RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
ADJOURNED REGULAR MEETING
MAY 3, 2005
The meeting was called to order at 6:00 P.M. by Mayor pro tem Wolowicz at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, and was immediately recessed to closed session. At 7:04 P.M., the meeting was reconvened for regular session.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Gardiner, Long, Stern, Mayor pro tem Wolowicz
ABSENT: Mayor Clark
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz advised that Mayor Clark is out of town and not able to attend that evening’s meeting.
Also present were City Manager Les Evans; Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Carolynn Petru; City Attorney Carol Lynch; Director of Public Works Dean Allison; Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Joel Rojas; Finance Director Dennis McLean; Senior Planner Kit Fox; Associate Planner Eduardo Schonborn; and Recording Secretary Denise Bothe.
Sheriff Lieutenant John Herrera led the flag salute.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz presented the Mayor’s "Did You Know Facts" relating to pets in the City. He advised the audience that there were over 4,500 licensed dogs and an estimated 4,900 cats in RPV; noted that each resident was allowed to have up to 3 dogs and 3 cats per household; and stated that approximately 100 dogs and cats received low-cost rabies vaccinations at the City’s annual Rabies Clinic in 2004. He advised that dogs must be on a leash no more than 6 feet long when being walked on City property, noting that violators may be fined up to $250. He explained that many dogs bark excessively due to boredom and/or frustration; and stated that if a neighbor’s dog was barking excessively, the resident could file a complaint with County Animal Control at (310) 523-9566. He urged the City’s residents to be responsible pet owners; and to address any barking dog problems by changing the pet’s living conditions, such as finding a pet companion or implementing other environmental changes. Mayor pro tem Wolowicz indicated that by law, dog owners were required to pick up after their pets; explained that dog waste left behind could end up entering the City’s storm drain system, thereby polluting the ocean and beaches, or could become a nuisance to pedestrians. He urged pet owners to carry plastic bags to properly dispose of pet waste when walking their pets. He announced that the City’s dog licensing clinic would be held on May 19, 2005, from 7:00 P.M. until 8:30 P.M. at City Hall; and added that pet owners could obtain new licenses, license renewals, and low cost rabies vaccinations for their pets. He advised that most exotic pets obtained at pet shops, such as lizards, snakes, fish, etc., did not require a Special Animal Permit from the City, but added that if a resident had a question regarding what type of animal required such a permit, they should contact the Planning Department. He noted that if someone found a lost dog or cat, they should call County Animal Control. He thanked staff for putting together this evening’s "Did You Know" Facts information.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz announced the names of the two recycler winners from the last Council meeting of April: John Applebee and Ching Cong Lim; stated that all winners receive a check for $250, which represented one year of free refuse service; and encouraged everyone to recycle.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to approve the Agenda as submitted. Without objection, Mayor pro tem Wolowicz so ordered.
April Sandell, Rancho Palos Verdes, commented on the proposed 140-condominium project to be located next to the former Navy housing property, 28000 South Western Avenue; advised that she lived near this site and received a public hearing notice for the hearing to be conducted in Los Angeles on May 19th at 9:00 A.M.; and expressed her disappointment and concern that this may be the last opportunity for residents to provide input on this proposal. She expressed her belief that holding the last hearing that far away was unfair – questioning whether this, indeed, would be the last meeting to comment. She added that it was also an inconvenience that Los Angeles was requiring that anyone wishing to provide input call several days in advance so they could find the file and all the materials related to the plans; and noted her concern that those making the decision at this meeting had no vested interest in this community and that local residents had no influence over the people making this decision. She stated that she was most concerned that this may be the last opportunity to provide input on the project.
Senior Planner Fox clarified that the meeting was scheduled for May 27th; and expressed his understanding that this meeting was the Hearing Officer’s Hearing, which constituted the first level of review before the City of Los Angeles Planning Commission considered the project. He noted his understanding that this was not the last opportunity to provide input related to this project.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked staff to put together a fact sheet related to this proposed project and to make it available to interested residents.
Ilse Oetiker, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that she lived in the Vista Pacifica development; noted that she was not representing the homeowner’s association (HOA); and advised Council that the developer never completed the landscaping, irrigation and other required improvements for the project. Ms. Oetiker explained that the developer and the HOA entered into a settlement agreement to pay for a portion of the cost to complete this work; but stated that the developer had not paid any of these funds to date, per the agreement. In view of the developer’s bankrupt status in early November 1994, she explained that the Vista Pacifica Homeowner’s Association requested that the City to assign under a faithful performance bond against the developer’s insurance carrier; that in May 1996, the City declared a forfeiture on that bond and one year later sent a letter of corrective action to the developer’s insurance carrier, again, declaring the forfeiture on its bond. In August 1998, the City entered into a written agreement with the HOA to prosecute collection on the bond under the landscaping and irrigation agreement for the benefit of the Association. She noted that in 2000, the City considered using an outside collection firm to limit the cost of attorney’s fees; that for the next four years, the City Attorney made various efforts to get developer’s insurance company to address the problem, all to no avail; and despite repeated assurances that the City did intended to pursue the matter legally, the City Attorney had recently indicated that the City was not likely prosecute the claim as agreed. She stated that the Association had relied on the City to take corrective action; and that it appeared the City was backing out of its 7-year-old agreement with the HOA. She requested that Council review the matter at its first opportunity and require the City to abide by its commitment to Vista Pacifica HOA to pursue the matter. She expressed her dismay that after 17 years the HOA was still waiting for the money that was due to them.
City Attorney Lynch stated that she would need to look into this matter before providing any information to the Council.
Councilman Gardiner asked that this matter be placed on the next agenda so that Council could discuss it.
Councilman Long asked about other cases where the City had become involved in disputes between private property owners and developers, including pursuing collection of performance bonds from developers.
