Rancho Palos Verdes City Council
   

TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL

FROM: DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT

DATE: OCTOBER 7, 2003

SUBJECT: ACCEPTANCE OF GRANT DEEDS AND EASEMENTS FOR 3787 COOLHEIGHTS DRIVE (HEIGHT VARIATION 899, ET. AL.)

Prepared By: Ara Michael Mihranian, Senior Planner

RECOMMENDATION

1) Review the attached grant deed documents dedicating to the City real property for the construction of a cul-de-sac turn-around at the terminus of Coolheights Drive, public trail easements, and an Open Space Conservation Easement, 2) if deemed acceptable to the City Council, adopt Resolution No. 2003-___, which will allow Staff to accept all of these documents on behalf of the City, 3) direct Staff to record immediately the Public Trail Easements and Open Space Conservation Easement with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office, and 4) provide Staff with direction regarding the concerns raised by Mr. Ortolano, Jr.

BACKGROUND

When the City acquired the Forrestal Property from Diamond Brothers Three, the subject property at the end of Coolheights Drive (the "Remainder Lot" or "the property") was not included as part of the transfer and was conveyed by Diamond Brothers Three to third parties. Subsequently, in 1997, Mr. Ortolano, Jr. filed a lawsuit against Diamond Brothers, the City and the other individuals to assert his prescriptive claims over a portion of the property. That lawsuit was settled the following year.

In the settlement, the area over which Mr. Ortolano had asserted ownership was conveyed to him, subject to a ten-foot wide public trail easement and certain development restrictions on the parcel. A copy of the settlement agreement is attached to this report. In particular, Section 3.2 of the Agreement provides that Mr. Ortolano, Jr. could not develop his property but could keep the improvements and uses that he had placed on the property previously. These provisions are set forth in detail in Section 3.2.

Following the settlement, Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri ("Nassiris" or "the "Applicants") filed an application to develop the Remainder Lot, which now is referred to as 3787 Coolheights Drive. On August 27, 2002 the Planning Commission unanimously approved, with conditions, Height Variation No. 899, et. al., to allow the construction of a new 5,407 square foot single-family residence on the Property. As part of the adopted conditions of approval, it is required that portions of the Property be conveyed to the City in the form of Grant Deeds and Easements prior to the issuance of building or grading permits (see attached conditions). Specifically, the Grant Deeds and Easements in question, which will be discussed at greater length in the following section, pertain to improving the terminus of Coolheights Drive with a cul-de-sac turn-around, which was requested by the Ortolanos and other neighbors, providing public access trails to and within the Forrestal Nature Preserve, and establishing an Open Space Conservation Easement for habitat protection. (The Open Space Conservation Easement, 1.06 acres, is a required mitigation measure to address habitat impacts resulting from the Fire Department’s mandated brush clearance.)

Since the Planning Commission’s approval of the project, the City Attorney and the City’s Engineering Consultant have been preparing the required documents for review and acceptance by the respective parties. These documents were prepared and sent to the applicants in June, 2003. Previously, on November 4, 2002, the neighbors (Dr. and Mrs. Farooq, Mr. and Mrs. Ortolano Sr., and Mr. Ortolano Jr.) executed Grant Deeds that will transfer portions of their property to the City for the construction of the cul-de-sac turn-around at the terminus of Coolheights Drive. As part of that transaction, there also was an agreement that five feet of the existing ten-foot wide easement on Mr. Ortolano, Jr.’s property would be vacated, and would be placed on the Nassiris' property instead.

The documents executed by the neighbors regarding the cul-de-sac have been placed in an escrow account with Peninsula Escrow. The parties and the City Attorney provided the escrow officer with specific instructions regarding the recordation of the documents. At this point, none of the documents pertaining to the cul-de-sac can be recorded until they have been reviewed and approved by all of the interested parties and accepted by the City Council. It should be noted that the neighbors are not compelled to authorize recordation of the documents by the escrow company, even if the Council accepts the documents and even if those documents fully comply with the plans that were approved by the Planning Commission.

On September 25, 2003, the project applicants, Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri, executed all of the required documents conveying property to the City for the construction of the cul-de-sac turn-around, public trail access easements, and the Open Space Conservation Easement. It should be noted that Staff originally thought that all the documents would have to be recorded prior to issuance of grading permits. However, after further review of the conditions of approval, Staff has come to realize that only the trail easements need to be recorded, whereas the turn-around documents need to be conveyed to the City (see attached conditions).

