RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
JULY 15, 2003
The meeting was called to order at 7:13 p.m. by Mayor Stern at Fred Hesse Community Park 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, Rancho Palos Verdes.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Clark, Gardiner, McTaggart, Ferraro, and Mayor Stern
Also present were City Manager Les Evans; Assistant City Manager Carolynn Petru; City Attorney Carol Lynch; Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Joel Rojas; Director of Public Works Dean Allison; Director of Finance Dennis McLean; Senior Planner Kit Fox; City Clerk/Administrative Services Director Jo Purcell; and, Minutes Secretary Debra Presutti.
Director Allison led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Robert Ellen was selected as recycler of the month. Mayor Stern notified the audience that there is a new recycler of the month card to fill out, and he urged everyone to learn more about what items can be placed in their green waste and commingled recycling containers in order to help the City meet its State mandated recycling goals and to enable them to be eligible for the $250 bimonthly drawing. He thanked everyone for participating.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Mayor pro tem Ferraro moved, seconded by Councilman McTaggart, to approve the Agenda. Motion carried.
APPROVAL OF CONSENT CALENDAR:
Councilman Clark moved, seconded by Councilman McTaggart, to approve the Consent Calendar as follows:
Motion To Waive Full Reading
Adopted a motion to waive reading in full of all ordinances presented at the meeting with consent of the waiver of reading deemed to be given by all council members after the reading of the title.
Approved the minutes of April 29, 2003.
Ordinance No. 394: DENSITY BONUS PROVISIONS. (701 x 1203)
ADOPTED ORDINANCE NO. 394 OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES REVISING CHAPTERS 17.11 AND 17.96 OF TITLE 17 OF THE CITY’S MUNICIPAL CODE AS THEY PERTAIN TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND STATE MANDATED DENSITY BONUS PROVISIONS/CITYWIDE. (This ordinance was INTRODUCED at the July 1st meeting.)
Claim Against The City By Charles Lamont. (303)
Rejected the Claim and directed staff to notify the claimant.
ORDINANCE NO. 390: RV PARKING. (1801)
RE-INTRODUCED ORDINANCE NO. 390 as amended OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES REVISING SECTION 8.24.060 (PROPERTY MAINTENANCE STANDARDS) TO INCLUDE RV PARKING AND STORAGE RESTRICTIONS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY. (This Ordinance was re-introduced at the July 1st meeting.)
In response to a request for clarification by Mr. Ernie Giannioses on the rewording of the ordinance as it related to parking on undeveloped property, City Attorney Lynch explained that the language allowed a person owning and living on a developed property contiguous to an undeveloped parcel which they also own to park their vehicle or allow a member of their immediate family to park their vehicle on that undeveloped parcel; this includes allowing the owner of an undeveloped parcel not contiguous to their residence to park their vehicle on that undeveloped property.
Mayor Stern expressed concern over allowing immediate family members not residing on the property to park their vehicles there, adding that the issue should be determined solely by residency at the property.
Mayor pro tem Ferraro commented that if a property owner’s child goes off to college they still quote, "live there," saying the ordinance should apply to anyone related to the person living there.
City Attorney Lynch suggested revising the language as follows: to park a vehicle on a contiguous undeveloped property, 1) the person who owns the vehicle has to reside on the developed contiguous parcel; or, 2) must be an immediate family member or the actual owner of the undeveloped lot on which the vehicle is parked. She further clarified the definition of immediate family member as spouse, registered domestic partner, child, stepchild, grandparent, and grandchild.
In response to the issue of overhanging vehicles raised by Councilman McTaggart, City Attorney Lynch explained that the current language states that a vehicle may not overhang onto a landscaped area or onto the street right-of-way, which typically includes a sidewalk and any parkway not within the paved area but within the dedicated right -of-way. She added that, since there is the possibility of having a sidewalk outside the street right-of-way, the language should be modified to include landscape areas, sidewalks, parkways, or street rights-of-way.
In response to the issue of temporary guest permits raised by Mr. Ortolano, City Attorney Lynch requested direction from Council on whether to allow temporary guest permits for RV parking only on the developed property of single-family residences.
Councilman Gardiner queried why it has become harder to park on one’s own property than it is to park on the street.
City Attorney Lynch responded that the original intent of the ordinance was not to allow the storage of vehicles or to allow someone to become a de facto resident of a property without having a lawful structure.
Ernie Giannioses, Rancho Palos Verdes, questioned why this should apply only to single-family residence situations and commented that someone residing in a condominium or apartment complex with room to accommodate an RV should not be restricted from allowing a guest to park there as long as the CC& R’s of the complex do not prohibit it. He concluded by volunteering to assist in any mediation process in the matter as necessary.
Ralph Ortolano, Jr., Rancho Palos Verdes, noted that immediate family member should include dependents such as an adopted child.
Mayor Stern advised that the language is not precise and that the City Attorney will be revising it.
Councilman Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to adopt the amendments proposed by City Attorney Lynch. The motion to approve carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Ferraro, Clark, McTaggart, Gardiner, and Mayor Stern
Resol. No. 2003-57: Budget Adjustment For CORE Deputies. (602 x 1206)
ADOPTED RESOL. NO. 2003-57 AMENDING RESOL. NO. 2003-42, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2003-04, FOR A BUDGET ADJUSTMENT TO THE CITY’S GENERAL FUND.
Resol. No. 2003-58:Register of Demands.
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2003-58, 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.
