Following a zoning administrator’s denial of a minor modification as part of a home addition project for a single family home at 2133 Santa Cruz Ave., the agenda item was presented to the Santa Clara Planning Commission on Wednesday, Sept. 23.
The 1,100 square foot house sits on a 5,062 square foot lot where a family proposes constructing a 427 square foot addition at the rear and side of the home. The addition involves encroaching into a 20-foot setback requirement, and because Planning Department staff did not discover any usual conditions on the property that would warrant a variance, the request for a modification to allow for the addition as proposed was denied.
“This is a case where the lot is extra-ordinarily not unusual,” said Commission Chair Lance Saleme. “This is a lot that matches all the other lots. The expansion that they are looking for is completely consistent with all the surrounding neighbors…”
Planning Commissioners decided to support the homeowners’ appeal of the denied modification request deeming the granting of the variance as necessary for the enjoyment of their property rights and would allow for a configuration of the addition that makes sense. No neighbors spoke in opposition to the plans.
The topic led to discussion of the City’s zoning code update that’s currently in process. Planning Manager Reena Brilliot said that the update could make it easier for property owners to make minor modifications. Commissioner Suds Jain said that applicants having to go before the Planning Commission to appeal denial of minor modifications creates an unnecessary expense for property owners because they have to pay an appeal fee on top of the permit fee. Saleme commented that decisions such as approving the minor modification for 2133 Santa Cruz Ave. should be made by Planning staff.
Planning Commissioners shared perspectives they had gained from attending recent urban planning conferences. Commissioner Priya Cherukuru spoke about the importance of being knowledgeable about sustainability goals for buildings and spreading that awareness in light of the mounting natural disasters due to climate change.
Jain said that though one topic of concern among planners is whether the COVID-19 pandemic will negatively impact plans to expand transit-oriented development, one theory is that the spread of the virus is actually worsened by crowded conditions due to the lack of housing, not the higher density of cities. He also added that building more parkland is an important component of social distancing and that Santa Clara lags behind other cities in having adequate park space.
Staff explained that the City is facing significant financial hardship due to the pandemic and that many budget cuts are underway. City Council is expected to cut the Planning Commission’s budget by about $12,000, which may impact opportunities for commissioners to attend conferences.
The next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 14 and will include a study session on the Climate Action Plan update.