At the request of the neighbors, on September 26, 2003, City Staff transmitted the final documents to the respective parties for their review to assure that all of the components of this transaction have been completed to everyone’s satisfaction. The neighbors were asked to provide City Staff with their comments by October 1, 2003. Written comments regarding the documents were submitted to the City by Mrs. Ortolano, Sr. and Mr. Ralph Ortolano, Jr. (see attachments) Staff spoke to Dr. Farooq, the third party involved in this transaction, on September 30, 2003, and he informed Staff that he had no concerns regarding the attached documents.

DISCUSSION

On September 29, 2003, the City received comments opposing the recordation of the documents from Mrs. Ortolano, Sr., and from Mr. Ortolano, Jr. (see attachments). Their letters and Staff’s response letters are attached as exhibits to this report. Mrs. Ortolano’s comments focus primarily on the insurance requirements for the contractor who will remove the existing coral tree on her property so that the cul-de-sac can be constructed. Although it is not clear whether the coral tree will even need to be removed to accommodate the cul-de-sac, City Staff concur with Mrs. Ortolano’s request and have advised her that her requirements will be satisfied. Furthermore, since Mr. and Mrs. Ortolano Sr., will be out of town between October 1st and October 20th, Staff has informed them that if the coral tree needs to be removed, the City would wait until after October 20th, so that they may be present to oversee the tree’s removal.

On the other hand, Mr. Ortolano, Jr.’s comments are far more extensive. In fact, some of them cannot be resolved without amending the Settlement Agreement with Mr. Ortolano, Jr., which was approved on September 25, 1998. (It should be noted that if the City Council wishes to amend the Settlement Agreement, that matter would need to be decided by the City Council on a future agenda.) Notwithstanding, each of Mr. Ortolano, Jr.’s comments are summarized below with Staff’s response:

  1. Mr. Ortolano, Jr. is concerned that the access easement to his property does not provide access to the entire frontage of his property because there would be no access easement to the five-foot wide area of his property where the public access easement is being retained. Staff and the City Attorney discussed this issue extensively with Mr. Ortolano, Jr. before the easement documents and deeds were prepared. At the time that the Planning Commission was considering this matter, Staff expressed the concern that the curb cut for Mr. Ortolano, Jr.’s property should not be immediately adjacent to the property lines, so as not to adversely impact either the trail easement or Mr. and Mrs. Ortolano Sr.’s property. The Director of Public Works and the City Attorney were also concerned that the use of area adjacent to the trail easement for access to Mr. Ortolano, Jr.’s property could present some safety issues for the use of that area by the public. Accordingly, Staff explained to Mr. Ortolano, Jr. that the driveway access and drop curb would be centered between the remaining five-foot wide trail easement and five feet from the property line next to the Ortolano, Sr. property. There appeared to be agreement by Mr. Ortolano, Jr. on that point, and that was how the City-hired Engineer prepared all of the documents. Staff and the City Attorney still support the design that has been prepared. Of course, if the City Council disagrees with Staff, revised documents can be prepared. Staff seeks direction from the Council on this issue.
  2. It appears that some of the rights that Mr. Ortolano Jr. wishes to establish with respect to his lot in connection with this process will be inconsistent with the provisions of the Settlement Agreement. For example, in his letter, Mr. Ortolano, Jr. wishes to have utilities installed on his property prior to the completion of the roadbed for the cul-de-sac. This would require a revision to the September 25, 1998 Settlement Agreement with the City, which sets forth a list of the permissible uses on his lot, which does not include utilities.
  3. Mr. Ortolano, Jr. also wants the easement between the cul-de-sac and the front of his property, which is to be conveyed to him by the City to provide access to his property, to be for his "exclusive" use. Mr. Ortolano, Jr. never raised that issue in prior discussions with Staff. Thus, the documents that were prepared make it clear that the access area would be non-exclusive so that Mr. Ortolano would have access to his property, but that members of the public walking to the trailhead and the easement to the Forrestal Nature Preserve would not be trespassing on Mr. Ortolano, Jr.’s property, if they walk across that area to the adjacent trail easement. Accordingly, Staff and the City Attorney do not support this change. Staff also seeks direction from the Council on this issue.

