December 13, 2011 Draft Minutes

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DECEMBER 13, 2011

6:00 P.M.

The regular meeting of the Livingston Planning Commission was held in the City Council

Chambers on Tuesday, December 13, 2011. The meeting was called to order by Chair Flores at 5:59 p.m.

Commissioners Present:  Chair Luis Enrique Flores, Vice-Chair Mario Mendoza,Commissioner Roy Soria, Commissioner Francisco Castellanos, Commissioner Harpreet Bains, and Alternate Commissioner Manoj Bains.

Commissioners Absent: None

Staff Present:Community Development Director Donna Kenney, Administrative Assistant Filomena Arredondo, City Engineer Nanda Gottiparthy, and Assistant City Attorney Michael Minkler.

Others Present: Greg Thompson, Joseph Gallo Farms; Mark Tanis, Director of Operations for OCAT; Katherine Schell-Rodriguez, and others in the audience.


The pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited.



Motion by Commissioner Soria, seconded by Commissioner H. Bains, to approve the minutes from the regular meeting of September 13, 2011. Motion carried 5-0.


Motion by Commissioner Soria, seconded by Commissioner H. Bains, to approve the minutes from the regular meeting of November 8, 2011. Motion carried 5-0, with corrections.


Nothing to report.


Katherine Schell-Rodriguez, P.O. Box 163, Livingston, said she attended the November 8 th Planning Commission meeting when Mike Sperry made his presentation to the Planning Commission requesting a parking waiver for 444 Main Street. Her understanding was that even if the Planning Commission had had the authority to issue a waiver they could not take any action at this meeting because this item had been agendized as a presentation and not as a public hearing.

She talked about micro businesses. There are a lot of talented people in the City of Livingston that like to do a variety of different artistic and crafty things, but they don’t have the finances to put in a great, big shop. She would like the Planning Commission to think about how to encourage these people who are doing things as a hobby in their own home to grow into something that will generate them some money and eventually grow into something bigger that will create more jobs.

Director Kenney said the City has been working with a group of businessmen to create a Livingston Chamber of Commerce. They have had two meetings so far. One of the ideas coming out of these meetings is that the City will help businesses get established with a micro-business incubator that will help provide guidance and mentorship to these smaller businesses that are just trying to get started. She anticipates some positive things happening with the Chamber of Commerce in the upcoming year.

Alternate Commissioner M. Bains asked if small businesses that operate from their home are still required to pay a business license fee.

Director Kenney replied City residents operating a business from their home must have a home occupation permit, but in order to get one, they must meet certain criteria. City staff can guide them through the process when they apply for their home occupation permit at City Hall.

Chair Flores closed the public comment period at 6:09 p.m.


This item was postponed to the next Planning Commission meeting at Mr. Sperry’s request.



This item was placed on the agenda for the Planning Commission to consider modifying, revoking, or reapproving this Conditional Use Permit; however, the applicant requested postponement to the next Planning Commission meeting after the agenda packets had been distributed.


OCAT, INC of Modesto proposes the Site Plan/Design Review of a 3,135 square foot Taco Bell drive-thru restaurant to be located on Joseph Gallo Drive west of Winton Parkway and north of the truck stop.

Director Kenny presented the staff report. She explained this project is located out in the Gallo commercial area off of Winton Parkway, next to McDonalds. It is approximately 1.07 acres. They are providing more parking than they are required to provide. They will have three large spots for vehicles with trailers and RVs. The General Plan designation and zoning is appropriate for this use. The applicant has already been through Site and Design Review through Gallo who retains architectural control over that parcel. A colors and materials board was provided to the Planning Commission in their agenda packets. The colors on this chart match colors previously recommended by the Planning Commission for the downtown. The architecture will blend in with the surrounding commercial properties – tile roof, stucco, landscaping.

The applicant was present to answer questions.

Commissioners’ Questions/Comments

Commissioner Soria

• He asked if the seating capacity could be increased. He thinks seating for 76 people is not sufficient, especially when all the high school kids go after school. Perhaps they can provide some outdoor seating.

