M I N U T E S
RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
MAY 17, 2005
The meeting was called to order at 7:03 p.m. by Mayor Clark at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, Rancho Palos Verdes.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Stern, Long, Wolowicz, Clark
ABSENT: Gardiner (excused absence)
Also present were City Manager Les Evans; City Attorney Carol Lynch; Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Carolynn Petru; Director of Finance Dennis McLean; Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Joel Rojas; Director of Public Works Dean Allison; Senior Planner Ara Mihranian; Senior Administrative Analyst Lauren Ramezani; Associate Planner Eduardo Schonborn; and Minutes Reporter Debra Presutti.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by retired Captain Robert Barry, Sr.
Mayor Clark announced John Yoshida as recycler of the month and encouraged the City’s residents to continue recycling.
The Mayor’s Did You Know presentation focused on wildlife on the Peninsula. He noted the beneficial qualities of skunks, raccoons, and possums in reducing garden pests, such as slugs and snails, and encouraged the City’s residents to exercise tolerance and respect for their fellow cohabitants, he advocated that people modify their property to discourage nesting and utilizing deterrents such as removing temptations, i.e., pet food and fallen fruit, to discourage unwanted visits rather than trapping these animals. He reminded the audience that it was rattlesnake season and advised everyone to exercise caution when in open space areas or vacant lots to avoid getting bitten.
Recognition of a Blue Star Family
Mayor Clark presented the City’s first Blue Star recognition to the family of Air Force Captain Robert M. Barry, Jr. The presentation was made to his parents, Joan and Bob Barry, with the assistance of Army Master Sergeant Roy Beal, from the Army’s 104th Division. Mayor Clark urged other RPV residents with family members serving in the military to inform the City staff so they and their families could be recognized for their service.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Mayor Clark suggested moving Item No. 17, Proposal for Increased Traffic Enforcement on the PV Drive East Switchback area, before Item No. 12, Appeal of a Grading Permit for property located at 49¼ Rockinghorse.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz to approve the Agenda, as amended. There being no objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
CITY MANAGER REPORTS:
City Clerk Petru reminded the audience that items previously discussed and continued to a future meeting were posted on the City’s website at www.palosverdes.com/rpv.
APPROVAL OF CONSENT CALENDAR:
Councilman Long requested that Item No. 9, Claim Against the City by Ara M. Boyajian, be removed from the Consent Calendar for comment.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru advised Council that late correspondence had been received and distributed on Item No. 7, Award of Professional Services Contract for Public Information Services Regarding Proposed Water Quality and Flood Protection Program.
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 March 1, 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.
Adoption of Findings for the Second System Performance Audit of the 2000 Cable Television Franchise Agreement with Cox Communications
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-44, MAKING FINDINGS REGARDING THE SECOND SCHEDULED SYSTEM PERFORMANCE AUDIT OF THE 2000 CABLE TELEVISION FRANCHISE AGREEMENT.
Citywide Landscaping and Lighting Maintenance District
1) ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-45, INITIATING PROCEEDINGS FOR THE LEVY AND COLLECTION OF ASSESSMENTS WITHIN THE CITYWIDE LANDSCAPING AND LIGHTING MAINTENANCE DISTRICT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005-2006 AND ORDERING THE ENGINEER TO PREPARE A REPORT IN CONNECTION THEREWITH; 2) ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-46, APPROVING THE ENGINEER’S REPORT IN CONNECTION WITH THE LEVY AND COLLECTION OF ASSESSMENTS WITHIN THE CITYWIDE LANDSCAPING AND LIGHTING MAINTENANCE DISTRICT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005-2006; and, 3) ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-47, DECLARING THE CITY COUNCIL’S INTENTION TO LEVY AND COLLECT ASSESSMENTS WITHIN THE CITYWIDE LANDSCAPING AND LIGHTING MAINTENANCE DISTRICT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005-2006 AND SETTING A TIME AND PLACE FOR HEARING OBJECTIONS THERETO.
Award of Professional Services Contract for Engineering Services Regarding Water Quality and Flood Protection Program – Proposed Storm Drain User Fee
Approved the attached Professional Services Agreement for Engineering Services with Harris & Associates for services associated with the process for the mail-back ballot for the proposed Storm Drain User Fee for the Water Quality and Flood Protection Program for an amount "not to exceed" $50,100.
Award of Professional Services Contract for Public Information Services Regarding Proposed Water Quality and Flood Protection Program
Approved the revised Professional Services Agreement with Moore Iacofano Goltsman, Inc. for public information consulting services regarding the proposed Water Quality and Flood Protection Program for an amount "not to exceed" $37,150.
Award of Professional Services Contract for Independent Audit Services
Approved the attached Professional Services Agreement for Independent Audit services with Vavrinek, Trine, Day & Co., LLP for an amount "not to exceed" $29,900.
Claim Against the City by Ara M. Boyajian
Removed from the Consent Calendar for comment. (See below.)
On-Call Professional Service Agreements – Limit Increase
1) Authorized the contract limit increase from $ 60,000 to $90,000 and the per task limit from $25,000 to $40,000 for on-call engineering services with Charles Abbott and Associates; and, 2) Authorized a contract limit increase from $60,000 to $90,000 and the per task limit from $25,000 to $30,000 for on-call engineering services with DMc Engineering Inc.
Register of Demands
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-48, 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 Stern moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, to approve the Consent Calendar, as amended.
The motion to approve the Consent Calendar carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Wolowicz, Long, Stern, Clark
REMOVED FROM THE CONSENT CALENDAR:
Claim Against the City by Ara M. Boyajian
Councilman Long, noting that he had raised this issue previously, advised his colleagues that rather than evaluating the merits of the claim, Council was being asked to expedite its disposition, saying that he did not believe that was the intention or design of the claims procedure under the Tort Claims Act. He stated that he would prefer not to have the claims of RPV’s citizens denied as a matter of course without the City’s claims adjuster evaluating the claim and providing an assessment. He remarked that the City would likely receive numerous claims related to recent storm damage and he was very displeased with the operation of the current system.
Councilman Stern agreed, saying his understanding of the claims statute adopted by the State was that it was designed to provide an opportunity for governments to act on claims and settle them in good faith without the burden of litigation. He noted the trade-off was a shorter statute of limitations being imposed on claimants, saying that, while there was certainly a benefit to that, he wholeheartedly agreed that the City should evaluate the merits of individual claims. He declared that this option was not being provided by the insurance structure under which the City was currently operating.
City Manager Evans reminded the Council that the Executive Director of CJPIA would be presenting a session dealing with risk management at the upcoming California Contract Cities conference on May 21st and suggested that all four Council members attend that session and discuss the situation with the other representatives in attendance.
Councilman Long, noting that he felt it was a good suggestion, advised that he would attempt to effectuate some change as the City’s representative to the CJPIA.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to Reject the claim and direct staff to notify the claimant. The motion passed without objection.
REGULAR NEW BUSINESS (Item taken out of order):
Proposal for Increased Traffic Enforcement on the Palos Verdes Drive East Switchback Area
City Manager Evans provided Council with a brief introduction of the topic and indicated that Captain Jay Zuanich, of the Lomita Sheriff’s Station, was present to provide a more thorough presentation or to answer any questions.
Councilman Long requested that the specific hours of enforcement activity be removed from the website, suggesting it would be more appropriate if that information were not easily accessible by the public.
