M I N U T E S
RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
FEBRUARY 15, 2005
The meeting was called to order at 7:13 p.m. by Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, Rancho Palos Verdes.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Stern, Long, Gardiner, Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz
ABSENT: Clark (excused absence)
Also present were City Manager Les Evans; Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Carolynn Petru; City Attorney Carol Lynch; Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Joel Rojas; Finance and IT Director Dennis McLean; Director of Public Works Dean Allison; Senior Planner Kit Fox; Senior Analyst Gary Gyves; Administrative Analyst Matt Waters; Building Official Mark Campbell; and, Minutes Reporter Debra Presutti.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Finance and IT Director Dennis McLean.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz acknowledged Director Allison’s request to provide an update on the Western Avenue situation.
Director Allison advised that Caltrans had notified the City it would begin investigating the subsurface conditions on Western Avenue between Westmont and Toscanini on Wednesday February 23rd, stating Caltrans would possibly close one lane of travel to accommodate the investigation, but had assured the City that it would maintain one open lane in each direction. He noted this could cause traffic delays on that block of Western during business hours.
Cheryl Joe and John Ritter were selected as recyclers of the month. Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz congratulated them and encouraged all residents to participate in the City’s recycling program.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve the Agenda.
Sean Bothamley, Rancho Palos Verdes, introduced himself as a junior at Palos Verdes High School and a member of the PVHS Road Warriors and announced that they were holding a raffle to help raise funds for the specialized equipment necessary for the PV DARPA team to make their car autonomous and ready for their second grand challenge scheduled for October 2005. He stated that they were the only high school in the nation to compete in this event in 2004 and requested people interested in participating in the raffle to contact the DARPA class at (310) 378-8471 ext. 289 or visit their website at www.PVRW.com. He requested this information be placed on the City’s reader board.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz noted on behalf of Council and the community that Rancho Palos Verdes took great pride in the accomplishments of PVHS and the PV DARPA team and stated everyone was looking forward to a good competitive year and an opportunity to assist them in reaching their goal.
CITY MANAGER REPORTS:
City Manager Evans provided a report on the flooding situation on 25th Street, advising that updated information could be found on the Breaking News section of the City’s website. He explained the problem was the result of a canyon caving in that carries drainage through a landslide area of South Shores, noting this area had not experienced significant land movement for many years. He reported solutions to the problem were being explored by the three agencies involved, the County and City of Los Angeles and the City of RPV and outlined them as follows:
City Manager Evans indicated it was unclear what the ultimate solution would be, noting that the roadway was owned by the City of Los Angeles and the canyon itself runs through private property. He advised that by this time next year an interim solution would be in place which would most likely be a temporary retention basin with a concrete bottom, saying correction of the problem would not be inexpensive and, hopefully, a permanent solution would be presented within the next year or so.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz and Councilman Stern thanked the City Manager for his report, noting they had both received a tremendous number of inquiries on the matter and appreciated the information going out to the City’s residents.
Councilman Gardiner stated that a recently published Homeowners Association Newsletter included a statement from Councilman Long indicating that the City had overestimated expenses and underestimated revenues and budgeted accordingly.
City Manager Evans replied that the City has developed a balanced budget each year with projected revenues exceeding expenditures with the exception of one budget a few years ago, which was off by a few thousand dollars.
Councilman Long noted that his comment was in reference to the five-year budget model, stating if he understood it correctly, the current prediction was that projected expenses compared to expected revenues would cause a decline in the City’s General fund reserve over time.
City Manager Evans explained that the five-year model included a new program of sewer maintenance and reflected a gradual decline in the General fund reserve.
Councilman Long noted that the decline totals $5 million and, even if the sewer maintenance program was removed, the five-year model would still reflect that expenses would exceed revenues by over $2 million.
Councilman Gardiner stated his understanding of the ongoing budget was that revenues and expenses were stable within a reasonable envelope and that the City was spending money on certain items that could or could not be funded by discretion. He inquired if the reserves were decreasing because the budget was spending on a deficit.
City Manager Evans responded that would be a matter of interpretation. He indicated staff would not provide a baseline budget of normal operating expenses, i.e., providing sheriff’s services, patching potholes, mowing park lawns, and paying employees’ salaries, where expenditures exceeded revenues. He noted that Council and staff might identify other needs that could conceivably convince Council to spend some of the General fund reserves on other projects or programs.
Councilman Gardiner indicated it was important from the residents’ perspective if the City were spending more than it takes in on an ongoing basis, and stated he did not recall being part of a discussion of that nature, but did recall discussing spending money out of the City’s reserves.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz reminded residents that items previously discussed and continued to a future meeting can be found on the City’s website at www.palosverdes.com/rpv.
APPROVAL OF CONSENT CALENDAR:
Councilman Stern indicated he would like Item No. 6, January 2005 Storm Damage Fee and Permit Waiver Resolution, removed from the Consent Calendar.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru advised that two requests to address Item No. 2, Approval of the Minutes, had been received.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz requested removal of Item No. 10, FY 04-05 Midyear Financial Report.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve the Consent Calendar as amended.
The motion to approve the amended Consent Calendar carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Long, Gardiner, Stern, Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz
Motion to Waive Full Reading
Adopted a motion to waive reading in full of all ordinances presented at this meeting with consent of the waiver of reading deemed to be given by all Council Members after the reading of the title.
Approval of the Minutes (301)
Removed from Consent Calendar. See below.
