M I N U T E S
RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
ADJOURNED REGULAR MEETING
AUGUST 30, 2005
The meeting was called to order at 7:07 P.m. by Mayor Clark at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, Rancho Palos Verdes, notice having been given with affidavit thereto on file.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Long, Gardiner, Stern, Wolowicz, Clark
Also present were City Manager Les Evans; City Attorney Carol Lynch; Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Carolynn Petru; Deputy Director of Planning Greg Pfost; and Senior Planner Ara Mihranian.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to approve the Agenda.
REGULAR NEW BUSINESS:
717 Via La Cuesta, Palos Verdes Estates (Appeal of Planning Commission to the Palos Verdes Estates City Council)
Senior Planner Mihranian provided the staff report using a PowerPoint slide presentation, highlighting concerns regarding the size, height, view impact and grading associated with a new single family residence proposed to be built in Palos Verdes Estates, immediately adjacent to the Cityís Grandview Park property. He described the design changes that had already been made to the project as a result of the public hearing process before the Palos Verdes Estates Planning Commission and reviewed the additional conditions of approval that had been added regarding the placement of fencing and vegetation along the rear property line.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz asked about the differences between Rancho Palos Verdesí and Palos Verdes Estatesí development standards, as they applied to this specific project.
Senior Planner Mihranian indicated that the City of Rancho Palos Verdes had a view ordinance that, if the subject property were located in this city, a Fence, Wall and Hedge Permit would be required and would include a view analysis.
Mayor Clark pointed out that in the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, a single family residence was allowed to be 16 feet by right if it met all of the other development standards and asked if the City of Palos Verdes Estates had the same type of provision.
Senior Planner Mihranian referred the question to Director of Planning Allan Rigg from the City of Palos Verdes Estates, who was present in the audience.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz asked for clarification of the action that was being requested.
City Attorney Lynch responded that several of the adjacent neighbors were requesting that the City Council appeal the PVE Planning Commissionís decision to the PVE City Council.
Senior Planner Mihranian noted that the deadline for filing an appeal was August 31, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.
Councilman Gardiner asked if the project met Palos Verdes Estatesí development standards and asked if the parties were working on a compromise to address the adjacent Rancho Palos Verdes residentís concerns.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz indicated that he had met with the property owner for the first time the prior day and that after reading Mr. Connellyís letter; he suggested that the two meet and attempt to work out a compromise. Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz requested that the Councilís discussion focus on common ground rather than rehashing the history of the project.
Councilman Stern indicated that the question before the Council was whether to appeal the PVE Planning Commissionís decision or not. He asked that if an appeal was not filed by the deadline, would there still be sufficient time to come to a reasonable agreement and wondered if the City would need to submit an appeal just to keep the discussion open until the parties could arrive at a compromise. He indicated that the neighbors had offered to pay the appeal fee.
Councilman Gardiner indicated that he did not want to be perceived as dragging the process out unnecessarily.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz noted that the Council was playing catch up on this issue as evidenced by the fact that it had not been provided with a prior written staff report on this item and then received a large amount of late correspondence at the meeting that evening. He indicated that he abhorred a quick decision by any governmental body.
Mayor Clark thanked Director of Planning Rigg for attending the Council meeting and asked him to summarize the PVE Planning Commissionís action regarding this project and to describe the process PVE normally followed in these cases.
Allan Rigg, City of Palos Verdes Estates Director of Planning, provided an overview of PVEís process and neighborhood compatibility ordinance, as well as how view and privacy issues were addressed. He indicated that Palos Verdes Estates did not judge a project based on how much the applicant had changed the plans from the original proposal through the course of the review process, but on the merits of the final project alone. He commented on the fact that the PVE Planning Commission was hesitant to tie the project to mitigation that would take place on an adjacent property, and only included conditions of approval that were under the property ownerís complete control. Mr. Rigg further commented that he had never seen the PVE Planning Commission include conditions regarding a rear yard fence because it was not an issue within the authority of the PVE neighborhood compatibility ordinance. He mentioned, however, that his staff was able to convince the Palos Verdes Homes Association to allow shrubs to be planted in the 6-foot wide parkway strip located at the rear of the property with shrubs, rather than the usually required trees. Mr. Rigg also noted that the fence and shrubbery would block the view rather than the proposed house. He indicated that the City of Palos Verdes Estates did not have an ordinance regarding foliage on private property and that residents in adjacent jurisdictions had no standing with the Palos Verdes Homes Association to request regulation of private foliage. He noted that the City of Palos Verdes Estates only regulated trees on City parkland that were blocking views.
