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TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
FROM: DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING, AND CODE ENFORCEMENT
DATE: JULY 15, 2003
SUBJECT: PRESENTATION OF THE DRAFT NCCP SUBAREA PLAN AND SOLICITATION OF PUBLIC COMMENTS ON THE NOTICE OF PREPARATION (NOP) FOR THE FORTHCOMING NCCP EIR
Accept public testimony on the Notice of Preparation (NOP) of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Rancho Palos Verdes Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP) Subarea Plan.
The City has been working on the preparation of an NCCP Subarea Plan since 1997. The NCCP Subarea plan is the document that identifies the habitat that is to be conserved, the responsibilities and mechanisms for managing the habitat preserve and the funding mechanisms for acquiring and managing the preserve.
A preliminary draft of the City’s Subarea Plan was presented to the Resource Agencies in June 2002. Staff modified the Plan to address the feedback received from the Resource Agencies and presented the basic strategies of the Draft Plan to the City Council on February 4, 2003 in the form of an Executive Summary document. At that time, Staff was seeking Council approval of the basic strategies of the Plan since they included the conservation of City-owned parcels, City commitments to funding (both for land acquisition and habitat management) and planning efforts that could affect other open space planning projects in the City. On February 4th, the Council reviewed and agreed with the basic strategies of the Subarea Plan thus paving the way for the plan to be formally submitted to the Resource Agencies for conceptual approval and subsequently released to the public.
The Draft Subarea Plan has now been completed, with its basic strategies conceptually approved by the Resource Agencies. As a result, the Plan has been released to the public and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) mandated Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process has commenced. The first step in the EIR process is the circulation of a Notice of Preparation (NOP), which gives the public the opportunity to comment on what should be included in the analysis of the EIR.
Therefore, the purpose of this item is to present the Draft NCCP Subarea Plan to the City Council and to provide an opportunity for the public to provide comment on the NOP in a public forum.
The Draft Subarea Plan
After the February 4, 2003 City Council meeting, City and Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (PVPLC) Staff worked with the local environmental community, local special interest groups, the two major landowners (Hon and York) to fine-tune the Subarea Plan. As a result, the Draft Plan, particularly the portion that describes the activities and management practices that will be allowed within the Reserve, (Section Six) takes into account many of the local interests. The Draft Plan was eventually submitted to the Resource Agencies for conceptual review. According to the Resource Agencies, the Plan satisfactorily addresses all of their previous biological concerns with the preserve design and reserve management commitments. As a result, the Resource agencies have given conceptual approval to the conservation strategies contained in the Plan, including the funding obligations for the acquisition component of the Plan.
As mentioned earlier, the NCCP Subarea plan is the document that identifies the habitat that is to be conserved, the responsibilities and mechanisms for managing the habitat preserve and the funding mechanisms for acquiring and managing the preserve. It is the document that becomes the basis for the environmental analysis of the plan (CEQA and NEPA), and the public review and discussion of the plan. Eventually, it is the document that is submitted to the Resource Agencies for approval. An updated Executive Summary of the Draft Subarea Plan has been prepared (attached) for the Council’s review and consideration. The Summary addresses the major components of the Subarea Plan and provides short descriptions of the various proposed strategies.
The actual Draft Subarea NCCP Plan is available for viewing and purchase at City Hall. The Plan can also be viewed and downloaded from the City’s website. Copies of the Draft Plan are also being transmitted to the City Council.
The EIR Process
Upon completion of the Draft Subarea Plan, an Initial Study was prepared in accordance with CEQA (attached). Based on the Initial Study, feedback from the Resource Agencies, and consultation with the City Attorney, Staff determined that the preparation of a focused EIR was necessary for the NCCP. The EIR will focus its discussion on impacts to Biological Resources, Recreation, Land Use/Planning and the Mandatory Findings of
Significance. Because there are federal funds associated with the NCCP, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the federal lead agency) is also required to prepare an Environmental Analysis (EA) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Therefore, the environmental document will function as a joint EIR/EA document.
In accordance with CEQA, a Notice of Preparation (NOP) has been prepared for the purpose of notifying all responsible agencies and interested parties that an EIR will be prepared to analyze the City’s NCCP Subarea Plan and asking for comments on the scope and content of the EIR (attached). The NOP has been transmitted to the State Clearinghouse, Responsible Agencies, local interested parties, and NCCP listserve subscribers. The State mandated 30-day NOP comment period began on July 2, 2003 and will conclude on August 2, 2003. During this time, all interested agencies and parties have the opportunity to provide written comments on what they believe should be addressed in the forthcoming EIR. In addition, the public has an opportunity this evening to provide comments on the NOP in a public forum.
