November 10, 2009




NOVEMBER 10, 2009    

7:00 P.M.

The regular meeting of the Livingston Planning Commission was held in the City Council Chambers on Tuesday, November 10, 2009.  The meeting was called to order by Chair Blevins at 7:00 p.m.

Commissioners Present: Chair David Blevins, Vice-Chair Ramon Avila, Commissioner Roy Soria, Commissioner Kaye Greeley, Alternate Commissioner Manoj Bains.

Commissioners Absent: Commissioner Leticia Soto (Excused)


Staff Present:                 Sr. Administrative Analyst Danna Rasmussen, Community Development Director Donna Kenney, and Assistant City Attorney Jeffrey Massey.

Others Present:                        Council Liaison Martha Nateras, Luis Flores, Katherine Schell‑Rodriguez, Mike Torres, Mario Mendoza, Pedro & Monica Caballero, Dr. Parmjit Singh, Carlos Vieira, and others in the audience.    


The pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited.                     



Motion by Commissioner Soria, seconded by Commissioner Bains, to approve the minutes from the regular meeting of October 13, 2009. Motion carried 5-0.


Kathryn Schell Rodriquez, PO Box 163, Livingston:

·        Veteran’s Day parade will be held November 11, 2009, at 11:00 a.m. There will be an all‑you‑can‑eat homemade soup and bread meal at the Veteran’s Hall immediately after the parade. Cost is only $5.00. Proceeds from the meal will help defray the expenses of the parade.

·        Those of you who know me know I started blogging about the time of the General Plan update, and those of you who have been regular readers and meeting attendees know that I have done my share of thumping on past City Councils and a few on present City Councils. My opinions are my opinions, and I am usually willing to listen to opposing opinions unless the opposition is acting like an ignorant jerk wad. If they are civil, I am willing to listen. If someone with a clear, coherent opposing opinion posts a comment to my blog, I will usually let it through even if it is a bit snarky so long as it is not inflammatory, incendiary, slanderous, sexist, racist, or otherwise lacking in intellectual merit. If it fails to contribute to civil discourse, the “Delete” function is always there for me to use. Today I received a comment that I thought was just a bit vague. It was in response to my post on the upcoming November 17th Council Meeting and it went something like this, “Don’t ass kiss to those ignorant !!!!!!!!! You just talk too much, you sell out !!!! But justice will prevail after we get done!!!!” Personally, that comment struck me as being rather long on ad hominine and short on substance, so I sent the author an e‑mail requesting more information and a few more details such as: 1) Just who exactly is the sell out? 2) What exactly did this person receive in exchange for selling out? Selling out requires a quid pro quo – give details. 3) Define justice. By that, are you referring to violations of Campaign Law, the Brown Act, or other items which come under the jurisdiction of the Grand Jury or Political Fair Practices Commission or justice for someone trying to get the Police Chief to illegally impound more vehicles, among other things? Will I get a response? What kind will it be? I guess that will depend upon whether the comments’ author really wants to dialogue or just wants to be a cyber-pest. We’ll see and I will keep you informed.

Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood Drive:

·        Asked how many times Commissioner Soto had been absent since she got on the Planning Commission.

Chair Blevins responded that he cannot recall how many times she had been absent, but he had just received her letter of resignation this afternoon.

·        Questioned if Alternate Commissioner Bains will take her place.

Chair Blevins responded that is for City Council to decide.

Livingston Rotary Club President, Donna Kenney, 6530 East Avenue, Turlock:

·        Thanked the community for their participation in the Rotary Crab Feed fundraiser event on November 7, 2009. They had a good turn out – about 640 tickets were sold. They also had a wonderful dessert auction and made almost $1000 on that.  She also thanked Planning Commissioners Bains and Soto for attending the event and helping out.



Dr. Parmjit Singh proposes the Site Plan/Design Review of a Mixed Use Project in the Downtown Commercial zoning district (DTC) with a dental office and general office on the first floor and a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor.  The General Plan designation is Downtown Commercial (DC). The total building is approximately 2,927 square feet.  Residential units in the DTC require a Conditional Use Permit.