Mr. Rigg felt that the only possible basis for an appeal from the City of Rancho Palos Verdes would be if the Council felt that the PVE Planning Commission had not made the required findings properly. Regarding the idea of re-grading the property to lower the fence height, he felt that this could be done through a private agreement between the parties or through a Minor Modification, which would have the same force and effect as the original project approval. The final alternative would be for the RPV City Council to appeal the PVE Planning Commissionís decision. He opined, however, that the PVE City Council would be reluctant to modify the rear fence due to the cityís existing code restriction.
Mayor Clark asked Mr. Rigg who would approve the Minor Modification.
Mr. Rigg responded that he, as the Director of Planning, could approve a Minor Modification without having to go back to the Planning Commission. He added, however, that he would not approve it if he felt that the Planning Commission would have disapproved of the change to the project.
Mayor Clark asked if the PVE Development Code tied the height of the foliage on a particular lot to the height of the structure.
PVE Director of Planning Rigg responded that it did, but through a slightly different process than in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Mayor Clark asked what the height was of the proposed house.
Mr. Rigg responded hat he didnít know off hand, but indicated that the proposed house was more than one story in height.
Councilman Stern asked about PVEís appeal process.
Mr. Rigg indicated that if an appeal was filed, the hearing would probably be held on September 27, 2005 unless the property owner requested a postponement.
In response to a question from Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, Mr. Rigg indicated that he understood that there had been a discussion between the parties.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz asked if the proposed modifications to the project would fall under a Minor Modification.
Mr. Rigg responded that he needed more information about the proposed modifications before determining if a Minor Modification was practical.
Councilman Gardiner asked if an appeal needed to be made in order for a Minor Modification to take place.
PVE Director of Planning Rigg indicated that it would not.
Councilman Stern observed that an appeal would only be needed in case the Minor Modification did not occur, otherwise the property owner had a vested right to proceed on the basis of their approved plans.
Councilman Gardiner clarified that the City would appeal in order to provide enough time for a Minor Modification permit to be worked out.
Councilman Long concurred with Councilman Sternís point and added that with no appeal, the property owner had no motivation to complete and memorialize the compromise.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that another option the Council may want to consider would be to authorize staff to file the appeal unless a Minor Modification was worked out before the appeal deadline.
Councilman Long indicated that the threat of an appeal from the City of Rancho Palos Verdes was the motivating factor behind the partiesí desire to work out a compromise.
Director of Planning Rigg indicated that the City Attorneyís suggestion had tremendous advantage.
Mayor Clark indicated that PVE Mayor Abbott had contacted him in order to visit the property and to try to arrive at a compromise without having to go through the appeal process.
Councilman Gardiner suggested a 15-minute recess to allow the parties to meet and see if the suggested solution could be worked out.
Councilman Stern observed that the suggested compromise involved grading on the Cityís park property and asked staff if that was workable.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that staff would like to hear the proposal first and assess it before making such a judgment.
Mayor Clark liked the idea of calling a recess in order to the parties to meet and confer.
City Attorney Lynch suggested the Council hear the applicantís proposal before taking a recess.
Deepak Chopra, property owner of 717 Via La Cuesta, Palos Verdes Estates, said that he was not previously aware of that eveningís meeting and only found out about it by accident that same day. He indicated that he was interested in finding a compromise, but he said that many people didnít seem to realize that this was a private lot. He elaborated that he has had to deal with people illegally dumping on the lot and pushing down the proposed building silhouette. He indicated that he finally had to temporarily fence the property in order to eliminate the nuisance. Mr. Chopra explained that the permanent fencing was for privacy and security reasons and indicated that he paid $3 million for the lot. He noted that he had the right to build a 6-foot high fence and grow as much foliage as he wanted under the Palos Verdes Estatesí ordinances, but indicated that he wanted to be a good neighbor. He explained that the solution under discussion would require regarding Grandview Park in order to preserve the view from this property and that he was willing to cover the cost of such grading, if it was between $10,000 and $15,000. He indicated that if the City of Rancho Palos Verdes appealed the PVE Planning Commissionís decision, he would no longer be willing to negotiate a compromise. In answer to a question from Councilman Stern, Mr. Chopra indicated that he did not want to assume the responsibility for re-grading Grandview Park, but was willing to pay the cost to do it.