All written comments and oral testimony received during the comment period will be provided to the City’s NCCP consultant for incorporation into the Draft EIR. Staff anticipates that the Draft EIR will be completed by early September, at which time, it will be circulated to the public for 45 days. After the public circulation period ends, a Final EIR will be prepared and presented to the Council, along with the Final NCCP Subarea Plan and Implementation Agreement, for approval sometime by the end of the year.
NCCP Link to the Portuguese Bend Acquisition Strategy
Completion of the City’s NCCP is intertwined with the City/PVPLC’s efforts to secure State and Federal funding to acquire the private lands necessary to complete the Portuguese Bend Nature Preserve (area that would become the bulk of the City’s NCCP reserve). The acquisition strategy continues to be a two-pronged effort, which involves securing Resource Agency approval of the NCCP (from the local San Diego and Carlsbad offices), while at the same time securing a funding commitment from the State (from the Wildlife Conservation Board) from the millions of state bond monies earmarked for habitat/open space conservation. Completion of the Draft Subarea Plan, most notably securing Resource Agency support for the funding obligations included in the Plan, is a major step in securing the necessary State and federal funding. With the assistance of our state lobbyist, it is Staff’s objective is to secure the funding commitment from the State’s Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) this fall.
Thus far, $347,677.56 has been expended on the NCCP program. The City has received
2 Federal Grants totaling $275,000 and 1 State Grant for $20,000 to assist in preparing the
NCCP. Since the federal grant requires a dollar for dollar match by the City, the revenue is recognized at a rate of 50% of total expenditures. The State grant does not have a matching requirement and can be used to match the federal funding. After factoring in the federal and State grants, the City has expended $175,484.04 on the NCCP program thus far. It is estimated that it will cost approximately $100,000 to complete the NCCP. The City’s current budget contains a balance that is sufficient to finish the NCCP.
The City’s Draft NCCP Subarea Plan has been completed, with its basic strategies conceptually approved by the Resource Agencies. As a result, the Plan has been released to the public and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) mandated Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process has commenced. The first step in the EIR process is the circulation of a Notice of Preparation (NOP), which gives the public the opportunity to comment on what should be included in the analysis of the EIR. Therefore, at this time Staff is presenting the Draft NCCP Subarea Plan to the City Council and providing an opportunity for the public to provide comment on the NOP in a public forum.
Director of Planning, Building,
and Code Enforcement
Subarea Plan Executive Summary
Notice of Preparation (NOP)
Natural Communities Conservation Planning
Rancho Palos Verdes
The City of Rancho Palos Verdes NCCP Subarea Plan (Plan) has been prepared to maximize benefits to wildlife and vegetation communities within the City and region (see Preserve Design map, attached) pursuant to the requirements of the Natural Communities Conservation Planning (NCCP) Act of 1991(, California Fish and Game Code §2800, et seq.) The resulting planning effort provides for the comprehensive management and conservation of multiple species, including, but not limited to, species protected under the state or federal ESA.
The Rancho Palo Verdes Subarea Plan identifies:
The Plan establishes actions the City will take to obtain ESA Section 10(a) take authorizations for species covered by the Subarea Plan. Also established in the plan are current and future management, maintenance, and compatible uses (e.g., passive recreation) for conserved lands, and funding for habitat management.
Also identified is the process for mitigating development on habitat not conserved, and how permits and take authorizations for covered species are to be obtained. All these elements form the basis for developing an Implementing Agreement with the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), jointly known as the Wildlife Agencies. In this manner, the authority for infrastructure development and land use decisions on sensitive lands in the Subarea Plan will be retained by the City. The City thereby obtains the ability to self-issue endangered species take authorizations as along as they are consistent with the Plan the attendant Implementing Agreement (IA).
The City’s primary conservation strategy is to acquire several key privately-owned parcels, contribute selected City-owned lands, and have the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (PVPLC) manage this Reserve network with the assistance of the City and the Wildlife Agencies. A long-term habitat restoration program is also a critical component of the Plan. The proposed Reserve is designed to be consistent with NCCP standards and guidelines and the issuance criteria for ESA Section 10(a) take authorizations for species covered by the Plan. The resulting Reserve conserves the most practicable amount of regionally important habitat areas and provides adequate habitat linkages between patches of conserved habitat.
Based on a revegetation plan to be approved by the Wildlife Agencies, the City and PVPLC will enhance/restore the most practicable amount of disturbed habitats within the Reserve, emphasizing those areas that are directly adjacent to conserved habitat in order to enhance habitat patch size and habitat linkage function (i.e., areas with moderate to high potential for successful restoration).
