DECEMBER 7, 2004
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; Finance Director Dennis McLean; Senior Planner Kit Fox; Associate Planner David Blumenthal; City Clerk/Administrative Services Director Jo Purcell; and Recording Secretary Denise Bothe.
Mayor Gardiner led the flag salute.
Mayor Gardiner stated there were no recycle winners for the last month.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Councilman Wolowicz moved, seconded by Vice-Chairman Clark, to approve the Agenda as submitted. Without objection, Mayor Gardiner so ordered.
COUNCIL REORGANIZATION: (306)
Selection of Mayor
Councilman Stern thanked Mayor Peter Gardiner for a great year; and quoted from the September 2004 Daily Breeze article entitled “Civility Envelopes Meetings in RPV” as follows “Elected officials to change the tone of sessions that used to be contentious and high-handed. The most recent RPV City Council meeting had all the hallmarks of a potentially turbulent, divisive and thoroughly unpleasant meeting. It was a hot-button issue. Proponents and opponents alike held strong opinions, and panelists, too, were divided with a narrow 3-2 vote. But there was little rancor, sarcasm or analytical indolence. Instead civility, respect, and cogent analysis ranked.” He thanked Mayor Gardiner for conducting this past year’s meetings in this fashion and noted his desire to continue on the same path. With the aid of a Power Point presentation, he highlighted this year’s past accomplishments, such as the adoption of the NCCP and the Council’s annual trek to Sacramento. He noted his appreciation for the great efforts of Peter Gardiner this past year.
City Clerk Purcell opened the floor for nominations for Mayor.
Mayor Gardiner stated that it has been a privilege working with this Council; highlighted the tireless efforts of Mayor pro tem Clark – noting that whenever he was not able to attend an event on behalf of the City, Mayor pro tem Clark was always willing and able to attend on his behalf; he noted that he appreciated the assistance he provided on the work with the agendas – stating that he has valued his counsel, his thinking and his approach with his calm and steady hand; and he, therefore, nominated Mayor pro tem Clark as the next Mayor of RPV.
Councilman Stern seconded that nomination.
Without objection, Larry Clark was chosen to serve as the new Mayor of Rancho Palos Verdes.
Mayor Clark noted his pleasure in being on this Council; pointed out that as Mayor, Peter Gardiner initiated discussion between the Mayor, Mayor pro tem and City Manager regarding upcoming agenda items; and he noted his appreciation of Peter Gardiner for his willingness to create this kind of team based upon the Mayor pro tem’s suggestion, which provided two things for him: an opportunity to work more closely with the Mayor and the City Manager. He also appreciated being able to witness and experience a high standard of civility set by the way Peter Gardiner conducted himself as Mayor at the meetings. On behalf of Council and the residents, he thanked Peter Gardiner for his dignity and civility to the residents and Council and for a job well done.
Mayor Clark added that the outgoing Mayor usually receives a gift from Council, but that in this case, Peter Gardiner had requested instead of a personal gift, that a donation be presented to Ted Vegvari of Palos Verdes on the Net, to support the City’s new cable television channel on Channel 33. He highlighted Peter Gardiner’s idea and great efforts in bringing to life an RPV educational channel as part of the City’s ability to communicate with and educate the youth and others; and noted that the City is close to bringing this idea to fruition as a consequence of Councilman Gardiner’s vision.
Councilman Gardiner noted his pleasure in handing over this donation to Mr. Vegvari; and he thanked Ted Vegvari, Gabriela Holt and Council for their efforts in this venture. He added that this new channel should be up and running in March 2005.
Councilman Gardiner stated that he has enjoyed working with this fine-tuned team, pointing out that he has never encountered such a group that is so willing to listen, to gather information, exchange ideas and search for the best solution; he mentioned that when there is a disagreement on a certain item, it is never taken personally; and noted that he considers this body of members his friends and that he looks forward to continuing his work with this Council. He stated that he is grateful for Council’s support, for the support of staff, for those who volunteer their time, and for the participation of those residents who make this a wonderful city in which to live.
Mayor Clark presented Councilman Gardiner with a USC hat.
Councilman Stern congratulated Mayor Clark on his new position as Mayor, presented him with a hat and wished him luck in these endeavors.
City Manager Evans also presented new incoming Mayor Clark with a hat.
