RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
ADJOURNED REGULAR MEETING
NOVEMBER 1, 2005
The meeting was called to order at 7:04 P.M. by Mayor Clark at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Gardiner, Long, Stern, Wolowicz, Mayor Clark
Also present were City Manager Les Evans; Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Carolynn Petru; City Attorney Carol Lynch; Interim Director of Public Works Ray Holland; Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Joel Rojas; Director of Finance/Information Technology Dennis McLean; Deputy Director of Planning Greg Pfost; Senior Planner Kit Fox; Associate Planner Eduardo Schonborn; and Associate Planner Dave Blumenthal.
The Flag Salute was led by Director of Finance/Information Technology McLean.
Councilman Stern presented this evening’s Mayor’s Did You Know Facts regarding Mayor Clark’s recent appointment to the California Coastal Commission and congratulated him on this distinguished appointment.
Mayor Clark thanked Councilman Stern for the presentation; stated that he was very honored to be appointed to the California Coastal Commission by the Senate Rules Committee; and indicated that he will represent the South Coast area, which includes 19 of the 59 coastal cities in the state with a population of approximately 13,000,000 residents.
Mayor Clark announced the names of the two recycle winners from the October 18, 2005 meeting -- Robert Blanchard and Harold Savage; stated that the winners will receive a check for $250, which represents a year of free refuse service; and he encouraged everyone to recycle.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Commissioner Stern, to approve the agenda as presented. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
CITY MANAGER REPORTS:
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Peru reported that Lieutenant John Herrera, who has served as the Operations Lieutenant at the Lomita Sheriff’s Station for the last four years, has accepted a new position with the MTA; and noted that Lieutenant Jason Lum will be taking his place.
Lieutenant John Herrera indicated that he will be the new Director of MTA security, noting that this position oversees the contracts for all the bus lines and trains in Los Angeles County; stated that he will be supervising approximately 100 security officers; that he will be working in Downtown Los Angeles near Union Station; and stated that he has enjoyed his time serving Rancho Palos Verdes and working with City staff and the Council Members. He introduced Lieutenant Jason Lum, who will be his successor, and noted he is very familiar with the Lomita Station’s operations.
On behalf of Council, Mayor Clark thanked Lieutenant Herrera for his dedicated service to the City and congratulated him on this promotion.
Lieutenant Lum stated that he has worked at the Lomita station for approximately 10 years, both as a sergeant and a lieutenant; stated that he worked in Rancho Palos Verdes as a liaison sergeant many years ago; that he lives locally and that he is looking forward to working for the City.
On behalf of the City Council and the community, Mayor Clark congratulated and welcomed Lieutenant Lum to his new position.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru reminded the audience that items previously discussed and continued to a future Council meeting can be viewed on the City’s website at www.palosverdes.com/rpv.
APPROVAL OF CONSENT CALENDAR:
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Peru indicated that she had one request to speak on Consent Calendar Item Nos. 4 and 10 and that she distributed late correspondence to Council related to Agenda Item Nos. 4, 6, and 10.
Councilman Long requested the removal of Agenda Item Nos. 2, Approval of the May 17, 2005 Minutes, and 11, Contract Amendment for Additional Sheriff Traffic Enforcement Services, from the Consent Calendar for discussion.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz requested the removal of Agenda Item No. 6, Bankcard Processing Services, 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.
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.
Commercial Refuse and Collection Agreement with Pizzo Masonry (1301)
Authorized the Mayor and the City Clerk to execute a Non-Exclusive Franchise Agreement for Commercial Refuse Collection and Disposal Services with Pizzo Masonry to be effective through December 31, 2005.
Additions to the Consolidated Loan between the City and Agency for Expenses Incurred During FY 04-05 (602)
Received and filed the staff report, which provides information regarding the loan additions to the Rancho Palos Verdes Redevelopment Agency in the amount of $98,571 for expenses incurred by the City during FY 04-05. The Consolidated Loan Agreement dated December 1, 2003 authorizes the loan additions.
Forrestal Nature Preserve – Funding for a Biological Survey (1201)
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-113, APPROVING A $7,000 BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR THE PREPARATION OF A BIOLOGICAL SURVEY BY THE PALOS VERDES PENINSULA LAND CONSERVANCY FOR PROPOSED TRAIL IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS AT THE FORRESTAL NATURE PRESERVE.
Claim against the City by Eleazar Burgueno (303)
Rejected the claim and direct staff to notify the claimant.
Claim against the City by Rudy Maus, et al. (303)
Rejected the claim and directed staff to notify the claimant.
Neighborhood Beautification Grant Award - Cycle 16 (1301)
Approved one additional grant application for the Monaco HOA Neighborhood Beautification Program totaling $4,500.
August 2005 Treasurer’s Report (602)
Received and filed the August 2005 Treasurer’s Report for the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.
Register of Demands
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2005-114, 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.