Director Kenney said generally these types of fast food retails have a high turnover. They will probably get a lot more people coming through the drive-thru than in the dining area. They have a fairly standard plan layout they normally introduce with maybe some design differences depending on the parcel – certain colors or architectural details.

Mark Tanis, Director of operations for OCAT said approximately 60-70% of their business is through the drive-thru, so a one acre parcel is fairly large for their business. The turnover is quite frequent in the dining room, as well. They use a standard layout which can probably be tweaked a little on the square footage, but there are ADA requirements they have to conform to, so there is a lot of open space. They can go back and see if there is room to have some more indoor seating, but seventy-six (76) seats is already a very large restaurant. A typical restaurant for them is only sixty (60) or sixty-five (65) seats, so they are already anticipating more volume and more customers at this location.

Mr. Tanis added that lot size of over one (1) acre is larger than what they typically need. If the volume is there and the business increases down the road, there is opportunity to remodel or add on to that site for future needs.

• He expressed concern with traffic coming in and going out of the same driveway. He asked if there is a reason they cannot make a separate ingress and egress.

Mr. Tanis replied this is a larger driveway and they feel they have a good flow-through design where the drive-thru pulls in the back and holds around the side of the building and exits out in the front.

Director Kenney said the architect is still working with the City Engineer on some of the details. One of the comments from the City Engineer was to consider some connectivity, either to the potential hotel site to the north or the potential road that is going to be west of them to access the hotel.

• He likes the project, but his main concern is planning for the future. He welcomed Taco Bell to Livingston.

Vice-Chair Mendoza

• He asked if busses coming to the restaurant are going to be able to pull up to the drive-thru like at the McDonalds drive-thru.

Mr. Tanis replied that is their plan. They will have at least three (3) parking spaces for oversize vehicles.

Director Kenney said she has noticed, too, from personal observation that buses will pull up at Travel Centers of America (TA) and then people scatter and go to the various fast food restaurants based on their preference.

Chair Flores

• He asked what the plan is for signage. Is there going to be a single standing tower for Taco

Bell only or will there be the possibility of adding other company logos? This was a recent concern brought up in the Industrial area where there was no freestanding sign put up for the industrial businesses.

Mr. Tanis replied they are looking at duplicating what is currently in that area. Any future expansion of signage will have to be addressed as it comes up.

Director Kenney mentioned that some of the double signs out there actually have two pads on one parcel (Carl’s Jr. and Starbucks), so they share signs. Subway has an empty pad, but they will eventually share a sign too. Taco Bell is alone on their parcel, so they will have their own sign. She added that the City is looking at putting up a larger "Welcome to Livingston" sign and add to it all kinds of logos from organizations and businesses, but it is something that takes a lot of time and research.

Chair Flores thinks that since they are already putting up a 60-foot sign, if there is a hotel and another fast food chain coming in, they could possibly share that tower rather than have a street full of 60-foot signs.

• Chair Flores would like to see some outdoor seating.

• He noticed there is going to be a lot of landscaping, so he would like to encourage waterresistant landscaping.

• He noticed the new Applegate Commercial Center in Atwater, CA, will have parking spaces devoted to clean air vehicles and he thinks this is something the City of Livingston should consider in the future.

• He asked if the wall of trees by the neighboring McDonald’s/Chevron will be taken down.

Director Kenney replied the trees are on the McDonald’s side and they are on the west side of the property to shade the parking lot from the summer sun, so they will not be interfering with the trees at all.

Francisco Castellanos

• He thinks the Home Depot sign listing all the businesses in the shopping center looks good from Highway 99, so he thinks it would be nice to have the same type of sign in Livingston.

• He would also like to see some outdoor seating so people have the option to sit outside during nice weather.

Mr. Tanis said they can take a look at the room and the patio area to consider outdoor seating, but people don’t normally sit outside because it’s either too hot or too cold. Most people want to be indoors where it is air conditioned or heated.

Director Kenney mentioned the City can issue outdoor seating permits administratively if they want to put out tables and chairs after they start building.

Following discussion, it was moved by Commissioner Soria, seconded by Commissioner Castellanos, to adopt Resolution 2011-12, a Resolution of the Planning Commission of the City of Livingston Recommending to the City Council the Approval of Site Plan/Design Review 2011-01 for the Taco Bell Restaurant at 339 Joseph Gallo Drive. Motion carried 5-0 by the following vote:

AYES: Chair Flores, Vice-Chair Mendoza, and Commissioners H. Bains, Castellanos, and Soria.