Captain Zuanich agreed that the specific times should not be posted on the website, saying the intent of that information in the staff report was to provide Council with a basic idea of the cost involved, with the actual hours of enforcement remaining flexible. He reported that traffic problems on this particular stretch of roadway had plagued the City for some time but had not been given focused attention. He advised Council that the Lomita Sheriff’s Station was currently responding to 15 directed patrol requests in the region; that the City pays for approximately 60 percent of two deputies strictly devoted to traffic enforcement or the equivalent of 1.2 deputies with some assistance from CORE and patrol deputies; and, that it was impossible for these officers to be everywhere they were needed at the same time. He indicated they had been aware of the motorcycle racing problems on PV Drive East and had tried to maintain a presence in the area but, due to staffing constraints, they had only been able to deal with the situation on a reactive rather than a proactive basis. He stated that the recent death of a motorcyclist put particular emphasis on the situation compelling Mayor Clark to contact the Lomita Station and request that a program be developed to address the problem. Captain Zuanich indicated that the patrol and CORE deputies were directed to spend more time on PV Drive East in response to the Mayor’s request, which resulted in 127 citations being written between Marymount College and PV Drive South from March 15th to May 17th.
Councilman Long, agreeing that PV Drive East was obviously a problem with the switchbacks in particular being one of the most dangerous areas for speeding on the Peninsula, noted that there were other major downhill sections, i.e. Hawthorne and Crenshaw Boulevards, that also struck him as particularly dangerous roadways in terms of excessive speeding. He remarked that he had observed some periodic enforcement on the downhill portion of Hawthorne Boulevard and inquired how the Sheriff would respond to the potential needs in some of these other areas.
Captain Zuanich answered that the Lomita Sheriff’s Station received more complaints regarding the switchbacks on PV Drive East than for Hawthorne or Crenshaw. He advised that one of the primary difficulties was when there was an enforcement presence motorists did slow down and fewer accidents occurred but as soon as that presence was gone, traffic speeds went back up and that was, unfortunately, likely to be a recurring problem.
Mayor Clark commented that residents living in proximity to the PV Drive East switchbacks had noticed over the last few years that motorcycle racing clubs were using this area in large numbers, particularly on weekends, saying that he had been informed by some of the deputies that certain Internet sites had posted information identifying the switchbacks as one of the preferred racing spots in Southern California. He noted it was a very unique problem and that the City’s residents were becoming increasingly concerned for their safety when traveling on this section of the roadway.
Councilman Wolowicz declared that he appreciates the proactive nature of the proposed program, saying that he was heartened by it and grateful to the CORE deputies and other deputies who were willing to adjust their schedules to accommodate this plan. He reminded his colleagues that the City had been advised of another problem area that needed to be addressed, saying that he was alarmed to learn of the number of tickets issued and the severity of accidents occurring along Hawthorne Boulevard and, as the City prepared to take action on the PVDE switchbacks, he was equally concerned about those sections of Hawthorne Boulevard. He inquired if there might be some benefit in rotating this program among the other cities and roadways on the Peninsula.
Captain Zuanich responded that the program as currently designed would attempt to provide enforcement on both Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer months and, if it was successful in preventing accidents and keeping individuals from speeding, the program can be moved around to address other problem areas. He indicated the Lomita Station had titled the program RPV Summer Operations Switchback or RPV SOS, saying that the goal was to work the entire summer, focusing on the switchbacks first then moving to Hawthorne and Crenshaw Boulevards or wherever else enforcement was needed. He advised Council that the plan was to begin implementation of RPV SOS on June 18th with a DUI checkpoint and after that the CORE and traffic deputies as well as the Station’s uniformed reserve deputies would be asked to readjust their schedules to work every Sunday. He reported they would pool their resources during the summer to provide coverage on Sundays but would need financial support from the City in order to implement the program on both Saturdays and Sundays. He stated that they believed that the best mechanism to address the problem would be to position three radar-equipped deputies at various positions along the switchbacks, and constantly rotating that coverage as citations were written.
Captain Zuanich noted the possibility there may be no coverage or only limited coverage on a particular Saturday or Sunday, saying that due to staffing constraints he could not guarantee three deputies on both weekend days every week. He advised Council that Sheriff’s stations across the County were confronted with tight budgets and a shortage of deputies which meant officers were already working many overtime hours and there may be instances when they would be unable to provide the desired level of coverage, noting that the City would not be charged if that occurred. He indicated that the availability of CORE deputies would also be affected when school was back in session but, between June 18th and Labor Day, they would make a concerted effort to implement the program and send the message out to the community that proactive steps were being taken to improve public safety.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz inquired if the officers would have the discretion to conduct enforcement in other locations of the City.
Captain Zuanich answered in the affirmative and indicated that their initial focus would be on PV Drive East and, once that problem was satisfactorily resolved, the program could be relocated to different areas to address other trouble spots. He indicated that the Sheriff would also provide weekly reports to the City outlining the number and location of citations issued during the program.
Mayor Clark stated that Council and staff would appreciate that feedback as the program progressed over the summer. He inquired whether the deputies would have the ability to apply some of the DMV Codes associated with street racing, given the fact that there were motorcycle racing clubs involved. He noted his understanding that by utilizing sections of the Vehicle Code related to racing on public streets vehicles could be impounded and the drivers could be detained, saying that he would like those applicable sections studied and implemented as part of the proposed program.
Captain Zuanich indicated that there was a deputy from the Carson Station who was well versed in the relevant Vehicle Code sections and would be training the Lomita deputies. He affirmed that vehicles could be impounded as a consequence of street racing, saying that a section of the Vehicle Code allowed cities to charge for towing vehicles. He advised Council that the City of Lomita charged $85 and the City of Carson charged $125 for each car towed, noting this information had been submitted to staff and an analysis would have to be made to determine what would be a fair amount in RPV.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz queried if it would be possible for staff to make some recommendations regarding charges for vehicle towing and any other appropriate fees concurrent with the beginning of the program.
City Manager Evans replied that staff had a copy of Lomita’s ordinance and would bring back a recommendation to Council.
Tom Redfield, speaking on behalf of the Mediterranean Homeowners’ Association, indicated that their HOA was the most impacted by the speeding on PV Drive East, saying that the danger was not limited to only their residents, but included anyone using the switchbacks. He strongly urged Council to support the proposed three-month RPV SOS program and reminded the Council members that this was only one of several problem traffic areas that had been identified on the Peninsula. He suggested expanding the definition of the switchbacks to include the area north of Marymount College rather than limiting it to the intersections of PVDE and PVDS, saying that much of the speeding occurred further up the roadway. He also suggested that strong penalties be applied to violators as the Mayor had recommended. He thanked everyone for their attention to the matter and, speaking as Chair of the Revival and Renaissance Coalition, commended Council for the progress it had made toward achieving its strategic goals and the major steps taken with respect to the Mira Vista traffic calming study and the creation of the new Traffic Safety Commission.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to 1) Approve the "RPV Summer Operations Switchback" temporary traffic enforcement program at Level 2, as described in the staff report; 2) Request the Sheriff to provide City staff with weekly citation reports during the enforcement period; 3) Direct staff to bring back an item to Council to establish traffic fines for towing of vehicles and other citations associated with street racing; 4) Expand the enforcement area on Palos Verdes Drive East to include the four-lane section located between Ganado Drive and Diamonte Lane; Provide the Sheriff with leeway to adjust the specific times for the six-hour weekend shifts; and 5) Establish a not to exceed cost of $14,479.90.
The motion passed on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Long, Wolowicz, Stern, Clark
Appeal of a Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2003-00088), for property located at 49¼ Rockinghorse [Applicant/Property Owner/Appellant: Stan Rinehart] (Continued from February 1, 2005)
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to receive and file the applicant’s request to withdraw the appeal.
Residential Solid Waste and Recycling Rate Adjustments for Waste Management of Los Angeles for FY 05-06
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru advised Council that late correspondence on the item had been distributed earlier in the meeting.
Senior Analyst Ramezani made a brief presentation of the staff report.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz requested a history of rate increases since July 2000.
Senior Analyst Ramezani advised Council that trash rates remained the same for the first two years, as required by the contract; that the rate was decreased during the third year; that there was a rate increase of less than three percent the previous year; and, that the proposed increase for the current year was less than three percent.
