RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
ADJOURNED REGULAR WORKSHOP
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2004
The meeting was called to order at 11:08 a.m. by Mayor Gardiner at Ladera Linda Community Center, 32201 Forrestal Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes, notice having been given with affidavit thereto on file.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Stern, Long, Clark, Wolowicz, Gardiner
Also present were City Manager Les Evans; City Attorney Carol Lynch; Director of Public Works Dean Allison; Chair of the Forrestal Steering Committee Barbara Dye; Senior Planner Ara Mihranian; Engineering Technician Bindu Vaish, Deputy City Clerk Carla Morreale; and, Minutes Reporter Debra Presutti.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Councilman Stern.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Wolowicz, to approve the Agenda. There being no objection, Mayor Gardiner so ordered.
REGULAR NEW BUSINESS:
Forrestal Management Plan
Mayor Gardiner welcomed everyone and clarified speaking time allotments since so many people were present. He extended compliments to staff for a marvelous summary and requested the Chair of the Forrestal Steering Committee, Barbara Dye, to introduce the members of the Committee.
Ms. Dye commented she appreciates that opportunity because the members worked very long and hard reconciling different points of view and trying to strike the right balance for the Forrestal Preserve. She introduced the members as follows: Dan Ryan, Nicole Jules, Holly Starr, John Nieto, Kurt Loheit, Madeline Ryan, Barbara Sattler, and Richard Stark.
Planner Mihranian, with the assistance of a slide show and PowerPoint presentation, presented the staff memorandum of December 4, 2004.
Mayor Gardiner stated his understanding that Council is here to, among other things, decide the trail routes and uses within the Preserve, which can then be revised at the end of a six-month period and queried if the Committee judges this to be the best usage of the existing trail system.
Planner Mihranian indicated that the trails network plan recommended by the Committee balances recreational opportunities with habitat preservation.
Councilman Wolowicz requested an explanation of plans to integrate the Forrestal Nature Preserve with proposed connections to the Portuguese Bend land acquisition and the Klondike Canyon Trail, saying these will be significant in linking these major assets of the City.
Planner Mihranian indicated that if and when the Portuguese Bend property is acquired by the City, the management plan could then be modified to expand some of the recreational uses there, noting, since that acquisition has not yet occurred, the plan does not include that expansion.
Ms. Dye explained the Trails Status Report identifies certain trails that require some remediation to make them acceptable, adding those trails are currently in use and there is no plan to deny access to them in the interim. She noted the goal of the Project List, which will be the initial task of the new advisory committee with Council’s approval, would be to identify and prioritize that remediation process, saying one of the plans is to rebuild the top of the Flying Mane Trail. She indicated the Project List will require yearly Council approval and is intended to provide a mechanism for the City to review any required modifications in concept and then review them again as they become actual projects.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark commented, since there are five action items that staff is recommending Council address and also a tremendous public turn out for this topic, it might be best to focus on the area which has the most public interest, which appears to be trail routes and uses.
Councilman Long endorsed the Mayor Pro Tem’s suggestion and requested clarification of staff’s definition of passive recreation and, noting he walked all the trails and found areas with safety concerns, asked staff to place those issues in context.
Planner Mihranian explained that staff defines a trail as "passive recreation" by its inherent nature regardless of whether it is used for hiking, horseback riding, or bicycling; whereas "active recreation" requires the development of some sort of facility such as a soccer field or a riding ring. He advised that the Committee investigated safety from the perspective of trail standards used in other preserves and parks in Southern California, finding that they varied on a case-by-case basis but there were no set industry standards. He noted the Management Plan does not include specific standards but uses trail guidelines, noting that various user groups have used the trails for years and no safety concerns have ever been reported to the City.
Councilman Long queried if the turn in the trail just south of View Area 5 has specifically been considered.
Planner Mihranian indicated that has been an area of concern since the City acquired the property because there is significant erosion occurring on the cliffs. He advised that it is one of the trail improvement projects identified in the Trail Status Report, which lists each trail route, notes any deficiencies, and identifies what improvements should be made.
Mayor Gardiner invited comment from members of the public who submitted speaker cards.
Barry Bonnickson, San Pedro, member of the Sierra Club but speaking as an individual, remarked the description of Trial L14 is overly restrictive, saying he believes it should be open for any pedestrian use. He also mentioned that there was a trail to the east of A16 that, according to the plan, has been lost, saying he considers that to be a significant loss.
Tom Hollingsworth, Ladera Linda resident, speaking as an individual and as someone who helped purchase the Forrestal property as a past City Council member, indicated he has a very special interest because this property is essentially in his backyard. He noted people in the neighborhood use the soccer fields and that walkers, hikers, dog runners, et cetera extensively enjoy the old walking trails. He thanked the Committee, saying they did a good job trying to put together a compromise that would provide something for everyone. He requested attention be given to Forrestal Drive itself, saying accessibility to this area might change the neighborhood by promoting overuse and allowing limitless numbers of horse trailers.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark inquired if Mr. Hollingsworth had any specific recommendations he would like Council to consider.
Mr. Hollingsworth answered that the Forrestal gate has prevented the area from being destroyed, saying all kinds of undesirable activities took place prior to its installation and, as the area is opened to the public, residents are justifiably concerned about their safety. He said the area is magnificent and they would like people to be able to enjoy it, but they would also like a watchful eye to be kept on the roadway and for the current gate policy to be maintained.
Dena Friedson, expressed concern about mingling hikers and bicyclists, saying she does not believe there is enough room for people to pass one another safely. She also voiced concern over the City’s delegating ranger-type authority to a particular sports group, saying she believes the City should retain complete control. She indicated the main point she would like to bring to everyone’s attention is that nature preserves are special places created to protect rare and/or threatened native plants and animals, where passive and educational uses are encouraged as long as the habitat is not disturbed, and where no persons are excluded as long as they stay on the trails and are on foot. She urged that other areas on the Peninsula that are not directly adjacent to native vegetation, as in this preserve, be designated for mountain biking use.
Mayor Gardiner requested Ms. Friedson to identify any specific trails she has concerns with.
Ms. Friedson answered that L1 is quite steep and narrow, has a chain link fence on one side, rock outcroppings in many places, and some curves which create visibility issues; A15, while providing some wide areas is very narrow in others and, if someone steps to the side, they are forced to step into the brush.
Dick Stark, remarked that he very much enjoyed working on the Steering Committee, adding the Land Conservancy is a genuine asset to the City. He directed attention to Appendix E of the Trail Status Report, saying he believes in the philosophy for the trail network as presented, but it needs a process to achieve the end result. He explained that Appendix E takes each trail individually and defines the current conditions and repairs needed, but the link between outlining the goals and achieving them is a single phrase appearing in 13 of the 21 trails which indicates subject to the correction of deficiencies as detailed in Appendix E. He stated many of those deficiencies impact public safety particularly on proposed multipurpose trails and suggested that after Council approves the plan they provide guidance on how the trails should be marked in terms of maps and signs based on their current conditions. He also indicated there are particular areas on A13, for example, that need to be remediated before multipurpose access should be allowed and questioned how it will be determined that a deficiency has been corrected.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark inquired if there are other specific trails that Mr. Stark considers too dangerous for multipurpose use without deficiencies being corrected.
Mr. Stark answered there are problems with the width and line of sight on L1, creating a situation that is unsafe for both pedestrians and bicyclists; also A15 and A16 require some remediation.
Mayor Gardiner noted that, according to Mr. Stark’s comments, the Trails Network Plan assumes that everything in need of repair will be corrected and queried if staff has an estimate of the cost to make the necessary repairs.
Planner Mihranian indicated that cost estimates have not been calculated at this time. He said some work was performed last year on the Pirate Trial, most of which was done with donated time and materials and cost the City very little. He explained that the list of projects has prioritized those things that need to be addressed first and attempts are being made to obtain grants and funding from outside groups.
