Canyon Area of Sierra Madre Now Zoned R-C

During last night's meeting, the City Council unanimously approved Ordinance 1313, which changes the canyon area from R-1 Residential to the new R-C Residential Canyon Zone and implements new regulations in the area

By Justin Chapman, Sierra Madre Patch, 4/4/2011

After years of various committee hearings and debate, at last night's City Council meeting, in one fell swoop the council members without discussion unanimously approved changing a large portion of the canyon area of Sierra Madre, which used to be classified R-1, into an R-C Zone, or Residential Canyon Zone. The approval was the second reading of the Canyon Zone Ordinance No. 1313, which added a few changes to the first reading that took place at the March 8 council meeting.
The canyon region since 1972 over the development of special regulations, ever since the city's first general plan created a specific canyon land-use designation. 
Ordinance 1313 amends portions of the General Plan Land Use Map in and near the canyon, adds Chapter 17.30 to Title 17 of the Sierra Madre Municipal Code, establishes a Residential Canyon Zone, amends the Zoning Map, and makes related amendments to Chapter 17.22 and 17.60 of the Municipal Code.
The ordinance stated that the R-1 zoning requirements were "ill-designed for the canyon, and have created unnecessary obstacles to property owners from improving their lots without applying for a variance." It claimed there was a need for zoning standards that allow "reasonable development of properties located while preserving the unique character and natural environment of this area and preserve the overall quality of life for its residents."
The canyon area defined by the five member Canyon Zone Committee, which was created by the City Council in January 2009, is the city area with streets that include Sturtevant Drive on the south, Churchill Drive on the west, Skyland Drive to the top of Brookside Lane at the north end and Alta Vista to the east.
The Canyon Zone Committee held 12 monthly meetings as well as two community outreach meetings in February and March 2010 and hosted a walking tour of the canyon. The committee also conducted a with the Planning Commission last November to put the final touches on the proposed ordinance.
As stated in a by Patch contributor :

"In 2008, canyon residents, frustrated with city building codes and zone requirements that they did not feel they could accommodate, were instrumental in opening the discussion for standards asking for the completion of a draft that would apply only within the canyon zone."

Now, the final draft for development standards include floor area limits with Conditional Use Permits for total square footage exceeding 3,000 square feet: building set-back, height, angle of rooflines and floor area definitions. Lot size, parking, walls and fences, accessory structures and limits to the percentage of lot usage are a few among the many other items covered in what is now zoned R-C.

The changes included since the March 8 meeting are:

  • 1) The area within a flood control channel shall be included in the lot area used to calculate the allowable floor area (Section 17.30.130A);
  • 2) Bridges, covered by a solid roof, shall count towards the maximum lot coverage of fifty percent of the area of the lot (Section 17.30.120);
  • 3) Bridges, covered by solid roof, shall be included in the definition of building floor area (Section 17.30.130); and
  • 4) Language revised under Section 17.30.130(A)(4) from "less than 7'6" " to "7'6" or less."
Click to see a PDF file of the rest of Ordinance 1313.
That ordinance, which takes effect 30 days after its passage last night, also stated that the "proposed changes are consistent with the General Plan in that they will help preserve the Canyon area of the City, protect the environment and obtain a balance between developed areas and the natural canyon areas."