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Prepared By: Ara Michael Mihranian, Senior Planner
1. Authorize the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (PVPLC), as land managers of the Forrestal Nature Preserve, to perform fuel modification work at the Preserve.
2. Amend the Operating Agreement between the City and the PVPLC to confirm that fuel modification work is within the scope of the existing City/PVPLC Operating Agreement.
On September 19, 2005, the City received a written Fire Order from the Los County Department of Agriculture mandating that brush and trees be thinned or removed within 200-feet of the existing residences abutting the eastern portion of the City-owned Forrestal Nature Preserve (see attachment). On October 25, 2005, City and PVPLC Staff met with representatives from the Department of Agriculture and the local Fire Station to seek clarification on the extent of the required fuel modification. As a result of the meeting, the City was given specific direction on the degree of vegetation removal and thinning.
Due to the large extent of the area to be cleared and the timing of the Fire Order (typically brush clearance is required in the Spring not in the Fall), Staff decided to wait until after the rainy season to perform the required brush clearance to avoid potential erosion impacts. With the end of the rainy season upon us, staff now intends to move forward with the required brush clearance. As land managers of the City’s Portuguese Bend Nature Preserve, that includes the Forrestal Nature Preserve, Staff felt it would be most appropriate and cost effective to have the PVPLC perform the required brush clearance. As such, on April 4, 2006, the PVPLC submitted a proposal to the City to perform the required brush clearance in accordance to the Fire Order at a total cost of $50,000. Staff is seeking Council authorization to allow the PVPLC to conduct the required fuel modification at the City-owned Forrestal Property. Additionally, Staff is recommending that the Council amend the Operating Agreement between the City and the PVPLC to confirm that fuel modification work is consistent with the scope of the PVPLC’s management duties.
The City-owned Forrestal Nature Preserve is 160 acres in size and contains federal and state protected habitat, including one of the City’s best stands of coastal sage scrub. Notwithstanding, the Preserve is not exempt from fire suppression requirements as there are single-family homes located along the eastern and northern portion of the Preserve. As such, the City has performed brush clearance within the Preserve on an annual basis behind the homes along Pirate Drive. However, based on a resident complaint, the Fire Department has ordered additional brush clearance behind the homes adjacent to the Preserve on Oceangrove Drive, Hightide Drive, Falconhead Drive and Coolheights Drive. It appears that this area has not been cleared before.
The City typically commissions the Los Angeles County Department of Agriculture to conduct brush clearance at City-owned properties. In some cases, the City will contract a private vendor to conduct the required brush clearance if certain circumstances, such as the extent or the mechanics of the brush clearance, are beyond the County’s ability. Because the newly required brush clearance at Forrestal involves brush clearance on extreme slopes that cannot be accessed by mechanical equipment or vehicles, the County chose not to do the work, but provided the City with a list of private vendors who routinely perform brush clearance services.
Staff initially contemplated using private vendors to do the work and actually received two informal bids to do the work (see attachment). The bids were submitted from SR Landscape for $60,000.00 and Bennett Landscape for $80,000.00. However, due to logistical and budget constraints, Staff felt that it would be more ideal for the PVPLC, as land managers, to do the work and asked the PVPLC to submit a proposal. On April 4, 2006, the PVPLC formally submitted a proposal to perform the required fuel modification at Forrestal.
According to the PVPLC’s proposal, the total cost to perform the required fuel modification is $50,000.00. Included in the PVPLC proposal, is the preparation of a nesting survey 72-hours prior to commencing any work to assess potential impacts the fuel modification may have on the gnatcatcher, cactus wren and other migratory birds that may be on the property. As land managers of the Preserve, Staff believes that the PVPLC is highly qualified and knowledgeable of the site to perform the required fuel modification with minimal impacts to the surrounding environment. Moreover, City Staff also believes that the scope of work in the existing Operating Agreement between the City and the PVPLC implies that the PVPLC has the ability to perform fuel modification services for the City without having to proceed through the City’s formal competitive bid process. As such, Staff is seeking Council authorization to allow the PVPLC to perform the required fuel modification. At the PVPLC’s request, Staff is also recommending that the Council amend the Operating Agreement between the City and the PVPLC to confirm that fuel modification services are consistent with the scope of the City/PVPLC Operating Agreement.
Fire Order Time Limits
According to the Fire Order, the City was given 30-days from the date of the Fire Order to complete the required brush clearance. However, because of the sensitive nature of the site and the complexity involved in completing the work, the County granted the City additional time, but stopped short from establishing an actual deadline date. Nevertheless, Staff has been working to complete the required brush clearance prior to this year’s fire season.
According to the City Council adopted Forrestal Management Plan, fuel modification at the Preserve is the responsibility of the City. The Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP) adopted by the City Council in August 2004 identifies the Forrestal Nature Preserve as a part of the overall 1,500-acre City Preserve. As part of the City’s NCCP, the City has committed funding for Preserve management. Since the fuel modification is mandated by the Fire Department and is considered by the Forrestal Management Plan as routine property maintenance, Staff believes that the costs incurred for the brush clearance qualify as Preserve management activities and thus can be paid from the City’s existing Habitat Restoration and Maintenance Fund.
According to the Fiscal Year 05-06 adopted budget, $100,000 has been budgeted for Habitat Restoration and Open Space Maintenance and Monitoring. Late last year, the City Council authorized the PVPLC to begin management of the Preserve on January 1, 2006. In conjunction with this action, the City Council authorized an expenditure of $50,000.00 to pay for PVPLC’s 6 months of Preserve management (January to June 2006). As a result, $50,000.00 remains in the current Preserve management budget. Staff believes that the brush clearance mandated by the County’s Fire Order is considered a Preserve management activity and thus can be paid for from the City’s Habitat Restoration and Maintenance budget. As a result, no budget adjustment is necessary to pay for the brush clearance cost.
Staff recommends that the City Council authorize the PVPLC to perform fuel modification work required by the Fire Department as land managers of the Preserve. Furthermore, Staff recommends that the City Council amend the Operating Agreement between the City and the PVPLC for the Forrestal Nature Preserve to confirm that fuel modification work is within the scope of the existing City/PVPLC Operating Agreement.
In addition to Staff's recommendation, the following alternative is available for consideration by the City Council:
1) Direct Staff obtain bids for the brush clearance work through the formal bid process.
Attachments (Some of the following attachments can be viewed at the Planning Department at City Hall)
City/PVPLC Operating Agreement Amendment No. 3
THIRD AMENDMENT TO THE AMENDED AND RESTATED AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AND THE PALOS VERDES PENINSULA LAND CONSERVANCY, A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION, TO JOINTLY OPERATE AND MAINTAIN A TRACT OF LAND KNOWN AS THE FORRESTAL NATURE PRESERVE AND TO CONDUCT ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS, TOURS, AND EVENTS THAT WILL ENCOURAGE PARTICIPATION IN THE PASSIVE RECREATIONAL USE OF THE PRESERVE AS AN OPEN SPACE COASTAL NATURE PRESERVE AND AUTHORIZE THE USE OF PRIVATELY AND PUBLICLY RAISED FUNDS FOR THE UPGRADING AND ENHANCEMENT OF THE PRESERVE FOR USE BY THE PUBLIC AND TO ENHANCE AND PROTECT HABITAT AND SPECIES LOCATED THEREON.
Section 2. Section 28 of the Agreement is hereby amended to read as follows:
Dated _________________ PALOS VERDES LAND CONSERVANCY