DATE: JUNE 7, 2005


Staff Coordinator: Kit Fox, AICP, Senior Planner


Review the current status of border issues, and provide direction to Staff regarding the proposed construction of a new residence adjacent to Grandview Park at 717 Via La Cuesta in Palos Verdes Estates.


This month’s report includes:


The following is the regular monthly report to the City Council on various "border issues" potentially affecting the residents of Rancho Palos Verdes. The complete text of the current status report is available for review on the City’s website at:



Current Border Issues

Chandler Quarry Reuse Plan, Rolling Hills Estates/Torrance

On April 28, 2005, the Daily Breeze reported that the City of Torrance has expressed willingness to consider swapping jurisdiction with the City of Rolling Hills Estates over approximately forty-eight (48) acres of the Chandler quarry. Such a swap would result in any future development of the quarry falling entirely within Rolling Hills Estates. According to the Daily Breeze (see attached article), Torrance expects to receive cash and equivalent acreage elsewhere as compensation for the land swap.

Peninsula Village Overlay Zone, Rolling Hills Estates

On May 2, 2005, the Daily Breeze (see attached article) reported that some business owners in the Peninsula Center area were beginning to express concern about being forced out by residential development under the proposed Peninsula Village Overlay Zone (PVOZ) development standards and design guidelines. Of particular concern is a proposal for the existing 38,000-square-foot medical office building ay 927 Deep Valley Drive to be replaced by a 120-unit senior condominium project that would include only 10,000 square feet of commercial and office space.

Condominiums at 28000 South Western Avenue, Los Angeles (San Pedro)

On May 3, 2005, the City received notification that the proposed 140-unit condominium project would be considered at a public hearing before a hearing officer for the City of Los Angeles on May 27, 2005. The Hearing Officer hearing is a precursor to a public hearing before the Los Angeles Community Planning Commission that is tentatively scheduled for July 14, 2005. Rolling Hills Riviera resident April Sandell submitted the attached comments on the project to the Hearing Officer on May 20, 2005.

On May 25, 2005, Staff received a copy of the environmental assessment for the project, which proposes the adoption of a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND). The MND identified potentially significant environmental impacts associated with the project in the areas of aesthetics; air quality; biological resources; hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality; land use and planning; noise; population and housing; public services; recreation; transportation and traffic; and utilities and service systems. After quickly reviewing the MND, Staff forwarded the attached comments to the Hearing Officer on May 26, 2005. Staff will continue to monitor this project as it goes before the Los Angeles Community Planning Commission in the future.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Import Terminal, Port of Long Beach

On May 24, 2005, the Long Beach City Council was scheduled to consider whether or not to continue discussions with the firm that is proposing the LNG import terminal in the Port of Long Beach, but postponed the matter to June 21, 2005, without discussion or public testimony (see attached Los Angeles Times articles). The U.S. Congress is also considering legislation that could effectively preempt local and state regulation of proposed LNG import terminals. Governor Schwarzenegger recently stated his opposition to such legislation.

Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, Offshore from Palos Verdes Peninsula

Based upon input from the City Council at the May 3, 2005 meeting, Staff finalized our comments on the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) for the Draft Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP) Restoration Plan. The attached comments were sent to the MSRP project manager on May 12, 2005. Also, on May 13, 2005, the City received the attached Site Update from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund Site. The EPA is developing a Proposed Plan to directly remediate the contaminated sediments of the Palos Verdes shelf along a parallel track with the MSRP’s Restoration Plan to remediate the indirect impacts of these sediments upon fishing resources, fish and birds.

New Border Issues

New Residence at 717 Via La Cuesta, Palos Verdes Estates

On May 4, 2005, a Rancho Palos Verdes resident e-mailed the City Manager expressing concerns about a silhouette recently erected along the northerly boundary of Grandview Park. The following day, Staff confirmed that a 20,000-square-foot home was proposed for this 1.5-acre site, and that a hearing in the matter before the Palos Verdes Estates Planning Commission was set for May 17, 2005. On May 9, 2005, Staff sent a letter to the City of Palos Verdes Estates requesting continuance of the matter based upon what we then believed to have been improper noticing as an adjacent property owner under Palos Verdes Estates’ Neighborhood Compatibility Ordinance. However, Staff subsequently determined that our City was properly noticed, although the notice was not correctly routed internally.