The motion to approve the Consent Calendar carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Ferraro, Clark, McTaggart, Gardiner and Mayor Stern
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Resol. No. 2003-59: Abalone Cove Sewer Maintenance Fee. (1900)
The staff memorandum of July 15th presented the following recommendations: conduct a public hearing on the proposed levy and allocation of the annual sewer service charge for the Abalone Cove Sewer System for Fiscal Year 2003-04: (2) Authorize a $17,500 subsidy of the annual Abalone Cove sewer service charge; (3) ADOPT THE PROPOSED RESOLUTION NO. 2003-59, APPROVING THE REPORT IN CONNECTION WITH THE SEWER SERVICE CHARGE ESTABLISHED PURSUANT TO CHAPTER 13.06 OF THE RANCHO PALOS VERDES MUNICIPAL CODE, DETERMINING THE AMOUNT OF SUCH CHARGE FOR FISCAL YEAR 2003-04, AND ORDERING SUCH CHARGE TO BE COLLECTED ON THE TAX ROLL.
Mayor Stern opened the public hearing on this proposal to levy and allocation of an annual sewer service charge for the Abalone Cove Sewer System for Fiscal Year 2003-04 annual.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Clark, to waive the staff report. Motion carried.
There being no response to the Mayor’s call for public testimony, he declared the hearing closed.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Clark, to approve the adoption of the staff recommendation. The motion carried.
Presentation of the Draft NCCP Sub-area Plan And Solicitation Of Public Comments On The Notice Of Preparation (NOP) For The Forthcoming NCCP EIR. (1203)
Director Rojas presented the staff memorandum of July 15, 2003 and recommended acceptance of public testimony on the Notice of Preparation (NOP) of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Rancho Palos Verdes Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP) Sub-area Plan.
Barbara Dye, Rancho Palos Verdes, on behalf of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, commended Director Rojas and the City’s consultant for their efforts, stating they have been a pleasure to work with. She expressed her excitement at the huge steps being taken for acquisition and preservation and urged everyone to keep working diligently to move the process forward.
Jim Knight, Rancho Palos Verdes, complimented Ms. Dye and Director Rojas on a job well done and urged Council to move forward with the plan. He commented that the document is well drafted and very important as a final step in implementing the City’s vision to preserve some of the natural habitat and character, which define it.
Jack Downhill, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that NCCP is a conservation plan and expressed concern about the creation of habitat rather than maintenance of what already exists. He also expressed concern over the ownership and responsibility for the habitat areas once planning is adopted, fearing an entity other than the City would assume responsibility and be unable to provide the necessary funding for its proper maintenance.
Dale Warren, Rancho Palos Verdes, representing the South Bay Archery Club, said the membership supports the conservation program 100 percent. He expressed concern over the possible installation of trails, stating that the area is fill land which is constantly moving and experience has proved it to be dangerous terrain for walking and horseback riding. He concluded by offering assistance to expedite the planning and conservation, adding that he would be happy to donate his time and professional experience to raise funds for the effort.
Jim Knight, Rancho Palos Verdes, on behalf of the PV/South Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, strongly encouraged moving ahead with the analysis and careful review of the NCCP to ensure that local natural wildlife and habitat resources are responsibly preserved and to optimize the City’s chances of successfully competing for available funds.
Barbara Sattler, Rancho Palos Verdes, on behalf of the South Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society expressed happiness that the draft plan for the NCCP has finally come before the Council and is now available for public review. She encouraged proceeding in a timely manner to obtain State funding and urged careful analysis of the plan to ensure optimal protection and preservation of the City’s natural wildlife and habitat areas in a biologically sustainable configuration.
Ann Shaw, Rancho Palos Verdes, voiced concern over reference to an item in the plan regarding the City’s consideration of developing active recreational uses in the area. She mentioned that when the property was deeded from the Federal government, the City agreed to develop, operate, and maintain it in accordance with a program of utilization, which says that development of a portion of the site "will provide passive recreation pursuits closely oriented to the attributes of the Pacific Ocean and will accommodate individuals as well as groups." She advised the wording be changed to comply with the utilization plan.
Councilman Clark commented in response to Mr. Downhill’s concern regarding addition of habitat that, under the management plan, restoration of habitat is an integral part of the equation, adding it includes not only preservation of existing but the restoration of natural habitat as well.
City Manager Evans noted that the program of utilization can be amended and suggested leaving the decision between passive and active recreational uses of the site for future determination.
Barbara Dye mentioned that the area of the site referred to with regard to utilization plan compliance is not currently included in the reserve because other proposals are being considered. She stated that a mechanism is in place to add the property to the reserve if it is mutually decided at a later time to preserve it.
Councilman Clark indicated the Council has no predilection at this juncture as to the preferred use of that part of the City’s open space, adding they are trying to maintain flexibility in order to objectively consider all the possible uses.
Mayor pro tem Ferraro and Councilman Clark commended Barbara Dye for her early involvement in the process and all the hard work she has dedicated to the NCCP. Councilman Clark stated that a successful partnership between the City and the PV Land Conservancy has been created and a keystone step taken towards the preservation of a major portion of the Peninsula for future generations.
Councilman McTaggart mentioned that, at its inception, there seemed to be little hope of being able to pull this idea off, adding that a myriad of different groups working together have enabled the process to move forward so smoothly.
Councilman McTaggart moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Ferraro, to accept the staff recommendation. Motion carried.
Mayor Stern acknowledged Director Rojas for his superb effort and thanked Barbara Dye and the many others who participated, saying this is truly a milestone for the City.
Discussion of the City’s 16-foot height limit. (1801)
Director Rojas presented the staff memorandum of July 15, 2003 and requested direction from Council on the application of the 16-foot height limit.
Councilman Clark indicated that there is a diversity of opinion on the Planning Commission as to how to implement this very important part of the code. He noted that if a property owner stays within the code in terms of lot coverage and setbacks, it has consistently been the practice of the City since the code’s inception that the owner has the right to build a single-story residence up to 16 feet.
Director Rojas explained that staff is seeking guidance on the historical application of the code as it relates to neighborhood compatibility standards.
