RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
DECEMBER 16, 2003
The meeting was called to order at 7:05 p.m. by Mayor Gardiner at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, Rancho Palos Verdes.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Clark, Long, Wolowicz, Stern, and Mayor Gardiner
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; Director of Recreation and Parks Ron Rosenfeld; Deputy Planning Director Gregory Pfost; Project Coordinator John Alvarez; Senior Planner Kit Fox; Senior Planner Ara Mihranian; City Clerk/Administrative Services Director Jo Purcell; and, Minutes Reporter Debra Presutti.
Mayor pro tem Clark led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Jan Whitney and Mr. and Mrs. Kokowlski were selected as the recyclers of the month.
Councilman Stern reminded everyone the City has set up a listserv system on its website and advised anyone looking for information to go to www.palosverdes.com/rpv city council and look on the lower left-hand corner of that page for an icon with an index of subjects. He suggested joining the City’s listserv that will automatically send a wide variety of topics of interest to those wishing to stay informed.
Karen Welch and Peninsula Pet Rescue’s Betty Garrett were each presented with a $250 check by Ted Vegvari of PV on the Net, and Cassie Jones, of Point Vicente Animal Hospital, for the diligent work they provide in the area of animal rescue. Everyone who has not already done so was encouraged to purchase a copy of the jointly sponsored videotape "A Dog’s Life" to enable the continuation of this fundraising effort.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Mayor pro tem Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to continue Item No. 11, the Proposed Conceptual Plan for Upper Point Vicente and Open Space Planning and Recreation and Parks Task Force Update, to a workshop. He stated that this was a substantial issue and should not be wedged into a very full Agenda but should be given its own focus and attention since it could chart the future of the City in terms of a number of its precious assets.
Councilman Long moved to amend the motion to discuss the item on a City Council meeting in January and that the members of the Open Space Task Force to be in attendance to speak on the matter and answer questions. The motion as amended carried without objection.
Mayor pro tem Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Wolowicz, that Item Nos. 17, City Council Assignments, and 18, Agenda Format: Proposed Revisions, be repositioned immediately following the Consent Calendar. Motion carried without objection.
Councilman Wolowicz requested that any updates be included in the January 20th report.
Mayor Gardiner moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Clark, to approve the Agenda as amended. Motion carried without objection.
APPROVAL OF CONSENT CALENDAR:
Mayor pro tem Clark moved that Item No. 6, the Ocean Trails Sewer Agreement, be removed from the Consent Calendar.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Wolowicz, to remove Item No. 3, the Non-exclusive commercial refuse collection and disposal services annual agreement renewal for 2004, from the Consent Calendar. Motion carried without objection.
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.
Minutes of November 18, 2003. (301)
Approved the minutes.
Resol. No. 2003-102: Additional Funding For Park And Open Space Maintenance. (1204 X 1201)
ADOPTED RESOLUTION 2003-102, AMENDING RESOLUTION 2003-42, THE BUDGET APPROPRATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2003-04, FOR A BUDGET ADJUSTMENT TO THE CITY’S GENERAL FUND.
Resol. No. 2003-103: Extension of Agreement for NCCP Lobbyist Consultant. (1203)
(1) Extended the consulting agreement with Conservation Strategy Group (Joseph Caves), a professional lobbyist assisting the City and the Conservancy in their efforts to secure state bond monies for funding the Portuguese Bend acquisition transaction, through March 2004; and (2) ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2003-103 AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2003-42, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2003-04, TO INCREASE THE BUDGET FOR PROFESSIONAL/TECHNICAL SERVICES RELATED TO STATE LOBBYING EFFORTS TO SECURE FUNDING FOR THE CITY’S PORTUGUESE BEND OPEN SPACE ACQUISITION.
Abalone Cove Sewer Maintenance – Award Of Maintenance Contracts. (1900 X 1204)
(1) Awarded a three-year maintenance contract to Multi W. Systems, Inc., in the amount of $10,700 for the balance of FY2003-04; (2) Authorized the Mayor and the City Clerk to execute the Agreement; (3) Awarded a three-year maintenance contract to Advanced Sewer Technologies and authorize an expenditure of up to $12,750 for the balance of FY 2003-04; and, (4) Authorized the Mayor and the City Clerk to execute the agreement.
Resol. No. 2003-104: Register of Demands.
ADOPTED RESOL. NO. 2003-104, 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 as amended carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Clark, Long, Wolowicz, Stern and Mayor Gardiner
ABSTAIN: Long and Wolowicz on Minutes of November 18, 2003.
Non-Exclusive Commercial Refuse Collection And Disposal Services Annual Agreement Renewal For 2004. (1301)
Mayor pro tem Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Long to waive the staff report. Motion carried without objection.
Councilman Long queried if the five percent of gross receipts the nonexclusive franchise fee allows the City to collect can be increased.
City Manager Evans responded that five percent is the most customarily proposed fee for this type of service and any raise in that fee would be passed on to the customers.
Mayor pro tem Clark stated that while he does not object to delegating to the City Manager the ability to terminate an agreement that fails to meet the City’s criteria and performance standards, he would limit that authority to after notification of Council and in the absence of any request to agendize the matter for discussion.
Mayor pro tem Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to change the language in the agreement to state that the City Manager would be delegated the authority to terminate an agreement after prior notification of the Council. Motion carried without objection.
City Attorney Lynch noted the corresponding change would be made to the agreement and that language would be inserted.
Councilman Wolowicz asked if there are remedies to enforce compliance other than contract termination such as penalties and fines the City can levy on collectors in violation of contract performance terms, for example trucks leaking fluids or other potential breaches.
City Attorney Lynch replied that the contracts require certain performance standards be adhered to and the central remedy heretofore has been to give notice of any breaches of these standards. She added the City does have the authority to add fines and penalties to these contracts if needed.
