M I N U T E S
RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2005
The meeting was called to order at 8:04 a.m. by Mayor Clark at the City Hall Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, Rancho Palos Verdes.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Stern, Long, Gardiner, Wolowicz, Clark
Also present were City Manager Les Evans; Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Carolynn Petru; City Attorney Carol Lynch; Director of Finance Dennis McLean; Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Joel Rojas; Director of Public Works Dean Allison; Accounting Manager Kathryn Downs; and, Minutes Reporter Debra Presutti.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to approve the Agenda.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve the Consent Calendar.
The motion to approve the Consent Calendar carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Long, Gardiner, Stern, Wolowicz, Clark
Tarapaca Storm Drain
Reviewed and reconfirmed with a 4/5th vote, the City Council’s action on December 21, 2004, to authorize staff to conduct an informal bid process to repair the Tarapaca Storm Drain.
Storm Drain Improvements
City Manager Evans introduced the item, noting there are three distinct parts: 1) Whether to instruct staff to move ahead with certain projects; 2) Whether to utilize General Fund reserves to initiate an enterprise fund to work on some immediate drainage projects; and, 3) Consider a request from Councilman Long to include an additional contingency to the proposed storm drain user fee. He briefly outlined the situation, saying that early on the morning hours of February 19th a tremendous rainstorm hit the area generally located between Portuguese Bend to the City’s boundary with Palos Verdes Estates, which overwhelmed the City’s storm drain systems and caused significant damage. He noted damage was quite severe in the area of Sea Cove Drive and the Palos Verdes Bay Club, with considerable other private property damage recorded and that additional reports were continuing to come in. He indicated that so far private property damage related to slope failures had been estimated at approximately $700,000; that Director Allison would be requesting approximately $700,000 to fund the completion of the sinkhole repair at Western Avenue and Westmont. Mr. Evans said that he was hopeful that much of the damage sustained by the City and private property owners would be eligible for FEMA disaster relief funds and that Caltrans was still a possible claimant with regard to the Western Avenue sinkhole.
He further noted that, as a result of crews working split shifts over the last five to six days to deal with the ongoing storm-related problems, an additional $150,000 of unbudgeted cleanup and monitoring had been incurred, saying that staff would be returning to Council in the near future to requests for these expenses as well. He indicated that staff had attempted to visit all the sites where damage had occurred on private property, handing out packets of materials to property owners that included information on FEMA and, for properties such as those in the Sea Cove Drive neighborhood where McCarrell Canyon was involved, City claim forms, adding that he anticipated a lengthy period of insurance adjustment and claims processing for mud, water, and other damage.
Director Allison advised Council that both engineering and maintenance crews had been routinely patrolling the problem areas during regular business hours and had recently started monitoring these areas at night in an attempt to identify drainage problems before they escalated. He explained that the primary trouble spots were predominately where natural channels and pipes converged, with the biggest concern being debris from the natural channels clogging the entrances to the storm drains.
City Manager Evans indicated that due to the intensity and location of the storm on February 19th, the City’s current focus was on PV Drive South, especially McCarrell Canyon. However, the City’s greatest exposure in terms of inadequate storm drains was still along PV Drive East.
He remarked that three things were known for certain about the rainstorm on Saturday, February 19th: 1) The McCarrell Canyon inlet and drain were clear when night fell on Friday; 2) The pipeline beneath PV Drive South that carried water from McCarrell Canyon to the ocean was undersized according to Flood Control District recommendations; and, 3) An extremely intense rainfall occurred in this area of the City over a very short period of time.
Mayor Clark commented that City staff and particularly Director Allison, the Public Works Department, and their contractors had shown a tremendous level of support and commitment to the community in their response to the storm.
Councilman Long remarked that having witnessed the extent of destruction on February 19th, he was amazed at what a three-foot wall of mud can do to a home. He indicated that the City now had a number of homes that had sustained devastating damage that was typically an uninsured loss, and it was imperative that Council take immediate action to protect other homes from a similar fate. He reassured his colleagues that he was not asking for a reexamination of the user fee financing plan, noting that, while he previously urged a version of the plan that would impose a larger fee, Council wisely chose a suitable compromise; the ultimate goal being to avoid unnecessary tax increases and not to rely on uncertain future revenues for infrastructure improvements of such great importance. He commented that the compromise crafted by Council achieved that goal by funding only the highest priority projects, those where private property or City streets were in danger, and relying on prospective future revenues to fund lower priority projects. He indicated that the next step was for staff to identify the most important drainage projects and for RFP’s to be prepared to establish the amount of funding needed from the General fund reserve. He acknowledged that while he was previously concern about spending large amounts of General fund reserve on what should have been routine maintenance, now the City was confronted with decades of neglect resulting in devastating damage and emergency situations for a number of homeowners, which compels the City to take immediate action to address the problem. He stated that he would like to include as a component of the user fee a five or ten percent contingency for unanticipated projects and urged his colleagues to give serious consideration to establishing an enterprise fund so that the most important projects could be addressed immediately.