Councilman Stern remarked that he was particularly pleased to see that electronic waste had been added, noting that this service was of great benefit to RPV’s residents.
Mayor Clark declared the Public Hearing open.
Doug Falkenberg, representing Waste Management, introduced himself and indicated that he was available to answer any questions.
Mayor Clark inquired why the City was seeing this rate increase and asked for a status report on the trucks servicing RPV in terms of their becoming more environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient.
Mr. Falkenberg explained that the rate increase was in response to increased basic operational costs and tipping fees (the cost to dump trash at certain facilities). He noted that there was currently a move in the waste collection industry to replace diesel fuel with natural gas vehicles, saying that all of Waste Management’s vehicles had been or were in the process of being retrofitted with clean air devices to meet current emission standards. He commented that some of the new franchise agreements were mandating clean air restrictions, adding that all refuse collection companies would have to comply with these restrictions at some point.
Councilman Long reported that Waste Management now serviced RPV and RHE which meant that in his neighborhood on Browndeer Lane and Whitley Collins Drive instead of eight trucks from two different haulers being in the area on two days, there were now seven Waste Management trucks in the area on three different days. On behalf of residents in the area, he inquired if an improvement could be made by better coordination of the pickups between the two cities.
Mr. Falkenberg responded that the matter was being was discussed at a recent meeting of the Rolling Hills Estates City Council and a subcommittee of that Council had been formed to study the matter with Waste Management to determine how best to address the situation. He indicated that the RHE City Council was very sincere about resolving this problem, particularly Councilman Zuckerman, adding that he was not sure of the specific outcome yet, but that it would definitely involve a reduction in the number of vehicles.
Councilman Stern suggested that Mayor Clark coordinate with the City of RHE, saying that RPV’s participation in their subcommittee to find a solution to this problem was certainly appropriate.
Mayor Clark agreed with Councilman Stern, saying that he would be open to a motion proposing that he and Councilman Long join the RHE subcommittee.
City Attorney Lynch recommended that the item be placed on an upcoming agenda.
Mr. Falkenberg reported that the preliminary results from the pilot program, which introduced three-cart automated trash recycling and green waste collection, was very favorable, saying that trash volumes were down and recycling was up approximately ten percent. He noted that there were also about 200 outstanding cart orders, two-thirds were for recycling and green waste carts, saying that it appeared the trend of diverting trash to recycling would continue to improve.
Councilman Long remarked that as someone who resided in one of the test areas he had the opportunity to attend the kickoff meeting, saying that the information provided was extremely helpful. He noted that bin orders had been amazingly quick, particularly given the high number of exchanges at the beginning of the program, and that the quality of the new bins was vastly superior to their predecessors.
Mayor Clark closed the Public Hearing.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to 1) Approve the maximum rate that Waste Management of Los Angeles can charge single-family customers in FY 05-06; 2) Approve the maximum rate that Waste Management of Los Angeles can charge multi-family customers in FY 05-06; and, 3) Amend the agreement to include free curbside collection of electronics waste, subject to a $10 handling/assistance fee if the customer requested that the item to be collected at a location other than curbside due to its large size or heavy weight.
Residential Solid Waste and Recycling Rate Adjustments for Universal Waste Systems, dba Ivy Rubbish Disposal for FY 05-06
Mayor Clark suggested dispensing with the staff report. All Council members agreed.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz asked for the recent history of rate increases.
Senior Analyst Ramezani indicated that the disposal locations for Ivy Rubbish were different than Waste Management’s, which explained the slight difference in percentages between the rates, saying that the rate increases were calculated based on the tipping fee for the disposal facilities used. She indicated that the rates remained the same for the first two years of the contract; that Ivy Rubbish did have a slight increase in their costs during the third year but waived any rate increase; that there was a slight increase the previous year; and, that an increase of less than three percent was proposed for the current year.
Mayor Clark opened the Public Hearing.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru stated that there were no requests to speak.
Mayor Clark closed the Public Hearing.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to 1) Approve the maximum rate that Universal Waste Systems, Inc. dba Ivy Rubbish Disposal can charge single-family customers for FY 05-06; 2) Approve the maximum rate that Universal Waste Systems, Inc. dba Ivy Rubbish Disposal can charge multi-family customers in FY 05-06; and, 3) Amend the agreement to include the free collection of electronics waste, subject to a $10 handling/assistance fee if the customer requested that the item to be collected at a location other than curbside due to its large size or heavy weight.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Clark recessed the meeting at 8:32 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 8:51 p.m.
Mayor Clark inquired if his colleagues had any proposed changes to the remainder of the Agenda.
Noting the time and number of requests to speak, Councilman Long moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, to consider Regular Business Item No. 18, the Long Point Resort Project, as the next item. The motion passed by acclamation.
Long Point Resort Project (Conditional Use Permit No. 215, et. al)
Senior Planner Mihranian provided the staff report with the assistance of a PowerPoint presentation.
Councilman Stern, noting that an email had been received from Dena Friedson and Ann Shaw questioning the aggregate number of hotel rooms, requested clarification of that issue.
Senior Planner Mihranian indicated that the total number of hotel rooms was the same as in the original request in 2004, noting that 51 rooms would be for sale with a breakdown as follows: 19 individual hotel rooms and 16 suites. He indicated that because each suite had two keys, these counted as 32 units for sale, arriving at the 51 total when added to the 19 individual rooms
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz clarified the numbers in terms of the number of keys instead of the number of units and explained that the hotel would 400 keys, the casitas would have 150 keys and the villas would have 32 keys for a grand total of 582. He indicated that number had remained consistent, saying what had changed was the number of rooms to be financed through private investment ownership.
In response to a question from Councilman Long, Senior Planner Mihranian clarified that the developer was not requesting a change in the number of for-sale units in the hotel as part of the request currently before the City Council.
Bob Lowe, Lowe Enterprises, thanked Planner Mihranian for his hard work and clear understanding of the proposed improvements, saying that staff’s efforts were very much appreciated. He reported that each Council member recently spent time visiting the project to better familiarize themselves with the plan and improvements.
Councilman Stern noted that he was grateful for the invitation to visit the site, saying that it provided him the distinct advantage of having many questions answered as well as the ability to explore the project in great detail.
Councilman Long concurred, saying that he appreciated the time Mr. Lowe and his staff spent discussing the project and answering his questions. He declared that the public should make themselves aware of the greater scope of what was happening with the project, i.e. that public views were being improved; the size of the hotel footprint was actually being reduced; and, ocean views from the hotel were being expanding dramatically. He maintained that he could not find anything detrimental, only favorable improvements to a plan that was already quite good. He complimented Mr. Lowe and his organization for making such outstanding improvements to the project.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz echoed Councilman Long’s sentiments, saying that the City and Council had watched the plans for this hotel project develop over the years, and while he felt some of the changes were significant and complex, overall they would improve the project. He noted that Council had been assured that none of the changes would encroach into the coastal setback areas and indicated that that a project showroom would be opening shortly, thereby allowing the public the opportunity to observe what was happening on the property and satisfy themselves that these latest changes to the project were being done in a manner that was consistent with the 200-plus requirements that had been placed on the project.
Mr. Lowe indicated they plan to have the viewing room or "Discovery Center" open by July 15th and encouraged everyone in the community to stop in.
Mayor Clark inquired if there were plans to create a new name for the resort and requested a status report on the golf amenity.
Mr. Lowe answered that they were currently working on a new name for the resort, which would be announced in the near future. He reported that they were investigating the pros and cons of converting the existing three golf holes and driving range into a ten-hole teaching academy, saying they believed it would provide some interesting instructional aspects for guests of the resort as well as the community, enhance the landscaping on that portion of the property, and allow more natural areas than the current plan. He added that they were working with the City’s golf safety expert, noting they would bring the new design back to Council if everything went according to plan.
