Rancho Palos Verdes City Council
   

TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND COUNCILMEMBERS

FROM: DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING & CODE ENFORCEMENT

DATE: AUGUST 6, 2002

SUBJECT: BORDER ISSUES STATUS REPORT

Staff Coordinator:Kit Fox, aicp, Senior Planner

RECOMMENDATION

Review the current status of border issues, and provide direction to the City Council Committee and Staff.

BACKGROUND

The following is the regular monthly report to the City Council on various "border issues" potentially affecting the residents of Rancho Palos Verdes.

DISCUSSION

Current Border Issues

Harbor Hills Community Center, Lomita

On July 8, 2002, the Lomita Planning Commission adopted Resolution No. 2002-2 conditionally approving the site plan review application for the Harbor Hills Community Center. Copies of the Staff report and draft Resolution are attached to this report. The Planning Commission’s action was almost immediately appealed by a Lomita resident. The Lomita City Council is scheduled to conduct a de novo hearing on the matter on August 5, 2002. Staff will be attending the appeal hearing and will provide an oral update at tonight’s meeting.

Garden Village Shopping Center Revitalization, San Pedro

As discussed at the July 2, 2002 City Council meeting, Rancho Palos Verdes resident April Sandell appealed the City of Los Angeles’ approval of the zone boundary adjustment (ZBA) for the Garden Village shopping center on May 28, 2002. Mrs. Sandell had contacted Staff and the City Council via e-mail to ascertain the City’s position on her appeal, which cited "unknown…future risks…to [her] property" and "related significant issues [that] have not been addressed or resolved" as the bases for her appeal. She also noted that that she had appealed the original approval of the Garden Village shopping center renovations in December 2000 and was involved in the 1997 litigation regarding the storm drain under the shopping center.

Staff noted that, given Mrs. Sandell’s previous experience and litigation related to this property, it might be prudent for her to appeal the zone boundary adjustment in order to preserve her rights and demonstrate that she had exhausted any and all available administrative remedies. However, Staff also noted that the scope of the zone boundary adjustment was so limited that it did not warrant further scrutiny by Staff or the City Council. The City Council agreed with Staff’s assessment and decided that it was not necessary for the City to take a position on Mrs. Sandell’s appeal. The Harbor Area Planning Commission considered the appeal on July 16, 2002, denied it and upheld the City of Los Angeles Planning Director’s conditional approval of the ZBA for the Garden Village shopping center. A copy of the Harbor Area Planning Commission Staff report is attached to this report.

New Border Issues

Butcher Subdivision, Rolling Hills Estates

On July 10, 2002, the City received the attached notice of preparation (NOP) for the proposed Butcher residential subdivision in the City of Rolling Hills Estates. The subject property is a 6.41-acre site near the northeast corner of Palos Verdes Drive North and Palos Verdes Drive East. The developer proposes to create twelve residential lots and a private street parallel to Palos Verdes Drive North. The subject property is located adjacent to the site of the proposed new RE/MAX Palos Verdes office building and across the street from Rolling Hills Covenant Church, which is also planning a major expansion. A public scoping meeting for the Butcher subdivision was held on July 31, 2002, but Staff was unable to attend. However, Staff will be preparing written comments on the NOP and forwarding them to the City of Rolling Hills Estates prior to the August 23, 2002 public comment deadline.

Respectfully submitted:
Joel Rojas, aicp, Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement

Reviewed by:
Les Evans, City Manager

Attachments:

Border Issues Status Report
Lomita Planning Commission Staff report and draft Resolution No. 2002-2 for Harbor Hills
Harbor Area Planning Commission Staff report for Garden Village ZBA appeal
NOP for the Butcher subdivision EIR


BORDER ISSUES STATUS REPORT
Revised August 6, 2002

CONSTRUCTION OF A RECREATION FACILITY AT HARBOR HILLS (COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES AND CITY OF LOMITA)

The County has proposed construction of a 12,650 square foot recreation facility for the Harbor Hills Housing area. The $2.3 million project will consist of a gym, two multi-purpose rooms, a recreation office, sports equipment storage, a child care area for 36 pre-school children, a sheriff’s patrol office, a full service kitchen, restrooms and locker rooms. It will also include a 75-space parking lot.