Mayor Gardiner inquired what risks the City is engendering if Council approves this and moves to endorse certain uses knowing some of the trails are not ready for those approved uses.
City Attorney Lynch explained that the City has absolute immunity under the government torts act for unimproved public property. She indicated that activities such as horseback riding have been recognized as inherently dangerous so there is also immunity from that liability. She suggested posting warning/hazard signs for particularly steep areas and those sections of the property where rock fall is an issue.
Councilman Wolowicz remarked that the liability issue looms large for him, adding once action is taken, there could feasibly be bicyclists, horses, and pedestrians all coming at once to a switchback, saying he is interested in knowing what liability would be attendant to that.
City Attorney Lynch indicated there should be no any additional liability to the City for allowing multipurpose use.
Paul Tetreault, Ladera Linda resident, commented he, too, has been very interested in the issue of liability, saying, as an attorney, he did some research and has spoken to the City Attorney and agrees this is an area the City should have no reason to be concerned with. He said he attended many Steering Committee meetings in his capacity as immediate past president of the Ladera Linda Homeowners Association and wanted to rebut an article that appeared on the front page of that day’s Peninsula News, suggesting that the Committee had its own agenda and was forcing that upon the community. He indicated that was not his experience but rather he witnessed the voicing of many different viewpoints, found many of the participants unable to agree with each other, and no concerted effort by anyone to do anything in particular. He added that over time he saw people take in new information and ideas and change their minds, noting, although he does not agree 100 percent with what the Steering Committee has done, they should be commended for having done a remarkably good job of bringing together very disparate community interests.
Barbara Sattler, President of the South Coast Native Plant Society and speaking as an individual, advised that she was the dissenting vote on approval of the Forrestal Management Plan and also part of the Trails Network Plan. She outlined her concerns as follows: 1) The Committee did not follow more closely the recommendations of the biological consultant regarding certain trail designations, particularly the elimination of Viewpoint 3, which is located in an area where a number of sensitive plant species would be subject to trampling; 2) The overwhelming preponderance of mountain biking is extremely unsafe, increases risk to everyone, and sets the stage for continued accommodations of multiuse on all trails which will incrementally impact more and more plant and wildlife species and habitat over the years; 3) The Forrestal Preserve is being considered a template for recreational use with many people believing and will set a precedent for other future preserve areas; 4) This particular preserve contains some of the most pristine habitat and a higher diversity of species than any of the larger areas on the Peninsula and, as such, deserves special treatment and should be more restricted than anywhere else on the Peninsula.
She indicated she is not reassured by the temporary trial period, advising that the Committee became aware of an incident earlier in the year involving disturbance of habitat and removal of plants to create bike jumps, noting this was not mentioned in the report. She remarked there is little value in a six-month evaluation period if full, detailed reporting is not provided. She indicated that the original Management Plan was very specific about footpaths rather than trails, consistent with the original acquisition agreements of the property and the intention to designate the area as a nature preserve with passive recreational use.
Ms. Sattler also brought Council’s awareness to the fact that the trail workshop held last January focused specifically on obtaining input from jurisdictions that allowed multiple use and excluded any preserves, which did not, resulting in that perspective never being provided. Despite that, all panelists representing those multiple use jurisdictions stated that not all trails are suitable for multiple uses. She mentioned that of the more than 200 responses to a public questionnaire, she found a significant difference in tone and content to the paraphrasing of many of the comments and there was no summary provided for almost a third of them, the majority of which were from hikers and walkers rather than cyclists. She indicated it is troubling that the Committee did not receive as much public input from that questionnaire as the public believed they provided.
She also voiced concern with Section 3 of the Management Plan, saying it is crucial that the makeup of any Steering Committee for a nature preserve consist of individuals with expertise in biology, ecology, and restoration, and with specific knowledge of the species and habitat to be protected in addition to representatives from permitted user groups. She opined that the current Steering Committee has a couple very serious deficiencies: 1) The preserve is intended to protect habitat, but there are no representatives with expertise in birds or butterflies; 2) The Committee has representatives for equestrian and bicycle interests, but none for hiking or walking.
Ms. Sattler said she gave a great deal of thought to public education and its importance as a tool to protect natural resources. She noted she proposed an education section for the Management Plan, only a part of which was subsequently incorporated into Section 3 with significant changes and elimination of the implementation methods. She indicated the proposed Educational Trails Unit would be more appropriately referred to as trails etiquette or trails assistance since it will be dealing with behavior.
In conclusion Ms. Sattler thanked Council for their time and strongly urged them to consider her comments and carefully review the materials she provided.
George Fink, current Ladera Linda Homeowners Association President, stated he is a daily hiker of the trails and has had the pleasure of working with the Steering Committee, finding them receptive to comments and willing to cooperate. He advised that the Ladera Linda community is 98 percent opposed to the use of their community center as an equestrian facility, the loading and unloading of horses on Forrestal Drive, and equestrian use of the parking lot and trails near Ladera Linda, including the soccer fields and jogging track. He also noted their concerns about safety and the importance of the Forrestal gate for security. He outlined their recommendations as follows: 1) No horse trailer loading and unloading be allowed in the Ladera Linda parking lot; 2) Preserve the Management Plan’s designation of trail L5 as cyclist and pedestrian only; 3) Approve the other trail recommendations with the exception of equestrian use of L6, L7, and L9, unless such approval is accompanied by a formal directive that it revert to pedestrian and cyclist use only immediately upon opening of the new equestrian facility planned for Portuguese Bend; 4) Retain and preserve the City’s current Forrestal gate policy; 5) Require development and inclusion in the plan of quantitative trail standards for each designated trail use.
Bob Mucha, Ladera Linda homeowner and member of the Hiking Committee, indicated the Forrestal Management Plan is fundamentally excellent in structure and overall content but voiced concern that some of the directives dealing with trail standards, safety, new trails, and deficiencies are vague or in conflict. He indicated explicit and quantified trail standards for recommended uses are not provided. He noted of greatest concern are trail descriptions as narrow, normal, or wide, saying without quantitative definitions and determinations of which widths are suitable for specific uses, the Management Plan is lacking. He stated that while safety is said to be considered, specific multiuse traffic conflicts and their remediation are not addressed, and the Trail Status Report states deficiencies in general terms without reference to any safeguards or standards to correct them. He strongly urged Council to provide explicit direction regarding remediation of these problems.
Charles Agnew, Ladera Linda resident and Neighborhood Watch Area Coordinator, said his purpose is to ensure that the Forrestal Preserve does not impact neighborhood security, noting the most critical asset in maintaining that security is the Forrestal gate. He indicated the gate was installed because the area provided an attractive temptation for undesirable behavior, saying it has stopped the dumping of trash by gardeners and others, lowered the amount of vandalism and late and overnight parking on Intrepid Drive, and eliminated various other activities unsuitable for a residential neighborhood. He remarked that, while the equestrian community has expressed interest in keeping the gate open, the community’s security is dependent upon maintaining the current policy.
Mr. Agnew mentioned alternative equestrian access to the Forrestal Preserve can currently be gained through the Loop Trail and noted the proposed equestrian park in Portuguese Bend should be considered the front door for equestrian use, saying it would be outstanding because it abuts both the Forrestal and Portuguese Bend Nature Preserves and would provide continuously available parking for horse vans and trailers. He indicated the Ladera Linda community is recommending Council consider the following: 1) immediate development of the Forrestal equestrian trails from the proposed equestrian park to Fossil Hill; 2) expedite development of parking facilities for both horse vans and trailers in Portuguese Bend; and, 3) reassign trails L6, L7, and L9 back to the previously approved pedestrian/bicycle designation.