Councilman Wolowicz inquired if the City maintains records of complaints on each of the collectors that it reviews when their contract is up for renewal.
Director Allison responded that the City does keep and review such records, noting if there were systematic problems with a collector they would not recommend awarding a franchise agreement to them.
City Attorney Lynch mentioned that she could draft some language and bring it back for the Council to revisit later in the meeting.
Later in the meeting, the City Attorney presented the revisions to the agreement.
Councilman Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to (1) Approve an amended non-exclusive commercial refuse collection and disposal services agreement as amended by the City Attorney; (2) Authorize the Mayor and the City Clerk to execute amended non-exclusive commercial refuse collection and disposal services agreements with: Ace Roll Off Rubbish Service, Inc., BFI Waste Systems of North America, Inc., California Waste Services, Consolidated Disposal Service, LLC, Easy Roll Off Services, EDCO Disposal Corporation, Integrated Waste Industries, Inc., Ivy Rubbish Disposal, JJK Rolloffs, Inc., S & H Disposal Company, United Pacific Waste & Recycling Services (UPW), and USA Waste of California dba Waste Management. Motion carried without objection.
Ocean Trails - Sewer Agreement. (1411)
Mayor pro tem Clark inquired at what point acceptance by the County can be expected and what would happen if they do not agree to assume responsibility for the maintenance of the proposed sewer line.
City Attorney Lynch answered that Ocean Trails would continue to own, maintain, and assume responsibility for the sewer line, adding the agreement provides the ability for the issue to be held in abeyance until input is received from the peer review panel about the facility and the surrounding area. She stated the County’s decision is expected once the peer review report is received and explained that Ocean Trails may yet decide to make changes to Tract Map 50666 if there are land stability issues in which case the map will be redesigned and the issue of the ultimate public improvements will be addressed at that time.
Vincent Stellio, Executive Vice President of the Trump Organization, stated they have been working closely with City staff to draft the language for this and they are comfortable with it. He added that by allowing them to move forward, they could dismantle some of the temporary facilities on the site and occupy the maintenance building, benefiting local residents by eliminating the eyesore of the temporary facilities. He explained that once the geology issues are worked out and they proceed with the other residential development, the sewer line would be built to County standards.
Councilman Long expressed concern about what resources back the indemnity to be provided to the City by the developer under the proposed agreement with the developer.
City Attorney Lynch responded that this is not a significant concern here since the developer retains responsibility over improvements on its property not completed and accepted by the City and that no other improvements are involved here.
Councilman Long indicated that with this information he could support staff’s recommendation but that in the future he would expect to see information regarding the liquid net worth of a party indemnifying the City or suitable and responsible third-party guarantees, particularly where the City is dealing with a developer who has a history of bankruptcy.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Clark, to approve the staff recommendation to authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to sign an agreement between the City and Ocean Trails pertaining to the installation and maintenance of a proposed sewer line. Motion carried without objection.
City Council Assignments. (306)
Mayor Gardiner made the following assignments to the various intergovernmental agencies and associations as follows:
Outside Organizations: City Selection Committee - Clark/Stern; League of Calif. Cities L.A. County Division - Clark/Stern; So. Calif. Assoc. Of Governments (SCAG) - Long/Wolowicz/Clark; So. Bay Cities Council of Govts. (SBCOG) - Clark/Wolowicz; - San. Districts (Dist. No. 5 & So. Bay San. District); - Wolowicz; Calif. Joint Powers Ins. Authority (CJPIA)- Long/Stern; Contract Cities - Long/Wolowicz; Chambers of Commerce - Entire Council; Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project - Long/Clark; Palos Verdes Trans. Authority - Wolowicz/Gardiner; Pen. Regional Law Enforcement - Wolowicz/Stern; West Basin Water Association - Wolowicz/Long; L. A. County West Vector Control District - John McTaggart (Former Councilman McTaggart’s term on this board runs until May 2004.)
Ad Hoc Committee: Open Space Acquisition - Stern/Clark; School District Liaison - Gardiner/Clark; Cable TV Franchise Negotiating - Gardiner/Stern; Zoning, Lot Coverage & Density - Long/Wolowicz.
Standing Committees: Council Liaison to Ocean Trails/Long Point - Stern/Clark.
Liaison Assignments: L. A. Community Roundtable - Wolowicz/Clark;
Mayor pro tem Clark proposed the formation of an ad hoc committee for citywide traffic and safety as well as the creation of a new ad hoc committee to follow in the footsteps of the previous Neighborhood Compatibility Committee to work on issues dealing with zoning, lot coverage, and density.
Councilman Stern expressed disagreement with the notion of an ad hoc committee for traffic and safety, saying that a Traffic Committee is already in place. He noted there has been much difference of opinion in this area and suggested holding a workshop with the Traffic Committee to address these issues.
Mayor pro tem Clark agreed that a workshop with the Traffic Committee should take place very soon but stated the Council would be well served by forming an ad hoc committee wherein one or two Council Members would serve as liaisons and interface with the neighborhoods, the Traffic Committee, and staff to begin creating a set of solutions. He suggested at least experimenting with the proposition and abolishing it if it proves ineffective.
Councilman Long agreed with Councilman Stern, saying the purpose of the Traffic Committee is to do much of what the ad hoc committee would be doing. He noted he would prefer to find a compromise that would allow the Traffic Committee to do its work but have it observed more closely by members of the Council, saying not just one or two, but all five members on a rotating basis should attend meetings and report back, and then a joint workshop can be held.
Mayor Gardiner commented that traffic is a citywide issue that needs to be dealt with and noted the community would be best served by Council’s taking the lead and sculpting some parameters and guidelines for the Traffic Committee to provide a clear understanding of expectations. He also suggested using a liaison to better direct communication between Council and the Committee.
Mayor pro tem Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to table the formation of an ad hoc committee to deal with traffic and safety issues at this point. Motion carried without objection.