THE DOCUMENTS

Attached to this Staff Report are the documents pertaining to the transfer of private property to the City for the construction of a cul-de-sac turn-around at the terminus of Coolheights Drive, public trail easements to and within the Forrestal Nature Preserve, and an Open Space Conservation Easement for habitat protection. The documents need to be reviewed and accepted by the City Council prior to their recordation with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office. The documents are as follows (see attachment):

  1. Grant deed by Dr. and Mrs. Farooq at 3777 Coolheights Drive conveying to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approximately 4.05 square feet of property for the construction of the cul-de-sac.
  2. Grant deed by Mr. and Mrs. Ortolano Sr. at 3776 Coolheights Drive conveying to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approximately 12.78 square feet of property for the construction of the cul-de-sac turn-around.
  3. Grant deed by Mr. Ortolano Jr. at 3778 Coolheights Drive conveying to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approximately 83.80 square feet of property for the construction of the cul-de-sac turn-around.
  4. Grant deed by Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri at 3787 Coolheights Drive conveying to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approximately 1,650 square feet for the construction of the cul-de-sac turn-around.
  5. Grant deed by Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri at 3787 Coolheights Drive to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes the construction of the Coolheights trailhead link adjacent to the cul-de-sac and a five foot trail easement along the property line that abuts Mr. Ortolano Jr.’s property to accommodate the relocation of five feet of the existing ten foot wide trail easement from Mr. Ortolano Jr.’s property.
  6. Grant deed by Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri at 3787 Coolheights Drive conveying to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes public access trail easements (Pirate and Coolheights Link Trails) adjacent to the Forrestal Nature Preserve.
  7. Grant deed by Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri at 3787 Coolheights Drive to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes for the area between the Coolheights trailhead link, the trail easement, and the cul-de-sac.
  8. Grant deed by Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri at 3787 Coolheights Drive conveying to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes an easement to accommodate turns by large vehicles.
  9. Grant deed by Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes conveying 1.06 acres, in the form of an Open Space Conservation Easement, for mitigation for .53 acres of impact to habitat resulting from the Fire Department’s mandated brush clearance.
  10. Grant deed by the City of Rancho Palos Verdes to Ralph Ortolano Jr. conveying an easement for ingress and egress to and from 3778 Coolheights Drive to the drop curb that is to be constructed in the public street right-of-way (on Coolheights Drive) to the northern boundary line of Mr. Ortolano Jr.’s property
  11. Grant deed approved by the City Council of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes vacating the easterly five feet of the ten foot wide trail easement along the western edge of the lot at 3778 Coolheights Drive, which was previously granted by Ralph Ortolano Jr. to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes on October 1, 1998.

In addition to the above documents, attached are two agreements between the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri relating to trail improvements and the Forrestal Nature Preserve. The Agreements are attached for review and acceptance by the City Council and are described as follows:

  1. The Trail Improvement Access License is an agreement between the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri that will allow trail improvements to be completed prior to the recordation of the public trail easements.
  2. According to the project’s conditions of approval, during construction, the Forrestal Nature Preserve must be accessible from Coolheights Drive. As such, this Agreement will allow the City to construct the required trail improvements so that the Forrestal Nature Preserve is accessible for public use prior to the recordation of the trail easements and prior to the commencement of construction. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy will complete the required trail improvements.

  3. An Agreement between the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri to allow the legal descriptions that are attached to the various trail easements to be modified, if a site-specific survey is later provided to the City by the Nassiris, which demonstrates that the current depictions are not correct and should be modified. The agreement also provides that if the revision to any of the legal descriptions is too extensive to be considered to be a minor modification in the opinion of the City Attorney, then vacation of a portion of the public trail easement that traverses the subject property would be brought back before the City Council.

This Agreement was prepared because the public trail easements attached to this Staff Report consist of areas that are larger than what the City expects will be needed to maintain adequate public access. However, because a site-specific survey of the existing trails was not completed by the applicants before the preparation of the attached documents, the applicants and the City agreed that at this time a larger area would have to be granted to the City for the public trail easements. It was also agreed that in the future, if a site-specific survey is prepared by the property owners, which demonstrates that one or more easement areas are not accurately described and are excessive, the City would consider adjusting either: (1) adjusting the legal descriptions, if the changes were minor in nature, or (2) vacating portions of the trail easement(s), if the revisions to the trail easements were determined by the City Attorney to be too extensive to qualify as a mere modification to the legal description.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

At the time the subject project was approved by the Planning Commission, specific conditions were adopted addressing concerns raised during the public hearing. Specifically, a condition limiting the time when grading can occur, from September 1st through December 31st, was adopted to mitigate potential impacts to protected habitat within the Forrestal Nature Preserve. Additionally, as previously mentioned, pursuant to the adopted conditions, the City cannot issue grading permits until the easements regarding the trails have been recorded with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office. It is estimated that project-related grading (not including the cul-de-sac) will take approximately two weeks to complete. Therefore, in order to allow the grading to occur before the December 31st deadline, the trail easements and the conservation easement should be accepted by the City Council and recorded as soon as possible.