Homeowners in Peninsula Verde were not offered adequate opportunity to comment on the project and have turned to the City to intercede on their behalf. A community meeting took place at the Harbor Hills Community Center on August 27, 2001 and was attended by then-Mayor Lyon and then-Mayor Pro Tem McTaggart as well as homeowners from Peninsula Verde. In addition to strong objections to the County’s notification process for the project, the homeowners expressed concerns about lighting intensity, times of operation, children crossing PVDN, traffic, unsavory activities near the Lomita water tower and location of the recreation facility. A second meeting took place on September 12, 2001 to allow the County Regional Planning Department to go over the environmental approval process conducted for this project. The then-Mayor represented the City at this meeting. Issues raised by the homeowners included concerns about the notification process, environmental clearances and parking and grading on the hillside adjacent to their homes.

In response to concerns from then-Mayor Lyon and then-Mayor Pro Tem McTaggart, Supervisor Knabe became involved in the matter. At their meeting on September 25, 2001, the County awarded the construction contract for the community center. However, in response to the concerns of the then-Mayor and then-Mayor Pro Tem, Supervisor Knabe, at the October 9, 2001 Board meeting received approval of his motion to: "Extend the time period for the Executive Director of the Housing Authority to report back to the Board from 30 days to 60 days regarding the Cities of Rancho Palos Verdes and Lomita’s specific concerns related to the planned construction of a community center and childcare center at the Harbor Hills Public Housing Development; and instruct the Executive Director of the Community Development Commission to postpone commencement of any construction until the Board further review the matter."

On Monday, October 22, 2001 then-Mayor Lyon and then-Mayor Pro Tem McTaggart joined five or six Peninsula Verde residents and an equal number of Harbor Hills residents to discuss possible modifications to the Community Center plans. County Community development staff made the presentations, but Supervisor Knabe’s office was represented as well as County Counsel and the County Geologist. Harbor Hills’ staff was also in attendance. The County proposed relocating the 75-space parking lot away from the Peninsula Verde homes. In addition, they proposed reduced lighting in the parking lot. Our residents were pleased with these changes, but disappointed that the Community Center building could not be relocated further from the property line.

The City Attorney reported on her research into the environmental process in closed session at the November 7, 2001 City Council meeting. The City geologist also provided his comments on the project grading at the November 7, 2001 meeting. The City Council directed the City Manager to prepare a letter to Supervisor Knabe pointing out that the 60-day period within which the Board is expected to receive a report from the Housing Authority would expire on November 22, 2001. Prior to the expiration of the 60-day period the Council asked for assurances from the Supervisor, in writing, regarding design and operational changes. The letter, signed by former Mayor Lyon went out on November 12, 2001. So far there has been no response, although Dick Simmons, of the Supervisor’s office, has indicated that a letter is forthcoming. In addition, at the request of Dick Bruner (Peninsula Verde HOA) staff discussed the project with the City Manager of Lomita in mid-December 2001. Mr. Odom was aware of the project and said the proposed parking lot revisions were being reviewed by the Lomita Planning Department. He was not aware of any special interest in the project on the part of his Council or citizens groups.

On January 10, 2002, the City received the promised letter from Supervisor Knabe regarding design and operational changes to the project. These changes include relocation of the parking areas, the use of shorter lighting fixtures and lower illumination levels in the parking areas, limitations of the days and hours of operation for special events and child care services, dedication of two Sheriff’s deputies to the on-site field office, and adjustments to the building roof form and landscaping plans to reduce the impact of the project upon views from City residents in the Peninsula Verde community.