Repair of the Tarapaca Storm Drain (604 X 1204)
Reviewed and reconfirmed a four/fifths (4/5) vote, the Council’s action on December 21, 2004, to authorize staff to conduct an informal bid process to repair the Tarapaca Storm Drain.
Commercial Refuse and Collection Agreement with Advanced Waste Systems, Inc. (1301)
Authorized the Mayor and the City Clerk to execute a Non-exclusive Franchise Agreement for Commercial Refuse Collection and Disposal Services with Advanced Waste Systems, Inc. to be effective through December 31, 2005.
Award a Two-Year On-Call Maintenance Services Agreement with Los Angeles Conservation Corps (1405 X 1201 X 1204)
1) Awarded a two-year on-call maintenance services contract for At-Risk Youth employment to the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, in the amount not to exceed $50,000 for FY 04-05, for Measure A grant funded projects; and, 2) Authorized the Mayor and City Clerk to execute a two-year on-call maintenance services contract for At-Risk Youth employment with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, in the amount not to exceed $50,000 for FY 04-05, for Measure A grant funded projects.
January 2005 Storm Damage Fee and Permit Waiver Resolution (1203)
Removed from Consent Calendar. See below.
Transfer of Surface Transportation Program Funds from the City of Rolling Hills (1505 X 1204)
Authorized the City Clerk to execute an agreement with the City of Rolling Hills for the transfer of Surface Transportation Program Funds from the City of Rolling Hills.
State Office of Traffic Safety Grant Application (1206 X 602)
Authorized the City to act as the pass-through agency between the Lomita Sheriff’s Station and the State Office of Traffic Safety for a grant to fund a "Comprehensive DUI and Traffic Safety Program."
Notice of Completion for the FY 2002-2003 Residential Street Overlay and Slurry Seal Project (1404)
1) Accepted the work as complete; 2) Authorized the City Clerk to file a Notice of Completion with the County Recorder if no claims are filed within 35 days after recordation and, upon the contractor posting an acceptable warranty bond, notice the surety company to exonerate the Payment and Performance bonds; and, 3) Authorized the Director of Public Works to release the 10% retention payment to Sequel Contractors, Inc., 35 days after recordation of the Notice of Completion by the County Recorder contingent upon no claims being filed on the project and the contractor posting an acceptable warranty bond.
FY 04-05 Midyear Financial Report (602)
Removed from Consent Calendar. See below.
Resol. No. 2005-13: Register of Demands
ADOPTED RESOL. NO. 2005-13; A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES ALLOWING CERTAIN CLAIMS AND DEMANDS AND SPECIFYING FUNDS FROM WHICH THE SAME ARE TO BE PAID.
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REMOVED FROM CONSENT CALENDAR:
Approval of the Minutes (301)
Lenee Bilski, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated she noticed some errors and omissions that she would like corrected in the minutes of December 7th regarding the project at No. 2 Yacht Harbor Drive. She indicated she never said, "Mr. Johnson is in violation of grading in the moratorium area," and certainly did not want that reflected in the public record. She indicated the reason this matter was brought to Council’s attention was to request a review of the project by the Planning Commission because of apparent violations of the conditions of approval, specifically No’s. 2, 4, 13, and 18, and problems associated with the project, including dust, debris, and substantial changes. She noted that her reference to complaints about dust and noise from the stone cutting operation were incorrectly listed as October 3, 2004 instead of 2003 and opined that the City Attorney’s statement regarding the rock cutting operation on the landslide moratorium should have been directly quoted as follows: "It is permissible to allow a temporary construction in the moratorium area."
Ms. Bilski further advised there was an error in Mr. Hansen’s statement which should have indicated that "Mr. Johnson completed the grading," not Mr. Hansen, and Miss Carman was incorrectly reported as saying "The construction operation runs nonstop," when in fact she said "The stone cutting operation runs Monday through Friday nonstop." She also noted Miss Carman expressed concern about excessive dumping of dirt on the moratorium area and urged Council to send the matter back to the Planning Commission for review. She expressed appreciation to the Council for allowing submission of these revisions and requested they be taken into consideration and corrected.
Councilman Gardiner thanked Ms. Bilski for bringing the matter to Council’s attention and moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to direct staff to review the videotape as the most accurate source for the specific points raised and make any necessary corrections to the December 7, 2004 minutes.
Councilman Stern remarked he did not find this to be a particularly good use of staff’s time, stating it might be better to append Ms. Bilski’s written statement to the minutes. He noted the issues raised were not really material to anything in the future or the past and the concerns expressed have been corrected in writing. He added rather than spending taxpayers’ money to have staff review the tape to determine which version was correct, it would be more appropriate to append her letter to the minutes, indicating that what she said was reflected in the attached.
Councilman Gardiner expressed understanding of that position but noted Council would likely take a dim view if the same was said about revisions they wished to make, adding Ms. Bilski objected to an assertion included in the minutes which she would like removed, not merely corrected.
Councilman Long stated that, notwithstanding his seconding the motion, his best memory was that Ms. Bilski did say there was a violation of grading in the moratorium. He indicated that, if it were important to make these corrections, he would agree with Councilman Gardiner that staff should be directed to review the tape; however, Councilman Stern raised a very different issue that it was perhaps not so important that it be corrected since it did not relate to any pending appeal and the speaker’s concerns would be given adequate deference by attaching them to the minutes.
Councilman Stern declared that he would prefer not to set a precedent of directing staff to review tapes every time people indicated the minutes did not accurately reflect their comments.