FISCAL IMPACT

Costs borne by the City in the preparation of the required documents are thus far estimated to be approximately $30,000. Specifically, City Attorney costs are estimated to be approximately $10,000 and the City’s Engineering Consultant costs are estimated to be approximately $20,000. These expenditures relate to the preparation of the documents and engineering plans that will create the trail easements and the plans for the cul-de-sac that the City would be receiving as a result of this project, which have been borne by the General Fund. (It should be noted that the cost of the construction of the cul-de-sac turn-around at the terminus of Coolheights Drive would be borne entirely by the applicants.)

As for trail improvements, it is estimated that it will cost the City approximately $1,600 to complete the necessary improvements in order to maintain access to the Forrestal Nature Preserve from Coolheights Drive. Future trail improvement costs will be borne by the City’s budget for the Forrestal Nature Preserve.

The City is exempt from having to pay the fees associated with the recordation of the documents pursuant to Government Code Section 27383.

CONCLUSION

Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri have executed all of the documents that were required by the Planning Commission and the Resource Agencies in connection with the project. Based on the foregoing discussion, Staff respectfully requests that the Council adopt the attached resolution, which authorizes Staff to accept and record the documents on behalf of the City with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office. However, since the issues with Mr. Ortolano, Jr., have not been resolved, Staff will only be able to record the trail and conservation easements at this time, which will allow the applicants to begin grading their property.

As discussed above, Staff has requested direction from the City Council as to the issues that were raised by Mr. Ortolano, Jr. If the Council concurs with Staff’s recommendations and the City accepts all of the attached documents, the applicants will be obligated to construct the cul-de-sac design that Mr. Ortolano, Jr. and many of the neighbors wanted, which will provide improved access to Mr. Ortolano, Jr.’s property. In addition, five feet of the existing ten-foot wide trail easement will be moved from Mr. Ortolano, Jr.’s property to the Nassiris’ property.

However, because all of Mr. Ortolano, Jr.’s concerns have not been resolved, and since the Ortolanos are not required to allow escrow to record the easements that they granted previously, it is Staff’s view that it is unlikely that the Ortolanos will agree to allow the documents that they executed to be recorded. Thus, if the Ortolanos do not agree to allow the documents to be recorded by October 27th, then Staff recommends that Council direct that this item be referred back to the Planning Commission to amend the conditions of the project so that the applicant will be required to construct the originally proposed hammerhead turn-around instead of the cul-de-sac.

ALTERNATIVES

In addition to Staff’s recommendation, the following alternative is available for consideration by the City Council:

  1. Identify any additional issues of concern with the documents, and provide the applicant, the interested parties and City Staff with further direction, and continue the hearing to a date certain.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Joel Rojas

Director of Planning, Building and

Code Enforcement

Reviewed by:

Les Evans

City Manager

 

ATTACHMENTS (The following attachments are not available electronically except for the Draft Resolution. Please contact the Planning Staff at City Hall to view the following attachments):

  • Draft Resolution No. 2003-__
  • Executed Grant Deeds and Easements
  • Public Comments and Staff Response Letter
  • Settlement Agreement (September 25, 1998)
  • Grant Deed

RESOLUTION NO. 2003-____

A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AUTHORIZING THE CITY MANAGER AND THE ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER TO ACCEPT GRANT DEEDS DEDICATING TO THE CITY REAL PROPERTY TO IMPROVE THE TERMINUS OF COOLHEIGHTS DRIVE, AN OPEN SPACE CONSERVATION EASEMENT, AND PUBLIC ACCESS TRAIL EASEMENT IN CONNECTION WITH HEIGHT VARIATION 899 (3787 COOLHEIGHTS DRIVE)

WHEREAS, On August 27, 2002 the Planning Commission unanimously approved, with conditions, Height Variation No. 899, et. al., to allow the construction of a new 5,407 square foot single-family residence on the Property commonly known as 3787 Coolheights Drive (the "Property"); and