1. Reserve Components
The Reserve will be composed of public and private biological open space lands (all acreages approximate) as follows:
A. Existing Public Lands (753.5 acres)
1. City-owned lands (354.5 acres) already dedicated as biological open space to be included in the Reserve
2. City-owned land (98 acres) to be dedicated to the Reserve as mitigation for past and planned public and private impacts (see below for more information on the impacts)
3. City owned land to be dedicated to the Reserve (271 acres)
4. Other Public/conserved Lands (30 acres)
B. Private Lands (183.6 acres)
1. Private development projects will contribute 47 acres of biological open space to the Reserve:
The inclusion of these private lands in the Reserve will be a condition of approval for any development project subsequently approved for the adjacent properties. If no approvals are obtained, there will be no obligation on the part of present or future property owner to donate these lands. Designating these lands as included in the Reserve in the text and maps of this Plan does not constitute approval of development on the adjacent properties.
2. Seven local Homeowners Associations (HOA) are being requested to contribute 136.6 acres of open space to the Reserve:
The City and PVPLC are actively working with these HOAs to sign agreements to include a portion of their open space lots within the Reserve to be actively managed by the PVPLC. Because they currently are not accessible for active habitat management, they are not included in the Reserve. If agreements can be reached with the property owners to allow management, these lands will be added to the Reserve. Until such agreements are obtained, these lands are categorized as Neutral Lands that cannot be developed and habitat loss is not permitted through the Plan. These lands can be incorporated into the Reserve system through the "Additions to the Reserve process."
C. Priority Acquisition Areas to be Purchased (684.5 acres)
The City, PVPLC, Los Angeles County, and the Wildlife Agencies will provide funds for the purchase and dedication of the Reserve 684.5 acres of privately owned lands considered regionally important:
D. Neutral Lands
There are some "Neutral Lands" that will exist outside of the Reserve boundary, but are not likely to be developed in the future. The Land Conservancy and the City will work to obtain conservation easements over these lands and add as many to the Reserve as is practical. These neutral lands can be placed into the following two categories:
Extreme slopes are those slopes with greater than 35 percent grade that occur in undeveloped canyons and slopes scattered throughout the City, though they are mostly concentrated on the City’s east side. These slopes are protected from development by Ordinance.
Unstable geologic conditions or other physical constraints occurring on public and private properties zoned Open Space Hazard may result in a prohibition against development. Any proposed development must be accompanied by a detailed geotechnical investigation establishing the absence of geologic hazard and an approved City application to remove the land from the Open Space Hazard designation.
2. Mitigation Requirements
The City has identified 19 City projects and 11 private projects that would be covered by the Plan, resulting in approximately 48.2 acres of unavoidable loss of coastal sage scrub within or outside the proposed Reserve. Mitigation for the CSS losses within the Reserve for which the City is providing mitigation (33 acres) will be at a 3:1 ratio of conserved acreage to affected acreage. This mitigation will be provided by the dedication of 98 acres of City-owned land (the Barkentine property) and 5.5 acres of revegetation within the Reserve. Mitigation for impacts of private projects will be at a 3:1 ratio of conserved acreage to affected acreage, provided by the dedication of private land or donation of monies to the habitat restoration fund.
A total of 51.4 acres of sage scrub habitats are estimated to occur outside the proposed Reserve boundaries and Neutral Lands. Unanticipated future project impacts to sage scrub habitats would be mitigated through the establishment of conservation easements (additions to the Reserve) or restoration of priority areas within the Reserve at a 3:1 mitigation ratio.
A. City Projects
City Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Projects will involve an unavoidable loss of coastal sage scrub habitat of 29.7 acres. These impacts will be mitigated at a 3:1 ratio with a combination of onsite restoration and offsite habitat acquisition and restoration.
B. Private Projects
The City expects 11 recent and future planned private projects will involve18.5 acres of unavoidable loss of coastal sage scrub habitat. Mitigation for these losses at a 3:1 ratio would result in a dedication to the Reserve of 9.9 acres by the City (the Barkentine property) and 65.6 acres provided by the project applicants as additions to the Reserve or funds for habitat restoration of disturbed areas within the Reserve. For any unanticipated future projects, the City expects that unavoidable CSS impacts will be mitigated at a 3:1 ratio through the establishment of conservation easements or the restoration of disturbed areas within the Reserve boundaries.
For any unplanned and unexpected future projects, the City expects that unavoidable CSS impacts will be mitigated through the establishment of conservation easements or the restoration of disturbed areas within the Reserve boundaries.