In response to Councilman Long’s question regarding the purpose of the California Coastal Coalition, City Manager Evans explained that the coalition is made up of the majority of coastal cities in California, especially in Orange and San Diego Counties, with their primary mission being to deal with issues of coastal erosion and bluff failure.
Councilman Stern added that it is a relatively new organization of approximately four years with a mandate to organize those cities that are impacted by coastal issues.
Mayor Gardiner noted that the City needs to reconsider whether or not to participate in the California Coastal Coalition and inquired about the function of the L.A. County West Vector Control District.
City Manager Evans explained that the representative to the Vector Control Board is appointed by the City Council for either two or four years and need not be an elected official. He pointed out that former Councilman John McTaggart was appointed to a two-year term which extends through May 2004 at which time Council will have the opportunity to consider who they wish to appoint to that position.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Wolowicz, for Council to agendize this item sufficiently in advance of the May term expiration in order to permit time to review any applications submitted and interview prospective candidates for the position; and, in the interim Mr. McTaggart continue to attend the meetings and be available at the second meeting of each month to make regular reports to Council and answer any questions.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Gardiner recessed the meeting at 8:34 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 8:47 p.m.
Vic Quirarte, Rancho Palos Verdes, extended holiday wishes to the "Fabulous Five" and expressed disappointment at the removal of one Report of the Parks Master Plan, advising that he will be directing an e-mail to Council members’ attention in regard to the item.
Lois Larue, Rancho Palos Verdes, expressed her opinion that too much emphasis is being directed to the area of Palos Verdes Drive South near Ocean Trails, saying the City should focus more attention on improvements to the rest of that roadway.
Tom Redfield, Rancho Palos Verdes, commented that the Revival Renaissance Coalition is very supportive of the streamlining steps being continued and the proposed changes being considered by the current Council.
Agenda Format: Proposed Revisions. (307)
Mayor pro tem Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Wolowicz, to approve the proposed changes to the agenda format and the conduct of City Council meetings.
Councilman Stern opined it is more sensible to organize the business of the meetings in line with public participation, allowing those items of greater interest to the public to be addressed earlier in the evening rather that taking old business first, followed by manager reports, then new business.
Mayor Gardiner noted that the purpose of covering old business is primarily a tracking mechanism, adding if there is a topic that generates great public interest, the meeting would be structured to accommodate that consistent with Councilman Stern’s point.
Councilman Stern stated he would prefer the general rule to be that staff reports are read, noting they do serve a valuable public purpose by providing an understanding of what Council members have been presented with in making their decisions. He expressed disagreement with the aggressive enforcement of the three-minute clock for public comments, saying it is useful in trying to keep people focused but should be exercised with some degree of leniency since members of the public are generally there to speak on items of great importance to them. He stated the idea of making a motion prior to any discussion of an item might make it more difficult to follow the motion, saying since motions often go through several changes before finally being adopted, it might be more beneficial to discuss the matter first, form somewhat of a consensus, and then articulate a clear motion.
Councilman Long stated the order of the agenda is an excellent suggestion and approved the idea of old business being readdressed to help keep track of things. He agreed with Councilman Stern’s suggestion that the default be to have staff reports read except in cases where it is clearly unnecessary. He approved the idea of stating a motion prior to discussion, saying it seems beneficial to frame the issue first. He stated implementation of the three-minute rule is an incentive for people to come prepared in recognition of the fact that Council has limited time that needs to be fairly allocated among all speakers. He added it should be used as a default with the proviso that if more time is needed it can be requested by the speaker or a member of the Council. He suggested moving forward with the proposed changes but seeking public input on the issues of having staff reports read and the three-minute time limit as defaults.
Councilman Wolowicz applauded the proposals in general, stating he would prefer to maintain some flexibility depending on what issues are at hand. He opined the waiving of staff reports should be addressed on an issue-by-issue basis and that consideration should be given first to matters in which there is much public interest because often valuable speakers are lost because the issue they came to invoke is not addressed until the late hours of the night.
Mayor pro tem Clark stated that many of his thoughts and ideas have been incorporated into formulating the proposed changes and stated his belief that this will be the City’s most open and publicly interactive Council to date. He recommended that the three-minute rule be the default rather than an absolute and suggested testing the new format for a trial period of two months then agendizing it to determine from the perspective of Council members, staff, and the public how well it is operating.
Mayor Gardiner indicated the intention of the proposed changes is to organize the meetings in the most efficient manner and make it possible to hear from the public in an effective and meaningful way. He noted that by keeping the meetings focused, more time would be available to address the important business items presented.
Mayor pro tem Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve the proposed changes to the agenda format and the conduct of City Council meetings and to bring the matter back to the Council the first meeting in March as an agenda item to discuss the status of the new Council Agenda and seek input from staff and members of the public. The motion carried without objection.
Mayor Gardiner added that if it is determined that a mechanism in the proposed changes is not working, that can be addressed before the March meeting.
Ralph Ortolano, Jr., Rancho Palos Verdes, applauded Council’s efforts in this regard and thanked them for discussing the matter.
CITY COUNCIL ORAL REPORTS:
Councilman Long stated that he and Councilman Wolowicz attended a Traffic Committee meeting relating to traffic issues in the Mira Vista neighborhood, noting the Traffic Committee had made a recommendation that will be coming before the Council soon. He also participated in the City’s annual holiday party.
Mayor pro tem Clark extended compliments and appreciation to the City Council of Rolling Hills Estates on behalf of the entire City Council of RPV for the very nice holiday event they sponsored.
Mayor pro tem Clark attended a Council site visit to Coolheights to review the Ganado Trail topic on December 6th. He also attended the annual League of Women Voters holiday party on December 7th, saying it was a very nice event recognizing the elected officials of all the cities on the Peninsula, including the School Board and the Library Board.
