M I N U T E S
The meeting was called to order at 7:03 p.m. by Mayor Clark at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, Rancho Palos Verdes.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Stern, Long, Gardiner, Wolowicz, Mayor Clark
Also present were City Manager Evans; Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru; City Attorney Lynch; Director of Finance McLean; Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Rojas; Director of Public Works Allison; Senior Planner Mihranian; Associate Planner Blumenthal; and Minutes Reporter Presutti.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by former Rancho Palos Verdes Planning Commissioner and retired Army Major General Ted Paulson.
Mayor Clark officiated a Blue Star tribute to the family of Army Captain Daniel Raymond.
Mayor Clark presented certificates of recognition to Forrestal Steering Committee members Barbara Dye, Barbara Sattler, Richard Stark, Kurt Loheit and Dan Ryan; and, to John Nieto and Madeline Ryan in their absence. He thanked each one for his participation and hard work.
Mayor Clark announced Roy Boyko as recycler of the month, thanked him and encouraged other residents to participate in the City’s recycling program.
Mayor Clark advised residents to check their current Waste Management invoices regarding the annual prepayment discount of five percent and a senior citizen discount (where applicable) of ten percent. He advised the public that Universal Waste customers could also receive similar prepayment and senior citizen discounts.
Mayor Clark dedicated the evening’s Did You Know presentation to a recap of the July 13th fire in Rancho Palos Verdes and the tremendous response by the L.A. County Fire and Sheriff’s Departments. He introduced Assistant Fire Chief Glonchak and invited him to provide an overview of the event.
Assistant Fire Chief Glonchak, representing the L.A. County Fire Department, thanked the Mayor for the opportunity to address the meeting. He introduced Chief Tim O’Roarke, of Battalion 14, and the crew from Engine 56, the first unit to respond to the fire. He provided a brief set of statistics, noting that 212 acres were involved; approximately 40 engine companies and five helicopters responded to the scene; 18 brush crews were present; and, that a total of 439 professionals provided assistance to combat the fire. He reported there was only one minor injury to a firefighter and that no structures were lost, saying it was a very successful operation. Assistant Chief Glonchak recounted that a limited evacuation took place and indicated the successful outcome of the fire was due in large part to the efforts of local residents in performing proper brush clearance around their properties, utilizing non-combustible roofing materials, and being vigilant. He commended the community for their assistance, saying that the City’s residents were as much heroes in this instance as the professionals.
Mayor Clark requested that his colleagues, City staff, and audience members stand and join him in a round of applause for Chief Glonchak and the L.A. County Fire Department. He advised he had received a number of calls from residents, whose homes were literally saved by the quick and heroic actions of the firefighters, saying that a community breakfast would be held shortly to provide an opportunity for everyone to show their appreciation to the first responders.
Councilman Gardiner agreed that brush clearance and roofing materials probably played a key role, saying that, while he would never want to contradict the Chief, he remained convinced that the successful outcome was due to the quick work and dedication of the firefighters.
Mayor Clark noted that in addition to the L.A. County Fire Department, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department was also involved with units responding from the Lennox, Compton, Carson, Century, Marina del Rye, and West Hollywood stations. He called forward Lieutenant John Herrera, representing the Lomita Sheriff’s Department.
Lieutenant Herrera reported that Sherry Anderson, the Watch Commander on duty that day, should be credited for providing a high level of assistance and timely response. He echoed sentiments about that the L.A. County Fire Department, saying they were experts in this area and it was always a pleasure to work with them.
Councilman Stern exhibited some before and after photographs of the canyon below Del Cerro Park to illustrate the damage caused by the fire.
Mayor Clark declared there were many things that came before the Council but that there was nothing more important than recognizing this kind of service.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve the Agenda.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru advised that an item of late correspondence regarding public comments had been distributed to the Council.
Rich Thomas, Tournament Director for the LPGA/Sego Championship, provided an update on plans for the approaching Professional Women’s Golf Tournament scheduled from September 26th through October 2nd at Trump National Golf Course. He reported they were working with City’s Planning Department to obtain proper approval for the proposed parking areas; with the Chamber of Commerce to help promote local area businesses; and, with local law enforcement agencies and the Department of Transportation for assistance with traffic control and proper signage. He advised Council that they had contracted with Jim Hall to handle planning and grading for the parking, as well as the set up, maintenance and staffing of the lots. He stated that he would be returning soon to present the entire plan for approval and would welcome any comments or suggestions to make the event as easy for the local residents as possible and to maximize the enjoyment and economic benefits the tournament would bring to the Peninsula.
Mayor Clark noted that he had received e-mails from San Pedro residents concerned with proposed parking in their community and inquired about what was being done to resolve those concerns.
Mr. Thomas responded that he had recently attended a meeting in San Pedro with Mr. Hall, saying the outcome was that tournament organizers would work with a special committee to determine beneficial traffic routes and to locate parking in areas where they would not create traffic problems and would be in close proximity to local restaurants and hotels.
Mayor Clark inquired on the status of the Special Use Permit.
Director Rojas answered that the SUP had been submitted and notice had been provided to the neighborhood as required, noting that staff would now take public comment and work with the applicant to come up with a list of conditions to address the issues expected to arise based on past tournaments on the site.
Lenee Bilski, Rancho Palos Verdes, on behalf of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute, invited everyone to come and enjoy the Tall Ships Festival occurring between August 11th and 14th. She indicated that the event would begin with a boat parade off Point Fermin and special activities would include tours of the tall ships, outings, and staged cannon battles at sea. She encouraged everyone to attend and support the efforts of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute, a volunteer organization that provided real life experiences at sea for challenged youth.
Don Shults, Rancho Palos Verdes, reported that he recently completed a short term on the Western Avenue Task Force, saying that the initial work was complete and would be put into a comprehensive report and presented sometime in September 2005. He remarked that it appeared to be a good plan and had received much positive response. He voiced concern over the amount of new building planned in the surrounding community, such as the 84 proposed homes on the York property at Portuguese Bend, the 160-unit condominium project on Western Avenue, the plan for another 2,300 units at the former Navy property on Western, and the addition of several new schools in the area. He reminded Council that all of this development equated to a corresponding increase in the number of vehicles, which would drastically impact traffic in the area. He opined that it did not make sense to spend time struggling to fix problems only to approve additional development, which would worsen the situation and make it necessary to change things again. He suggested that the City pursue a dialogue with the City of Los Angeles to devise a system to address these issues now.
Lois Larue, Rancho Palos Verdes, voiced opposition to the 84 homes proposed to be built at Point View between Wayfarer’s Chapel and Abalone Cove and advised Council that the gate she had previously mentioned leading into the Portuguese Bend landslide area was wide open again that morning.
CITY MANAGER REPORTS:
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru advised the audience that items previously discussed and continued to a future meeting can be viewed on the City’s website at www.palosverdes.com/rpv.
APPROVAL OF CONSENT CALENDAR:
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru noted that late correspondence had been received and distributed regarding Item No. 2, the minutes of March 29th.
Councilman Gardiner requested that Item No. 4, RPV Cable Television Policy, be removed from the Consent Calendar.
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 from the Adjourned Regular Meeting of March 29, 2005, as amended.
Repair of the Tarapaca Storm Drain (604 x 1204)
Reviewed and reconfirmed by a four/fifths (4/5) vote, the Council’s previous action on December 21, 2004 to authorize staff to conduct an informal bid process to repair the Tarapaca Storm Drain.
RPV Cable Television Policy (305)
Removed and discussed immediately following approval of the Consent Calendar.
NCCP Contract Amendment (1203)
Approved an amendment to the contract with the City’s NCCP consultant (URS Corporation) in an amount of $25,000 for miscellaneous follow-up tasks related to the completion and implementation of the City’s NCCP.
