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Community Development
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 | Hillside Area
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The Hillside Overlay Area

In 1977, a special overlay district was created in the hillside area of the city. The Hillside Overlay was designed to acknowledge the particular development difficulties due to the topography of the area. Development in the hillside is subject to special review criteria based on view, light, air, and privacy concerns. For a map of the area or to determine if a specific property is located in the Hillside Overlay Area please contact the Community Development Department at (310) 618-5990. The following excerpt is from the Torrance Municipal Code.


Article 41 - R-H Hillside and Local Coastal Overlay Zone
(Added by O-2747; Amended by O-2760; O-2961; O-2982; O-3027; O-3110; O-3126; O-3144)

SECTION 91.41.1. HILLSIDE AND COASTAL ZONE.
a) The Hillside and Local Coastal Overlay Zone shall consist of the area designated in the maps attached following this Article, marked Exhibits A, B and C to this section, which are incorporated in this Code by this reference.
b) The provisions of this Article shall apply to all properties within the Overlay Zone in addition to the requirements of the underlying zone, except as provided in this Article. No permits shall be issued for development in the Hillside and Coastal Zone unless the requirements of this Article have been met.

SECTION 91.41.2. APPLICATION OF PREEXISTING ZONE.
Nothing contained in this Article shall be deemed to repeal any provision of this Code, and the requirements of all preexisting zones in existence in the area encompassed by this Overlay Zone shall be and remain in full force and effect in addition to the requirements of the Overlay Zone, except that the requirements of the Overlay Zone shall be applied where the requirements and standards contained therein are more restrictive than those of the preexisting underlying zones.

SECTION 91.41.3. LOT DIMENSIONS.
(Amended by O-3283)
Residential lots within the Overlay Zone shall provide a minimum lot width of fifty (50) feet for interior lots or sixty (60) feet for exterior lots, plus one (1) foot for each one percent (1%) slope in excess of fifteen percent (15%) based on existing grade or finished grade, whichever is more restrictive.

SECTION 91.41.4. PUBLIC HEARING.
a) Upon receipt of the complete application, the Community Development Director shall set a date, time and place for a public hearing thereon as soon as practicable and shall send notice thereof to the owners of land included within a three hundred (300) foot radius of the exterior boundaries of the land for which the permit is sought as shown on the last equalized assessment roll. The Planning Commission may conduct said hearing in an informal manner. The rules of evidence shall not apply. The hearing may be adjourned to a future time at the discretion of the Planning Commission without the giving of further notice, other than announcement by the Commission of the date, time and place of such adjourned meeting at the time of said adjournment.
b) The applicant shall have the burden of proving that all the requirements of this Article have been met.
c) The Planning Commission may consider all measures which are proposed by the project proponents to be included in the project and other measures that are not included but could reasonably be expected to reduce the adverse impacts of the project, if required as conditions.

SECTION 91.41.5. PRECISE PLAN.
a) Any development on a lot within the Hillside and Coastal Zone shall be subject to approval by the Planning Commission of a Precise Plan in accordance with Chapter 6 of this Division 9, except as provided in Sections 91.41.7, 91.41.8, and 91.41.14 of this Article.
b) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to permit the restrictions which are less restrictive than those established in the this Code, or in the California Coastal Act as to those properties lying westerly of Palos Verdes Boulevard in the Coastal Zone as defined by the California Coastal Act.
c) Nothing in this Article shall be construed to authorize the Planning Commission to impose conditions more restrictive than the express provisions of this Code or the California Coastal Act as to those properties lying westerly of Palos Verdes Boulevard in the Coastal Zone as defined in the California Coastal Act when so doing would render construction on any lot impossible where such construction would be possible in accordance with the Code as written.
d) The requirements, restrictions and conditions of the California Coastal Act, commencing at Section 30000 of the Public Resources Code of the State of California and any implementing regulations authorized by law, are incorporated by this reference as to the properties lying westerly of Palos Verdes Boulevard in the Coastal Zone as defined in the California Coastal Act.

SECTION 91.41.6. PLANNING AND DESIGN.
(Amended by O-3477)
No construction and no remodeling or enlargement of a building or structure shall be permitted unless the Planning Commission (or the City Council on appeal) shall find that the location and size of the building or structure, or the location and size of the remodeled or enlarged portions of the building or structure, have been planned and designed in such a manner as to comply with the following provisions:
a) The proposed development will not have an adverse impact upon the view, light, air and privacy of other properties in the vicinity;
b) The development has been located, planned and designed so as to cause the least intrusion on the views, light, air and privacy of other properties in the vicinity;
c) The design provides an orderly and attractive development in harmony with other properties in the vicinity;
d) The design will not have a harmful impact upon the land values and investment of other properties in the vicinity;
e) Granting such application would not be materially detrimental to the public welfare and to other properties in the vicinity;
f) The proposed development will not cause or result in an adverse cumulative impact on other properties in the vicinity.