Ms. Bilski responded that she did call attention to violations of the project conditions but did not attach them specifically to Mr. Johnson. She also remarked that Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz contributed greatly at that meeting but his comments were not given much mention in the minutes.
Milton Rosen, Rancho Palos Verdes, indicated he did say the house was in the moratorium area and that there had been violations in the moratorium area as reflected in the December 7th minutes. He commented that Councilman Stern questioned whether the rock cutting operation was in violation of the City Code to which the City Attorney responded that stone cutting was permissible as long as it was for temporary construction activities and not a permanent use. He suggested staff should more carefully study the moratorium restrictions that indicate that no activity is permitted in the moratorium area unless a permit is granted. He defied anyone to find any such permits issued and approved for the project at No. 2 Yacht Harbor Drive.
Councilman Long advised that the proper subject for discussion was the contents of the minutes not the substance of what was said and indicated Mr. Rosen was out of order.
Mr. Rosen referred to another point that indicated no facts had been presented to demonstrate that any violations had occurred.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz inquired whether that was a direct quote which was not included, stating it is difficult for the minute taker to include direct quotes.
Mr. Rosen answered that Councilman Stern had made that statement.
Councilman Long stated that, since Mr. Rosen was speaking to the contents of the minutes rather than their accuracy, it was not pertinent to the issue at hand.
Mr. Rosen indicated that, while it was far too late to do anything about what had occurred at No. 2 Yacht Harbor Drive, RPV is a slide prone area and other moratorium areas might be created to deal with similar stability situations such as the one discussed on 25th Street. He suggested it would behoove the City’s representatives to become more familiar with their statutes in order to enforce them more efficiently, and stated that although the violations at No. 2 Yacht Harbor have had no more serious consequences than discomfort for the residents of Sea View, the next time the outcome might not be so lucky.
Councilman Long withdrew his second from the pending motion.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz indicated he would second it for the purpose of discussion.
Councilman Long stated that Mr. Rosen’s comments had persuaded him that, if Council allowed the minutes to become the subject of debate when the contents were not at issue in any material way, it would open the door to people coming forward to challenge the minutes because they were unhappy with a decision and the following meeting the minutes would be discussed and challenged and there would be no end to the matter.
Councilman Gardiner took a different view, stating people had never come forward to challenge the minutes on the basis they were unhappy with a decision in the three years he had served on Council. He noted that Mr. Rosen perhaps muddied the water by including comments he wished he had made previously, but the purpose of the minutes was to accurately reflect what went on during the meetings and reasonable care should be exercised to determine that they do. He opined that, if a resident feels they have been misquoted and were uncomfortable enough to request a correction, it was not too burdensome to honor that request.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz indicated it appeared that a vote would be necessary to settle the matter.
Councilman Stern requested the question be split, with one vote for the two sets of undisputed minutes and a second on continuing the December 7th minutes.
The motion to approve the minutes of November 13, 2004 and November 30, 2004 carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Stern, Long, Gardiner, Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz
The motion to continue the minutes of December 7, 2004 to March 1, 2005 carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Gardiner, Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz
Resol. No. 2005-14: January 2005 Storm Damage Fee and Permit Waiver Resolution (1203)
Councilman Stern requested staff determine whether any of the people requesting fee and permit waivers have insurance which would cover the normal fees, noting the City’s intent was to take care of its residents and he would like to ascertain this did not turn into a gift to an insurance carrier. He requested the resolution be modified to include that, noting written verification of insurance from the residents would be sufficient.
Councilman Long suggested advising the residents who believe they have insurance to confirm that with their agent first.
City Attorney Lynch cautioned against providing advice to members of the public regarding insurance. She stated staff would add to Section 2 of the Resolution that individuals seeking relief under the provisions shall verify that they do not have insurance.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-14; AS AMENDED, THEREBY WAIVING CERTAIN FEE AND PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR THE REPAIR OF DAMAGE TO SLOPES AND RETAINING WALLS RESULTING FROM THE RAINSTORMS OF JANUARY 2005.
Resol. No. 2005-15: FY 04-05 Midyear Financial Report (602)
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz indicated there was relatively little opportunity for Council to determine where the City stood in relation to the budget at any one point in time except when the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) was issued and during the mid-year budget review, noting these two periods as occasions to gain staff observations and comments in a comprehensive report. He stated that, while he has long lauded the extent of the detail included, he had submitted a list of questions to make certain that he understood and could track specific items. He queried if the CORE program and the traffic management increase were previously approved or if they were new items.
Director McLean focused on the traffic management request and advised that a similar request was made last year but this was the first time it was being made for this year.
Councilman Long inquired if there was a way to use the money in the 1911 Act Fund Balance, stating that it appeared as if there was $1.1 million that for all practical purposes could only be spent at a rate very slightly in excess of what was being received in assessments.
City Manager Evans replied that staff had researched a few options such as replacing the City’s streetlights with ones that direct lighting towards the ground, which would create less ambient glow making it easier to view the stars, and also the possibility of refunding money that was not used to maintain or replace streetlights in the future. He noted that such a refund would not equate too much money for each resident but it might be a popular thing to do. He advised there was approximately $800,000 that could be refunded, amounting to about $100 per household. He indicated a study would have to be performed to determine what amount should be retained for future replacement of streetlights and the remainder could be refunded to those households who paid into the assessments.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz indicated this was certainly an appropriate item for future discussion. He stated Council would be addressing the budget soon, which would provide an excellent opportunity to further explore this and other issues.
