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The meeting was called to order at 6:00 P.M. by Mayor Clark at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, and was immediately recessed to closed session. At 7:08 P.M., the meeting was reconvened for regular session.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Long, Wolowicz, Mayor Clark
Also present were City Manager Evans; City Attorney Lynch; Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru; Director of Public Works Allison; Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Rojas; Director of Finance McLean; Senior Planner Mihranian; and Recording Secretary Bothe.
Mayor Clark advised the audience that both Council Members Gardiner and Stern were not able to attend this evening’s meeting due of prior commitments.
The Flag Salute was led by members of Boy Scout Troop 378 who had recently earned the rank of Eagle Scout and the Color Guard.
Recognition of Eagle Scouts
Mayor Clark introduced Rancho Palos Verdes resident retired U.S. Air Force Colonel John Jaacks; and stated that he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Area Council of Boy Scouts of America and a distinguished resident and volunteer in the community.
Ret. Colonel Jaacks thanked Council for recognizing the achievements of these young men in obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout; and he highlighted the efforts they must undertake to achieve the highest level in scouting. He noted that during the past year in the United States, there were approximately 3,145,331 Boy Scouts and of these approximately 125,000 reached Eagle Scout status; mentioned that approximately 4 percent of all boys who enter scouting achieve the rank of Eagle Scout; and stated that he was extremely proud of these young men’s achievements and accomplishments during their scouting careers. He highlighted some of the tasks that must be undertaken by these young men to reach Eagle Scout status, such as being active in troop patrol for at least 6 months, living the Scout oath/law in their everyday life, etc.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru read the Eagle Scouts’ names as they were personally congratulated by each Council Member: Nikola Blagojevic, Michael Gordon, Farhad Irani, Justin Nakamura, Jonathan Young, Sean Okumura, Andrew Tseng and Christopher Jensen.
Mayor Clark mentioned that his father was an Eagle Scout in the 1930’s in Connecticut; he thanked each member of Troop 378 for attending this evening’s meeting; and he wished them luck in their future endeavors.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz mentioned that not only did these young men spend numerous hours earning the Eagle Scout rank, but added that their parents must also devote a lot of time in keeping their sons involved in this group’s activities. He added that he had enjoyed watching his business partner’s son, Christopher Jensen, flourish in the Boy Scouts and achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.
Recognition of Local youth who assisted with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life
Mayor Clark commented on the second annual Palos Verdes Relay for Life event held in July, a continuous 24-hour event held at Peninsula High School in which volunteers spent time walking/running around the track to raise money for cancer research. He stated that there were many cancer survivors, as well as their friends and family members present to kick off the event; advised that he and Councilman Long both attended and helped start the event, which began at 10:00 A.M. Saturday morning and continued until 10:00 A.M. Sunday morning; and on behalf of the City and Council, he asked to recognize some of the youth who participated in the event.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru called the names of the following local youth who assisted with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event: Devin Catch, David Martinez, Hector Lucero and Andrew Disario.
On behalf of the Council and the City, Council individually thanked and commended each youth for participating in this important event. Each individual was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation.
Mayor Clark highlighted this evening’s topic: a summation of the results of the Storm Drain User Fee ballot election. He advised the audience that the mailed ballot election ended on Tuesday, August 30, 2005, at 8:00 P.M.; noted that the machine count of the ballots was conducted on Wednesday, August 31, 2005; and that a manual count of the ballots was conducted by the City Clerk’s Office on Friday, September 2, 2005. He indicated that a total of 5,591 mailed ballots were received, representing a 45-percent return rate from eligible property owners; that the total number of eligible property owners who received mailed ballots was approximately 12,400; that those voting yes were 2,819 or 50.42 percent; that those voting no were 2,772 or 49.58; and advised that the Storm Drain User Fee ballot initiative passed by 47 votes. He pointed out that there was a tremendous turnout and a great opportunity for RPV’s property owners to have a voice in their local government. He highlighted the next steps as follows:
The City Clerk certifies the election results;
Mayor Clark advised the audience that the City would receive approximately 50 percent of the first year’s revenues from the Storm Drain User Fee by December 20, 2006; stated that this City had embarked upon, with the majority consent of the property owners, a comprehensive storm drain renewal process; that each year in a public hearing forum, Council would address whether or not to continue with the Storm Drain User Fee, whether to change it or to potentially suspend it or revoke it. He stated that residents would have the opportunity to provide further input to Council on this matter as the City moved forward with repairing the its decaying storm drain infrastructure.
Mayor Clark thanked Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru for preparing this evening’s report.
Mayor Clark announced the names of the two recycling winners from the last meeting – Kathy Keller and Chun Chai Hai; stated that each winners would receive a check for $250, which represented a year of free refuse service; and he encouraged everyone to recycle.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Mayor Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to continue Item Nos. 14 and 15 -- Revision "X" to the Trump National Golf Club Project and Geographic Information System - Phase 2.
Councilman Long suggested continuing Item No. 16, an Ordinance of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes Amending Provisions of Chapter 3.16 Governing the Collection of Transient Occupancy Tax and Amending the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code and Item No. 17, an Ordinance of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes Amending Provisions of Chapter 8.28 Prohibiting Smoking at City Facilities, Except Within Designated Smoking Areas, and Amending the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code.
Mayor Clark amended his motion to include continuing Item Nos. 16 and 17.
City Manager Evans suggested that Council might want to introduce Item Nos. 16 and 17 this evening in case Council had questions that would require staff to return with responses.
Councilman Long withdrew his suggestion to continue Item Nos. 16 and 17 and
Mayor Clark mentioned that the amendment to the Trump National project residential standards (Item No. 14) was being continued in the interest of having the full Council present for consideration of the matter.
There were no requests from the audience to speak on Item No. 14.
Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered the approval of the amended Agenda, continuing both Item Nos. 14 and 15 to September 20, 2005.