City Attorney Lynch stated that her memory on this issue was too vague and reiterated that she would get more information on this matter and report back to Council.
CITY MANAGER REPORTS:
City Manager Evans advised Council that City staff had met with representatives from Caltrans that afternoon; noted that staff was encouraged by the aggressive efforts of Caltrans to recover funds from the Federal Highway Administration Emergency Repair Fund to repair the sink holes on Western Avenue; advised that Caltrans had applied for those funds and had received very favorable feedback from the Administration, noting that they were cautiously optimistic they would recover not only the cost of repairs that Caltrans provided for Summerland, but also the City’s investment to help repair the sinkhole located just north of Westmont. He noted his expectation that the City would recover all or at least a healthy portion of the funds the City had spent on these repairs.
Councilman Gardiner requested that a factual chronology of events on these activities be placed on the City’s website.
City Manager Evans also noted that Cox Communications had been diligently working on the final hookup and splicing activities to connect the cable network with the new multimedia studio at City Hall; and stated that these efforts should be completed in the next week.
City Clerk Petru announced that Old Business was posted on the City’s website at www.palosverdes.com/rpv.
APPROVAL OF CONSENT CALENDAR:
Councilman Gardiner asked to pull Item No. 8, Ordinance Authorizing the Use of Mail Ballot Elections.
Councilman Long asked to pull Item No. 5, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Contract, and No. 10, Claim against the City by Marihelen Wade-Norby.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked to pull Item No. 4, Border Issues Status Report.
City Clerk Petru advised that staff received late correspondence on Agenda Item Nos. 4, 5, 7 and 9; and that she had received requests from the public to remove Item Nos. 4, 7 and 8 from the Consent Calendar.
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
Approved the Minutes of February 1, 2005; February 15, 2005; and April 16, 2005.
Repair of the Tarapaca Storm Drain
Reviewed and reconfirmed by a four/fifths (4/5) vote the Council's previous action on December 21, 2004, to authorize staff to conduct an informal bid process to repair the Tarapaca Storm Drain.
Used Oil Recycling Block Grant for FY 2005-06
1) Authorized the application of the FY 2005-06 (11th Cycle) used oil block grant to continue the used oil and filter recycling program for City of Rancho Palos Verdes (City) residents; and 2) ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-40, AUTHORIZING THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS TO EXECUTE ANY AGREEMENTS, CONTRACTS, AND REQUESTS FOR PAYMENT AS NECESSARY TO IMPLEMENT THE PROGRAM.
Ordinance Relating to the Conservation and Management of Coastal Sage Scrub Habitat
ADOPTED ORDINANCE NO. 420, AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES ESTABLISHING REGULATIONS AND PROCEDURES FOR THE CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT OF COASTAL SAGE SCRUB HABITAT.
Authorization for T-Mobile to File a Conditional Use Permit Application to Install a Wireless Telephone Facility at Ryan Park
Authorized the City Manager to sign the Conditional Use Permit application to allow T-Mobile to seek approval for a wireless telephone facility at Robert E. Ryan Park.
March 2005 Treasurer's Report
Received and filed the March 2005 Treasurer's Report for the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.
Street Name Change - Canal Avenue to Sea Terrace Avenue
1) ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-41, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES CHANGING STREET NAMES WITHIN TRACT 46651 TO SEA TERRACE AVENUE FOR BOTH SEGMENTS OF EXISTING CANAL AVENUE, SEA BREEZE AVENUE FOR EXISTING SEABREEZE AVENUE AND SAIL VIEW AVENUE FOR EXISTING SEA VIEW AVENUE; and, 2) Authorized and directed the City Clerk to forward an official copy of the executed resolution in this matter to the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County.
Register of Demands
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-42, 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.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to approve the Consent Calendar, as amended. The motion carried as follows:
AYES: Long, Gardiner, Stern, Mayor pro tem Wolowicz
Border Issues Status Report
The staff recommendation of May 3, 2005 was to review the current status of border issues and provide direction to staff, as appropriate.
Councilman Gardiner advised that he was being interviewed by the Department of Toxic Substances Control as a member of the community regarding the 5-year review of the Palos Verdes Landfill; and noted that he intended to distinguish his own/personal comments from those as a Council member.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz noted that this item was pulled because the Executive Summary on page 1 of the report indicates on the third bulletin: "A report on the release of the Draft Programmatic EIS/EIR for the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, and a request for City Council input on the City’s draft comments on this project (the comment deadline is May 23, 2005)."
April Sandell, RPV, referred to the Border Issues Report regarding the Ponte Vista project at the former Navy housing site in San Pedro; related to Councilman Gardiner’s request to have a chronological order of the storm drain failures – pointing out that this chronology list should begin from 1993 when the storm drain near her home collapsed, causing the sidewalk to collapse at the toe of the hill near her home. She advised that this condition resulted in a lawsuit against her husband and a couple other neighbors in the Eastview area; stated that the sinkhole on Western Avenue was repaired in 1993, but they waited until 1997 to serve her husband and other neighbors with a lawsuit related to that failed storm drain. She pointed out that her husband and other neighbors are still embroiled in these lawsuit activities today, nearly 10 years afterward; and stated this has been very stressful. With regard to the Ponte Vista homes borders issue, she urged the City and residents to address traffic issues before the condominium developer is given approval by the City of Los Angeles.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz questioned what type of input staff is seeking from City Council.
Responding to Mayor pro tem Wolowicz, Senior Planner Fox said that the City had received notice of the EIS/EIR for the Montrose Settlement Restoration program a couple weeks earlier; stated that the City had until May 23rd to comment; noted that staff had put together a draft letter commenting on the proposal, and asked if Council would like to see any other issues addressed in the comment letter. He advised Council that the late correspondence distributed that evening included an email exchange between himself and Barbara Dye of the P.V. Land Conservancy; noted that Ms. Dye raised some good points about some of the expectations people had as to how the funds from the settlement were going to be allocated; and noted that it might be appropriate to add another comment to the letter to suggest that those who oversee the restoration should be focus more of the effort in the areas directly affected by the contamination, especially near the peninsula.