ITEMS REMOVED FROM THE CONSENT CALENDAR
Interim Improvements to Barkentine/Sea Cove and Other Miscellaneous Drainage Improvements (604 x 1204)
The staff report for this item recommended that Council review and reconfirm by four/fifths (4/5) vote, the Council’s previous action on October 18, 2005, to authorize staff to conduct an informal bid process to construct interim improvements to Barkentine/Sea Cove and other miscellaneous drainage improvements.
Rudy Maus, Santa Monica, stated that he has filed a claim against the City; noted that since the City denied his claim, he will be filing another claim against the City; that he will have to file an additional claim because he has lost an investor for his property on Sea Cove Drive; and noted that he is prepared to fight the lawsuit. He urged the City to resolve this situation immediately and to seriously consider Dr. David Larue’s geology report. He explained that the existing drainage system directs a great deal of water across his property, noting that 150,000 cubic yards of dirt has been eroded from the rear of his property and that additional heavy rainstorms will cause additional erosion. He explained that his property has been flooded five times, but that he has never sued the City before over this damage; and expressed his belief that this is not a storm drain issue, but a vegetation issue. He urged the City not to delay the projects proposed in Agenda Item Nos. 4 and 10; and asked that the problem on his property be permanently corrected. He indicated his support for Dr. David Larue’s findings; and asked that staff’s proposal be set aside in favor of a permanent and immediate solution which would allow him and his next door neighbor to restore 7.5 feet of their rear yards.
Councilman Stern requested clarification of the speaker’s comments
Referring to the Barkentine/Sea Cove drainage project, City Manager Evans clarified that the particular project Mr. Maus is talking about is a trapezoidal concrete ditch that runs between two homes in the area where Barkentine Road terminates into Sea Cove Drive. He indicated that trapezoidal ditch transports storm runoff between the two homes and then it is discharged and flows over the bluff. He explained that over the last few years, the base of the bluff is being eroded as this water flows down the bluff face and indicated that the permanent solution to this problem is to design a system that will take the water down the bluffs through some type of slant drain, as has been done at Oceanfront Estates. He explained that the interim improvement being suggested by staff is to gunite the face of the bluff in order to preserve it until the City can construct the permanent improvements. He noted that Mr. Maus feels that the permanent improvements need to be constructed now and has indicated that he will prevent the City from coming onto his property to gunite the face of the cliff.
Councilman Stern asked if the City has prepared the engineering plans for the permanent project in advance of the expected winter rains.
City Manager Evans stated that the City has not prepared any engineering plans for the ultimate project; but that staff does have plans for an interim solution and is currently soliciting bids from contractors to do this work; and stated, however, that the City has not received permission from the two affected owners to enter their property to do the interim work at this time.
Councilman Stern stated that he recognizes this is an interim project to protect the property until such time as the City can develop a fully engineered permanent solution; and observed that the project that staff believes will be the ultimate solution is a complex project, which involves the acquisition of right of way, processing a coastal permit and boring of a slant drain, all of which is expected to take several years to complete.
City Manager Evans noted for Councilman Gardiner that this issue is not related to the property damage that occurred during the last winter storms, but that this project is solely intended to preserve the bluff face from further storm damage.
Councilman Gardiner expressed concern that Council was hearing about this issue for the first time this evening.
Mr. Maus asked that the City fast track the permanent drainage solution, believing that the City has wasted time and money on the interim activities. He said that his main concern is to get the permanent solution built in a timely manner.
City Manager Evans noted for Councilman Gardiner that even if the City has the funding for the slant drain, optimistically it would take the City two years to prepare the design, complete the environmental work, obtain the various permits and finish the construction.
Mr. Maus expressed his belief that the needed drain could be installed along the surface of the existing bluff face using a back loader and then covered over with dirt.
Councilman Gardiner asked if City staff has given consideration to the work being proposed by Mr. Maus.
City Manager Evans responded that Mr. Maus has submitted a plan to the City of what he would like to see done, including a written description. He stated that the plan might have merit, but that it would still require an interim solution until the permanent design can be engineered and indicated that it is not a small or inexpensive job. He also pointed out that City staff does not feel Mr. Maus’ suggestion is the best permanent solution and that it would cost the City more money and take more time to complete.
Mr. Maus mentioned that he recently agreed to let the City move forward with the interim plan because the City has spent so much money and time on it, but reiterated that the City should seriously consider Dr. Larue’s geology report related to this area; and expressed his belief it would not be possible to place more gunite in this area.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to adopt the Consent Calendar, as amended, with the exception of Agenda Item Nos. 2, 6, 11, which have been removed for discussion.
Councilman Gardiner stated that he will support the motion but noted his discomfort with hearing for the first time this evening about an alternative that might be considered, noting that he has not seen any analysis of the alternative suggestion by Mr. Maus.
Councilman Stern explained that this matter is on the agenda because Council had previously approved this project, which is why there is not a lot of back-up material being presented to Council this evening.