Councilman Wolowicz remarked that while he felt that policy decisions should not be made in the midst of a crisis, there was now a sense of urgency on the City to begin in earnest to deal with the situation and hopefully preclude any further emergency situations. He commended Director Allison and City staff for the prompt and professional manner in which they had handled things, saying as a resident he was grateful and as a Council member he took great pride in everyone’s commitment to the public. He queried as how many of the recent storm drain failures, including Western Avenue, appeared on the list of 56 identified projects and what, if any, of the top three of four failed during the most recent storm.
Director Allison identified McCarrell Canyon as one major storm drain listed as a Priority 1 project that failed, noting that most of the projects considered Priority 1 were located on the east side of the City, particularly along PV Drive East, and were not really tested during this particular storm event. He explained that even though a storm drain was in good condition and large enough to theoretically convey the amount of flow required, there was still the possibility of unanticipated problems such as dirt coming into the line, saying that the pipe on Palos Verdes Drive West was certainly large enough to convey the storm water, but that so much dirt got caught in the pipe and clogged it that that the roadway had to be closed for several hours. He noted that there were other washouts where hillsides came down and rendered that abutting storm drains useless, saying that PV Drive South near Long Point was another example of a previously unidentified project that was impaired because dirt got into the pipe. He remarked there were many variables of how the drainage system might behave during a storm event that engineers cannot predict, saying that they were as surprised by what did fail as what didn’t and, had the storm taken a different route, the meeting would probably be addressing situations somewhere on the east side of the City.
Councilman Wolowicz asked if Director Allison would modify his top priority list in response to recent events.
Director Allison explained that projects were constantly being re-prioritized as additional information came in, but that there was no mechanism to accurately determine if projects will fail in a certain order or conclude with certainty that the project in the number one position was exponentially worse than project number six in the same category.
Councilman Gardiner commented that the proactive efforts undertaken by the City to repair the storm drains on the east side between Bronco and Sunnyside Ridge appeared to have worked extremely well. He indicated that it would be helpful to him in the decision-making process to understand the failures in terms of those that were essentially an annoyance and those that cause irreversible damage.
Director Allison advised there were eight Priority 1 projects that had the potential to cause the type of damage seen from the failure of the storm drain in McCarrell Canyon, noting that staff did not have the ability to evaluate whether the damage there would be irreversible.
Councilman Gardiner indicated that he believed the damage to the Bay Club’s road was irreversible. He queried how many projects the City could actually undertake at one time, saying that he would like a sense of what could be done and the timing involved.
City Manager Evans answered that, even if a program for the Sea Cove/McCarrell Canyon project was implemented immediately, construction could not begin for a number of years due to environmental, right-of-way, design, and Coastal Permit issues. He indicated that staff had examined all the projects on the priority list and could advise Council as to which projects in the top priority category were ready to begin construction on short notice.
Councilman Gardiner asserted that there was something inherently wrong with the current catch basin design at McCarrell Canyon that needed to be reconsidered. He remarked that he did not know what the state-of-the-art design was, but it seemed rather useless to have huge pipes in place if they were going to be compromised by debris.
City Manager Evans explained that storm drain projects needed to address the entire system - from the catch basin all the way to the ocean, saying that it was optimal to begin work at the outlet rather than the inlet. He noted that in San Ramon Canyon the inlet was improved first, which subsequently increased the water flow beyond the capacity of the outlet and causing additional flooding. He indicated that when work began on McCarrell Canyon, it would likely start at the outlet at the ocean and move up to the inlet.
Councilman Gardiner inquired if Tarapaca Canyon was considered a Priority 1 project, saying that it appeared that this project would be the most complicated because there were two or three different jurisdictions involved in the project.
Director Allison answered that Tarapaca Canyon was a Priority 1 project.
City Manager Evans indicated that there were projects that could begin construction that summer and others with varying timelines; one could be designed and ready by the summer of 2006 and others for 2007, but that it would be impossible for all eight Priority 1 projects to be ready for construction at the same time.