Mayor Clark remarked that the Discover Center was a wonderful idea and strongly encouraged Mr. Lowe and his team to continue their public outreach, saying that there had been a great deal of anticipation in the community to see this major project become a reality.
Bob Nelson, representing the Sea Bluff Homeowners’ Association, voiced support for the project and indicated his HOA was looking forward to seeing the project’s completion. He urged Council to adopt staff’s recommendation to approve the proposed modifications.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, to accept the project revisions as minor modifications in substantial compliance with the original City Council approvals.
The motion passed on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Long, Stern, Wolowicz, Clark
Appeal of the denial of Case No. ZON2004-00174, a Site Plan Review, for property located at 6311 Tarragon Road [Applicant/Land Owner/Appellant: Lenee Barden]
Mayor Clark declared the Public Hearing open.
Associate Planner Schonborn provided the staff report.
Phillip Balikian, representing Emil Leveniec and Lenee Barden, advised Council that the structure under consideration was the replacement of an older balcony which was permitted and built in 1982; that the former balcony was in poor condition and the wood was rotting; that the property owners decided to repair and replace the necessary timbers and hired a reputable contractor to perform the work; that plans were submitted to the City’s Planning Department on April 8, 2004; that the project was already underway when an anonymous complaint was received by the City; that the project was subsequently halted for approximately a month and a half due to the complaint; that communication took place between the homeowners and the City during the hiatus and it was the contractor’s understanding that he could proceed; and, that the contractor moved forward, completing the project.
Mr. Balikian professed that the structure was not an addition and that a misnomer had been used in the staff reports referring to it as an "enclosed patio". He maintained it was not; it was the replacement of a pre-existing balcony, the only difference being that the older balcony had a railing approximately four feet high around its perimeter whereas the new structure was surrounded by a facade of paneling and glass with screens to facilitate air movement. He noted that the previous structure had an partial overhang from the roof which was extended to the perimeter of the balcony thereby enclosing it; that the balcony was structurally sound, earthquake proof, and easily inspected; that the scale was identical to the prior structure; that it was located in the same area as the original balcony, did not block anyone’s view nor infringe on anyone else’s property rights; that the architectural style was close to the Monterey style depicted in the Planning Department’s pamphlets; that it was an attractive structure which did not alter the streetscape; and, that it was painted and had widows which were identical to the rest of the house so there was no mismatching. He advised Council that the balcony was enclosed for safety reasons to prevent individuals, particularly children, from falling over the railing as well as to help eliminate traffic noise and that the majority of the adjacent neighbors were favorably disposed to the new structure.
Mr. Balikian reported that the property owners had spent $30,000 thus far in addition to the appeals fees; that they had substantially complied with the City’s ordinances, the modification was minor, and they did not believe that they had violated any County regulations or codes; and, that the decision made in this case was arbitrary and capricious which was susceptible to being overruled in a court of law. He implored Council to allow the appellants to retain the new structure.
Councilman Stern, noting the staff report indicated that a 240 square foot balcony was permitted in 1982, asked about the extent of the overhang and whether it extended beyond that permitted balcony.
Mr. Balikian answered it was a standard three-foot overhang.
Councilman Stern remarked that the diagram on circle Page 17 of the staff report indicated that the overhang was ten feet, noting that it appeared to have been substantially extended with the new roof, and the diagrams also appeared to show that the entire balcony was now enclosed with double-paned glass.
Mr. Balikian replied that the original overhang was removed and replaced by the roof and the lower two feet of the enclosure consisted of wood paneling topped by approximately four feet of glass.
Councilman Stern stated his understanding of the Planning Commission’s decision was that the appellants failed to obtain a permit for the rebuild of the preexisting balcony; it required that the enclosure be removed - not the balcony; and, if Council upheld that decision, the appellants still had the opportunity to seek approval to permit the rebuilding of the preexisting balcony.
Associate Planner Schonborn concurred with Councilman Stern’s statements.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz questioned whether the contractor working on the project represented to the homeowners that as-built plans had been submitted to the City.
Mr. Balikian stated that he had a copy of that document which was stamped by the Planning Department.
Councilman Stern noted that the plan was actually submitted to the City after the structure was built in 2003.
Mr. Balikian indicated that there was communication with the City once construction had started on the project and was subsequently halted, saying that the plans were submitted during this hiatus in the building process.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz remarked that it appeared the City was in possession of documents for approval prior to the onset of construction.
Director Rojas explained the matter was brought to staff’s attention by an inspector who visited the project in 2003 and determined that an enclosure was being built without the requisite permits; that the inspector advised the owners they could go through the process and attempt to legalize the structure; that the owners then submitted an application for approval; and, that application was subsequently denied.
Associate Planner Schonborn advised Council that the City’s Building Inspector visited the site to verify whether there was in fact no- permitted work being performed on the reconstructed balcony and it was concluded that a new patio enclosure was being built.
City Attorney Lynch pointed out that the Planning Department’s stamp only indicated the date that the plan had been submitted to the City and was not the same as a stamp of approval.
Lois Hendricks-Class, 6320 Tarragon Road, indicated that her property was located diagonally across from the property in question, saying that she and her family had the best view of the subject home and were the most affected by it. She opined that the porch was beautiful, enhanced the neighborhood, and did not interfere with anyone’s views or cause any other problems. She reported that all the homes on the street were very unique and original in appearance and, since there was so much diversity, the appellants’ home blended in nicely. She urged Council to allow them to keep their porch as constructed.
Lois Larue, RPV, opined that the Planning Commissioners made a great mistake in this instance. She commented that, while she had a tremendous amount of admiration for Director Rojas, she was disappointed that he upheld the Commissions denial of the appellants’ permit.
Emil Leveniec, 6311 Tarragon Road, responding to the reason for the delay in the construction of the project, referred to a meeting he had with City Manager Evans and Planner Schonborn about a mistake that the City had made in issuing the permit. He stated that the person who was handling the case was no longer in the City’s employ and that he was informed that the City mistakenly issued the permit and subsequently waived his fee, although he was not clear as to why this was done. He disagreed that the enclosed balcony was incompatible neighborhood compatibility, saying that his house was in an older area that consisted of individually styled homes – one with a pool in the front yard, another with a large irregularly shaped tennis court, one with a paddle ball court in the front yard, and 7,000 square foot French/Mediterranean chateau-style house at 6375 Palos Verdes Drive South which was certainly incompatible with the other smaller homes in the area. He opined that there appeared to be a double standard being applied to the subject property when all of these factors were taken into consideration.
Councilman Long noted that the minutes of the Planning Commission meeting addressing the matter do not reflect that Mr. Leveniec had spoken and inquired if he attended that meeting.
Mr. Leveniec stated that he had received no notice of the meeting and was informed after the fact by a neighbor that it had taken place and what had transpired.
Councilman Stern requested verification of the sequence of events. He understood that in 1982 a permit was granted for a 240 square foot balcony with a roof overhang, but that no permit was applied for when reconstruction of the balcony commenced in 2003.
Mr. Leveniec indicated that they believed no permit was necessary since they were merely replacing the existing balcony.
Councilman Stern noted that the roof was extended and the balcony was fully enclosed with wood paneling and glass; that a permit still had not been applied for and then, at some point during construction, the appellants were notified there was a zoning violation.
Mr. Leveniec explained at that point the contractor submitted the plans and the matter went to the Planning Commission but there was no record that the plans had been received.
Councilman Stern advised Mr. Leveniec that the decision of the Planning Commission obligated the property owner to remove the enclosure but left open the possibility of applying for the balcony to be approved.
Paul Tetreault, Chair of the Planning Commission, indicated that the staff report accurately reflected the decision-making process of the Commission, saying its decision was made on the grounds of neighborhood compatibility and the finding that there was a distinct difference between an open balcony and an enclosed space. He noted that there was now some discussion whether the enclosure was actually a balcony with a high rail, saying that these arguments were not presented to the Commission and that the Commission had considered it to be, as staff has also concluded, an enclosed space and not a balcony, and it therefore must comply with the Neighborhood Compatibility requirements of the City’s ordinance.