Councilman Clark indicated his understanding was that neighborhood compatibility came into existence as a consequence of Proposition M in 1989. What he actually determined after reading the staff report was that it was originally in the Development Code and was taken out in 1979. He queried of Councilman McTaggart why it was taken out.
Councilman McTaggart answered that at the time no one could conclusively determine the definition of "neighborhood" so it was removed.
Councilman Gardiner questioned if someone wanted to build a house to 16 feet and the surrounding houses were all 12 feet, would the decisive overriding factor be the neighborhood compatibility concerns or the 16-foot height limitation.
Director Rojas answered that the 16-foot height limit would control; however, neighborhood compatibility has recently been expanded to apply to more projects and there is the possibility that a project under 16 feet may have to go through a neighborhood compatibility finding that might restrict it below 16 feet.
Mayor pro tem Ferraro indicated that the 16-foot limitation for height and setbacks has consistently been applied, adding that as long as a property owner stays within that envelope there has been no need for a variance.
Councilman McTaggart mentioned that it has become almost a negotiation process, with the Planning Commission having the discretion to minimize the view obstruction created by a second-story addition by suggesting the structure is articulated in such a fashion to allow for both the addition and the view.
Mayor Stern expressed concern that this type of negotiation essentially eliminates the reasonable expectation that one can build to 16 feet without discretionary review.
Councilman McTaggart indicated that when a tract comes before the Planning Commission, they have the ability to require that setbacks be distributed between the houses to open up views; so while 16 feet is considered to be the standard, there have been instances where additions have been denied because of cumulative impact.
Mayor pro tem Ferraro mentioned a case where consideration was given to a particular variance that involved going into a setback, saying that application was denied even though they were not going over 16 feet because the established view corridor would have been blocked. She added that projects are generally modified when these types of problems occur.
Jon Cartwright, Rancho Palos Verdes, an 18-year resident of the City and a member of the Planning Commission for the last 7-and-a-half years stated that he is for protecting views but how that is done has become an issue. He requested Council assist both the Commission and the public by clarifying the 16-foot standard. He suggested reaffirming the City’s historical interpretation of the code, which allowed building to 16 feet without considering view impacts. He noted that differences in interpretation of view findings often confuse the public, split the Commission, and erode staff credibility. He added that, if the more recent interpretations of the code prevail, fixed height standards would disappear making almost all construction subject to discretionary review and creating a situation where nothing is certain. In conclusion he indicated that the historic interpretation of the 16-foot by-right standard in conjunction with the new neighborhood compatibility guidelines is a winning combination.
Mayor Stern requested clarification on whether the portion of a structure below 16 feet is taken into consideration when a height variation is sought to exceed 16 feet, to which Mr. Cartwright said his answer would be no, the first 16 feet is not considered.
Councilman Clark complimented Mr. Cartwright for his outstanding and thoughtful contributions as a member of the Planning Commission. He commented that in instances where a height variation includes an increase to the structure’s envelope and is perceived by neighbors to potentially impact their view corridors, the Planning Commission consistently attempts to work with the parties to reach a satisfactory solution. He added that the benchmark standard in the City has been that the right to a view is trumped by the right to build a single-story home up to 16 feet.
Frank Lyon, Rancho Palos Verdes, a 6-year member of the Planning Commission and 41-year resident of the Peninsula, indicated that he is strongly opposed to any change in the basic policy of allowing residential construction up to 16 feet in height without a City permit because first, the City Development Code establishing this right was created by intelligent, responsible, elected members of the City government 27 years ago; second, the Code has served well in balancing the rights of both old and new property owners; third, it has treated all residents fairly and consistently; fourth, there is no rational basis for distinguishing between new residences and additions to existing residences; and, finally, the removal or reduction in the by-right height limit would instantly and unfairly devalue all vacant lots and upgradeable properties in the City. He noted some specific questions that some of the newer Planning Commissioners have identified as problems and addressed them by saying that height variation findings should address only those portions of the structure that exceed 16 feet in height and that views should be assessed from the viewing area that is specifically defined in the code. In conclusion he stated that all view issues can and should be resolved by reaffirming the historical interpretations and applications of the development program with the addition of a few clarifying comments to the applicable code sections.
Mayor Stern asked Mr. Lyon if, in his opinion, the first 16 feet should essentially be banded out when doing an analysis and requested clarification of the authority for seeking to impact that first 16 feet to address a view concern.
Mr. Lyon responded that the Planning Commission has in their charter to work things out for applicants to protect their rights as well as the rights of their neighbors. He stated this sometimes involves applying common sense to accommodate concerns the code does not specifically address, adding this is a discretionary matter not a requirement.
Mayor Stern expressed concern that on one hand the analysis does not take into consideration anything below 16 feet when a height variance is sought, while on the other hand, it is often considered when making decisions, adding that he is troubled by the fact that it is used as part of a discretionary analysis as an accommodation but that it is not articulated in any code or policy as something the Planning Commission has the right to consider.
Councilman McTaggart noted that this is where the Planning Commission has the discretion to apply common sense and try to negotiate something agreeable to all parties involved.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Stern recessed the meeting at 8:43 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 8:58 p.m.
Clara Duran Reed, Rancho Palos Verdes, as a Planning Commissioner and resident, indicated that views are a very valuable commodity and that a careful consideration of the history of the City, the history of the code, all relevant propositions, and input from residents should be made before making any decisions which might impact those views. She stated that the neighborhood compatibility guidelines which have been developed extensively over a three-year period address the issue of views and state specifically, "not withstanding the code requirements on height variation permits." She noted that the code is an evolving piece of work, adding the fact it has existed in a particular format for a number of years does not mean it should not be reexamined and clarified to become more fair, more compatible, and more consistent with current standards. She commented that the City is changing, and she urged Council to thoroughly review the report being compiled by staff and listen to the input of residents in order to make a comprehensive, well-informed decision.