Councilman Long stated not to decide was essentially to decide, adding the money was there now and, if it cannot be used for streetlights, Council should seriously consider whether to refund it or continue to let it accumulate.
Councilman Gardiner prefaced his comment by saying he had been hosting an international conference during the week and had not reviewed the mid-year financial report as thoroughly as he would have liked. He indicated it would be helpful for him to see revenues and expenses broken into ongoing and one-time categories, stating he was having difficulty ascertaining ongoing expenses. He inquired if any of the 04-05 estimated revenues were one time.
Director McLean answered that in general there were no significant one-time revenue sources as have been included in the past with the exception of the sale of the Tyler property. He noted that, although staff made a budget adjustment associated with that, it was not reflected as a favorable budget variance. He directed Council’s attention to the Schedule of Estimated General Fund Reserves distributed as late correspondence, which reflects budget adjustments in total as well as their impact on the General fund reserves.
Councilman Gardiner stated that did not answer his question as far as ongoing versus one time expenses, noting that he saw only expenditures and net transfers. He noted some things may be done several years in a row by policy, but the baseline budget should reflect what comes in and what goes out and maintenance items that are performed on an ongoing basis should be included.
Director McLean requested Council to think back to the discussions surrounding the evolution of the Schedule of Estimated General Fund Reserves, stating that one of the goals as the schedule was developed was to present each of the detailed budget adjustments adopted by Council as well as their impacts. He referred to the expenditures in the Line Budget Adoption column and the amount of $11,554,000, stating that in general all the detailed budget appropriations lined out in the schedule were one-time expenditures or expenditures approved by Council based on circumstances such as legal services. He noted that legal expenses were budgeted to be approximately $700,000 and were included in that $11 million figure.
Councilman Gardiner inquired what the net transfers represent and if those were considered one-time expenditures.
Director McLean explained that the Budget as Adopted required net transfers to other funds in the amount of approximately $2.1 million, predominately to the Capital Improvement Fund, and, subsequent to the adoption of the budget, there were two material additional transfers approved by the Council: one in the amount of $150,000 for PVIC and the other in the amount of $350,000 for emergency storm drains.
Councilman Gardiner remarked that taking the expenditures of $11.5 and transferring the $2.1 equals $13.6 which points to expenses exceeding revenues, if those expenses were all ongoing, reflecting a budget that is, in fact, running in a deficit.
Director McLean explained that the budget was adopted prior to the adoption of the State’s budget and that everyone worked quite diligently to streamline the budget to a baseline. He noted that Council decided through the budget process to include net transfers to the CIP Fund for roads, inclusive of $500,000 for storm drain lining.
Councilman Long commented that he had struggled with the exact issue Councilman Gardiner expressed. He indicated the conservative approach taken of deferring street maintenance and certain other items until Vehicle License Fee (VLF) revenue was ascertained was a mechanism to keep the budget in balance, and as a result, when one views the numbers, it appears the budget is in a deficit. He agreed that it would be extremely helpful to categorize revenues and expenses as regular, one-time or deferred.
Councilman Stern stated he was looking forward to the upcoming budget workshop, noting that, while he did not disagree with anything said, some of the expenditures could fall into either category depending how they were classified. He illustrated that for the past decade or more the City’s streets have been regarded as an ongoing expense with a routine program in place to maintain the roads, which had worked extremely well. He remarked that it was debatable now whether that should be categorized in the budget as an ongoing expense or considered in the baseline with some flexibility because it was a one-time expense this year and for each year beyond. He reminded Council that it was a considerable item, which was easy to defer when it appeared the State might take all the VLF revenues.
Councilman Gardiner commented that Councilman Stern raised an excellent point that there were some revenue and expense items which were fairly stable and some with much more variance although he would still consider them ongoing.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz thanked his colleagues for their points, adding it was easy to see why he brought the matter up. He stated this mid-year checkpoint provided a good opportunity to raise questions and make sure concepts were understood, stating he looked forward to these conversations being readdressed because they are crucial to Council’s understanding of fiscal issues, the budget, and the CAFR.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to 1) Receive and file the midyear financial report; and, 2) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-15; AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2004-45, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FY 04-05, TO ADJUST APPROPRIATIONS IN THE GENERAL FUND, STREET MAINTENANCE FUND, SUBREGION 1 FUND AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS FUND.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz advised that the budget along with the CAFR were accessible online at the City’s website.
Resol. No. 2005-16: Cost-Based Fee Study. (602)
Director McLean, with the assistance of a PowerPoint presentation, outlined the staff report of February 15, 2005.
Councilman Long noted his understanding of the fees being referred to as "user fees" to be General fund expenditures of specific departments that would come into the General fund. He queried, if Council decided to refund some portion of the fund balance to taxpayers, whether some or all of the increases could be offset in terms of their impact on the City’s taxpayers while still reaping all the benefits of accruing additional funds to the General fund reserve.
Director McLean indicated that was a fair assessment, saying his only caveat is that a number of the fees were paid for by builders and developers in conjunction with new construction and remodeling rather than being across the board.
Councilman Gardiner inquired if all the items listed on Table 3, Alternative Fee Recommendation, would be included if Council ultimately approves this item, saying the Special Animal Permit (Large Domestic Animal) caught his eye. Noting the fee would increase from $20 to $879, he questioned what the fee was for, who had to pay it, and if it included existing horse owners.
Director Rojas answered the Large Domestic Animal Permit would apply to anyone going over the "by right" allowance in the code, which is currently four large domestic animals.
