioner Lauren Berman said the property owner has done a lot to improve the project.
“In the future, when we are looking at the general plan, we will remember this. We need to consider our community concerns and approve this developer who has gone above and beyond,” she said.
When asked what are the chances of having Rockaway Beach Avenue repaved, Bautista replied, “Rockaway is a low priority street. It needs a lot of pavement. A reconstruction would be needed. There is no timeline for that. Public works is always addressing potholes. We will conduct a survey to see what we can do to make it better.”
The owners, Javier Diaz-Masias and his wife, said they heard the concerns of the Rockaway neighborhood association, but feel their concerns are misdirected.
“There is no justification for us to spend the time and money on an EIR. We’ve set the bar high. There will be no future development on the site,” Diaz-Masias said.
Gloria Stofan, a neighbor, disagreed.
“I have grave concerns about this. This is becoming a disaster. I am concerned about safety and lack of infrastructure. We have no pavements on the street. There is only one way in and one way out. It’s scary because we recently had a brush fire. These issues need to be addressed by the planning commission. Put in a safety plan. Deny this until then,” she said.
“Vote ‘no.’ Require an EIR. Have a plan to determine when building can happen. This is on an undeveloped hillside. Oddstad Way will encourage future development. We need a comprehensive planning process. Rockaway Beach Avenue has already been damaged by trucks,” said Andrea Auriello.
Jennifer Bryck said the storm water from the new development will be sent right into her backyard.
“I’m concerned about that. This will add more drainage. I want the city to study drainage. There will be more flooding,” she said.
Jane Nicholson also urged the commissioners to require the owner to complete an EIR.
“The cutting of the slope has damaged the slope. I’m concerned about the fire department accessing the site,” she said.
Diaz-Masias said that cutting was done by a prior property owner.
Jeanenne Crawford said the proposed home site would drain right into another neighbor’s yard.
“Rockaway Beach Avenue often stops. How can the traffic be mitigated until Rockaway Beach Avenue is fixed? We need infrastructure to be able to handle any development,” she said.
Susan Miller urged a “no” vote on the project.
“This piecemeal development is severely affecting our quality of life. Rockaway Beach Avenue will only get worse. The intersection at Fassler Avenue is already a problem. I’m against removing any trees. That will affect wildlife,” she said.
“I’m worried about access as a basic safety reason. Delay this project,” said Gillian Briley.
“Address the impact of removing the trees. Some are taller than Fassler Avenue. They provide noise buffers and wildlife habitat. The wind is strong. Don’t remove the trees. It will make the wind worse,” said Dana Chin.
“This is a new street and a new house that requires four retaining walls and a logging permit,” said Chris Cupola. “Evaluate the cumulative deficit. Make sure the development is done correctly.”
Dan Proudakar noted the creek floods every year.
“This is adding to a system that is already broken,” he said.
Chaya Gordon said, “The hillside is so steep it should not be built on. The natural environment will be destroyed. These retaining walls are huge. They are not in character with any other yard in the neighborhood. These are serious issues.”
Carol Fraigley suggested the construction company set aside money in escrow to be spent on street repairs.
“People suffer when the construction is going on,” she said.
Kevin Casey asked if something can be done about all the dump trucks that will be used.
“The road can’t handle the weight,” he said.
(Jane Northrop can be reached at jnorthrop@pacifica tribune.com)