Director Rojas stated that the report being prepared at the request of the Planning Commission will be presented to them at their August 26th meeting and should be before the Council sometime in late September.
Councilman Gardiner requested clarification of neighborhood compatibility and its relationship to the 16-foot height limit, saying his understanding is that there are certain things that trigger the application of compatibility standards otherwise they do not apply. He asked how neighborhood compatibility impacts if at all the right to build up to 16 feet even if it blocks a view since this process is not triggered until you get higher than 16 feet.
Mayor Stern noted that the Planning Commission does not appear to have considered 16 feet as an absolute when considering a variance, adding that, if that is the case, there needs to be clarification that in some circumstances they may consider view impacts below 16 feet.
Councilman Clark complimented Ms. Duran Reed for her service to the City as a Planning Commissioner, noted her thoughtful comments, and questioned her point of view on the matter at hand.
Ms. Duran Reed replied that she has submitted proposed changes and modifications to the code, which will be included in the upcoming staff report. She indicated that on vacant lots people should be allowed to build to 16 feet and that people wishing to build homes up that are lower than 16 feet should be allowed to do so but, in that instance, guidelines and views need to be considered. She stated that a grandfather clause should be included allowing homes built to a certain height to be rebuilt to that same height. She noted that a concise definition or delineation of view impact would be helpful in the development of an analysis and concluded by saying that the General Plan established in 1975 prohibits encroachments on views that are reasonably expected for neighboring properties.
Councilman Clark contended that the fundamental standard in the City on residential building of a single-story residential dwelling at 16 feet has been looked at several times over the years and has been reaffirmed every time.
Ms. Duran Reed commented that there is no mention of "by right," adding that the very fact that it took three years to develop neighborhood compatibility guidelines indicates a different intent.
Councilman Clark explained that the guidelines were created to give residents some considerations to keep in mind when designing and remodeling their homes.
Craig Mueller, Rancho Palos Verdes, as Vice Chair of the Planning Commission, stated that there are views in the City and that everything should be done to preserve those views, adding that the Planning Commission has been looking very carefully at cumulative view impairment in its decision making. He explained that in his opinion Finding No. 6, which is the view from a viewing area, would take precedence over a view that is blocked in part by the 16-foot height limit, saying that he tends to see the 16 feet as a by-right height and will attempt to get the applicant to reach a compromise in those situations. He requested guidance from Council to assist the Planning Commission in resolving these issues.
Ken Dyda, Rancho Palos Verdes, explained that the 16-foot height limit was set in the code before Proposition M and neighborhood compatibility, and they now need to be brought into conformity with one another rather than being left open for debate. He commented that views are an assessed value, which is taxed, and that no financial compensation or recourse is available to a homeowner whose view is blocked. He requested that Council take the time to do a complete and thorough investigation of the matter and settle it once and for all.
Lori Zorn, Rancho Palos Verdes, informed Council of her predicament -- having recently purchased a house on a lot which was subdivided by the previous owner, who built a second house on the property, constructed so as not to obstruct the view of the original house. Subsequently, the front house was sold and the current resident has placed air conditioning units on the roof, partially blocking that view. She expressed concern and dismay, saying, if that home is allowed to build to 16 feet, the lovely view from her living room window will become a block wall. She added that views appraise from between $20,000 and $50,000 and if that view is lost she will lose not only the view but also a portion of her investment and future equity in that property.
Marc Cruz, Rancho Palos Verdes, who lives in the house described above with Lori Zorn, commented that they recently moved here from New York City because they fell in love with the community, its quaintness, and its views. He noted that overall the community’s properties benefit by virtue of the fact that each house has a view. He indicated that if his view is taken away, he will suffer a personal financial loss without compensation, saying that when a view is reasonably expected as in this situation where the house was obviously designed in such a way to provide for that view, he cannot understand the confusion about protecting it. He stated had there been a vacant lot in front of his property he could reasonably assume that a house might be built there, taking the view away, but he did not assume that his neighbor would have the right to deprive him of that view. He urged Council to give serious consideration to the preservation of views and their importance to the entire community.
Mayor pro tem Ferraro queried whether Ms. Zorn and Mr. Cruz had checked with the
Planning Department to see if, in fact, their view was protected.
Mr. Cruz replied that, unfortunately, they had not. He contended that information had been withheld from them which, had they known, would have induced them to find a different house.
Jack Downhill, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that he has been a licensed Realtor on the Peninsula since 1972 and a broker since 1975 and has dealt with many of these issues. He noted that having the 16-foot height limit and the setbacks has made it possible to sell vacant lots, view lots, and non-view lots because there is a frame of reference without which there would be chaos. He indicated that an ethical Realtor should be responsible for informing prospective buyers about the 16-foot issue and the possibility of their view being obstructed.
Councilman McTaggart questioned what the disclosure requirements are on the part of a real estate agent to inform prospective new buyers what the rules and regulations are in RPV.
Mr. Downhill responded that it is not written into the code, but it is a reasonable and good practice of real estate.
Councilman Gardiner expressed concern that buyers are not advised by Realtors of these rules and regulations nor their implications and suggested including in the code a disclosure requirement to prevent the occurrence of similar situations in the future.
City Attorney Lynch remarked that there are provisions that allow the inclusion of certain additional requirements about real estate disclosures. She commented that these are currently being looked into in connection with geologic disclosures, noting that these issues would be brought back to the Council.
Tom Redfield, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that in a general survey of opinions regarding this matter, the prevailing responses were as expected with those residents in the front row wanting the absolute right to build to 16 feet and those behind wanting to preserve their views. He added, however, that the most pervasive response was a request for clarification of the 16-foot height issue. He mentioned that after 25 years it is perhaps time to welcome this opportunity to rethink some of the provisions in the code and suggested that Council glean as much information as possible, get answers to those questions they feel are important, and make a well-informed, thoughtful decision.
