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TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
FROM: ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER
DATE: SEPTEMBER 2, 2003
SUBJECT: SZYBINSKI MEMORIAL REQUEST
Find that the proposed memorial is not consistent with the City Council’s adopted policy and deny the request to place a monument at Inspiration Point for Kamil Szybinski.
Kamil Szybinski was a 19 year old student at Marymount College who died at Inspiration Point on September 17, 2002. Within a few months of his death, the City received a verbal request from his father, Krzysztof Szybinski, to place a memorial to his son at Inspiration Point. At that time, the City Council was considering a policy regarding the placement of on public property in the City. On January 7, 2003, the City Council adopted Policy No 37, Naming of Public Facilities and Placing of Monuments and Other Memorials, and staff forwarded a copy of the adopted policy to Mr. Szybinski shortly thereafter. On August 25, 2003, the Mayor received an email request from Mr. and Mrs. Szybinski to place a memorial for their son at Inspiration Point. This issue has been placed on tonight’s agenda for the Council’s consideration.
The Szybinski family is proposing to install a memorial stone approximately the same size as the Lauren Key memorial approved by the City Council in 2001 and located within twenty feet to the west of this existing memorial on the knoll overlooking Inspiration Point. A bronze plaque is proposed to be affixed to the stone and would read, as composed by the family, as follows:
The plaque would include the inscription in both English and Polish and would include images of the United States of America and Polish flags. Although the size of the stone and the plaque was not specified in the email received from Mr. and Mrs. Szybinski, but based on the submitted photographic simulation, is proposed to be similar in size to the plaque provided for Lauren Key, which is approximately 12" by 24" in size.
City Council Policy No. 37 states that monuments in honor or in memory of persons may be permitted, in rare cases, on City property with permission of the City Council under the following conditions:
1. The person memorialized is closely associated with the area where the monument will be located. The person memorialized is known to, and revered, by a significant number of City residents.
2. The monument design is discreet and unobtrusive and designed to blend into the surrounding area. A small plaque on a large rock (4 cubic feet) would be appropriate. The location of the monument will be determined by City staff with approval of the City Council.
3. Costs of design, installation and maintenance of the monument will be determined by the City and borne by the requestor at the discretion of the City. Only City personnel or City contractors may perform work on City property.
4. The monument is only a marker and is not a place of worship, a cemetery or official gathering place. Flowers, and other memorabilia are not permitted and will be removed by maintenance personnel.
5. The City is not responsible for damage or deterioration of the monument and may remove it at any time for any reason with permission of the City Council.
Regarding the first condition, an argument can be made that Kamil Szybinski is closely associated with Inspiration Point because it was the location where his body was found on September 17, 2002. However, because he had only recently arrived in Rancho Palos Verdes from Poland to begin his freshman year at Marymount College when he died, Kamil Szybinski was not know to, or revered by, a significant number of City residents. Therefore, staff does not find that the first condition of the City Council Policy has been fully met in this case.
As mentioned previously, the family is requesting to install the monument in the same general area as the Lauren Key memorial. Although the existing monument can be seen from Palos Verdes Drive South, it is generally unobtrusive and the degree of exposure to the roadway changes throughout the year, depending on the growth of natural vegetation on the knoll. However, although the proposed memorial would be of natural materials (stone) and match the design of the current monument at the site, adding a second memorial would intensify the use of this piece of public property for personal memorials, making it no longer discreet and unobtrusive. Further, as discussed when the Lauren Key memorial was approved, the knoll is the only practical location for such memorials due to the geology of the surrounding area. Allowing a second memorial at this location will intensify this precedent and may encourage future requests to place additional memorials at this location. Therefore, staff does not find that the second condition of the City Council Policy has been fully met in this case.
In addition, since the installation of the Lauren Key memorial in November 2001, the City Council received two requests from Mr. Amir Sepahban, who resides at 2 Peppertree Drive, for its removal. Mr. Sepahban’s property is located across Palos Verdes Drive South and slightly to the east of the existing monument. His property sits at a higher elevation than the roadway, affording a downward view of the knoll. Because it is visible from his property, Mr. Sepahban feels that the memorial has made the area look like a "grave yard" and that its presence has had a "demoralizing" effect on himself and his family. In light of his previous objection to the Lauren Key memorial, staff has provided Mr. Sepahban with notice of this most recent request.
The City currently has three memorial stones that have been placed on City property prior to the adoption of City Council Policy No. 37. In the cases of Bill Britton and Dr. Perry Ehlig, these individuals had long-standing associations with the community. Bill Britton grew up on the Peninsula and was closely associated with the former Marineland of the Pacific aquatic theme park. His memorial was originally located on Long Point until the closing of the aquatic park in 1987 prompted the family to seek the City’s permission to re-locate the memorial to the Point Vicente Interpretive Center. Dr. Perry Ehlig studied the geology of the Portuguese Bend Landslide since 1956 and had served as the City’s geologist for many years. He used the stable landform of Portuguese Point as a geologic benchmark to measure movement in the surrounding landslide mass. However, like Kamil Szybinski, Lauren Key is only associated with Rancho Palos Verdes and Inspiration Point because it is the location of her untimely death. And unlike the first two memorials, the City has received repeated negative feedback concerning the memorial at Inspiration Point from a property owner who overlooks the site.
Assistant City Manager