Bill Schurmer, past president of the Ladera Linda Homeowners Association, spoke about trail safety, citing text from the equestrian website and the Palos Verdes Horseman’s Trail Guide to Non Equestrians to illustrate some of the inherent and significant risks involved in horses as they relate to multipurpose trail use. He indicated that of the twelve trails the Management Plan recommends for multiple use, only L12 and L7 are wide enough to accommodate safe usage. He stated most of the trails interconnecting to the equestrian overlay district and Portuguese Bend have served equestrians, pedestrians, and cyclists very well for over 50 years, providing the ability to ride horses two or more abreast without conflicting with hikers and cyclists; whereas most of the trails recommended for multiple use in the preserve measure from one to three feet in width and cannot accommodate safe multiple use. He commented that of the three principal trail conditions bearing on safe use -- slope, surface, and width – the most critical issue is width, saying objective width standards are not provided and without them there is no ability to properly assess safety when approving usage. He noted that the passing width required for two horses in the City’s Conceptual Trails Plan is a minimum of five feet plus a safety clearance and recommended that Council direct the development and incorporation into the plan of explicit trail width standards. In response to concerns raised over the Forrestal gate, Mr. Schurmer indicated the Ladera Linda community had the largest response to a questionnaire regarding this issue than to any other in its history, saying they absolutely do not want a change to the gate policy.
Brooks Chadwick stated the walking trails are a key part of what is special about Palos Verdes and requested that Council ensure continued access to these 30 to 40 year old footpaths. He noted the Eastern Ridge Trail between Coolheights and the City of Rolling Hills is an established footpath not shown on the Steering Committee’s map that has nine switchbacks, good vegetation, and is not particularly rocky or erosion prone. He specifically requested that this footpath remain open to pedestrians and that one access route be retained from the lower terminus to Coolheights Drive, saying, if this access is preserved, hikers will continue to treat the area with concern for nearby residents, the wildlife, and habitat.
Angelika Brinkmann-Busi, as the Land Conservancy’s biological consultant, reminded Council not to lose sight of the preservation aspect of the area, saying she cannot stress enough its ecological and biological value. She indicated she has hiked the Peninsula for about 15 years and has encountered approximately 200 different native species, saying in the coastal sage scrub and cactus scrub areas alone she has identified 17 native species, descrying the area’s diversity and uniqueness. She explained 5 of these 17 plant species are included on the California Department of Fish and Game list of plants of special concern and an additional 10 should be considered locally rare because of their occurrence rates and population numbers. She noted that, due to the island-like location of these areas, biodiversity is being lost even without the effects of disturbing influences and advised that trails will further this loss through more long-term indirect impacts such as the introduction of invasive non-native species. She indicated she supports reorganization of trails in those areas and urged Council to err on the cautious side when reaching a decision.
Ann Shaw reminded the Council that the first priority of a preserve is to ensure preservation and emphasized that the Forrestal Nature Preserve is a pristine area and should be protected by only allowing passive recreational opportunities and enhancement of the undisturbed portions of the preserve. She opined that the Steering Committee’s recommendation to allow mountain biking on all the Forrestal trails is in direct opposition to the preservation goal of discouraging uses that result in environmental degradation. She indicated numerous trails are steep, narrow, and covered with loose rocks in many locations, which could lead to human injury and destruction or damage of the vegetation adjacent to them. She expressed confusion with the term "passive" recreation as it is being used, saying mountain biking is a fast and vigorous sport and should not be allowed in a passive recreational zone. She disagreed with the six-month trial period, noting it is extremely difficult to take something away once it has been granted and, even though the City has no liability under State law, she is certain no one wants to create a situation where accidents and injuries are likely to occur. She indicated she does not oppose mountain biking in other area and, when Portuguese Bend becomes part of the City’s open space, there will be appropriate areas for that use there. She concluded by noting that the City’s open space should be available for all to use, but she believes mountain biking is an inappropriate and unwise use of the Forrestal trails and urged Council to exclude it from the Master Plan.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark inquired if Ms. Shaw is recommending that cycling be excluded from all trails in the Forrestal Preserve.
Ms. Shaw answered that would be her desire. She explained that Planner Mihranian defines "passive" recreation much differently than she would, saying she considers passive activities as things that are done quietly and slowly. She urged Council to use common sense, realize this is a pristine area, and err on the conservative side.
Madeline Ryan thanked Planner Mihranian for consolidating three years worth of meetings into this single staff report. She noted that the visibility in the Forrestal Preserve is actually quite good and if two trail users are approaching one another from opposite directions they can be seen by one another, saying Martingale trailhead is a perfect example of a narrow, steep trail which has been used for years by cyclists, equestrians, and horses where a collision has never occurred. She urged Council’s adoption of the Steering Committee’s recommendations to include L5 as a multipurpose trail since that is really the main entrance to the preserve, saying since the Forrestal gate remains in a closed position, it is critical that equestrians be allowed on that trail at least for a six-month probationary period or until the gate issue is resolved. She suggested the possibility of hours of operation for the gate, which would mitigate the concerns of the Ladera Linda homeowners of parking on Forrestal Drive or in the community center parking lot.
Councilman Wolowicz, saying he believes A13 plays a key role in accessing L5, inquired if A13 is a practical horse trail.
Ms. Ryan indicated A13 needs some work and she does not personally like that trail. She noted there is a wash between L16 and A13 that does not require any work or grading improvements and believes this would provide great access for bikes and equestrians.
Councilman Wolowicz commented he is concerned about being able to connect with the Loop Trail, saying it appears that A13 has a steep grade, which will need to be engineered to make it conducive for equestrian use.
Ms. Ryan agreed that A13 is a critical link; it has good visibility, and can be improved with a series of small switchbacks.
Joyce Fink welcomed everyone to her backyard and said she cannot emphasize enough the importance of the Forrestal gate, explaining it has literally turned the site from a dumping ground to the beautiful area it is today. She mentioned that everyone should take the opportunity to visit L1, L3, and L4 during the month of April to enjoy for a spectacular exhibit of wildflowers.
Mayor Gardiner recessed the meeting at 1:04 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 1:25 p.m.
City Manager Evans introduced Mr. Kurt Loheit as the Committee’s trails expert, saying they have been very lucky to have him and the many other experts that have worked on this project.
Kurt Loheit introduced himself as an RPV resident who has spent the last 17 years designing, constructing, and maintaining trails on a volunteer basis throughout the country. He indicated he surveyed the entire property and found a handful of minor issues related to widths and grades, noting a key thing to understand about this site is that the property and trail systems were inherited and most of the trails were roads used during quarry operations so they were not designed to support or be utilized for recreational traffic. He indicated, while it is not an optimal system, with mitigation efforts the trails are all usable, noting the worst portion of the system is the downhill section of A13 and A14 where there are erosion problems and switchbacks are required.
He explained that the goal of trail design is to direct traffic into a defined area to control impacts to habitat, saying, since these trails were not originally designed to do that, there are problems that need to be mitigated: certain grades need to be changed, some areas need lines of sight opened up, and issues of water control, erosion, and diversion need to be addressed. He commented these are the physical aspects of trails, noting there is also an educational component that needs to take place. He said from a trail design perspective there are three items that need to be balanced: 1) the resource, 2) the user experience, and 3) the maintenance, saying he has looked at every square inch of the property and has not found anything to date that cannot be mitigated to allow all uses.
Mr. Loheit explained that the Management Plan first needs to address how the trails will be used, and then the efforts to make them suitable for that use can occur. He stated that he fully appreciates all the public input, both positive and negative, that has been received and especially the fact that Council has taken the time to listen to all these different points of view.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark thanked Mr. Loheit on behalf of Council for providing his time and expertise and asked him to confirm that with proper mitigation every trail can be made accessible for multipurpose use. He mentioned that L1, the Pirate Trail, is extremely steep, has very loose footing, and there are a number of blind turns in the habitat area and asked how it is possible for mountain bikers to be descending at the same time hikers are ascending without creating a real opportunity for an accident.