Mayor Stern expressed wholehearted agreement with the need to review the full report and address all issues of importance on this topic and advised against rushing into a decision.
Councilman Clark indicated that part of the confusion is distinguishing between a right under the code and an enjoyment of property, adding this is a big distinction. He noted that the major point that has remained consistent in the code is the fundamental right to build a residence up to 16-feet. He urged Council to move forward on a decision, saying the cases currently before the City are not going to be put on hold in order to reconsider this issue.
Councilman Gardiner concurred with the need to move more quickly than staff had estimated to prepare a report. He stated that these questions and concerns are not new.
Mayor Stern commented that there are very good arguments on both sides, but the important value is to know without question what is allowed without seeking special permission such as a variance. He stated the implementation of neighborhood compatibility adds a degree of uncertainty and, if the goal is to establish something to an absolute certainty, this contradiction needs to be resolved. He noted that perhaps Council should codify what is actually taking place in the Planning Commission, which is the discretion to consider the impact below 16 feet when a person is seeking a variance to exceed 16 feet.
Councilman Gardiner, recognizing the enormous precedence for 16-feet and the fact that it has been the practice since the City’s inception, indicated that he would need a very persuasive argument to discontinue it. He opined that neighborhood compatibility might be something that comes into play after 16 feet.
Mayor pro tem Ferraro stated that to even think about changing what has been considered a by-right 16-foot ability would throw the City and the Planning Commission into complete chaos. She said there is a certain amount of consistency in place now and disagreed that further analysis is needed. She reminded everyone that the entire Development Code was looked at in the last four or five years.
Councilman Clark commented that view is important and this should not be construed as a denigration or subordination of the importance of a view; however, view does not trump the right to build a single-story home in RPV to 16 feet. He concluded by stating that future measures will be considered to compel real estate agents and brokers to disclose conditions of potential view impairment.
Mayor pro tem Ferraro concurred, adding that this Council and the Planning Commission have been very judicious in trying to preserve views as well as make things clear for those people wanting to add on to their residences.
Councilman Clark moved, seconded by Councilman McTaggart, to reaffirm the historical interpretation of the City’s standard of "by right" and application of the 16-foot height limit and directed staff and the Planning Commission to adhere to the historical application thus removing this specific issue from further Planning Commission discussion or debate; additionally, whenever a height variance is sought, the Planning Commission may consider the impact of the new construction below the 16 foot level. Should the applicant not accept the decision of the Planning Commission relating to the requested variance, the applicant has the right to limit his/her structure to a 16-foot structure and avoid the discretionary review arising from the variance application.
In addition Councilman Clark directed staff and the Planning Commission to report back to Council on the matter in September.
Without objection, Mayor Stern so ordered.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Stern recessed the meeting at 10:27 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 10:41 p.m.
Councilman McTaggart requested moving out of order to Item No. 13.
Parking Ordinance. (1502)
Director Allison introduced Jane Jones of the Palos Verdes Library District to explain the information contained in the staff memorandum of July 15, 2003 and recommended that staff work with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to prepare an ordinance allowing private property owners to establish and enforce off-street parking restrictions on private property.
Jane Jones, Rancho Palos Verdes, on behalf of the Palos Verdes Library District, informed Council that the parking ordinance at the Miraleste branch of the library is no longer in effect, causing significant parking problems. She explained that there are only 23 spaces in their lot many of which are being taken by people using the athletic facilities and attending special events at Miraleste Intermediate School. She mentioned that the branch is growing very quickly and that each and every one of those spaces is needed to accommodate visitors to the library.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Ferraro, to approve the staff recommendation.
CITY COUNCIL ORAL REPORTS
Councilman Clark reported that he attended a subcommittee meeting at Ocean Trails with Mayor Stern and reported that Mr. Trump is projecting that the 18-hole golf course will open in March of 2004, adding that a number of things remain to be done despite the fact that the rebuild appears to be complete. He stated that a schedule on the driving range and some interesting clubhouse refinements would be coming before the Council soon. He mentioned that the peer review of the geology question should be moving forward shortly and that the Trump group is looking for guidance from the Coastal Commission on a couple of the waterfalls. He indicated that PV Drive South is projected for completion in November 2003 and complimented the group for doing an outstanding job of mitigating impacts to traffic during this substantial rebuild. He noted that the affordable housing units on the property are fundamentally complete and will be filled shortly. In response to inquiries on how to get in line for these units, he explained that it is a very established process in which first priority goes to low-income earners employed at Ocean Trails, adding he believes all units will be filled from that category.
Councilman McTaggart announced that he would be presenting a donated ambulance to the city of Loreto, Mexico on July 26th in Hermosa Beach. On July 7th he met with the Boy Scouts of America Personnel Search Committee in Torrance. He participated in an introduction to the new Gold Rail Line. He attended a meeting of the LAX Round Table on July 9th, adding that FedEx, again, failed to send a representative which put the discussion of a noise abatement issue at Long Beach Airport off to another meeting; under report of the Noise Subcommittee, the noise element of the latest LAX Master Plan was discussed and Supervisor Don Knabe has requested extending the comment period; over-flights of the Peninsula were also looked into and the possibility of using software to determine elevations of aircraft particularly as they turn over the harbor was discussed. During his attendance of the Vector Control District meeting on July 10th the West Nile Virus and the development of new blood tests to prevent transmission through transfusions was discussed; also, SSRD, Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis, a problem affecting horses, ponies, and donkeys which has appeared on the Peninsula was discussed. He advised anyone interested in learning more about this topic to visit the website at www.lawestvector.org.
Councilman McTaggart also attended the MTA South Bay Sector Governments Council in Carson on July 11th, where the switch from a grid system to a hub-and-spoke approach and other ways to cut costs were explored; a site in San Pedro for a transit center was considered; and, the implementation of a new automated maintenance program was discussed.