Director Allison indicated that staff could develop an interim program of improvements for McCarrell Canyon, such as better trash collection and inlet modifications that could reduce the risk of flooding to the extent seen in the Sea Cove area on February 19th. He advised Council that funding for the storm drain lining program should definitely continue, noting that there was still a potential that any of the City’s corrugated metal pipes could collapse at any moment creating further problems.
Councilman Gardiner inquired if staff could move more quickly on the storm drain lining program if Council accelerated the funding.
Director Allison indicated that he would be requesting $250,000 a year over the next few years to address this issue.
Mayor Clark asked if staff could double the amount of lining if Council doubled the dollar amount.
Director Allison answered that he would need additional staff assistance but believed that it could be achieved.
Councilman Stern noted that a backhoe was positioned in McCarrell Canyon the prior Friday night to respond to the expected storm and asked if it would have been possible to predict in advance where to place that backhoe.
Director Allison advised Council that staff had discussed implementing a program where, in addition to having crews out patrolling the City, there would be a backhoe at City Hall ready to be deployed to the area where the storm cell was headed.
City Manager Evans noted this would involve someone actively monitoring a Doppler radar screen during a storm, which would probably provide an hour’s warning although he was unsure how accurate this method would prove to be.
Mayor Clark noted that Doppler radar was a regionalized system, saying that it would be preferable to gain access to the NOAA satellite data, which would provide more than an hour of advanced warning. He indicated that he would check into the possibility of the City’s tapping into that system.
Councilman Stern inquired if staff had any way of identifying and prioritizing projects that had a reasonable likelihood of causing substantial damage to private property.
Director Allison replied that, in prioritizing the City’s storm drain projects, staff assumed that if there was flooding on private property there would be damage and placed those projects into the Priority 1 category.
Councilman Gardiner advised his colleagues that risk analysis discussed things in terms of probability of an event multiplied by the expected damage, saying that damage equates to dollars and probability the estimated or relative frequency of an event. He remarked that quantifying all Priority 1 projects by calculating their risk factors, adding in the components of probability and damage, and ranking them numerically by expected loss would be helpful because not all Priority 1 projects had the same expected level of loss.
Dale Sapp, representing the 240-unit Palos Verdes Bay Club, thanked staff and the City’s maintenance crews for doing a tremendous job in responding to the storm damage. He remarked that the residents of the Bay Club had recently been up to their ankles and knees in mud, adding that they had been concerned for many years about the adequacy of the storm drain system in their area because it was not just the "50-year storms" that caused damage, but that cleanup was necessary year after year when typical rainstorms regularly flooded their road and mud from adjacent properties breached their property lines. He declared that the damage sustained by the Bay Club was irreversible in the opinion of its residents, saying that the storm drain system drains off many acres of property, which was forced through an outlet which was essentially a 24-inch tube and emptied like a chisel into the Bay Club’s slope which supported buildings, pools, and the parking lot. He urged Council to consider replacing that outlet as the first priority, with work then continuing back up the hill, noting that they were currently confronted by much more than cleaning up mud because the entire storm drain system, which had been compromised repeatedly over the last few years, was now virtually destroyed. He indicated that the residents appreciated everyone’s concern and stressed this was a very serious matter that urgently needed to be addressed.
Councilman Stern agreed that the Bay Club situation had been an ongoing problem for some time and requested that staff provide Council with a summary of the status and main issues concerning the rehabilitation of this drainage system. He also asked if there was some interim solution that could be implemented to prevent further significant erosion on the cliff base.
Director Allison concurred with Mr. Sapp that the main outlet for the area was indeed a 24-inch metal pipe cradled on the bluff, saying that it appeared to have been originally built as a private drain serving a private roadway, but that some public waters now enter into this pipe. He advised Council that staff had worked cooperatively with the Bay Club in the past to repair the pipe when it suffered damage, saying that it was not designed nor intended to handle overflow from McCarrell Canyon. He indicated that the pipe on the bluff face broke during the first storm in January 2005 and, while it was strategically located in an area where staff would like to position a regional pipe to resolve the McCarrell Canyon problem, there were legal issues such as ownership of the pipe that needed to be addressed before a complete project could be brought forward to Council. He explained that the problem was exacerbated by the fact that the pipe on the bluff was now gone and advised Council that various ideas were under investigation as to how to provide safe outlets and prevent continued erosion to the bluff face, indicating that the City would continue to work cooperatively with the Bay Club to rectify the situation.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, following on Councilman Gardiner’s concept of irreplaceable damage, indicated that the coastline appeared to him to be an irreplaceable item. He requested that staff provide Council with an indication of what projects needed to be undertaken and their relative dollar amounts, saying that he would place all those dealing with sea cliff erosion at the top of that list.