Lois Larue, Rancho Palos Verdes, thanked and commended Director of Public Works Allison for having the fence erected on the property at the far end of the landslide area; and she urged everyone to read Josh Cohen’s article in the Palos Verdes Peninsula News regarding the landslide area and the problem it presents to those who travel the roads through this area.
CITY MANAGER REPORTS:
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru reminded the audience that a list of items previously discussed and continued was posted on the City’s website at www.palosverdes.com/rpv.
APPROVAL OF CONSENT CALENDAR:
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked to remove from the Consent Calendar Item Nos. 4, Border Issues Status Report, and 8, Additional Funding for Maintenance of Trails and Landscaping at Ocean Front Estates.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to approve the Agenda, as amended. Motion carried as follows:
AYES: Long, Wolowicz, Mayor Clark
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru stated that with this motion, Council will also be adopting the revised Service Agreement for the biological consultant for Item No. 5, noting that a revised contract was previously distributed to Council.
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 12, 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.
Contract Service Agreement for On-Call Biological Consulting Services
Authorized the Mayor and City Clerk to Execute a Professional Service Agreement with David Magney Environmental Consultants to Provide On-Call Biological Services on an As-Needed Basis to the City, as amended.
FY 04-05 Continuing Appropriations
1) ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-93, AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2005-53, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FY 05-06, TO CONTINUE CERTAIN EXPENDITURE APPROPRIATIONS FROM FY 04-05 and, 2) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-94, AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2004-45, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FY 04-05, TO REDUCE THE BUDGET FOR CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS THAT WILL BE RE-BUDGETED AND INCLUDED IN THE FY 05-06 BUDGET.
FY 04-05 Budget Adjustments
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-95, AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2004-45, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FY 04-05, TO INCREASE BUDGETED APPROPRIATIONS IN THE GENERAL FUND AND STREET MAINTENANCE FUND.
Blue Curb for Handicap Parking on Pacifica Del Mar
Approved the installation of Blue Curb (handicap parking zone) on the north side of Pacifica Del Mar at its westerly terminus, adjacent to the trailhead as shown on the attached Exhibit A.
June 2005 Treasurer's Report
Received and filed the June 2005 Treasurer's Report for the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.
July 2005 Treasurer's Report
Received and filed the July 2005 Treasurer's Report for the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.
Register of Demands
ADOPTED RESOL. NO. 2005-96, 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.
ITEMS PULLED FROM THE CONSENT CALENDAR:
Border Issues Status Report
The staff report of September 6, 2005, recommended that Council review the current status of border issues and provide direction to staff, as appropriate.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that her office was still working on finalizing the documents that had been drafted at the meeting.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that she was satisfied with the modification, noting that the City of Palos Verdes Estates was handling this as a modification to the original approval of the project; and stated that the applicant signed off on the modification at the meeting held on August 30th.
The staff report of September 6, 2005, recommended that Council 1) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-97, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES, AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2005-53, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005-06, FOR A BUDGET ADJUSTMENT TO THE CITY'S SPECIAL DISTRICT MAINTENANCE - SUBREGION ONE; and, 2) Authorize the expenditure of an additional $52,000 for the maintenance of trails and open space at Ocean Front Estates.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz questioned if this was an affirmation that the developer was responsible for funding the proposed increases.
Point View Project (Landslide Moratorium Exclusion No. 10 - Draft Environmental Impact Report)
Senior Planner Mihranian presented the staff report and the recommendation for Council to conduct a public hearing for the purpose of obtaining public comments on the Point View Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR).
Mayor Clark opened the public hearing; explained to the audience that Council would not be making any decisions that evening concerning the Point View project; that it was strictly a meeting for obtaining input from the public regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR); advised that the input provided that evening, both orally and in writing, would be forwarded to the City’s environmental consultant for response; and noted that the public comment period ended on September 16, 2005. He explained that the Point View Project was required to follow a 2-step process: In Step 1, the City would determine whether or not this project should be granted a Moratorium Exclusion Permit, thereby excluding a portion of the land from the restrictions of the City’s Landslide Moratorium Ordinance; and, if the developer was able to complete Step 1 successfully, in Step 2, the City would consider the developer’s application to subdivide the property and develop it for single family residences. He noted that the staff report provided a timeline for some of these upcoming events, with the Final EIR projected to be complete in February 2006; the public hearing to consider the merits of the Moratorium Exclusion Permit would likely start in March 2006; and that a probable final decision for Step 1, according to staff's prediction, would be in May 2006. Mayor Clark stated that staff anticipated at least three Council meetings would be needed to address the merits of whether or not a Moratorium Exclusion Permit should be granted; and he reiterated that this evening meeting was solely intended to provide the public an opportunity to provide oral input on the DEIR.
Mr. Wedemeyer stated that there was a major dispute amongst the geologists as to how many slide planes there were in this area; and noted that without knowing this, it was impossible to determine the level of risk that there would be another landslide somewhere on this 1,000-foot slope. He stated that the top of the ancient head scarp was probably where the ancient landslides started thousands of years ago; advised that there were very few boring holes drilled on the steepest slopes because of the difficulty of getting drilling rigs into these areas; and stated that it was easy to see that if this slope broke, the neighborhoods above and below could be in jeopardy. He asked that this be clearly explained in the DEIR, so that Council would have a clear basis to decide whether this project was safe; and he urged Council to compel the experts to fully disclose all the issues and for Council not to just rely on the experts – believing that there were rational ways to learn about and become conversant with this data. He added that the experts should also explain to the public the technical basis on which this project was considered to be safe.