Mayor Clark thanked Councilman Stern and staff for his new hats; stated that he is honored and privileged to serve with this talented body of individuals; he commended the talented City staff and their hard work; and thanked everyone for coming to tonight’s meeting on this rainy evening. He stated that many people encouraged him to run for office and noted that without their support, he would not be where he is today. He thanked his wife, Becky, for her love, support and encouragement; and thanked Ken Dyda and Ann Shaw for their mentoring and encouragement and everyone else who helped him to become a Council Member. He stated that he will hold this responsibility with great seriousness and that he will make every attempt to execute his role as Mayor to the best of his ability.
Selection of Mayor Pro Tem
Mayor Clark nominated Steve Wolowicz to serve as the new Mayor pro tem.
Councilman Gardiner seconded that nomination.
There being no objection, Steve Wolowicz was chosen to serve as the new Mayor pro tem.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz echoed the comments made by Mayor Clark with respect to this fine body of individuals and Peter Gardiner’s leadership; and noted his gratitude for Council’s support, for this opportunity, and also for the support of the residents.
Councilman Long echoed those sentiments previously made; and stated that he is looking forward to another year of excellent leadership.
Mayor Clark handed out hats to the rest of the Council Members.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz noted that Councilman Gardiner has been ill for a few days and stated that it would be most appropriate for him to leave this evening’s meeting during the break.
Mayor Clark added that Councilman Gardiner attended three meetings this week wherein he was not feeling well, yet he persevered throughout those meetings; and he excused Councilman Gardiner from the rest of this evening’s meeting.
Councilman Gardiner departed the meeting during the break.
RECESS AND RECONVENE:
Mayor Clark recessed the meeting at 7:46 P.M. for celebratory refreshments. The meeting was reconvened at 8:13 P.M.
Lois Larue, Rancho Palos Verdes, noted that the orange cones and caution tape is up once again alongside a section of Palos Verdes Drive South between upper Abalone Cove and Seaview.
Director Allison briefly explained that due to the rainy weather, the City put the orange cones and caution tape up once again in order to try to avoid having vehicles pull into this area and track the mud back onto Palos Verdes Drive South.
CITY MANAGER REPORTS:
City Manager Evans advised that the implementation of Channel 33 is proceeding on schedule; that arrangements have been made with Verizon to lay the cabling; and that it is anticipated Channel 33 will be up and running in March 2005.
Mayor Clark advised that Old Business can be found on the City’s website.
APPROVAL OF CONSENT CALENDAR:
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz pulled two items from the Consent Calendar: No. 6, CLEEP Fund Expenditure Request for the Off-Road Motorcycle Enforcement Team, and No. 9, Retention of Outside Legal Services.
Motion to Waive Full Reading
Adopted a motion to waive reading in full of all ordinances presented at this meeting with consent of the waiver of reading deemed to be given by all Council Members after the reading of the title.
Approval of the Minutes (301)
Approved the Minutes of October 5, 2004, October 19 and November 3, 2004, as presented.
Border Issues Status Report (310)
Reviewed the status of border issues.
Resol. No. 2004-101: Traffic Safety Commission (106 x 1502)
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2004-101, DIS-ESTABLISHING THE TRAFFIC COMMITTEE AND ESTABLISHING A TRAFFIC SAFETY COMMISSION.
Notice of Completion for the Crest Road Street Improvements Federal Project No. Stpl-5413 (006) (1404 x 1204)
(1) Accepted construction as complete; (2) Authorized the City Clerk to file a Notice of Completion with the County Recorder; and if no claims are filed within 35 days after recordation, and upon the contractor posting an acceptable warranty bond, notice the surety company to exonerate the Payment and Performance bonds; and (3) Authorized the Director of Public Works to release the 10% retention payment, to Hardy and Harper Inc., 35 days after recordation of the Notice of Completion by the County Recorder contingent upon no claims being filed on the project, and the contractor posting an acceptable warranty bond.
Environmental Report for Hon Property (1101 x 1203)
Received and filed.
State Office of Traffic Safety Sobriety Checkpoint Grant (1206)
Authorized the City to act as the pass-through agency between the Lomita Sheriff’s Station and the State Office of Traffic Safety for the 2004-2005 Sobriety Checkpoint Program Grant.
October 2004 Treasurer’s Report (602)
Received and filed.
Household Hazardous Waste and Electronic Waste Round-Up Siting Liability Agreement with Los Angeles County (1402 x 1204)
Authorized the Mayor and City Clerk to execute the proposed agreement with the County of Los Angeles and County Sanitation District No. 2 of Los Angeles County.