City Attorney Lynch noted for Mayor pro tem Wolowicz that she was not aware of any prior City comments to the expenditure plan; and that the only thing she was aware of was that when RPV, along with other cities in L.A. County, reached a global settlement, the City paid into the global sum to deal with this effort.
Senior Planner Fox indicated his belief there will be further opportunities to comment; noted that this document identified very general categories of possible restoration actions, many which would probably not involve the City - pointing out that most of the effort dealt with restoring habitat for seabirds on the Channel Islands, the creation of artificial reefs and improvements to fishing access. He noted that as this project carried forward, there would be more detailed studies, identification of specific locations and improvements and that there would be further opportunities for the City to comment at that time.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked that the letter go forward and noted his desire to continue to see this topic appear in the Border Issues Report. There was no objection to receive and file this report.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Contract
The staff report of May 3, 2005 recommended that Council authorize the Mayor to sign the FY 04-05 Services for the Peninsula Region (Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and Rolling Hills Estates) and the FY 05-06 Rancho Palos Verdes Deployment Survey with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Councilman Long expressed his desire that an item of this magnitude not be placed under the Consent Calendar and noted his expectation that in future years that this item would not be brought to Council less than two months before it was due. He asked the following questions: had the City performed an audit for these Sheriff’s Department services; what, if any, were the results of that audit; when did the City plan to do another audit; has the City ever had a competitive bid for the work to be performed under this contract; and, if so, what were the results; if no audit had been performed, why not; had the City considered the establishment of a public safety committee of volunteer citizens to review the performance of the Sheriff’s Department, pricing and possible alternatives; and to make appropriate recommendations. He noted that due to the time restraints for the FY 05-06 contract, he would like the next cycle to address whether it would be feasible to get these questions answered and how to go about addressing these questions.
Having sat on the Regional Law Enforcement Committee, Councilman Stern stated that at every meeting, the members were provided with statistics reflecting the utilization of services within each of the three cities: Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and Rolling Hills Estates. He noted that these statistics were broken down into percentages of allocated time. He questioned what an audit would specifically detail; and noted that the report indicated what the City was receiving in terms of contract hours.
Councilman Long pointed out that that information was provided by the Sheriff’s Department and noted his intent to have an independent examination of that information, noting that it would not need to be done every year.
Councilman Gardiner stated that it would be helpful to see how the man-hours were distributed in terms of work assignments/categories.
Councilman Long pointed out that it was important to do an audit and to address this contract far enough in advance, noting that this was nearly a $3 million contract or approximately 20 percent of the City’s General fund budget; and noted his concern with renewing a contract that was this large and significant as a matter of routine on the Consent Calendar. He suggested the formation of a volunteer committee that could assist in this effort.
City Manager Evans mentioned that this same discussion came up last year with Council; that Council undertook a very intelligent discussion of major issues concerning these contract services; and stated that if Council was interested in looking at alternatives to the contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services, staff needed to get to work on it as soon as possible. He noted that Council could direct that an audit be performed, but expressed his belief and noted his experience that there were no other feasible alternatives. City Manager Evans stated that he would be willing to visit the Sheriff’s Department to perform an audit of their records, but indicated that this activity would need to be done as soon as possible in order to be ready for review during the FY 06-07 budget review cycle.
Councilman Gardiner stated that it would be useful to look at the profiles for the amount of time the deputies spent in each category.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that it would be interesting to view the total number of units purchased and allocated to the entire peninsula region, such as performing an allocation based on the City’s traffic units; and that it would be interesting to see, at least statistically, what other cities pay on a per capita basis for these same services.
Councilman Gardiner asked that the information be clearly delineated and in layman’s terms; and he questioned if any policy issues should be raised, such as raising the fines for repeated false alarm calls.
Councilman Long expressed his belief that this information was necessary for Council to make an informed and reasonable decision about the annual contract, that Council needed to explore alternatives and evaluate policy decisions. He stated that because of the June 30th deadline, he would be approving the extension that evening, but reiterated his concern with not having adequate time to address his issues related to these services. He reiterated his suggestion to direct staff to explore auditing the law enforcement services provided, possibly with the help of a volunteer citizens group to look at public safety issues.
Councilman Stern suggested that, first, Council invite Captain Zuanich to make a presentation to Council about the current contract, providing an overview of what was being done for the City, the scope of services and the various categories, so that Council could begin to understand what services the City was purchasing and then to discuss/explore any possible alternatives. He questioned whether a financial audit would provide any valuable information to help him make his decision about the Sheriff’s contract.
Lieutenant Herrera stated that the City was more than welcome to perform an audit of the Sheriff’s records; expressed his belief that false alarm calls had not taken any more than 6 to 8 hours of response time for the entire year; and noted that it would be important for the City to invite the other two contract cities in the region to provide input on how the funds should be allocated, if that was the ultimate will of this Council.
Councilman Gardiner stated that the City should match the man-hours with the areas of need and that resources should be reallocated and commensurate with where the data indicated there was a need for service.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated his preference for Council to review the audit, rather than a volunteer committee, at least for the first time around.
Ken Dyda, former Mayor of Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that in 1973 he helped to write the first contract with the Sheriff’s Department, which changed the entire way the Sheriff provided services to contract cities; pointed out that he spent many hours researching the Sheriff’s logs/records to come up with an improved system; and highlighted some of the items that were included in the performance contract, such as: life threatening calls needing to be responded to 90 percent of the time within 4 minutes; emergency calls responded to 80 percent of the time within 10 minutes; and routine calls (taking a report) responded to 50 percent of the time within 20 to 30 minutes. He stated that in the original contract, the City required that traffic enforcement to be concentrated in the areas where excessive traffic accidents occurred, which shifted the emphasis to that location to calm down the traffic. He stated that in his experience, if Council intended to only review the hours and the cost, it would not provide Council with an accurate idea of what kind of performance the City was getting from the contract. He stated that Council needed to decide from a policy perspective where the emphasis was more important, noting that all kinds of data was available if staff was given adequate time to conduct the research.