Using Portuguese Point and sea cliffs below Seacove Drive as examples, Mr. Wedemeyer indicated that because the underlying rock structure had been exposed by wave erosion, it was easy to see the areas where there was undisturbed rock layers and areas were the land mass had been disturbed by landslide movement, but noted in the large land mass where the project was located, it was difficult to determine the composition of the subsurface from only a few geologic borings. He felt that there was danger present at the head scarp of the ancient landslide just below Sea Ridge Circle because during other recent landslides, such as the Flying Triangle Slide, the movement did not occur at the ocean, but near the head scarp; and stated that it was rational to be concerned with whether or not there could be a slide at the head scarp of Barkentine Canyon above the proposed Point View Project.
Mr. Douglas advised Council that the scientific community had recently recovered ground water from wells drilled at the toe of the slide and recovered water that was 40 to 60 years old, about 2 to 4 times older than the ground water extracted from the rest of the slide mass, which suggested that ground water was, in fact, moving at depths below the slide plane and was then percolating up to the surface. With regard to the stability of the toe of the landslide, he noted that the base of the landslide was approximately at the 300 foot elevation; that the top of the landslide head was around the 1,100 foot elevation; with very steep slopes in between these two elevations, which was indicative of the a landslide that had occurred in the Point View area and the areas just above it. He explained that when one looked at the current landslides and looked at the effects wave action had on those landslides, while the wave erosion at the toe removed a tiny fraction of the total mass of the slide, this contributed considerably to the instability of these landslides. He stated that the result was that one had to question the possibility that if a substantial amounts of material was excavated from the project site, what effect that would have on the general stability of all the landslide area above, which was under great driving force because of the steep difference in elevation that existed in this area.
Mr. Douglas added that there were numerous factor of safety calculations contained in the DEIR; that they all were determined to have a factor of around one, which indicated that the area was just stable. He pointed out that in the end, these were simply calculations and stated that removing a portion of the toe of the ancient landslide, even if it was only for a short interval of time, involved considerable risk, which should not be ignored. Mr. Douglas expressed his opinion that the conclusions regarding the geology and the hydrology that were presented in the DEIR did not adequately address fundamental questions about the architecture of the landslide or its stability and that the analysis needed to be substantially revised.
In answer to a question from Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, Dr. Douglas noted that the width of the landslide extended from Barkentine Canyon on the west, over to Portuguese Bend on the east.
Dana Ireland, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that the DEIR failed to adequately address the hydrologic impacts of the project because it provided no analysis of the effects of storm drain runoff outside the boundaries of the project site; that with the exception of requiring larger storm drains under Palos Verdes Drive South (PVDS), the DEIR did not address the capacity of drainage facilities located downstream from the project site, and that it did not discuss how runoff water would be carried through Abalone Cove Park to the ocean. He noted that the DEIR was also silent on the impacts to two known landslide mass located at the outlet of these drainage channels. He noted that the first landslide, which is located at the base of Barkentine Canyon, was not acknowledged in the DEIR whatsoever; that this landslide was actively moving in a southeasterly direction, the evidence of which could be seen in a walking path in their neighborhood that ran along its border; and that this area would be further eroded by additional storm runoff from the proposed project.
Mr. Ireland stated that there were two drains proposed on the eastern portion of the project site, Drains C and D; that would go underneath PVDS, but from that point, the runoff would flow freely across Abalone Cove Shoreline Park and then cascade uncontrolled down the bluffs, according to the proposal in the DEIR; stated that he found this proposal to be reprehensible; and stated that the water would ultimately find its way into the Abalone Cove Landslide complex, at the active part of the toe, which was cause for significant concern. He stated that the DEIR ignored these two landslide complexes and the effect that uncontrolled runoff would have on these two very unstable pieces of ground. He expressed his belief that the DEIR should be written in a manner to help the general public understand the calculations being presented; stated that instead the DEIR attempted to disguise the amount of runoff the project would create by reporting the figures in terms of cubic feet per second, noting that it was difficult for the general public to comprehend the amount of runoff that would come from this site; and recommended that the DEIR use gallons instead of cubic feet per second, pointing out that Drain A was estimated in the DEIR to generate 176 cubic feet per second, which equated to 19 million gallons of water. He stated that the DEIR should demonstrate, in a clear and meaningful way, how much runoff was going to discharge from this site onto adjacent property.
Mr. Ireland highlighted the four storm drains described in the DEIR; with regard to Drain A, a new drain would take runoff from the upper portion of the property and divert it into Barkentine Canyon, he noted that the DEIR was proposing a 30-inch drain in this location, which would connect to an 36-inch drain at the bottom on Barkentine Canyon – pointing out that the proposed drain was undersized and that the amount of water flowing through this area already exceeded the design capacity of the existing drainage system, as evidenced by the flooding that was experience the previous winter.
With regard to Drain B, Mr. Ireland stated that this drain would be the largest section of drainage pipe in the project; that the applicant was proposing to increase the size of the storm drain under Palos Verdes Drive South from a 24-inch drain to a 40-inch drain, noting that this basically quadrupled the amount of capacity by doubling the size of the drain; and that this would essentially take all the storm drain runoff in this area, bring it under the roadway, and then let it loose down the remainder of Barkentine Canyon, which would create erosion at a critical point at the toe of the landslide toe and further undermine the property above.
With regard to Drains C and D, Mr. Ireland stated that these drains were currently 24-inches in size and would be increased to 30 inches; he explained that this increase would double the capacity of those drains, but the water would then be allowed to flow freely across Abalone Cove Park, down the coastal bluffs and into the ocean. He indicated that the only alternative suggested in the DEIR was to divert the runoff into the L.A. County storm drain system or into the sewer system, noting that the later option would probably be illegal.
Jim Knight, Rancho Palos Verdes, addressed the biological impacts of the proposed project, focusing on the coastal gnatcatcher and the wildlife corridors; he advised Council that not all coastal sage scrub habitat was of equal value to the gnatcatcher and noted that the artemisia-dominated habitat on the subject property was of particular value to the gnatcatcher for nesting purposes, which also included other types of insect-attracting plants such as encelia and buckwheat. He stated that fragmenting coastal sage scrub habitat would have a negative impact upon these species; and noted that the City’s NCCP had identified the subject property as an important wildlife corridor for the coastal gnatcatcher. He highlighted the importance of maintaining biological diversity; and noted that if any particular habitat became stressed because of fire or disease, the gnatcatcher would need other areas available to it.