Lenee Barden, 6311 Tarragon Road, reported that the balcony was so infested with termites that an entire side had fallen down; that the floor was rotten; and, that the structure was very weak and she that feared for the safety of the family’s children.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, remarking he was disturbed by the timing, queried if the structure as currently built was considered to be safe, given its weight, and whether it would meet the existing codes for a habitable room since it appeared that was how it was currently being used.
Planner Schonborn answered that the answer to these questions could only be answered by sending a Building Inspector out to investigate the structural integrity of the enclosure.
Councilman Stern declared that it was extremely unfortunate that the appellants did not proceed in the correct order by obtaining the necessary permit to rebuild the balcony prior to its construction. He stated that, while he appreciated the fact that the balcony was old, decrepit, termite infested, and badly in need of a rebuild, none of that excused the property owners’ failure to comply with the City’s permit process. He concurred with the Planning Commission’s analysis, noting that what was now built appeared to be stuck on and in his opinion was not compatible with the rest of the neighborhood. He indicated he would move to uphold the decision of the Planning Commission, noting that it would not preclude the property owner from applying for a permit to rebuild the preexisting balcony. He noted that, while he appreciated the comments of applicant’s counsel, he could not accept the representation that the overhang was merely extended, saying that the pictures represent something dramatically different.
Mr. Balikian requested time for rebuttal and avowed that the picture of the old balcony clearly depicted the overhang, saying that he was not exaggerating when he stated it was there and appeared to be a standard three-foot overhang. He implored Council to reconsider and find some mechanism to save the project by allowing his client to apply for a permit, albeit after the fact, and pay for that permit and any required inspection fees. He reiterated that the issue of neighborhood compatibility was a matter of opinion and pleaded that his clients be allowed to salvage their project by doing now what they arguably should have done at the outset.
Mayor Clark closed the Public Hearing.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to deny the appeal and uphold the Planning Commission’s denial of Case No. ZON2004-00174 for a Site Plan Review. The Resolution for this item would be brought back for adoption on May 31, 2005.
Councilman Long observed that this appeared to be a situation where the balcony was decayed and in need of major reconstruction, but rather than replace the balcony, a decision was made to build a room there instead. He agreed with the Planning Commission’s finding that while it may have been an appropriate place for a balcony it was not appropriate for a room. He asserted that unless decisions like this were made and upheld, an incentive was created for people to build whatever they choose thereby making the City’s Planning Ordinances impossible to effectively enforce.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz echoed Councilman Long’s statement, adding that, unfortunately, someone got it backwards and attempted to build a room before it was approved. He noted that, although the City’s building compatibility guidelines were very clear, he did not find the structure in question objectionable in the context of the rest of the neighborhood. He opined that things might have turned out differently for the appellants if matters had proceeded in the proper order, saying that they surely would have known that extending the overhang an additional ten feet and enclosing the room was inconsistent with the previous structure.
City Attorney Lynch advised Council that she would fine tune and add additional findings to the resolution before it was presented again to Council.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz sated that he would vote to uphold the Planning Commission’s decision, albeit it reluctantly.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Wolowicz, Long, Stern, Clark
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Clark recessed the meeting at 10:13 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 10:20 p.m.
ZON2004-00589 (Weed Abatement Request for Lower Filiorum) – An Appeal of the Director’s Determination that a proposed Weed Abatement Action, as Conditioned, is Exempt from the Prohibitions of the City’s Coastal Sage Scrub Urgency Ordinance (Appellants: York Long Point Associates, California Native Plant Society and the Sierra Club)
Discussed immediately following City Council Oral Reports (see below).
CITY COUNCIL ORAL REPORTS:
Councilman Stern met the preceding week with Mr. Lowe and his organization to discuss the Long Point project; on May 14th he attended the League of Women Voters presentation with guest speakers former RPV Mayors Marilyn Ryan and Ann Shaw along with Barbara Gleghorn and Barbara Dye. He indicated it was an absolutely excellent program that provided a great deal of history regarding the formation of the City, the many challenges that were faced, and the role a number of women played in the process.
Councilman Long indicated that he had also met with Mr. Lowe the preceding week; attended the League of Women Voters meeting on May 11th as well as their presentation on the May 14th. He indicated it was a very interesting lesson on the history of the Peninsula and the formation of the City. Under the leadership of Gabriella Holt and her team, he attended the taping of a RPV City Talk with Barbara Dye to discuss the City’s efforts to purchase open space.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz attended the Schweitzer School luncheon on May 11th honoring women of the year for their community leadership in the greater South Bay area; on May 13th he celebrated the news that there would be no closure of the L.A. Air Force Base; on May 14th he attended the League of Women Voters salute to the founding women of RPV. He noted that the City owes a tremendous amount to these leaders who were indeed visionaries. Along with Mayor Clark, he met with Mr. Lowe regarding the Long Point project that morning.
Mayor Clark indicated that he had met that morning with Mr. Lowe and his group regarding the status of the Long Point project; attended the League of Women Voters’ luncheon honoring the founders of the City. He indicated that these women were instrumental in saving the Peninsula from over development and stated that he was sorry it was not telecast or tape recorded. He indicated that it would be wonderful to do interview them on tape before too much more time had past to share their memories regarding the fight for local control on the Peninsula with future generations. He also attended the annual Del Cerro Homeowners’ Association meeting on May 11th.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (continued):
ZON2004-00589 (Weed Abatement Request for Lower Filiorum) – An Appeal of the Director’s Determination that a proposed Weed Abatement Action, as Conditioned, is Exempt from the Prohibitions of the City’s Coastal Sage Scrub Urgency Ordinance (Appellants: York Long Point Associates, California Native Plant Society and the Sierra Club)
Mayor Clark declared the Public Hearing open.
Director Rojas presented the staff report, noting that a letter had been received questioning why Dr. Mock’s recommendation to require the applicant to conduct a grassland assessment and rare plant survey after completion of the weed abatement and submit those findings to the City had not been included in the conditions of approval. He explained that Dr. Mock indicated that if the weed abatement was performed in accordance with the conditions, it could provide an opportunity to discover rare and sensitive plants that were exposed by the mowing and advised that staff was now recommending inclusion of this requirement as a condition of approval.
City Attorney Lynch stated that staff was also suggesting that additional language be added to the conditions to require replacement if any native cactus were removed from the property. She noted that staff could include this language into the resolution if Council so desired.
Councilman Long commented that the acacia trees mentioned in Condition No. 7 were fairly numerous, non-native, and not protected in any way, yet the applicant had indicated that he did not want to remove them.
Director Rojas clarified the applicant did not want to be required to remove them.
Councilman Long, noting his understanding that acacias were the most flammable plant on the property, inquired if the applicant had offered any explanation as to why he was opposed to such a requirement, if the motivation for the permit was fire control.
Director Rojas answered that he heard an explanation from the applicant indicating that he did not want to be forced to remove all of the acacias from the site at the same time.
Councilman Stern remarked that he, too, found this perplexing. He stated that he could not understand why, if the applicant’s intent as the owner and steward of the property was to manage it by removing fire fuel, maintaining existing fire roads, et cetera, the applicant was objecting to removing the most combustible material on the property. He advised that he would be listening intently for an explanation.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz requested that staff address the CEQA issues, saying that he would like to make certain that everything remained consistent with the NCCP requirements.
Director Rojas explained that the project did require CEQA review, noting that there were different levels of that review under the law. He advised that staff, in consultation with the City Attorney, determined that this particular action qualified for an exemption under CEQA because the vegetation would be mowed down rather than turned into the soil and would be subject to the conditions the City had imposed on the permit, saying that it was therefore unnecessary to perform a formal Initial Study for the project.
