M I N U T E S
RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
FEBRUARY 19, 2005
Mayor Clark called the meeting to order at 1:20 P.M. in the Community Room at City Hall, 30940 Hawthorne Boulevard. Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956(b)(2), City Manager Evans provided notice of this meeting via telephone to each City Council member, to the staff members present and to the local newspapers, Daily Breeze and Peninsula News, at 11:47 A.M., more than one hour prior to the start of the meeting.
Present: Mayor Clark, Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz and Councilmen Gardiner, Long and Stern
Also present were City Manager Les Evans; City Attorney Carol Lynch; Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Carolynn Petru; Director of Public Works Dean Allison and Senior Engineer Ron Dragoo.
City Attorney Lynch noted that the Mayor had called the emergency meeting due to the damage to public and private property caused by the rainstorm that occurred in the early morning hours that day. She described the actions the Council may take in the given situation.
Mayor Clark moved to declare an emergency situation in the City as a result of the rainstorm that occurred overnight, seconded by Mayor pro tem Wolowicz and passed by following roll call vote:
AYES: Long, Gardiner, Stern, Wolowicz, Clark
Mayor Clark commended staff for their outstanding response to this emergency situation.
Councilman Gardiner asked if fatigue was setting in for the City staff that had been working since the early morning hours.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked about the availability of contract staff and equipment to prepare for the next rainstorm.
City Manager Evans responded that City employees will rotate shifts and the City’s contractors will do the same with their crews as the rain continued. He indicated that the forecast indicated a reprieve from more heavy rain until Monday night.
Mayor Clark asked staff for a summary report on the City’s current status.
City Manager Evans and Director of Public Works Allison described the sequence of events beginning at approximately 1:30 A.M. that morning with a telephone call from the Lomita Sheriff’s Station reporting flooding on Palos Verdes Drive West and Palos Verdes Drive South. Staff noted that the City had received 2.83 inches of rain within a 24-hour period. Although there was flooding as far north as the City’s border with Palos Verdes Estates, the areas with the most problems were located occurred between Hawthorne Boulevard and Narcissa Drive. The largest "hot spot" was the catch basin at the bottom of McCarrell Canyon. As part of the overview, staff used the dry erase board to draw a location map to show the damage that had occurred overnight during the rainstorm. Photographs taken by Director of Public Works Allison and Mayor pro tem Wolowicz earlier that day were also projected onto a screen so that the Council could see examples of the extent of the damage.
Mayor Clark asked staff is McCarrell Canyon was a Priority 1 Project, as identified in the City’s Storm Drain Master Plan, and if so, what was the cost estimate and timeline to improve this drainage facility.
Director of Public Works Allison confirmed that McCarrell Canyon was a Priority 1 Project and estimated the cost to fix the drainage deficiencies at $3.6 million. Mr. Allison described the existing drainage facility, its deficiencies and the improvements that would be necessary to make it less vulnerable to failure during a severe rainstorm, noting that the primary deficiency was an inadequately sized debris basin at the base of McCarrell Canyon. He stated that because the drainage system runs through a sensitive canyon, through both public and private property and over a steep coastal bluff face, it would probably take at least three years to design the new system, obtain easements and complete the construction.
In response to a question from Councilman Gardiner, City Manager Evans and Director of Public Works Allison indicated that it would probably be difficult to clean out the debris basin before the next storm was expected to arrive on Monday night, but that staff would make every effort to do so.
Councilman Gardiner suggested that an operator and a backhoe be stationed at the debris basin to remove the rocks and vegetation as they came down from the canyon above.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked if the events of the previous night could reoccur and the City might be faced with new damage to private property.
City Manager Evans pointed out that the storm that caused the damage earlier that day was very concentrated and only impacted a very narrow geographical area on the Peninsula. While Palos Verdes Drive South at 25th Street, which had already flooded twice that season, was spared any further damage, McCarrell Canyon and the homes in the Seacove neighborhood were hit very hard. He felt that it was impossible to predict if the same thing would happen again this winter season or during the next 50 years.