Resol. No. 2004-102: Extension of NCCP Lobbyist Consultant Agreement (1203)
(1) Extended the consulting agreement with Conservation Strategy Group (Joseph Caves), a professional lobbyist assisting the City/Conservancy in its efforts to secure state bond monies for funding the Portuguese Bend acquisition transaction, through June 2005; and (2) ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2004-102, APPROVING A $30,000 BUDGET APPROPRIATION TO COVER THE COST OF THE EXTENDED CONSULTING AGREEMENT.
Resol. No. 2004-103: Forrestal Nature Preserve Swale Improvement Project (1201 x 1204)(1) ADOPTED RESOLUTION 2004-103, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AMENDING RESOLUTION 2004-45, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2004-05, FOR A BUDGET ADJUSTMENT TO THE CITY’S CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECT FUND – PARKS AND TRAILS MAINTENANCE; and (2) Authorized the expenditure of up to $300,000 for maintenance services to repair swales at Forrestal Nature Preserve.
Resol. No. 2004-104: Register of Demands
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2004-104, 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.
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Mayor pro tem Wolowicz advised that several individuals from the Sheriff’s Department, going beyond their regular duties, were able to secure the donation of two off-road motorcycles, with the help of American Honda of Torrance, that would be available for helping patrol areas within this City, such as the Forrestal property and the NCCP preserve. He expressed his belief that given this great effort, the requested funding for outfitting the riders is a nominal amount, $4,700. He noted that these off-road vehicles might also be available for traffic enforcement at the switchback areas on Palos Verdes Drive East.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve the recommendation from the Regional Law Enforcement Committee for CLEEP (California Law Enforcement Equipment Program) grant fund expenditures requested by the Lomita Sheriff’s Station to equip the new Off-Road Motorcycle Enforcement Team.
Councilman Long questioned if staff evaluated what impact, if any, these vehicles will have upon erosion and habitat.
City Manager Evans stated that there was no evaluation; explained that these vehicles will mostly likely be in pursuit of other motor cycles in the open space areas; and advised that these vehicles have also been used for traffic enforcement on the switchback areas. He added that these vehicles would help to minimize the amount of impact on the open space areas.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz advised that these vehicles would be present on a periodic and random basis; that signs will be posted at all preserves, indicating that the areas are subject to law enforcement; and he noted that the Sheriffs are sensitive to erosion and habitat issues.
Assistant City Manager Petru noted for Mayor Clark that there are no time limits on spending these funds; and that the only other proposal considered for these funds is the possibility of an emergency notification system.
Mayor Clark noted his preference that at some point in the future, this fund be agendized for consideration of other uses for some of these funds.
The motion carried as follows:
AYES: Long, Stern, Wolowicz, Mayor Clark
Resol. No. 2004-105: Retention of Outside Legal Services (103 x 1101)
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz reminded the residents of the need to put in place an adequate amount of legal services to protect the City in its defense of lawsuits.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2004-105, AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2004-45, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FY 2004-05, TO INCREASE THE CITY ATTORNEY BUDGET FOR PROFESSIONAL AND TECHNICAL SERVICES.
Councilman Long advised that the City has been successful in getting a case it lost at a lower judicial level to be heard by the United States Supreme Court in January 2005; he explained that had that not happened, instead of looking at a budget increase for outside legal services of several hundred-thousand dollars, the City could well have been staring at potential damages awarded against it on the order of 10 times the amount of the proposed budget increase. He pointed out that in most of the lawsuits, the City is the defendant; and he highlighted Council’s responsibility to properly defend the City. He expressed his belief the City is getting good value for the services obtained.
Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered the approval of the motion.
City Tree Review Permit Code Amendment (Case No. ZON2004-00160) (1801 x 1407)
Mayor Clark opened the public hearing.
Director Rojas advised that in speaking with the Finance Director today, it is now staff’s recommendation to continue this matter to the February 1, 2005 Council meeting, explaining that staff would like this item to coincide with the Cost Based Fee Study item proposed to be heard on that agenda.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to continue this matter to the February 1, 2005, City Council meeting. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Resol. No. 2004-106: Extension of Conditional Large Domestic Animal Permit No. 2 (Case No. ZON2004-00433) Location: 50 Narcissa Drive (Ride to Fly) (1804)
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented staff report.
Mayor Clark opened the public hearing.
Associate Planner Blumenthal noted for Councilman Long that the author of the anonymous letter in staff report is unknown.
Councilman Long stated that he gives little credence to anonymous letters that make accusations against a certain person/project, expressing his belief that this is unfair to the accused person; and urged staff to try where possible to identify the authors of such letters for Council consideration.