Mr. Dyda explained that the activity of time keeping was used as a basis to find out how much productive activity was done within each reporting district; and then the cost was allocated proportionately to that activity. He suggested that if Council was going to conduct a review, that it look at some of these types of numbers to gain an understanding of the valuable work provided by the Sheriff’s Department.
Councilman Long said that it was important for the City to verify if it was getting what it paid for and to determine if the City was getting the best value for its investment. He suggested that this task be started immediately so that Council would be able to review the results well in advance of the June 30, 2006 contract proposal. He reiterated his desire to see a volunteer committee formed to help in this endeavor.
Councilman Long moved to renew the contract as recommended by staff; directed staff to come back with a set of proposed suggestions as to how Council can conduct a performance review sufficiently in advance of June 30, 2006; and that staff obtain input from the other two peninsula cities – noting that if those two cities indicated no desire for a performance review, Council may need to reconsider this course of action.
Councilman Gardiner questioned if the motion included an opportunity for Council to consider resource allocation.
Councilman Long indicated that it did.
Councilman Gardiner seconded the motion.
Councilman Stern stated that the concept of a performance review was more valuable than a financial audit; noted he was not in favor of establishing a volunteer committee to address this matter, believing that the magnitude of the issue, as well as the policy decisions that may have to be made, were better made by Council; and noted his belief there would be a lot of redundancy if a group of volunteers was formed to provide a recommendations to Council on this issue. He reiterated his interest in inviting Captain Zuanich to make a presentation before Council and for Council to be able to ask questions before staff was directed on any specific effort.
Councilman Long clarified that the motion did not include the formation of a volunteer committee; that he invited staff to provide input on how Council should go about this effort, mentioning that a Saturday workshop on this topic might be in order.
Councilman Long amended his motion to include a presentation by Captain Zuanich prior to Council attempting to structure the performance review. He added that the motion should include direction to staff to provide alternatives for this process.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru clarified the motion as follows: to authorize the Mayor to sign the current FY 05-06 contract; direct staff to arrange for a presentation from Captain Zuanich on the current contract; direct staff to return with a report on how to conduct a performance review to be completed in sufficient time to allow Council to make an informed decision on the June 2006 contract; and to involve the other two peninsula cities in this discussion.
The motion carried as follows:
AYES: Long, Gardiner, Stern, Mayor pro tem Wolowicz
RECESS AND RECONVENE
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz recessed the meeting at 8:27 P.M. and reconvened the meeting at 8:31 P.M.
Status Report Regarding Construction Issues at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive
The staff report of May 3, 2005 recommended that Council receive and file the report on the status of construction issues for the project at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive.
Councilman Long questioned if the property owner had been given notice of this item being on the agenda.
Senior Planner Fox advised Council that the applicant was given a copy of the status report.
Lenee Bilski, Rancho Palos Verdes, expressed her concerns with the grading activities and the loss of views; noted her concern with the rock quarry being located in a residential zone and in the landslide moratorium area; and noted her opposition to raising the elevation of the grade to install the storm drain. She stated that she disagreed with various points in staff memorandum. She advised Council that the Seaview residents had not received any update on this project since January 2, 2005. Ms. Bilski stated that soil could not be removed from the rock mesa area because of the large amount of rock being stored on this location, also noting that the stone stockpiles had increased in size. She stated that at the December 7, 2004 meeting, the applicant indicated the stone cutting activities would take place inside an enclosed garage, thereby reducing the noise and dust; but advised Council that there were no doors on the garage and that the noise and dust continued to be a problem. She urged the City to require the rest of the stone cutting activity to be performed off-site. With the aid of a photograph, she indicated that Yacht Harbor Drive was supposed to be 10 feet below PVDS, noting that it was not 10 feet lower than the adjacent roadway. She highlighted the January 7, 2005 letter to Mr. Johnson from staff, which extended permitting the rock cutting activities to June 2005; pointing out that the Seaview residents were not given notice of this extension. She stated that all these activities had gone on for too long, that the noise, dust and vibrations were a nuisance. She noted that of most concern was the grading, which was blocking views and the negative impacts resulting from the rock cutting operation on the adjacent properties.
Thomas Berg, Rancho Palos Verdes, echoed Ms. Bilski’s concerns, expressing his belief that there appeared to be a spirit of appeasement rather than enforcement. Mr. Berg stated that of most concern to him was the grading differential between Palos Verdes Drive South and Yacht Harbor Drive.
Noting the fact that construction activities could be annoying, Councilman Gardiner questioned if the applicant had done anything to violate the City’s codes or other restrictions.
Senior Planner Fox indicated that Mr. Johnson had provided the City with certification that the elevation on the rock mesa was the final grade; and that it was consistent with the approved, revised plan. He mentioned that the appearance was not final because there were still stones being stored in this area that would ultimately be removed.
Senior Planner Fox noted for Councilman Gardiner that when the stone cutting activity was approved, that there was no time limit set for rock cutting on this project.
Councilman Gardiner asked, given staff’s answers, if Council had any basis to take any action.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that Council did not have a basis for action at that time. She added that staff did, in response to the neighbors’ concerns, analyze the noise from the stone cutting operation to see if it was louder than a typical construction site; and she indicated that staff determined it was louder and therefore brought the matter to Council in December 2004 for consideration, wherein Mr. Johnson agreed to move the stone cutting activities into the garage area where the noise would be better muffled. She explained that there was no precise decibel level standard in the City; advised Council that staff listened to the noise from this operation at the edge of the property and that staff believed it was no louder than the other construction noises occurring on this site.
