DATE: MAY 3, 2005


Staff Coordinator: Kit Fox, AICP, Senior Planner


Receive and file the report on the status of construction issues at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive.


At the April 19, 2005 City Council meeting, Seaview resident Lenée Bilski addressed the City Council under "Audience Comments" regarding the construction activities at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive in the Portuguese Bend Club community, specifically, the relocated stonecutting operations in the garage and the re-grading of the former "rock mesa" area. The City Council asked for a status report regarding those issues to be agendized for tonight’s meeting.


On December 7, 2004, the City Council received a report regarding Seaview residents’ complaints about construction activities on Eric Johnson’s residential compound at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive (Altamira) in the Portuguese Bend Club community (see attached Minutes and Staff report). These complaints focused upon the re-grading of the so-called "rock mesa" area of the site, and the former operation of stonecutting operations at this location. At the conclusion of its discussions, the City Council endorsed Mr. Johnson’s proposal to relocate the stonecutting operations to the partially-subterranean garage and expedite the clearance of the "rock mesa" area of the site.


Re-Grading of "Rock Mesa" Area

As discussed at the December 7, 2004 City Council meeting, Seaview residents’ concerns about the elevation of the "rock mesa" area were brought to Staff’s attention in early 2003. After discussing this issue with Mr. Johnson and his civil engineer, Mr. Johnson voluntarily agreed to prepare a revised grading plan to lower the seaward edge of the "rock mesa" to be consistent with the preconstruction condition (i.e., up to four feet (4’) lower than the configuration approved by the Planning Commission in some locations). This plan was submitted to Staff, presented to the concerned Seaview residents for their review and information, and eventually approved by Staff on March 26, 2003.

Since the December 7, 2004 City Council meeting, the "rock mesa" area has been cleared of almost all signs of the former stonecutting operations, with the exception of a stockpiling area for raw and cut stone. In the course of clearing the area, additional soil was removed and the ground surface was re-contoured. Recently, Mr. Johnson’s civil engineer provided a grading certification (see attachments) stating that the "rock mesa" area has been re-graded to within one-tenth of a foot (i.e., a little over an inch, plus or minus) of the contours and elevations depicted on the revised March 26, 2003 grading plan. As such, Staff believes that Mr. Johnson has fulfilled the conditions to which he voluntarily agreed for the re-grading of the "rock mesa" area. However, since the existing stockpiles of stone remain on the site, it may still be somewhat difficult for Seaview residents to assess the appearance of the re-graded "rock mesa" as compared to the preconstruction condition at this time. Mr. Johnson has indicated that the existing stone stockpiles should continue to diminish in the coming months. In addition, it should also be noted that there will be no permanent aboveground structures permitted in this area, and the landscaping will be limited to low shrubs and grasses to be maintained at a height of no more than eighteen inches (18") above the finished grade.

Relocated Stonecutting Activity

Shortly after the December 7, 2004 City Council meeting, Mr. Johnson provided a proposal for the relocation of the stonecutting operations to the partially-subterranean garage. Staff conducted site inspections of the relocated saws and heard "test runs" on December 21 and 22, 2004. On these occasions, Staff observed no signs of fugitive dust leaving the site, and also observed that the noise from the seven (7) saws—two (2) fewer than were previously in use—appeared to be less than had been observed when the saws were located on the "rock mesa" area. Based upon these inspections, Staff authorized Mr. Johnson to operate the saws for a test period over the City’s holiday break. During this period, the City’s Building Official visited the site periodically and Seaview residents were advised that they should report any concerns to the Building Official. Upon Staff’s return in January 2005, the Building Official reported no problems or complaints received during the testing period. In addition, Staff conducted another site inspection on January 5, 2005. During this inspection, Staff observed no fugitive dust emanating from the relocated stonecutting operations. Staff also observed that, although the saws were audible from some locations off-site, the noise level appeared much lower than before and was at least partially masked by other on-site construction noise and traffic noise on Palos Verdes Drive South. As such, given the actions taken by Mr. Johnson to minimize the stonecutting noise and the fact that there are no decibel-level limits imposed on the project by the conditions of approval or the City’s Municipal Code, Staff authorized Mr. Johnson to resume "full scale" stonecutting operations in the partially-subterranean garage.

In February 2005, Seaview residents asked if the garage doors would be installed to completely enclose the partially-subterranean garage, thereby (presumably) containing all the noise from the stonecutting saws. Currently, the stonecutting operations take place in a "building within a building" inside the garage, which is lined with sound insulation panels on three sides and the ceiling, and enclosed on the open side facing the garage door opening by a visqueen "curtain" to contain and control dust. Upon inquiry by Staff, Mr. Johnson indicated that even if the garage doors were installed while the stonecutting operations were on-going, the doors would need to be left open to allow for proper ventilation for workers, as well as for the movement of materials in and out of the garage. Staff did not wish to create a situation where there was inadequate ventilation for workers when it appeared that the stonecutting dust was being adequately contained by the "building within a building" inside the garage. In addition, since the City’s Municipal Code does not regulate construction noise levels but only their permitted days and hours—and since Staff had observed that the noise levels associated with the stonecutting appeared to be lower than they were when the operation was in place on the "rock mesa"—Staff believes that the current stonecutting operation in the partially-subterranean garage is consistent with expectations that noise levels would be minimized but not completely eliminated.

Recently, Staff has consulted with Mr. Johnson regarding the expected duration of the stonecutting operations. Back in mid-February 2005—and prior to the torrential rains over the Presidents’ Day weekend—Mr. Johnson reported that he believed the stonecutting operation to be slightly ahead of schedule, and he also stated that fewer of the saws would be in use as more and more of the large "slabbing" of cut stone was completed. Unfortunately, the heavy rains diverted Mr. Johnson’s crews to other duties on the site, both during the rains and in clean-up operations after they ended. As such, the large-scale stonecutting operations now appear to be back "on schedule" to conclude by June 2005. However, Mr. Johnson has reported that only three (3) smaller saws are now in operation in the garage, and the two (2) larger, noisier "slabbing" saws are generally not in use. As such, the noise levels from the stonecutting operations in the garage should continue to diminish in the coming weeks. However, as discussed at the December 7, 2004 City Council meeting, there will continue to be a minimal number of stonecutting saws in use on the site for the final fitting and installation of the stone veneer, even after the large-scale stonecutting operations in the garage are concluded. These remaining saws will be located immediately adjacent to the areas where the stone veneer is being applied and as far as possible from nearby residences.


Ms. Bilski and Mr. Johnson were provided with copies of the Staff report for this item, and advised of the City Council’s review of this matter at tonight’s meeting.


Based upon the foregoing discussion, Staff recommends that the City Council receive and file this report.


There is no fiscal impact to the City as a result of reviewing this status report.

Respectfully submitted:

Joel Rojas, AICP, Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement

Reviewed by:

Les Evans, City Manager


Site plan submitted by Ms. Bilski on April 19, 2005

City Council Minutes (excerpt) of December 7, 2004

Letter to Eric Johnson (dated December 8, 2004)

Letter from Eric Johnson (dated December 16, 2004)

Letter to Eric Johnson (dated January 5, 2005)

Letter from Eric Johnson (dated January 7, 2005)

Grading certification from DCA Civil Engineering Group (dated April 7, 2005)