In response to the anonymous letter, Mayor Clark stated that a voluntary proposal by Ride to Fly has been put forward and questioned if that proposal should be put in the conditions for approval.
Councilman Stern stated that because the letter is anonymous, there is not a good sense of how valid the complaints are; advised that he does not personally fault someone for wanting to remain anonymous, but noted that it does have implications in terms of how much credence their letter is given. He noted that he sees no need to include additional conditions under these circumstances because this entity has indicated a voluntary plan of action; that this group has a good track record; and that he did not see a need to burden them with extra conditions.
Mayor Clark closed the public hearing.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to approve staff recommendation to ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2004-106, GRANTING A TWO-YEAR EXTENSION OF CONDITIONAL LARGE DOMESTIC ANIMAL PERMIT NO. 2. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Appeal of the Planning Commission’s Denial of a Revision to Conditional Use Permit No. 23 and a Grading Permit (Case No. ZON2004-00215), Location: 2930 Vista Del Mar (1804)
City Clerk Purcell noted that late correspondence related to this item had been distributed to Council.
Mayor Clark opened the public hearing.
Associate Planner Blumenthal presented staff report.
Councilman Long expressed his belief that the City’s Code should be amended to keep a resident from casually amending approved project plans after-the-fact and then coming back to the City for approval. He stated that an applicant ought to be required to show they couldn’t have reasonably done it the way it was first proposed.
City Attorney Lynch mentioned that the City does have penalties for after-the-fact approvals.
Councilman Stern recognized the degrees of innocent error or difficulty that arise on projects; and noted that he does not recall staff report citing any meaningful explanation for why the applicant chose to build something different than what was permitted.
Associate Planner Blumenthal stated it was explained to staff that the applicant intended to come back with the revision before the driveway was actually built, believing that the revised driveway would be safer to maneuver; and that there was a miscommunication between the architect and the contractor on its implementation.
Nagy Bakhoum, project architect from Obelisk Architects, Torrance, explained that the applicant is not seeking to appeal the decision for the grading and lot coverage; that the applicant is only interested with the existing driveway as built. With the aid of photographs, he highlighted various measurements and locations on site for the driveway as it currently existed and what they are asking for Council to review – pointing out that they are not looking for an after-the-fact approval. He explained that he wants Council to look at this driveway on its own merits with respect to design that was approved prior; and noted that one of the reasons for redesign and reconfiguration is that the original design was a very difficult driveway to navigate, that on paper it looks easy and logical, but in reality, it is nearly impossible to drive. He stated that what exists today is different from what was approved, but not significantly different in terms of impact from the prior approved plan. He pointed out that the driveway was moved further away from the neighbor’s property in contrast to what the Planning Commission had approved; adding that it does not create a significant height variation from the prior approved driveway; and explained that abolishing this driveway and building a new driveway, literally moving it closer to the neighbor, is not going to mitigate any sort of negative impact whatsoever.
With the aid of photographs and overlays, Mr. Bakhoum highlighted what the neighbor would see from his property compared to what was built and what was approved; and pointed out that with proper landscaping, the impact of the wall will be greatly mitigated. He stated that towards the bottom of the wall is where the impact is, not towards the top – pointing that the open railing helps to mitigate the driveway’s visual impact. Mr. Bakhoum stated that only one window on the neighbor’s house will be looking at this wall; and expressed his belief that there is less of an impact because the wall is further away from the neighbor’s house than what was previously approved.
Councilman Stern questioned what type of communication there has been with the neighbors.
Mr. Bakhoum advised that there has been discussion between the contractor and the adjacent owners; stated that plans have been given to the neighbors for review; and expressed his belief that the neighbors did not initially realize there was going to be a wall at this location and that no amount of dialogue will help those neighbors get over the fact that there is going to be a wall at this location. Mr. Bakhoum explained that the amount of exposed wall is exactly the same amount of wall that was approved; but explained that as you get down to the lower area, it is taller at the lower end of the driveway than what was originally approved.
Dorian Dunlavey, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that she owns two lots on Vista Del Mar; and she urged Council to deny this appeal. She expressed her belief that work has been done without the benefit of proper permits; and that the results of this project are completely out of character with the rest of the neighborhood, that the entire project is too big for this lot. She stated that the applicant should abide by the conditions imposed by the Planning Commission.