Register of Demands
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-79, 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.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve the Consent Calendar with the removal of the Cable Television Policy and amendments to the March 29, 2005 minutes, as outlined by Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz.
The motion to approve the Consent Calendar carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Gardiner, Long, Stern, Wolowicz, Mayor Clark
ITEMS REMOVED FROM CONSENT CALENDAR:
Rancho Palos Verdes Cable Television Policy (305)
Councilman Gardiner, in response to a request by the Mayor, noted that the Cable Television Subcommittee had revisited the language regarding whether all exceptions to its decisions should be appealable to the Council, saying that the ultimate wording was that all decisions could be appealed to the Council, which was slightly different than what was reflected in the agenda materials. He advised his colleagues that Channel 33 would only air City-produced programming for the first six months and would not be available for outside programming during that time, saying that the policy may be revisited at the end of that period as the channel begins to broaden.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz requested clarification of the changes to the policy.
Councilman Gardiner explained that the recommendation was to change the policy to make all decisions appealable, whereas the prior version indicated that the Subcommittee would make decisions related to the operation of the channel and the two Council members on the Subcommittee could refer matters to the full Council if they believed it to be appropriate.
Mayor Clark questioned what would happen in the event there was disagreement between those two Council Subcommittee members.
Councilman Gardiner answered that the matter would automatically be sent to the Council if that occurred.
Mayor Clark suggested that this point should be clarified in the language of the policy.
Councilman Long commented that no clarification was necessary if Council accepted the version indicating all decisions could be appealed to the Council.
Mayor Clark stated that every decision of the Subcommittee would then be appealable to the Council.
Councilman Long agreed, saying that same policy applied to all other areas the Council addressed and that his inclination would be to maintain consistency.
Mayor Clark suggested that it would be reasonable to allow a Council member outside the Subcommittee to request that a programming matter be brought before the full Council for consideration.
Councilman Gardiner reminded his colleagues that Council members currently had the ability to place any matter they choose on the agenda.
Mayor Clark noted, while that was true, he preferred to reserve that specific right for the remainder of the Council in the event there was an issue that an individual member wished to bring forward.
Councilman Long agreed, saying that the decisions of the Subcommittee were final and only the two Council members on the Subcommittee could authorize reexamination of matters without the Mayor’s suggested clarification.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz queried whether changes to any other sections of the policy were anticipated after the interim period.
Councilman Gardiner explained that a framework was being put in place that would come back to Council for review after six months. He indicated that there may be some unanticipated surprises and perhaps some modifications would need to be made, adding that he anticipated there might be some interesting things learned during the interim period.
Councilman Stern observed that the City was basically moving forward with some good policies in place, understanding this was something entirely new. He reiterated that things would be open for reexamination in six months, adding that, if things worked well, the existing policies could remain in place until such time as changes were warranted.
Councilman Long suggested amending the language in the top paragraph on circle Page 4 to read “… and will make the final decision regarding the appeal period; however, the Subcommittee or any other Council member may refer an appeal to the City Council for determination at a duly noticed City Council meeting.”
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, to adopt the Revised Interim Production, Programming and Operational Policies and Procedures for RPV-CTV Channel 33, as amended. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
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Appeal of the Planning Commission’s denial of a Height Variation (Case No. ZON2004-00087), for property located at 28129 Ella Road [Appellant: Moss and Associates, on behalf of Jamie Anvaripour] [Applicant: Stan Anderson, for AEG Architects; Property Owner: Jamie Anvaripour] (Continued from June 21, 2005) (1804)
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru advised Council that late correspondence had been distributed concerning this item.
Associate Planner Blumenthal provided the staff report with the assistance of a PowerPoint presentation.
Councilman Stern reported the letter from Jane Miller included in Council’s packet indicated that she did not plan to add a second floor on her home; that she planned to live there until her death, which should be many decades in the future; and, that her house should not be considered in regard to any potential cumulative impacts. Noting the Planning Commission’s belief there was potential cumulative view impairment, he inquired whether the City might consider allowing Ms. Miller to create a CC&R prohibiting a second-story addition on her property as a means to eliminate that theoretical potential impact.
City Attorney Lynch answered that it was a possibility.
Councilman Long inquired if the view analysis focused on the potential impairment of existing views by structures not yet built or even applied for and if the Planning Commission’s judgment was that there was not sufficient impairment to justify denial of the permit without considering the possibility of potential cumulative impacts.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that the Planning Commission did not believe the structure by itself would cause significant impairment, but it was unable to make that finding when considering potential cumulative impairment.
Councilman Gardiner commented that he visited the site and did not see the prospect for a cumulative significant impact, saying that things appeared very differently in person than in the photographic presentation.
Director Rojas agreed, noting that staff had originally reached the same conclusion. He advised Council to keep in mind that multiple pictures were spliced together for the presentation, saying that this might create some distortion.
Councilman Gardiner inquired how many Planning Commissioners actually visited the site and how many relied on photographic evidence.
Associate Planner Blumenthal reported that one Commissioner relied on photographs and the others all visited the site.
Mayor Clark, noting the Chair of the Planning Commission, Paul Tetreault, was in the audience, requested his presence at the dais to answer any questions.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz remarked that considering this concept of potential cumulative view impairment could effectively preclude every house on that street from adding a second story addition.
Associate Planner Blumenthal advised Council that the Height Variation Guidelines dictate that staff considers the three to four homes closest to the proposed project.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru advised Council that the Public Hearing remained open from the June 21st meeting.
Aarika Anvaripour, Rancho Palos Verdes, explained that her family applied for a height variation the previous July wherein the Planning Commission directed them to reduce the height in response to neighbors’ requests. She noted that they responded by revising the design, incurring thousands of dollars in additional costs, and had done everything possible to appease the concerns of the neighbors and staff. She indicated that staff subsequently found the view impairment not to be significant and had recommended approval in favor of the Appellant. She urged Council to abide by staff’s recommendation and grant them permission to build.
David Moss, representing the appellant, advised Council that the family had significantly revised the project in response to the Planning Commission’s direction; that a four foot overall height reduction was subsequently submitted; that staff determined all nine findings had been met, including those dealing with view impairment and privacy concerns; and, that staff and the Commission favored the design’s use of multiple roof planes and found the facade articulation to be compatible with the surrounding homes.
Mr. Moss respectfully requested that Council agree with staff on whether potentially significant cumulative view impairment existed, noting that the Planning Commission found no view impairment with the new design. He suggested that the analysis of the cumulative view impairment was flawed for several reasons, noting that the potential significant view impairments depicted in green in Exhibits A-2, B-1, and B-2 were not correct because the roof lines were shown to be higher than the actual silhouettes. He advised Council that the structure under consideration was a single-family home that staff found to be compatible with the neighborhood; that the family had agreed to multiple conditions of approval to mitigate concerns; and, that this project would not create a precedent since each subsequent case would be reviewed on an individual basis. He urged Council’s approval of the project.
Councilman Stern queried whether the appellant had considered obtaining a CC&R from Ms. Miller given the Planning Commission’s concern regarding the potential cumulative impact and the fact she had disavowed any intent or desire to add a second story addition to her home.
Mr. Moss answered that they had not approached the Miller family. He voiced concern over Council’s moving in a direction that made the approval of a project contingent on the ability of a neighbor to obtain a CC&R on another person’s residence restricting their property rights, saying that he would prefer that not be made a condition of approval. He stated that he was unaware of a view impairment ordinance in any other city where consideration was given to potential impacts from projects not yet identified.