Mr. Loheit explained the problems as follows: 1) A fence runs along the side of the trail and, between the vegetation on one side and the fence on the other, the trail collapses into too small an area so the fence must be removed; 2) There are drainage issues causing a soil retention problem which need to be mitigated by creating a mechanism to hold soil in place so a trail surface can be built; 3) Line of sight issues need to be mitigated by creating some contoured bench cuts once the fence has been removed in conjunction with other control measures incorporating the natural terrain features.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark inquired if removal of the fence would widen the trail.
Mr. Loheit answered the trail does not necessarily need to be widened, but the area the fence currently occupies would eventually become the trail bed surface and with some minor alignment to compensate for the encroachment of vegetation, the trail will drift out from 12 to 24 inches.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark asked if the trail in its current state without these mitigation measures is compatible for concurrent mountain bike and pedestrian uses.
Mr. Loheit answered the trail is currently being used that way, noting it does not meet current State guidelines for multiple use because of the stability issues.
Councilman Wolowicz queried how prevalent the concept of mixing cyclist, pedestrian, and equestrian uses is.
Mr. Loheit replied California State Parks have a policy for multiple use where appropriate and it is fairly prevalent on a national level, saying the sport of mountain biking has grown over the last 20 years and, as with any new recreational activity, there has been a growth and educational period which is being incorporated into newer management plan designs.
Mayor Gardiner noted his understanding of Mr. Loheit’s comments that every trail could be made multiple use if engineered properly and indicated his concept of this envisions a horse side by side with a bicycle next to a pedestrian with enough room for all to safely proceed, asking if this can actually be accomplished on any of these trails without damaging the habitat and indigenous plants.
Mr. Loheit responded when you have a piece of land with trails on it you must first define use. He illustrated that when planning a trail route, you take a given width between 50 and 100 feet and within that corridor you designate where the trail will be placed, saying it does often involve the removal of some vegetation. He indicated the trail does not necessarily have to be wide enough to accommodate side-by-side usage because that situation rarely occurs.
Mayor Gardiner queried what happens when it does.
Mr. Loheit explained when designing a trail you look for areas where that situation can occur, such as blind intersections, switchbacks, and areas where line of sight is limited, saying prior to those blind areas the trail might be widened to allow room for movement in the area where a conflict might occur; in areas with good line of sight, turnouts are installed in specific locations, and users can see one another coming and accommodate as necessary.
Jerry Ridgeway, Ladera Linda resident of 35 years, advised that between the Montessori school, the paddle tennis courts, and soccer matches, there are many people coming in from outside the area and urged consideration be given to traffic issues on Forrestal Drive. He also requested that L6, L7, and L9 be returned to pedestrian use only.
Jim Knight complimented the Forrestal Steering Committee, Ms. Dye, and especially Planner Mihranian, saying he has been extremely supportive. He voiced concern about all trails being available for mountain biking, saying he hikes the Portuguese Bend area frequently and has had some near misses when rounding a blind curve and coming in contact with a downhill mountain biker. He indicated it is not solely a safety issue because there is an aesthetic quality to hiking in a peaceful environment surrounded by nature which worrying about the possibility of such an encounter destroys. He stated he has met some of the CORBA members; they have been very nice, and he is confident they are responsible bikers, but he reminded there are also many younger bikers and thrill seekers who may not be so friendly and respectful and warned that the CORBA group may not be entirely representative of the mountain biking community.
He said he believes L5, L6, and L12 should be preserved as biking connections to provide access from the top of the hill down to the beach through Ocean Trails and eliminate much of the cut-through bicycle traffic coming into Portuguese Bend off Crenshaw. He indicated there are currently many mountain bikers who enter that area to access the beach, which creates a problem for the Portuguese Bend community.
Mr. Knight indicated the Management Plan includes a monitoring program but it has no distinct criteria and that part of the enforcement plan recommends using motorized vehicles, which will, again, negatively impact the aesthetic experience of the area. He recommended horseback mounted patrols be explored as an alternative.
Joan Kelly introduced herself as a non horse person living in an equestrian community and urged Council to continue allowing equestrian access at least until the proposed equestrian park is up and running.
Martin Byhower, representing the Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society, thanked Council for providing both the time and opportunity for the City’s residents to speak and for actually listening to their comments. He strongly urged Council to reject the Steering Committee’s recommendation and err on the side of caution in considering the ecological, biological, and geological gem that is the Forrestal Preserve. He advised that Forrestal Canyon is one of the five most ecologically significant areas on the Peninsula which is why local environmentalists have worked so diligently to protect it, saying of all the important areas on the Peninsula few are as vulnerable to harm or have the potential for protection that can be achieved here by making the proper land use decisions.
He opined that allowing mountain biking on every trail does not provide a balanced approach and remarked he is unaware of any other nature and/or wildlife preserve that allows anything more than limited pedestrian access. He stated that CORBA and other mountain biking interests should be lauded for their clean-up and restoration work, but the Land Conservancy, Native Plant Society, and other groups have spent years restoring the area and allowing nearly unlimited mountain bike access fails to acknowledge and negates their efforts to restore and nurture the area. He explained that mountain biking damages trails, destroys habitat, and allows access into pristine areas and noted that for every "x" number of respectful, rule-abiding mountain bikers there is going to be a wide number of extreme or uninformed bikers. He opined that mountain biking should be completely banned from the area, saying even respectful bikers might frighten wildlife and require pedestrians to move to the side into vegetation. He commented that monitoring has been terrible so far and it will be extremely difficult to enforce proper trail use.
Mr. Byhower noted there are areas in the soon to be acquired greater preserve where cycling, pedestrian, and equestrian uses may all be compatible and asked why the rush to make a decision and risk sacrificing the Forrestal Preserve when these other areas will be available in the near future. He advised this is a world-class wildlife area that attracts visitors worldwide and indicated the area is the last great hope for the continuation of some of the species that inhabit it. He concluded by beseeching Council on behalf of the PV Audubon Society to consider delaying this land use decision for the moment, saying a six-month trial period will only set a precedent that will be difficult if not impossible to reverse.
Andrea Brown voiced concern about the safety of combining hikers and bikers.
Richard Bara, Vice-Chair of the Equestrian Committee and member of the Palos Verdes Horseman’s Association, speaking as an individual and resident of Portuguese Bend, urged Council to maintain equestrian access to trails L6, L7, and L9, saying those trails are the end of a loop from Portuguese Bend through the "sandbox" area and up to the Forrestal Preserve. He stated that cutting off the bottom of that loop will restrict that ride and opined the reason these trails are being excluded is a fictitious belief that they lure people from outside the community to come in, park horse trailers on Forrestal Drive, and access the area. He noted those trails are some of the widest and best in the network and it makes no sense to prohibit equestrian use which would effectively cut off equestrian access from the east side of Palos Verdes into Forrestal and Portuguese Bend. He remarked the "problem" of horse trailers and vans parking on Forrestal might occur once or twice a year and even that will disappear once the proposed equestrian park is built.
Mr. Bara also spoke on behalf of Mr. Ralph Ortolano, Jr., to urge Council to maintain the Ganado Trail east of A16 as a pedestrian only trail.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark asked if Mr. Bara’s perspective and that of the other equestrian community members is that use of Forrestal Drive as a staging area is not a major concern because it happens very infrequently.