Director Allison stated that a quantitative risk analysis would be difficult to undertake, but that staff could provide the Council with insight as to the possible damages that might occur for each of the high priority projects.
Bob Nelson, representing the Sea Bluff Homeowners Association, noted that his homeowners association was located right next to the Bay Club. He further indicated that there were drains located beneath the two streets on either side of their neighborhood, Sea Wolf and Sea Hill, one with a 54-inch pipe and the other with a 51-inch pipe, saying that they came through the storms with minimal damage, with only four of the sixty homes experiencing any flooding. He indicated that in October 2004 they had tasked their landscape service to check each and every drain in Sea Bluff to ensure they were clear of debris, saying that they may have been lucky or they may have reaped the benefit of that little bit of extra preparation. As a resident of RPV and on behalf of the Sea Bluff homeowners, he thanked the City staff for an outstanding job dealing with the recent rainstorms. He also inquired if the City had any liability insurance covering the storm drain failure.
In response to Mr. Nelson’s questions, City Attorney Lynch advised Council that the City’s liability coverage only applied to damage caused by City drainage structures, not private-owned ones.
Mayor Clark reminded his colleagues that federal funds would also be available since RPV was included in the area that had been declared a Federal Disaster Area. He requested that staff provide a comparison of drainage systems in Sea Bluff and the Bay Club, stating his understanding that the outlets in Sea Bluff were much larger than those in the Bay Club.
Director Allison explained that the outlets in Sea Bluff were indeed larger and newer, adding that he believed the real key to the success of their storm drain this winter was a state-of-the-art detention/debris basin located on the landward side of PV Drive South, which was installed in 1996 or 1997. He indicated that the same type of system, which also performed well, was in place at the bottom of Barkentine Canyon, saying that the debris was captured in the canyon area and kept out of the storm drain inlet. He indicated that a similar system was needed in McCarrell Canyon.
Councilman Wolowicz inquired, from a practical standpoint, how quickly staff could move forward to prepare the RFP’s and submit the three or more storm drain repair projects being recommended.
Director Allison indicated that an engineering proposal for the preliminary design of McCarrell Canyon is expected the following week, saying that the tools were in place to get that company on board and begin work in perhaps two weeks. He advised that he planned to address the Sunnyside Ridge Road drainage project that summer, that the Public Works Department would begin engineering immediately for a second project for the summer of 2006, and anticipated that the McCarrell Canyon project would be ready for construction in the summer of 2007.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, noting that Council was being asked to consider establishment of a storm drain enterprise fund, queried if the $2 million discussed as the initial set aside would be sufficient to address all three projects.
City Manager Evans responded that $2 million would not be enough to complete all three projects, but would be enough to build the Sunnyside Ridge project and complete some storm drain lining during the first year, while also working on the designs for projects that would be built in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
Director Allison concurred, saying that he believed the City could complete the design for the McCarrell Canyon project, but construction costs would have to come from a different funding source.
Mayor Clark, noting that no written staff report was prepared due to the timing and emergency nature of this matter, inquired if Council would like to agendize this discussion at a regular meeting in the near future or attempt to make a decision now.
Councilman Gardiner indicated he was reluctant to send out an RFP without the benefit of a staff report, however, he was willing to earmark $5 million out of the General fund reserve and ask staff to determine the most cost effective way to spend it on storm drain improvement projects.
Councilman Long asserted that whatever luxury Council had to make decisions gradually regarding storm drain repairs had been lost by decades of neglect and deferred maintenance. He declared that the City needed to get moving on this situation, saying his election in 2003 was based in part on a campaign which recognized that the City needed to do something to address its neglected infrastructure and the time to do that was now.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Wolowicz, to allocate $3 million from the General Reserve fund to establish an enterprise fund; to accelerate the storm drain lining program from $250,000 to $500,000 a year; to direct staff to come back no later than the first meeting in April with a priority plan for moving forward on the three projects staff determined to be the most important, which unless staff advised otherwise, would in all likelihood include projects at Sunnyside Ridge Road, McCarrell Canyon, and at least some interim steps for the outlet in the Bay Club.
