September 2021 issue

 NTAC OKs lot size variance for synagogue

The North Tustin Advisory Committee (NTAC) recommended approval of a variance for the Chabad of Tustin, despite concerns that it is “too much building for the neighborhood.”

Chabad of Tustin is seeking Orange County approvals to build a sanctuary, social hall, library and other rooms totaling 9,850 sq. ft. on a 31,680-sq.-ft lot at 18802 East 17th Street. The synagogue is expected to seat 50 people.

Described as a one-story structure, it will stand 34.5 feet tall and will back up to homes on the northeast side. The North Tustin Specific Plan calls for minimum 40,000-sq.-ft-lots for houses of worship. Hence, the need for a variance.

NTAC reviews development slated for the area and checks their compatibility with the North Tustin Specific Plan when applicable. It passes its recommendations on to the county planning commission, which ultimately approves or denies projects.

During the public hearing, neighbors noted their discomfort with the building’s “overwhelming presence,” allowance for on street parking on 17th, setbacks and landscaping. Several Chabad members spoke in favor of the project, emphasizing its benefits to the community and noting that many congregants could walk there, thus alleviating the need for parking.

Committee member Dessa Schroeder pointed out that the project did not meet North Tustin Specific Plan guidelines, didn’t have a residential look and is too large for the space.

Mike Fioravanti agreed that the proposed building did not fit into the community due to its height (equal to 3.5 stories) There was an initial motion to deny the variance, a subsequent motion asking that the size be reduced by 20% and brought back to the committee, and then a final motion approving .the variance, but asking the planning commission to address the height, setback and other neighborhood concerns when it considered the project.

The vote was 4-3, with Peter Schneider, Kirk Watilo, David Feldberg and Kendra Carney in favor and Mike Fioravanti, Pat Welch and Dessa Schroeder opposed.