Jim Knight, Rancho Palos Verdes, expressed concern about inadequate shoreline protection and officially requested that a plan of action be considered to protect the City’s coast and its sensitive tide pools. He commented that the sheriffs deputized by Fish and Game may not be sufficient and suggested looking into some other options, including the possible use of volunteers equipped with communication devices to report problems to the police; some type of patrol paid for by the City; remote cameras; and, signs posted at the bottom of the trails in both English and Spanish informing people of the sensitivity of the tide pools and referencing a penalty enforcement. He strongly urged Council to devise a plan to protect and preserve these precious assets.
City Manager Evans indicated that Assistant Manager Petru is currently working on a plan with the sheriff’s department and noted that three of the CORE deputies have actually received training to enforce wildlife rules within the Fish and Game areas. He stated that a better sign program providing a phone number for anyone wishing to contact the sheriff to report certain activities might help intimidate people from raiding the tide pools. He also mentioned the possibility of using City employees to cover certain coastal areas during specific times to educate people who might be removing things from the tide pools. He concluded by saying that a program will be brought in for review shortly.
Gloria Andersen, Rancho Palos Verdes, as a 15-year resident of an apartment in the City, implored Council to assist her with a problem she is having with her downstairs neighbors who are smokers. She explained that these neighbors go out to their patio to smoke, despite her appeals to them, whereby the smoke rises through the slats directly into her residence. She urged Council to consider passing an ordinance protecting her and others in similar situations from the dangers of secondhand smoke, adding that she would like to see the City take the initiative and set the precedent of establishing a provision to protect nonsmokers.
Councilman Clark responded that in California a tenant currently has few if any legal rights against a neighbor for secondhand smoke. He noted, however, that recently in Long Beach a condominium owner successfully obtained a restraining order in a similar circumstance, adding that there is probably no legal right to restrict the smoking but suggested that Ms. Andersen could potentially take the matter to court.
Lois Larue, Rancho Palos Verdes, extended her appreciation to the City for forwarding the evening’s agenda and updated information on the Point View project to her home, since she is no longer able to drive.
Libby Aubrey, Rancho Palos Verdes, thanked Council and Director Allison for their assistance and support regarding vehicular safety on the community’s roadways. She announced that, during a recent visit to Sacramento at the League of Cities, funds were promised and will soon be available to provide for a consultant to advise on the improvements of cycling paths for the safety of the community and its residents.
Award of Contract to Prepare an EIR for Landslide Moratorium Exclusion No. 10. (1801)
Aided by a PowerPoint presentation, Senior Planner Fox presented the staff report and the recommendation to authorize the Mayor and the City Clerk to sign a professional services agreement in an amount not to exceed $188,218 with PCR Services Corporation to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Point View project, located at 6001 Palos Verdes Drive South.
Councilman Gardiner requested clarification of the term conceptually approved geology.
Planner Fox responded that the applicant’s geotechnical consultants have developed a scheme to remove existing landslide material below the property in order to make the area suitable for development; the City’s consultant has reviewed and in concept supports their assumptions about the current and post-removal stability of the site. He noted, if a moratorium exclusion is granted, a subsequent development approval would be requested for the property which would require more detailed and precise analyses and geotechnical studies be submitted.
Councilman McTaggart queried where the removed landslide material would go, expressing concern about the massive amount of soil being considered for removal.
Planner Fox replied that has not yet been identified.
City Manager Evans explained that many things have yet to be determined. He noted the geologists believe the plan is theoretically possible, but the questions of whether or not it is practically or financially feasible, whether or not there is a suitable site to put the removed material, and whether or not the property can actually be graded in order to build structures on it remain to be answered.
Councilman Clark and Mayor pro tem Ferraro questioned what was being proposed to stabilize the slide areas.
Planner Fox responded that a very elaborate system of subdrains for ground water collection and the installation of additional monitoring and dewatering wells to remove ground water are being proposed.
Mayor Stern, in consideration of the magnitude of the project, questioned if the time parameters for the EIR and the public comment period can be lengthened.
City Attorney Lynch noted that one 90-day extension is allowed but, basically, there is a one-year time period to process the EIR; Director Rojas commented that extensions have been obtained on other large projects such as Long Point.
Planner Fox stated that the 30-day comment period on the NOP is not anticipated to begin until sometime in September or October and, based on the comments received, a draft EIR would be prepared with an additional 45-day comment period; followed by a response to comments document which would form the final EIR. This would then be available for the Council to formally consider, at which time, Council would be asked to consider certifying the final EIR as well as the moratorium exclusion itself.
Councilman Gardiner inquired how the EIR would address Finding No. 3 which states that the exclusion will not aggravate existing geologic conditions in the area, asking what the standard of proof is to guarantee compliance.
Planner Fox replied that, in addition to the extensive geological reports that have been conceptually approved, staff has requested that all geology reports reviewed to date on the project be reformatted and synthesized into a form that meets the requirements of CEQA in identifying various environmental impacts.
City Attorney Lynch explained that the EIR’s task is to analyze any potential significant environmental impacts that might result from the project, adding that one of the obvious areas to be addressed at length will be the geology.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Stern recessed the meeting at 11:37 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 11:41 p.m.
Planner Fox stated that it is important to note that, if the exclusion request is granted, it does not guarantee any future action by the City on any development proposal; it simply removes the moratorium restrictions.
Mayor pro tem Ferraro explained that the money being expended on the EIR is funded by the developer into a trust account; so City funds are not being used; the City’s function is to select and hire the entity to perform the EIR.
Mayor Stern commented on the fact that public outreach was mentioned in PCR’s proposal for the EIR and asked what is involved in that and why staff did not recommend it. He opined that consideration of such a huge project warrants as much public outreach as possible.
