City Council Taking Closer Look at Building Regulations

City employees have been directed to examine a number of building regulations and other ordinances to see if any modifications or updates might be considered.
Facets of the city’s governing language to be re-examined include the basement ordinance, regulations regarding the removal of trees from private properties and public medians and a variety of requirements for construction projects. The City Council decided on these items for review at its Friday morning study session and plans to address each item as it is presented in the future.
“If there are things that you think we don’t know about that you want us to take a look at, this is the time to say that,” City Manager Marcella Marlowe told the City Council. “This is really just your opportunity to say you want us to take a look at this, this, this and this.”
The basement ordinance received considerable attention at this meeting, with the general agreement to amend the ordinance to allow them to include bedrooms, with the caveat that they be counted as livable space.
“If we are going to allow them, perhaps we need to revise our thought process toward counting them as livable space,” Councilwoman Gretchen Shepherd Romey said. “If there are actually rooms down there, I think I’d like to add that into the calculation. If they want to put rooms in their basements, that’s great, but they should understand that we will count it toward their livable area calculation.”
Shepherd Romey also hoped to more strictly define a guideline of three maximum continuances for hearings before the Design Review Committee or Planning Commission, in addition to strengthening regulations to protect trees on properties undergoing construction and on public properties.
“Part of the reason I ran for office, as some of you know, is that some median trees were being taken down without permission to do so,” she said. “We really need to get these protections in place, maybe sort of a notice concept, so that errors aren’t made.”
Councilwoman Susan Jakubowski, who served on the Planning Commission before her election, asked that the city consider generally updating its design review guidelines for homes and commercial buildings.
“They were well done almost 20 years ago. I think it’s time for an update,” she said. “I think we need a fresh look at this document and I would strongly suggest that we review the design review guidelines.”
Jakubowski also suggested adding provisions to line fences erected during construction projects, prohibit leaving gates for construction sites open so as to block sidewalks, enforce the removal of story poles, develop a business spreadsheet for the commercial districts and update legal notice procedures.
Additionally, city staff already had recommended looking into the 30-degree structural encroachment line, maximum allowable livable area and lot coverage, livable area for rooms 15 or more feet in height, rules regarding balconies, and exploring any rules on peafowl in the city.
In other business, the City Council formally appointed the city’s new Public Safety Commission. Peter Loeffler and Al Boegh will serve two-year terms ending June 30, 2020. Eugene Ramirez, Hunter Chang and Gene Chuang will serve four-year terms ending June 30, 2022, and Jeff Boozell will serve as an alternate for a two-year term.
Chang is the sole carryover from the Traffic Advisory Commission, which was effectively repurposed earlier this year to become the public safety one. There were 12 applicants for the Public Safety Commission.
As the Traffic Advisory Commission did, the Public Safety Commission is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at City Hall.

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