Mr. Knight stated that the wildlife corridor needed to be functional, providing safe and undisturbed travel between gnatcatcher populations, in order to allow for nesting, foraging and genetic exchange to sustain the bird’s population on the peninsula; and noted that wildlife corridor were species specific. He noted that the state and federal resource agencies were concerned with the linkage corridor that connected Barkentine Canyon and Abalone Cove, which eventually provided the necessary connection to the larger east Portuguese Bend area. He stated that over time the subject property area had become more isolated because residential developments had cut off access to other habitat areas in Agua Amarga Canyon and the property surrounding City Hall, and the recent fire that had temporarily cut off access to the Portuguese Bend area to the north. As a result, only one corridor was still available on the subject property for the gnatcatchers in this area to access habitat areas located in McCarrell Canyon and Abalone Cove Park. He noted that the DEIR identified Barkentine Canyon on the western project boundary as the optimal wildlife corridor, noting that this was erroneous; stated that the proposed grading and residential construction would virtually eliminate any kind of connection between the coastal sage scrub in Barkentine Canyon and other adjacent areas occupied by the gnatcatcher. He stated that the DEIR made other mistakes regarding the impacts associated with grading the subject property, for example it estimated seven to eight months would be needed for remedial grading, expressing his belief it would take closer to two years to complete.
Mr. Knight stated that another fallacy in the DEIR was the applicant’s mitigation for the wildlife corridor itself; stated that the wildlife corridor needed to be at least 300 feet in width in order to comply with NCCP requirements; that the corridor needed to be correctly depicted on the site plan, believing that the dimensions included in the DEIR would place a portion of the corridor on neighboring properties; noted that CEQA prohibited applicants from using adjacent properties to mitigate their project’s impacts; that the design of the corridors did not take into account the requirements for a 100 to 200 foot wide fire/fuel modification zone setbacks, and stated that he did not understand how the consultant came up with their measurements. In summary, he stated that the DEIR identified the wrong wildlife corridor, used an unrealistic timetable for the grading operation, did not properly analyze the impact of disrupting the wildlife corridor for an extended period of time, and lacked a timetable for habitat restoration, which could seriously effect the viability of the gnatcatchers in the area. He stated that the DEIR also mentioned off-site mitigation which had nothing to do with protecting the existing on-site corridor; that the proposed on-site corridor would not comply with the 300-foot minimum width included in the NCCP guidelines; that it did not account for other impacts to the corridor, such as fuel modification; that the DEIR did not take into account the impacts of the 2005 brush fire; and that the DEIR improperly identified this site as having a lower habitat value, stating it should be identified instead as an intermediate value area. He pointed out that by choosing the lower value, the mitigations measures inherently had a lower performance standard; advised Council that the intermediate guidelines/values require a case-by-case study, which was what this project needed; and that it needed a complete review by a biologist to determine if the proposed wildlife corridor would be adequate. He urged Council to be very careful in their consideration, pointing out that this program EIR became the baseline for all future CEQA reviews concerning the subject property.
Cathy Nichols, Rolling Hills, urged Council not to certify the EIR; stated that it had underestimated many environmental impacts and completely ignored many of the risks associated with the proposed development; and asked that the Moratorium Exclusion Request be denied. She stated that the DEIR gave the impression that the developer was proposing an innovative approach to geology that was going to make the property completely safe; noted that this exact proposal, moving the same amount of earth in the same configuration was developed in Laguna Niguel, which made the front page of the L.A. Times earlier in 2005 because of the resulting landslide. She expressed her belief that the proposal was neither innovative nor safe and that noted that it was similar to a project Barry Hon had proposed in Portuguese Bend some time ago that had failed to obtain entitlements. She pointed out that Perry Ehlig had said for many years that this was an incredibly fragile area and that its geology was not completely understood. She stated that development strategies that had failed to stabilize landslide in other areas were certain to not work in the City’s Moratorium Area. She expressed her belief that the geological risks were extreme; stated that with the new bankruptcy law, homeowners would not only lose their homes in a landslide, but that their mortgage holders would be able to garnish their wages and take their other assets; and stated that a major landslide involving the proposed homes could not only bankrupt the affected homeowners, but it would also impact the City and its residents. She pointed out that the landowner obtained the subject property as an add on to the purchase of the Long Point property; that he had recently made his profit by selling the Long Point property to a hotel developer and was now trying to increase his profit by trying to get the subject property removed from the Moratorium Area so that it could be developed for houses; and indicated that the community should not be saddled with this risk for the sake of the landowner’s profit. She concluded by stating that the DEIR was completely inadequate and urged the City to continue to protect its residents by denying the Moratorium Exclusion.
Gerlinde Ryan, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated there were compelling reasons why the proposed development was not in the best interest of the City; noted that it was well known that the land in this area was not stable; expressed her belief this development would further destabilize the land and promote further erosion, which would have a negative impact on the area at large; that the developer’s proposal was short-sighted, profit driven and not in the best interests of the community; pointed out that Rancho Palos Verdes was a unique place, largely because of its natural beauty; and urged Council to continue to preserve this natural and rare resource in Southern California. She stated that the proposed development would further increase air pollution, noise pollution and congestion; and it would result in the further destruction of the natural habitat which provided homes to many forms of indigenous wildlife. She concluded by saying that her former husband, Robert Ryan, who was a member of the first City Council, would have not approved of the proposed project and would have taken steps to stop it.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
Mayor Clark recessed the meeting at 9:16 P.M. and reconvened the meeting at 9:24 P.M.