Planner Fox responded that the public outreach proposed would involve a subcontracted firm conducting and facilitating scoping meetings and a public workshop for the EIR, adding that City staff and the primary consultant had planned to facilitate these meetings rather than hire an additional consultant.
Director Rojas explained that the firm being considered specializes in conducting public hearings on controversial items, noting that previous experience has shown that staff has taken the lead role in terms of understanding local issues and explaining them to the secondary consultant who then acts as a facilitator but does not lend much in terms of impact.
Councilman Gardiner noted the advantages of having a neutral outside facilitator to gather public outreach information, saying that economically and functionally there is an argument to be made for having that performed by an outside firm.
Councilman McTaggart requested clarification on the issue of air quality analysis.
Director Rojas remarked that an air quality analysis will be performed but it is anticipated the AQMD is going to change some of the pertinent rules; staff’s position is to direct all necessary air quality analysis be performed to the new standard if there is a change in AQMD requirements.
Gary Weber, on behalf of York Long Point Associates, commended Director Rojas and Planner Fox for their comprehensive and top-rate analysis of the EIR proposals. He supported staff’s recommendation to retain PCR as the consultant, saying they are extremely competent, have an excellent reputation, and are well respected within the environmental community.
Mayor Stern reiterated concern about the massive amount of two to four million cubic yards of soil projected for removal and the possible impacts of stockpiling.
Mr. Weber explained that what is known in the industry as a "dirt management" plan would be developed, noting that the soil would be moved sequentially rather than in one large operation and that no dirt would leave the property.
Councilman McTaggart indicated that the Portuguese Bend landslide began with the stockpiling of 375,000 cubic yards of soil on the scarp of an ancient landslide. He expressed serious concerns about the possible ramifications of conceptually approved geology and conceptually approved stockpiling.
Jim Knight, Rancho Palos Verdes, expressed a high level of anxiety over this particular exclusion permit. He stated that one of his concerns deals with consistency with the City’s Zone 2 decision, noting that part of the exclusion permit is in an area included within the Abalone Cove landslide complex, where previous studies have determined the level of risk to be unknown. He also noted that the delineation of Zones 1 and 2 is by property boundary and not necessarily geological conditions. Another concern he mentioned is the potential liability risk to the City of 84 new homes in an area with a history of questionable stability. In conclusion he stated that the most troubling aspect is that neither the permit process, the staff, nor the EIR geologists can determine an acceptable level of risk, adding that in the past geology reports and experts’ opinions have left the City with a devastating legacy.
Councilman Gardiner concurred with many of Mr. Knight’s concerns, saying that, since the Council has little say over this part of the process, the EIR must provide compelling evidence and conclusions to assure him of the soundness of the project.
Councilman Clark mentioned that Council ultimately has the discretionary authority to either approve or reject the moratorium exclusion and queried whether the comments in the evening’s discussion would be provided to the EIR consultant.
Director Rojas replied that the comments of this meeting would be provided to the consultant.
Don Shultz, Rancho Palos Verdes, indicated that this proposed development would certainly compound traffic problems. He noted that every time a building permit is granted for new construction the number of cars in the area rises accordingly, adding that there are already too many cars on roads that are too narrow. He suggested that all four of the sister cities work together and implement a plan to address the ever-increasing amount of traffic on the Peninsula.
Councilman Clark stated that Mr. Shults’s comments resonate strongly with this Council and mentioned a letter that Mayor Stern sent in December to each of the mayors of the other cities suggesting that they proceed together on an ad hoc, issue-by-issue basis to address some of the issues affecting the Peninsula – one of them being traffic. He encouraged residents to ground swell that initiative and bring it to the attention of the councils of the other cities.
Marianne Hunter, Rancho Palos Verdes, expressed great concern over whether the EIR takes into account the potential hazard of actually moving the soil. She elicited a disturbing image of a line of enormous trucks filled with dirt, the ground heavy with earth-moving equipment and open to the sky, and an enormous rainstorm striking the Peninsula, adding she seriously doubts it is possible to assure these processes are infallible, since past experience has proved otherwise. She contended that these are cynical times and the fact there is a great deal of money at stake leaves open the possibility that the agency hired might have a different agenda. She agreed with the concerns over increased traffic on the Peninsula and, in conclusion, voiced a reminder of the NCCP grants and the tremendous amount of time and money being expended to preserve and protect a beautiful natural environment which rests right above this project, saying the disruption caused could have an enormous and devastating impact on the patterns and reproduction of the wildlife. She strongly urged Council to give this matter the utmost consideration.
Barbara Sattler, Rancho Palos Verdes, on behalf of the South Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, stated their position has always been that maintaining a large ecologically functioning habitat area and the connecting territory between the bluff areas and coastal sage scrub community of the Portuguese Bend is essential. She stated that since this site is in the NCCP the EIR should give as much consideration to the biology of the area as to the geology. She explained that the determinations made for the configuration of the development of this property will have a tremendous impact on habitat and wildlife, and she strongly urged that the EIR consultant chosen be highly qualified in biology, including botany and ornithology; that the actual field work be done by someone equally qualified and familiar with the local species of plants and wildlife; that these surveys all be conducted at biologically appropriate times; and, that they follow the California Department of Fish and Game and the CMPS guidelines.
In response to Councilman Gardiner’s question as to whether these public comments would be taken into consideration and properly addressed by the EIR, Director Rojas reiterated assurance that the minutes and the evening’s comments will be forwarded to the consultants.
Councilman Clark again clarified that since the application for the moratorium exclusion has been deemed complete, the EIR process has been triggered, but that it in no way signifies approval of the moratorium exclusion or indicates that there will ultimately be a development project at Point View.
Mayor Stern concurred and reiterated that this approval is nothing more than the hiring of someone to perform the EIR.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Ferraro, to approve the staff recommendation, and Mayor Stern requested, additionally, to include a public outreach program as part of the public hearing process.