Councilman Gardiner indicated it would be helpful to word it in a manner that explains if an individual does not go beyond what the code allows, the fee would not apply.
City Attorney Lynch advised this point was clearly written in the code.
Councilman Gardiner inquired if the View Restoration Permit (VRP) Case Processing fee of $2,500 would apply to people who do not abide by a decision thereby requiring the City to take them to court.
Director Rojas explained that the fee was intended for cases where residents were unable to mediate an issue among themselves and required a City decision process, stating that the fee would cover the cost of processing the application.
City Manager Evans reminded the Council that it had directed staff to develop a fee schedule that would encourage people to respond to mediation.
Councilman Gardiner stated he thought an effort was also going to be made to discourage people from ignoring a decision and requiring the City to take them to court.
Director Rojas advised that was covered in the Noncompliance Fine of $172.
Councilman Gardiner queried if the City recovered its attorneys’ fees, stating he believed that residents who force the City to take them to court should bear the cost of that litigation.
City Attorney Lynch answered the City does not typically recover these fees, stating she would research whether a fee recovery component was included in that part of the ordinance. She indicated that, in the past when the City has taken noncompliant property owners to court, the staff time devoted to achieving compliance has been put into a cost recovery mechanism against the property owners.
Councilman Gardiner asked his colleagues if a $2,500 fee seemed a bit excessive.
Councilman Long posed the question of how to transfer costs to the noncompliant person when a permit has been issued and the party has not complied, saying the $172 fine was only part of the puzzle. He indicated that his recollection at the peak of things with the View Restoration Commission when very little was being mediated was that the City was spending a large percentage out of the General fund on view permit related issues, and stated the cases were extremely time consuming for staff with presentations far more complicated than most land use applications and the fees were not coming close to covering the cost.
Councilman Gardiner, noted it was not like binding arbitration and indicated $2,500 seemed like a fairly stiff fee for a person to appeal a decision in a dispute they were involved in.
City Attorney Lynch advised it would not be an appeal of a decision; it would be as if the mediation had never occurred and the view applicant would have to file an application and go through the entire process.
Councilman Gardiner opined that the likelihood of someone with a legitimate claim filing would decrease because of the expense; so it would be in the interest of the foliage owner not to comply because filing a permit would become so expensive many people would not find it worthwhile.
Councilman Stern inquired if the ordinance could include a fee recovery similar to that in lawsuits where the person who wins gets the fee back.
City Attorney Lynch answered the City has done that with some of the follow-up foliage issues where someone requests an inspection that ends up being without merit.
Councilman Stern, noting the recommended $2,500 fee was less than the actual cost incurred, queried what portion of the estimated average cost the $2,500 represented.
Senior Analyst Gyves answered it was approximately 80 percent recovery.
Councilman Stern indicated that on one hand he believed it was appropriate for the City not to subsidize private benefits; on the other, $2,500 was a fairly steep amount and he would rather not see people use that fee as a mechanism to antagonize their neighbors by forcing them to pay the fee to obtain compliance of a decision. He reiterated that he would favor a cost recovery system so, in essence, both parties would be at risk.
City Manager Evans advised everyone to remember that, although the $2,500 figure was a substantial amount of money, if the view owner prevailed, they have to pay to remove or trim the foliage which could easily amount to $10,000 to $20,000, but the recovery of their view could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the foliage owner was then required to maintain that view in perpetuity, so he was not sure the proposed fee was actually unbalanced.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz commented there was a significant amount of material in the report dedicated to the concept of cost recovery and different percentages for different purposes, and stated that a standard target of percentages for everything would not necessarily be in the best interests of the City or its residents because there were distinct objectives.
Councilman Long requested whether there was a fee for a resident who, in seeking code enforcement, contacted the City regarding foliage that has grown up after 1989 when the ordinance went into effect and blocked their view.
Director Rojas replied that this situation was considered view preservation and currently there was no fee for this process.
Councilman Long noted there would be a new fee of $300 for view preservation, but that was significantly less than the fee for a party who decided to go one step further and, in addition to enforcing the ordinance preventing growth since 1989, decided to pursue restoration of the view to what was there prior to 1989. He indicated it set a bad precedent to require a fee to enforce the ordinance dealing with foliage growth that never should have been allowed in the first place. He agreed with the City Manager that the restoration permit fee was appropriate under the circumstances, stating it involved invoking an extra private benefit under the ordinance to roll the foliage back to where it was before the ordinance was adopted.
Councilman Gardiner remarked that the City Manager’s characterization of someone getting a property value increase because his or her view was restored was arguable because that value was reduced over time by the view being taken away and it was simply being restored. He said he would support something akin to Councilman Stern’s idea wherein the person who, in the judgment of the mediator, had taken the view away and loses the appeal would have to bear the cost.
City Manager Evans reminded the Council that the view owner pays only once but the foliage owner must continue to pay to keep the trees trimmed in the future.
Councilman Gardiner indicated that the voters made that decision.
Councilman Stern inquired if the ability to order a foliage owner to reimburse the $2,500 as a practical matter would be difficult or easy.
City Attorney Lynch remarked that she believed the restoration ordinance specifically addressed who would be charged. She advised that staff had found in the pre-application process and now through mediation that the incentive for the foliage owner to comply with mediation was that typically the mediator arbitrates a very balanced result wherein each side had to give and take a little and, if a foliage owner decided to challenge that decision, they often end up with a more drastic result they are forced to comply with in perpetuity.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz commented that, having wrestled with this document and the 500 to 700 specific line items, he found it curious that the discussion had focused on issues regarding view when that single topic was so important that staff had included it as a separate agenda item. He stated he would be interested to know if there was agreement among his colleagues on the general concept of increasing fees.