Councilman Gardiner stated that he does not remember any prior discussion regarding Mr. Maus’ proposal to solve this specific problem and that he would like to review the merits of Mr. Maus’ proposal.
Councilman Long commented on his concern for moving along in an efficient manner with all drainage projects following full analysis by staff and the professionals.
Councilman Gardiner noted his understanding of Councilman Long’s concern, but reiterated his inquiry regarding the merits of Mr. Maus’ proposal.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that staff has identified five emergency drainage projects that need to be addressed before the next winter season; explained that he is inclined to accept staff’s recommendations and continue with the work that has already been authorized by Council; but noted that to help allay any fears that the City may be overlooking another alternative, he would like staff to present Council with an inclusive report that addresses each of the five emergency drainage projects to make sure that each Council member is satisfied in moving forward.
Mayor Clark observed that Council is proceeding down a path of constructing interim improvements to repair failures in the City’s storm drain system; noted that staff has had some interaction with the speaker before this evening, and in their professional opinion, staff was recommending that Council continue to proceed along the current path.
City Manager Evans stated his opinion that the City’s ultimate solution is a better concept than Mr. Maus’, and that Mr. Maus’ suggested design is more expensive.
Roll call vote on the motion to approve the Consent Calendar with the exception of Item Nos. 2, 6 and 12, carried as follows:
AYES: Gardiner, Long, Stern, Wolowicz, Mayor Clark
Approval of Minutes (301)
Councilman Long indicated that he was not able to read the Minutes prior to the Agenda packet being distributed; and stated that on the bottom of Page 10 and Page 28, there is no indication of the result of the motion.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz indicated that Page 11 also lacks the result of the motion.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to continue the approval of the May 17, 2005 minutes to the next meeting. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Bankcard Processing Services (602)
The staff report for this item recommended that Council 1) Approve the Merchant Application and Agreement with Payment Resources International, LLC, for bankcard processing services for six months, with one-year renewable terms for a period of up to three years; and 2) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-115, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES APPROVING AN AGREEMENT WITH PAYMENT RESOURCES INTERNATIONAL, LLC, AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR TO EXECUTE THE AGREEMENT AND AUTHORIZING THE CITY MANAGER AND THE DIRECTOR OF FINANCE TO IMPLEMENT THE AGREEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE CITY.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that Director of Finance McLean answered his questions related to this matter to his satisfaction earlier that day.
Director McLean introduced Mr. Dan Palmquist, from Payment Resources International (PRI) and explained that staff is recommending that the City enter into a merchant/ banker agreement to enable the City to accept bank cards for payments on various permits, applications for business licenses, taxes, etc. He noted that the system would accept either credit cards or debit cards.
Councilman Gardiner questioned who would absorb the transaction fees for this service.
Director McLean stated the City would absorb those transaction fees for credit/debit cards, which is done by almost every city in California that provides this service; and added that this service provides a convenient payment method for businesses.
Mayor Clark stated that this is a customer friendly improvement for the City, but questioned why governmental agencies do not recover the transaction fee expenses.
Dan Palmquist, Payment Resources International, explained that it has been his experience in the government processing of credit/debit banking cards that the use of these cards creates administrative efficiencies that actually offset the cost of transaction fees; and that the administrative function is benefiting by offsetting that cost without having to recover nonsufficient fund transactions or other reconciliation acquisitions.
Councilman Stern noted that service is estimated to cost the City $8,000 during the first year, ignoring any efficiencies that may be experienced; and stated that in his opinion, the convenience for both the public and staff more than justifies the expense to the City. He questioned why staff is recommending the delay of the full implementation of this program.
Director McLean explained that if Council approves this item, staff may be able to install a device in the reception area of City Hall as early as November 2005; that the second step would be to integrate credit/debit card processing with the City’s website to accept applications for business licenses in January 2006; and that staff is suggesting doing this on a trial basis to be sure the back end of the system is working properly before full implementation.
Highlighting Page 3, Councilman Stern stated that there are 17 business classifications and 14 different methods of calculating business licenses. He suggested that this issue be re-agendized for Council to discuss a simplification of this process.
Director McLean stated that the City Attorney had previously looked at this issue; noted that one of staff’s concerns in simplifying the business categories was not to unfairly shift the tax burden to any subcategory. He explained that staff is recommending that the City move forward with the current number of business classifications and implement an online application process where the fee is computed automatically and, therefore, the number of mathematical errors associated with determining the correct fee would decrease.
Councilman Stern expressed his belief that 19 categories were too many for a city the size of Rancho Palos Verdes.
Councilman Gardiner noted that there is a transaction fee of 2 percent and asked if this is separate from what the credit company charges.
Mr. Palmquist indicated that it was not separate.
Councilman Gardiner questioned if that is true for all credit card companies.