Mayor Clark reacted to Mr. Moss’s observation by advising that Rancho Palos Verdes’ View Preservation Ordinance was the result of a 1989 voter initiative. He indicated that the recognition of potential impacts from not only the immediate project but also other possible changes in a neighborhood were standards that had been applied in the City because many neighborhoods within the City were in a state of transition.
Mr. Moss indicated that the City’s ordinance was well crafted, but he believed this issue of an appeal based on potential significant cumulative view impairment was perhaps something Council had not dealt with before.
Councilman Stern requested that staff explain how they determined precise placement of the blue and green lines on the photographic exhibits.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that the green bands were positioned by zooming in and highlighting the flagged area with photo editing software, noting the location of the 16-foot “by right” measurement the applicant was required to include on the silhouette. He indicated that the placement of the blue lines indicating cumulative impairments was a bit more difficult, saying that staff used the assumption that other homes would be built out to the same height by taking what was seen in green on the subject property and projecting it onto the other adjacent homes.
Mr. Moss indicated the blue line did not provide an accurate depiction in this case because it did not allow for any space or setback area between the buildings. He remarked that it was very difficult to simulate because the solid lines, use of colors, and lack of any demarcation between the three properties created a solid mass, which was inaccurate in terms of what would actually be seen if three homes with second floors were actually built to a height of 21 feet.
Councilman Gardiner agreed, noting what was represented would actually be a house that was a half-mile long.
Council carefully examined the photographic evidence and discussion ensued to determine the view components of each of the individual properties involved.
Sam Kiasatpour, Rancho Palos Verdes, spoke in favor of the Anvaripour’s plan, saying that it would increase property values in the neighborhood.
Gene Pledger, Rancho Palos Verdes, indicated the Anvaripour’s home was located at the end of his street. He urged Council to approve the request, noting that a view was not necessarily an ocean view, but what an individual saw when they exited their house. He indicated that after reviewing the plans for the proposed remodel, he believed his view would definitely be enhanced once the project was completed. He thanked Council for all their hard work and the hours of effort they put forth for the benefit of the City’s residents.
Tony Naficy, Rancho Palos Verdes, introduced himself as the Anvaripour’s next-door neighbor. He urged Council to approve the plan, saying that he believed the proposed rebuild would definitely enhance the neighborhood and improve his view.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Brewster, Rancho Palos Verdes, complimented Council for diligently investigating the myriad aspects associated with this proposed project. They presented several photographs taken from their property in January and February illustrating their view, and noted that it was difficult to see in the pictures presented by staff. They advised Council that they have resided at 28221 Lomo Drive since 1972; that they purchased the house because of the view; that, although there was only a small sliver of ocean view visible from their property, it was very precious to them and they did not want to lose any portion of it; and, that the value of their house would be diminished if that view was impaired. They contended that Ms. Miller’s letter indicating that she did not plan to build up in her lifetime should not be relied upon because people do not live forever and plans change. The Brewsters suggested that the Anvaripours consider building a single story addition if they required more space, saying that they should have taken their growing family into consideration when they purchased the home.
Young Oh, Rancho Palos Verdes, advised Council that her family had resided at 28521 Lomo Drive for more than 16 years; that their view was precious to them; and, that the proposed remodel would not only significantly obstruct that view but would also have a negative impact on the value of their property. She said that, while she appreciated the fact that the Council members visited the properties, those visits occurred in April, June, and July, which was not the best time of year to properly evaluate views because of hazy and cloudy weather conditions. She suggested that photographs taken from various locations on each of the properties would have presented the situation more fairly. She thanked Council for the opportunity to express her concerns.
Ishver Naik, Rancho Palos Verdes, introduced himself as a 22-year resident of 28327 Lomo Drive, saying that during that time he and his family had enjoyed their ocean and city lights views rather than the view of other houses in the neighborhood. He voiced opposition to the proposed addition for the following reasons: 1) if permitted it would block ocean and mountain views both directly and cumulatively as defined in the City’s rules and guidelines; 2) such view impairment would drastically reduce the pleasure they derived from their home as well as its future value; and, 3) it would set a precedent for allowing view impairing additions on other homes in the neighborhood. He advised Council that no other second-story remodels currently existed in this neighborhood and respectfully requested that Council deny the appeal and uphold the Planning Commission’s decision on this project.
Mr. Naik suggested that Mr. Moss made a number of misinterpretations regarding the Planning Commission’s analysis. He indicated that the Planning Commission met twice at an interval of approximately three months; that the Commissioners visited the properties for direct observation in response to many arguments regarding photographic interpretations of the views; that their opinions were based on personal observations rather than an analysis of the photographs; and, that alternatives for adding on the first level were seriously suggested by the Commission but apparently not considered by the property owner. He opined that the appellant’s insistence on building a second story addition was a way for them to improve their own ocean view.
Mr. Moss remarked that the project had evolved significantly since the previous year. In response to the Brewster’s testimony, he reminded Council that view must be considered from the designated viewing area and, while they did have a magnificent view, the photographs they presented did not accurately represent their viewing area. In response to suggestions that they build down the slope, he reported that at the initial hearing Commissioner Karp urged them to dismiss this as an option, saying that it was not a feasible solution. In regard to the Naik’s concern that they would lose their entire view of the Santa Monica Mountains, he advised Council that Photograph A-2 indicated that there was some interference with the view but there was still a large land mass of mountains and Malibu coastline that would remain available to them.
Mayor Clark requested Chair Paul Tetreault to provide input with respect to the Planning Commission’s decision.
Chair Tetreault advised Council that he was not present at the October 12, 2004 hearing when the Planning Commission made its decision regarding this project, but that he reviewed the staff report and minutes extensively; and, that he was present at the initial hearing and discussed the matter with the other Commissioners at that time. He noted that he differed with Mr. Moss’s interpretation that the Commission found no view impairment from the project itself but rather the cumulative impairment was the obstacle, saying that the basis for the Commission’s decision was that there was view impairment although not significant enough in and of itself to warrant rejection; however, when considered cumulatively with the other homes it was determined to be significant.
Councilman Gardiner questioned how five houses each having a view impairment that was deemed insignificant when viewed individually could in the aggregate create a cumulative impact.
Chair Tetreault explained that by permitting a single home to do something to their property, a precedent was set for the neighborhood, because what was allowed for one must be allowed for the others and the cumulative effect of that could be significant.
Councilman Gardiner commented that he found this to be a curious notion.
Mayor Clark declared the Public Hearing closed.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz queried how many similar instances Chair Tetreault had encountered during his tenure on the Planning Commission.
Chair Tetreault answered that the subject had been considered several times during the year and a half he had been on the Planning Commission but this case was the first time there had been a negative finding for the project.
Councilman Gardiner remarked that the issue was extremely tricky and he appreciated the fact that the neighbors were working together despite their disagreements. He professed that he did not believe there was a significant cumulative impact and as such would move to uphold the appeal and overturn the Planning Commission’s decision.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, noting his difficulty with the concept of significant cumulative view impairment, requested input from his two colleagues with experience in the areas of view restoration and planning matters.
Councilman Long commented that his original inclination was to abstain from this entire issue, saying that as far as he knew, there had been very little application of the cumulative impact finding. He contended that it was very problematic to consider theoretical view impairment, saying that he believed the way the matter had been presented and the way the ordinance was currently written, the actual impairment was not relevant to the decision, while the theoretical impairment was. He declared that Council was unable to consider anything other than the sliver of view impaired above the 16-foot height level to the top of the structure even though that portion below may be the most important portion of the view; and, that Council must ignore a portion of reality and hypothesize about events, which may never happen in future. He stated that he believed the finding could be made as Councilman Gardiner suggested that there was no significant cumulative impairment of view in this case.