Councilman Gardiner said he would be happy to support all the fees although he would like to continue pondering whether Councilman Stern’s approach was feasible.
Councilman Long concurred, stating while he does not particularly support the View Preservation Permit fee and would like to attempt to determine if all or a portion of this might be offset by refunding the 1911 Street Act, he would appreciate those items being brought back along with the question posed by Council Members Stern and Gardiner on the view fees.
Councilman Stern reiterated he did not believe the City should be subsidizing private benefits but agreed by and large with staff’s recommendations, stating he could easily reserve the view numbers for further discussion, although he really did not have a problem with the $2,500 fee. He indicated he would like to see if there was a reasonable mechanism for the mediator to submit a report of their final recommendation as the benchmark against which the City could determine who prevailed and use that information to shift costs as necessary.
City Attorney Lynch advised the ordinance reads, "The applicant shall pay a fee for the view restoration permit as established by resolution of the City Council." She voiced her opinion that, if cost was shifted to the foliage owner, there could be a contention made that it was subverting the purpose of the ordinance and, secondly, since most decisions were essentially a "mixed bag", it could prove very difficult to determine who was actually the prevailing party. Additionally, she noted part of the beauty of a voluntary mediation process was that both parties could hopefully reach an amicable resolution and, if that procedure somehow failed for the Planning Commission, it might remove some of the cooperative spirit from the mediation process thereby undermining Council’s intent in establishing it in the first place.
Councilman Stern noted that, in the context of mediation, the staff report indicated that applicants were beginning to piecemeal the process by requesting mediation for one property at a time. Recognizing that staff was focused on a fee for people who do that, he inquired if consideration had been given to avoiding that in general, stating there should be some incentive to bring the issue in as one request, if possible.
City Attorney Lynch indicated a time frame could be implemented so, for example, a person could not file more than one application during a one-year period.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz closed the Public Hearing.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-16; AS AMENDED, ESTABLISHING A COST ALLOCATION PLAN, APPROVING A COST OF SERVICES ANALYSIS, AND ADOPTING A MASTER SCHEDULE OF FEES AND CHARGES FOR CITY SERVICES, EXCLUDING ESTABLISHING A FEE FOR VIEW PRESERVATION PERMITS.
The motion to approve carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Gardiner, Long, Stern, Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz recessed the meeting at 9:18 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 9:30 p.m.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz noted that a number of people contributed to this fee study, which took a tremendous amount of time and effort. He thanked Senior Analyst Gyves, Director McLean, all the department heads, and everyone involved in putting the fee study together.
Ord. No. 415: City Tree Review Permit Code Amendment (Case No. ZON2004-00160). (Continued hearing from December 7, 2004).
Director Rojas presented the staff report of February 15, 2005.
Councilman Stern commented that he appreciated the very interesting debate at the Planning Commission on the issue of street tree adoption, noting the basic rule would be removal of the tree but the abutting landowner could, in essence, adopt it and agree to trim it. He indicated he was not convinced by the prevailing opinion on the Planning Commission to provide notice to the ten nearest homeowners, stating if the community or a homeowner farther away wished to adopt the tree, he was not sure why that would not be allowed. He noted that, while he agreed the abutting landowner should not be forced to keep the tree, there was an assumption being made that they cared one way or the other. He stated they might be perfectly happy to allow someone else to trim it and, unless there was a practical problem making that too difficult, he would like to accommodate that option, if possible.
Director Rojas explained that the debate on the issue ended up focusing on how, from a practical standpoint, someone who lived some distance away from the tree would water and maintain it in front of someone else’s property. He noted that if it was a City tree situated directly in front of a private residence that would be problematic.
Councilman Stern remembered an occasion a year or two earlier where someone contacted the City very upset about the trees that had been removed from their street. He stated that while he did not know if the resident would have adopted the trees or not, that option should be provided.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to adopt staff’s recommendation.
Councilman Stern proposed amending the motion to direct staff to modify the language to allow any of the neighbors or the homeowners association to adopt the tree.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz requested clarification to the motion as to whether it applied to any of the neighbors or just the ten that received notice.
Director Rojas indicated that should include the noticed parties, which were the closest ten, and the HOA, if there was one.
Councilman Long stated he would not accept the amendment because it should ultimately be the decision of the property owner abutting the public right of way where the tree is located as to whether the tree should be trimmed or removed.
Councilman Stern indicated that he meant to include the abutting owner as having the final say, noting the normal situation most likely would be that the tree needed to be trimmed or removed at someone else’s request and the abutting owner might be totally indifferent to whether it was removed or trimmed but did not want to bear the financial burden.
Councilman Long remarked that he would not object to the amendment if it ensured that the abutting owner had the final say even if all the other neighbors were willing to take responsibility for the tree.
City Attorney Lynch suggested that the following suggested language be included in the ordinance: "Upon receipt of the written agreement of the owner of the property directly abutting or underlying the public right-of-way or parkway where the tree and/or foliage is located, the City and any of the parties that are noticed pursuant to Paragraph G.1. enter into an agreement …" She indicated this allowed the City, any of the noticed parties, or the HOA the ability to enter into an agreement provided no written objection was received from the adjacent property owner.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to 1) Review the proposed amendments to Section 17.76.100 of the RPV Municipal Code to streamline the City Tree Review Permit process; and, 2) INTRODUCE ORDINANCE NO. 415 AS AMENDED, AMENDING SECTION 17.76.100 OF THE RANCHO PALOS VERDES MUNICIPAL CODE.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Long, Gardiner, Stern, Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz
CITY COUNCIL ORAL REPORTS:
On February 15th, Councilman Long presented an award of $200 jointly sponsored by the City of RPV and Waste Management to the students of Cornerstone Elementary School for their participation in a recycling program.
