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Sky May Be Limit in Cerritos Roof Quest

August 27, 1987|BETTINA BOXALL | Times Staff Writer

CERRITOS — Don't tell the City Council that appearances don't count.

Take the matter of local roofs.

What makes a handsome roof is causing a lot of talk among council members as they ponder the aesthetics of asphalt shingles. Should this sturdy--but some argue, charmless--roof covering be allowed to creep across more Cerritos neighborhoods, or should the line be drawn in favor of more majestic roofing materials?

It's a thorny question for the council, encompassing issues of money, taste and safety.

"I think we've got a difficult situation here, in that we recognize a large number of homes in the city are getting to the point where reroofing is necessary," Councilman Barry Rabbitt said.

While a third of the city's 14,000 houses have composition roofs, installed before the city outlawed them on new residences in 1972, the majority of homes are graced with wood shakes. Come replacement time, however, planners anticipate that many homeowners will want to switch to something more fire resistant.

Asphalt the Pits?

Clay or concrete tile is one reroofing alternative. Asphalt is a much cheaper one. Trouble is, it's also illegal in Cerritos.

For the most part, style-conscious city regulations prohibit the replacement of a wooden roof with an asphalt one. Now it's up to council members to decide whether to loosen the design restrictions.

Last week, after approving several other development-code changes, the council postponed its reroofing vote until its staff can investigate more.

"Just to open the doors citywide and have tracts come in and have asphalt shingles is something that's hard to accept," Rabbitt said. "In most people's judgment, it's less attractive and it's a downgrading of quality."

Councilwoman Ann Joynt is also reluctant to let Cerritos go asphalt. "I feel that it's not a very good-looking roof, and we would see some of our best neighborhoods kind of not have the same ambiance if we have all those (asphalt) composition roofs in there."

Still, the council recognizes the expense of replacing wood with tile, especially if a house needs structural renovations to support the tile's greater weight. It costs about $1 per square foot to install an asphalt roof, and two to three times that to install clay or concrete tile.

"We're still looking" for answers, Rabbitt said.

The Wonder Roof

The city staff has been sent in search of a wonder roof, one that is attractive, fire resistant and moderately priced. The council may also consider giving residents low-interest loans to offset the cost of installing tile.

The other development code revisions proved less troublesome. The council-approved changes included new language dealing with patios and solarium additions, along with a reduction in side-yard setbacks for larger residential lots. Baked enamel aluminum patio roofs are all right. Plastic, steel or other corrugated roofing materials aren't.

Not previously addressed in the code, solariums are subject to the same location and setback requirements as enclosed patios. And homes on 6,500-square-foot lots now have the same side-yard setback minimum of 5 feet that applies to 5,000 square-foot lots.

The restrictions are but a few of the binderfuls of regulations that govern every aspect of development in this thoroughly planned community.

Builders are told what percentage of commercial developments have to be landscaped and how high the earthen mounds have to be at the edge of parking lots (2 to 3 feet). They're admonished to take care not to create "a canyon-like atmosphere" when designing two-story residences lining major thoroughfares.

Developers can be forced to post performance bonds to ensure that they'll take good care of their plantings. Anyone interested in letting the sagebrush sprawl across their backyard is out of luck. Overgrown and dead vegetation is deemed a property nuisance. Chain-link fences are banished from front yards.

Why Live in Cerritos?

It all makes for a certain look, one that local officials believe makes their city a sought-after address. "One of the reasons people come to Cerritos is because they're looking for this consistency," Robert Brady, a city planner, said.

Remarked Joynt: "We're very, very proud of our aesthetics, and our property values continue to go up."

The city is by no means alone in its efforts to bar the development equivalent of a punk rock haircut.

"In general, there is a trend--California in fact probably leads the nation, if you want to call it leadership--in spelling out in great detail design requirements," said Richard Peiser of the University of Southern California's School of Urban and Regional Planning.

Such pickiness, he said, is motivated by a desire "to improve what I think is widely regarded as schlocky development in large parts of Southern California."

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