Mayor Clark advised his colleagues that he had spent four terms on the Planning Commission and two on the View Restoration Commission, noting that in his experience there was perhaps only one other case of cumulative view impairment. He reported that he did not have an opportunity to view the properties but felt comfortable making a determination based on what was presented during the public hearing process. He recognized the neighbors’ concerns, noting that the loss of any view can be troubling, but agreed that the case does not rise to the level of a significant cumulative view impairment and therefore he supported upholding the appeal.
Councilman Stern reported that he visited the properties the Planning Commission determined would be impacted, although it was not a great viewing day. He indicated that he could not see the ocean, but that he was able to gain a sense of where the flags were positioned in relation to everything else. He commented that it was a very close call but he agreed that the matter did not rise to the level of a significant cumulative impact, saying that he was troubled that Council was being asked to deal with the concept of cumulative impacts.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to uphold the appeal, thereby overturning the Planning Commission’s denial and approving the Height Variation (Case No. ZON2004-00087). The resolution would be brought back for adoption at the next meeting.
The motion passed on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Stern, Long, Wolowicz, Gardiner, Clark
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz commented that his vote in favor of the motion was made reluctantly. He reported that he was a neighbor of the property in question, saying that he resided outside the 500-foot radius and, therefore, could not recuse himself. He indicated that, while he did not view the cumulative impact analysis as being necessarily appropriate, he was troubled that Council might be damaging the future of the significant cumulative view impairment issue.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Clark recessed the meeting at 9:35 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 9:46 p.m.
Height Variation Revision and Tract Map Amendment (ZON2004-00409), 6270 Ocean Terrace Drive, Applicant/Property Owner: Sal Ahamed (Continued from April 19, 2005) (1804 x 1411)
Councilman Long moved to waive the staff report. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Continued public testimony and discussion ensued.
Sultan Ahamed, Rancho Palos Verdes, introduced himself as the applicant residing at 6270 Ocean Terrace Drive, saying that after the last hearing on April 19th he was under the impression that everything had been resolved, with the public hearing being completed, the Council deliberating the matter and arriving at a decision. He advised that his position remained the same; that he had worked diligently with members of City staff for four-and-a-half years; that all the various possibilities had been examined; and, that the conclusion reached was the best possible solution in this particular case.
Councilman Stern requested an update on the status of the property acquisition negotiations with Mr. York.
Mr. Ahamed reminded Council that he had previously made an offer to purchase a portion of Mr. York’s property to replace the easement that had been lost by the grading and construction on the property and that the escrow remained open. He advised Council that he needed a 30 by 160 foot portion of land to replace the area where there were encroachments plus the easement, saying that he had offered $21.00 per square foot for that land but Mr. York had expressed no interest in selling just a portion and was only willing to sell the entire parcel for $100,000.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz inquired if Mr. Ahamed had had any conversation with Mr. York since the April meeting.
Mr. Ahamed answered he had not.
Minaz Ahamed, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that the agreement Council considered at the April 19th hearing provided a one-year period for the Ahameds to work with York-Long Point to purchase a section of property to accommodate the trail in its existing configuration and, if negotiations proved unsuccessful, an alternative would be provided for the Ahameds to relocate the trail onto their own property.
Jennifer Butterworth, Rancho Palos Verdes, exhibited a slide show presentation. She asked Council to remember that this case was the result of the Ahameds building their house 15 feet away from the approved location, saying that this mistake adversely impacted her family’s property in terms of view, privacy, and value. She urged Council to reconsider and change the draft resolution.
Bill Butterworth, Rancho Palos Verdes, contended that flawed information was presented at the April meeting which materially affected the case and the Council’s subsequent decision. He opined that the draft resolution must be changed to reflect that and to eliminate the errors. He reported that he submitted a package of information delineating the erroneous information for Council’s review, saying that he would not go into detail on those points. He asserted that the statement indicating that improvements on their property blocked the easement was false and exhibited photographic evidence showing complete access to the easement if the Ahameds repositioned their fence to line up with all the other fences along the McBride Trail. He stated that another significant issue was the City’s allegation that improvements to their house were illegal. He noted that approval was granted for those improvements in 1989; the assertion that an easement line was missing from the plans, and therefore the City staff was mislead, was untrue because the matter was clearly discussed and site visits were made during the approval process; and, that none of the improvements adversely affected anyone. He contended that the Ahameds were solely responsible for the current situation because their house was built 15 feet from the approved location and that illegal grading was performed on the property.
Mr. Butterworth proclaimed that they had lost view, privacy, and value in their house; that the title to their property had been clouded by the City’s assertions that their backyard improvements were illegal; and, that the draft resolution favored the Ahameds by allowing their property to remain unchanged and by neglecting to address the losses suffered by the Butterworths. He reminded Council that there had not been a successful deal in over three years between the Ahameds and Mr. York, saying that the draft resolution provided no default alternative in the event the Ahameds could not or would not purchase the property and no time limit for action.
Mr. Butterworth proposed the following solutions to remedy the situation: allow the Ahameds to maintain their house in its current configuration, including the unapproved portion of the second story; but direct them to remove the balcony back to the required setback line as recommended by the Planning Commission; direct them to frost the three windows on the second floor facing the Butterworth’s property; direct them to purchase land to reroute the trail or move it back into the easement; allow the Butterworths to maintain their existing house and backyard improvements; allow the Butterworths to purchase land behind their property at price appropriate for open space land rather than having the Ahameds do so; direct the Ahameds to provide privacy screening between the two houses; allow the City to vacate the unused portion of the trail easement, clearing title on the Butterworth’s property; and, if the trail was rerouted as proposed, to vacate the remainder of the easement on the Butterworth’s property and the entire southern portion of the Ahamed’s property.
Councilman Stern queried whether anything related to the Butterworth’s property appeared as an agenda item.
City Attorney Lynch answered no.
Responding to Mr. Butterworth’s comment that the City had clouded title to his property, Councilman Stern asked if the City had done anything in the past five years to cloud that title other than providing historical documentation indicating improvements to the property were located in the trail easement.
Mr. Butterworth reminded Council that discussions during the April 19th meeting indicated that their improvements were illegal and could be removed at the request of the City.
Councilman Stern responded that the Butterworth’s property was not on the evening’s agenda.
Mr. Butterworth stated it was part of the original appeal in this matter.
Councilman Long, concurring that the Butterworth’s property was not agendized, noted that the improvements were located in a recorded easement and inquired if the Butterworth’s proposal for the City to vacate the unused portion of the easement included plans to compensate the City for its value. He advised that the City was not empowered to give away public property rights or assets.
Councilman Gardiner reported that he visited the Butterworth’s property to gain first-hand information about the situation. He expressed dismay over the position being taken by his colleagues that the Butterworth’s situation was not agendized. He reminded his colleagues that Council’s previous consideration was whether the Ahamed’s house was built in the proper location and, despite the fact there was no dispute that the house was in fact built 15 feet in the wrong direction, assumptions were made about the Butterworths building into the easement and their property was included as part of the solution. He declared for that reason he believed it certainly was part of this agenda item, saying that, if not, every reference to their property should be eliminated from the resolution and Council should only consider the issue of whether the Ahamed’s house was built in the correct location.
Mayor Clark recalled that the Butterworth’s property was brought into the discussion and subsequent decision because when the matter was previously considered staff indicated the improvements which the Butterworths enjoyed encroached upon the trail easement; and, discussion ensued regarding reliance upon the previous owner’s portrayal of where the trail easement was which turned out to be incorrect much like the Ahamed’s reliance upon their architect’s location of their home which proved to be incorrect.