Councilman Gardiner visited the Live from 205 program at PVHS on February11th, stating it was an extraordinary and extremely professional effort and might be an interesting adjunct for the City to incorporate on Channel 33 when it begins broadcasting.
Councilman Stern attended the Peninsula Regional Law Enforcement Committee meeting on February 10th, noting one of the interesting topics discussed was the Sheriff’s effort to obtain some grants including one that might lighten the City’s financial contribution to the Student and the Law program; attended the West Vector Control District meeting February 10th, advising that since this was the beginning of the second year of the West Nile Virus in Southern California a significant upturn in the number of cases was anticipated so people should be vigilant as the weather starts to warm up; recorded a City Talk program with Gabriella Holt, on February 12th, where the topic was the issue of amateur/commercial antennas which recently brought the City before the U.S. Supreme Court. Councilman Stern provided an update on the open space acquisition and stated that although the appraisal had not been seen, the matter was in Sacramento and was moving forward.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz attended an award recognition with Waste Management at Mira Catalina Elementary School on February 4th; attended a luncheon the same day with Mayor Clark and Ken Dyda, President of the Peninsula Seniors, where issues surrounding the potential senior center were discussed; attended the RPV Residential Standards Steering Committee with Councilman Long on February 7th; attended the Peninsula Regional Law Enforcement Committee meeting on February 10th, stating with great pride that Councilman Stern was appointed Chair of that Committee; attended the Peninsula Seniors’ 25th Silver Anniversary meeting on February 13th with Mayor Clark, noting that he was reminded what a great treasure the City has in the capabilities of the seniors on the Peninsula.
REGULAR NEW BUSINESS:
Appointment of Advisory Board Members (106)
City Manager Evans suggested this item be continued until all candidates have been interviewed and Mayor Clark could be present and involved with their appointments.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to continue the matter to March 15, 2005.
Letter to the Department of Toxic Substances Control Regarding the 5-Year Review for the Former Palos Verdes Landfill Site (1203 x 1402)
Senior Planner Fox presented the staff report of February 15, 2005, noting some members of the public were under the impression that a recent presentation by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) at the Citizens’ Advisory Board meeting was part of a formal public review process and they expressed concern that the turnout was low because people were not adequately informed about the meeting and its purpose.
Councilman Gardiner said he would be in favor of sending a letter to DTSC. He commented that an email from Tom Cota, Chief of the Southern California Cleanup Operations Branch of DTSC, indicated they conducted public outreach for the PV landfill, including a fact sheet and community survey sent to over 600 community residents. He stated there are over 60,000 residents on the Peninsula and a better outreach effort was certainly warranted, adding he found it very curious that the State agency tasked with being the citizens’ watchdogs were not providing much information about what was actually going on.
Councilman Stern inquired if staff had an understanding of the purpose of that meeting, noting he did not disagree with sending a letter, but would like to have more specifics regarding the intent of the meeting first.
Senior Planner Fox replied that Mr. Cota indicated that DTSC staff attended the meeting at the request of the Citizens’ Advisory Board and that it was not a required public review, workshop, or hearing, nor was it intended to fulfill any obligation for public notification or discourse mandated as part of the five-year review process. He noted that DTSC expressed a willingness to participate in some type of public forum if Council or other cities on the Peninsula were interested.
Claudia McCulloch, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that she regularly attends the Community Advisory Board (CAB) meetings, noted members are routinely called upon to answer questions that the leading agencies are not able to answer. She indicated that two meetings ago CAB encouraged DTSC and the Sanitation District to develop an emergency plan in the event of a catastrophic incident at the PV landfill, and noted that Battalion Chief Glonchak was not even aware there were toxins at the site and could unwittingly have exposed his personnel to toxic substances by sending them in to combat a fire at this facility. She advised that Mr. Cota speaks of DTSC’s willingness to be good neighbors and encouraged Council to hold their feet to the fire, so to speak, and make them act accordingly.
Ms. McCulloch enumerated several concerns as follows: 1) the environmental testing was not comprehensive and several more monitoring wells were needed at different sites. She explained that she had spent her own resources to perform testing in the area of Rolling Hills Road and Hawthorne Boulevard where five separate air samples revealed 26 contaminants that well exceed EPA standards, and noted that DTSC and the Sanitation District indicated everything was within EPA standards. 2) Rod Nelson, who was in charge of landfills for the Regional Water Quality Control Board, had advised that the landfill was never approved for closure and that the soil cover does not comply with current standards. 3) Serious consideration must be given to the containment of ground water and vapor intrusion. She advised that the landfill was located on the edge of water-bearing hills that flow into the Silverado Aquifer and tests indicated that arsenic levels were rising in the area of Rolling Hills Road and Hawthorne Boulevard.
Ms. McCulloch urged Council to pressure DTSC and the Sanitation District to make a concerted effort to hold a well advertised public participation meeting to listen to and address the concerns of the community.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to direct staff to send a letter to the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) requesting greater public notification and opportunities for additional input regarding the 5-year review for the former Palos Verdes Landfill site.