Mr. Palmquist responded that American Express tends to charge approximately twice that fee, which is why the current agreement between PRI and the City would only include Visa and MasterCard at this time.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to approve the staff recommendation. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Contract Amendment for Additional Sheriff Traffic Enforcement Services (1206 x 1502)
The staff report for this item recommended that Council 1) Authorize the City Manager to sign the City’s Service Level Authorization for FY 05-06 to add an additional Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department traffic enforcement deputy during the p.m. and weekend shift; and 2) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2005-116, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES APPROVING A REVISION TO RESOLUTION NO. 2005-53, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FY 05-06, AUTHORIZING AN INCREASE IN THE AMOUNT OF $81,748 TO THE PUBLIC SAFETY PROGRAM.
Councilman Long stated that since this matter last came before Council, he had spoken to Rolling Hills Estates Councilman Steve Zuckerman, who indicated that his Council will hold a budget policy session in March 2006 to discuss the possibly of participating in an additional traffic enforcement deputy through the regional contract; and noted that the decision of this Council was not to take that route for the time being because of concerns with delaying the acquisition of additional traffic enforcement. Councilman Long observed that Rolling Hills Estates’ share of the regional contract is 30 percent, and unless it participates through the regional contract, Rolling Hills Estates’ only ability to add traffic enforcement would be hire its own traffic deputy, which would be extremely expensive for a city of its size; and expressed his hope that if Council approves this item, that it remain open to the possibility of hiring the additional traffic deputy through the regional contract if and when that becomes possible.
Mayor Clark advised his colleagues that he had talked with the Mayor of Rolling Hills at the recent Mayor’s Luncheon where he was informed that Rolling Hills has contracted for additional Sheriff’s deputy augmentation outside the regional contract; and stated that this community of 42,000 residents and 13 square miles of land deserves to have traffic enforcement in the evenings and on the weekends. He said that Council has made a positive step for the community by augmenting the level of traffic enforcement.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz mentioned that Councilman Stern is the current chair of the Regional Law Enforcement Committee; and that the Committee will have a chance to revisit the issue of additional traffic enforcement at its upcoming November meeting.
Councilman Stern said that this matter is part of the Regional Law Enforcement Committee’s next agenda, but indicated that this subject is always an open topic at those meetings.
Councilman Long stated that, rather than just being an open topic, he hoped that Rancho Palos Verdes would be proactive and invite the other cities to participate in the cost of the additional traffic deputy. He stated that Rolling Hills occasionally hires the Sheriff’s Department to provide additional traffic enforcement on an overtime basis, but pointed out that Captain Zuanich has recommended against using this method on a long-term because of a concern that it would not bring the best enforcement service; and suggested that hearing Captain Zuanich’s explanation might be helpful for all involved. He added that in his own portion of the City, the residential streets are located in Rancho Palos Verdes, but the arterials providing access to the neighborhood are not; and although General fund revenues will be used to provide this enhanced traffic enforcement, it will not equally benefit all areas of the City. He pointed out that part of the reason for a regional enforcement contract is the unusual boundary lines between the cities and that unless law enforcement is provided on a regional basis, there will be some inequities in the level of service provided throughout the community.
Councilman Gardiner stated that he would be willing to participate with the other contract cities to provide a third regional traffic deputy, but wished to keep the City’s dedicated traffic deputy as well.
Mayor Clark noted that Council had considered the regional contract versus a separate contract when this issue was first discussed; but that the majority of Council decided in favor of proceeding with a separate contract for now and to then discuss the possibility of augmenting the regional law enforcement contract with other cities.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to concur with the staff recommendation and approve the Contract Amendment for Additional Sheriff Traffic Enforcement Services.
Councilman Long requested that a roll call vote be taken, noting his opposition is not to the concept of providing additional traffic enforcement, but to providing it outside the regional contract and providing it perhaps to a higher degree than what is needed, given the fact that this is the safest contract city in the County and that the City by all objective measures is in the safest quartile of cities; and in light of all that and the problems with providing the additional traffic enforcement outside of the regional contract and the inequity in doing so, he will be voting against the motion.
Roll call vote on the motion carried as follows:
AYES: Gardiner, Stern, Wolowicz, Mayor Clark
Mayor Clark stated that, as had been discussed at the last meeting, the majority of the Council members believe that the City deserves augmented traffic enforcement now, not in the future and not contingent on the other cities agreeing to participate, although the City would certainly not preclude this option as a means of providing additional traffic enforcement in the future.
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Case No. ZON 2004-00409 (Revision to Height Variation No. 884 and Amendment No. 2 to Tract No. 31617), Applicant/Property Owner: Sal Ahamed; Subject Property: 6270 Ocean Terrace Drive (1804 x 1411)
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru indicated that she distributed late correspondence on this item to Council earlier that evening.
Mayor Clark opened the public hearing.