Councilman Stern indicated that, although they were actually contrary to one another, he agreed with both Councilman Long’s and Councilman Gardiner’s positions. He said that he would like to see a staff report with recommendations, prioritizations, and justifications, including some of the analysis Councilman Gardiner articulated, to apprise Council where the money was being allocated as well as staff’s best estimate of what the City’s priorities should be. He asserted that waiting a couple weeks for that information was probably wise given the magnitude of dollars involved. He noted that during his tenure on Council the drainage problems the City had experienced typically involved Bronco Drive and the east side of the City, saying that he recognized it was difficult to guess where problems might occur because no one really knows what Mother Nature had in store. He agreed with the idea of devoting more dollars to accelerate the storm drain lining program and attempting to get a few of the projects moving forward quickly, adding that he would not vote to authorize anything at the current meeting, but wanted to have enough information to be able to take action in two weeks.
Councilman Gardiner moved to continue the item to the first meeting in April, saying that he did not want to table the previous motion but rather to continue it with this offered as a substitute motion.
Councilman Stern reiterated that he would prefer to be able to address the matter in two weeks time, if possible.
Councilman Gardiner suggested that March 15th would be appropriate meeting date.
City Manager Evans advised Council that staff could return with a plan by March 15th, noting that it will not include the requested risk analysis because that was a fairly sophisticated undertaking which would require more time to prepare.
Councilman Gardiner moved to continue the item to March 15, 2005.
Mayor Clark indicated that staff should provide Council a refinement of their understanding and prioritization of projects on March 15th, saying that Councilman Gardiner’s articulation of risk analysis in a quantitative sense would be very useful but was probably not feasible under the current time constraints. He remarked that the entire Council was in agreement that the time for action was now and appropriate steps were being taken to accomplish things in a sensible manner that was proactive and timely rather than reactive and rash.
Councilman Long declared that the motion to continue was unnecessary, clarifying that his motion did not authorize specific projects. He explained that he was merely suggesting three steps: 1) allocating $3 million out of the General fund reserve to get things underway; 2) accelerating the storm drain lining program; and, 3) directing staff to come back with a full report by the first meeting in April, including a priority plan for distributing RFP’s, obtaining bids, and progressing forward on drainage improvement projects.
Councilman Stern indicated that he would still like the benefit of a staff report. He indicated that he could support Councilman Long’s motion, stating that, although it included the $3 million allocation, Council could still adjust the actual numbers up or down when staff returned with the priority list of projects.
Councilman Gardiner mentioned that a lengthy delay was not at issue, rather just allowing staff enough time to provide adequate information for Council to make an informed decision. He noted that Councilman Long’s motion also included doubling the amount of storm drain lining, saying that he was not certain if doubling it was the right thing to do or if tripling or some other amount would be better as far as determining how much money to allocate. He indicated that he would also like to know whether any money should be spent on a state-of-the-art catch basin in McCarrell Canyon and an adjustment of the pipe outflow at the Bay Club. He declared that these were real problems, not theoretical ones, and that he would like to know if they were included on the City’s priority list.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz applauded Councilman Long for his desire to move forward expeditiously, saying that he, too, would like to proceed as quickly as possible but that he did not want to act precipitously. He concurred that it would be wise to wait until March 15th before proceeding any further.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to continue the item to March 15, 2005, with direction to staff to prepare a staff report on re prioritization and funding of Priority 1 storm drain projects.
Councilman Stern and Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz queried if waiting two weeks to address things would change anything or create additional problems from staff’s point of view.
Director Allison answered that it would not.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Wolowicz, Gardiner, Stern, Clark
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz indicated that he shared Councilman Long’s impatience and wanted to make sure things started to move forward on March 15th.
Councilman Stern remarked that, while he was favorably disposed to Councilman Long’s motion, since no harm would be caused by waiting for a staff report, he believed that it is wise to delay the decision until that time.
Mayor Clark commented that of the 56 projects identified by staff over several years of study, it was definitely time to move forward on the top priority projects, saying that he appreciated Councilman Long’s bringing the matter forward to Council in this special Saturday meeting. He thanked the members of the community for coming to the meeting, saying that Council was very sensitive to what had happened to them as a result of the winter storms and was committed to continuing to work effectively and proactively to correct the existing drainage problems.
Councilman Long thanked his colleagues, saying that he was pleased to know that everyone agreed that this item needed urgent attention. He indicated that, although he would have preferred to see specific action taken, it was obvious that the problem was finally on its way to being solved.
Mayor Clark adjourned the meeting at 9:48 a.m. to a previously scheduled Adjourned Regular Meeting, a Budget Policy Issues Workshop.