Resol. No. 2005-17: Educational Preference for Military Dependents (1101)
City Manager Evans provided a brief overview of the staff report and the draft letter to the PVP School District that had been prepared for Council’s consideration.
Councilman Gardiner requested the insertion of the phrase "Los Angeles Air Force Base" before military personnel in the title and last paragraph of the letter.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz recommended that a sentence be included in the first paragraph stressing the significance of the base to the Peninsula in terms of employment and the local economy to help underscore its importance.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to: 1) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-17; A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES SUPPORTING AB 208 MILITARY EDUCATION; and, 2) Approve a letter to the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District asking them to give priority to inter-district transfers for the children of active Los Angeles Air Force Base military personnel.
Councilman Long amended the motion, accepted by Councilman Gardiner, to address the letter individually to each member of the Board and to the Board President. Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz so ordered.
Western Avenue Task Force (701 X 106)
At Councilman Long’s request, City Manager Evans provided a brief staff report.
Councilman Gardiner suggested it would be appropriate to continue the item until Mayor Clark could be present to explain his involvement in the proposal to create this task force and to provide some insight into his thinking and the circumstances. He noted he would also like to know what the task force’s charter was.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz read a statement that Mayor Clark requested he present in the Mayor’s absence, as follows:
"I, unfortunately, will not be at the Council Tuesday night due to business travel to Washington D.C. Council colleagues, I regret the confusion caused by my not clarifying at the February 3rd joint press conference with Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, addressing the storm drain and traffic problems associated with Western Avenue and a possible joint task force on Western Avenue, that, as always, our Council as a whole decides what actions and directions the City of Rancho Palos Verdes embarks upon. At the time of the press conference, I must admit to some ambiguity on my part regarding whether Councilwoman Hahn's proposed Task Force was a reactivation of an existing body or formation of a new one. Also, our City Manager in pre coordination of the press conference sent Councilwoman Hahn's Chief of Staff a list of task force members from RPV. All that being said, in reflection, I should have indicated during the press conference that I would be taking this very constructive collaborative proposal from her back to our Council with a strong recommendation of an adoption and a fast-track selection process for membership from the RPV side. This is an outstanding opportunity to work with the Councilwoman, the City of Los Angeles, and specifically our neighbors in San Pedro on issues of traffic flow and safety along Western Avenue. Clearly, if Council adopts a position of participation, a charter with scope of responsibilities, meeting schedule, and overall goals and time schedule to satisfactorily accomplish this work of the task force must be developed between our Council, City staff, and Councilwoman Hahn and her staff. The City Manager and I coordinated on his staff report regarding the item for tonight. In conclusion, I encourage my colleagues to give favorable consideration to this worthwhile initiative, an example of positive cooperation between the cities of RPV and L.A., which will be to the benefit of both cities’ residents and the public in general using Western Avenue."
Councilman Stern commented that the February 2nd Weekly Administrative Report included the agenda of the press conference the following day that indicated comments would be provided by Mayor Clark and Councilwoman Hahn relating to ongoing repairs on Western Avenue as well as an announcement regarding the formation of a joint task force to address historic and anticipated traffic problems and make recommendations for improvement. He noted the press release dated February 2nd made a similar statement but indicated that the Mayor and Councilwoman would announce the launch of a joint City of L.A. and City of RPV Western Avenue Task Force consisting of key residents with recommendations expected in approximately eight weeks. He remarked it was important to recognize that the structure adopted by the City’s residents was five elected people who each had one vote, and added that he hoped everyone agreed that the power to form a task force resides with those five elected Council members and not a single Council member. He stated Council may ultimately elect to adopt a charter proposed by the Mayor or another member, but that power as well as the selection of the members, rests with the Council as a whole. He agreed the matter should be continued to allow the Mayor to address the merits of his proposal.
Councilman Long indicated he very much appreciated Mayor Clark’s statement and his acknowledgment that the Council essentially works together as a whole. Reaffirming some of the basic principles involved, he noted the fundamental differences between a charter city like Los Angeles whose members represent different districts and the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, where Council members were elected at large. He indicated that Councilwoman Hahn might have very wide latitude to act on her own within her own district, compared to the five Council Members of Rancho Palos Verdes that essentially shared a single district. He remarked he was quite surprised to learn about the task force through the newspaper, stated that he realized the media sometimes leapt to conclusions or presented things in a different light than the individual involved intended, and stated it was most likely an aberration that would not reoccur.
Councilman Gardiner stated this was a good exercise to remind each other and the community that, while the title of Mayor bears a certain perceived stature, it was basically nothing more than facilitator of the Council meetings. He indicated he appreciated Mayor Clark’s intention to energize thinking on the Western Avenue situation.
City Manager Evans apologized for his part in the incident and stated he knew what was going on and did not provide timely advice to the Mayor who was obviously caught up in something he believed was a good idea and moved forward in the excitement of doing what he perceived to be the right thing. He said, hopefully, this would be a good idea that Council could discuss further and noted that, however it worked out, it called attention to the possibility of some type of joint effort between the two cities to address the traffic situation on Western Avenue.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to continue the item to March 15, 2005.
COUNCIL DISCUSSION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS & SUGGESTION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:
CLOSED SESSION REPORT:
City Attorney Lynch advised that no formal action was taken although Council authorized the City Attorney’s office to proceed with settlement negotiations on the matter.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz formally adjourned the meeting at 10:32 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. Saturday, February 26, 2005, for a Budget Policy Workshop to be held at the City Hall Community Room.
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