9/30/09
A First Look At the Draft of Permanent Regulations for the Oaks
By Rainer Standke
Map of the area affected by the proposed regulations

When you read this you should have had in the mail an invitation to attend a Public Workshop about the proposed Oaks Hillside Regulations, scheduled for Wednesday, October 7, 2009, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the American Film Institute. The City Planning Department has made their draft available to the public ahead of the meeting. You can find it on the city website and here.

At first glance the language might be somewhat overwhelming. So here is a laymen’s attempt at a translation into plain English. This is intended to help you wrap your mind around the text, and there is no guarantee that it is flawless. It is merely meant to be a starting point for the discussion at the workshop.

To start out, it might be worthwhile to remember that the proposed regulations do not require any changes to existing homes whatsoever. They will apply to new construction, including additions to existing homes, only.

The draft language starts with a couple of introductory sections stating the purpose and intention of the ordinance, namely to control out-of-scale development, as well as to reduce the impact of excessive grading.

The third section says that the proposed ordinance can be stricter than other zoning regulations, but it can't allow anything that’s not permissible under those other regulations.

Floor Area Ratios

Section 4 introduces a limitation of the floor-area-ratio similar to the one you may be familiar with from the Oaks Interim Control Ordinance (ICO). The floor-area-ratio describes how much square footage is allowed for a homerelative to the size of the lot in is on.

Slopes of up to 35%, steeper slopes

There are two different formulas for different slopes. On formula applies to slopes of up to 35%, the other one applies to slopes of more than 35%. Both are on a sliding scale, with proportionally ‘more house’ allowed on smaller lots.

House size on extremely small lots

The minimum square footage allowed on any lot is 1400, and grows with the size of the lot. In other words,on every lot, including very small "substandard" lots, the owner can build at least a 1400 sqft home, regardless of the floor-area-ratio. Since most lots in the Oaks are a lot larger, much bigger homes can be built on those lots, depending on the size of the lot.

Additions to Existing Homes

All Existing homes can add 400 square feet, regardless of their current size, even if they are bigger than allowed under the proposed regulations.

Footprint

The next section, number 5, limits the overall footprint of the house.In tandem with the Floor Area Regulations, the limits on building footprint would prevent projects where the house covers most of the lot, leaving little room for landscape and crowding the neighbors.

Height

The last section, number 6, regulates overall building height, with accommodations for steeper lots. This section also speaks to exposed under-floor area.

This concludes the preliminaryunderstanding of this writer. It will be absolutely worthwhile to attend the workshop, so that we can all be clear about what the proposed regulations would do. It is important to realize that the draft is not set in stone. The Planning Department is not only trying to explain the draft, they are also seeking our input on the proposed rules. Especially for the latter there will be a second gathering, on Wednesday October 28, 2009, at 6:30 pm. The process is to then continue with a hearing in front of the Planning Commission and a City Council vote.

See you all at the workshop!

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