Council Subcommittee Considers Some New Remodeling Regulations
• Proposal to Thwart Many Attempts to Subvert Process
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
Lawmakers often jest they write the laws just for others to find the loopholes. That is apparently what has happened with the city’s partial demolition, remodeling and additions regulations.
The city’s Zoning Ordinance Revision and Code Enforcement Subcommittee or ZORACES heard this week all about how loopholes have been found by developers who attempt to build entire new homes under the old rules.
“These projects have resulted in significant demolition and construction activities outside of the scope of work allowed by the Local Coastal Program for a remodel,” a staff report stated.
However, after hearing comments from the public, the subcommittee decided to send the matter back to staff for further consideration in light of the green building rules either in place or soon to take hold in Malibu. ZORACES is made up of city councilmembers John Sibert and Jefferson Wagner.
It is the law of unintended consequences subcommittee members hope to skirt. “The fear was that [proposed recommendations] would be defined in a way to make it difficult for energy saving projects,” said the city’s associate planner Richard Mollica.
Council subcommittee members had been previously told that some clever builders had made the matter problematic on several other levels.
The LCP allows a project to be processed as a remodel and “maintain existing nonconformities so long as at least 50 percent of the exterior walls remain in place. Otherwise, the structure is considered a replacement structure pursuant to LCP Local Implementation Plan... and must be brought into conformance with the current policies and standards of the LCP. [For example] the structure loses any existing, legal non-conformities such as setbacks, height, square footage and must comply with current requirements,” Mollica added in his memo to ZORACES.
When a project is approved, it contains an explicit scope of approved work, Mollica explained: “In the event that a project exceeds what was approved, the project violates the permit and frequently results in excessive time and cost for city staff, the applicant and property owner to rectify the situation,” Mollica said, in his staff report.
“Furthermore, if the unapproved work removes more than 50 percent of the nonconforming existing structure, resulting in a replacement structure, the project may not comply with current zoning ordinances. This results in after-the-fact approvals, demolition permits and other necessary entitlements,” Mollica added.
Another problem of the LCP, according to the planner, is it does not establish specifically how to calculate the 50 percent threshold for exterior walls.
“It does not establish specifically how to calculate the 50 percent, nor does the municipal code,” he noted.
Is it a remodel or does the proposal constitute a replacement structure? “For instance, the LCP does not discuss how to calculate exterior walls in a multi-story structure, when there are impacts to wall segments resulting from roofline and or foundation alterations or how to value changes to windows and doors,” wrote Mollica.
“To better distinguish between remodels and replacement structures, improve efficiency through the planning review process and increase project transparency, staff proposes to clarify submittal requirements, procedures and thresholds guidelines for projects involving partial demolitions, remodels or additions,” Mollica wrote.
The staff proposal states, “A structure shall be considered a replacement structure, and forfeit any legal non-conforming status, if more than 50 percent of the linear footage of exterior walls are removed and or replaced. Such structures shall be brought into conformance with the current policies and standards of the LCP and be processed as a coastal development permit.”
The policy guidelines go on to technically define what kind of wall materials are counted or not counted against the 50 percent and what also constitutes removal of exterior walls.
The specifications outline how to measure doors and windows and other types of construction that would be deemed to constitute a replacement.