On May 17, 2005, the Palos Verdes Estates Planning Commission considered the project at a public hearing. The Planning Commission heard testimony from more than two dozen people, most of whom were Rancho Palos Verdes and Palos Verdes Estates residents who were opposed to the project. Staff also addressed the Planning Commission, indicating that the City of Rancho Palos Verdes had not yet taken a formal position on the project, but asking for the opportunity to provide substantive comments in the future if so directed by the City Council.

Reduced project plans presented on May 17, 2005 are attached to tonight’s report, as are photographs of the silhouette taken by Staff on May 10, 2005. Staff’s photographs were all taken from the City’s park site or from adjacent public rights-of-way. From the rights-of-way of Montemalaga Drive and Ironwood Street adjoining Grandview Park, the silhouette of the proposed project is barely visible, or not visible at all. The same is true from the lower portions of the park itself. However, from the highest portions of the park, the proposed residence would substantially block views of Santa Monica Bay. Grandview Park is designated as a passive park, with trails and ocean views as its main features.

The major issues of concern expressed by the project’s opponents included its size and height; its compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods in both Rancho Palos Verdes and Palos Verdes Estates; its impacts upon private views from residences in both Rancho Palos Verdes and Palos Verdes Estates; and its impact upon public views from Grandview Park. At the conclusion of the public hearing, the Planning Commission gave direction to the applicant and property owner to re-design the project to try to address these concerns, and continued the matter to the June 21, 2005, Planning Commission meeting. Some of the specific comments of the Planning Commission included reducing the overall size of the project to be more consistent with other Via La Cuesta homes; reducing the proposed ridgelines and plate heights to lower the overall height; grading down further into the lot and stepping the house with the front slope; relocating more of the proposed square footage from the second floor to the first floor; considering the elimination of some chimneys and/or the viewing towers; and limiting the height of fencing and foliage along the southerly property line abutting Grandview Park. It seemed clear to Staff that none of the Palos Verdes Estates Planning Commissioners supported the project as currently proposed.

Staff believes that the Palos Verdes Estates Planning Commission clearly understands the sensitivity of this project to residents in the surrounding Palos Verdes Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes neighborhoods. The written and oral testimony provided by these neighbors covers the major issues of concern that Staff would have raised in commenting on this project. As such, it may not be necessary for the City Council to take a formal position on the project in order to ensure that the City’s interests as an abutting property owner are acknowledged. However, as an abutting property owner, the City is one of the few interested parties in this matter who has the right to appeal a decision under Palos Verdes Estates’ Neighborhood Compatibility Ordinance. Since the scope of issues considered in an appeal are generally limited to those issues raised during the public hearing process, it might be appropriate (but not strictly necessary) to take a position on the project if the City Council believes that it might appeal a future approval for this site. Therefore, Staff requests direction from the City Council whether it wishes to take a position commenting on the project or not, and if so, what the scope of those comments might be.

Respectfully submitted:

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

Reviewed by:

Les Evans, City Manager


Daily Breeze article regarding Torrance-RHE land swap (dated 4/28/05)

Daily Breeze article regarding RHE business owners’ concerns (dated 5/2/05)

Hearing notice for condos at 28000 S. Western Ave. (received 5/3/05)

Letter from April Sandell regarding condos at 28000 S. Western Ave. (dated 5/20/05)

Staff comments regarding condos at 28000 S. Western Ave. (dated 5/26/05)

LA Times articles regarding LNG import terminal (dated 5/24/05 & 5/25/05)

Final comments on MSRP Draft Programmatic EIS/EIR (dated 5/12/05)

EPA Site Update regarding Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund Site (received 5/13/05)

PVE Staff report for new house at 717 Via La Cuesta (dated 5/17/05)

Photos of silhouette for new house at 717 Via La Cuesta (taken 5/10/05)

Reduced plans for new house at 717 Via La Cuesta (received 5/11/05)