Councilman Long noted his understanding that Council can only require the applicant to go back to the S-shaped driveway that will be closer to the neighbor, a driveway that will be more difficult to maneuver; and he questioned whether this result is to the benefit of the neighbors.
Ms. Dunlavey stated that the City has not addressed the lot coverage with respect to the concrete stairway; expressing her belief that lot coverage has been exceeded.
Councilman Stern questioned if the end result will be less of an impact to the neighbors; and expressed his belief that placing the wall closer to the neighbors is a negative – pointing out that the applicant’s representative indicated the wall would not be lower in any meaningful way. He pointed out that residents should respect the City’s requirements and stick to the approved plans.
Ms. Dunlavey stated that the driveway should be cut down so that the slope is closer to the street instead of it going out at almost the same plane at the top.
Dwight Hanger, Rancho Palos Verdes, the neighbor on the downslope of the subject property, expressed his belief that lot coverage is greater than what has been permitted; stated that the driveway is 50 percent wider than what was permitted; and noted that the original plans called for a 20-degree slope from the street. With the aid of slides, he highlighted the areas that have changed from the original plans; stated that he is not pleased with being forced to look at this 44-foot long wall; and stated that the driveway has not been moved. He noted his preference for the original driveway that encroaches approximately a foot and a half more but is 2.5 – 3 feet lower and is not nearly as imposing. He urged Council to deny the request and require that the original plans be followed. He noted his concerns with the entire height of this wall.
Councilman Long pointed out that there seems to be a difference of opinion on the measurements.
Councilman Stern stated that based on what appears to be a rather significant disagreement as to what the approved plan would have yielded and what exists currently, he suggested that further analysis be conducted so that everyone is on the same page.
With the aid of photographs, Associate Planner Blumenthal stated that at the top part of the driveway, there is more of a landing present; that the new configuration will ease access from the street; that when one looks at the originally approved plans, it shows the driveway sloping down immediately from the front of the property line, which would have resulted in a shorter wall. He indicated that it was staff’s belief, based on the original approved plans, that Mr. Hanger’s measurements are more accurate.
In response, Mr. Hanger stated that that would be acceptable, as long as the originally approved height is maintained.
Vicki Hanger, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that her property will be the most visually impacted by this project; noted that the neighbors had submitted a letter to staff which addresses their concerns; and urged Council to require this applicant to abide by the Planning Commission’s decision. She noted that the wall is also imposing when one is walking to her front door from the street; and she questioned the adequacy of the landscaping that will be placed, noting that the winds have toppled trees in this area.
Mr. Bakhoum explained that the overall height of the wall is greater, but that the overall impact of the wall is reduced the area where the grade/fill is pushed up against the wall to mitigate the height of the wall. He stated that he is not misrepresenting the height of the wall; explained that the wall is taller than 5.5 feet, but what is exposed is in two parts -- the lower wall and the higher wall, which is exactly consistent with the existing wall as built today. He added that in order to build the foundation, they have to push away significant amounts of dirt, dig down into the solid earth and build the wall up, and then back fill to mitigate the height of the wall as proposed in the original plan. He stated that the wall looks taller; but if one looks at the driveway and the topography that is laid out by the civil engineer who surveyed the property, one will find that the transition is within inches. He noted that Municipal Code does not allow the driveway to immediately slope to 20 percent, stating that it cannot be more than 10 percent in steepness in the first and last 10 feet of the driveway.
Associate Planner Blumenthal mentioned that the wall would be higher if the steepness of the driveway was decreased.
Councilman Stern noted there is significant disagreement with the plans and measurements; he addressed his discomfort with the lack of good visual imaging of the situation; and he suggested that Council direct the applicant and staff to prepare better visuals that can be shared with the neighbors.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to (1) continue this matter to February 1, 2005; (2) directed the applicant to work with staff in preparing visuals that can be shared with the neighbors; visuals to accurately reveal the consequences of what the neighbors are requesting, including the impact on lot coverage; to look at landscaping and its visual impact; and the applicant/appellant to bear expense of preparing visuals.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz expressed his belief that the Hangers are entitled to a wall with the least massive appearance.
Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
RECESS AND RECONVENE:
The meeting was recessed at 10:01 P.M. and reconvened at 10:13 P.M.
9:30 PAUSE TO CONSIDER REMAINDER OF THE AGENDA
CITY COUNCIL ORAL REPORTS:
Councilman Long attended the following events:
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz attended the following events:
Mayor Clark attended the following events:
REGULAR NEW BUSINESS:
Complaints Regarding Construction at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive (1203)
Senior Planner Fox presented the staff report and the recommendation to receive and file the report on Seaview residents’ concerns regarding construction of the project at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive, and to provide direction to staff for future action, as deemed necessary and appropriate.