Mr. Bara indicated it does not happen often and, if another method were identified to allow equestrians to use upper Forrestal Drive, they would be far away from the Ladera Linda neighborhood, noting because of the locked gate they must park on lower Forrestal Drive, which creates an even worse situation.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark inquired if Mr. Bara is advocating removing or changing the City’s policy on the Forrestal gate.
Mr. Bara posited the gate should remain open during daylight hours providing the same access as other parks. He said he has learned that AYSO is allowed access to a gate key so they can gain entry and lock the gate behind them, saying this could be a possible solution. He reminded that once the equestrian park is built that area would become the main access point.
Councilman Wolowicz inquired if A16 is a practical trail for equestrian use.
Mr. Bara indicated it is a very important part of the Loop Trail, but very few people use it now because it has become a difficult connection. He noted in the long term there are plans to improve it to allow more frequent use.
Sunshine, on behalf of the Palos Verdes Loop Trail Project, objected to the designation of the quote, unquote eight trails shown on the proposed Management Plan. She indicated only a small portion of the document is germane to the nature preserve specifically and suggested the Steering Committee apply the plan to the next update of the Trails Network Plan, saying much of the hard research and information contained in it should pertain to the entire city. She stated the Open Space Planning & Recreation and Parks Task Force created trails development maintenance criteria, which they submitted to the Steering Committee months ago for determining trail standards based on widths, grades, and volume as opposed to the types of users. She urged Council to designate the Loop Trail as the easiest and widest route in the Palos Verdes Loop Trail and also designate it as multipurpose.
Jess Morton, representing the Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society, indicated the Forrestal Preserve is the gem of the entire habitat preserve system in the NCCP. He explained that the area includes the best and most pristine habitat and advocated that Council adopt policies which specifically address preservation, saying, since the area is a preserve and much of the funding is directed for that purpose, they would prefer not to see policies adopted that will threaten securing funding for additional acquisition within the preserve.
He noted their trails policy indicates that active uses, including both horseback riding and mountain biking, have potentially large or long-term detrimental effects on habitat and need to be limited and monitored, adding equestrian use should be limited to trails where introduction of non-native species and mechanical trail damage are not issues. He said that increasing the use of mountain bikes in the preserve also needs to be regulated and advised that new trails have been cut into habitat in many places, seriously degrading its value. He remarked that passive uses such as hiking, nature walks, birding, and photography can also affect habitat quality and should be confined to existing trails. He concluded by noting that the NCCP preserves in San Diego County have much more restrictive trails use policies and generally allow mountain biking and horseback riding only on fire trails and not on what they consider to be pedestrian trails.
Mary Ann Webster, Chair of and representing the Santa Monica Mountains Task Force of the Sierra Club, noted that she is a trails worker and her husband, Ron is a trails designer and consultant who visited the Forrestal Preserve with the Los Angeles Conservation Corp at the request of Barbara Dye and the Land Conservancy to repair some severely degraded trail sections. She informed the Council that it is the Task Force’s belief that most of the trails should not be open to mountain bikes and multiple use, noting any trail over a 30 percent grade would not be opened by any park agency she is aware of. She expressed confusion over the definitions used for passive and active recreation, saying she cannot understand why the extreme and very active sport of mountain biking is being considered for the majority of trails in the preserve.
She opined that, if a trail cannot be mitigated for safe multiple use, it should not be opened for that purpose. She explained that trails have been opened on a trial basis for mountain bikers in the Santa Monica Mountains, noting those trial periods never end because it is nearly impossible to reverse access for a use once it has been allowed. She opposed the Steering Committee’s Management Plan, saying the PV/South Bay Sierra Club’s alternative is much more viable because it carefully reviewed each trail and considered the impacts on habitat and the required mitigation measures needed to allow multiple use.
Ms. Webster remarked the Sierra Club’s policy is that mountain biking is an appropriate use of trails but not all trails are appropriate for that use, adding that before any trail is considered for mountain bikes it must pass all the following criteria: It must be a safe trail, have minimal or no impacts to vegetation, and have user conflicts resolved. She reiterated that the Forrestal Preserve is a preserve, which, in this case, means people would like to preserve habitat and sensitive species, a tranquil experience in nature, and the safety of the people using the trails. She urged Council to set standards, mitigate the trails being considered for multiple use, and open them on a trail-by-trail basis to maintain control.
Hersh Kelley, Vice-Chair of the PV/South Bay Sierra Club and on their behalf, outlined their proposed trail plan, saying they reviewed the Steering Committee’s plan, hiked all the trails, took width and grade measurements, examined the habitat alongside the trails, looked for sensitive species, and concluded that many of the trails are not suitable for multiple use because of safety and stability issues. He advised the primary purpose of this exercise was to attempt to preserve sensitive species and habitat and to strike some sort of balance between that goal and recreational use since people are also part of the equation. He indicated some things to seriously consider since the area is a habitat preserve would be limiting the total number of trails, reducing the fragmentation of space to encourage habitat recovery, and trying to avoid impacts to locations where sensitive species exist. He stated any trails selected for future use should be retained in their present state as much as possible and should be modified only to promote user safety, not to accommodate additional uses.
He remarked the Sierra Club is not against mountain biking but believes the activity needs to occur in the right places, saying they have observed that mountain bike usage has negatively impacted the habitat on the Peninsula and those impacts will likely continue unless that usage is controlled. He illustrated that if bikes, pedestrians, and perhaps horses are all using a narrow trail, the habitat is what suffers. He stated trail safety is also very much an issue because many trails are far too steep for any cyclist/pedestrian use, noting that the RPV Conceptual Trails Plan limits multiple use to slopes with a grade of 15 percent or less and Orange County’s limit is 10 percent. In response to the idea that all trails could be made appropriate for multiple use, he stated that is an engineering exercise, leading to unacceptable habitat impacts, which is antithetical to the idea behind a preserve.
Mr. Kelley stated their preference would be to prohibit any bicycles on A13, A14, A15, A16, and particularly L1, saying they believe they have provided a fair balance of recreational activities with bicycle access into the Fossil Hill area and equestrian access on A14, A15, and conditional use of A16. He indicated their proposal considers habitat preservation, promotes public safety, provides balanced access, and protects the habitat and sensitive species and urged Council to give it serious consideration.
Dale Allen, President of the Palos Verdes Horseman’s Association and on their behalf, commended the Forrestal Steering Committee, Ms. Dye, and Planner Mihranian for an outstanding job. He provided a brief overview of his organization, noting they are dedicated to the preservation of horse keeping on the Peninsula, are pro preservation of open space and habitat, and donate a great deal of time and money to maintaining and safeguarding trails. He informed the Council that there is a very long history of horseback riding on the Peninsula and outlined their many contributions throughout the community, saying equestrians have developed and maintained many of the existing trails, they provide a fund for maintenance and signage repair, they support youth groups, and equestrian zoning efforts. He noted they have formed a good working relation with CORBA and have agreed to support the Educational Trails Unit, saying this is a great opportunity for everyone to get involved, work together and invite other groups and individuals to join that effort.
Mr. Allen voiced support of multiple use on all the trails, saying they can and should be mitigated for that purpose. He asked, if Council was not comfortable supporting multiple use on every trail, would they accept the Steering Committee’s recommendations with the inclusion of L3 and L5. He explained that L5 is a very flat, smooth trail used by beginners and for rehabilitation of injured horses and that the addition of L3 would provide a loop around. In response to the discussion about temporary parking, he suggested placing two or three spots at the end of Intrepid Drive to accommodate the people coming from the east side of the Peninsula. He concluded by reminding the Council that this is a public preserve and strongly encouraged preference not be given to any one user group, but that everyone be allowed to use the trails.