Councilman Gardiner agreed, noting that information was provided on the Ahamed’s house, including a staff report and material from the Planning Commission hearing; whereas, there was no information on the Butterworth’s property other than an assertion made by staff. He reminded his colleagues of a decision made at a previous meeting that Council could take no action on a certain property because it was not agendized and the owner was unaware the matter would be discussed, noting that the Butterworth’s property was being discussed despite having no staff report and not being agendized.
Councilman Long queried if Council would be empowered to give away the City’s property rights such as an easement without consideration.
City Attorney Lynch responded that the City was allowed to vacate easements and rights-of-way that were not necessary for public use, explaining that there was no value to the City in retaining property if there was no current or prospective public use for it. She indicated that the City had vacated slope easements, unused street easements, and similar pieces of property in the past.
Councilman Long questioned if the unused portion of the easement on the Butterworth’s property would be adequate for the trail and asked what new information was being presented which might lead to a different decision than the one Council previously made.
Mayor Clark stated that the only new information he could determine was the interpretation of the proper trail easement described in staff’s presentation and the Butterworth’s proposed solution.
City Attorney Lynch advised Council that the portion of the trail easement across the Butterworth’s property was 25-feet wide, which was larger than the one on the Ahamed’s property. She noted that the approved plan appeared to indicate that approximately 15 feet of the easement on the Butterworth’s property remained unencumbered, noting that it appeared that only five feet was unencumbered.
Councilman Long inquired if the choke point in the trail was located in that unencumbered five feet.
Mr. Butterworth advised that five feet fulfilled the City’s minimum requirement.
Director Rojas answered that staff determined the area was sufficient for walking through, but that there was no minimum requirement.
Councilman Long inquired if the City was likely to need a trail width wider than five feet, saying that, if not, it appeared reasonable to conclude that the balance of the easement was surplus and would have no value assigned to it.
Director Rojas indicated that five feet would be reasonable to allow passage.
City Attorney Lynch agreed with Councilman Long’s conclusion.
City Manager Evans advised that a five-foot width would not be optimal for maintenance activities.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz indicated that he, too, visited both residences. He recalled Council’s previous discussion and conclusion that the area between the Butterworth’s rear wall and the outside of the easement would be difficult to walk through. He remarked that, unfortunately, it appeared that errors had occurred on both properties, saying that there would be no discussion of this matter had everyone respected the recorded easements and setback requirements. He noted that neither Mr. Ahamed nor anyone representing him had spoken with Mr. York since the April 19th meeting, saying that he considered that to be a pivotal issue and that the question Mr. Butterworth raised about timing was valid as well. He inquired what might be done to encourage Mr. Ahamed to proceed with the acquisition of the adjacent property.
City Attorney Lynch explained that a number of years prior the City had entered into a purchase agreement with Mr. York to acquire the Upper Filiorum property, noting that did not happen and at the current time the City was not in a position to convey a portion of that land. She suggested that the documents be amended to remove the City from the process; that both Mr. York and Mr. Ahamed would negotiate an agreement; or, that the trail be reestablished on Mr. Ahamed’s property as illustrated on the map so that the City’s trail would be preserved in the event a deal could not be reached between the two parties. She advised Council that staff was recommending that the easement be relocated around Mr. Ahamed’s house because of the existing grade and topography, which would provide the City with a new easement connecting to the existing one and the City could then vacate the other portion.
Councilman Stern indicated his understanding that Mr. Ahamed was being required to solve the theoretical problem of the Butterworth’s encroachment on the 25-foot easement by acquiring the additional property; so, contrary to Councilman Gardiner’s characterization, the burden was being placed on Mr. Ahamed, not on the Butterworths.
Councilman Gardiner responded that Council did not place a burden on the Butterworths, but it did take things away from them; specifically, their view.
Robert Vaught, Rancho Palos Verdes, introduced himself as a broker and owner of Palos Verdes Peninsula Realty, noting that he had 33 years’ experience in real estate sales on the Peninsula. He reported that he was also an instructor for the Palos Verdes Board of Realtors, saying one goal of that class was to instruct agents in the view restoration and protective restrictions adopted by the four Peninsula cities. He indicated that it was paramount that those restrictions were clearly understood and consistently adhered to, saying that it might be necessary to disclose to clients that regulations cannot be relied upon if building restrictions were violated and subsequently allowed to stand.
Mr. Vaught advised Council that the Butterworth’s home featured a room solely for the purpose of capturing the full panoramic view, saying that the loss of view caused by the neighbor’s intruding deck included ocean sunset, island, golf course, and coastal views. He reported that the description of view for listed properties contained no less than 24 categories in order of highest value, noting that, while all views were recognized as being valuable, coastline and ocean sunset views were at the top of the list. He stated that another significant component of property valuation was privacy, noting that privacy concerns were addressed whenever building proposals were brought before the City. He opined that, if the Ahameds presented their property design as it currently existed for approval, it would not be approved and, as such, should not be allowed to remain nor should the Butterworths be forced to pay for someone else’s mistake.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru noted that late correspondence on the item had been received and previously distributed to Council.
Mayor Clark opened the floor for rebuttal.
Sultan Ahamed contended that the trail obstruction problem existed long before his house was built. He exhibited a picture from 1997 illustrating that his house was not present and showing improvements on the Butterworth’s property encroaching onto the trail, saying that the easement had been blocked on their property for the last 20 years, yet he was the one working with the City to resolve the matter. He asked Council who would make the trail go through if he was forced to remove his balcony. He asserted that the Butterworths had a 25-foot easement on their property with only five feet unobstructed, while he had a 15-foot easement on his property that was open and accessible. He admitted to mistakenly building into the setback, noting that a setback was merely a City requirement, but that an easement was public property. He declared that removal of his balcony would not resolve the easement issue, which was why staff and the City Attorney had worked so hard to prepare an agreement. He reminded Council that the agreement was a compromise and suggested that before considering whether the Ahameds or the Butterworths were at fault, Council should recognize that Mr. York could fence off that area at any time and the public would be unable to access it at all.
Mayor Clark closed the Public Hearing.
Councilman Long asked if staff could see any advantage to spending more time attempting to obtain some sort of easement from Mr. York.
City Attorney Lynch suggested allowing Mr. Ahamed a specific period of time to reach an agreement with Mr. York, saying that the City would suffer no loss by maintaining an alternative that required the trail to be located completely on Mr. Ahamed’s property.
Councilman Long asked what factors Council could consider in determining how to enforce the violation of the setback if there was, in fact, a violation of the City’s setback rules.
City Attorney Lynch stated the matter had been fraught with many problems because the tract map contained trail easements, setback lines and Building and Grading Restriction (BGR) lines, all of which proved to be extremely confusing. She indicated that Mr. Ahamed’s improvements did not extend into the actual trail easement that crossed his property and, while it was not particularly convenient, the trail was clear of any obstructions and anyone could walk along it.
Councilman Long queried if it would be possible to increase the trail width from five feet to ten feet across the Butterworth’s property for maintenance purposes or if the steepness of the topography would create a problem.
City Attorney Lynch advised that this would be the least desirable option.
Councilman Long questioned if the steepness could be addressed with steps.
Director Rojas answered that steps could be put in but they would be problematic. He reported that Kurt Loheit, the City’s trail consultant, had gone to the location on numerous occasions and the plan staff had developed was based on his input and recommendations.
City Attorney Lynch advised Council that from a liability perspective she would advise against placing City improvements, such as steps, on a public trail.
Councilman Stern, noting the present configuration of the Ahamed’s balcony directly abuts the easement, requested clarification of the proposed trail configuration.
Director Rojas explained the balcony would be five feet away from the trail easement; and, that the easement would be fifteen feet wide with a five-foot setback between the edge of the easement and the balcony, saying there would only be a five-foot setback where there should have been fifteen feet.