Director Rojas stated that the City did not have an ordinance that sets specific decibel limits; explained that the City accepted the certifications from licensed engineers regarding finished grade elevations; and that the only time staff questioned those certifications was if there was evidence presented that made staff doubt the accuracy of what had been submitted. He added that staff had not seen anything that would counter the information provided in the certification.
Senior Planner Fox noted for Councilman Long that the City had not identified any violation of any conditions with respect to the existing approved entitlements for this project.
Councilman Long explained for the public that whatever their opposition was to this project, the approved entitlements allowed the property owner to build within the approved guidelines, as seemed to be the case; and noted that if Council were to interfere with those approved entitlements without the proper legal right to do so, it would subject the City to litigation risk and damages.
Councilman Stern echoed Councilman Long’s comments, noting that once the approvals became final and vested, as long as the property owner complied with the conditions, Council was not permitted to arbitrarily change them.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to receive and file the staff report. There being no objection, Mayor pro tem Wolowicz so ordered.
Ordinance Authorizing the Use of Mail Ballot Elections
The staff report of May 3, 2005 recommended that Council ADOPT ORDINANCE NO. 419, AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AUTHORIZING THE USE OF MAIL BALLOT ELECTIONS.
Councilman Gardiner indicated that the draft ordinance did not indicate when the ballots would be mailed.
City Attorney Lynch explained that this was a general ordinance setting forth a procedure, and that it was not related to the specific fee that was at issue.
City Manager Evans added that this ordinance only authorized the City to conduct postcard ballot elections.
City Attorney Lynch noted for Councilman Gardiner that mailed ballot must follow the state law for a general election as closely as possible, but may not include arguments in favor or against the issue.
Councilman Gardiner questioned if there was anything to prohibit a future Council from taking this revenue stream and using for any other purpose, such as seeking a loan.
City Attorney Lynch explained that it could be used as a basis to borrow funds to implement the storm drain projects; and advised that the affected property owners were being asked to approve the amount of the fee. She also indicated that the fee that was being proposed was pursuant to the provisions of Proposition 218.
City Manager Evans highlighted the list of Priority 1 and 2 projects that Council had received for the Storm Drain Master Plan.
Councilman Gardiner asked which projects were going to be funded by the money raised.
City Manager Evans stated that he could provide that list, but indicated that staff did not have a list that indicated the precise date for each of the projects to be completed over the next 30 years, in other words, there was no calendaring of projects, only prioritizing.
Councilman Stern stated that it was important for the public to understand that the voters established the procedures for a mailed ballot election through Proposition 218 and that Council was following the state law that the voters had put in place.
April Sandell, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that the related materials which were supposed to inform voters about the proposed fee were created by supporters of that particular measure; and stated there was no opposition laid out before the voters to inform them about why this may not be a good thing to do – pointing out that the ballot materials were biased in her opinion. She noted her opposition to identifying which property voters voted no, believing this was intimidating to voters and could affect the outcome of the election. She noted that she had a lot of concerns with the User Fee; and commended Director McLean for his helpful input.
Councilman Stern questioned if the ballots identified the property owners.
City Attorney Lynch stated that she needed to double check whether that information would be available to the public; and explained that the City was governed by state law in the procedures used in conducting a mailed ballot election. She mentioned that the City was not allowed to distribute materials advocating a particular position related to the ballot measure; that the City could only present the facts related to the ballot and the reasons why it was being proposed.
Director McLean advised that a third party consultant would tabulate the ballots and that staff had no intention of looking at the ballots.
Councilman Long stated that he had no interest in looking at the ballots; noted that many residents were supportive of the User Fee; and pointed out that the City was low density with limited revenue sources, had a lot of streets and storm drain infrastructure to take care of and that there was no money available to repair these facilities. He stated this was the first step in getting that money.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to adopt staff recommendation, adopting Ordinance 417. The motion carried as follows:
AYES: Long, Stern, Mayor pro tem Wolowicz
Councilman Stern proposed that to the extent possible in state law, staff develop another ordinance to protect the anonymity of voters, when possible, and expressed his desire to limit the ability of revealing how a property owner had voted to third party not associated with the tabulation of the ballots.
Claim against the City by Marihelen Wade-Norby
The staff report of May 3, 2005 recommended that Council reject the claim and direct staff to notify the claimant.
Councilman Long questioned if the staff report reflected the answer given by the claims administrator and asked if the City could get a better explanation of the reasons for their recommendations.
City Manager Evans indicated that the staff report reflected the claim adjuster’s answer.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve staff recommendation. There being no objection, Mayor pro tem Wolowicz so ordered.
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RECESS AND RECONVENE
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz recessed the meeting at 9:26 P.M. and reconvened the meeting at 9:34 P.M.
Appeal of Case No. ZON 2004-00219, a Height Variation and Minor Exception Permit, for property located at 30101 Miraleste Drive [Applicant: John and Jill Okorocha, Represented by Jerry Rodin] [Appellant: Jacqua Rumery, 4465 Miraleste Drive]
The staff report of May 3, 2005 recommended Council to ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-__, DENYING THE APPEAL AND UPHOLDING THE PLANNING COMMISSION'S CONDITIONAL APPROVAL OF CASE NO. ZON 2004-00219 FOR A HEIGHT VARIATION AND MINOR EXCEPTION PERMIT.
City Clerk Petru advised that a revised resolution had been distributed that evening to Council as part of late correspondence.
Associate Planner Schonborn indicated the revision is a new Section 3, the inclusion of a timeline for judicial review.
Councilman Stern requested that when Council received revised documents, that a redline version be provided.
The public hearing was opened.