NOES: None


Staff explained to the applicant that this is a recommendation of approval only. This project will come before the City Council in January 2012. If approved by City Council, this project will come back to the Planning Commission for approval of their Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the drive thru.

Chair Flores acknowledged he forgot to open the public hearing to accept public comment, so he opened it at 6:31 p.m.

Katherine Schell-Rodriguez, P.O. Box 163, Livingston, stated she personally dislikes Taco Bell, but a lot of people like it and she’s okay with it.

Chair Flores closed the Public Hearing at 6:31 p.m.

Assistant City Attorney Michael Minlder stated there was no need to vote on the item again.


Michael Gallo proposes a general plan amendment and to annex and prezone approximately 334.7 acres into the City of Livingston located north of Vinewood Avenue, west of Robin Avenue, south of Highway 99 and east of the Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Director Kenney presented the staff report.

This item is the General Plan Amendment, Annexation, Prezone, and Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Gallo Annexation Project. Mr. Gallo submitted his application to annex in 2004 and has been waiting for the 2025 General Plan Update to be adopted and revised. City Council determined the Gallo project can move forward under the 1999 General Plan and a Planning Commission public hearing is the first step. Unfortunately, the environmental document is not complete or out for public comment as of this meeting. Therefore, at Planning Commission direction, staff will move this item to either a special Planning Commission meeting in December 2011, or to the next regular meeting in January 2012.

Chair Flores opened the public hearing at 6:33 p.m.

Greg Thompson, representing applicant Joseph Gallo Farms, apologized for the environmental document not being ready. He said this is a great project for its location and what it can represent for the City of Livingston as far as potential new jobs. He is available to answer any questions on behalf of Mr. Gallo and he looks forward to working with the City.

Commissioners’ Comments/Questions

Vice-Chair Mendoza

• Asked how long they think the process will take to bring the project into the City.

Mr. Thompson replied it all depends on how soon the project goes in front of the Planning Commission and City Council. However, they are getting a lot of cooperation from both the City and the County, so he is very optimistic. They would like to start the process immediately so they can get it going and make that territory available to manufacturers and industries that can generate some jobs.

He indicated he spoke with some of the County representatives and asked them what their interest would be on getting involved in renegotiating their revenue sharing agreement between the County and the City. This is a necessary component of the Gallo annexation and everybody they spoke with was encouraging. The County said they would like to work with the City of Livingston on this because they are looking to do the same thing with other communities.

• Asked if they already have some businesses lined up for this property.

Mr. Thompson said they have been approached by consultants looking for land to develop, so they brought this property to their attention and were very encouraged. The County informed him that Livingston is missing out on about twenty (20) valid projects per month from consultants driving up and down SR 99, so what they are trying to do is position a project to the point it is ready for development. Most of these potential developers are on a very aggressive and accelerated time frame. For this project you are

looking at about 334 acres of multiple uses, some residential zoning to protect the existing houses, some commercial uses which will provide a buffer zone between the industrial parcels and existing City limits, and then there is about 160 acres of general industrial which could support either manufacturing or processing operations.

Mr. Thompson added this particular property is a little bit unique in that it is supported by highway accessibility; it has two different power providers, PG&E and MID; it has natural gas along Vinewood Avenue; and it has a multitude of things that a processing or industrial user would be looking for, so it represents a pretty nice lightning rod for opportunity for the City of Livingston.

Assistant City Attorney Minkler clarified where the project is in the review process. The General Plan Amendment, Prezone and CEQA document are pieces that have to be in place when the City makes application to the County LAFCO (Local Agency Formation

Commission) for the annexation. After Planning Commission’s recommendation, the Council would authorize staff to take the application to LAFCO and then it’s in the County’s hands; it’s another separate approval that the annexation has to go through.

Chair Flores

• He asked what else they will be looking at on the project.

Director Kenney replied the Mitigated Negative Declaration which is about 65-70 pages long.