Staff presented the staff report and explained that the site formally held a small older residence that was demolished under permits.  The project elevations for the new building propose a Spanish influence two story building with smooth stucco exterior and tile roof.  Columns and plaster bands help break up the flat surfaces and blank walls. The colors proposed for the project are off the recommended color list for the downtown commercial district. The tile roof is called “California Mission Blend” and it works well with the “Bosc Pearl” and “Cut Mustard” walls. Trim and accent walls are to be painted “Hearts of Palm” and “Leapfrog” which are two shades of green to provide a nice contrast.  There is no electrical fixtures proposed on the plan, but staff recommends decorative lighting with possibly a Spanish look to it.  

The first floor of the building is proposed to be two offices – a dental office of approximately 1,300 sq. ft and a general office lease space of about 724 sq. ft. Parking is calculated at one (1) space for each two hundred (200) feet of gross floor area plus one (1) space for each employee or staff member. There would be thirteen (13) spaces required for the floor area and five to ten (5‑10) more could be required to accommodate staff, depending on how much staff is hired. Eight (8) spaces are provided on the plan, so the project may be short ten to fifteen (10-15) spaces.  City Code allows a payment of in-lieu parking fees previously determined at $1000 a space if a project cannot provide enough parking onsite. Therefore, staff recommends at least ten spaces be required to have the parking-in-lieu fee.  The parking-in-lieu fee goes into a fund that will be used for a future downtown parking structure. 

The proposed project requires a Conditional Use Permit for the residential unit in the downtown commercial district, but the General Plan does encourage mixed use buildings downtown. Part of that reason is for safety. People in apartments can oversee the commercial areas at night, which creates a safer environment. The apartment would have the parking in the rear; it would have use of the whole parking lot at night after the dental office closes.  The apartment contains two bedrooms, two baths, a family room, a kitchen and a laundry area and an outside courtyard with gazebo.


The project is considered infill development. There was a house on this lot that was recently demolished.  Therefore, the property qualifies for a Notice of Exemption pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

The project owner, Dr. Singh, and his architect, Carlos Vieira, were in attendance to answer any questions. 

Chair Blevins opens the Public Hearing at 7:13 p.m.

Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood Drive, asked the applicant why he was not present at the October Planning Commission meeting. He asked if it was a miscommunication with City staff or if he was told not to come.

Carlos Vieira responded that he was out of town and Dr. Singh had forgotten about the meeting.

Mike Torres, 1616 8th Street, stated he was not against the project, but he was asking for some due process. He asked under what section or title of the City Code and where in the General Plan would he find information about mixed use projects.

Staff responded that the General Plan promotes mixed use projects in the downtown area. Additionally, the table of permitted and conditionally permitted and prohibited uses provided in the Zoning Code indicates residential units in the downtown require a Conditional Use Permit.

Mike Torres, replied that the existing mixed use projects in the downtown are only bookkeeping or beauty shops and the owners of those places live there 24 hours. They do not rent them out.

City staff stated that it is her understanding that Dr. Singh intends to live in the apartment; however, there is nothing in the Code that would prohibit him from renting it out.

Mike Torres stated that in the past, even in a commercial area, if a home that happened to be residential and then was rezoned to commercial burned down or was destroyed by more than 50%, it could not be built back as residential.  He thought the intent was to keep downtown commercial as commercial.  He asked staff what would be the primary use for a mixed land use. He also questioned if there would be separate water meters installed and, if so, what rate would they pay.

Staff responded there will be two separate meters. The apartment will be billed at a residential rate and the offices at a commercial rate.

Mike Torres asked where staff was getting her information from to make that decision.

Staff responded it is stated in the General Plan that mixed use projects are encouraged in the downtown area.  The office uses are permitted uses and the residential use requires a Conditional Use Permit. This is something that the Planning Commission has discretion on and they can discuss now whether or not they want it or if they want to put any conditions on it. 

Mike Torres stated he would like a copy of the Code sections stating this.

Staff said she would provide him with copies.

Mike Torres questioned the meaning of Condition #38 in the Conditions of Approval.

Staff responded this is a standard condition that requires all utilities to be placed underground.

