If you were planning to build a permanent shade awning on your roof before the family reunion barbecue in March, you’re out of luck.
The Seal Beach City Council voted 5-0 Monday to change the city code to allow residential rooftop canopies -- but only if the canopies are detached from the building, are collapsible and are stored below the building's height limit when not in use.
According to Mayor Pro Tem Ellery Deaton, the request for the ordinance arose after a resident complained that a neighbor had put up a series of posts to hang canopies on top of the neighbor’s home.
The problem, Deaton said, was that while the canopies could come down, the posts were up permanently, which led the council to ask the Planning Commission to come up with clear guidelines about the placement of items on residential roofs in July 2012.
According to the staff report, the city’s Planning Commission recommended the council pass the law, as well as a statement telling residents the reasoning behind the law – that it's not meant to prohibit furniture or umbrellas but rather to keep people from erecting “large canopies that would unreasonably block light or views or increase the visual mass of the residential structure.”
Councilman Mike Levitt expressed concerns that the city might have a liability issue if items people put up on the roofs were blown down because of high winds, and he said he wanted to know how the city would enforce the new restrictions if it’s enacted.
“Other than that, I think it’s a great rule," he said to a few chuckles from the audience.
The City Attorney said there would be no liability issues from items blowing off local rooftops, and city staff said the code would be enforced based on neighbor complaints.
Before passing the new law, the council considered restricting it to large canopies 150 square feet or more.
Old Town resident Michael Buhbe objected to that proposal. During public comments, Buhbe said that if a homeowner had a canopy that was under the 150 square foot restriction, they could effectively ignore the 25-foot height limit for Old Town, which was approved by the voters in 2008 ballot measure known as Measure Z.
“I’m saying that this law the way, I’m understanding it, basically violates Measure Z,” Buhbe said. Deaton moved to change the proposed rule by removing the 150 square feet restriction.
The item passed 5-0. The law will go into effect 30 days after the council approves the ordinance in a second reading at the next City Council meeting.