On April 2, 2002, the City received a copy of a memorandum from the Housing Authority to Supervisor Knabe’s office regarding the project schedule for the Harbor Hills Community Center. The project was scheduled from review by the City of Lomita Traffic Commission and Planning Commission in April 2002 and May 2002, respectively. Pending these approvals, the County intended to begin construction by early Summer 2002, with completion of the project to take approximately one year. Staff intends to monitor this project to ensure that the promised design and operational changes discussed above are implemented.

On May 13, 2002, Staff attended the City of Lomita Planning Commission hearing for the Harbor Hills Community Center (Site Plan Review No. 954). Several residents of the Peninsula Verde neighborhood addressed the Planning Commission with their concerns, including noise, geology, security and construction impacts. Staff also addressed the Planning Commission, suggested modifications to some of the proposed conditions of approval, and provided copies of letters from Supervisor Knabe and our geotechnical consultant, Zeiser Kling, to be included in the public record. The Planning Commission decided that it needed additional information from the County with respect to previous environmental analysis, noise, crime statistics for Harbor Hills and an alternate site plan suggested by Lomita Planning Staff. The matter was continued to the next Lomita Planning Commission meeting, which was held on Monday, June 10, 2002.

At the June 10th Lomita Planning Commission meeting, the Planning Commission heard additional testimony from the County and from Rancho Palos Verdes and Lomita residents. As a result, the Planning Commission conditionally approved the project, including conditions of approval that were recommended by the City of Rancho Palos Verdes. The Lomita Planning Commission was scheduled to adopt a resolution finalizing this decision—and starting the 15-day appeal period—on July 8, 2002.

On July 8, 2002, the Lomita Planning Commission adopted Resolution No. 2002-2 conditionally approving the site plan review application for the Harbor Hills Community Center. This action was almost immediately appealed by a Lomita resident. The Lomita City Council is scheduled to conduct a de novo hearing on the matter on August 5, 2002.

 

RE-VITALIZATION OF THE GARDEN VILLAGE SHOPPING CENTER ON WESTERN AVENUE AT WESTMONT DRIVE (CITY OF LOS ANGELES)

The Garden Village revitalization project was approved by the Los Angeles City Council on June 8, 2001. The project, located on Western Avenue north of Westmont Drive, will add 2000 square feet of retail space to a reconfigured shopping center to be anchored by a "super" Albertson’s.

The Border Issues Committee was particularly concerned about the underlying soils and drainage conditions in the project area that includes both the City of Los Angeles and the City of Rancho Palos Verdes. Therefore, at the meeting of June 16, 2001 the ad hoc committee recommended that the City Council authorize a study of these geologic conditions and whether or not the Garden Village revitalization project will have any adverse impacts on existing properties in our City. The Council authorized the study and funding of $10,000. In addition, City Staff researched the issue of the adequacy of the environmental process for the project.

The statute of limitations has run on the environmental documentation prepared for the Garden Village project. The City Attorney advised us that we have no recourse from that avenue. Bill Cotton, the geologist who reviewed the geology and soils information provided as part of the project design, has completed his review of the geotechnical reports associated with the Garden Village project. Mr. Cotton is concerned that there are inadequate long-term geotechnical measures to mitigate the impacts of future settlement on existing storm drain and sewer lines on the Garden Village’s property. Mr. Cotton’s concerns were also voiced by the developer’s geologist during the project planning phase.

City staff has attempted to find out which Department or person in the City of Los Angeles hierarchy has been assigned the responsibility for inspection and monitoring conditions of the development related to settlement and possible storm drain damage. Although we have talked with many City of Los Angeles employees and have been treated courteously, no one has accepted the responsibility. Accordingly, Staff prepared letters to:

Andrew Adelman, General Manager
Department of Building and Safety

Vitaly B. Troyan, City Engineer

Con Howe, Director
Department of Planning

The letters were all similar in that they expressed the City’s concern over the repair and inspection of the storm drains and asked who is responsible for ensuring that the lines are properly monitored. Should we not receive an appropriate response we will recommend that the City Attorney take up the matter. The letters were mailed on November 29, 2001. We did receive a telephone call from Tom Stevens from the office of the General Manager of Building and Safety on December 19, 2001 offering assistance. A follow-up call to Mr. Stevens on January 2, 2002 was made in which we were assured that he was still working on a response to our inquiry.

