City Council discusses design and review guidelines for new development

September 24, 2004
Santa Paula City Council

With more and more development headed to Santa Paula, the City Council has focused on creating design and review guidelines to retain the city’s architectural values and ease pressures on developers.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesWith more and more development headed to Santa Paula, the City Council has focused on creating design and review guidelines to retain the city’s architectural values and ease pressures on developers.The council discussed the issue at the Sept. 7 meeting.“With the large amount of development proposed for Santa Paula,” the council must consider whether or not to have the Planning Commission review any guidelines or for the council to set same, said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. “There is no right or wrong with this,” but the time is appropriate for review.There are two extremes, said Mayor Gabino Aguirre, “no guidelines at all,” with building by building review or “set options that limit developers.”Some communities do believe it is helpful to set design standards, said Bobkiewicz. “But, with so much development planned for Santa Paula if you’re not comfortable with projects come down the pipe my fear,” is that without guidelines the city would lack input.Aguirre asked how the Planning Commission fits into the issue and Bobkiewicz noted that commissioners’ “individual tastes and standards” could lead to trouble with “one community standard for one body and another community standard for another.”If the council wants the vision for the future to be precise they must act so, he added.“I suspect we have to meet somewhere in the middle,” said Aguirre.
“If we take each project as the developer proposes it then we’re in the position of having to work, perhaps at odds, with the developer,” noted Vice Mayor Mary Ann Krause, who advocated design standards to ensure future development reflects not particularly design sameness but “what we value.”Developers must know what to expect, said Councilman John Procter, and if the Planning Commission has “too much latitude it becomes more personal choice rather than something prescribed by the community.”Interim Planning Director Janna Minsk noted that the city already has guidelines for landscaping and parking, among others, but “we want to avoid the cookie cutter approach,” to design guidelines.The city has planners who “tend to utilize what is acceptable in the community,” and offer ideas on design changes before applicants go before the Planning Commission, she added.If staff makes the determination that a project “appears to meet design guidelines then it comes to the Planning Commission, the commission has legal authority to make changes,” although staff has signed off on the plans, said City Attorney Karl Berger.Such changes can have implications for the project itself as well as the overall cost of the project, he added.If a city does not have “much of a standard builders assume you have low expectations and meet that,” said Krause. “Set the standards so it’s clear we want quality.”Councilman Rick Cook agreed and suggested that such decision-making be kept in control of the council as “we’re the ones who have to deal with the people all the time,” over development issues.



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