Mayor Pro Tem asked what liability issues might be involved in this suggested solution.
City Attorney Lynch responded that Mr. Chopra probably did not want to assume the liability of grading on someone elseís property.
Mayor Pro Tem asked if a liability release could be granted to a private property owner.
Mr. Chopra indicated that he was willing to install a fence and grade on his own property and was willing to write a check to pay for the Cityís cost to re-grade Grandview Park, but did not want to perform any work on the Cityís property.
Tony Ashai, project architect, informed Council that the problem was not associated with the height of the proposed residence, but the height and location of the rear fence. He explained how they were proposing to re-grade the rear of the property in order to create view corridor through Mr. Chopraís lot, as seen from the Cityís park. He indicated that they could develop a written agreement to this effect that included a drawing of the proposed grading.
Recess and Reconvene
Mayor Clark declared a 20-minute recess at 8:17 p.m. and reconvened it at 8:45 p.m.
Mayor Clark asked the City Attorney to summarize the solution that had been worked out during the break.
City Attorney Lynch reported that the parties met during the break; Mr. Chopra wrote out and submitted a Minor Modification request to PVE Director of Planning Rigg to grade the read yard in order to lower the fence; and she had written an agreement between the City and Mr. Chopra in which he agreed to submit a grading plan to the City to remove 2 feet of earth from Grandview Park and redistribute the dirt onsite; the City would review Mr. Chopraís grading plan at its own expense; Mr. Chopra would complete the work; and the City would hold Mr. Chopra harmless once the grading was completed and certified.
PVE Director of Planning Rigg confirmed that what City Attorney Lynch reported was consistent with his understanding, noting one addition had also been added to the Minor Modification to limit the height of any vegetation along the south garden area to 10 feet to further protect the view corridor over the property. He suggested that the final language could be cleaned up the following day through a second Minor Modification to incorporate the language that the City Attorney had drafted that evening. He observed that the City could still rely on the Minor Modification that had been prepared that evening if the second one was not completed for some unforeseen reason.
Mr. Chopra indicated that he accepted the agreement City Attorney Lynch had written and that he had signed it, but asked that he be allowed to show it to his attorney. He also asked for some assurances that the Cityís actions in carrying out the agreement would be timely so as not to delay his project.
Mayor Clark asked if there were any members of the public who still wished to speak on this item.
Larry Connelly, Rancho Palos Verdes, thanked all of the parties and agreed that this solution would work best for the neighbors
Mayor Clark thanked all of the parties for their cooperation in reaching a compromise.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz expressed his appreciation to Mr. Connelly and the written documents he had previously provided, which he felt had helped Council to understand the project and the issues involved.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to instruct the City Attorney to review the Minor Modification agreement for consistency with the Councilís action, and if there were inconsistencies, to authorize staff to file an appeal by the August 31, 2005 deadline.
Mr. Chopra indicated that his attorney would be unable to review the document by the appeal deadline; that he objected to the proposed motion and would withdraw his support of the compromise.
Councilman Long and Councilman Stern withdrew the motion and second, respectively.
PVE Director of Planning Rigg pointed out that Council had an approved agreement in hand and that the only item that needed to be worked out was the language of the Hold Harmless Agreement between Mr. Chopra and the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.
Councilman Gardiner asked Mayor Clark to convey the Councilís gratitude to PVE Mayor Abbott for making Mr. Rigg available that evening to help facilitate the compromise on this matter.
Mayor Clark confirmed that he would carry the message and thanked everyone for attending the meeting and working out a mutually agreeable compromise.
Councilman Stern moved to adjourn the meeting.
Councilman Long asked if the Minor Modification agreement in fact obligated Mr. Chopra to complete the grading on the Cityís property.
City Attorney Lynch confirmed that it did.
Councilman Long seconded the motion to adjourn.
Mayor Clark declared the meeting adjourned at 9:01 p.m.