Mayor Clark remarked that the balcony would encroach ten feet into the setback if allowed to remain in its current location, saying that he recalled that the City has approved encroachments into setback areas.
Director Rojas concurred that the City can approve such encroachments on private property.
Councilman Gardiner questioned whether the other Council members or staff was concerned by Mr. Vaught’s comments about the ability to rely on parts of the City’s Municipal Code and the implications that could create.
City Attorney Lynch advised that the City had processes in place that allowed for deviations in setback requirements, noting that factors such as whether the topography of the site justified granting an intrusion into the setback were typically taken into consideration.
Mayor Clark invited Chair Tetreault to provide input regarding the Planning Commission’s decision on this matter.
Chair Tetreault indicated that the significant basis for the Planning Commission’s decision was the setback/easement violation, saying that the Commission noted that all homes along this particular street with the exception of the Ahamed’s property had relatively consistent rear setbacks providing nearly everyone with a 180-degree view. Given the topography and geography of the neighborhood and the fact the homes all possessed fantastic views, the Commission viewed the setback as something significant in allowing that view equality; and, although the improvement was below 16 feet in height, the Commission did consider that it impacted view because of its ten-foot encroachment into a required fifteen-foot setback area.
Councilman Long remarked that, while he was mindful of the Commission’s decision, he did not believe that the City’s Ordinance allowed view to be taken into account in this instance. He recalled being persuaded before that according to the View Preservation Ordinance the overall impairment of view was not significant, saying that, if the issue was enforcement of a setback, he was not convinced that the Ahameds had done anything intentionally which warranted the rather draconian remedy of requiring them to remove their balcony, provided they were willing to mitigate the impact of the project by furnishing the City with a proper trail and easement.
Councilman Long moved to modify Council’s prior decision to allow the deck to remain in place provided a suitable location can be found for the trail within one year; that in order of preference the suitable trail location would be one which essentially followed the path of the current trail by obtaining property from Mr. York and additional property from Mr. Butterworth; and, if that was not feasible, that Mr. Ahamed would provide the second option which was a trail continuing around the west and south side of his house; including removing everything that blocks the easement; that the trail would continue through a five-foot portion of the easement on the Butterworth’s property; and, that the surplus portion of the easement be vacated to the Butterworths regardless which outcome was chosen so that there was no question about requiring their improvements be removed.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz seconded the motion for discussion purposes.
Mayor Clark inquired if the motion took into account the prior conditions such as requiring the Ahameds to plant foliage and frost windows on the eastern facade.
Councilman Long responded that his motion encompasses all prior conditions. He further clarified that regardless of which option was achieved, in no event would the easement through the Butterworth’s property be structured in a way to require the removal of any existing improvements and the unused portion of the easement would then be vacated to the Butterworths.
Councilman Stern noted that Condition No. 4 regarding foliage did not include a requirement for its maintenance or replacement if it died. He voiced concern regarding addressing the Butterworth’s issue, saying that, while he conceptually agreed with Councilman Long that if the solution was for Mr. Ahamed to acquire some of Mr. York’s property it should also be acquired behind the Butterworth’s property to provide an appropriate width for the easement, it seemed an unlikely solution given the fact Mr. Ahamed had not pursued any discussion with Mr. York since the previous meeting in April. He noted that the solution which moved the trail and picked up the easement on the southern edge of the property would fully address the issue, but it remained unclear what negotiations would lead to in the future and, since the Butterworth’s property was not a matter before Council, he would recommend agendizing the item before vacating public easements rather than tacking it onto the Ahamed’s issue
Councilman Long proposed a substitute motion specifying the adoption of all previous conditions with a modification to Condition No. 4 to require planting and maintenance of the foliage; that Mr. Ahamed be given one year to achieve one of the following: 1) preserving the existing trail in its current location with the purchase of the necessary property from Mr. York including the land behind Mr. Butterworth’s property or 2) assisting in relocating the trail and easement around the side of his house by the back deck as shown on the exhibit presented by staff; that Council refrain at this time from a specific decision on the Butterworth’s property and instruct staff to bring back a properly noticed agenda item regarding the possibility of vacating such portion of the easement on their property considered to be surplus once the Ahameds had achieved either of the two specified options.
City Attorney Lynch recommended that in the event Mr. Ahamed relocated the trail, Council require him to purchase only enough area to eliminate the choke point behind the Butterworth’s property, saying that the City did not have the jurisdiction to require him to correct a problem which he did not create on someone else’s property. She further suggested that Council also consider vacating the unused portion of the easement on Mr. Ahamed’s property, if he chose the trail relocation option.
Councilman Stern suggested Council address that matter when it became material.
Councilman Gardiner queried whether Council had the authority to rescind approvals granted by the City 16 and 24 years earlier.
City Attorney Lynch advised Council against changing approvals that expressly granted certain improvements on the Butterworth’s property. She noted the difficulty in this particular case was that the record and project file did not coincide with the approvals. She noted that, if someone built into a street, trail, or other easement without City approval, the City had the authority to require removal; however, the City had a standing policy of granting encroachment permits if it was determined that the easement or portion of roadway was not necessary for public use.
Councilman Gardiner remarked that there remained some question of whether the City approved the Butterworth’s encroachment or not and, as such, he moved to amend the motion to uphold the Planning Commission’s decision to remove ten feet of the Ahamed’s balcony.
Councilman Stern seconded the motion for discussion purposes.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz cautioned that in this scenario Mr. Ahamed would have no incentive to correct the trail easement.
Councilman Gardiner stated that Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz may be correct but it appeared that Council was going to extreme measures to make the trail fit despite the fact the Ahamed’s house was built in the wrong location. He reminded his colleagues that the Planning Commission addressed the matter, adjudged the house to be improperly located, and recommended remedying the problem by removing ten feet from the balcony. He opined that the trail issue would resolve itself if Council took the proposed action. He voiced concern about Mr. Vaught’s comment questioning the City’s enforcement of its codes.
Mayor Clark stated that the amended motion seemed to be a rather draconian solution, saying that he ascribed no ill intent to the Ahameds in the incorrect location of their house. He noted that many cases came before the City where property owners had unintentionally violated portions of the City’s Development Code and it became a matter of judgment as to what remedies to apply, saying that he did not consider the proposed solution proper or equitable, notwithstanding the Butterworth’s input.
Councilman Gardiner declared that his recommendation had nothing to do with the Butterworths but was simply a matter of upholding the Planning Commission’s decision, saying that he was concerned about the City’s Municipal Code and was not inferring any intent. He asserted that if the entire house needed to be relocated it would be a different matter, noting that was only a balcony and he did not see that removing ten feet created an extreme hardship on the property owner.
Councilman Stern voiced some agreement, saying that while the Ahameds were innocent in one respect they did hire the professional who made the mistake. He recalled a conversation indicating that there would be no structural implications to cutting the balcony back and requested confirmation from staff.
Director Rojas advised Council that one support column would have to remain within the BGR zone, saying that the City’s geologist needed to reassess the situation to determine whether it would be a structurally sound modification to the building.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz questioned if the Planning Commission had considered view impairment in rendering its decision.
Chair Tetreault indicated that it was not so much a view impairment issue as it was that the homes along the ridgeline were uniform in terms of their rear setbacks. He explained that the property lines were situated consistently so that none of the homes projected out further than another to gain a view advantage. He stated that the Ahamed’s home violated that uniform line and not only encroached on a trail easement but also projected into the setback zone which was inconsistent with the rest of the homes in the tract.
Mayor Clark called Councilman Gardiner’s amended motion.