SECTION 91.41.7. PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT - RESIDENTIAL.
Notwithstanding the provisions of this Article, no Precise Plan shall be required if the proposed development within the Hillside and Coastal Overlay Zone is for the purpose of constructing, remodeling or enlarging a dwelling, provided the following requirements are met:
a) The net interior area of the completed dwelling, whether it is new construction or remodeled or enlarged, including the area of the garage, whether attached or detached, will not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the area of the lot or parcel on which the dwelling is located;
b) The dwelling (or in the case of remodeling or enlargement, the portion remodeled or enlarged) will be one (1) story; and provided further that no portion of the roof of the dwelling (or in the case of remodeling or enlargement, no portion of the remodeled or enlarged roof) will be used as a deck, sun-deck or patio, nor will any equipment or appurtenances be mounted on the roof or protrude through the roof (except for ordinary plumbing or heater vents) nor extend above the roof eave line; provided further that a chimney will be permitted if the portion extending above the roof eave line is no larger than the minimum dimensions required by the Torrance Building Code.
c) Except as provided in this subsection, no portion of the dwelling, in the case of new construction, will exceed fourteen (14) feet in height, measured from the ground at finished grade, but not including any berm. In the case of remodeling or enlargement, the portion remodeled or enlarged shall not exceed the height of the lowest portion of the remainder of the dwelling, or fourteen (14) feet measured from the ground at finished grade, but not including any berm, whichever is less. In the case of a down-sloping lot, no portion of the dwelling shall exceed fourteen (14) feet in height, measured from the top of the curb at the center point of the front property line. Vents and a chimney, as provided in subsection b) of this section, shall not be considered in the height measurements.
d) The Community Development Director has determined that the proposed development will not have an adverse effect on other properties in the vicinity, and there is no significant public controversy thereon.

SECTION 91.41.8. PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT - COMMERCIAL.
Notwithstanding the provisions of this Article, no Precise Plan shall be required if the proposed development within the Hillside and Coastal Overlay zone is for the purpose of constructing, remodeling or enlarging a commercial building, located in a commercial zone, if the following requirements are met:
a) In the case of remodeling or enlargement of a building, the net interior area of the resulting building will not be increased by more than fifty percent (50%) as a result of the remodeling or enlargement;
b) The commercial building (or in the case of remodeling or enlargement, the portion remodeled or enlarged) will be one (1) story; and provided, further, that in the event the commercially zoned lot adjoins any lot used for residential purposes, no portion of the roof (or in the event of remodeling or enlargement, no portion of the remodeled or enlarged roof) will be used as a deck, sun-deck or patio, nor will any equipment or appurtenances be mounted on the roof, protrude through the roof, or extend above the roof, or extend above the roof eave line (except for ordinary plumbing or heating vents);
c) No portion of the building, in the case of new construction, will exceed fourteen (14) feet in height, measured from the ground at finished grade, but not including any berm. In the case of remodeling or enlargement, the portion remodeled or enlarged shall not exceed fourteen (14) feet in height, measured from finished grade, but not including any berm, or shall not exceed the height of the lowest portion of the remainder of the building, whichever is less. Ordinary plumbing or heating vents, as provided for in subsection b) of this section shall not be considered in the height measurement;
d) The Community Development Director has determined that the proposed development will not have an adverse effect on other properties in the vicinity, and there is no significant public controversy thereon.

SECTION 91.41.9. DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS.
a) For slope control:
1) All structures shall have roof drainage directed to the street or other approved drainageways by approved methods;
2) All excavations, paving, hillside and slope earthwork construction, landscaping and grading, including fills and embankments, shall meet building and grading Code requirements;
b) For safety, general welfare, aesthetic control, and to help stabilize land values and investments;
1) Stilt-type structures shall be constructed in such a way that there is no exposure to public view of plumbing, electrical, mechanical equipment, ducts, pipes or other construction appurtenances normally associated with a residential or commercial structure;
2) Swing-in garages and circular driveway are encouraged on wide lots to allow vehicles to enter the public way in a forward manner when such drives are landscaped appropriately;
3) There shall be a level setback of not less than five (5) feet on that portion of a hillside lot between the wall of any structure on such lot and any adjacent slope of greater than 15% of such lot;
4) The proposed development will not result in a substantial change in the physical conditions which exist in the area affected by the proposed project.