WHEREAS, the conditions of approval imposed by the Planning Commission required, among other things, that portions of the Property be conveyed to the City in the form of Grant Deeds and Easements prior to the issuance of building or grading permits to improve the terminus of Coolheights Drive with a cul-de-sac turn-around (which was requested by neighbors of the project at 3787 Coolheights Drive), to provide public access trails adjacent to the Forrestal Nature Preserve, and to establish an Open Space Conservation Easement for habitat protection; and

WHEREAS, on November 4, 2002, Dr. and Mrs. Farooq at 3777 Coolheights Drive executed a grant deed dedicating to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approximately 4.05 square feet of land for the construction of the cul-de-sac turnaround at the terminus of Coolheights Drive; and

WHEREAS, on November 4, 2002, Mr. and Mrs. Ortolano, Sr. at 3776 Coolheights Drive executed a grant deed dedicating to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approximately 12.78 square feet of property for the construction of the cul-de-sac turn-around at the terminus of Coolheights Drive; and

WHEREAS, on November 4, 2002, Mr. Ortolano Jr. at 3778 Coolheights Drive executed a grant deed dedicating to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approximately 83.80 square feet of property for the construction of the cul-de-sac turn-around at the terminus of Coolheights Drive; and

WHEREAS, on September 25, 2003, Mr. and Mrs. Nassiri at 3787 Coolheights Drive executed the following documents in favor of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes: (1) a grant deed dedicating to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approximately 1,650 square feet for the construction of the cul-de-sac turn-around at the terminus of Coolheights Drive; (2) a grant deed for the construction of the Coolheights trailhead link adjacent to the cul-de-sac dedicating to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes a five foot trail easement along the property line that abuts Mr. Ortolano Jr.’s property to accommodate the relocation of five feet of the existing ten foot wide trail easement from Mr. Ortolano Jr.’s property; (3) a grant deed dedicating to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes public access trails adjacent to the Forrestal Nature Preserve; (4)a grant deed dedicating to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes the area between the Coolheights trailhead link, the trail easement, and the cul-de-sac; (5) a grant deed dedicating to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes conveying an easement to accommodate turns by large vehicles; and (6) a grant deed conveying to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes 1.06 acres, in the form of an Open Space Conservation Easement, for mitigation for .53 acres of impact to habitat resulting from the Fire Department’s mandated brush clearance; and

WHEREAS, on October 7, 2003, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approved the grant deed conveying to Ralph Ortolano Jr. an easement for ingress and egress to and from 3778 Coolheights Drive to the drop curb that is to be constructed in the public street right-of-way (on Coolheights Drive) to the northern boundary line of Mr. Ortolano Jr.’s property, provided that Mr. Ortolano, Jr. authorizes the escrow company to record contemporaneously the grant deed dedicating to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approximately 83.80 square feet of his property for the construction of the cul-de-sac turn-around and provided that the escrow company is authorized to record contemporaneously all of the other deeds and easements that are required to construct the cul-de-sac turn-around; and

WHEREAS, on October 7, 2003, the City Council approved the grant deed vacating the easterly five feet of the ten foot wide trail easement along the western edge of the lot at 3778 Coolheights Drive, which was previously granted by Ralph Ortolano Jr. to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes on October 1, 1998, provided that Mr. Ortolano, Jr. authorizes the escrow company to record contemporaneously the grant deed dedicating to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes approximately 83.80 square feet of his property for the construction of the cul-de-sac turn-around and provided that the escrow company is authorized to record contemporaneously all of the other deeds and easements that are required to construct the cul-de-sac turn-around; and

WHEREAS, Government Code Section 27281 allows the City to authorize by resolution one or more of its officers or agents to accept such deeds or grants on behalf of the City and consent to the recording of these documents;

NOW, THEREFORE, THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES DOES RESOLVE, DETERMINE AND ORDER AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1. The City Manager, the Assistant City Manager and the Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes are hereby duly authorized to accept the above-referenced grant deeds and easements and to record said easements on behalf of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes by executing the form which is attached hereto as Exhibit "A" and incorporated herein by this reference.

PASSED, APPROVED and ADOPTED this 7th day of October, 2003.

__________________________

Mayor

ATTEST:

________________________

City Clerk

Exhibit "A"

CERTIFICATION

This is to certify that the interest in real property conveyed by this deed or grant dated _____________________, from ____________________to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, a political corporation, is hereby accepted by the undersigned agent on behalf of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes pursuant to authority conferred by Resolution No.____ of the City Council of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, adopted on October 7, 2003, and the grantee consents to the recordation thereof by its duly authorized agent.

Dated: ____________________ By: ________________________

_________________________

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