Jacqua Rumery, Rancho Palos Verdes, distributed to Council some color photographs of her property and the neighbor’s property; expressed her belief that the Planning Commission memorandum from the meeting of March 8, 2005 contained some misrepresentations; and noted for the record that she had presented new information for her appeal. She stated that she provided proof in the form of letters and surveys from real estate agents in the area indicating that the proposed addition next door to her home would substantially lower her property value and those of her neighbors; and stated that quotes by some of the Planning Commissioners also indicated a belief that this addition was not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood, that the structure would be too massive and too close to her home and that it would cause view impairment.
Ms. Rumery stated that there were no two story structures this close together in her neighborhood; that there were two homes located in close proximity to one another, but that the portions of the homes which were abutting were single story and neither one had any windows that faced the opposite structure – pointing out that this situation was not comparable to hers. She added that the houses in her situation were of completely different architectural styles; and advised that the south end of her home had many windows and these living spaces currently enjoyed views of the open air, sky and the woods beyond the property. She stated that the proposed addition would entirely block these views with a stucco wall only a few feet away from her house; and advised Council that there were no other windows in these living areas. She stated that the silhouette of the addition was only 36 inches from the property line, 2 feet less than the required 5 feet side yard setback. She questioned what assurances she had that the Okorochas would not build this close to the property line and what recourse she would have if they did.
Ms. Rumery stated that this was only one example of many that she could site in which the Okorochas had pushed the design of their addition to the limit, noting that this had made her very uncomfortable and distrustful of them. She expressed her belief that she had been forced into a defensive position by this project, but indicated she was not opposed to the Okorocha’s desire to increase the square footage and value of their home, only that she was opposed to them maximizing the development standards on the lot. She expressed her belief that with some imagination and some compromise on both sides, other solutions could be found which would allow her neighbors to attain their goals without adversely affecting their neighbors; and stated that there were more viable alternatives available which would transform this situation into a win-win solution for everyone involved.
Ms. Rumery stated that on the south side of the lot, Mr. Okorocha had less than a 5-foot setback between the property line and his southern neighbor’s residence and stated that he was proposing to build to the limit on the north end of the property as well.
Clint Miller, Rancho Palos Verdes and realtor speaking in favor of Ms. Rumery’s appeal, provided Council with photographs related to this matter; stated that everyone had the right to make the most of their property, but within limits and not to the detriment of their neighbors; explained that the Okorocha’s addition may not seem inappropriate when considered element by element as described in the staff report and resolution, but noted his belief that some of the elements contained in these documents were not accurate. When put altogether, including the requested variances, he stated that the addition would be quite a detriment to the Rumery property next door and to the neighborhood as a whole; noted that the documents indicated that the "the resulting size of the residence does not deviate from the characteristics in the immediate neighborhood and that its appearance will not readily be visible from the street due to the proximity of the addition to the roadway and due to the topography of the area"; and indicated his disagreement with this statement. He stated that the square footage alone may not deviate and the design may not deviate, but nowhere along Miraleste Drive were two 2-story structures located as close to one another as these two would be – pointing out that most of the homes were either single story, where there were driveways separating them, they were stepped down with the downward slope of the street, or they were in some other way offset so as not to have two 2-story elevations directly abutting one another.
Mr. Miller stated that on the Okorocha’s property, there was less than a 5-foot setback and that the house was only 4.5 feet from the property line; and that due to the reduced setback, the silhouette in place was less than 5 feet from the property line on the north side. He noted that the Okorochas planned to build beyond the limit on one side, beyond the limit on the other side, and to have the two-story addition face to face right next to the Rumery’s, whose house had been built 20 years earlier. He expressed his belief that this condition would be easily seen from the street. He stated that when the Rumery house was built, it was built along the edge of the ravine and that the entire house was below the grade of the street and was surrounded by vegetation. He stated that when the two-story addition was put on, it was the only location on the lot that allowed natural light into the house and provided any sense of view. He mentioned that even with the Okorocha’s house where it was, there was a sense of space between the two houses; that with the addition as it was currently proposed, it would nearly but up right next to the Rumery house and look like a large blank stucco wall as seen from the Rumery’s. He noted that the staff report indicated there would be no view impairment, to which he disagreed; and noted his concern with the condition for opaque windows, adding that the opaque windows would lose their privacy effect when in the open position.
Mr. Miller stated that a panel of top realtors from the peninsula looked at these properties and that they had all agreed that this project would significantly reduce the value of the Rumery house by $50,000 to $150,000 due to the loss of view. He stated that nobody wanted to deny the Okorocha’s right to expand their home, but expressed his belief that there were other alternatives which could be considered in the spirit of neighborhood compatibility; and he urged Council to approve Ms. Rumery’s appeal and to direct the Okorochas to design something that would be less intrusive.
Councilman Stern stated that the Rumery home was built to the minimum 5-foot side yard setback and now Ms. Rumery was attempting to make up for the small setback by asking for a larger setback on the neighbor’s property. He observed that 20 years ago her parents had chosen to build this house only 5 feet from the property line.
Mr. Miller explained that at the time the Rumery house was built, the adjacent lot was considered to be unbuildable because of the ravine that previously existed and that there were no other houses nearby. Since that time, fill material has been added to the adjacent lot and a home built, but he pointed out that the existing home was approximately 20 feet away from the Rumery’s side property line. He reiterated that the Okorochas had the option to locate the two-story portion of the project on another area of the house, not abutting the side property line.