In addition, Staff has maintained contact with the San Pedro Office Manager of the Department of Building and Safety and the Plan Checker for the Albertson’s market. No building permit for the market has been issued, although the plan checker has approved the plans.

On January 16, 2002, the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, Grading Section required that the developer of the Garden Village Shopping Center agree to the following condition in order to proceed with placing caissons:

Prior to commencement of structural framing, all underground utilities located within or adjoining the site shall be inspected, repaired or replaced, and sealed to prevent infiltration, as recommended.

Before proceeding with the caisson work the developer was required to sign an Affidavit guaranteeing the maintenance of the Albertson’s building site. The Affidavit states:

I am (We are) fully aware of Settlement and Cracking may occur in the parking lot and hardscape areas due to underlying fill and alluvial deposits and assume full responsibility for periodic inspection, maintenance and repair.

The shopping center developer also agreed that he/they would inspect, or arrange for the inspection, of the public storm drain and sewer line on the property during the course of construction. The developer does not agree to assume responsibility for any repair of these utilities. Prior to commencement of structural framing, all underground utilities located within or adjoining the site shall be inspected, repaired or replaced, and sealed to prevent infiltration, as recommended.

According to Mr. Richard Fortner, Senior Building Inspector for Special Projects, the developer has completed the inspection, however, the report has not yet been submitted. It was Mr. Fortner’s position that any deficiencies in the subsurface utilities will have to be repaired either by the City or by the developer prior to occupancy of the new market.

On May 20, 2002, the City received notice from the City of Los Angeles of the approval of a zone boundary adjustment (ZBA) for the Garden Village shopping center. Apparently, the conditions of approval for the shopping center renovations included the requirement for the adjustment of the boundaries between the three zoning designations that cover the shopping center site. The purpose of ZBA is to adjust the existing zoning boundaries—which are based upon the previous configuration of the shopping center—so that they conform to the footprint of the renovated shopping center. The Planning Director for the City of Los Angeles approved the ZBA on May 17, 2002, and the appeal period for this action was set to expire on May 31, 2002. However, on May 28, 2002, Rancho Palos Verdes resident April Sandell appealed the approval of the ZBA.

On June 20, 2002, the City received confirmation from the City of Los Angeles Building and Safety Department that all of the underground utilities on the site were "in good condition, with no repairs needed." As such, consistent with the discussion above, the developer will be able to obtain a certificate of use and occupancy for the new market once it is complete.

At the July 2, 2002 City Council meeting, the City Council considered its position with respect to April Sandell’s appeal of the ZBA, and decided not to take an official position on the matter. The Harbor Area Planning Commission considered the appeal on July 16, 2002, denied it and upheld the City of Los Angeles Planning Director’s conditional approval of the ZBA for the Garden Village shopping center.

 

PROPOSED EXPANSION OF ROLLING HILLS COVENANT CHURCH, 2222 PALOS VERDES DRIVE NORTH (CITY OF ROLLING HILLS ESTATES)

The project is still in the information-gathering phase. According to our information, the applicant has been making changes to the project so the exact proposal has not been finalized. Generally, the project involves the construction of a new sanctuary building that would accommodate 2,050 seats, along with a new 3-5 level parking structure with 500 parking spaces. The Church also proposes to convert the existing sanctuary to a gymnasium/multi-purpose room for events such as wedding receptions. The preparation of the Initial Study is still underway which will determine whether the project will necessitate an EIR or Negative Declaration. We will receive a notice when either document is prepared and circulated to the public.