Mayor pro tem Clark provided an update from the League of California Cities, outlining the significant financial impacts that are beginning to unfold State-wide as well as in cities and counties as a result of the loss of VLF revenues which will have profound effects on law enforcement and a myriad of other important public services. He indicated that, although the Governor has committed to making his number one priority finding an alternative revenue source, the League has decided to pursue an aggressive campaign to ensure the State deals with backfilling the loss of VLF revenues, including contemplated litigation against the State which it will be requesting cities and counties to join in the very near future. He extended compliments to Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal and the other legislators who have been working diligently to address this matter immediately.
Councilman Wolowicz mentioned that he attended the Palos Verdes Chamber of Commerce as an elected City official for the first time and was honored to present the outgoing President Carol Ritscher with a signed proclamation of the City in recognition of her performance.
Councilman Wolowicz commented that he and Mayor Gardiner had a very productive meeting with Congressman Rohrabacher and advised members of the public that the system does work. He illustrated that a group of residents on the east side of the hill who were feeling disenfranchised regarding some Federal decisions concerning housing for the homeless brought the matter to their Council, who in turn discussed it with their congressman, resulting in the item being readdressed for further action.
Mayor Gardiner indicated that Councilman Wolowicz very ably presented the concerns of the City in relation to the projected additional homeless housing, the result of which is Congressman Rohrabacher and L. A. City Councilwoman Hahn each have staff members looking into the matter.
City Manager Evans reported that staff deputies from both Congressman Rohrabacher’s and Councilwoman Hahn’s offices are working on the issue, each with a slightly different approach. He added that recent conversations with the two deputies lead him to believe they will discuss their different approaches and arrive at a unified solution.
Mayor Gardiner stated that he attended a public hearing of the County Parks and Recreation Committee on the proposed golf course where he outlined the City’s concerns, saying RPV has a definite interest in this matter, has hired its own consultants to review the disputed facts, and will arrive at its own conclusions.
Appeal of View Restoration Permit No. 153 (Appellant: Mr. Jae Park, 24 Oceanaire Drive). (1806)
Mayor Gardiner declared the public hearing open.
Staff Coordinator John Alvarez gave a PowerPoint presentation of the staff report of December 16, 2003.
Councilman Long requested clarification on the issue of significant impairment as it relates to multiple foliage owners and multiple pieces of foliage, asking if everything is considered collectively in determining the significance.
Mr. Alvarez answered affirmatively.
Councilman Wolowicz queried what type of measuring devices is used in determining height.
Mr. Alvarez responded that if there is a question of height after tree trimming, the City occasionally uses a transit level to take measurements, adding the actual height is not necessarily considered in determining compliance if there is a reference point in a view that is significantly impaired.
Christopher Lee, attorney representing Mr. Park, contended that the view restoration permit should be remanded, stating three different pictures from three different angles were considered at the time the permit was requested and asserting the importance of those pictures in determining how significantly parts of the trees affect the view from the Goern residence. He noted that Mr. Park’s trees are on the lower right-hand corner impairing a slight ocean view, but that as indicated on Page 12, Paragraph B and Page 13, Paragraph 6 of July’s City of RPV Guidelines for Restoration of Views it is important to consider which view is being interfered with. For example, the corner view of the frame is considered less significant than the center view.
Mr. Lee noted a category in the guidelines that addresses whether a single component of view is being interfered with as opposed to multiple components, clarifying that multiple components could mean city lights, Catalina Island, or some other landmark. He commented that all those different views might be present in one frame, but if a tree were blocking one of them completely, that would be considered a significant impairment, contending that Mr. Park’s trees are blocking only a portion of a single ocean view line, which by definition is not a significant impairment. He also noted that the residents at 26 and 28 Oceanaire Drive are not objecting to their trees being trimmed which will completely restore those views and further minimize the impairment created by Mr. Park’s trees.
Mr. Lee opined that Paragraph 10 of the permit condition acknowledges an approximate measurement, which inherently calls for a subjective decision by staff as to how much more trimming is required. He suggested Council clearly legislate a guideline as to how much trimming is necessary to restore a view in order to alleviate future misunderstanding and dispute.
Councilman Long noted Mr. Lee’s assertion that the foliage at 24 Oceanaire Drive does not significantly impair the view which entitles this view restoration permit and asked him if he is aware of anything in the Development Code which states that when a permit application is considered each foliage owner’s property must be assessed independently to determine the significance of the impairment.
Mr. Lee stated no, adding that even without his client’s trees impairing any view, the rest of the trees by themselves significantly impair the views from the Goern residence. He further noted that in making its decision the Planning Commission used one view while the staff report and resolution indicate a different view in making its determination, saying these views are from two different angles and the applicant is entitled to only one best viewing area.
Mayor pro tem Clark indicated that the threshold requirement in the Code specifically states that all properties that impact a view must be considered in determining significant view impairment.
Councilman Long, in response to Mr. Lee’s contention that the decision of the Planning Commission was based on guesstimates rather than accurate measurements, inquired if Mr. Lee was of the opinion that these measurements were off significantly.
Mr. Lee replied he was not sure and reiterated that, more importantly, when it came to enforcement of actual trimming it is meaningful to have clear guidelines as opposed to approximations.
Mayor Gardiner declared the public hearing closed.
Councilman Long commended Mr. Lee for his organized and well-defined presentation.
City Attorney Lynch made some clarifying amendments and changes to the language of the resolution.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Clark, to ADOPT AS AMENDED RESOL. NO. 2003-105 AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION AND APPROVING VIEW RESTORATION PERMIT NO. 153 UPON FINDING THAT ALL APPLICABLE FINDINGS HAVE BEEN CORRECTLY MADE AND ALL PROVISIONS OF SECTION 17.02.040 HAVE BEEN COMPLIED WITH. Motion carried without objection.