Mike Cooper, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that he was a third generation grading contractor; expressed his belief there were two main factors that had created the Palos Verdes landslides: the first factor was the subsurface geology, which consisted of volcanic and sedimentary rock dipping toward the ocean at roughly the same angle as the average slope of the land surface; that on top of the sedimentary rock there was a heavy clay layer called bentonite, which created a slide plane when wet that caused land movement; and that the only thing that prevented an ancient landslide from moving was the amount of friction between the land mass and the bentonite layer. He noted that in 1956, this friction balance was altered when Los Angeles County road crews placed 350,000 cubic yards of fill on the upper slope of the slide mass, which started the land movement and created a downhill domino effect, causing the entire land mass to begin sliding towards the ocean with a year’s time. He stated that the second factor that altered the friction balance was the amount of water absorbed in the bentonite layer. He stated that after heavy winter rains percolated into the bentonite layer, the Abalone Cove Landslide began moving in 1978; in that case, the toe of the slide at the ocean began to move; and with the resulting loss of support, the land above the toe began to move, creating an uphill domino effect, due to the weight of its own mass. The installation of dewatering wells by the Abalone Cove Landslide Abatement District has lowered the amount of water in the bentonite layer, thereby slowing the movement of this landslide substantially.
Mr. Cooper pointed out that the Point View project was proposing to remove and re-compact approximately 4 million cubic yards of soil, over 10 times the amount that triggered the Portuguese Bend Landslide 50 years prior. He stated that in order to remove and re-compact this massive amount of earth, large quantities of soil would have to be stockpiled on the ancient landslide; that the weight of this mass had the ability to alter the friction balance and cause the land to slide, just as it did in 1956; and expressed his belief that if a landslide was triggered by the Point View project, nothing could be done to save the homes and roads in its path, including Palos Verdes Drive South. He stated that in order to build the project, huge keyway slots would have to be excavated in order to remove the slide plane, which could cause the land above to become destabilized and begin to move. He stated that the Point View project was an extremely risky venture; stated that at a minimum, the City should require that any soil to be removed or re-compacted be exported off the ancient landslide area and not allowed to be stockpiled above the excavated keyways on subject property.
Mr. Cooper stated that the DEIR did not address the fact this project was going to generate huge amounts of rock that would be too large to use as compacted fill; stated that it was unknown if this rock was going to be exported offsite or crushed onsite to be used as fill material; that the City did not know what effect the vibration caused by this massive earth moving operation would have on the adjoining properties; and that no calculation of soil shrinkage was included in the DEIR analysis, indicating that, with 15 to 20% soil shrinkage being typical on the Peninsula, he believed the project could be short of soil.
Casey Porter, Ranch Palos Verdes, stated that he was the President of the Portuguese Bend Community Association; a 25-year member of the City of Los Angeles Fire Department; and that he was present to address the emergency access issued in the DEIR. He advised Council that one of the main problems during a fire was access and evacuation; noted that the project description and site plans for the Point View project led readers to falsely assume that there would be two access routes into the proposed community: one primary route off of Palos Verdes Drive South and one emergency route connected with Narcissa Drive in the Portuguese Bend community. He stressed that the Portuguese Bend community would not be capable of absorbing the traffic flow of another community during an emergency situation, such as an evacuation during a brush fire; and he pointed out that their narrow, winding streets had proven to be barely adequate in past emergencies to handle their own traffic, including emergency equipment entering the neighborhood while residents and member of the Portuguese Bend Riding Stables were all trying to get out and competing for space on the two access routes (Narcissa Drive and Peppertree Drive). He stated that he could not imagine trying to evacuate another 84 households through this community if Point View’s main access road was cut off during a wind-driven brush fire. He opined that it would result in a gridlock disaster.
Mr. Porter stressed that the residents of Portuguese Bend would prevent Point View from using their private roads; highlighted a recent court order that barred the current property owner, York Long Point Associates, from any use of their private roads unless agreed upon by the community association; and stated that their community felt so strongly about this issue that it spent over $100,000 of association funds to defend themselves against York’s attempt to gain access to their private roads. He urged the City to request the property owner show the true community layout in the DEIR with only one access point; stated that this new layout would significantly reduce the number of homes permitted based on the L.A. County Fire Code, which restricts density to 75 dwellings when there was a single access route that traversed hazardous brush; and that the total number of units could be reduced by as much as 50 percent, depending on the planned width of the project’s streets. He distributed to Council a packet with all the maps, codes, and fire hazards associated with this area.
Marianne Hunter, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that there would be negative ramifications to the safety and financial security of residents if this project was approved; advised that a small packet was mailed out in late August 2005 to the presidents of all 91 homeowner associations in Rancho Palos Verdes, followed up by a telephone call to each HOA president; and stated that the purpose of this effort was to invigorate each association’s interest in the DEIR, to gather questions and invite comment. Ms. Hunter stated that the resulting feedback from those phone calls was as follows: out of the 91 homeowner associations in the City, not one they spoke to took a position in favor of this project; and noted that one president would take no position until the full board had studied the DEIR. She added that the overwhelming response was that there need to be more information provided and a demand for concrete proof that the project posed no threat to lives, homes, and infrastructure. She stated that the HOA’s did not want to assume any risk of liens against their properties should the City’s decision prove to be a mistake in regard to the Moratorium Exclusion; that the written responses received indicated that the Draft EIR did not fully answer their concerns regarding safety; they did not find the DEIR in compliance with the General Plan for community standards and building codes; they were opposed to the City putting itself, and thus each resident, at risk for liability/lawsuits; they questioned the accuracy of the DEIR’s geologic analysis relative to the landslide; and they did not want the moratorium lifted. She stated that the RPV Council of Homeowners Association, which represented 54 homeowner associations, required in part, “That the developer must show that any action taken will provide absolute, long-term assurance that the slide areas will not reactivate in the future.” On behalf of herself and her husband, Ms. Hunter objected to the lack of analytical depth, non-responsive conclusions, and critical issues being glossed over with promises that future considerations in a subsequent EIR to be put prepared by companies whose websites hail “creative reports and a minimum of red flags raised.”