On February 9, 2002 an article appeared in the Palos Verdes Peninsula News regarding an EIR scoping meeting for the Rolling Hills Covenant Church expansion project. Although Staff did not attend the scoping meeting on February 12, 2002, we did download a copy of the Notice of Preparation (NOP) and Initial Study from the Rolling Hills Estates’ web site (www.rollinghillsestates.com). The Initial Study identified a number of potentially significant environmental impacts in the areas of air quality, noise, public services, utilities, aesthetics and transportation/traffic. The deadline for public comments on the NOP was February 28, 2002, so on February 22, 2002 Staff forwarded comments to the City of Rolling Hills Estates. We expect that a draft EIR for the project will be available for further public comment some time this summer.

 

TENTATIVE TRACT MAP NO. 52666, 3200 PALOS VERDES DRIVE WEST (MARSHALL ESFAHANI AND CITY OF PALOS VERDES ESTATES)

City Staff has been in contact with the City of Palos Verdes Estates to discuss the construction traffic that will be generated from the newly-approved residential tract on Palos Verdes Drive West at the border of our City. The City of Palos Verdes Estates indicates that they will allow construction traffic related to grading to enter their city since the disposal site for the project will be within the City of Palos Verdes Estates. However, any other construction traffic leaving the site will not be permitted to travel through the City. The City of Palos Verdes Estates is insisting that a cut be made in the median to accommodate the construction traffic. Mr. Esfahani seems confident that he can negotiate more reasonable terms with the City of Palos Verdes Estates. So far he has apparently not been able to do so.

 

PROPOSED SOUTH COAST COUNTY GOLF COURSE ON FORMER PALOS VERDES LANDFILL (COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES AND CITY OF ROLLING HILLS ESTATES)

On November 26, 2001, Planning Staff attended an environmental impact report (EIR) scoping meeting for the proposed Palos Verdes Golf Course in the City of Rolling Hills Estates. The County’s Parks and Recreation Department is the lead agency for the EIR, with the actual document preparation being handled by the consulting firm, ESA. The project proponent is a development consortium, headed by Rob Katherman, which has a 2-year contract with the County to complete the land use entitlement process for the golf course.

The project site is the 160-acre former landfill located between Crenshaw Boulevard and Hawthorne Boulevard. Existing activities on the site include a co-generation and recycling facility for the old landfill, as well as the City of Rolling Hills Estates’ equestrian center. The developers propose an 18-hole, par-72 golf course and a 29,000-square-foot clubhouse. The contract with the County also requires the developer to provide a 7,000-square-foot area for an equestrian center in the immediate area surrounding the golf course, although the exact location of the new equestrian center has not been determined.

A major issue of concern raised by the ±150 people in attendance at the scoping meeting was the disposition of the existing equestrian center and trails on the site. Additional issues of concern included drainage problems for downslope properties in the City of Torrance; geologic concerns about the stability of the old landfill; health concerns regarding toxic materials and methane gas from the old landfill; concerns about the operation of the golf course such as noise, lighting, traffic and security; and construction-related impacts such as air quality, noise, vibration and truck traffic.

The developer’s consultant, ESA, anticipated that the Initial Study (IS) would be complete in early December 2001 and that a Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the EIR would be released at that time. The 30-day comment period for the NOP would end in early-to mid-January 2002, with expected public release of the draft EIR in late Spring 2002 and possible action by the County in Summer 2002. It was Staff’s impression that the November 26th scoping meeting was somewhat premature since the IS was not complete and the NOP had not been released. Staff also believed that this schedule may be overly optimistic, given the level of public concern expressed at the scoping meeting, and that it is more likely that the County will make no decision until some time in the fall. As of the end of January 2002, Staff had yet to receive a copy of the NOP for this project.

On February 11, 2002, the City received a copy of the NOP and Initial Study for this project. The deadline for public comment on the NOP was originally March 12, 2002. The Initial Study identified a number of potentially significant environmental impacts in the areas of air quality, noise and transportation/traffic. Based upon the review of the Initial Study, Staff has identified further significant concerns in the areas of hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality and recreation. These concerns were reflected in a draft comment letter that was reviewed by the City Council on February 23, 2002. Since that date, Staff received additional information regarding the former Palos Verdes landfill, and the draft NOP comment letter was revised to incorporate this additional information. Also, Staff contacted the County on February 26, 2002 to request a 30-day extension of the comment deadline for the NOP. As of late February 2002, the County had not yet responded to the City’s request. Therefore, Staff requested the City Council’s final input on the draft NOP comment letter on March 11, 2002 so that the comments could be submitted to the County Parks and Recreation Department by the March 12th deadline in the event that an extension was not granted.