The motion passed on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Wolowicz, Gardiner, Stern
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz indicated that he voted affirmatively for purposes of neighborhood conformity rather than view.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve a modified project as follows: 1) Subject to all of the conditions of approval in Exhibit A with a modification to Condition No. 4 to require the property owner to maintain the foliage required to be planted and modification to Condition No. 2 to require 10 feet of the existing balcony to be removed to respect the required setback from the trail easement along the south property line but allowing the at-grade patio and certain building support columns to remain seaward of the BGR line; 2) Within one year require the applicant to preserve the public trail in one of two possible alignments: a) maintain the existing alignment by acquiring sufficient property from the adjacent landowner (York) to dedicate the required easement to the City, or b) realign the trail along the west side of the building pad and within the existing trail easement along the south side of the property; allowing the property owner the option of acquiring additional land from the adjacent property owner (York) to remove the choke point on the property to the east (Butterworth); and, 3) Direct staff to agendize a separate item to consider vacating a portion of the trail easement on the Butterworth’s property and any surplus easement area on the applicant’s property once the final alignment of the trail has been determined. The resolution to be brought back for adoption at the next meeting.
The motion passed on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Long, Stern, Wolowicz, Gardiner, Clark
Mayor Clark noted that his endorsement of the motion was made reluctantly.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Clark recessed the meeting at 11:38 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 11:45 p.m.
Councilman Long moved that Council abide by its rule of not taking up new business past 11:00 p.m., saying that normally he would not be adverse to pressing on but, having seen the agenda packet and estimating the amount of time required to hear the remaining items, he would be forced to depart the meeting before its conclusion due to an early morning business engagement.
Councilman Gardiner advised his colleagues that the issue was actually a point of order asking for a ruling by the Mayor, rather than a motion.
Councilman Long stated that his point of order would be that Council was violating its rules by taking up new business after 11:00 and requested the Mayor’s ruling on this point.
Mayor Clark reminded his colleagues that Council had violated this rule many times and, noting that there were members of the community still present and waiting to address the remaining matters, ruled that Council suspend the rule and continue through the agenda.
Councilman Long moved to appeal the Mayor’s ruling.
The Mayor’s ruling was upheld on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Stern, Wolowicz, Gardiner, Mayor Clark
Councilman Long departed the meeting at 11:48 p.m.
CITY COUNCIL ORAL REPORTS:
REGULAR NEW BUSINESS:
Forrestal Management Plan (1201)
Councilman Gardiner moved to waive the staff report. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Robert Mucha, Rancho Palos Verdes, reported that his previous comments regarding the interpretation of bicycle use on certain trails and the Sierra Club alternative plan had been clarified; noting that his comments questioning equestrian use on trail L11 still remained. He maintained that the Forrestal Steering Committee’s original recommendation for L11 was for pedestrian and bicycle use; that the Sierra Club’s plan encompassed pedestrian and equestrian; that the Council’s previous action removed bicycle use, but did not address equestrian use; and, that Council members, the public, and the Sierra Club representative made no comment regarding L11 equestrian use changes; saying it was unclear how equestrian use became part of the motion. In response to this situation, he requested removal of the word “equestrian” from the end of the second sentence referring to trail L11.
Councilman Stern queried if Mr. Mucha’s objection was because he believed it was inappropriate to have equestrian use or because Council did not believe they included that usage.
Mr. Mucha answered that it was simply a procedural matter.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz indicated that he believed trial L11 was changed to include equestrian use because it was precluded from the lower half of trail L5 and the only way horses could ascend the hill was to travel up L16 in that direction. He remarked that L11 would create a very steep grade for horses the way that it was currently configured.
Senior Planner Mihranian explained that the actual trail design had not been developed but would be considered when the drainage swale improvements occurred. He advised Council that the idea on December 4th was to adopt the Sierra Club’s plan which proposed pedestrian and equestrian use on the trail, although the Forrestal Steering Committee recommended pedestrian and bicycle uses; that Council favored the Sierra Club’s proposal; that discussion followed agreeing that the upper portion of L5 would allow trailers in addition to equestrian use; and, that equestrian use on L11 would be permissible because it would directly connect to the Palos Verdes Loop Trail, making a full circle around the Forrestal property.
Mr. Mucha advised Council that changes to the minutes focused primarily on L5 providing for equestrian parking and access to the loop around Fossil Hill, saying that no text was included regarding L11 and the discussion of access to the higher trails.
Councilman Gardiner noted that it seemed sensible to simply correct the text and move forward, barring any objection.
Barbara Sattler, representing the South Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), voiced opposition to staff’s proposed modifications for trails A16 and L11, saying that CNPS did not believe it was appropriate to create new trails particularly in the highly sensitive area around trail A16. She reported that there were a number of sensitive plant species in that location and the area should not be impacted by any trail construction. She advised Council that CNPS was not convinced that merely designating the trail as “conceptual” alleviated the problems associated with concurrent use, saying that they would prefer no conceptual trail be put forth which may later be changed because oftentimes things placed on a map tended to move forward on their own momentum.
Ms. Sattler declared that any new trail proposals or reconfigurations listed in the Forrestal Annual Report required full environmental review before approval, noting that it was unclear when that review would occur, despite a number of projects requiring such review being listed. She reported that CNPS was very concerned that Forrestal Management Plan was going to result in a number of projects being conducted in a piecemeal fashion rather than first investigating their overall habitat impacts. She reiterated that the projects needed to be reviewed by Council and the public; that the environmental and biological habitat impacts must be evaluated; and, that priorities must be appraised prior to any approvals.
Ms. Sattler reported that the CNPS had discovered inconsistencies with the Forrestal Management Plan when it was conformed to the actual Council approval made in December 2004, such as multi-use trails that should be pedestrian/equestrian to correspond to the surrounding connector trails. She stated that they were leery of staff’s proposal to change the motion made at the December 4th meeting to conform to the approvals, noting that it was preferable for Council to make a clean substitute motion instead. She contended that the wording of the December 4th motion was confusing in part because it referred to non-motorized bicycle limitations in the area reflected on the Sierra Club Plan, noting that it would be much clearer if the discussion focused on what was permitted rather than on what was prohibited. She stated that it was also very difficult to look at different maps when attempting to determine the specific trail designations.
Councilman Stern recognized Ms. Sattler’s concern about trail A16 but noted his understanding that it was part of the Palos Verdes Loop Trail system and a portion of the loop would be cut out if this trail segment were to be completely eliminated.
Ms. Sattler contended that it was not a designated trail and, as such, could not be considered as part of a larger trail system because it was a new trail configuration.
Councilman Stern asked if CNPS was conceptually opposed to having the trail placed in that general vicinity on the Forrestal property.
Ms. Sattler answered that they were concerned about building a new trail in that vicinity. She contended that a trail plan which did not include the professional evaluation of a map that accurately reflected the property boundaries, topography, grade, and sensitive species locations was inadequate, saying that the quick sketch of a trail was insufficient to assess matters particularly in an area containing many sensitive plant species, with critical tradeoffs between trail priorities and habitat preservation hanging in the balance. She advised Council that the CNPS was not opposed to the Loop Trail per say, noting that its routing must be carefully considered in context with protecting habitat and a deliberate environmental review must be performed before any final determinations were made. She agreed that there were important decisions to be made regarding trail connections, but reminded Council that the Loop Trail was not entirely the responsibility of Rancho Palos Verdes but was designed to work in conjunction with other cities on the Peninsula.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz asked about the prospect of relocating sensitive species.
Ms. Sattler explained that some species occurred only in very specific locations, which was why they were considered to be rare. She noted that there might be instances where it would be possible, but the CNPS was opposed to relocation since it had not proved to be effective in a general sense for sensitive plant species.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz expressed concern that Council was ultimately being forced into a decision of either curtailing the Loop Trail program or failing to make an effort to relocate sensitive species, noting that the issue could be studied endlessly with a final determination that there was really no choice in the matter.