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to waive the oral staff report. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
The staff report for this item recommended that Council conceptually approve the applicant’s proposed modifications, which would render a Tract Map Amendment no longer be necessary, thereby eliminating the need to require the applicant to enter into an agreement to realign the trail; and continue the hearing to January 20, 2006 to allow the applicant to submit a revised plan for the City Council’s final approval.
Highlighting Page 3 of staff report, Councilman Stern referenced Mr. Ahamed’s current proposal to put a 494.5-square-foot addition onto his residence, but stated that he does not understand that in light of Council’s prior decision.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that there is a balcony along the rear façade of the residence that must be partially removed, but at the same time, the property owner is proposing to push out the lower level rear façade farther south to create an almost 500-square-foot addition.
Councilman Stern noted his understanding that the balcony would extend at the lower level 5 feet beyond the existing building wall and that the addition of 500 square feet was never approved.
Associate Planner Schonborn explained that this takes into consideration the width of the residence; noted that there is an area closer to the southeastern portion of the residence that will be more than 5 feet; advised that the 500 square feet would be approved by Council since Council was the last body to issue final approval of the project; and that staff is proposing to combine this project into one item for Council approval.
With regard to the width of the residence, Director Rojas advised Council that this project will meet all setback requirements, will respect the trail easement setback and will meet all other code requirements.
Council discussed sending this matter back to the Planning Commission to consider the applicant’s final project design.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked if the error with the siting of the house had been caught before the balcony had been built, would the proposed new addition have been allowed at that time.
Director Rojas indicated that it would have been approved, because it would have still been in compliance with the tract map requirements in terms of setbacks.
Councilman Stern suggested that because Council direction is necessary, he would be in favor of continuing this matter for clarification purposes before sending it back to the Planning Commission.
Associate Planner Schonborn noted that the applicant’s residence is 6,696 square feet in overall size.
Sultan Ahamed, applicant, stated that he is seeking a fair decision from Council that evening, believing that Council has enough information to make its decision. He stated that his letter to the City dated September 14, 2005, clearly indicates the unanimous agreement of the City staff, City Attorney and himself that there is no need for him to sign the agreement (Item 6 in the Conditions of Approval) if all the corrections to the residence are made as required. In addition to the letter, he requested that Council consider his proposal as follows: 1) Remove 10 feet of the balcony and to remove the two existing pillars out of the Building and Grading Restriction (BGR) line by cutting back the eaves on the side of the house; 2) Support the remaining 5-foot balcony by extending the bottom floor out 5 feet; and, 3) Allow him to keep the existing grading in place because removing it would only cause him additional stress and would serve no other purpose; that, instead, he could obtain a grading permit and have the existing topography certified by the City; and he requested that Council resolve this matter this evening and bring closure to this 5-year ordeal.
Councilman Stern questioned in what way Mr. Ahamed’s proposal differs from the solution Council directed when it approved this matter two months prior, requesting an explanation of the specific changes he is proposing compared to what Council directed.
Director Rojas stated that the only additional change is the removal of the two balcony areas. He indicated it was staff’s understanding that Mr. Ahamed was willing to remove the existing grading as well as remove the balcony and any portions of the structure that encroached beyond the BGR line; and that if these were removed, staff determined that there would be no need for a Tract Map Amendment.
Councilman Stern questioned if the only difference between what Council directed and what the applicant is proposing is the 500 square foot addition.
Director Rojas stated that Council directed the applicant to remove most of the balcony, so the change, as staff understood them, was that Mr. Ahamed would remove the two support columns and remove the grading to restore the pre-existing slope in the rear yard. He noted that this evening, staff is hearing that the applicant wants to keep the grading, which would require a Tract Map Amendment.
City Attorney Lynch stated that Mr. Ahamed’s proposed changes to the project is another reason for sending it back to the Planning Commission; and explained that in order to cement what Mr. Ahamed’s current request is, a revised application is needed, suggesting at the very least to continue this matter or send it back to the Planning Commission.
Councilman Stern stated his preference to continue this matter in order to obtain the proper paperwork so that Council can fully understand what the applicant is now requesting; and that if it is something that needs to go back to the Planning Commission, that direction will be clear at that time.
Mayor Clark noted that Council is mindful of the property owner’s long journey in this matter, and expressed his concurrence with Councilman Stern’s comment.
Minaz Ahamed, attorney representing the Ahamed family, stated that the applicant is seeking a fair decision for all parties involved; that the issue with the public trail existed before the Ahameds built their home; that after the proposed modifications to the residence would have no effect on the trail itself, and that by removing the balcony and restoring the grading, they would return the site to the same condition as when they first acquired the property. He stated that this has become a Height Variation and they, therefore, are asking that Condition No. 6 be removed. Using a slide presentation, he explained that Council’s decision as of their last meeting was to remove 10 feet of balcony to comply with the setback, allow the two columns to remain beyond the BGR line and to allow grading on a slope that was greater than 10 percent. He stated that the current proposal is to remove the grading to the pre-construction condition; remove the columns from beyond the BGR Line; and to remove the balcony. He added that the addition of the 495 square foot addition would basically replace the missing balcony section, noting that the columns would be moved back to support the remaining portion of the balcony. He stated that the modified project will comply with the setback requirements and other code requirements; that the proposed modifications no longer warrant a Tract Map Amendment because there is no longer a grading issue, that there are no columns beyond the BGR line, and that there is no need for an agreement or any modifications to the public trail – reiterating that the problematic alignment of the trail existed before the home was built. He added that they have submitted revised plans to staff. He expressed his belief that this long and arduous process has not been fair to the applicant and noted that litigation is a possibility if a fair resolution is not reached.
