After reaching a 2-2 impasse at its previous meeting, the Carpinteria Planning Commission decided Sept. 7 to deny the appeal filed by neighbors opposing a second-story addition to a home on Vallecito Road.
The decision allows for the renovation and construction of an 856 square-foot second-story expansion of a home on Vallecito Road and settles a months-long dispute between the homeowner and neighbors who felt the project would be too large.
At the start of the Sept. 7 meeting, applicant Manuel Martinez, the owner of the home, asked for clarity on whether the 2-2 vote on Aug. 2 meant the appeal failed or was still in question.
“It’s in limbo,” Chair Jane Benefield said. “We decided to meet again and hear the whole thing again, which is what we’re doing here.”
Martinez defended his project and said he felt like everything was within the scope of the neighborhood. “All I’m doing is just adding on to an existing house,” he said.
Martinez hired a historian who found the house started as a cottage in 1935, before the lots were traditionally subdivided in the area as they are now. The house is old, he said, and needs to be re-done to update and improve energy efficiency, heat retention and to “enhance the architectural appearance” of the property.
The Vallecito home is the largest in the 34-home neighborhood and is the only property in the area that takes up an entire “through lot” that would normally be subdivided into two properties, at over 13,000 square-feet.
In the Aug. 2 meeting, Benefield and Commissioner David Allen voted to support the appeal against the project, and Vice-Chair Glenn LaFevers and Commissioner John Moyer voted to approve the renovation as is.
At the latest meeting, Allen questioned whether the metrics for measuring the property and its “footprint” can be affected by the size of the lot. The project must be in proportion to existing buildings, he said, and expanding the property could double its footprint, creating an imposing out-of-place property in the neighborhood.
“None of the other two-story structures are as imposing and bulky, and fill the view as this one would,” Allen said.
The commissioners who voted in favor of the applicant’s proposed expansion pointed to Martinez’s persistence and patience with the red-tape bureaucracy involved with the process and added that the property owners should not be punished for having a bigger lot.
“I feel that the applicant has tried diligently to work with the Architectural Board of Review, to satisfy the neighbors, and like (LeFevers), I don’t think the house is out of scale with the neighborhood,” Moyer said. He also said he had visited the property and spoke with Martinez, who showed him the home and area, and Moyer felt comfortable with the project as proposed.
Callender, who was absent from the Aug. 2 public hearing when he was out of town for the birth of his grandson, was the deciding vote in the denial of the appeal.
“I’m prepared to vote against the appeal and in favor of allowing the project to move forward,” he said prior to the vote. “I realize that’s going to disappoint some people.”
He applauded the neighbors and community members for pushing to have their voices heard on the issue and allowing the city to assess all aspects of the project, and said it was hard to vote against commissioners he highly respects, but he added that that is all part of the process.
The appeal was denied in a 3–2 vote, with Benefield and Allen opposed, affirming the community development director’s decision to approve the Vallecito remodel project and allowing construction to begin. The neighbors who filed the appeal have 10 days to file another appeal to City Council, but it is uncertain whether they will choose to move forward.