Planner Fox informed Council that the public outreach will increase the contract amount by $12,000.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Clark, Gardiner, Ferraro, McTaggart and Mayor Stern
Legislation: AB 496 (Correa) Santa Ana River Conservancy; and Diversion of Proposition 42 Transportation Funds. (306)
City Manager Evans briefly outlined the staff memorandum of July 15, 2003 and noted that the City of Diamond Bar is concerned that AB 496 will effect local land use decisions and that the new conservancy would have the power of eminent domain.
Mayor Stern commented that in the very middle of circle Page 8 and again in Subparagraph B on circle Page 9 it says that the conservancy does not have the power of eminent domain.
City Manager Evans responded that a letter received from Diamond Bar states that eminent domain is still part of the bill through a joint powers authority.
Councilman McTaggart explained that the whole issue is really about local control and the ability of elected officials to control land use, adding there is rarely a point in time he is in favor of losing local control because the locals are the ones elected by the people to do the people’s bidding and point authorities should not have zoning control.
Mayor Stern commented that he does not interpret it as relinquishing zoning control, saying that if you balkanize things city by city it is very difficult to have a rational program that addresses the geographical area as opposed to the political area.
Councilman Clark queried why the California Contract Cities has not taken a position to which Councilman McTaggart replied that a meeting to address it had not yet been held, noting that he is unsure why the League has not taken a position but that people in the Contract Cites, especially Rosemead, are strongly opposed to the legislation.
Mayor Stern contended that if decisions are left to individual jurisdictions, which are essentially political boundaries, there is the probability that, although they are not necessarily consistent, they do not work as cohesively as if they are addressed by one unit, adding he believes this actually makes sense and he would not oppose it.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman McTaggart, to support Diamond Bar.
Barbara Sattler, Rancho Palos Verdes, expressed concern that the City would make any kind of recommendation on the matter without thoroughly understanding it, adding it is unclear to her how this is the business of RPV anyway. She encouraged the Council not support the request.
Councilman McTaggart commented that he has no problem with the concept of an umbrella organization, adding there is need for group interaction.
Mayor pro tem Ferraro stated that it is important to support the other cities. She indicated they have obviously carefully studied this, since the City does not usually get requests from other cities unless it is a very important issue, and added that Diamond Bar is one of the cities that RPV works closely with in the Contract Cities.
Councilman Clark requested that, if the majority of the Council favors opposing this bill, the City articulates the rationale for its opposition as an issue of local control and the fact it is structured so it is appointed rather than elected.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Ferraro, Clark, McTaggart and Gardiner
NOES: Mayor Stern
City Manager Evans briefly explained that Proposition 42 is similar to Proposition 98, a school proposition that guarantees a certain amount of funds for schools, Prop. 42 guaranteeing a certain amount of funds for transportation. He noted that as part of the Governor’s budget, he is proposing to divert some of those transportation funds for other purposes, adding the legislation allows this if the legislature concurs by a two-thirds majority vote.
Councilman Gardiner stated that he supports the request because the electorate voted the money collected from gasoline taxes be used to improve highways not be diverted for some other use.
Mayor Stern commented that he appreciates the will of the voters and noted that these are hardly typical times. He opined it is not good policy to lock funds into set purposes and noted that, given the unique circumstances of California’s huge deficit, if ever there was a time to apply the language, which allows this fiscal flexibility, it is now.
Mayor pro tem Ferraro indicated she would prefer to see the Governor make other spending cuts before allowing him to raid funds set aside for specific purposes, adding she is definitely opposed.
Councilman Gardiner concurred and suggested sending a letter stating that until the Governor complies with the provisions that allow the use of this money on a one-time basis for a single fiscal year only, the City opposes the transfer; but, if a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature on a stand-alone bill is obtained, the City will support it.
Councilman Clark commented that there is not a single solution to the current deficit situation of the State and expressed the need for more cooperation across the aisles and less partisanship, adding that he is still opposed.
Mayor pro tem Ferraro moved, seconded by Councilman McTaggart, to oppose the Governor’s request to divert Proposition 42 Funds.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Ferraro, Clark, McTaggart, and Gardiner
NOES: Mayor Stern
Ordinance No. 396: Anti-Gang Ordinance. (1206)
Councilman McTaggart moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Ferraro, to waive the staff report.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman McTaggart, to approve the staff recommendation to INTRODUCE ORDINANCE NO. 396 OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES RELATING TO PROHIBITING GANG MEMBERS FROM LOITERING WITH THE INTENT TO INTIMIDATE NEIGHBORHOODS AND CONCEAL ILLEGAL ACTIVITY AND AMENDING THE RANCHO PALOS VERDES MUNICIPAL CODE.
Councilman McTaggart noted that a loitering ordinance applicable to minors is already in place but the fact that this includes adults will give the City much more clout.
City Attorney Lynch explained that both ordinances apply to minors and adults, but the point of this ordinance is actually to deal with the issue of intimidation and the securing of territory by street gangs rather than just loitering; and, that it holds the parents or guardian of a minor responsible for the gang activity of their children.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Ferraro, Clark, McTaggart, Gardiner and Mayor Stern
CLOSED SESSION REPORT:
City Attorney Lynch stated that there was an error in the supplemental closed session agenda posted Saturday, noting it should state "City Council was meeting with its negotiators to discuss upcoming negotiations with COX about possible changes to the franchise agreement." The first action that was taken by the Council was to unanimously appoint Gabrielle Holt and Ted Vegvari as negotiators along with the City Council subcommittee Gardiner/McTaggart as well as the City Manager and the City Attorney. No further action was taken. At this point Council has directed staff to provide additional information to all members of the Council and, with respect to the open space acquisition issue, no action was taken on the matter.
Councilman Clark moved to adjourn the meeting, the time being 12:40 a.m.
/s/ Douglas W. Stern
/s/ Jo Purcell
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