Councilman Stern stated that he appreciates the time it has taken to sort through the issues associated with this project, observing that it is unfortunate that the surveyor and/or civil engineer caused a house to be built 15 feet to the south of where it was approved to be located; and noted that Council is sympathetic in working out a solution with the applicant. He questioned if the applicant is requesting approval for the 495 square foot addition mentioned in the staff report.
In response to Councilman Stern’s inquiry, Mr. Minas Ahamed indicated that the applicant was seeking approval of the addition and reiterated that it complies with all the zoning ordinances and setbacks and stated that it did not have any view implications.
Director Rojas stated that staff is in agreement with the proposed modifications and if they are completed as described, the project will no longer require a Tract Map Amendment. He stated that staff would like to see a formal plan submitted given that only a conceptual plan has been provided at this point in time. He recommended that this matter be brought back to Council on January 17, 2006 for action.
Councilman Gardiner expressed his understanding of the Ahamed’s difficult journey in this process, highlighted the incorrect placement of the house as the start of all the trouble; and commented on his confusion with what is being currently requested and noted his support to obtain a firm written plan that can be reviewed and understood by all before taking any final action.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that at this stage, he would agree with what the Ahameds are requesting, but that he believes the details need to be clearly defined for everyone’s understanding.
Councilman Stern questioned if the Ahameds are in possession of a copy of the late correspondence from York Long Point Associates, wherein it states, “We remind the Council that in February 2003, Mr. Ahamed entered into an escrow agreement with York Long Point & Associates to resolve the matter. The general terms of the agreement called for him to purchase 4,800 square feet of the Filiorum property for approximately $100,000. To date, Mr. Ahamed has not performed in accordance with that contract.” He noted his understanding Mr. Ahamed was unable to come to terms with Mr. York and that was why Mr. Ahamed suggested the alternative that Council adopted; and he questioned staff’s understanding on this matter.
City Attorney Lynch suggested that what York Long Point may be trying to say is that a valid agreement is not going to be implemented, that the dirt placed on the York property needs to be removed; and that she understood Mr. Minaz Ahamed’s comments to mean that the applicant intends to restore the rear yard to the pre-existing grade, which would mean the un-permitted grading would be removed from the York property, in which case the agreement with York Long Point would become moot. She noted that staff is asking for grading plans and house plans, which are the types of plans that should have been provided in the first place.
Councilman Stern asked that staff seek clarification from York Long Point on the intent of its late correspondence.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to continue this matter to the January 17, 2006 meeting and directing staff to obtain the required application and revised plans from the property owner. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Trump National Golf Club - Revision "Y" - Request for Temporary Opening of the Golf Course and Driving Range (1411)
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru advised Council that late correspondence on this item had been distributed earlier in the evening.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost clarified that the staff report should indicate the date of December 6th throughout the report instead of December 1st; and he presented the staff report and the staff recommendation to: 1) Hear and discuss the Applicant's request for a temporary opening of the golf course and driving range; and 2) Continue the public hearing to December 6, 2005, when the status of outstanding conditions remaining to be satisfied can effectively be evaluated.
With regard to geologic issue number 1, Deputy Planning Director Pfost stated that the final as-built geology report for Waterfall No. 1 was submitted to staff that day; secondly, that geologic issue number 2, the monitoring program, focused on one of the inclinometers; that the applicant submitted a response letter that day from their geologist (Converse Consultants), which is included in that evening’s late correspondence and that a copy was also forwarded to the City’s geologist, Cotton Shires & Associates (CSA) that afternoon, noting that he does not yet have a response from the City’s geologist on the contents of this letter.