City Attorney Lynch clarified that because the latest weed abatement was proposed within the same parameters as prior weed abatements that had been conducted routinely on the property, it was not subject to the preparation of an EIR, unlike the proposed Point View grading project which was much more massive in scale and involved the re-grading and re-compacting of a significant portion of the property.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz indicated that, while he noticed some changes in the staff’s recommendation compared to its recommendations a year earlier, the changes were not inconsistent with the City’s previous concerns and what could and could not be mitigated would be determined by a botanist or biologist of the City’s choosing.
Gary Weber, representing York Long Point, distributed exhibits to Council including some photographs and indicated that, while the staff report was very complete and his client appreciated the efforts of Director Rojas and City Attorney Lynch, the property owner continued to object to some of the conditions. Noting that the conditions had been renumbered, he indicated that they were objecting to the following conditions as originally numbered: No. 4, requiring that a biologist monitor all weed abatement on the property. He asserted this was burdensome and unnecessary because Condition No. 3 required that all coastal sage scrub (CSS) be staked out and identified; therefore, it was unnecessary to require both activities. He indicated that they objected to Condition No. 5, which required that a biologist perform a nest survey if weed abatement was performed between February 15th and September 1st. He reported the application was filed last September specifically to avoid having to perform the weed abatement during the gnatcatcher breeding season. He contended that the ensuing delay had placed the abatement well into the breeding season, noting that this situation would not have occurred if the application had been processed in a reasonable period of time; hence, it was unreasonable to require the nest survey.
In response to an unnumbered condition requiring the replacement of cactus, Mr. Weber directed Council’s attention to a photograph from the City’s aerial photograph system taken in August 2003 in an area where Director Rojas discovered evidence that prickly pear cactus had been removed. He contended that York Long Point had nothing to do with the removal of the cactus, noting the photographs clearly show Edison power poles present in each of those locations. He reported that in conversation with Scott Gobble of the Edison Company, he was advised that Edison annually cleared a 10- to 12-foot diameter around every pole on the Peninsula, saying that, while they have no proof the cactus was removed by Edison, it seemed reasonable to conclude that the utility company had removed, damaged, or knocked down the cactus which were fragile and relatively easy to break, while performing brush clearance around the poles. He remarked that the staff report indicated that York Long Point, as the property owner, should have controlled this activity and countered that they wholeheartedly disagreed with this conclusion because the utility easement allowed the Edison Company to come onto the property at any time to perform maintenance to its facilities.
In closing, Mr. Weber emphasized they were not removing any CSS and were attempting to perform the weed abatement because they believed there was a serious fire hazard that extended well beyond the perimeter of the property.
Councilman Stern asked why York Long Point was objecting to the condition requiring removal of the most flammable material on the property if fire safety was the purported motive for the application.
Mr. Weber answered that he did not necessarily agree that acacia was the most flammable plant, saying that, while it was highly ignitable, so too were the six-foot high dry fennel and mustard plants. He asserted that staff would not have required this condition if York Long Point had not stated in writing over the last few years that they would voluntarily remove the acacia as part of an ongoing maintenance program. He reported that crews had been proceeding with the removal but that it was very costly and required significant effort, which made the removal of acres of acacia prohibitively expensive. He contended that there was less likelihood that a fire would reach these plants if the fire fuel around them were removed.
Councilman Stern asked if the applicant would be willing to implement some type of phased removal program.
Mr. Weber responded that York Long Point had already indicated they would voluntarily initiate an ongoing acacia removal program, saying that they would prefer not to be held to a specific phasing plan because it was a very expensive operation.
Councilman Stern, noting that the staff report related that some of the resource agencies had informally expressed concern about the applicant’s motives, queried if York Long Point had some ulterior motive in seeking this permit.
Mr. Weber declared that the property owner had the right to maintain the property and intended to maintain it by reducing the fire danger.
Scott Sommer, representing York Long Point, claimed that despite use of the word "clearing" in the staff report, what was actually under consideration was "mowing," which left the plant’s root systems intact. He emphasized that this application was originally submitted September 20, 2004 and was subsequently processed by City staff until February 15, 2005, which just happened to coincide with the start of the gnatcatcher breeding season. He opined that the five-month period it took to process the matter went unexplained, that is was unreasonable and, had the matter been subject to the permit streamline act requirements, that amount of time would be both unlawful and excessive. He remarked that the staff report indicated the ordinance was written to exempt legitimate weed abatement activities necessary for public safety such as fire protection, saying the statute the City had enacted defined weed abatement as the removal of vegetation by any means with no minimum area defined, thereby including the removal of any vegetation in its definition. He pointed out that under Development Code Section 17.41 it was unlawful to perform weed abatement on any property greater than two acres containing CSS habitat, saying the definition of the exemption was that it constituted removal of CSS or any other form of habitat modification or weed abatement whether the plants were endangered, threatened or not, with the only modest exception being the "exotic woodland" definition.
Mr. Sommer maintained that the City’s ordinance made it a misdemeanor for a property owner to simply pull a weed without a permit, saying that it was a property right enjoyed by anyone in the state, that it was not a violation of any federal or state statutes, but it constituted a criminal act in RPV. He claimed that the provision was overly broad, unnecessary and far in excess of the City’s powers and opined that the definitions of the exemptions reflected a carefully crafted exception to a written order by the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
He agreed with staff report findings that this was an exempt proceeding under CEQA; that no coastal sage scrub is involved; that the project was not within 50 feet of the drainage swale; that no trees were involved; and that the proposed method of removal was mowing. He stated that this exemption had required five months for staff to process the permit, as well as an additional three months of appeals, and warned that what had not being given adequate consideration was the very real fire hazard on the property, saying that there was nothing in the City’s ordinance that provided mitigation for fire hazards, other than extreme action taken by the City itself.
Mr. Sommer advised Council that several questions had arisen such as the need for an additional plant survey once the mowing was completed, saying that this requirement was not present in any of the applications and they object to that condition as well as the requirement for three to one replacement of the cactus.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that staff needed to verify with Edison the issue regarding the utility easement and removal of the cactus, saying that she would recommend deleting that condition.
Mr. Sommer noted that as far as the acacia were concerned, the City had no ordinance prohibiting acacias and there was no action before the Council with regard to that issue. He contended that staff was attempting to go far beyond the scope of the ordinance, saying that it should not have taken five months to process the permit and that the City was uniquely applying the ordinance to York Long Point.
Councilman Long remarked that Mr. Sommer’s appeal letter appeared to enumerate and find nearly every condition to be unreasonable, unnecessary, burdensome, et cetera; however, Mr. Weber indicated York Long Point was not objecting to every condition and had even acknowledged some of them to be reasonable. He inquired if Mr. Weber had misspoken or if there were any conditions he, too, thought were reasonable.
Mr. Sommer answered that they did not agree the conditions were reasonable, but that they did not object on practical grounds to Condition No’s. 1 and 3 and No. 7 as renumbered, noting that they did object to the previous Condition No. 7 dealing with the removal of acacias and the new requirement for a post-mowing plant survey.
Councilman Stern, again noting his understanding that the motivation for the weed abatement was purportedly fire prevention/protection, indicated that when staff conferred with the Fire Department personnel, they did not perceive the ordinance as an impediment to wildfire prevention. He asked if there was some other motivation for performing the weed abatement throughout much of the area.
Mr. Sommer responded the sole motivation was to avoid tort liability for wildfires and indicated that the area had a documented history of wildfires.
Councilman Stern, noting that Mr. Sommer had asserted in a number of letters that preventing Mr. York from performing the weed abatement constituted a taking, requested clarification of how the City limiting the removal of weeds on the property constituted an impediment of property rights.