ZON2003-00634 (Weed Abatement Request For Lower Filiorum) -- an appeal of the Director’s determination that a proposed weed abatement action, as conditioned, is exempt from the prohibitions of the City’s Coastal Sage Scrub Urgency Ordinance. (1203 x 1405)
Mayor Gardiner declared the public hearing open.
Councilman Stern noted his understanding that the York Long Point Associates have already done weed abatement for fire protection and queried why they are now requesting to do weed abatement over the entire parcel.
Director Rojas replied that their application did not mention a fire order or a need to perform the weed abatement for fire diminution purposes but a subsequent letter alleges there is an issue with fire hazards. He noted that an area was previously trimmed in compliance with a written fire order, adding that he has spoken to the fire captain at Station 53 who told him this action was not to comply with a fire order.
Councilman Stern inquired if any known negative consequence would occur as a result of a delay or denial of this request.
Director Rojas responded the only possible negative consequence would be that the work would not be performed before the gnatcatcher-nesting season begins in February, which is one of the conditions of approval.
Mayor pro tem Clark queried if monetary penalties can be imposed if weed abatement activity is performed in violation of a recommended condition of approval. He strongly advocated not only should they be required to cease work but also a financial penalty should be exacted if there is willful disregard of a direction given by the City’s monitoring biologist.
Director Rojas clarified there is a fine provision in the ordinance.
Councilman Stern inquired if "monitoring biologist" actually means having a person on site during all periods when work is performed rather than someone checking things after the fact to determine if anything has gone awry, saying the ordinance should be explicit in that regard.
City Attorney Lynch indicated the definition is that the monitoring biologist "shall be present on site."
Councilman Stern noted previous problems with the applicant’s management of his property and expressed great concern over a discrepancy between the applicant’s letter which stated the intended removal of weeds, unoccupied vegetation, and fuel would occur "in areas that have been previously and regularly disked or mowed," in direct conflict with staff’s information that based on aerial photographs the area does not appear to have been previously disked or mowed.
Councilman Wolowicz inquired if the plan could result in a negative impact on the draft NCCP and, noting the Sierra Club’s assertion that the urgency ordinance is in conflict with CEQA, questioned if this might expose the City to action by the State.
Director Rojas explained that the ordinance was put together very quickly because there was an urgency -- weed abatement on the property was about to occur. He indicated there is an outlet in the urgency ordinance allowing weed abatement if certain conditions are met. He mentioned that initially staff did have a concern that this action could provide a mechanism to clear vegetation that is protected habitat, which would be in conflict with the NCCP’s directive to preserve it. Ultimately, after consultation with the City Attorney, staff concluded that in strict reliance on the conditions of approval, if the work is performed and monitored with the assurance that true impacts to plants are avoided, there is no conflict with the NCCP or CEQA.
City Attorney Lynch explained that further environmental review could be performed if Council desires, noting staff does not consider it necessary based on the biologist’s suggestion that no earth movement will occur and that the action of mowing will leave all plant species intact below the mowing level.
Mayor Gardiner questioned if this action would not in fact undeniably impact vegetation covering the majority of the Point View property site.
Director Rojas responded that it would affect most of the vegetation.
Mayor Gardiner mentioned that the area of this proposed vegetation clearing comprises the majority of the Point View project site and, therefore, should be considered part of the Point View project. He pointed out it is inappropriate for any vegetation to be removed from the site until the EIR process has been completed, adding that by allowing this action, the City is, in essence, moving forward as though the EIR results have already been determined.
Director Rojas clarified that there is a distinction since the vegetation is not being removed, it is being mowed down.
Mayor Gardiner requested clarification of that difference.
Director Rojas responded that according to the City’s biologist as long as the known habitat is avoided, the work is monitored to ensure that any habitat encountered in the field is avoided, and the vegetation is mowed down without disking, the biological integrity of the site remains; whereas, the Point View project proposes to remove all vegetation, habitat and non-habitat, from the site to perform the proposed project grading.
Mayor pro tem Clark noted staff’s suggestion that, if the action occurs, within a year the areas mowed will be back to their current standing.
Mayor Gardiner opined that a year is a long time in the cycle of some species. He commented the EIR process is designed to provide a mechanism for people with different viewpoints to systematically pose questions and have them answered, opining the City is basically short circuiting that process by proceeding with an action based on the City’s biologist’s report with no formal device for people to challenge the material in that report.
Director Rojas explained the difference is the "trigger" for the EIR, which is a potentially significant impact. In consultation with the City’s biologist the determination has been made that the impacts which would trigger the EIR are being avoided by the method the work is being proposed and the way the conditions have been structured.
Councilman Long noted that comments provided by the California Native Plant Society in their biological review of the application state that the majority of the supplemental surveys as well as the larger biological assessment submitted focus primarily on the gnatcatcher, adding the NCCP indicates there are other species on the site. He queried how staff has reached the conclusion that the impact is not significant enough to trigger an EIR when no examination of what other species may be there has occurred.
Director Rojas responded that according to the City’s consulting biologist most of the sensitive plant species are not present during this time of year and, further, having a monitor present to ensure that any sensitive species encountered are avoided will, again, avert the impact.
Councilman Long queried if spring is actually the optimal time to conduct vegetation surveys.
Director Rojas replied that spring is the optimal time, adding that according to the City’s biologist, if the weed mowing proceeds as conditioned, there is a better chance of finding the true rare and sensitive plants in the spring when surveys should be conducted.
Councilman Long reiterated concern over some of the discrepancies: one, being the statement that the acres in question have been previously disked and mowed; and, two, another regarding the 2003 biological assessment survey for sensitive plants being done in May when it was actually conducted in mid July.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Gardiner recessed the meeting at 10:37 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 10:46 p.m.
Councilman Wolowicz suggested that since much of the opposition to the action by both the Sierra Club and the Native Plant Society is centered around the coastal sage scrub and the habitat corridors on the property it seems appropriate for the City’s biologist along with the developer to actually walk those acres and identify the sensitive areas that would not be subject to mowing.