With regard to Lake Nos. 8 and 16, Deputy Planning Director Pfost noted for Mayor Clark that the applicant has started work on repairing them.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz thanked staff for answering his questions earlier that day and questioned if Converse’s new report will take CSA a long time to review/analyze.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost replied that Converse’s report is fairly brief.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz expressed concern with the close and rapid chronology of significant report submittals by the applicant, questioning if the City can get a response from CSA by the December 6th City Council meeting.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost stated that it might be possible, noting that CSA is diligently working on reviewing these documents, some of which are very lengthy.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz questioned if it would be advisable to grant a temporary use permit if all other items are resolved by December 6th, but with the issue of the inclinometer displacement still unresolved.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost stated that it would be up to the City’s geologist, after reviewing the issue, to determine if it is safe to permanently open the golf course.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz requested input on what the Peer Review Board is now reviewing.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost stated that the Peer Review Board is currently reviewing two issues: 1) the club house expansion and 2) the location of the foundation setback line related to Landslide A, noting that both issues are somewhat intertwined because they are physically located close together. With regard to the club house expansion, he noted that the Peer Review Board issued a final report and recommended additional borings be dug for additional exploration; advised that those borings have been done; noted his understanding that the applicant’s geologist is preparing a response report on the club house expansion; and that the applicant’s geologist also wanted to see what the exploration showed as it relates to the Landslide A issue. In regard to Landslide A, he indicated that the Peer Review Board will soon be issuing a draft report and that a meeting regarding Landslide A issues will be set shortly after the report’s completion.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost stated that the Peer Review Board has not yet looked at the issue of the inclinometer displacement; explained that the Landslide A issue affects other areas of the project, including the review of the driving range and the geological approval of that range. He stated that the driving range cannot be finished until the Landslide A issues are resolved.
Councilman Gardiner stated that because there is so much material related to the conditions of approval, it would be helpful to see a summary matrix of the progress, where the first column would indicate how many items are still on the checklist to be completed, for example, and could be used to count down the items remaining to be completed. He stated that he would be inclined to allow the applicant to open the golf course if it is safe, but indicated that the facts need to be demonstrated more clearly.
Responding to Councilman Gardiner’s request for a project summary, Councilman Stern recalled that a letter had been provided a year earlier listing every one of the remaining conditions to be satisfied, which described each item in detailed. He highlighted the staff report of May 23, 2005, noting that the City’s geologist sent a letter pointing out to the applicant that the inclinometer reading indicated potential movement in Landslide A; and asked that this reading be explained further. He expressed concern over any suggestion of movement on the property and noted his belief that the applicant has had adequate time to address this situation; noted his intent for the City to fully address the Landslide A issue and public safety before making any decision on this issue; and stated that the developer’s lack of attention will not cause a decision in haste on the City’s part. While a matrix may allow Council to look at all outstanding issues related to a particular item, he noted that staff has already highlighted the important issues, specifically the status of the geology and the final reports; and that he believes it has highlighted some significant issues that caution Council to proceed slowly.
Councilman Long stated that the issue of the displacement was a result of an April 11, 2005, and May 23, 2005 report; and that in both cases, the City’s geologist requested that Converse address the issue. He questioned why it took the applicant so long to address the issue. He stated that it does not inspire confidence when the City’s geologist has a concern with a reading that showed 0.08 inches of displacement and asked for comment on this from the applicant’s representative; and noted that in some of the comments submitted, the conclusion in the letter from the applicant is not to worry, it’s not really an indication of anything significant. He asked that the City’s geologist provide an opinion on Converse’s response; and he agreed with Councilman Stern that it would be irresponsible at this point for Council to assume that the issue of potential movement in Landslide A has been resolved, noting that it has not been and that it’s unfortunate it’s taken so long to arrive at a conclusion. He stated that it does not appear the delay has to do with anything the City or its geologist did; and stated that, in fact, the City has directed its geologist to react quickly after receiving the test results, and unfortunately, the applicant’s geologist was unable to make comments more promptly.
Councilman Gardiner stated that he does not disagree with what Councilmen Long and Stern have said; reiterated that he would find it helpful to have charts to summarize the status of large projects with some summary sheets, noting that he would be able to more efficiently go through the enormous amount of paperwork to find further detail; and stated that he would also appreciate seeing a distinction of the summary sheet between what is critical and what is an administrative issue. He expressed concern with the City asking for some information two years ago and only now receiving a response to that inquiry from the applicant
Highlighting Page Nos. 12 and 13 of staff report, Mayor Clark pointing out that there are many California Coastal Commission conditions of approval that must be complied with prior to the opening of the 18-hole golf course; that the existing permit from the Coastal Commission staff does not allow the opening of the golf course until the applicant meets the conditions required in the current Coastal Commission permit, which included the City accepting the dedication of Founders Park, accepting the dedication of certain public trails, the installation of signs, etc.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost stated that the Coastal Commission staff would be the ones responsible for reviewing the Coastal Commission conditions of approval and ensuring that they have been satisfied; and that this would not come back to the Coastal Commission unless their staff felt the required conditions had not been fully met prior to the opening of the golf course.
Councilman Stern questioned how difficult it would be for the City to revoke the temporary use permit and close the golf course should the City’s geological analysis indicate that there is a major geologic concern on the property.
City Attorney Lynch responded that the courts tend to issue injunctions to preserve the status quo and if the status quo is that the golf course is open, a court is likely to preserve that status quo unless there is some eminent threat to public health and safety. She indicated that if the issue is simply that the City still does not have the geology reports it has been seeking or if there continues to be some dispute back and forth between the various geologists that remain unresolved, she does not know whether a court would allow the City to close the course if the applicant challenged the City’s action.