Steven Hansen, RPV, expressed his concern that the stone cutting that is taking place onsite is a manufacturing operation rather than a construction activity, that the noise and dust that this activity creates had become a nuisance for the neighbors; advised the Council that there was an unpermitted building that had been placed in the moratorium area that was being used for the stone cutting operation; and stated that the “rock mesa” that was originally proposed to be a construction staging area had been graded and that this area needed to be returned to its original level. He further indicated that the neighbor’s requests to have the grade lowered had been ignored and noted that had Mr. Johnson been responsive to their request, the neighbors might have been more understanding on the other items that had been negatively impacting them.
Mr. Hansen noted in response to Councilman Stern’s question that the stone cutting in the unpermitted building had stopped for now, but that the high powered saws were still being used elsewhere on the property.
Councilman Stern advised that the applicant was allowed to have some saws present for purposes of fine-tuning the stone cutting as it is being applied to the house. He noted that staff had indicated that Mr. Johnson had agreed to lower the grade on the rock mesa up to 4 feet lower than what was approved by the Planning Commission and asked Mr. Hansen if he disagreed.
Mr. Hansen stated that no grading should have been permitted in the moratorium area; that the grading in this area was now higher than it previously was; that he had photographic evidence to support his claim that the grade had been increased since the construction began; and stated that Mr. Johnson had agreed to, but had not yet completed reducing the grade.
Lenee Bilski, RPV, indicated that the neighbors were requesting Planning Commission review of the project for many reasons, including grading in the moratorium area; the industrial activity associated with the rock cutting operation; changes to the project which were not approved; significant obstruction of views; revisions to the grading; the fact that the neighbors had not been provided with updates on the status of the project unless they specifically requested them; excessive debris on the site; health impacts from the dust; and errors in the paperwork prepared by the staff for this project, including notices, minutes, resolutions, as well as the current staff memorandum and chronology provided to Council. She stated that many things were not disclosed during the public hearing for this project and because this was a multi-stage process, she questioned how many other undisclosed items were yet to be discovered.
In response to a question from Councilman Stern, Senior Planner Fox indicated that the grading that has taken place is consistent with the permits issued.
Councilman Stern asked the City Attorney if the City could change the project at this stage, if the property owner was in fact grading the site in accordance with the approved permits.
City Attorney Lynch responded that the City could not change the project if it’s being graded per the approved plan and further indicated that Mr. Johnson had agreed to lower the elevation of the rock mesa upon completion of the project.
Councilman Long questioned whether the elevation/configuration on Yacht Harbor Drive was now different than what was indicated in the Planning Commission’s adopted resolution and on the approved plans.
Ms. Bilski indicated that the resolution stated Yacht Harbor Drive would be 10 feet lower than Palos Verdes Drive South, but the approved plans showed it at a higher elevation.
Senior Planner Fox highlighted the wording of Finding (i) of the resolution on Circle Page 17 which required Yacht Harbor Drive to be approximately 10 feet lower than Palos Verdes Drive South in the area where the two roads run parallel to one another.
Ms. Bilski stated that the architect’s drawing of the roadway for the view analysis, which was drawn to scale, showed an elevation similar to what was stated in the resolution, but as constructed that in the portion where the streets are parallel to one another there is not a 10-foot differential.
In response to the question from Mayor Clark, Senior Planner Fox noted his belief that the finished elevation of the roadway was certified by the Johnson’s civil engineer as being constructed according to the plans approved by the Planning Commission, which is then submitted to the Building and Safety Department.
In response to a question from Councilman Stern regarding the consequence of the road only being approximately 5 feet below Palos Verdes Drive South, Mr. Fox indicated that the condition to lower Yacht Harbor Drive below Palos Verdes Drive South resulted from the neighbor’s concerns about the potential for headlights to shine into their homes due to the alignment and curvature of the roadway; however, the roadway had been open for several months and staff had not received any complaints that headlights were adversely affecting the neighbors.
Terri Carman, RPV, stated that she lives directly across from the structure and the stone cutting operation; noted that her property is within the moratorium area; expressed surprise that the City allowed this industrial-type activity in the moratorium area, in a residential area and adjacent to a major thoroughfare; advised that the construction operation runs non-stop Monday through Friday and has gone on for over a year; highlighted her concerns for health due to the noise and dust; noted that the unpermitted blue structure and debris remain on the site, in violation of Condition No. 18, and continue to block their views; addressed her opposition to the dumping of dirt in the moratorium area; and urged Council to send this matter back to the Planning Commission.