SECTION 91.41.10. LIMITATION ON INCREASES IN HEIGHT.
No enlargement in any building or structure, or any remodeling of any building or structure, shall be permitted which causes the height of such building or structure or any part thereof, to be higher than before the remodeling or enlargement, unless the Planning Commission (or City Council on appeal) shall find that:
a) It is not feasible to increase the size of or rearrange the space within the existing building or structure for the purposes intended except by increasing the height;
b) If such lack of feasibility is proved:
1) Denial of such application would result in an unreasonable hardship to the applicant; and
2) Granting the application would not be materially detrimental to the public welfare and to other properties in the vicinity.

SECTION 91.41.11. LIMITATION ON INCREASES IN BUILDING SPACE LOT COVERAGE.
a) No remodeling or enlargement shall be made to any building or structure, except for commercial uses in a commercial zone, which remodeling or addition increases the net interior floor area of the building or structure so that it exceeds fifty percent (50%) of the number of square feet in the lot or parcel of land upon which the building or structure is located unless the Planning Commission (or the City Council on appeal) shall find that:
1) Denial of such application would constitute an unreasonable hardship to the applicant; and
2) Granting of such application would not be materially detrimental to the public welfare, and to other property in the vicinity.
b) For purposes of this section, the term "commercial zone" shall mean any zone in which commercial uses are permitted, or are permitted with a Conditional Use Permit.

SECTION 91.41.12. WAIVERS.
Waivers may be granted pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 4, Article 2, of this Division; provided, however, that the building height requirements of this Article may be changed only pursuant to a Precise Plan. Where both a Waiver and a Precise Plan are necessary, both may be processed as a single matter.

SECTION 91.41.13. GUIDELINES FOR REVIEW OF COASTAL DEVELOPMENT.
a) The following factors, in addition to the California Coastal Act, related State regulations and the other provisions of this Article, shall be considered by the Planning Commission when reviewing any development regardless of zone as to those properties lying westerly of Palos Verdes Boulevard in the Coastal Zone as defined in the California Coastal Act:
1) Multiple-family dwellings should not exceed thirty-five (35) feet above existing grade elevation;
2) Roof signs should not be permitted; and
3) Ground signs should be limited to monument-type signs with a maximum height of eight (8) feet above the front property line.
b) The following factors should be considered during review of any development proposed for the coastal bluffs or adjacent to the sandy beach areas:
1) No improvements will be allowed west of the safe building line established by the Department of Building and Safety for Lots 149 through 164, Tract 18379;
2) No construction will be allowed between the safe building line and the west side of Paseo de la Playa, or on any lots north of Lot 148, Tract 18379, without a soils and geologic investigation being filed with the Department of Building and Safety;
3) No development will be allowed without supporting data showing proof of bluff and supporting soils stability being filed with the Department of Building and Safety;
4) Whether the proposed development impairs access to the beach areas for use by the general public;
5) Whether the proposed development is incompatible with recreational usage by the general public; and
6) Whether the proposed development will result in blockage of coastal views from public rights-of-way.

SECTION 91.41.14. EXEMPTIONS.
a) Unless in the opinion of the Director of Building and Safety, based upon the criteria of Sections 91.41.6, 91.41.9, 91.41.10, 91.41.11 and 91.41.13 of this Article, such improvements may have a significant adverse effect on surrounding properties, the following shall be exempt from review under Section 91.41.9 of this Code, regardless of the valuation of improvements: retaining walls three (3) feet or less in height, interior modifications, maintenance or replacement of existing improvements, fences six (6) feet or less in height, grade walls, architectural appurtenances and nonoccupied areas, including but not limited to, uncovered decks, swimming pools, jacuzzis and open patios and those developments exempted by the California Coastal Act where applicable.
b) The Community Development Director may exempt the following from review under Section 91.41.5 of this Article upon determining that there is no significant public controversy thereon unless in the opinion of the Community Development Director or the Director of Building and Safety, based upon the criteria of Sections 91.41.6, 91.41.9, 91.41.10, 91.41.11 and 91.41.13 of this Article, the improvements may have a significant adverse effect on such surrounding properties, regardless of the value of such improvements: retaining walls over three (3) feet in height, balconies, patios, covered decks or any other occupied areas or solar panels; and those developments exempted by the California Coastal Act where applicable.