Daniel Pinkham, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that he would address the visual elements of the City’s General Plan. He indicated that the General Plan’s major goals were self-determination; the right to determine land use and thus lower densities; as well as preserve coastal resources and protect views. He indicated that General Plans must include nine mandatory elements: land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, seismic safety, noise, scenic highways and safety. He requested that the Point View project be further studied as to whether this was the best possible use in terms of land use, conservation, open space and scenic highway use. He stated that the project site had extraordinary value as a regional asset and a local amenity; which warranted the City exercising a sense of stewardship above and beyond what communities normally provide their parks and other open spaces; and expressed his belief that scenic view were one of the most valuable resources to people on the Peninsula. He asked that the DEIR include a full discussion of the visual aspects of the General Plan. He expressed his belief this development threatens critical aspects of City’s visual plan; noted that this critically important section of the City’s coastline contained both views and vistas that were irreplaceable and opined that it would go against the tenants of the City’s General Plan to allow this area to be destroyed; he requested open forums for the citizens to discuss the project in terms of its impacts to significant natural focal points, views and vistas and natural corridors identified in the City’s General Plan and the value of open space. He urged the City to continue to address and support the General Plan regardless of the opposition.
Tim Kelly, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that his neighborhood was not the only community directly adjoining the project, but it was the only one that was located completely within the boundaries of the Landslide Moratorium Area; and as a result of this, the residents of his homeowners association were very concerned about reactivating the landslide and had authorized the HOA Board to secure the services of a registered geologist familiar with the history of the landslide and the geology of the surrounding area to review the geological sections of the DEIR. He noted that their geologist, Dr. Karl Vonderlinden, who’s doctoral thesis was on the Portuguese Bend Landslide, was not able to attend the meeting, but read excerpts from Dr. Vonderlinden’s report which indicated that some of the boring logs from exploratory holes that were drilled in the non-moratorium area indicated the presence of landslide materials ranging from 75 to 40 feet in depth below the land surface; that this landslide material was not peripheral to, but was part of the larger landslide complex, that the extent and thickness of the landslide deposits in the non-moratorium area suggested that inaccurate criteria were used to establish the northern boundary of the non-moratorium area, that there had been a gross underestimation of landslide material within the Point View property, which would dramatically increase the complexity of the project, the amount of material that needed to be removed and re-compacted, and the time needed to perform these grading activities. Mr. Kelly asked that the City devote adequate resources to analyze the geology associated with the DEIR and any subsequent documentation generated. He stated that he had heard that fixing the City’s storm drain system would be the most costly activity ever undertaken by the City and stated that he hoped this remained true, since reactivation of the landslide would be far more costly to the City than fixing its storm drains.
Dr. Cassie Jones, Rancho Palos Verdes, presented a letter to Council from her next-door neighbor, Jerry Davies, who was unable to attend this evening’s meeting. She advised Council that she was not an expert on landslides, but as a veterinarian she was extremely familiar with bentonite; explained that bentonite had been commercially mined for many years and was used as an industrial lubricant until the development of silicon and now was used as the key ingredient of clumping cat litter; indicated that it was good material for this use because, although it was slippery when wet, it became hard when dry. She pointed out that bentonite was the material that the Portuguese Bend landslide was sitting on, which was not an ideal situation because although it was hard and stable when dry, it became extremely slippery when wet.
Jeff Grant, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that he had noticed while driving along Palos Verdes Drive South there was an upheaval at the western boundary of the Abalone Cove landslide, adjacent to the old Visitor’s Center at Wayfarer’s Chapel; noted that while one travels westbound on this roadway, there was a distinct bump that had been developing, probably due to the substantial rains during the past winter, noting that everyone had been under the impression that this area had been stabilized. He stated appeared that at least a portion of the Abalone Cove Landslide was no longer stable.
Joan Kelly, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that she was greatly concerned with the proposed construction inside the moratorium boundaries, as well as any proposed construction immediately outside of those boundaries, especially in the area along side Palos Verdes Drive South, which acted as the toe to the entire area above it. She questioned if there was landslide material present in this area and whether any borings had ever been made in this area. She stated that the only thing they knew for certain based on all the data that had been collected was that the proposed area was to be built in an ancient landslide complex; pointed out that there were no guarantees, no matter how great the remediation planned; and that this land was delicate and should be left undisturbed. She mentioned that a house was presently for sale in her neighborhood on Narcissa Drive for $1.8 million. She pointed out that the developer purchased the subject property knowing full well that it was located in a moratorium area and asked that the moratorium be kept in place.
Tony Baker, Rancho Palos Verdes, indicated that he grew up in Portuguese Bend and was a child when the landslide started in that area; highlighted the fact that at the time, Los Angeles County was grading to extend Crenshaw Boulevard to Palos Verdes Drive South; noted that the geologists and the County knew they were working within an ancient landslide complex, but that the County took a chance, which resulted in a landslide that disrupted the lives of hundreds of families, including his own, and cost the County a great deal of money in the resulting lawsuit. He stated that 50 years later the land in this area was still sliding. He stated he had witnessed the Abalone Cove and Flying Triangle landslides, which damaged and destroyed many more homes, and the Ocean Trails slide, which was another development that ignored the potential landslide danger. He noted that just that past weekend, he had seen a newspaper article about the Blue Bird Canyon landslide, which indicated that the City of Laguna Beach was seeking $7 million from FEMA to rebuild Blue Bird Canyon; and noted that FEMA had denied that city’s request. Mr. Baker stated that the proposed project called for moving 4 million cubic yards of earth; that the developer and his geologists had told the residents that the project would not adversely affect the surrounding areas and that the remedial grading should stabilize the ancient landslide. Mr. Baker urged Council to look after the interests of its residents and deny the Moratorium Exclusion request.