George Hicks, representing the Palos Verdes members of the Concerned Off-Road Bicycle Association or CORBA, described the organization as a local mountain bike group with members that have enjoyed riding off-road trails on the Peninsula for decades. He advised that CORBA is widely recognized as a leader in issues related to multiple use, trails management, design, construction, and maintenance; provides many educational programs; and, that CORBA PV is a relatively new volunteer-based group dedicated to promoting and maintaining sustainable trail access for mountain bicyclists. He indicated they support the conservation of open spaces and are committed to rider education, responsibility, and protection of the natural environment and experience of other trail users. Mr. Hicks extended sincere thanks to the Forrestal Steering Committee for doing such an admirable job weighing and considering much conflicting input and indicated CORBA PV is available to help, inform, educate, and preserve, and they look forward to a positive relationship with the City.
Louisa Bonnie, representing CORBA PV, advised that CORBA is a nonprofit 501( c) ( 3) volunteer organization founded in 1987 to represent mountain bicyclists in the Santa Monica Mountains, and expanded in the last two years to include Los Angeles and the surrounding area. She said they founded the first volunteer mountain bike patrol in conjunction with the National Park Service and California State Parks in 1988 in an effort to inform, educate, and assist mountain bikers and other trail users. She noted they are committed to maintaining multi-use access to trails for mountain bikers and creating new ones where appropriate by working with local land managers, California and National Park services; by providing a monthly trail crew guided by experts like Kurt Loheit to build, maintain, and preserve trails; and, by educating mountain bikers on safe and appropriate use. Ms. Bonnie indicated they are pleased to offer their experience and expertise to the local community of bikers, equestrians, and hikers alike and appreciated the opportunity to assist the City in reaching its goal of preserving habitat while continuing to provide a valuable shared recreational resource for the public.
Jim Hasenauer, a founding member of CORBA and IMBA, the International Mountain Bike Association, asserted that shared use of community trail systems is clearly becoming the national model, saying consideration of this in an area of land that has an historic use and shape it in a way that preserves habitat and promotes species protection is a very difficult task and the City has certainly risen to the occasion. He remarked that when discussing land management, it actually comes down to a matter of people management, saying the challenge is having people behave in a way that is reasonable and respectful of habitat, native and indigenous plant life, and one another. He suggested the best way to build a trail community is through a shared multiple use system, saying it is a great thing when hikers, cyclists, and equestrians meet on the trail because they gain the sense it is a shared facility with a shared use that everyone must protect. He recommended that the general model should provide shared use with the exceptions being restricted use, since restrictions breeds ill will and a sense of territoriality and possessiveness by a certain group.
He congratulated staff for addressing these social issues by placing people in the same place and making them understand what they have in common. He declared that shared use trails are the most environmentally friendly because there is less fragmentation of habitat; and, they are the most economical because they provide a single trail system to maintain, manage, sign, observe, and control.
Mr. Hasenauer posited that the problem of managing mountain bikes is really a social issue about user conflicts, saying that can be mitigated by creating a comfort level that allows users to be in the same place, meet one another, and look out for one another. He advised there are things cyclists do, such as slowing down and ringing their bell, when approaching blind corners and informing other riders of users they have passed on the trail so they are aware and can keep a watchful eye.
To the question of bicycle impacts damaging the environment, geology of the terrain, wildlife, and vegetation, he advised that research indicates there is no significant difference in the environmental impacts of bicycle use if people act responsibly. To the question of safety, he reminded the Council that the trails have been open to multiple use for many years, adding accident statistics at the national level show there have been very few accidents involving bicycles and other users. To the issue of active versus passive use, he indicated the recreational literature defines active very specifically, saying it is not about sweat but about structure and facilities and trail recreation across the country is considered passive whether on bicycle, on foot, or on horseback.
Mayor Gardiner inquired about what percentage of cyclists belong to an organization such as CORBA or IMBA and what number simply go riding.
Mr. Hasenauer answered the majority of cyclists just go riding, but serious riders access networks to find locations to ride and riding partners, and they read various mountain bike magazines which definitely address etiquette and riding responsibility.
Mayor Gardiner asked if the City could contemplate requiring that riders belong to such an organization, are certified, or in some way demonstrate they can be anticipated to behave as responsibly as the CORBA members.
Senior Planner Mihranian indicated that the Management Plan does not require trail users to be certified.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark declared that in a perfect world all users would be respectful and behave responsibly, but we do not live in a perfect world. He inquired what the demographics of mountain bikers are, noting his sense is they tend to be young compared to hikers and other trail users.
Mr. Hasenauer candidly replied there was a time they were considered young, but that time has passed and they have become an aging demographic. He advised that Mountain Bike Magazine has 435,000 subscribers with an average age of 35.7, an average household income of $94,000, saying most are older, educated, financially sound people. He stressed the importance of involving younger people in recreation, saying obesity and sedentary activities have created a gigantic health problem for America’s youth. He said young people should be encouraged to hike or ride bicycles and safe places for them to pursue these activities are needed. To the issue of those irresponsible young cyclists he suggested the best way to reach them is to have responsible riders on the trails to model good behavior.
Councilman Wolowicz said, while Mr. Hasenauer and his colleagues have explained many things, there are certain sentiments he still ascribes to being in a family with some mountain bikers and knowing that even mature young men sometimes view mountain biking in a challenging manner. He remarked that he was very concerned about introducing safety measures to preclude speeding downhill, saying it is issues like this that will generate a high level of scrutiny being placed on the sport of mountain biking and that one or two incidents during the six-month trial period could come down very hard on further consideration of that activity.
Mr. Hasenauer said from the very beginning the cycling organizations have attempted to establish a protocol for appropriate behavior, saying IMBA Rules of the Trail, which include control your bicycle, always yield the trail, establish communication, pass safely, never frighten animals, and respect enclosures, have been translated into 20 languages and most experienced cyclists around the world are following them. He noted that the etiquette is out there and trail designs can enhance that by making certain people can see what is approaching and have choices as to what to do.
Mayor Gardiner asked for the biking perspective of the alternative proposed by the Sierra Club.
Mr. Hasenauer answered that it was too restrictive and it favored one type of activity over another which is unfair to the public; it makes the assumption that everyone standing on two feet is a good and appropriate user with complete respect for the environment and that if you have wheels or the four feet of a horse beneath you, you no longer share that responsibility. He indicated that in 1996 he was part of a mediation between IMBA and the Sierra Club where it was agreed that mountain biking is a legitimate use of trails when bicyclists are behaving in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, noting staff has considered the issues, engaged the public, and secured commitments for volunteer patrols.
Mayor Gardiner recessed the meeting at 3:35 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 3:47 p.m.
Katy Endicott, on behalf of CORBA PV, outlined the organization’s many accomplishments, saying they are an educational organization that promotes an ongoing community effort to create increased awareness about the Forrestal Preserve, responsible riding, and habitat protection. She indicated they have commitments from approximately 125 bicyclists who support responsible riding; they have established a website and e-mail list to spread their message and keep the community informed; they demonstrated their ability to provide volunteers by recruiting 45 bicyclists to participate in the National Trails Day at the Forrestal Preserve; and, they provided an information booth at the Palos Verdes Street Fair. She said they will continue to support any trail maintenance project and can be a valuable part of the Preserve’s support system.
Greg Scarich, CORBA Board Member and Sierra Club member, said he has been mountain biking and occasionally hiking in the area for approximately 18 years and commended the Steering Committee for their Management Plan. He indicated that CORBA developed the first volunteer mountain bike patrol to be recognized by the National Park Service, saying they volunteer in the Santa Monica Mountains and have adapted the approach employed there to a more simplified educational focus program to support the plan for the Forrestal Preserve. He stated they are recommending an on-trail presence of responsible trail users to function as an educational link between preserve users and management agencies, providing a volunteer set of eyes and ears to identify visitor resource needs, report concerns or hazards and to inform users about proper trail etiquette, multiple use philosophy and preservation. He said CORBA has made an initial commitment of 12 hours per month minimum and the PV Horseman’s Association has agreed to participate, adding other groups are encouraged to join to in this effort. He posited that making the area a formal preserve is not going to bring in a large number of outside users, saying it is a long way to come for most people and will likely remain a local area. He concluded by saying that CORBA PV is committed to helping make the Forrestal Preserve a success.