Director Rojas responded this is a practical solution since there is not much acreage and it is mostly accessible, adding that staff envisioned, in conversation with the biologists who recommended this condition, that a monitoring biologist be hired by the City to walk the complete site, monitor the entirety of the work, and tape off the areas designated to be avoided.
Gary Weber, representing York Long Point Associates, expressed his appreciation to staff for their outstanding job in thoroughly addressing some very complex issues. He noted that while the York Long Point Associates understand the City and the appellants clearly have a legitimate interest in preserving occupied habitat and protected species, they, as property owners, have the duties of property maintenance and fire prevention. He added the original intent of the application was specifically to address these issues based on their perception and observations that there is indeed a fire hazard. He explained that as a result of the fire siege that occurred in Southern California this fall, a consultant was retained to assess the fire risk on the Point View property and the Upper Filiorum, saying the conclusions reached in the report indicate that everyone within the Palos Verdes area needs to be concerned with fire prevention.
Mr. Weber continued by saying that although the York Long Point Associates will abide by the City’s decision they continue to object to the ordinance on the grounds that the process is far too lengthy, the ordinance is flawed and unclear, and their belief that the City is exceeding its authority in attempting to control the maintenance of any property over two acres in size. He concluded by noting that their intent is to mow grass not to impact any coastal sage scrub or protected species.
Mayor pro tem Clark queried why, in light of the fact that Southern California is entering its wettest season, there is a necessity to perform this fire prevention action at this particular time, saying he does not see a nexus between the requested action and the actual conditions that support it.
Mr. Weber responded that this process was initiated a long time ago, during the height of the fire danger. He illustrated that even in December California experiences Santa Ana winds and other very specific climatic conditions that can lead to fire hazards, adding that just the previous day there was a brushfire in Simi Valley.
Councilman Stern expressed skepticism that this weed abatement is being motivated by the idea of fire hazard, noting the area in question just happens to coincide with a boundary that is of great significance to the Point View project. He added the letter of September 25th requesting approval for this action did not appeal for it under the fire prevention section.
Angelika Brinkmann-Busi, member of the South Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and a professional biological consultant, noted that a previous biological assessment of the area very clearly stated that no focused surveys for sensitive plants were conducted but rather accidental observations were collected and mapped to indicate where those species were found. She expressed great concern that the consultants have not surveyed the area for sensitive plants during spring for the last seven years, noting there are species that potentially may be there. She urged taking into considering not only the coastal sage scrub urgency ordinance but CEQA as well which focuses not only on listed endangered and threatened species but those that are scientifically known to be rare or in danger. She stated that while she appreciates staff’s efforts to ensure this mowing will have minimal impact, given the property’s topography and no details about the actual height of the mowing, there is no guarantee that areas underneath will not be scraped, compacted, or that crushing of plants will not occur. She strongly advocated obtaining a good baseline study before allowing any action.
Barbara Sattler, representing the South Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), stated they are so concerned about the CEQA issues of this project they have consulted an attorney whose opinions have been submitted in a letter to the City. She noted CNPS does not concur with staff’s report that the project is exempt from CEQA and reminded staff and Council that the Coastal Sage Scrub Ordinance cannot substitute for CEQA because it does not address protection to other sensitive species which CEQA requires, noting CEQA does recognize locally rare species that are not included on Federal or State lists. She stated approval of this action will jeopardize the NCCP and indicated any clearing of vegetation before the Point View project’s EIR will undermine any biological surveys that need to be completed, adding the physical conditions of the property for the EIR must be as they existed on the date of the notice of preparation which was October. She concurred that a spring survey is needed and explained that proper protocol needs to be observed for that survey to be of any value. She opined that as diligent as staff has been in proposing mitigation measures, they are not fully adequate. She entreated Council to protect the species and habitat that RPV is privileged to enjoy and urged an additional biological assessment.
Jim Knight, representing the Sierra Club, indicated that the Point View initial study reports "given the resource sensitivity on the site, an updated biological resource assessment will need to be conducted to confirm conclusions of previous investigations," and queried how an accurate biological assessment can be performed on the property after it has been cleared. He reiterated the importance of performing the biological surveys at the proper time, noting the City’s biologist recommended a spring survey and expressed concern about the impact weed abatement might have on previously undetected rare plants. He pointed out that 8 of the 11 biological surveys used to justify this weed abatement were conducted outside this period. He indicated that the Sierra Club disagrees with the statements that weed abatement is a discrete project unrelated to the Point View application; and, that these activities will not affect alternatives or mitigations to be analyzed for the Point View EIR, explaining that this will affect the Point View EIR because the property will be cleared prior to the EIR’s completion. He concluded by stating that funding for the NCCP is at a critical juncture and strongly urged Council to take all steps necessary to ensure that the process is done properly and the funding is not jeopardized.
Councilman Long asked if the Sierra Club’s position is that this proposed action is not related to fire prevention but is a contrivance to dramatically change the environmental landscape of the property making an accurate evaluation for the EIR impossible.
Mr. Knight responded that, without addressing the motivations, the fact is that the property will be cleared before important biological assessments are made which will jeopardize their accuracy.
Mayor Gardiner declared the public hearing closed.
Mayor pro tem Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to deny the applicant’s weed abatement request and directed staff to return with a resolution of denial. The motion carried without objection.
Councilman Long voiced support of the motion with the understanding that staff continue to review submissions on assumed fire risks and, if at any time staff decides there is merit to those suggestions, the matter be returned to Council for further action. Councilman Long indicated that he shared Councilman Stern’s skepticism that the application was related to any real need to trim weeds to reduce any fire danger.
Councilman Wolowicz requested staff to contact the fire department and have them conduct an inspection of the parcel, including the entire Filiorum area, within the next month or so and report back on their observations.
City Manager Evans indicated he would contact Chief Alkema and direct an inspection be performed.