Robert Maxwell, Rancho Palos Verdes, related some of his personal knowledge of landslides on the Peninsula and the damage they had caused to structures, as well as people’s dreams; stated that the City should take into consideration the slides that have occurred at Point Fermin, Flying Triangle and Portuguese Bend when reviewing the proposed project; and noted that the City would have to assume the liability and responsibility for this project if it were approved. He stated that he had lived in the Portuguese Bend area since 1971 because his wife loved the area and during hat time he had witnessed the effect the constant movement had on the properties in his neighborhood. Mr. Maxwell explained that while the neighborhood was beautiful, it was not a situation the City should try to duplicate with the proposed project. He expressed his hope that the geology, soils and hydrology studies included in the DEIR had been adequately reviewed, and he urged the City to deny the project.
Eugene Rolle, Rancho Palos Verdes, urged Council and the residents to do their homework and carefully look at all of the data concerning the proposed project; pointing out that the subject property was already restricted due to the great risk of land instability; expressed his belief the developer’s risk was small and when compared to the disproportionate risk City and its residents would assume should a landslide occur and wipe away the lifetime savings/investment of the affected homeowners. He suggested that the developer should put a bond in place that would adequately cover each resident if a catastrophic land failure occurred, and he strongly urged Council to deny the Moratorium Exclusion request.
Richard Bara, Rancho Palos Verdes, advised Council that the Equestrian Committee had discussed the equestrian aspects of the Point View project; and stated that the Committee found that, in order to maintain the existing semi-rural lifestyle in the Equestrian District, 1) the minimum individual lot sizes should be no less than 15,000 square feet, which was the minimum to accommodate the keeping of large domestic animals within the Equestrian District; and 2) the existing point-to-point trails listed in the Conceptual Trails Plan, which had been in use for over 50 years, should be incorporated into the site design of the project. Mr. Bara indicated the Committee had unanimously passed this motion.
Bob Nelson, Rancho Palos Verdes, speaking on behalf of Sea Bluff HOA, stated that his HOA received Marianne Hunter’s “Help Us Fight This Project” packet; that his HOA was the one that took a “no opinion” position on the DEIR - not the project; noted that the majority of the HOA Board was in favor of the project, but stated at the appropriate time, his homeowners association would vote on this issue and results would be forwarded to Council for consideration.
George Fink, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that he had provided written correspondence to Council related to this item; noted that he was the president of the Ladera Linda HOA and that all the board members polled agreed with what he was about to say, noting that he was not able to poll a quorum and, hence, would not be speaking in that capacity. Mr. Fink stated that he had reviewed the geology and hydrology portions of the DEIR and indicated that he found the contents to be unconvincing. He indicated that on page 4E-15, the DEIR stated that a post construction observation monitoring, maintenance and operation plan would be provided, from which he concluded that the site remediation would not guarantee there would be no post construction land movement; that the DEIR was silent on how to preclude house movement and how to permanently stop house movement once it began; that elsewhere in the DEIR, it stated that a subterranean drainage system would be installed with monitoring features to drain ground water, implying that if ground water was not carried off reliably in perpetuity, land movement could occur; and that the DEIR was silent on what type of sensor systems would be installed, maintained and operated, or at whose expense, which would detect any subterranean compromise of the drainage system or of the sensor system itself.
Mr. Fink noted that with regard to the pre-building geologic remediation phase of the project, page 4E- 35 of the DEIR stated: “Monitoring will provide early warning of impending movement,” though the monitoring methodology and mechanisms were not described and no basis was provided for evaluating its effectiveness; stated that the implication, however, was that the work would stop before movement occurred, precluding the possibility of movement; and that further down in the same section, he noted the text says the warning system would provide time to limit the impact of movement to human health and safety. He indicated that he remained unconvinced that the DEIR described adequate mechanisms, processes, or procedures that, if employed, would preclude land movement in perpetuity. He highlighted the fact that the movement of 350,000 cubic yards of earth triggered the Portuguese Bend landslide, while the proposed project would involve 4 million cubic yards of remedial grading. He pointed out that the geologists in the Laguna Niguel landslide concluded that the land was marginally suitable for development, but could be corrected with 4 million cubic yards of remedial grading; that this project was allowed to proceed and ultimately resulted in a landslide that destroyed homes and buckled adjacent roadways in March 2005. He noted that because FEMA had recently decided to not offer financial assistance in this case, the City of Laguna Niguel would be held responsible for at least $7 million in costs to remediate the landslide, repair homes and restore public infrastructure. He stated that the City was wise in imposing the landslide moratorium and noted it would be unwise to grant a waiver to it based on the contents of the DEIR, as presented.
Bill Griffin, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that he had been reviewing EIRs for 30 years; that he reviewed the DEIR for the Point View project and was pleased to see that several letters he had written were included in the document; however, he stated that the DEIR provided no specific responses to his inquiries and comments; for example, no responses were provided to his requests for indemnification and an independent peer review before the project was approved. He indicated that CEQA required the EIR make a good faith effort to address all of the comments received and noted that the DEIR only mentioned the possibility of peer review after the project was completed, and then only subject to the approval of the developer. He strongly objected to giving control of the peer review over to the developer. He urged the City to demand that all the submitted questions/comments be fully responded to in the DEIR.
Rudy Maus, Pacific Palisades, stated that the land was still moving; that anyone could easily witness these conditions; that the only reason he would support the project would be if it provided a traffic signal at the corner of Palos Verdes Drive South and Seacove Drive; and suggested that if the City approved this request, the developer be required to put up a billion-dollar cash bond for the numerous homes he believed would slide into the ocean as a result of this project.