Councilman Gardiner asked if the City was liable for the private property damage that has occurred in the Seacove neighborhood.
City Attorney Lynch responded that the City could and had probably already incurred reverse condemnation resulting from a failed public works facility.
Councilman Stern asked if the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority would cover the damages.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that it would be covered.
City Manager Evans added that the City’s policy had a $30,000 deductible per occurrence, rather than per claim. He also noted that if there was a Presidential Declaration of Emergency, like there was for the January storms, there would be the opportunity for both public and private parties to apply for reimbursement from FEMA.
Councilman Gardiner asked why staff had identified McCarrell Canyon as the third Priority 1 Project to be built.
City Manager Evans responded that there was no fidelity to the order that the projects should be built and noted that it was always subject to change, depending on current circumstances and funding opportunities. He indicated that if staff was asked last week to name the number 1 priority drainage project, it probably would have been the Tarapaca storm drain project, rather than McCarrell Canyon. The priorities can shift, depending on where the most problems were occurring at the moment.
Senior Engineer Ron Dragoo announced that Palos Verdes Drive South had been reopened to through traffic and that the Sheriff had established two-way traffic using the east bound side of Palos Verdes Drive South in the area that had flooded just below the City Hall property.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz noted that the Seacove homeowners were planning to add more sandbags along their streets to try to divert any further runoff to the drainage channel between their neighborhood and the Bay Club condominium complex.
Director of Public Works Allison stated that the City had replenished its supply of sandbags, which are provided for free to residents.
Mayor Clark asked if the Council could go out into the field as part of the emergency meeting to view the impacted areas.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that the Council could go out into the field as part of the meeting, so long as the City Clerk kept track of the locations visited.
Councilman Gardiner and Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked the City Attorney about the City’s potential liability for the flooding at 25th Street.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that the area of flooding at 25th Street was located in the City of Los Angeles. She recommended that the City put the City of Los Angeles on notice immediately that it had responsibility for protecting this section of the roadway and the residents living below this area in a mobile home park. She stated that the City had been providing notice to the City of Los Angeles for many years about the drainage deficiencies at this location.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz indicated that the Fire Department had used a push pump to remove water from some of the flooded homes on Seacove Drive. He asked it the City could use the Fire Department’s resources in a similar manner on public property.
Director of Public Works Allison responded that the Fire Department needs a hydrant in order to be able to use the push pump and indicated that the City was attempting to secure a gas powered pump from one of its contractors before the next storm was expected to arrive. Mr. Allison mentioned that the Council would be seeing a number of slope failures that have occurred on private property as part of the field visit. He also indicated that these properties would need to be inspected by the City’s Building Official to determine if any structures were threatened.
At 2:25 P.M. the Council and staff went into the field to view the areas most impacted by the rainstorm. The following is a list of the locations visited:
1. Rue La Langlois, to view private slope damage and an undermined deck over the slope on Rue La Pierre.
2. Vista Del Mar, to view a plugged County inlet structure that caused runoff from the Los Verdes County Golf Course on the hillside above to flood the street with water and mud.
3. McCarrell Canyon, to view the debris basin adjacent to Palos Verdes Drive South, which was filled with rocks, vegetation and other debris swept down from the canyon above during the rainstorm. The Council observed the path of the floodwaters that had overtopped the debris basin and flowed across the four-lane divided highway and into the Saint Peter’s by the Sea Church parking lot.
4. Palos Verdes Drive South frontage road, Packett Road and Seacove Drive in Lower Abalone Cove, to view the properties that were flooded with water and mud during the storm.
5. 44 Seacove Drive, a private residence, which received the brunt of the flooding and mudflow during the storm. At this location, the Council met and talked to the homeowners impacted by the storm.
6. Coast Site Drive in the Bay Club Condominium Complex, to view the flooding that occurred on this private roadway and damaged the private drain down the bluff face to the beach below. At this location, the Council met and talked with a group of eleven property owners, represented by Dick Trakas, about the history of the drainage in the area and the specific impacts from the latest storm.
The City Council returned to the Community Room at City Hall at 4:20 P.M.