3. Land Use
After the City Council and Wildlife Agency adopt and approve the Subarea Plan and Implementing Agreement, the Wildlife Agencies will issue to the City a 50-year authorization to take species covered by the Subarea Plan. Additionally, this Subarea Plan contains new standards for protection of sensitive species; this potentially will eliminate most Wildlife Agency involvement in project-specific review and approval.
Impacts to wetlands must continue to be regulated through the Federal Clean Water Act 404 et seq, State Fish and Game Code Section 1600 et seq, and local regulations, although coverage for endangered species through this Subarea Plan should facilitate any consultation required between the USFWS and ACOE.
Third-party beneficiaries (owners/developers of land covered by the Subarea Plan) will be allowed to take covered species and habitats incidental to project construction, operation, and maintenance based on the approvals extended to the project through the local project permitting process. Malicious or capricious harm to sensitive species and habitats is still forbidden.
After adoption and approval of the Subarea Plan and Implementing Agreement, any proposed development of land in the City would require consistency with the appropriate provisions of the updated Municipal Code of Ordinances, General Plan and Local Coastal Plan. Consistency with the Subarea Plan will be a mandatory finding of the CEQA review process.
B. No Surprises
The Implementing Agreement will assure that the conservation/mitigation identified in this Plan and implementing regulations is implemented and the City will not be required to commit additional land, adopt further land use restrictions, or require financial compensation, beyond that described in the Plan, for the protection of any covered species. If, in the future, a covered species that is not listed becomes listed as endangered or threatened by the federal or state governments, the take authorization will become effective concurrent with the species listing, as long as conservation of that species has been addressed in the Subarea Plan.
The issuance of take authorizations will be documented by the City by maintaining a list of all approvals pursuant to the Subarea Plan. This documentation will be appended to the plan and updated annually. An annual meeting will be held between the City and the Wildlife Agencies to review and coordinate Subarea Plan implementation.
Using funds generated in Los Angeles County (principally Measure A), the City has previously expended $11.8 million for the purchase of the Forrestal and Barkentine properties. Additionally, the City will dedicate 133 acres of City-owned land for exclusive habitat use (9 acres of Grandview Park, 55 acres in upper Pt. Vicente property, and 69 acres in Abalone Cove property). If an equivalent area were purchased from private owners for habitat or open space use, the corresponding cost would exceed $5.2 million (using the average of high and low estimates of land cost for open space).
The City of Ranchos Palos Verdes had appraisals conducted for the proposed land acquisition. Based on a review of over 2,400 acres of land sales for habitat or open space use in coastal Los Angeles and Orange Counties, the appraisal estimated that the price of undeveloped land in the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, when purchased for biological open space, would range from $0.75 to $1.05 per square foot, or approximately $37,000 to 39,000 per acre. Accordingly, the estimated cost of additional habitat acquisition for the entire preserve will be approximately $27 million.
For habitat lands to be acquired, the following candidate sources of funds would be pursued:
All lands set aside in the Reserve as mitigation for development occurring outside the Reserve and lands acquired for the Reserve with public funds will be protected with conservation easements. Any lands dedicated in fee to the City will also be protected by a conservation easement. All conservation easements to be established under this plan are to be held by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy or another entity acceptable to the Wildlife Agencies, and the wildlife agencies will be third-party beneficiaries to these conservation easements.
5. Reserve Management
The City of Rancho Palos Verdes will enter into a contract with Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (PVPLC) to manage all of the conserved land in the Reserve and additional lands as acquired. The existing agreement between the City of Rancho Palos Verdes (City) and PVPLC for management of the Forrestal Nature Preserve can be a model for the expanded management program.
A. Ongoing Funding:
The goal of the Plan is to establish an endowment to cover all costs of ongoing revegetation, management and monitoring. The PVPLC has an endowment of approximately $500,000 at this time. Until an endowment sufficient to cover the entire costs of Reserve management is funded, the City and the PVPLC will dedicate resources at a level sufficient to fund the required work.
The Plan includes a Property Analysis Record (PAR) that uses a detailed database of habitat management costs developed for conservancies to calculate ongoing funding needs. Its analysis of the proposed revegetation, management and monitoring tasks for the Reserve resulted in an initial cost of $264,000 and annual costs of $205,000. Note: The PAR program uses detailed data by individual cost area, including frequency and per hour cost for all services.