Carole Davis, Palos Verdes Estates, stated that her late husband, Jim Davis, was an architect and geologist who strongly opposed building homes in the Point View area because of the adverse geological conditions in the area. She pointed to the flooding in New Orleans as a perfect example of building in the wrong location because the area was below sea level. She indicated that in the Portuguese Bend area everyone was aware of the great potential for landslides; and she questioned why someone would deliberately choose to ignore the destruction that could be caused by a natural disaster, the vibrations caused by construction or the effects of too much water runoff. She stated that if the City approved lifting the moratorium for the proposed development and a disaster then occurred, the City would be liable for multiple lawsuits and questioned if the City could afford to assume this liability and the possibility of bankruptcy. She cited similar situations that had occurred in the Cities of Palos Verdes Estates and Laguna Niguel where these cities had approved development in unstable areas and were paying the consequences for those decisions. She added that if the project went forward and a landslide occurred, the loss of ingress and egress on Palos Verdes Drive South would impact everyone on the Peninsula.
There being no additional speakers, Mayor Clark, on behalf of Council, thanked the community for attending this evening’s meeting and providing input.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz assured the residents that all questions would be addressed, noting that he had heard compelling comments that evening that warranted a full response.
Mayor Clark declared the public hearing closed on the DEIR for the Point View project. He reminded the public that the comment period would remain open until Friday, September 16, 2005, and that the public may provide additional written input on this DEIR until that deadline.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
Mayor Clark recessed the meeting at 10:26 P.M. and reconvened the meeting at 10:37 P.M.
Revision "X" to the Trump National Golf Club Project
The staff report of September 6, 2005 recommended that Council 1) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-__, APPROVING ADDENDUM NO. 18 TO ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT 36 FOR REVISION "X"; and 2) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-__, APPROVING REVISION "X", AMENDING CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT NO. 162 FOR CHANGES TO THE PROJECT'S RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS.
This matter was continued to the September 20, 2005, City Council meeting.
CITY COUNCIL ORAL REPORTS:
Councilman Long stated that he attended the Founder’s Park dedication ceremony on August 27th and the dedication of Channel 33; and noted that he and Mayor pro tem Wolowicz attended the Residential Development Standards Update Committee meeting on August 29th.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz highlighted the following meetings/events he attended:
Mayor Clark thanked and commended staff and those community leaders for their hard work in planning the August 27th Founder’s Park and Channel 33 events, stating that both events were well done.
REGULAR NEW BUSINESS:
Geographic Information System - Phase 2
The staff report of September 6, 2005 recommended that Council 1) Approve the GIS software licensing agreements (Quotation # 20195007) between the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and Environmental Systems Research Institute ("ESRI"); 2) Approve the First Amendment to Professional Services Agreement ("PSA") between Palos Verdes on the Net ("PVNET") and the City of Rancho Palos Verdes (the "City"); and, 3) Direct Staff to proceed with implementation of the proposed Phase 2 of the City's geographical informational system.
This matter was continued to the September 20, 2005, City Council meeting.
An Ordinance of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes Amending Provisions of Chapter 3.16 Governing the Collection of Transient Occupancy Tax and Amending the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code
The staff report of September 6, 2005, recommended that Council READ ORDINANCE NO. 424, "AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AMENDING PROVISIONS OF CHAPTER 3.16 GOVERNING THE COLLECTION OF TRANSIENT OCCUPANCY TAX AND AMENDING THE RANCHO PALOS VERDES MUNICIPAL CODE" BY TITLE ONLY, WAIVE FURTHER READING, AND INTRODUCE THE ORDINANCE.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to approve staff recommendation, adopting Ordinance No. 424. The motion carried as follows:
AYES: Wolowicz, Long, Clark
City Attorney Lynch responded to Councilman Long’s inquiry regarding the possibility of a future change to case law, noting that if any change occurred such that the City no longer had to exempt insurers, this matter would be brought back to Council; and noted that this change was designed to make sure someone was not falsely applying as a hotel transient when, in fact, they were staying for a longer period of time.
An Ordinance of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes Amending Provisions of Chapter 8.28 Prohibiting Smoking at City Facilities, Except Within Designated Smoking Areas, and Amending the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code
The staff report of September 6, 2005, recommended that Council READ ORDINANCE NO. 425, "AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AMENDING PROVISIONS OF CHAPTER 8.28 PROHIBITING SMOKING AT CITY FACILITIES, EXCEPT WITHIN DESIGNATED SMOKING AREAS, AND AMENDING THE RANCHO PALOS VERDES MUNICIPAL CODE" BY TITLE ONLY, WAIVE FURTHER READING, AND INTRODUCE THE ORDINANCE.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that while he was supportive of this Ordinance, he would not want to see the City’s law enforcement resources diverted to the beaches and parks when they may be needed elsewhere in the City.
Councilman Long explained that he was not suggesting that the City devote any more resources to this than was otherwise necessary, noting that the ordinance was a tool to deal with a specific problem at the City’s beaches and parks. He added that his primary motive in bringing this ordinance forward was to halt the excessive littering of cigarette butts on the beaches. He added that many cities already had such an ordinance in place.
City Attorney Lynch explained that the ordinance provided more of a deterrent; and that if someone refused to comply, this would allow for some enforcement to be conducted, if available. She added that signs would be posted advising the public of this new ordinance.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that he will vote in favor of the proposal, but that if this became time-consuming for law enforcement, he would like to be advised of that fact and have the issue revisited by Council.
Mayor Clark commended Councilman Long for bringing this issue forward.
Councilman Long suggested that the County lifeguards be advised of this new ordinance.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Wolowicz, to approve staff recommendation, adopting Ordinance No. 425. The motion carried as follows:
AYES: Wolowicz, Long, Clark
COUNCIL DISCUSSION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS & SUGGESTION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:
The meeting was adjourned at 10:58 P.M. to 9:30 A.M. on Saturday, September 10, 2005, at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard for a Joint Workshop with the Traffic Safety Commission and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.