Councilman Gardiner asked about arranging for a backhoe and operator to be stationed at the debris basin at McCarrell Canyon until the next storm cell passes. He also suggested that the City place K rail barriers in the median on Palos Verdes Drive South to divert the water away from the path it had followed that morning.
Councilman Stern expressed concern about re-directing the flow of the storm runoff.
Councilman Long moved to direct the Public Works Director to take all steps he deemed appropriate to direct storm water runoff away from private property and to keep public drainage facilities clear of rocks and debris through Wednesday that week.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz seconded the motion for purposes of discussion.
Mayor Clark questioned if the motion did anything above and beyond the staff’s normal duties.
Councilman Gardiner questions if the motion would exceed the staff’s budget authority and asked why the Council was meeting in emergency session of not to give staff direction on how to respond to the situation.
Councilman Long withdrew the motion and asked staff for guidance.
City Manager Evans indicated that a significant number of K rails would have to be placed in the median in order to divert the storm water runoff past the entrances to the Lower Abalone Cove neighborhood and direct the flow instead into the City-owned Abalone Cove Shoreline Park.
In response to a question from Mayor Clark, City Attorney Lynch indicated that the City was already liable for the damage that had occurred to private property from the failure of the McCarrell Canyon drainage facilities.
Councilman Stern felt that it was ill advised for the Council to dictate a course of action to the staff that might result in more harm than good.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz felt that it was appropriate for the Council to formulate suggestions. He favored placing a backhoe at McCarrell Canyon and wanted the option of placing K rails on Palos Verdes Drive South to be explored.
Mayor Clark asked for a response from staff.
City Manager Evans indicated that the City would have to close Palos Verdes Drive South and turn it into a drainage channel in order to divert the water from the Lower Abalone Cove neighborhood and send it into Abalone Cove Shoreline Park instead.
He observed that this solution would probably damage public property, because there was no drainage facility in this park to take the water safely over the bluff and into the ocean.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz expressed concern about continued flooding at 25th Street.
Councilman Stern pointed out that this section of Palos Verdes Drive South is located in the City of Los Angeles.
Mayor Clark suggested notifying the City of Los Angeles of the concern.
Councilman Long agreed with going on record to put the City of Los Angeles on notice regarding the City’s concerns about this section of roadway. He indicated that he did not want to micromanage the Public Works Department’s response to the situation. He also mentioned that he had asked the City Manager to agendize for Council discussion a contingency for the storm drain user fee. Councilman Long also suggested that the City develop a public information piece on the proper care of slopes and bench drains.
Councilman Gardiner felt that the Council should direct the staff to station a backhoe at McCarrell Canyon so that the public knows the Council is being proactive in the face of this emergency.
Mayor Clark expressed support for this concept.
Councilman Long made a motion instructing staff to: 1) deploy a backhoe and operator at McCarrell Canyon; 2) deploy other methods as necessary to minimize damage from further rain storms; and, 3) prepare public information on proper slope and bench drain maintenance.
The motion was seconded by Councilman Gardiner.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked staff to expedite relief for the affected property owners.
Councilman Long asked the City Attorney if the City was required to reject all claims.
City Attorney Lynch responded that she would need to do further research and get back to the Council on this issue.
Councilman Gardiner suggested an amendment to the motion to specify that the purpose of the backhoe was to prevent overflow of the debris basin to the extent possible.
Councilman Long accepted the proposed amendment to the motion.
Mayor Clark suggested a second amendment to the motion to direct staff to keep the Council informed about changes in the status of the City that might occur over the next 72 hours.
Councilman Long accepted the second proposed amendment to the motion.
The motion passed, as amended, by the following roll call vote:
AYES: Long, Gardiner, Stern, Wolowicz, Clark
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked that the minutes reflect the Council’s gratitude to the staff who responded to the emergency.
Adjournment: At 4:45 P.M., Mayor Clark declared the meeting adjourned to Saturday, February 26 at 9:30 AM at the Community Room at City Hall for a Budget Policy Issues Workshop.
/s/ Larry Clark
/s/ Carolynn Petru