On March 6, 2002, the County informed us that a 30-day extension of the NOP comment period had been granted. The new deadline for comments was April 11, 2002. The City Council took a final look at the draft NOP comment letter for this project on April 2, 2002. Based upon the City Council’s comments, a final comment letter on the NOP was forwarded to the County on April 5, 2002.

On June 4, 2002, the City received a packet of information from the County Sanitation Districts regarding the Palos Verdes Landfill. The packet consisted of eight fact sheets issued by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) between May 1990 and October 1995. The fact sheets were prepared and distributed in order to inform the public of the plans to identify, investigate and remediate any potential migration of contaminants from the Palos Verdes Landfill.

 

PROPOSED DEMOLITION AND RECONSTRUCTION OF RE/MAX OFFICE BUILDING, 2483 PALOS VERDES DRIVE NORTH (CITY OF ROLLING HILLS ESTATES)

On April 16, 2002, the City received a copy of the Notice of Preparation (NOP) and Initial Study for the RE/MAX office building project in the City of Rolling Hills Estates. The project proposes the demolition of the existing, single-story 2,000-square-foot building and parking lot, and the construction of a new, single-story 5,950-square-foot office building. The project requires a number of discretionary approvals by the City of Rolling Hills Estates, including a General Plan Amendment and Zone Change, a Minor Deviation from the minimum site area for commercial development, a Precise Plan of Design and a Grading application for the importation of 5,700 cubic yards of fill.

The Initial Study identified a number of potentially significant environmental impacts in the areas of land use and planning, earth resources, water, air quality, transportation and circulation, biological resources, risk of upset, noise, public services, utilities, aesthetics, cultural resources, and recreation. It should also be noted that this project is just down the street from the Rolling Hills Covenant Church, which is also proposing a major expansion (see discussion above). The deadline for public comments on the NOP for the RE/MAX project was June 3, 2002. Staff intended prepare comments on the NOP and forward them to the City of Rolling Hills Estates.

On May 21, 2002, Staff forwarded the NOP comments to the City of Rolling Hills Estates. These comments identified potential issues of concern in the areas of geological problems, transportation and circulation and hazards. Staff intends to review the draft EIR once it is available and provide further comments on this project.

 

PROPOSED BUTCHER RESIDENTIAL SUBDIVISION, PALOS VERDES DRIVE NORTH BETWEEN PALOS VERDES DRIVE EAST AND MONTECILLO DRIVE (CITY OF ROLLING HILLS ESTATES)

On July 10, 2002, the City received a Notice of Preparation (NOP) and Initial Study for the proposed Butcher residential subdivision in the City of Rolling Hills Estates. The subject property is a 6.41-acre site near the northeast corner of Palos Verdes Drive North and Palos Verdes Drive East. The developer proposes to create twelve residential lots and a private street parallel to Palos Verdes Drive North. The project requires a number of discretionary approvals by the City of Rolling Hills Estates, including a General Plan Amendment and Zone Change, a Tentative Tract Map and a Grading application.

The Initial Study identifies a number of potentially significant environmental impacts in the areas of land use and planning, earth resources, water, air quality, transportation and circulation, biological resources, risk of upset, noise, utilities, aesthetics and cultural resources. The subject property is also located adjacent to the site of the proposed new RE/MAX Palos Verdes office building and across the street from Rolling Hills Covenant Church, which is also planning a major expansion (see discussion above). A public scoping meeting for the Butcher subdivision was held on July 31, 2002, but Staff was unable to attend. However, Staff intends to prepare written comments on the NOP and forward them to the City of Rolling Hills Estates prior to the August 23, 2002 public comment deadline.