Mike Torres questioned how staff was going to estimate how much the applicant has to pay.

Staff responded he only has to place his utilities from the pole to his building underground.

Mike Torres stated he thought any new construction would have to underground utilities in that area, like Rite Aid did.

Staff responded that eventually all utilities will have to be undergrounded.  She explained that if there are large wires running through the alley that support several businesses or residences and it is feasible to underground them as part of a project, the City Engineer will require it. What specifically goes underground is something that will have to be worked out with both the City Engineer and either PG&E or MID. For this project, the applicant is required to underground his portion.

Mike Torres questioned if the applicant would be charged for that now and what would happen if he sells the place later.

Staff replied that whoever builds on that site will have to underground the utilities.

Mike Torres questioned if the General Plan has a certain section for mixed uses. He would like a copy of that section, too.

Staff replied it does not have a specific section that says, “All mixed use projects have these requirements.” In the General Plan, under the land use policies, it talks about encouraging mixed use projects in the downtown. Staff will provide Mr. Torres with a copy.

Mike Torres feels this would be considered spot zoning residential on downtown commercial and spot zoning is illegal.

Staff replied they are not rezoning the parcel.

Discussion followed.

Mike Torres asked if anybody is allowed to do this in any part of the downtown area.

Staff replied, “If it is zoned Downtown Commercial, yes.”

Mike Torres then asked, “What about commercial?”

Staff replied, “No.”

Mike Torres asked if that means they can tear down a residence in the downtown and then rebuild it.

Staff responded they could do it with a Conditional Use Permit as is stated in the Zoning Code.

Chair Blevins closed the Public Hearing at 7:24 p.m. there being no further comment.

Commissioners’ Comments


No comments


·        Asked Dr. Singh if he is going to split his time between this office and his other office in a different city.

Mr. Singh responded, “Yes.”


No comments.


·        Asked applicant how many people are normally employed in a dental office.

Dr. Singh responded he currently has three (3) people working in his present office, but in the second office it will depend on the workload.

·        In Dr. Singh’s plan they have a maximum of 10 parking spaces but the City wants them to have an additional 5-10, that seems like a lot.

Dr. Singh said he is committed to this project and added that he does not have a problem with the parking requirements.

Staff explained the reason she noted between 5 and 10 spaces is because staff does not yet know the use of the general office that will be adjoining his office.

·        Asked staff if they have to approve one or two resolutions for this project.

Staff replied there are two (2) resolutions; one resolution is a Site and Design Review recommendation to the City Council and the other one is approval of the Conditional Use Permit for the apartment.


·        His main concern is the parking and the entrance and exit. The alley itself seems too narrow for two cars. He asked staff if the alley would have two-way traffic.

Staff responded it is true that the alley is narrow and would probably only allow one vehicle to pass; however, the City is not changing it to one way traffic. Staff asked the City Engineer about alley access and also whether or not there would be improvements coming to that alley.  According to the City Engineer, this is one of the alleys slated to be improved and be paved, so hopefully they can coordinate this with Dr. Singh to have his entrance and alley all done around the same time.

Following discussion, it was moved by Commissioner Soria, and seconded by Commissioner Greeley to adopt Resolution 2009‑10, a Resolution of the Planning Commission of the City of Livingston Recommending to the City Council the Approval of Site Plan/Design Review 2009‑04, for the Dr. Singh Mixed Use Project. Motion carried 5-0, by the following vote:

AYES:                  Chair Blevins, Vice-Chair Avila and Commissioners Bains, Greeley and Soria

NOES:                  None

ABSENT:              Commissioner Soto

Motion by Commissioner Soria, and seconded by Commissioner Bains, to adopt Resolution 2009‑11, a Resolution of the Planning Commission of the City of Livingston Approving Conditional Use Permit 2009-05 for the Dr. Singh Mixed Use Project.  Motion carried 4-1, by the following vote:

AYES:                  Chair Blevins, Commissioners Bains, Greeley and Soria

NOES:                  Vice Chair Avila

ABSENT:               Commissioner Soto

City staff informed Dr. Singh that there will be a 10-day appeal period on this project, and then the Site and Design Review portion will move forward to the first City Council meeting in December. The Planning Commission approved the Conditional Use Permit for the apartment. The Conditional Use Permit does not have to be heard by City Council, but it also has a 10-day appeal period.


