Twelve agenda items: Busy for FebruaryLONG BEACH - It was neither a massacre nor a love fest, just business as usual for the Long Beach Planning Commission meeting on Valentines day, Monday night. The commission had a full agenda, with 12 items to consider. All the commissioners, except for Gene Ford who has resigned, attended, along with City Administrator Robert Strope and Interim Community Development Director Michael Davolio.

The housing design reviews raised issues on a variety of subjects, from landscaping and window design, to allowable siding material for new construction.

In what Commissioner Diana Tehrani described as "a first," the commission approved the use of Hardi Shingles, a cement-based siding product designed to resemble wood siding, for a new house.

Gary Baker, representing Marvin Case, gave a presentation to the commission on Hardi Shingles. He brought a sample, as well as a display with pictures of the product. He said the siding, unlike cedar shingles, was guaranteed for 50 years and its finish was guaranteed for 12 to 25 years. He said his client wanted to use the increasingly popular product because it would be easier to maintain in the Peninsula's punishing climate.

Several members of the committee expressed enthusiasm for the product, which has been previously allowed only on remodelings or repairs or as firewalls.

"I think anything on the beach that looks good and lasts longer is a good thing," said Commissioner Natalie Hanson.

But Commissioner Chair Dave Bross expressed concern that the decision would set a precedence, and was worried the siding might not meet their expectations. Davolio suggested the committee recommend approval of the siding, with the understanding that it was a demonstration project. He said the house in question was in an isolated location, out of the public eye, so made a good test site for the siding. The commissioners said they were looking forward to the results of the experiment.

Four items on the agenda were designs for new houses, three of which are in the Seacrest, causing Bross to comment, "Seacrest must be a pretty popular place." He was quickly informed by applicants Raymond Bonney and Vasiliy Knysh that the reason was that Seacrest was simply one of the few areas left with lots available for construction.

The commissioners had some questions for Bonney concerning the orientation of his house and the window design. The zoning code recommends a street approach to the front door and vertical windows for the second story. Bonney's design contains neither feature.

Bonney explained the orientation was an attempt to preserve the trees on the property, and agreed to a path, a modification simplified by the fact that the house is located on a corner lot. Bonney did disagree with the zoning recommendation on windows.

"I think you're going to run into problems with vertical windows," he said. "This does change what I can do with the structure." He said the horizontal windows resulted from the kitchen design, a style which was becoming more common and required additional room for the lower-story kitchen window. The design was forwarded to the city council for review.

The commission also questioned Knysh's landscaping design for the two houses that he was planning to construct on adjacent lots in Seacrest, and which consisted primarily of bark-dust. Commissioner Wellington Marsh suggested Knysh would have problems with the bark-dust blowing away.

Knysh said he had not realized the wind would be a problem, and actually just wanted low-maintenance landscaping. The commission recommended native plants, to which Knysh agreed. He also agreed to modify the design of one of the houses, so they would not be identical.

Bonney asked why the commission had recently started reviewing landscaping design as well in the past several months, a subject previously not emphasized in design review. He was told by Bross that landscaping was in the codes, but overlooked. Bross said now the commission was making an effort to enforce the codes in a more systematic way.

Bonney asked the commission how they could enforce landscaping designs and what they would do if a builder did not conform to their plans. Davolio informed Bonney that the city would simple not issue a certificate of occupancy, preventing anyone from legally moving in to the property.

"You do got something on us, you dogs," Bonney joked. "If I was in Ocean Park I could just throw an old beater in the front yard."

Several signs were also recommended for approval, including one for Six Card Charlie's which says "Casino." The sign is fairly small, and juts out horizontally from the building to catch the attention of potential customers. The sign was a compromise from the owner's original design, reached after consultation with the city staff. The sign was recommended for approval.

Tehrani complimented the owners for their efforts to conform to the zoning code. "He is to be commended," she said. "He did it the right way."

The application for the design of a newly proposed Mexican restaurant was tabled by the commission until the applicants could complete their paperwork. The commission agreed to review the application at the joint planning commission and city council meeting on March 2 as long as the applicants submitted all the required paperwork to city staff by Feb. 22.

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