Deborah Powers acknowledged the Council, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, and everyone attending the meeting for valuing open space in Los Angeles and thanked the Steering Commitment for their time, energy, and commitment to developing a successful Management Plan. She said she is a faculty member at a local school, working in the field of outdoor education with youth and adults for the last 17 years, and she is an environmental advocate, outdoor enthusiast and mountain biker. She remarked that the City has a long history of successful shared trail use where the majority of interactions between users has been positive and respect for the environment and habitat is the norm. She indicated CORBA PV has made concerted efforts to create a collaborative dynamic by becoming better acquainted with other users and developing a relationship with the PV Horseman’s Association which has led to cooperation, a desire to understand each others needs and brainstorming ways to make multi-use work.
Ms. Powers said they are aware there are issues and potential conflicts when multiple use occurs. On behalf of CORBA PV she invited collaboration from all user groups, saying the Management Plan and the City’s efforts towards enforcement cannot be successful unless users as a community are willing to take responsibility to work together to make management of the Forrestal Preserve a unified effort.
Troy Braswell said he has been riding these trails for 23 years and candidly remarked that the demographic provided earlier was wrong, saying the age range for most of the riders in the area is between 40 and 60. He indicated he is a member of the Sierra Club, the Land Conservancy, the Palos Verdes Loop Trail Project, and CORBA, saying he runs the trails twice a week, hikes them on occasion, and rides them three times a week and his numerous interactions with other users have produced only a handful of negative encounters in all that time. He observed that the amount of traffic in the Preserve is actually quite small and situations where horses and bikes pass each other are an extremely rare occurrence.
He indicated CORBA PV supports the goals and objectives of the Management Plan but would like to propose a few small changes. He requested Council allow biking on L8, noting, although it is said to be very narrow and contain sensitive plants, it has been multiple use for decades yet these sensitive plants have survived and thrived and there is no data indicating bikes have damaged any plants on this trail. He explained the trail is mostly 36 inches wide but does narrow to 24 and 18 inches because of water erosion which needs mitigation and, to place the width in perspective, he advised that his foot tread width is 17 inches and his bike tire is 2.
Mr. Braswell asked Council to consider the following points: 1) the City has a long history of shared trail use; 2) the best native habitat on the Peninsula has coexisted with multiple use for decades with no controls; 3) CORBA is volunteering to improve that situation by providing a trail presence; 4) a multi-use designation for all trails ensures that all users have equal access opportunities; 5) there is no effective method to enforce segregated trails; 6) access should be based on objective data gathered by an impartial process over a full seasonal cycle and reviewed periodically; 7) the monitoring plan should include physical measurements of user impact on trails and habitat in addition to photographs; 8) trails should not be automatically closed when issues arise, but mitigation measures should be the first step to resolve any problems. In conclusion, he requested the opportunity to prove that multiple use trails can work.
Al Sattler thanked the Steering Committee for their many hours of work and the Council for providing good support of the environment and conducting a Saturday workshop. He reiterated that Forrestal is a nature preserve containing the most precious habitat remaining on the Peninsula and it deserves special protection. He indicated that, assuming the City acquires Portuguese Bend, multiple use can be accommodated there. He noted the most contentious area of this decision has been mountain biking, saying, although the recommendation is for them to be allowed on essentially all trails, they are requesting access to each and every trail, which creates a lack of balance. He remarked that A16 appears to be acceptable for only very light use, almost never by horses and not even that frequently by pedestrians. He commented he has had mostly positive interactions with mountain bikers, finding them courteous on the trails and recognizing that they, too, love natural open space. However, that did not alleviate his concerns about visibility, safety, and habitat protection issues and he reminded the Council that this is a nature preserve and consideration should be given first and foremost to maintaining habitat.
Philip Luken, Hermosa Beach resident, spoke to the concern voiced about extreme mountain bikers, saying that is what he does, but he is also a proud homeowner, husband, and father to be and would be happy to address any questions relative to this very small percentage of misunderstood members of the mountain biking community.
Councilman Long indicated his primary concern is setting aside the trails in the lower portion of the Forrestal Preserve which the Sierra Club alternative recommends for multiple use and asked what steps can be taken to ensure that mountain biking use on A13 in the vicinity of the drop off, as well as downhill use on L1 with another user ascending, are safe.
Mr. Luken answered it comes down to a matter of perception and education, saying when someone sees a downhill rider with a full face helmet and padding it is not, as most people presume, because they are engaging in unsafe behavior or riding recklessly or out of control but is a preventative measure used in much the same way a hiker wears a high-top boot. In response to how safety can be improved, he responded that you educate people and encourage them to attend skills classes so that they become responsible users. He opined that most of the people riding these trails are going to be experienced cyclists and will be riding safely, saying most kids are not going to travel to utilize these trails.
Mayor Gardiner congratulated all the participants and thanked them for their time, saying the meeting has been a remarkably cordial and informative session and the Council is grateful that so many people took this opportunity to express their views.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark proposed that Council attempt to frame a decision or at least a position on the Trails Network Plan in the Forrestal Preserve and continue the remaining items to another meeting. He echoed the Mayor’s sentiments, adding the speakers were articulate and thoughtful and he takes into serious consideration all the comments and information presented.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Long, that Council adopt either the Sierra Club’s modified trail use proposal or some derivation of it.
Councilman Stern remarked it is extremely gratifying to see so much public interest in this property, noting the work of the Committee has been fabulous and the quality of the material presented superb. He mentioned there tends to be a hostile environment when this many people turn out to comment, adding the quality and civility of this meeting has been extraordinary.
Councilman Long explained, while he supports the Sierra Club’s plan, he would ultimately like to see expanded multiple use beyond their recommendations once the necessary trail improvements have been made and the trails are safe and consistent with the preservation of habitat, saying he believes it is backwards to allow multiple use simply because it currently exists, especially in light of the knowledge there are deficiencies requiring mitigation he expressed a concern with trails A13, A15, A16 and L1. He suggested Council prioritize the repairs necessary to provide access to some of the other trails as soon as reasonably possible and also consider the possibility of expanding mountain bike usage beyond the Sierra Club’s recommendations with CORBA-guided excursions.
Councilman Stern opposed the motion, saying there has been a long history of multiple use in this area and one thing that impressed him about the work of the Committee was the longer view approach they applied in evaluating the experience the City has already had with the essentially unrestricted utilization of the trials. He remarked this property is a tremendous resource and there is real value in attempting to maximize all of its attributes, noting, while he is sensitive to the preservation aspect, he believes the Committee has presented a very good model and struck a fair balance. He advised that the six-month review provides adequate opportunity to address any unacceptable negative impacts, adding he is not in favor of prohibiting mountain bikes believing that restriction will not achieve the desired result because the respectful, conscientious riders will most likely be the ones to abide by that restriction and there is a logic and benefit in having a constructive educational presence on the trails such as the one articulated by the CORBA group. He recommended Council adopt the Steering Committee’s recommendation.
Councilman Wolowicz stated he is inclined to agree with Councilman Stern, noting he has spent a great deal of time reading the material and is more familiar with what the Committee has proposed. He indicated as the various speakers made their presentations he found himself understanding the logic of their positions and there were instances during the day where he came to support something he previously disagreed with. He indicated there is some merit to the Sierra Club’s proposal for L5 and requested clarification of whether horses can use Forrestal Drive.