Mr. Sommer responded that the City was interested in purchasing the Upper Filiorum property as open space and was using the weed abatement permit as a method of restricting development on the entire York property
Councilman Stern remarked that the Point View project, which was the subject of a soon-to-be-released EIR, was actually a separate project from this weed abatement request and was proceeding through the normal process. To the best of his knowledge, he indicated that the weed abatement permit had nothing to do with the Point View project. He asked Mr. Sommer again how the City’s action on the weed abatement permit constituted a taking.
Mr. Sommer indicated that the City had allowed the landslide moratorium to continue for years after satisfactory geological evidence had been provided to the City that the property was stable. He professed that they believed the NCCP process the City had embarked on was a misapplication of certain elements of the Fish and Game 2800 Series Statutes, and he reminded Council that the issue at hand was the City’s interference with a land owner’s right to perform routine fire prevention and weed clearing on his property. He cited the Del Monte Dunes case in Monterey County as an example where a city repeatedly interfered with a property owner’s property rights.
Councilman Stern declared that the other project had never come before Council; the Council had made no decision or pronouncement on it; and, he did not understand how limiting the ability to abate weeds on Lower Filiorum constituted a taking. He requested that Mr. Sommer focus his answer and not include those aspects of the project that were not currently before Council.
Mr. Sommer advised Council that his answer had taken those elements into consideration because it was a comprehensive matter.
Councilman Stern respectfully disagreed.
Barbara Sattler, President of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), related that Lori Kestler, of the Sierra Club, was planning to attend the meeting but was ill and would not be present. She urged Council to deny the project, saying that it was essentially the same application Council denied in 2003. She advised Council that in the opinion of CNPS’s attorney, who was an expert in CEQA law, this project did not qualify for a Class 4 exemption, noting that clearing 54 acres could not be considered a minor clearing and the project could impact endangered, rare, or threatened species. She indicated that CEQA had exceptions to exemptions, and because the subject property was an important habitat refuge for the gnatcatcher, it would qualify as an exception to a categorical exemption and would therefore require a full review under CEQA. She reported that CNPS’s attorney felt that the weed abatement was very closely related to the Point View project and there were impacts from this permit that could affect the conclusions of the Point View EIR; that the EIR was required to evaluate the on-site conditions at the time the Notice of Preparation (NOP) was issued in October 2003, and therefore, the condition of the property could not be modification without violating the EIR Process; that the mitigation options and alternatives in the EIR would be limited if the vegetation was altered prior to that review; that it would change the baseline conditions of the site; and, that fragmenting a project, which was exactly what was occurring, was not allowed under CEQA.
Ms. Sattler reported that there were also new issues of concern related to the current project regarding the biologic report submitted by the applicant. She specified that there were serious problems with the adequacy of the applicant’s report, which made it impossible to assert that there would be no impacts to sensitive species on the site; that there was an inherent conflict of interest in the report since it was funded, staffed, and directed by the applicant; that it came to the City from the applicant rather than directly from the consultant; that it did not follow California Department of Fish and Game guidelines; that it did not reference whether sensitive species would be visible on-site; and, that it did not include any mapping of the findings of the vegetation survey. She advised Council that surveys were performed simultaneously for sensitive birds and vegetation on 94 acres of property in 9.5 hours, which equated to just over six minutes per acre to locate sensitive species; that many plants should have been surveyed for but were never mentioned in the report, creating critical omissions in the report; that a source of plant food for the endangered Palos Verdes Blue Butterfly was located but there was no mention that a survey for the butterfly was performed; and, that there were many species previously known to occur on the property which were not cited in the report.
Ms. Sattler advised Council that CNPS and the Sierra Club believed that there were a number of serious flaws in the applicant biology report. She reiterated that it was certainly not adequate to assert that no impacts to sensitive species would result from clearing the vegetation and she strongly urged Council to deny the application and wait for the Point View project EIR to run its full course before making any further determinations regarding vegetation clearance on this site.
Councilman Long asked staff to comment on Ms. Sattler’s allegations regarding the biological survey.
Director Rojas responded that the comments related to the survey were similar to ones made previously and, although Dr. Mock had not reviewed these specific comments, his response had been that the risk of disturbing sensitive plants being could be avoided by adding a condition requiring a biological monitor to be at the site during clearing.
Councilman Long remarked that there was valid reason to question the credibility of a survey if the structure was such that the applicant hired the company to perform it, received the draft report, and then had the opportunity to make changes to it before it was submitted to the City. He questioned if the City could actually rely on the accuracy of the report being presented.
City Attorney Lynch advised Council that reports such as EIRs and geology reports were typically prepared by an applicant’s or developer’s expert and then submitted to the City for review. She reported that Dr. Mock reviewed the report after it was submitted and found the methodology utilized to be acceptable.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Clark recessed the meeting at 11:21 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 11:29 p.m.
Councilman Stern asked if biology reports were typically submitted directly to the City.
City Attorney Lynch answered they were generally submitted to the City by the applicant, therefore, she could not say with any certainty that there was no opportunity for the applicant to qualify or modify the information first. She indicated that the requirement to have a City biologist present on site during vegetation removal to monitor the situation and ascertain that no sensitive plants or animals were affected was specifically inserted to address the concerns raised by CNPS and the Sierra Club.
Councilman Long reiterated that the process on which the City relied, in which the applicant retained a consultant and the consultant’s report was submitted to the applicant first rather than directly to the City, caused him to question the veracity and independence of the report provided. He claimed that being required to attach a condition because a report cannot be relied upon essentially defeated the purpose of obtaining that report in the first place.
Director Rojas explained that staff believed the biology report was adequate since the survey was performed and subsequently reviewed by the City’s biologist. He reiterated that the condition was inserted in response to the suspicions raised by CNPS.
Councilman Long stated that he shared those suspicions and agreed the condition addressed them but claimed that numbers like six minutes per acre seem woefully inadequate to perform such an extensive survey.
Mayor Clark closed the Public Hearing.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz stated that the issue of fire control was critical, noting a number of extremely compelling letters that were received from residents expressing their concerns about that topic when this matter was addressed the previous year. On the other hand, he noted that Council must also consider some very important issues regarding maintaining a fragile ecosystem for a variety of plants and endangered animal species. He declared that he was torn between these points of view, saying that fire control was absolutely necessary but he also wanted to make certain that species were protected, making him conclude that he preferred the idea of having the weed abatement performed under the strict supervision of the best possible expert to determine from an ecological and safety point of view what was and was not appropriate to cut down. Referring to the acacia, he indicated if it was not the most, it was certainly near the top of the fire hazard list, noting that he was almost persuaded to include some type of phased removal program as part of the permit, but, for now, he would accept the applicant’s promise at face value that they planned to remove the acacia over time.
Councilman Stern stated that the CSS removal ordinance was elegantly tailored with a relevant purpose and function, and clearly addressed appropriate fire prevention, saying that the fact this particular property was so far removed from surrounding structures did not necessarily translate into a flaw in the ordinance. He remarked he was deeply troubled by the applicant’s statement that their sole motive was fire protection when they objected to removing the acacia which were an obvious and significant fire hazard; however, since the current ordinance did not specifically address that issue, he did not believe it was appropriate to require the applicant to remove all the acacia from his property. He noted that he continued to believe that a good citizen with the applicant’s purported motive would do exactly that, saying that he would not impede their right to object but rather encourage them to make every effort to move forward and complete that removal.
Councilman Stern indicated that he believed the applicant in fact had a different motive; that it was simple and had been the same for a number of years, and that was a conscious, deliberate program to create conditions on the property so there was no possibility of endangered species being there to create any problems for the future Point View project. He indicated that based on the ordinance he believed the applicant was entitled to do the mowing consistent with the conditions and, as such, he would unhappily cast his vote to allow it to go forward.
