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RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
ADJOURNED REGULAR MEETING
SITE VISIT MEETING
DECEMBER 6, 2003
The meeting was called to order at 3:00 p.m. by Mayor Gardiner at 3787 Coolheights Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes, notice having been given with affidavit thereto on file.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Clark, Long, Wolowicz, Stern, and Mayor Gardiner
Also present were City Manager Evans, City Attorney Lynch, Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Rojas, and Senior Planner Mihranian.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA: Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Clark to approve the agenda. Motion carried.
Ganado Trail/Coolheights Lot Site Visit
City Manager Evans noted that this matter regarding the route of the Ganado Trail was continued from the December 2nd meeting.
Planning Director Rojas noted that a Staff Memorandum had been prepared describing the history of this trail, some of which had been discussed at the December 2nd City Council meeting. He stated that the intent of this meeting was to familiarize the Council with the physical layout of the site, and that most of the discussion on this matter will occur at the December 16th meeting.
Mayor Gardiner agreed, stating that the site visit was to gather additional information on this matter and to continue the discussion to the December 16th meeting. He noted that public comments and questions were welcome, and strongly encouraged people to attend the December 16th Council meeting.
Senior Planner Mihranian began his site presentation by stating that a public notice was posted as follows: at the project site (3787 Coolheights Drive), at four different locations at the Forrestal Nature Preserve, Ladera Linda, mailed to property owners within a 500-foot radius of the subject property, interested parties, and was e-mailed to listserv subscribers.
Senior Planner Mihranian described the physical features of the property. He stated that the property is 2.3 acres in size, and identified the physical boundary lines. He noted that the cul-de-sac design approved by the Planning Commission on August 27, 2002 is outlined in green tape, while the orange tape represents the building footprint approved by the Commission. He identified the fuel modification zone mandated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and then stated that the stakes with the green flags represented the imaginary line that divided the property into two sections, a residential zone and a trail zone. He noted that the imaginary line was not an arbitrarily drawn line, but that much thought was given to it by the Commission. He stated that the Commission factored in the acceptability of a trail, the surrounding topography, the required fuel modification, and privacy for both the trail users and the property owner in its decision. He noted that the line was changed twice by the Commission to provide adequate access to the property.
He then discussed the background on the City’s acquisition of the Forrestal property and noted that the property was acquired in 1996 and is approximately160-acres. He stated that the Forrestal property was once slated for a 47-lot residential tract, that included the subject property. He said that at the time the City acquired the Forrestal property, the subject property was intentionally excluded from the transaction because the developers intended to develop the lot with a single-family residence, which at that time was approximately 2.46 acres in size. He briefly discussed the lawsuit and the settlement agreement that resulted in a portion of the subject property being deeded to Mr. Ortolano Jr.
Mr. Mihranian stated that at the time the City acquired the Forrestal property, there were footpaths located throughout the property, specifically off Coolheights Drive, that provided access to the Forrestal property from the Mediterrania Tract. He noted that it was always envisioned that access from Coolheights Drive to the City owned Forrestal Nature Preserve would exist. In fact, the Settlement Agreement required the dedication of such trail easements to the City. He noted that the property owner had agreed some time ago to dedicate, without compensation, the appropriate trail easements to the City to secure public access to the Forrestal Nature Preserve. He continued, at the time the Commission was considering the development of the subject property, on several occasions the Staff Reports indicated that the exact location of the Ganado Trail was unknown. According to the City’s Conceptual Trails Plan, the exact route of the Ganado Trail segment is also unknown and that the Plan merely states that the Ganado Trail is a point-to-point trail that spurs off the Pirate Trail, extending towards the radar domes.
Senior Planner Mihranian then described the conditions of approval adopted by the Planning Commission on August 27, 2002: the property owner is required to convey trail easements to the City for the Pirate, Flying-Mane, and the Ganado Trails. He stated that the Commission recognized the fact that the Forrestal Steering Commission was overseeing the implementation of the Forrestal Management Plan, and that the location of the Ganado Trail was not identified in the Management Plan. The Commission conditioned the project so that the final placement of the Ganado Trail occur within the trail zone, and be further reviewed and approved by the Steering Committee.
Mr. Mihranian spoke of the Forrestal Steering Committee’s review of the Ganado Trail and noted that they were aware of the two point-to-point footpaths that could essentially be considered the Ganado Trail. He identified these two trails as the eastern and western trails, which were parallel trails that terminate near the radar domes. He stated that the Committee considered various factors in deciding the final placement of the trail, such as erosion impacts caused by ridgeline trails, privacy impacts, equestrian use and its close proximity to residential neighborhoods, topography, and habitat impacts caused by the required fuel modification. He stated that the Steering Committee determined at its June 2002 and August 2003 meetings, that the western trail should be designated as the official Ganado Trail. He noted that the Committee’s decision was at a noticed meeting and involved the participation of representatives from the homeowner’s association and the neighboring property owners. Mr. Mihranian noted that a concern was raised that such a decision by the Steering Committee would essentially close off access to a viewing area, referred to as "Sunset Rock," along the eastern trail. He stated that the Steering Committee, in its final decision, recognized that access to the "Sunset Rock" would be limited, and therefore selected a location along the western trail, at a similar elevation, to serve as the new viewing area. The Steering Committee also agreed that improvements to the viewing area would be considered a project that would provide the public with an enhanced viewing area. He stated that the Steering Committee never closed the eastern trail, and that it is conceivable that the "Sunset Rock" could be accessed from the northern portion of the property near the radar domes.