City Attorney Lynch advised that the California Vehicle Code requires that horses be allowed on public streets.
Councilman Wolowicz stated the City has a legacy of equestrian accessibility and he does not want to start precluding where horses can go. He also expressed an understanding of the Ladera Linda residents’ issue with horse trailers and suggested some access for equestrians be permitted until the Portuguese Bend land acquisition takes place.
Councilman Stern inquired how much of Forrestal Drive is actually a public street.
City Attorney Lynch answered it is an interesting question. She said staff is currently reviewing several title reports and other documentation to make a final determination, but the public street appears to extend approximately 600 feet beyond the Forrestal gate.
Mayor Gardiner queried if the Sierra Club alternative incorporates the willingness of the Ladera Linda Homeowners Association to accommodate equestrian use during the transition period.
George Fink indicated that the homeowners are most concerned with maintaining control of the Forrestal gate and to allow occasional equestrian access on a prearranged basis was acceptable. He indicated in that context, L6, L7 and L9 could be made available to equestrians on a temporary basis.
Mayor Gardiner asked if they are opposed to horses on L6, L7, and L9 because they believe that will increase the volume on L5 and L11.
Mr. Fink responded they are not opposed to horses on those trails, per se, but they have seen rare excursions into the new soccer field and the turf parking lot next to the tennis courts and the trails present a very attractive temptation for equestrians to leave the area and progress in that direction.
Ms. Dye spoke to the management problems of the proposed Sierra Club configuration, advising, if this alternate is adopted, CORBA will have no incentive to provide the Educational Trails Unit and will likely go from being a cooperative bicycle community to a hostile one; also, their proposal eliminates L8 which is very heavily accessed and has been proposed by the Committee for pedestrian use only. She indicated she does not know how that trail could be closed.
Mayor Gardiner remarked the question of how to enforce something tends to be the argument for placing no restrictions on anything which is almost persuasive, except he has heard people with great experience in conservation say they do not know what all the impacts will be. He reminded that this area is first and foremost a preserve where access for certain activities is being contemplated, saying he would be more inclined to err on the side of preservation than on the access and activity aspects. He indicated in that sense he supports the Sierra Club alternative with the understanding that the Ladera Linda Homeowners Association is agreeable to the proposed equestrian access during the transition period. In regard to the cyclists, he stated the matter should be reviewed in six months, saying he sees no reason to create trails where they do not already exist and that time is needed to determine necessary remediation and associate funding sources. He reasoned he would prefer to move into that use slowly after it has been monitored more closely.
Councilman Long indicated he respects very much Ms. Dye’s concerns about management issues and explained that, in supporting the Sierra Club’s alternative, he does not intend that what they propose is all that should ever be available.
Councilman Long offered a formal amendment to the motion that the improvements necessary to open one or more additional trails to mountain bikes be investigated during the six-month review period; that those improvements be identified as the highest priority improvements; and, that the possibility of CORBA-guided mountain bike rides on some of the other trails be considered. He indicated offering that as an alternative might gain cooperation of the mountain biking community. He clarified he is not attempting to restrict mountain bike use, saying he favors expanding it but believes the Sierra Club’s proposal provides a better starting point at this time.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark indicated the major factor behind his motion is the issue of safety and stability on the trails, noting that the Committee’s trails expert, Mr. Loheit, made a powerful statement when he indicated that L1, the Pirate Trail, is not currently compatible for mixed use. He added there are others with similar estimates and explained his preference would be to begin by not allowing some of the more severe trails to be open for multipurpose use but not foreclosing that for the future. He said he is inclined to amend his motion to include pedestrian use on L8 based on Ms. Dye’s comments and inquired why that was excluded from the Sierra Club’s proposal.
Mayor Gardiner replied there are some particularly sensitive plant species there that are not found elsewhere.
Councilman Stern remarked, although he has read their materials and understands their position, he is not convinced of the Sierra Club’s proposal to eliminate Viewpoint No 3 along Trail A15. He indicated another difference in their proposal is equestrian use on the upper portion of L5 to the cutoff at L11, Crystal, and requested clarification of the Ladera Linda residents’ position on allowing equestrians to trailer in on an interim basis.
Mr. Fink responded he referenced L5 only as a road for vehicle access to Intrepid to support that as an interim demarcation point, noting there was some previous comment about L11 not being structurally sufficient for equestrian use and that would be their objection.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark indicated he would be willing to modify his motion to include View Point 3/A15 and L8 for pedestrian use as well as Councilman Long’s amendments to prioritize trail repairs for use by mountain bikes and to allow CORBA-guided mountain bike tours of some of the other trails if possible, saying his sense is that Council is not opposed to mountain biking but there are legitimate concerns regarding safety and stability on the existing trails that need to be considered.
Councilman Wolowicz noted it appears the Council is considering adopting the Trails Network Plan proposed by the Steering Committee with the caveat that mountain bike usage on A14, A15, A16, L1 and L2 be deferred until repairs can be made.
Councilman Long proposed a substitute motion to adopt the Committee’s recommendation with the temporary limitation of mountain biking to those trails shown on the Sierra Club’s alternative; the possibility of expanded use when the trail improvements projects permitting such use are completed; assigning those trail improvement projects a higher priority; allowing equestrian use on L5; and, exploring the possibility of CORBA-guided use of other trails, all subject to being reexamined in six months.
Mayor Gardiner suggested incorporating the concerns of the Ladera Linda residents.
City Attorney Lynch advised against including anything in the motion that addresses the proposed equestrian facility since it is on land that has not been acquired. She indicated much of this would need to be reworked at a later date if that acquisition occurs.
Councilman Long amended his motion to include limited City-approved scheduled openings of the Forrestal gate for equestrian use.
Mayor Pro Tem Clark stated he opposes the substitute motion because he believes it allows too much latitude, saying there are trails in the Forrestal Preserve that are not compatible for multiple use and, as has been stated, most trails in California with a grade of 30 percent or more would definitely not be opened for multipurpose use. He added he does not believe some of the trails can be mitigated to make them safe enough for use by cyclists, horses, and pedestrians and he is unconvinced by the argument that there has been such historic use, saying he supports the Sierra Club’s thoughtful proposal which attempts to balance diverse needs. He noted the City is on the verge of acquiring a much larger preserve, which will provide tremendous resources for mountain bikers.
Mayor Gardiner agreed with the Mayor Pro Tem, saying he, too, remains unconvinced that all trails will be suitable for mountain bikes and believes the Sierra Club’s proposal as it applies to that use should be incorporated with the opening of any additional trails to be examined on a trail-by-trail basis as improvements are made.
Senior Planner Mihranian inquired if the motion considers the entire length of L5 for equestrian use and recognized that trail L11 remain closed until the repairs are completed.
Councilman Long said it does include closure of L11 as recommended by the Steering Committee, and equestrian use as proposed by the Sierra Club, that is from L11 to L6.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to (1) Adopt the Steering Committee’s Trails Network Plan with limitations to non-motorized bicycle use for the present time to the areas shown on the Sierra Club Alternative Plan (trails A13, A14, A15, A16, L1 and C2) and additional openings of trails to be considered after improvement work is performed. This motion includes limited equestrian access including trailer access on the back half of Forrestal Trail (L5) beginning at the Crystal trailhead (L11) with City approval. Also included in this motion is to allow Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA) led excursions as deemed appropriate with City approval. The remainder of the recommendations are to be considered at a later City Council meeting.
The motion to approve carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Stern, Long, Clark, Wolowicz, Gardiner
Councilman Stern commended Mayor Gardiner for conducting an excellent meeting.
Mayor Gardiner thanked Council and all the participants, saying it was a pleasure to be part of such a wonderful deliberation.
Mayor Gardiner formally Adjourned the meeting at 5:18 p.m.