Discussion followed regarding holding a special meeting in December rather than waiting until the January 10, 2012, regular meeting.

Vice- Chair Mendoza stated he will be available to direct the meeting if Chair Flores is going to be out of town.

Commissioner Soria

• He asked if there is any follow up from Caltrans on the possibility of putting in an off-ramp from Highway 99 southbound just past the Merced River.

Greg Thompson said normally those lanes are designed to take pressure off of arterials or to feed specific projects. Right now in this part of the process, all Gallo is doing is trying to bring the site into City limits. There is nothing project specific that would trigger that type of Caltrans requirement. Nobody is generating or constructing or getting their scopes of work tied up in a knot with Caltrans unless they absolutely and positively have to.

Projects, at times, trigger additional dedications for roadways or for truck traffic or road widening, and things of that nature. Those kinds of things can be anticipated, but an annexation normally doesn’t lead to those types of requirements.

Commissioner Soria would like them to keep that in the back of their minds for when that particular parcel does develop.

Discussion followed.

Greg Thompson said he knows about the type of improvements that Commissioner Soria is suggesting. He knows a little bit about what was speculated when it was going to be a lot of residential development in that area. What Mike Gallo has done, fortunately, is say, We don’t need residential development, what we need is jobs so there is an opportunity here." The only residential component that they have is approximately thirty (30) acres and it was suggested to them by LAFCO that they include it to preserve existing residential uses within that area.

Chair Flores opened the public hearing for public comment at 6:48 p.m.

Katherine Schell-Rodriguez, P.O. Box 163, Livingston, asked if given that this is coming in under the 1999 General Plan, and it is just a little bit different than what the 1999 General Plan is designated, it will be an amendment to the 1999 General Plan and also an amendment to the 2025 General Plan when it comes through.

Director Kenney replied this is an amendment to the 1999 General Plan. When the 2025 General Plan comes through, Gallo would already be within City limits.

Chair Flores closed the Public Hearing at 6:49 p.m.


The City Council has asked the Planning Commission through Resolution of Intent 2011-71 approved on November 15, 2011 to take public comment, determine General Plan consistency, and make a recommendation to the City Council concerning an amendment to reduce residential rear yard setbacks from a minimum of fifteen (15) feet to a minimum of five (5) feet.

Director Kenney presented staff report. She stated this item was brought forward by City Council because there are property owners unable to build patio covers or room additions in their rear yards due to a minimum rear yard setback of fifteen (15) feet. Staff did some research and found many houses have built almost to their rear setback and they have also maxed out on lot coverage and floor area ratio.

Director Kenney indicated that allowing a five (5) foot minimum setback may impact additional Code sections concerning setback exceptions, lot coverage, and floor area ratio. She explained lot coverage and floor area ratio.

If the Planning Commission recommends that City Council approve changing the rear setback to five (5) feet, the lot coverage would have to be changed as well or it would become an obstacle.

Staff added calculations to the staff report to show numbers that would allow people to build an addition, not violate the lot coverage or FAR and not violate the new proposed five (5) foot rear setback.

Commissioners’ Questions/Comments

Commissioner Castellanos

• Asked if this means they would make the lots even small or if it only applies to people that want to get a permit to make an addition or carport in the back of their house.

• Asked if changes apply to any lot in the City.

Director Kenney replied that setbacks would apply to any R-1 zoned parcels. She explained that in 2005, the City Council voted to change minimum lot sizes from 6,000 sq. ft. to 7,000 sq. ft., but no new subdivisions have come in with those lot sizes yet, so the rear setback will also apply to the 7,000 sq. ft. lot sizes. What this means is that on a 7,000 sq. ft. lot, you would have ten (10) feet of side setbacks and five (5) feet of rear setback.

Chair Flores opened the Public Hearing for public comment at 6:54 p.m. and closed immediately thereafter as there was no public comment.

Alternate Commissioner M. Bains asked for clarification of the fifteen (15) feet rear setback change to five (5) foot rear setback.

Director Kenney explained that currently the back yard must be a minimum of fifteen (15) feet; they could not extend into it. If the rear setback would change to a five (5) foot rear setback, they could then add ten (10) feet onto their house and still have a five (5) foot back yard.