Jerry Rodin, Rancho Palos Verdes, representing the Okorochas, stated that the applicant’s house had a 5-foot setback; explained that the project silhouette had originally been built to the eave and had subsequently been adjusted to the 5-foot setback, which was an equal distance to the existing setback on the property to the north; and noted that the survey and architectural drawings were correct. He stated that the roof slope was at 2:12. He advised that the property was difficult to develop because it was a down-sloping property and the low point was at the northeast corner of the lot, and that this condition limited the height of the addition. He noted that the proposed ridge height was 1’ 4.5" below the 26-foot height limit, and that he was proposing to reduce the ceiling heights in order to further reduce the ridge height by perhaps another 6" and thus reduce the volume of the addition further. He noted that the Okorochas had also agreed to design changes to the front (eastern) elevation facing Miraleste Drive, removed the bay window and changed the design of the roof to lower it further. He stated that he had reduced the height of building as far as he could and that the applicant had made as many concessions as possible with the Rumerys. He added that the placement of the addition was in response to the lot constraints and Development Code requirements. He mentioned that they had worked closely with staff on this project and expressed his belief the Rumerys were attempting to put their property rights ahead of the Okorochas. He expressed his belief this project would not negatively impact the property values in the area, and in fact, would only improve them.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz indicated that he visited this site that afternoon, and questioned why the addition was proposed to be built in line with the back of the existing house instead of being built further into the rear of the lot.
Mr. Rodin stated that the addition could not be built further back on the lot because there was a flood hazard zone in that area and no portion of the residence could be constructed within that area.
Councilman Stern noted that the frosted windows were probably required to be able to be opened for safety purposes.
Associate Planner Schonborn pointed out that there were Building Code requirements that would prevent the windows from not being able to be opened.
City Attorney Lynch added that the windows must be operable, in compliance with fire and safety codes.
Councilman Gardiner highlighted the fact that the Rumerys had the largest house of all the 20 houses surveyed in the area; that the Okorocha’s house was 600 square feet smaller than the Rumery’s house and that the Okorocha’s property was larger than the Rumery property; and he questioned the basis for the appeal.
Councilman Long explained that land use decisions had to be more objective than simply comparing one neighbor’s house to another, and that either this house was compatible with the neighborhood or it was not.
Councilman Stern stated that the problem stems from the fact that the home of the appellant was located only 5 feet form that property line and that had created a condition, which was partly the Rumery’s fault and not entirely the fault of the applicant who wants to similarly build to 5 feet setback line. He expressed his belief that the Planning Commission made the right decision in this case and noted that he would support the Planning Commission’s decision. He stated that the Commissioners did a very thorough job; and mentioned that City did not have an ordinance to protect a resident’s right to sunlight.
Councilman Long echoed Councilman Stern’s comments; stated that it was unfortunate that the Rumerys would have a stucco wall located so close to their windows, but added that there was no protection regarding this type of view in the City’s ordinances. He stated that the proposed addition was not so large as to be violating any components of the City’s neighborhood compatibility ordinance, but stated it was unfortunate that the appellant’s house was configured the way it was, that its original construction lacked foresight for future development of this area; and noted that this circumstance did not give the Rumery’s any right to unduly restrict the expansion of their neighbor’s home.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that in his site visit, it was difficult to get a real sense of the neighborhood because of the curve of the street and the small size of the immediate neighborhood; noted that the house immediately to the south of the Okorocha’s was a very large house; and questioned whether the upper level and deck of the proposed addition could be set back an additional 3 feet, thereby softening the appearance for both neighbors.
Councilman Long expressed his belief that it would not be appropriate at this stage for Council to require alterations to the plan if Council was able to make the findings to support the Planning Commission’s decision. He added that if Council believed the facts and findings presented were properly made, then a permit should be issued.
Director Rojas explained that if Council could not make a particular finding, then Council had the ability to dictate design changes to the proposed second story.
Ms. Rumery pointed out that she did not disagree that the Okorochas had a right to add onto their house, but she clarified that it would be in the best interest of both parties to consider other alternatives. She mentioned that her property had more buildable area than the Okorochas and that her father utilized that space; and she noted that the Okorochas could build a house that had views, but was less obtrusive to her property. She also suggested that the deck be enclosed.
Director Rojas explained that the rear half of the lot contains a flood hazard zone and between this area and the building pad there was an extreme transitional slope, which prevented the construction of any structures in this area of the lot; and that the only buildable area was located on the north side of the property.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz closed the public hearing.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to concur with staff’s recommendation, thus adopting revised Resolution No. 2005-43. Motion carried as follows:
AYES: Gardiner, Long, Stern, Mayor pro tem Wolowicz
CITY COUNCIL ORAL REPORTS:
Councilman Stern noted that he attended the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, wherein discussion ensued regarding infrastructure. He added that a memo on this issue would be provided to Council in the City Manager’s Weekly Report.
Councilman Gardiner stated that the Channel 33 Subcommittee would meet that Friday and that any recommendations would be presented to Council at a future meeting.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz reported that he attended the following events:
REGULAR NEW BUSINESS:
Councilman Long explained that he would recuse himself from consideration of the next matter because his firm performed work for Cox Communications at another office and was unrelated to the franchise in Rancho Palos Verdes, but that he chose to avoid any appearance of impropriety. He departed the room during the discussion of this matter.
Second System Performance Audit of the 2000 Cable Television Franchise Agreement with Cox Communications
The staff report of May 3, 2005 recommended that Council provide staff and Cox Communications with feedback regarding the second scheduled system performance audit of the 2000 Cable Television Franchise Agreement.
Councilman Gardiner stated his understanding that there were three items left over from the last time Council discussed the performance audit: 1) telephone response times; 2) amendments to the Acceptable Use Policy; and 3) customer service appointments.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru noted that Councilman Gardiner’s recollection was correct and commented that telephone response times over the previous two years were considerably under the 90-percent federal threshold; but indicated that during the first quarter of 2005, there was a steady increase in this statistic, hitting a high of 95 percent in March 2005.
Council discussion ensued on the performance statistics provided in staff report.
Councilman Stern noted his support of Cox sending its Acceptable Use Policy to its high-speed data customers through the Internet rather than by mail, as long as the substance was superior in the emails.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz also noted his approval of sending subscriber information via the Internet.