Pedro and Monica Caballero are appealing the City’s strict interpretation of the Sign Regulations, Section 4-2-3 Definitions, Sign, and Sections 4-2-8-2 Commercial Zone Districts concerning the denial of their signage application for their business located at 344 Main Street.

Chair Blevins excused himself from participating on this discussion due to a possible conflict of interest.

City staff presented the staff report. She explained that the City received a complaint that a business downtown was installing a mural and questioned whether or not they had been issued a sign permit.  Since they had no sign permits, staff went to speak with the applicants. They were really willing to work with the City.  They returned to City Hall with an application for their signage. Their signage included a sign on the awning itself; a sign beneath the window near the sidewalk; and a Mural that reaches from the awning to the sidewalk.  (Photos of the signage were included in the Commissioners’ agenda packets and additional copies were provided for public review.)

When staff reviewed the sign ordinance, she found that none of these signs comply. In the downtown commercial zone, signs are allowed between the awning and the roof line and they are limited to 30 sq. ft. of signage.  Obviously the one on the awning and the one near the sidewalk do not comply with the location, and the mural is a lot larger than 30 sq. ft.  Staff sent the applicants a letter denying their application and they then requested to file an appeal for that strict interpretation. The City’s Sign Code does not specifically address murals except that in the definition of signs, a picture is considered a sign. Staff has had several discussions about this mural; therefore, when it came time to make a recommendation in the staff report, staff offered the Planning Commission two options:

·        To look at the City Code and see how these sign regulations apply and whether or not staff’s decision was a valid decision.  If the Planning Commission feels that is the course to go, they would vote on the resolution to deny the appeal.  The applicants would still have the opportunity to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the City Council if they disagree with it.

·        Since the City’s Sign Code is very old, the Planning Commission could direct staff to return with an amendment to the code that would more modernize it as it applies to murals. 

The applicants were present to answer any questions.

Vice-Chair Avila opened the Public Hearing at 7:38 p.m.

Kathryn Schell Rodriquez, PO Box 163, said she remembers driving down Main Street when the mural was being painted and she thought it was really pretty and she wondered how long it would take someone to complain about it.  In her personal opinion, commercial buildings colored all the same in tan and chocolate colors remind her of a sea of pancakes with caramel coating, enough to give a person a case of visual diabetic coma. She added that a downtown within a community as diverse as Livingston’s should be alive and colorful.

Mike Torres, 1616 8th Street, said he remembers when Livingston had a big mural that said, “Watch Us Grow.” No one said anything about it. It did not hurt anybody. Therefore, he thinks this mural should be permitted.

Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood Drive, said murals are part of the Mexican culture. Since there is nothing specific in the Code that talks about murals and since a mural is not a picture, he doesn’t understand why they are even having this discussion.

Mario Mendoza, Cardella Court, thinks the mural looks good and brings more business to the community. It does not bother anybody in the City. If the City had a mural before, then there should not be a problem.  You don’t want these people to move out and go somewhere else.

Martha Nateras, 780 Dwight Way, said she feels that the City Code does need to be revised and added that the mural is very colorful.

Monica Caballero, 344 Main Street, stated that they did not know they needed a permit for their signage. Had they known, they would have done it according to City Code.  She added that they are making several changes to the inside of their building as well. They painted it and they are adding one of a kind art pictures that they are getting made. The exterior is only a small part of the entire theme they are doing. They have been in business for about four months now. She added that she loves the City and plans to get more involved with the community. She hopes that the Planning Commission will approve their mural.

Vice-Chair Avila closed the Public Hearing at 7:44 p.m.

Commissioners’ Comments


·        She loves the mural. It has a flavor of an artistic feeling. She thinks that the City is growing into a very nice diverse town.  Unfortunately the Code says, “picture,” and it would have to be altered to “mural.” She is a little confused about the sign on the awning. She asked staff if this sign is also not according to Code.