Ms. Sattler reiterated that the CNPS was not opposed conceptually to the Loop Trail, saying that it was not confined to the perimeters of Rancho Palos Verdes and in this particular area may actually be the responsibility of the City of Rolling Hills. She maintained that before Council made any determination on trail configuration the impacts and options must be fully evaluated and that had not yet occurred in a pubic forum.
Councilman Gardiner suggested that Council approve what it could and set aside those areas where there were remaining questions, rather than deferring everything.
Ms. Sattler noted that Council had already approved a basic trail plan, saying that the CNPS was concerned about proposed modifications to that plan. She stated that there were other items in question, such as changing the December 4th minutes and receiving the Annual Report. She inquired if receiving and filing the Annual Report implied that Council was approving all of the projects listed in the report.
Senior Planner Mihranian clarified that staff was not requesting Council to consider any modifications but rather to correct the map so it corresponded with the text in the approved Management Plan, which always envisioned a trail extending from A16 at the top of the ridge connecting to the federal radar domes. He explained that the trail was inadvertently plotted in the wrong place on the map originally presented to Council, saying that plotting the trail in its correct location was merely an administrative cleanup item. He noted that staff completely agrees with the CNPS regarding full CEQA review before locating the trail, noting that is considered a trail project that would be brought back to Council for consideration in the future.
Councilman Stern suggested inserting a dashed line to represent trail A16 since Council had conceptually agreed that there should be a connecting trail in that area but the northeast corner was going to change and the exact position remained unclear. He stated that this delineation would reflect that the exact trail location had not yet been determined and that it was subject to change in response to environmental review.
Councilman Gardiner concurred. He advised Ms. Sattler that Council was not making any final decision but was simply bringing the map into conformance with the text and indicating a desire for the trail to complete the connection.
Ms. Sattler maintained that was not the impression the public had in December or March when Council also reviewed the matter, saying that the public saw and commented on a map, which they believed illustrated where the trails would be located.
Councilman Stern stated that issue could now be corrected.
Ms. Sattler disagreed, saying that the issue was not remedied if a trail was placed in a very sensitive area where no trail had existed before. She opined that one reason this issue had arisen was in response to a Rolling Hills resident who complained that trails were encroaching onto their property. She suggested that a better approach might be to include a note on the map indicating that there would be a connection but the exact location had yet to be determined, rather than showing a trail before a decision on that connection had actually been made.
Ms. Sattler again questioned whether the Forrestal Annual Report implied approval of all the included projects.
Senior Planner Mihranian explained that staff was asking Council to receive and file the report, saying that it merely identified projects that would be coming forward at the later time, pending full review.
Sunshine, Rancho Palos Verdes, advised Council that the term used in the Conceptual Trails Plan was “point-to-point trail” and recommended using consistent terminology throughout the discussions and relevant documents. She distributed copies of a map identifying all of the major canyons in the area, saying that there had been some problems with their proper identification and she hoped that the map would assist with their being consistently named. She requested correction of what was being referred to as the “Palos Verdes Loop Trail” by changing some “L” to “A” referenced and vice versa so the Loop Trail’s ideal route was consistent with the system of identification used in the Conceptual Trails Plan. She noted that she was not implying any change in use designations or construction standards, rather she was suggesting that the ideal route would connect to the city’s parks, facilities, commercial entities, and Ladera Linda Community Center.
Angelika Brinkmann-Busi, San Pedro, professional biological consultant, advised Council that she had submitted written comments, saying that she would not go into too much detail given the lateness of the hour. She stated that she was not opposed to the Loop Trail per se, nor to the City’s desire to show a connection from one point to another, but advised Council that the location around trail A16 is one of the most unique and sensitive biological areas on the Peninsula and, as such, she believes the City should not propose a trail in that area. She advised Council that one side of the slope was extremely steep and showed major signs of erosion which, in and of itself, might be a warning that perhaps it was not the best location for a trail.
Greg Scarich, Hermosa Beach, representing CORBA (an off-road bicycle club), indicated that their understanding from the December 4th meeting was that opening and closing trails to bicycle use was to be done for safety reasons, noting L1 and A14 were specifically identified as having safety issues. He suggested that the trails undergoing repair be designated as multi-use but temporarily closed while the problems were corrected. He stated that trails L3, L4, and A15 were all closed with no apparent relationship to safety and requested that the City return to the original plan, which indicated their availability for bicycle use.
Barbara Dye, Executive Director of the PVP Land Conservancy, confirmed that the recommendation on trail A16 was actually a cleanup item to make it consistent with the language in the original Conceptual Trails Plan and the Forrestal Management Plan. She reported much discussion had taken place about which ridge to route the trail on, saying that the western ridge, while controversial, was ultimately chosen in order to keep the largest block of existing habitat intact. She explained that the map was originally drawn without the benefit of aerial photographs so the trail was positioned going up too high on the property. She indicated that it was moved subsequently downward in response to a letter from the City of Rolling Hills and a review of aerial photographs, which more accurately reflected the property lines in the area.
Ms. Dye stated that she found the comments implying that full environmental reviews were not going to be performed troubling, noting that the process followed had always been to identify potential projects, perform the environmental analysis, and bring that analysis to Council for review and a decision. She reported that Dan Ryan and other members of the Forrestal Advisory Board and staff members had spent a great deal of time developing project descriptions adequate to begin the environmental review process. She reiterated that the minor revisions being requested were necessary to make the map more accurate, saying it would still require a full evaluation and review. She reminded Council that A16 was intended to be a two-foot wide hand-constructed trail.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to 1) Affirm the Forrestal Trails Network Plan adopted by the City Council at its March 15, 2005 meeting; 2) Amend the December 4, 2004 City Council minutes to accurately reflect the intent of the Council’s motion regarding the Forrestal Trails Network Plan; 3) Approve minor modifications to the alignment of two specific trail routes (L11 and A16) on the approved Forrestal Trails Network Plan to be represented as “point-to-point” trails with the specific alignment to be determined in the future; and, 4) Receive and file the 2004-2005 Annual Report submitted by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy.
Status Report regarding construction issues at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive (1203)
Mayor Clark advised his colleagues that he had a note from the Seaview residents requesting the matter be continued due to the late hour and the absence of several of the concerned parties.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz moved that the item be continued in response to that request.
Councilman Gardiner seconded the motion for purposes of discussion.
Councilman Stern, noting that the issue of stone cutting discussed in the staff report had been completed, indicated that the primary issue at the moment was a concern that the rock mesa was not at the approved grade. He proposed that staff contact the residents and give them the option of creating a trust fund deposit with the City; that the City would then hire a surveyor of its choosing to survey the area in question; that, if the survey indicated that the mesa was at the approved grade, the trust deposit would be used to pay for that survey; and, if the survey determined the property was out of compliance with the project conditions, the City would pay the surveyor’s fee and take the necessary action to bring the grade into compliance with the approvals.
Councilman Gardiner opined that Council should act to end the debate over the subject property and, if the residents had some specific issues remaining, they should articulate them to a Council member who could place it on a future agenda. He reminded his colleagues that the issue currently before Council concerned the stone cutting, so no other issue could be discussed.
Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz agreed with Councilman Stern’s proposal, saying that he would prefer to discuss the matter in a properly agendized public forum which could incorporate his colleague’s suggestion and also provide more current information on the status of the project.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, to receive and file the report on the status of construction issues at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive.
COUNCIL DISCUSSION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS & SUGGESTION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:
CLOSED SESSION REPORT:
City Attorney Lynch reported that the City Council voted unanimously to take no action on either item.
Mayor Clark formally adjourned the meeting at 12:35 a.m.
/s/ Stefan Wolowicz
/s/ Carolynn Petru