In response to Councilman Stern’s inquiry regarding the operations on site, Ms. Carman stated that the stone cutting has stopped, but the debris and blue structure still remain.
Milton Rosen, RPV, stated that one of the consequences of the road not being low enough is that the house gets to be built at a higher level; advised that the views from Palos Verdes Drive South as well as residents’ views have been significantly impaired from the grading activity; noted that the project had not complied with the conditions of approval in terms of grading of the rock mesa in the moratorium area and the elevation of the roadway below Palos Verdes Drive South; questioned whether the increase in elevation was related to the installation of the storm drain and whether that activity was included in the plans. He objected to the stone cutting operation that had been taking place on the rock mesa, which is in the moratorium area and is not an appropriate use of this part of the property because it is a fragile area; and stated that the stone cutting, which was supposed to be a temporary activity, has been allowed to go on for too long. He stated that the project has been in violation of City approvals since 2001, and while the stone cutting operation has ceased, there are still violations on site.
Councilman Stern explained for Mr. Rosen that Condition D, page 15, requires an absolute elevation of 228 feet, which dictates the elevation of the house and that the house elevation has nothing to do with the road elevation. He questioned whether the location of the rock cutting operation in the moratorium area is a violation of City Code.
City Attorney Lynch stated that stone cutting is permissible in the moratorium area as long as it is for temporary construction activities, not a permanent use.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz questioned if staff has visited the site to look at the purported building height violations.
Senior Planner Fox noted for Mayor pro tem Wolowicz that staff has the certifications from the applicant’s engineer on the structure’s height; and explained that the City relies on the applicant’s civil engineer’s certification, who places his/her license on the line by certifying that the building height is correct and conforms with the approved plans.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz questioned if the stockpiling of rock in the moratorium area is unreasonable as it currently exists.
Senior Planner Fox noted that the pile is gradually being transferred from the moratorium area to the main part of the building site.
Councilman Long pointed out that the plans indicate all structures are to be less than 16 feet in height when measured from original grade and, therefore, do not require a height variation permit, noting that a significant portion of this project is below grade.
Eric Johnson, property owner at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive, RPV, stated that a previous proposed development for this site would have created a much more substantial view impairment and longer project duration than what he is building; advised that he has done nothing in violation of the City’s law and that everything has been done in accordance with the approved plans; and that he has made every attempt to work with staff and the neighbors to address their concerns. He explained that when he graded in the moratorium area, it was a storm drain improvement that was done to stabilize that area, pointing out that he chose to spend extra money in that area because it made the area safer and more stable. He advised that City staff approached him in regard to a complaint with the large amount of dirt and that he voluntarily agreed to move 1,800 cubic yards of dirt off the site. He added that he had voluntarily agreed to improve the neighbors’ views over the previous tentative tract map approved for the property by placing nearly 50 percent of the square footage of his project underground and bringing the ridgeline down to well below the impact that would have resulted from the large subdivision. He reiterated that he is trying to be responsive to the neighbors’ concerns.
Mr. Johnson stated that he is applying native stone to the house; noted that the project has taken longer than expected, but that he has sought guidance from staff at every step. In responding to the neighbors’ complaints of noise, he advised that he built the blue structure and added sound insulation to address the noise concerns; and stated that the stone cutting operation has gone on for a year without a single dust complaint. Because of a recent complaint of dust allegedly coming from this operation, he advised that he offered to pay for a measuring/monitoring program in the neighbors’ homes to verify if the dust was from his project or elsewhere. He stated that he has been at this site every day and that he has not seen any migration of dust and mentioned that the stone cutting is done with a wet saw operation. He stated that the roadway height is 10 feet below Palos Verdes Drive South.
Mr. Johnson stated that the rock cutting machinery has not been moved off site; noted that he has been unable to find a suitable location for those activities; and confirmed that the rock cutting operation has stopped pending resolution of this issue. He reiterated that the complaints have been mitigated when brought to his attention; and felt that there may be other sources for the dust; highlighted again his offer to test the dust in the neighbors’ homes to definitively establish whether it’s coming from his project or elsewhere. He reiterated his interest in finishing the project and noted that there were other simple dust mitigation steps still left to consider.