Art Yoon, representing Cox Communications, stated that he was very confident at the last meeting when this matter was discussed that measures were put in place to address Council’s concerns, bringing their performance statistics within the required percentages; and noted his delight in reporting that the additional training and increase in staffing had resulted in telephone response times around the 95-percent service level. He stated that he would be amenable to providing Council reports on a quarterly basis. He also reported that RPV Channel 33 should be up and running within 10 days, following the completion of the cable splicing activities.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to determine that Cox’s practice of emailing notifications of changes to its Internet Acceptable Use Policy to its high-speed data subscribers met the intent of the City’s franchise customer service standard. Without objection, Mayor pro tem Wolowicz so ordered, with Councilman Long abstaining.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru noted that now that the second performance audit had been closed, staff would return on the next agenda with a resolution memorializing Council’s action.
Councilman Gardiner thanked and commended Mr. Yoon for taking the lead to make these significant improvements in Cox’s customer service performance.
Councilman Long returned to the meeting.
Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones
The staff report of May 3, 2005 recommended that Council receive and file the follow-up report on Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones (VHFHSZ's) in the City and on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and provide direction to Staff for future action, as appropriate.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru noted that late correspondence related to this matter had been distributed to Council.
Councilman Long questioned if the City Attorney had looked at whether the Bates Bill applied to the built-out areas of residential and commercial development in the City.
City Attorney Lynch stated she had not looked at that specific issue.
Councilman Long noted his understanding that there was an official County Fire Department map that the Fire Department itself did not rely on, that this map designated most of the City as a very high brush fire hazard zone; and, yet, the Fire Department used another map which only designated a very limited portion of the unincorporated area as a very high fire hazard area. He asked if staff knew why that portion of the unincorporated area was designated as a very high fire hazard.
Senior Planner Fox explained that the Fire Chief had indicated that the unincorporated areas on the map met the County’s standards for being a very high fire hazard area. He noted that some insurance companies were starting to use satellite imagery for fire hazard mapping, rather than relying on the Fire Department’s maps.
Councilman Long noted his frustration with what appeared to be over-sensitivity on the part of the insurance community, believing that part of this over-sensitivity grew out of the losses insurance companies suffered as a result of the fires in San Diego County in the past year. He stated that based on the information being presented in the staff report, he was not sure the City could do anything about this situation. He suggested that the City create a form letter that its residents could use when insurance companies had rejected them for fire coverage. He questioned whether it would be feasible to send a general letter to all insurance carriers explaining why the City thought their position was incorrect. He noted his appreciation of staff’s investigation and reiterated that it appeared that not much could be done at that point to improve the situation.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz echoed Councilman Long’s comments and supported his suggestion to develop a form letter that residents could use when encountering problems obtaining fire insurance. He added that this information should also be placed on the City’s website.
City Attorney Lynch explained that she was reluctant to provide a blanket letter to the insurance companies; and added that if Council chose to follow the provisions of state law and exclude certain areas of the City from the requirements of this legislation, i.e. designating areas that were currently covered as areas that should not be within very high fire hazard zones, then the City had a basis for sending out that letter. She added that coming up with another set of maps that may not be of any relevance to the insurance companies might not be very helpful.
Councilman Long indicated that he was suggesting that there may be a way, with or without the help of the County Fire Department, for the City to state that it did not believe it was in a very high fire hazard area as defined in the statute because the City believed it had good fire protection, that the area was built out and was no longer the rural area that it once was.
City Attorney Lynch noted her reluctance to make any representation that doesn’t completely follow the provisions of what state law authorized the City to do; stated that if Council wanted to remove certain parts of the City from this zone that were fully developed and were not within any canyons, etc., then Council could take that action and ask that the matter be placed on a future agenda.
Councilman Gardiner asked that this information be placed on the City’s website in a PDF format and stated he was not in favor of taking any further action at that point.
Councilman Stern echoed Councilman Gardiner’s comments, stated that he believed there was nothing the City could do, other than making this information readily available to its residents.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked that the recommendations on Page Nos. 4 and 12 in the staff report be placed on the City’s website and that those recommendations be consolidated into a list and made available to the public at City Hall.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Wolowicz, to receive and file the report, with instructions to staff to post the report on the City’s website in a way that makes it accessible to the residents and that staff formulate a program to publicly disseminating some of the fire safety suggestions contained in the report and report back to Council. There being no objection, Mayor pro tem Wolowicz so ordered.
Incentives for Energy Efficient Building
City Manager Evans reviewed the staff report and the recommendation that Council direct staff to prepare a report describing incentives that the City could offer developers to encourage them to construct energy efficient buildings.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that several months earlier, he attended the annual meeting of the South Bay Council of Governments, the theme of which was energy efficiency and related topics; advised that good information had been distributed at this meeting; and noted that the City had taken many of the steps suggested to incorporate energy efficiency in its own buildings. He questioned the possibility of providing incentives to encourage energy efficiency for new buildings or other projects; and asked that staff look at other cities to see if they provided incentives and return with some recommendations for Council to consider.
Councilman Long questioned the practicality of providing any incentives in this economic era of local government; and suggested that if any comparisons to other cities were done, that they be similar to this City in terms of budget and population.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that the incentives didn’t necessarily have to be monetary in nature.
Councilman Gardiner questioned where this incentive project fell within Council’s prioritized list of approximately 30 projects.
City Manager Evans noted that staff could update the priority list and bring it back to Council.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz recommended that this matter be placed on the list.
CLOSED SESSION REPORT:
City Attorney Lynch stated that with regard to the first item, no action was taken; and with regard to the second item concerning the threat of litigation, Council gave staff direction as to how to negotiate a possible resolution, but that no final action was taken.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:07 P.M.