Commissioner Soria said he cannot recall which subdivisions have fifteen (15) foot rear yards.

Director Kenney stated that except in the very old sections of town, almost all lots have fifteen (15) foot rear yards. There are six (6) houses in the Strawberry Fields subdivision next to Bridgeport Subdivision that had an issue with an underground canal and got a variance, so they have a ten (10) foot rear setback.

Commissioner Soria remembers having lengthy discussions when he was a Council Member about the lots with small rear yards and they came to the conclusion that whoever bought a home with a small rear yard would have the understanding that they would not be able to build a patio or an addition because of the setback requirements.

Director Kenney said as staff approves new homes on properties through the building permit process, if they only have a fifteen (15) foot minimum rear yard, staff makes a notation on the plans to let them know that these small rear yards may prohibit a patio cover or an addition to the home.

Alternate Commissioner M. Bains feels that if the rear setbacks are changed to five (5) feet, a structure or addition will now be too close to the rear fence and there will be complaints coming from the neighbors about privacy.

Director Kenney agreed this can cause problems between neighbors. She said that has happened before with 2-story houses. Neighbors complain even though they are fifteen (15) feet away from the rear fence because their neighbor with the 2-story house can look over into the neighbor’s back yard or into their pool and they feel they have no privacy.

As part of the design review process, staff would require additional trees and landscaping to screen the neighbor’s yard, or maybe different types of windows to help screen the view.

Alternate Commissioner M. Bains said he personally would not want his neighbor looking into his back yard. He thinks a five (5) foot rear setback is too close.

Chair Flores feels that fifteen (15) feet rear setback is too little at times.

Alternate Commissioner M. Bains asked how many complaints were received from citizens.

Director Kenney said Mayor Espinoza mentioned at least one, but he did not go into detail as to who brought the complaint to him.

Alternate Commissioner M. Bains said this would be a Citywide change for one citizen’s complaint and he thinks there will be a lot more complaints from neighbors being too close to the fence.

All Commissioners agree that being too close to the fence will generate more problems.

Motion by Commissioner Soria, seconded by Commissioner Castellanos, to approve Resolution 2011-13 recommending the City Council Maintain Current Rear Setback Requirements of fifteen (15) feet. Motion carried 5-0, by the following vote:

AYES: Chair Flores, Vice-Chair Mendoza, and Commissioners H. Bains, Castellanos, and Soria.

NOES: None



Planning Commissioners

Alternate Commissioner M. Bains

• Wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Commissioner H. Bains

• The Special Joint City Council and Planning Commission Meeting of December 5th was a great meeting.

• Wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Commissioner Castellanos

• Wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  

Commissioner Soria

• Wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Vice-Chair Mendoza

• Wished everyone a Feliz Navidad y Prospero Alto Nuevo (Spanish for Merry Christmas and Happy New Year).

Chair Flores

• Asked if the mural language will get resolved any time soon.

Assistant City Attorney Minkler replied they were planning on putting it on the agenda for this meeting, but the 444 Main Street CUP and the Gallo Project have taken a lot of staff time; therefore, they decided to postpone it until January or later.

• Asked for an update on the study of the Park and Main Street stop signs.

Director Kenney said she will check with City Engineer Gottiparthy and have an update at the next regular meeting.

• Asked if the code violations at the Del Valle Supermarket have been corrected.

Director Kenney replied they have not yet asked for a re-inspection.

• Wished everyone a happy winter and happy holidays.

City Staff

Community Development Director Kenney

• Wished everyone a Merry Christmas and thanked them for attending the meeting. Administrative Assistant Arredondo

• Wished Everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

City Attorney Michael Minkler

• Wished everyone happy holidays.


The regular meeting was adjourned by consensus at 7:08 p.m. APPROVED: February 14, 2012

Chair, LUIS ENRIQUE FLORES Secretary of the Planning Commission,


The written meeting minutes reflect a summary of ‘specific actions taken by the Planning Commission. They do not necessarily reflect all of the comments or dialogue leading up to the action. All meetings are digitally recorded and are an official record of the meeting’s proceedings. Digitally recorded verbatim minutes are available, upon request, and may be obtained at Livingston City Hall.


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