Mr. Mihranian noted that the City Council’s acceptance of specific easements, including trail easements, at its October 7th meeting was based on the Steering Committee’s decision and the Planning Commission’s adopted conditions.
Planning Director Rojas emphasized that there were never any dedicated public trail easements traversing the subject property, and that the footpaths used by the neighborhood in the past traversed private property. He stated that references to the City closing a public trail are inaccurate because public trails never existed within the subject property and it was only now that the City was establishing public trail easements.
Senior Planner Mihranian identified a trail improvement project being implemented by the Steering Committee along the Pirate Trail route. He noted that the trail was realigned to address safety concerns, and is only partially completed and that it will be re-vegetated to create a physical barrier between the trail and the cliffs of the Quarry Bowl.
Mr. Rojas identified coastal sage scrub that is home to the federally protected gnatcatcher. He briefly explained the purpose of the Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP).
Mayor Gardiner asked is there were any questions.
Councilman Wolowicz asked where the eastern and western trails merged.
Senior Planner Mihranian noted that the trails merge approximately one-quarter mile from the subject property.
Councilman Wolowicz then asked where the eastern ridge trail began.
Senior Planner Mihranian identified the location.
Mayor Pro-Tem Clark asked Staff how much of the lot was private property and how much area has been deeded to the City in the form of easements.
Senior Planner Mihranian noted that the subject property is approximately 2.3 acres in area and that 51% of the lot has been conveyed to the City in the form of easements, including the trail easements, an open space conservation easement and the cul-de-sac turn-around easement. He noted that these easements have been conveyed to the City without monetary compensation.
Mayor Gardiner asked to view the trails in question.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that there were three options to consider: 1) Hike both the western and eastern trails; 2) Hike the western trail; or 3) Hike the eastern trail.
The Council agreed to hike the western trail first, and then determine whether to hike the eastern trail. Before proceeding on the hike, a representative from the City of Rolling Hills informed the Council that any trails being considered should not enter the City of Rolling Hills.
No minutes were taken during the Council’s physical hike.
Mayor Gardiner, at the end of the hike, asked if there were any questions before the meeting adjourned to the December 16th meeting.
Mayor Pro-Tem Clark asked what Mr. Nassiri’s, the subject property owner, schedule is to construct his residence.
Mr. Nassiri responded that he would like to begin shortly after the Council renders a decision at its December 16th meeting and the final documents for the cul-de-sac have been signed and executed.
Mayor Gardiner asked if there were any outstanding documents that needed to be executed that may delay the property owner from starting construction.
City Attorney Lynch responded that it was her understanding that all the required documents from the parties involved in the transaction had been signed and filed with the escrow agent.
Mayor Gardiner asked that Staff report back at the December 16th meeting what trails are defined and how they relate to the radar domes and the City of Rolling Hills. He also asked that further information be provided to the Council regarding the outstanding steps on the Steering Committee’s Pirate Trail improvement project.
Councilman Stern expressed concern that it appears someone is taking it upon themselves to start cutting a trail that they would presumably like to see. He strongly hoped that people discourage that kind of conduct on private property.
Mayor Gardiner asked if there were any further public comments.
A member of the public asked if the trail along the western ridge encroached onto private property at the northernmost portion of the trail, which is referred to as the "putting green."
Senior Planner Mihranian noted that the "putting green" was on City-owned property.
Barbara Dye noted that the route of the Ganado Trail was reviewed and approved by the Forrestal Steering Committee; that the Steering Committee continues to meet twice a month and that all the meetings are open to the public and encouraged the neighboring communities to get involved with the Forrestal Nature Preserve and the Steering Committee.
Planning Commissioner Mueller noted that the Planning Commission, in its review of the proposed residence, considered public access to the Forrestal Nature Preserve; that although the Commission did not determine the exact location of the Ganado Trail route, they did consider various factors in their determination to create a trail zone, such as topography, the require fuel modification, and privacy impacts.
Mayor Pro-Tem Clark asked Commissioner Mueller how many meetings were held for this project.
Planning Commissioner Mueller responded that there were multiple hearings on this item.
Mayor Pro-Tem Clark asked Commissioner Mueller if the Planning Commission’s approval of the residential project was appealed to the City Council.
Planning Commissioner Mueller responded that the approval was not appealed. He also noted that the project conditions required specific agreements be executed between the neighboring properties with respect to the cul-de-sac turn-around.
Mayor Pro-Tem Clark asked the City Attorney if all the easements had been recorded.
City Attorney Lynch noted that all the required trail easements had been recorded and that the cul-de-sac easements were pending recordation.
Paul Tetreault noted that he has been attending the Forrestal Steering Committee meetings for the past several months as an interested party and noted that the Steering Committee has been receptive to his input.
Sunshine noted that it was her understanding based on aerial information that the location where the western and eastern ridgeline trail merge is in the City of Rolling Hills.
Planning Director Rojas clarified that both trails are located in the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and that the entire "putting green" is also located within the City boundary.
Barbara Dye noted that both trails are in the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, however, the current trail route to the radar domes is within the City of Rolling Hills, but a trail can be built that connects Forrestal to the radar domes within the City limits. She noted that additional studies and review would needed before such a trail can be built.
Councilman Long strongly encouraged staff and the public to hike up the eastern ridge and return down the western ridge to understand the physical condition of the site. He explained how he hiked the crossover between the two trails.
Mayor Gardiner asked if there were any further questions.
Mayor Gardiner thanked the public for attending the site visit meeting and noted that this matter would be continued to the December 16th Council meeting.
The meeting adjourned at 4:45 p.m. on motion of Mayor Gardiner.