Staff responded that the Code states that the sign should be located between the roof line and the awning, which means it should be up on the brick.

·        Asked if the sign below the awning is also in violation? 


Staff replied that it is also in violation because it is way below the awning.

·        Asked the applicants if it would be difficult for them to change it. 

       Monica Caballero responded that the sign on the awning had never been an issue before until they got the mural.  She added that it is not hard to change it and if they have to they will comply. The lettering under the awning can be placed above the awning, but it would look a little odd to put something like that on brick.   

·        Asked staff if their signage was comparable to other stores.

Staff responded that she checked other business on that strip and there were no other signs on the awning itself and she did not see any below the window either.  She added that if staff is given direction to look at the Code and then come back with an amendment to the Code, staff would not necessarily limit it just to the mural itself, but they could look at the 30 sq. ft. limit on the signage and the locations with the downtown signage as well.  All that would be open for discussion.

·        She thinks that they need to be careful if they are to change the language to a mural because one person’s impression of a nice mural to another person’s impression of a nice mural could be quite different and so this can be a problem down the road.

Monica Caballero suggested that if City staff gets direction to change the Sign Ordinance, perhaps it would help to include the wording that the applicant would have to take a sketch or drawing to the Planning Commission for approval.

Staff mentioned that giving staff direction to look into an amendment to the Sign Ordinance will require both a lot of staff time as well as City Attorney time because they do need to protect First Amendment rights – Freedom of Speech.  They will need to look at what other cities do to regulate their murals.  This can be considered a very lovely mural, but what if the person next door puts up a mural that has, “Family Gathering of the KKK?”  It is very difficult to regulate murals so that is something that they will have to study carefully.


·        Asked the applicants if they also use the pole with the neon sign.

Monica Caballero responded that they do and added that this sign has been there since before they had the store.

·        He likes what they have done with the mural. He commended them for spending money in cleaning it up.  He thinks the Code should be revised and the language changed so that a mural in good taste is allowed. He thinks it wakes up the downtown area, attracts people, and brings business to the downtown.


·        He thinks this mural looks really good. It brings a lot of art downtown and it represents this community.  He also thinks that in the future, applicants should submit a sketch or drawing in color before anything gets approved.  He also thinks the awning looks good the way it is.  It is a little long, but it has been there for a long time.  As for the sign below the awning, there are always cars parked there, so it is difficult to advertise that.

Monica Caballero explained that the sign below the awning is mainly for foot traffic, which is 80-85% of their customers.  Cars do park there all day long, so sometimes it is blocked. She added that many people did not know that they were a meat market as well as a regular market until they added that sign.


·        She thinks Alternate Commissioner Bains’ suggestion was good that they request that applicants submit a drawing before approval.


·        This building is one of the oldest buildings in the City of Livingston. Our downtown commercial has been dying down since Rite Aid came in.  This awning is one of the originals. He is very supportive of downtown commercial coming into town.  He explained to the applicants that they have to follow a process because there are Code regulations. The Code refers to pictures and not to murals. He remembers another mural that used to be down at Geneo’s Pizza on the side of the building. He added that he wishes the City Council and the Planning Commission would get together sometimes to work on things such as this.  He thinks this mural is really nice and brings beautification to the downtown area.

·        Staff’s recommendation is that Planning Commission denies this mural.  In all fairness, he thinks they need to follow this recommendation for the resolution.

Staff explained that a resolution is not needed, just direction to staff.  Staff’s recommendation says, “The Planning Commission has the option of recommending that staff stay the order to remove the signage and return to a future meeting with possible amendments to the sign ordinance.” Staff’s letter to the applicants denying the application asked them to remove the mural, so if the Planning Commission stays the order, that means it can stay until this is resolved.

Commissioner Soria moved to direct staff to stay the order to remove the signage and look into the language for an amendment allowing murals in the downtown area. 

Staff asked if Planning Commission’s direction was to look at a language amendment for the mural only. Since the discussion also included the sign on the awning and the sign below the awning, she wanted clarification concerning those two signs.