Proposed Conceptual Plan For Upper Point Vicente and Open Space Planning and Recreation and Parks Task Force Update. (1201)
Mayor pro tem Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to continue the matter to January 20, 2004. The Motion carried without objection.
Review of Draft Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Proposed South Coast County Golf Course at the Former Palos Verdes Landfill. (310)
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to continue the matter to January 6, 2004. The motion carried without objection.
FY02-03 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Audit Management Letter and Independent Auditor’s Report on Compliance and Internal Control. (602)
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Clark, to continue the matter to January 6th. The motion carried without objection. Council Member Long indicated that he would meet with Finance Director McLean to review this document.
Loss of Vehicle License fee revenue. (602)
Director McLean presented the staff report of December 16, 2003.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to received and file the staff report describing the loss of Vehicle License Fee revenue for FY 2003-04 and possibly fiscal years thereafter. The motion carried without objection.
Residential Undergrounding Program. (901 x 1203)
Mayor pro tem Clark queried why staff is recommending changing the approval percentage from 65 to 85 percent, stating that 85 percent seems onerous and virtually impossible for any neighborhood to achieve.
Director Allison explained the program guideline was last discussed in 2001 at which time staff was hopeful they could bring forward a meaningful City-sponsored deferral program. He stated that after spending the better part of two years trying to create this type of program it was determined the City couldn’t afford to implement a deferral program. He indicated that, in the context from which he views the issue, the City needs to meet a fairly high majority in order to impose an assessment for a beautification program.
Mayor pro tem Clark questioned if any benchmark cities have such a "super majority."
Director Allison responded that he knows of no other city that has either a deferral program or a threshold as high as 85 percent.
Councilman Stern candidly stated that with an 85 percent approval standard the City might as well just say no because that number is just too high to realize.
Councilman Wolowicz concurred that the 85 percent threshold is impractical but stated the issue of the deferral program needs to be addressed not only for the City’s elderly but also for other residents who may also have valid reasons for a deferral.
Mayor pro tem Clark recommended encouraging neighborhoods forming Assessment Districts in the city to follow the procedures and guidelines outlined and changing the majority of property owners that must approve the undergrounding to 65 percent.
Councilman Wolowicz inquired about undergrounding funds that were available at one time and asked if those were County funds that the City elected to use elsewhere.
Director Allison indicated that every city in California receives funds from Edison for undergrounding. He explained that more than ten years ago RPV chose to mortgage both the accumulated and future funds to underground the utility lines along Hawthorne Boulevard, adding the City will continue to pay on that for the next three years. He stated after that period when the funds begin to accumulate, the City will have the opportunity to determine how those funds will be used, noting that most cities, including RPV, have elected to use them to perform underground projects on arterials rather than in specific neighborhoods.
Tim Burrell, President of the Sea View Homeowner’s Association, requested Council approve the form of a petition he wishes to circulate. He urged reconsideration of the 85 percent endorsement standard, saying 65 percent is more appropriate. He stated that while the vast majority of undergrounding issues in his neighborhood are aesthetic there are also safety components. He mentioned the issue of financial hardship and suggested ways to mitigate that such as the traditional method of "taking care of your neighbors," or the possibility of educating those people he referred to as "low-income millionaires" on using their financially clear property as a resource -- if they are comfortable with that idea. He commented the best way to handle this situation is to allow neighborhoods to work on it in conjunction with City guidance and requested Council to embody the concept of mitigating financial hardship into the process now rather than delaying the improvements until that dilemma is resolved.
Mayor pro tem Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to Continue the process of encouraging neighborhoods who are pursuing undergrounding to follow procedure and guidelines outlined by staff; change approval percentage to 66.67%; circulators must present a solution for those who have financing problems as part of the application process; staff to include $20,000 in the adopted budget for neighborhood undergrounding activities; and Approved the form of the petition of initial interest to allow neighborhoods interested in the program to move forward.
Councilman Stern indicated that while he is a strong proponent of undergrounding, anyone who comes to Council with a plan should provide a detailed mechanism for dealing with financial burdens in their neighborhood since Council would like to make this happen without imposing hardships.
Director McLean encouraged each Council member to carefully review this matter, saying it is very difficult and complex. He noted that when staff originally submitted its report on deferrals there was an attachment identifying 15 to 20 policy decisions that would apply to the processing of loans. He cautioned that this is not something that can be easily accomplished, adding it will take not only some very creative minds but also a large checkbook to achieve.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Clark, Long, Wolowicz, Stern and Mayor Gardiner
Ganado Trail and the Coolheights Lot. (450 x 1203)
Senior Planner Mihranian made a PowerPoint presentation of the staff report of December 16, 2003.
Mayor Gardiner queried what action Council is expected to take with regard to this item.
City Manager Evans responded that Council is not being called upon to make a decision but rather to take action or not, saying staff and the Forrestal Steering Committee believe the trail is located in the proper place and, as such, staff recommends based on information gleaned at the December 6th site visit that no action be taken.
Councilman Long opined that this appears to be a textbook case of where not to decide is to decide and that by taking no action Council has effectively chosen one alternative over another.
Councilman Gardiner, noting that the Planning Commission’s decision has been made and the time limit for appeal has expired, questioned on what basis the Council can now intervene or overrule.
City Attorney Lynch explained that no intervention could apply to the project itself. She clarified that there is a development zone and a no development/trail zone and Council has the latitude to determine placement of the trail within the trail zone. She indicated if Council disagrees with the placement suggested by the Steering Committee options could be provided to secure an additional trail.
Councilman Long inquired if the decision to choose the western ridge trail was based on the belief it would create fewer adverse environmental impacts.
Planner Mihranian said that was one of several issues taken into account, including the need for additional grading on the slope to provide access to the eastern ridge from the Coolheights link trail and the fact that the trail would be placed in a zone that is in close proximity to the proposed residence, creating a privacy infringement for the trail users as well as the property owners.