Based on the needs identified by the PAR, a funding commitment for habitat restoration and Reserve maintenance and monitoring will be provided on an annual basis as follows (all numbers to be adjusted for inflation):
The City’s in-kind services will include such items as public safety, trash removal, storm drain maintenance, etc. Private lands requirements will include obligations of projects such as Oceanfront Estates and Ocean Trails to maintain habitat at the project’s cost or using income from an endowment. The PVPLC in-kind services will include staff time and equipment use. The additional $24,000 for the initial work will be provided by the City and PVPLC on an equal basis.
Before the Reserve is open to the public for compatible passive recreation, a Public Use Master Plan (PUMP) shall be developed jointly by the City and the PVPLC to address issues such as public access, trailhead locations, parking, trail use and maintenance, fencing, signage, lighting (if any), fire and brush management, minimizing impacts to adjacent neighborhoods and private property, public involvement in advisory capacities, and other issues that may arise. This plan will be reviewed by the public and the Wildlife Agencies.
The Plan provides management guidelines and measures to reduce habitat impacts of land uses within and adjacent to the Reserve. The PUMP for the Reserve shall be reviewed by the Wildlife Agencies for consistency with these guidelines and approved before the Reserve is opened to the public. Among the activities to be permitted and regulated by the PUMP are the following:
C. Reserve Habitat Management Plan
The Habitat Manager (PVPLC) shall develop a Reserve Habitat Management Plan (RHMP) for the Preserve. This plan may consist of numerous subsidiary plans and reports, and shall be reviewed and approved by the City and Wildlife Agencies. The RHMP will have the following components and reporting requirements:
Initial Plans (may be combined or issued separately)
Annual Reports (may be combined or issued separately)
Reports Every Three Years
Specifics of Some Habitat Management Plan Components
Habitat Restoration Plan
The PVPLC will develop a five-year Habitat Restoration Plan that will include, at a minimum, the preparation of one five-acre parcel each year through non-native removal, and the revegetation of five acres each year. Each year’s restoration will take place on the previous year’s five acres of site preparation. This plan will be reviewed and approved by the City and the Wildlife Agencies, and will be revised every three years, after a year of comprehensive monitoring. The plan will address restoration design, installation procedures, maintenance and monitoring program, and success criteria.
As funding permits, additional restoration will be performed within the Reserve. If recommended by the Restoration Biologist, the planning and monitoring of additional acres may be incorporated into the five-year plan. For revegetation funded by any past or future projects, a site-specific Restoration Plan may be developed with monitoring requirements appropriate to the situation, or the work may be included in the five-year plan.
Targeted Exotic Plant Removal Plan
Each year the PVPLC shall perform a survey of all of the properties included in the Reserve to identify locations where exotic species are prevalent. A plan will be developed selecting five acres or 20 small sites for plant removal each year. The plan will:
At the end of the year, a letter report will be prepared showing the locations of targeted exotic removal, with before and after photographs of the work done.
In the years without a Comprehensive Survey, the locations of the covered plant species will be visited and photographed by the surveyor in the course of the exotic removal effort. A brief summary of the condition of the four varieties of plants with identified locations will be included in the report, along with photographs. Several typical locations for bright green dudleya will also be included in the report. Any significant changes to the populations of these plants will be called to the attention of the Wildlife Agencies immediately.
Each year all biological monitoring data will be quantitatively analyzed and presented in a report. Comprehensive reports shall be prepared every three years, along with recommendations (including remedial measures, as necessary) for the next year's management program.
D. Other Issues
Report documents will provide specific management recommendations to reverse declining trends in habitat conditions or species’ populations. Adaptive management may include re-prioritizing monitoring efforts, as indicated by monitoring results and the resultant degree of management required for a given resource. For example, if a specific population proves to be stable over a period of time (e.g., 10-20 years), then the frequency of monitoring may be reduced, particularly if a species’ habitat and physical site characteristics remain unchanged and another species or populations requires more intensive monitoring due to declining trends. The remediation and adaptive management program will achieve the objectives of providing correcting actions where (1) resources are threatened by land uses in and adjacent to the Reserve, (2) current management activities are not adequate or effective, or (3) enforcement difficulties are identified.
The decision to reintroduce a species depends on a number of species-specific and site-specific factors, and any reintroduction effort will require detailed planning and monitoring, as well as available funding for planning and implementation. At the current time, existing information on target species within RPV may not be sufficient to determine whether or not reintroduction efforts are warranted. Guidelines on determining the appropriateness of reintroduction, as well as reintroduction methodologies, are provided in the event that covered species monitoring indicates that such efforts are warranted. Any reintroduction program will be coordinated with the Wildlife Agencies.
Research recommendations are provided grouped into several generalized categories, including basic inventories, habitat and life history studies, population biology and genetic studies, habitat restoration and/or population re-establishment studies, and management studies.