·        He thinks the sign on the awning looks good. The one down below attracts foot traffic, so even though it looks a little tacky, he is okay with it.  If they remove the sign below the awning and put it above the awning, the foot traffic is not going to see it. 

Staff explained that they can cover up to 50% of their window with signage as well. That is currently allowed by Code.


·        She asked if they are within Code the way it stands right now.

Staff responded she has not actually checked to see if the windows have 50%, but it is allowed.

·        She thought maybe the signage on the awning can be grandfathered in since this is an old building that has been there for a long time. 


·        He thinks the only issue is the sign below the awning.

Staff asked if they were also directing her to look at the signage on the awning. Commissioner Soria responded, “Yes.”

Staff wanted to clarify that Planning Commission’s direction was for staff to look at language to permit murals and also to look at language to legalize signs on awnings, but not for the sign near the sidewalk.

Commissioner Soria said that was correct.

Staff explained that once the General Plan update is finalized, the next step is to update the City’s Zoning Code. There are some other areas that need to be updated in the Code and that could be part of the general update that they do.


·        If staff is going to be updating murals and awnings, they may have to think of a good amount of square footage that can be covered.

Staff added that in the industrial area, the 2’ x 2’ sign that they have on their man door is included in the square footage that they are allowed, but the signs that they have on their windows are not included in that total, so staff could also look at language where the mural is reviewed separately and have its own separate square footage and the signs with the text that advertise the business names could either remain with the 30 square foot limit or they could look at changing those totals as well.


·        He is just throwing out ideas for her research.

Staff questioned if he wants staff to look up separating the two.


·        Responded, “Yes.”


·        She thinks the size of the mural is going to have an impact.

Chair Blevins returned to the dias at 8:00 p.m.

Staff explained to the applicants that the resolution is that they can keep their signs right now and staff received direction to start looking at updates to the sign portion of  the City’s Sign Code.


Planning Commission


·        Thanked everyone that showed up to the Rotary Crab Feed fundraiser event. It was a good fundraiser. A lot of people from the City attended.


·        She was disappointed that she did not know about the Crab Feed fundraiser event. 

·        She was privileged, again, to be able to judge the Red Ribbon parade. It was a lot of fun! What a great ending to the week of Red Ribbon. It was exciting to see so many kids from the elementary schools doing their best to say, “No” to drugs.  Many parents were involved. It shows that the community cares about their kids to not give them to drugs. Hopefully kids will remember that when they get into high school. 


·        Stated he has a young one in the audience who is interested in politics.


·        He wanted to remind everyone that the Veteran’s Day Parade is on November 11th. He asked that everyone support the Veterans.

·        Stated that he has been in the Planning Commission for almost nine (9) years and he has enjoyed working with all the Planning Commissioners; however, the process has changed tremendously over the last couple of years and it seems to him that the Planning Commission has been put in a position where they cannot make decisions. In the past, the Planning Commission used to be able to get feedback from the public and then make their recommendation to the City Council, but now everything goes to the City Council anyway. For that reason and because he would like to spend more time with his family, he has decided to resign as Planning Commissioner effective immediately. He thanked everyone for their support over the years.


·        Sober Grad Committee is getting in gear for their graduates.  They will have a pancake breakfast fundraiser on Sunday, November 15, 2009, at Yamato Colony School. He has tickets available if anyone is interested.

City Staff

Donna Kenney

·        As previously stated by Chair Blevins, Commissioner Soto submitted a letter of resignation to the Planning Commission. In her letter, she states that she has some conflicts with her job and cannot continue her term. Additionally, Chair Blevins’ term is up on December 31, 2009, and now Vice-Chair Avila has also resigned which was unexpected. She added that she is sorry to see them all go. They are all dedicated, hard working individuals. Staff will place an ad in the newspaper to recruit for three new Planning Commissioners.

Danna Rasmussen

Nothing to report.

City Attorney

Nothing to report.


The regular meeting was adjourned by consensus at 8:07 p.m.

APPROVED:  March 9, 2010

______________________________                 _______________________________

Chair, DAVID BLEVINS                                     Secretary of the Planning Commission,

                                                                   DONNA M. KENNEY


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