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TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
FROM: ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER/CITY CLERK
Authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to sign an agreement to purchase tax-defaulted property for five vacant parcels totaling 47.83 acres located north and south of Montemalaga Drive, between Mossbank Drive and Via Campasina.
Pursuant to the State Revenue and Tax Code, properties that are determined to be in default for unpaid property taxes for five years or more are periodically put up for sale at public auction by the Los Angeles County Tax Collector, plus some minor processing costs. However, if it is determined that the parcel is needed for public purposes, the City may request to have the parcel removed from the auction and acquire title to the property. The cost of acquisition is the minimum bid for the property as approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. However, parcels may be subject to removal from the auction if the owner pays the defaulted taxes or enters into a legal process, such as bankruptcy.
On December 7, 2006, staff has received notice that five vacant parcels in the City, all owned by the same entity, will be offered at public auction on February 26 & 27, 2007. If the City determines that any of the properties are needed for public purposes, it must file a written statement setting forth the purpose of the acquisition and the necessary agreement forms prior to December 29, 2006. All of the parcels are located in Malaga Canyon, north and south of Montemalaga Drive, between Mossbank Road and Via Campasina. The characteristics of the five parcels are presented below:
There are two additional parcels in the upper portion of the southern parcel near Mossbank Drive which under a different private ownership and are not subject to the County tax sale: APN# 7578-0030994 and 7578-003-007. These two parcels total 16.25 acres in size and are zoned RS-A-5 and OH.
Staff believes that there are several potential public benefits to acquiring the five tax-defaulted parcels in Malaga Canyon:
1. Potential Enhancement of the NCCP
A biological assessment conducted in 2004 indicated that the property contains two sensitive habitat types: Coastal Sage Scrub (0.92 acres) and Southern Willow Scrub (0.28 acres). The majority of the property is currently Non-Native Grassland (39.57 acres) and a small amount of Disturbed Habitat (2.63 acres). Although the property contains habitat used by the California gnatcatcher, none where observed on the property during the 2004 survey. Malaga Canyon is currently not included in the City’s NCCP due to its isolation from core preserve, but has some potential been identified as a wildlife corridor to disperse gnatcatchers throughout the peninsula between the Portuguese Bend Preserve on the southern slope of the Peninsula and the As such, the canyon is worthy of protection and enhancement, and could be added, in whole or in part, to the NCCP Preserve in the future.
2. Implementation of Public Trails Identified in the Conceptual Trails Plan
The Conceptual Trails Plan (CTP) identifies five proposed pedestrian trail segments crossing the subject parcels. Taken together, these segments would form the Malaga Canyon Trail System identified in the CTP (see attached Section 2, Trails H1, H2, H3, H4 and H5). Acquisition of the tax-defaulted properties would allow implementation of these public trails. Trail segments H1 (Finecrest Segment) and H4 (Mossbank Trail) could be implemented fairly easily using APN# 7578-003-006 to link the two ends of Mossbank Drive, running east and west. An unpaved fire access road already exists in this general location. The remaining three trail segments running north and south would be more difficult to construct due to steep terrain and habitat issues. While the surrounding neighborhoods are expected to be the primary users of this trail system, it would also constitute a significant portion of one “spoke” in the Palos Verdes Loop and Spoke System identified in Appendix 2 of the CTP, which could potentially provide a linkage to other trail systems on the Peninsula.
3. Access for Storm Drain Repair Projects
Storm water flows down Malaga Canyon from south to north and crosses under Montemalaga Drive via a culvert. The Public Works Department has identified both the drainage inlet structure on the large southern parcel (APN# 7578-002-009) and the outlet structure on the northern parcel (APN # 7546-022-008) as needing significant repairs and ongoing maintenance. City ownership of these two parcels would greatly improve the City’s ability to access the property both to construct the needed improvements and to conduct on-going maintenance activities.
4. Possible Development Site for a City/Community Facility
Approximately 10 to 11 acres of the southern parcel has street frontage along Montemalaga Drive and is zoned RS-A-5, which would permit a maximum of one residential unit per 5 acres. Slopes on this portion of the site range in steepness from less than 25% (flat to moderate slope) adjacent to Montemalaga Drive, to over 35% in steepness (extreme slope) adjacent to the homes on Grayslake Road and Menominee Place. Although the City is unaware of any recent geologic borings conducted on the property, a preliminary geotechnical feasibility study prepared in 2003 for a proposed single family development concluded that although several potential geologic hazards exist on the property, including susceptibility to strong seismic shaking, slope instability, unsuitable soils and expansive soils, they can be mitigated through engineering, design, remedial work and/or proper planning. Therefore, if the City were to acquire the large southern parcel, there appears to be potential to re-zone this portion of the property to Open Space Recreational (OR) or Institutional (I) to develop the site for some type of civic, recreational or community facility. However, additional geologic studies would be required to determine the property’s full development potential.
The City has previously purchased two tax-defaulted parcels from the County. The first was a vacant lot on Cherry Hill Lane in the Portuguese Bend landslide area that was acquired in 2001 for $2,721 for landslide abatement purposes. The second property was a 17.44 vacant parcel surrounding Del Cerro Park. This open space lot was purchased in 2002 for $17,772 to increase the size of the adjacent public park, provide future trail connections to the Portuguese Bend Nature Preserve and further the City’s efforts to complete the Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP).
The Los Angeles County Tax Collector has notified the City that five properties in the City will be offered for sale at a public auction on February 26 and 27, 2007. The City has the opportunity to purchase these properties prior to the public sale, provided that the City files the necessary paperwork with the County prior to December 29, 2006 to establish that the properties are needed for public purposes. Staff recommends that the City attempt to acquire all five parcels in order to preserve open space, provide public trail opportunities, provide potential enhancement to the City’s NCCP and assist the City in completing potential storm drain improvement projects in Malaga Canyon.
The City would be required to purchase the subject parcel for the minimum bid amount, which is $84,034, plus some minor processing costs. The money for the purchase would come from the General Fund and would require a budget adjustment. If and when easements are obtained from the other property owners to complete this segment of the Palos Verdes Loop Trail, the City would incur some additional capital costs to improve the property as a trailhead park, such as grading the trail tread, signage, a drinking fountain, benches, etc. In the meantime, the only on-going cost to the City of owning this property would be the annual cost of weed control and trash clean up.
Notice from the County of Los Angeles dated December 6, 2006