Councilman Long remarked that he shared many of Councilman Stern’s views, saying that he, too, was suspicious of the applicant’s motives and did not believe it was actually to control fire. He stated that it would be appropriate to attach Condition No. 7 because it did not relate to the stated purpose of the ordinance nor was it part of it; and therefore he concluded that it was unreasonable. He affirmed that staff had appropriately applied the ordinance and that the applicant was entitled to the permit.
Councilman Long stated that he preferred to make important judgments when he was assured of the actual motives, saying that it may be perfectly legal for the applicant to indicate that the motive was to turn this 54 acres into a killing field for endangered species, but to suggest the motive was fire control when the most flammable material was left behind on the property in terms of quality and quantity, according to the Fire Department, seems quite dubious to him.
Councilman Stern requested that the City Attorney restate the conditions.
City Attorney Lynch responded that staff would delete the condition requiring acacia removal and add the language from Dr. Mock’s letter indicating that the applicant shall conduct a grassland assessment and rare plants survey after the weed abatement was completed and submit those findings to the City. She noted that since there would be a City monitor present on site to monitor the activities, the condition requiring an additional survey after the mowing was completed would also be deleted.
Councilman Stern asked if staff knew how the mowing would be conducted and if staff was comfortable that one person would be able to adequately monitor the activities.
City Attorney Lynch suggested requiring that one or more on-site monitors be present, saying that more than one biologist would probably be needed if multiple operations were taking place simultaneously, such that one person could not effectively observe them at the same time.
Councilman Stern requested that the conditions include a requirement that the applicant submit a plan of operation some appropriate period in advance of the mowing to allow staff to make an educated guess as to how many monitors would be necessary to fully oversee the project.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve the proposed weed abatement permit subject to new and modified conditions of approval. The Resolution for this item would be brought back for adoption on May 31, 2005.
REGULAR NEW BUSINESS:
Proposal for Increased Traffic Enforcement on the Palos Verdes Drive East Switchback Area
Discussed immediately following the Consent Calendar. (See above.)
Long Point Resort Project (Conditional Use Permit No. 215, et. al)
Discussed immediately following the first recess. (See above.)
ZON2005-00233 – An Ordinance of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes Establishing Regulations Governing the Use of Public Parks and Open Space by Equestrians, Bicyclists and Pedestrians and Amending the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code
City Attorney Lynch provided a brief overview of the ordinance.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, to INTRODUCE ORDINANCE NO. 421, AS AMENDED, "AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES ESTABLISHING REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE USE OF PUBLIC PARKS AND OPEN SPACE BY EQUESTRIANS, BICYCLISTS AND PEDESTRIANS AND AMENDING THE RANCHO PALOS VERDES MUNICIPAL CODE." The motion passed without objection.
Councilman Long requested clarification, saying that the ordinance would prevent bicycles from traveling on paved roads and parking lots within City parks unless written permission had been granted, but would include areas where cars were allowed without written permission.
City Attorney Lynch explained that bicycles were considered to be vehicles and, as such, would be allowed where cars were allowed, saying that bicycles would not allowed within recreational areas in City parks.
Councilman Long stated he has been advised that individuals were being told by City park staff that they could not teach their children to ride bikes in City parking lots and questioned if that was a violation of State law.
City Attorney Lynch responded that the City had the ability to regulate the use of its parks and properties, which included precluding bicycles in certain areas, saying that her understanding was that the City had allowed bicycles in areas where cars were allowed.
Barbara Sattler, RPV, reminded Council that the Traffic Code also considered horses to be vehicles, saying that steps should be taken to equally address equestrians if the City was clarifying that bicycles were allowed on roads because they are vehicles.
Residential Undergrounding Program
Director Allison provided a brief summary of the staff report.
Mayor Clark requested that staff query other staff members in the League of California Cities to determine whether any advancements had been made in implementing the League’s policy to encourage utility companies to work creatively to define incentives and financing approaches to undergrounding utility lines.
Councilman Long noted that he was frequently asked why Edison could not pay for undergrounding, saying that if the utility companies to pay the cost of undergrounding, it becomes part of the rate base and then everyone pays, including those who did not benefit from the undergrounding project. He remarked that the City needed some assurance that if residents paid for undergrounding, they did not end up paying again as part of the rate base. He recommended that people interested in undergrounding in their neighborhoods should start going through the program now rather than waiting in the hope that someone else will take responsibility for the bill, saying that was not likely.
Mayor Clark requested an update of the efforts of the Sea View and Grand View neighborhoods to form utility undergrounding assessment districts.
Director Allison answered that these neighborhoods were provided with the necessary paperwork, but that petitions had not yet been returned. He advised Council that there may actually be three viable projects on the horizon and explained that he attended a meeting on Coolheights Drive two weeks earlier with only 12 or 13 property owners and about half of them were at the meeting and had expressed interest in the concept.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to adopt the guidelines to underground utilities in residential neighborhoods.
Point Vicente Interpretive Center IT Equipment – Computers, Phones, Voice Messaging, Security and Audio Visual
Councilman Wolowicz remarked that the original approval of the PVIC expansion excluded this type of equipment and wondered what other expenditures were excluded that were likely to come back to Council for a decision. He requested that staff return to Council with an overall projection of future costs associated with this project.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to 1) Authorize the expenditure of $80,000 in the Equipment Replacement fund, partially funded with $60,000 from the Environmental Excise Tax ("EET") fund, for replacement of Information Technology ("IT") equipment at Point Vicente Interpretive Center ("PVIC") and to extend the existing City Hall data and voice network to the PVIC using fiber cabling; 2) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-49, AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2004-45, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FY04-05, TO ADJUST APPROPRIATIONS IN THE EET FUND AND EQUIPMENT REPLACEMENT FUND; 3) Authorize the Request For Proposals (the "RFP") for selection of an IT fiber cable contractor to perform the installation of fiber cabling between City Hall and PVIC; 4) Approve the Professional Services Agreement between the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and the Vendor who will be subsequently selected to perform the fiber installation between City Hall and PVIC; and 5) Authorize execution of the attached Pole Lease Agreement between Southern California Edison ("Edison") and the City of Rancho Palos Verdes to run fiber cabling above ground between City Hall and the PVIC by leasing utility poles owned by Edison. The motion passed without objection.
Station No. 53 Paramedic Service
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to waive the staff report and authorize the Mayor to sign a letter requesting that the Los Angeles County Fire Department provide paramedic service at Station 53.
Locomotive and Rail Yard Emissions Reduction and Mitigation Bills AB 888 (De La Torre), AB 1222 (Jones), and SB 459 (Romero)
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor Clark, to authorize the Mayor to sign a letter supporting legislation to reduce and mitigate locomotive and rail yard emissions of air contaminants.
Cable Television Committee
Councilman Long noted that the staff report indicated the subcommittee had the authority to decide whether to allow Council as a whole to hear an appeal of one of its decisions, saying that there was no mechanism for Council to take up an appeal without the subcommittee’s permission. He inquired if that form of delegation was permissible.
City Attorney Lynch indicated it was allowed, saying the rationale behind it was that Council would likely prefer not to hear these matters on a routine basis given the amount of other business it conducted, coupled with the fact that most issues could probably be decided at the committee level.
Mayor Clark stated that he could not support the requirement to obtain the agreement of the committee in order to have a matter appealed to the Council as a whole.
City Attorney Lynch advised Council that this specific issue was not on the Agenda but staff would be bringing it back for Council’s determination at a later time.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, to 1) Establish a standing Cable Television Committee; 2) Appoint Councilman Gardiner and Councilman Stern to serve on the Cable Television Committee; and 3) Direct staff to bring back the City Council policy regarding the operation of the Channel 33 Cable Television Committee at a future meeting.
COUNCIL DISCUSSION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS & SUGGESTION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:
CLOSED SESSION REPORT:
City Attorney Lynch advised the audience that no action was taken on either item.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:17 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at Fred Hesse Community Park for a Budget Meeting.