Mr. Johnson noted for Mayor Clark that he has approximately 3 to 4 months left to complete the entire rock cutting operation and reiterated that he has not found an alternative location for these activities.
Mr. Johnson stated that he has a 6,000-square-foot subterranean garage, which is 30 feet lower than Palos Verdes Drive South, is completely enclosed and has 2-foot thick concrete walls; and suggested that he be permitted to complete the stone cutting operations inside this area. He reiterated that it would take no longer than 3 to 4 months to complete. With the stone cutting operations being moved inside, he stated there would be no question of dust migration.
Councilman Stern highlighted Mr. Johnson’s comment that he has been unable to find an offsite location for the stone cutting; pointed out that this is a large house with unique characteristics; stated that it is not clear whether Mr. Johnson is inconsistent with the approved plans; and because he needs an alternative to get this work done, he questioned if relocating this activity to the garage would be acceptable to staff.
Director Rojas stated that that would be amenable to staff as long as the mitigation measures can be achieved.
Mr. Johnson added that he would also move as much of the rock as possible to a different area where it’s less visible to the neighbors. Mr. Johnson stated that moving ahead with the stone cutting in the garage, he anticipates project construction to be completed by the end of August 2005. He added that even though the stone cutting is expected to take another 3 to 4 months, the placement of stone is expected to continue until May 2005; and he estimated that it would take a week to move the rock cutting operation into the garage.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve staff recommendation to receive and file the report on Seaview residents’ concerns regarding construction of the project at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive; that staff work with Mr. Johnson to arrange for the expeditious transfer of the stone cutting activities to the garage; to continue to monitor the project, making sure it complies with the City’s Code and the project’s permit; that staff take appropriate action on any violations; that Mr. Johnson dismantle the stone cutting facility in the moratorium area as soon as possible; and staff to continue to report to Council and the HOA regarding the status of this project.
Councilman Long expressed his belief the dust issue has been resolved and will continue to be resolved given that the activity will be located inside the enclosed garage and noted that staff will continue to monitor the project.
Councilman Stern expressed his belief that no facts had been presented to demonstrate any violations have occurred; stated that the offer to do the stone cutting operations inside the garage will adequately address any dust concerns; and noted the need to get this project completed. He stated that he appreciates the public’s comments and that he believes this is a solution that will achieve a good result for everyone concerned with minimal further inconvenience.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz echoed Councilman Stern’s comments.
Mayor Clark noted his appreciation for the residents’ comments this evening.
Expenditure of Affordable Housing Funds (701 x 1203)
Councilman Stern stated that by accepting the in lieu fees from the developers, the City now finds itself in a difficult position with providing affordable housing stock; and noted his preference to see that when a developer proposes a large project that has ample room to engineer a tasteful, affordable housing component, that the City not accept in lieu fees in those cases, thereby making the developer responsible for providing this type of housing.
City Attorney Lynch explained that the City would still need to address what program to implement for the 20 percent redevelopment set-aside funds; and stated that this issue can be placed on a future agenda for discussion.
Councilman Long echoed Councilman Stern’s comment; and questioned whether the in lieu fee was adequate in today’s market.
City Attorney Lynch stated that staff is proposing to set the in lieu fees based upon the present value of the average differential for the period of time the housing is required.
Councilman Stern requested that that issue be agendized for a future agenda.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz suggested that as soon as possible, consideration be given to determining if an affordable housing component is appropriate for the Crestridge project.
Mayor Clark concurred with Mayor pro tem Wolowicz’ suggestion and added that a workshop with Council, the Planning Commission and the public be scheduled to address the proposal for the Crestridge project and for possible consideration of an affordable housing component.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Wolowicz, to pursue a combined program to utilize the City’s affordable housing funds for: (1) a contribution toward development of an affordable housing component as part of the Crestridge site; and (2) implementation of a rental subsidy program managed by a non-profit housing agency. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Setting date for second regular City Council meeting in January 2005 (307)
Because some Council Members were not in possession of their master calendars, Mayor Clark suggested that this item be continued to the next Council meeting.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz suggested that Council Members advise City Manager Evans of their schedule for this meeting.
Without objection, Council was directed to send available dates for the second meeting in January and that this matter be placed on the December 21, 2004 agenda.
COUNCIL DISCUSSION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS & SUGGESTION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:
CLOSED SESSION REPORT:
City Attorney Lynch stated that Council conducted City Manager Evans’ performance review; and she advised that no action had been taken on any item.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:23 A.M.
/s/ Larry Clark
/s/ Carolynn Petru