Councilman Wolowicz requested clarification that nothing would occur to denigrate the eastern trail and that it would still exist on City property even if the western trail were used.
Planner Mihranian stated this is correct.
Councilman Long opined the area of the western ridge is not remotely appropriate for equestrian use and queried if the City is obligated by the existing scheme to provide equestrian use even if they conclude it is not suitable.
Planner Mihranian explained that the Conceptual Trails Plan as well as the Forrestal Management Plan both favor the western ridge as part of the PV Loop Trail that allows equestrian use. He noted that, based on information from the Steering Committee and the trail easements the City has recorded, the western ridge is what is being called the Ganado Trail although the Conceptual Trails Plan never specifically defines where it is.
Brooks Chadwick, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that the walking trails have been in existence for many years and are a key part of what makes Palos Verdes special by providing gentle access to the area’s natural beauty. He urged Council to ensure continued access, requesting specifically that one route be retained between the lower terminus of the eastern ridge footpath to Coolheights Drive, noting if this trail is preserved with an access below and out of sight of the property owner, users would continue to treat it as they always have – with concern and respect for nearby residents, wildlife, and area habitat.
Sunshine, Rancho Palos Verdes, clarified that when the Conceptual Trails Plan (CTP) was originally written there was no putting green and the western ridge was a perfectly viable horse trail. She explained that after a very heavy rainfall access from the bottom to both the main trail and the Pirate Trail was washed out, resulting in a period of about ten years with no equestrian traffic because there was no access. Subsequently, Rolling Hills built their putting green without determining whose property it was actually on, creating the current condition of having to traverse plant material and foliage. She commented that there is no Ganado Trail in the CTP, but rather the Ganado segment of the Palos Verdes Loop Trail which was designed to be contiguous from end to end and was always intended to be on the western ridge and not to spur off the Pirate segment. She noted her understanding that the community wants the connection on the eastern ridge and suggested Council address that from their point of view and not consider it as an alternative to the western ridge, adding she believes both trails are needed.
Ralph Ortolano, Jr., Rancho Palos Verdes, spoke on behalf of the parents and children on the end of Coolheights Drive, saying children have used the area above Coolheights to play since he was a boy. He stated that parents want to maintain access to this area because they want their children to be able to play where they can see them up on the ridge, enjoying one of the benefits of living in Palos Verdes. He mentioned that every staff report on this project during its consideration by the Planning Commission referred to the Ganado Trail as being on the eastern side of the canyon and now that the appeal period has expired it suddenly appears on the western ridge. He opined that the Forrestal Committee is only looking at this as a point-to-point trail in order to gain access to the lower area and the 30 acres of open space it provides.
Sydney Croft, attorney representing the property owners, thanked Council for visiting the site and carefully reviewing the staff report. He stated that his client has given a trail easement that is much wider than the trail which is actually going to be constructed, noting this easement is the western ridge trail which was agreed on by the Forrestal Steering Committee and does not include the area of the so-called eastern ridge. He requested that, in the event the City determines to acquire a trail by condemnation, the issue be placed on the agenda and they be entitled to appear before Council to engage in the discussion of the public necessity for that action. He mentioned it has taken four years since the application was filed to get a full EIR; that 51.6 percent of the property has been conveyed as easements; and, that there are 56 conditions in the construction permit, which they contend pushes the outer limits of reasonable requirements for a single-family residence. He indicated the easements have been conveyed and recorded, the appeal period has expired, and respectfully stated that at some point approval should mean approval.
Councilman Long queried if it is not already too late to choose a better area for placement within the trail zone since the easements have already been located and recorded.
City Attorney Lynch stated Council could still acquire a trail easement and possibly locate a portion of it in a way that does not impact the existing development.
Mayor pro tem Clark questioned if that is possible only if the property owner is willing to convey an easement.
City Attorney Lynch indicated her understanding that the property owner is unwilling to make a future voluntary dedication, which would require some action being taken by the City to acquire it either by exercising the power of eminent domain or purchasing at fair market value.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Wolowicz, to take no further action on the matter.
Councilman Long noted his objection, saying the western ridge is markedly inferior to the eastern ridge and he is not persuaded that this is the best course of action.
Mayor pro tem Clark asked if that opinion takes into consideration the issues of privacy of the Nassiris and other property owners.
Councilman Long replied that he believes the routing of the trail could be done in a way that would address the privacy issues in part by the use of landscaping, reiterating that the western trail is vastly inferior.
The motion carried on a four – one vote with Councilman Long voting against the motion.
Support of the South Bay Cities Council Of Governments Coastal Corridor Transportation Initiative. (1101)
Mayor pro tem Clark explained that COG has endorsed this and is requesting each of the 16 cities in the South Bay to further support it, lending weight to the continued future funding of a project that has the potential to reduce traffic congestion on the South Bay portion of the 405 by 25 percent.
Councilman Long endorsed Mayor pro tem Clark’s views but expressed disappointment with the City of Hermosa Beach for rejecting Measure C in their last election and insisting on routing bicycle traffic through Hermosa Avenue rather than joining the other coastal cities in having a sensible bike path separate from pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Mayor pro tem Clark moved, seconded by Mayor Stern, to ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2003-106 A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES SUPPORTING THE SOUTH BAY CITIES COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS COASTAL CORRIDOR TRANSPORTATION INITIATIVE. Motion carried without objection.
CLOSED SESSION REPORT:
City Attorney Lynch reported that further directions were given to the City negotiators with respect to the franchise agreement with Cox, but no action was taken; that an update report was given with respect to the possible purchase of property concerning the determination of payment, but no action was taken; and, that no action was taken with respect to the employee performance evaluation.
ADJOURNMENT: The meeting was formally adjourned at 1:13 a.m. to January 6th at 6:00 p.m.
/s/ Peter C. Gardiner
/s/ Jo Purcell