Councilman Stern expressed his concern that approval of a temporary opening may become problematic for the City should the applicant decide to not completely follow through with the remaining conditions of approval; and noted his opposition to going down a path that binds the City in this likelihood.
Vincent Stellio, representing Trump National, indicated for Councilman Gardiner that City staff had prepared somewhat of a checklist of outstanding items, which he had used to work through the remaining items. He stated that the one significant item remaining was the final report on Water Feature No. 17, which he expected to receive that coming Friday. He highlighted the various geologic reports which contain over 3,000 pages; and pointed out that it takes a lot of time to create the reports and that the reason Trump National is asking for a temporary permit is because these reports also require a great deal of time to be reviewed and accepted by the City’s consultants.
With regard to Councilman Stern’s concern with one of the letters from Cotton Shires Associates, Mr. Stellio explained that the letter was requesting an update on the status on some of the monitoring areas; and stated that all the inclinometers are currently functioning properly. He reported that the anomaly in the inclinometer readings for Landslide A appeared in their report in 2000 and 2001 and that this information was submitted to the City. He confirmed that they have been aware of it and that they have been monitoring the situation for the past 4 years; that they have not seen any change in its condition, which leads his geologist to believe it was only a material defect in that particular inclinometer casing, pointing out that any type of land movement that occurred over four years ago would be expected to continue moving, especially in light of last winter’s heavy rains. He added that these instruments have a built-in tolerance of correction, and indicated that if they had made the adjustment allowed by the instrument’s manufacturer, no movement would have been detected at all.
With regard to Landslide A, Mr. Stellio stated that the main issue the Peer Review Committee was considering was the setback from the edge of the bluff for the residential lots. He stated that their geologist believed the setback was appropriate where it was originally approved and that the City’s geologist believed the setback should have been in a different location. He advised that subsequently they have rendered the residential setback issue moot by building the driving range in its current location and the residential lots remaining in this area are located on the landward side the driving range, well outside the area of concern delineated by either their geologists or the City’s geologists. He explained that the reason work on Landslide A work has not moved forward more rapidly is because the Peer Review Board initially requested four additional borings, which were accommodated, but took a great deal of time to complete due to the complexity of drilling the holes, recovering the borings, logging the borings and then sending cameras down each hole to log them on video. He indicated that his geologist is approximately a week to a week and a half away from finishing and submitting the completed model to the Peer Review Board. He also explained that they were unable to complete some of the other borings the Peer Review Board requested because they were located in the West Bluff Preserve area and they were unable to acquire permission from the Department of Fish and Game to enter that preserve due to the presence of the California gnatcatcher and the established habitat. He indicated that he then asked the Peer Review Board to find an alternate site for the requested borings, but has never heard anything back from the Peer Review Board. He mentioned that Deputy Planning Director Pfost suggested that he meet with the Peer Review Board to discuss this matter, which he plans on doing in the near future.
Mr. Stellio stated that he has concerns with some of the signs the City is requesting that do not appear on the approved sign plan, but stated that it would nice for them to have the opportunity to make some adjustments once the property is in full use; and noted that as time goes on, they will continue to make sure the public knows where the trails are located and the golfers know where the course is located. He stated that the remaining geology information will be available soon and that he very much wants to bring the geology issues to closure. He indicated that Trump National is not concerned about the geology issues associated with Landslide A because these were initially related to the residential setback issue and now that they have built a driving range in this area, which does not require the 1.5 factor of safety that is applied to residential uses. Mr. Stellio stated, however, that he is still waiting for the geology issues to be resolved regarding the clubhouse expansion. He mentioned that the Coastal Commission was waiting for the City’s final signoff on the Landslide C repair; pointed out that Cotton Shires has been involved in the repair from the time the landslide first occurred; and expressed his belief that Cotton Shires will not see anything surprising in the final report. He stated that people are actively walking the trails on the property since the landslide occurred and that there doesn’t seem to be much concern with the public’s use of these trails. He noted that another of the Coastal Commission’s outstanding issues has to do with the City’s acceptance of some of the public trails and indicated that a depiction of these trails had recently been sent to the City Attorney for review. He explained that because of issues related to the recordation of the Final Tract Map, the City needed to accept the trails through another mechanism, which is currently being done; and noted that once those trails are accepted by the City, the Coastal Commission will be satisfied that they have met all their project conditions.
Mr. Stellio stated that there are no longer any geology issues associated with the actual golf course; explained that when the Zuckermans owned the property and requested a Special Use Permit to operate a 15 hole course during the landslide repair, it included Hole Nos. 10 and 11, which are the same holes that still are in place today; that the only holes which were out of play were the ones under construction due to the landslide repair; reiterated that the landslide has been repaired with Cotton Shires being present throughout the entire process; stated he does not foresee any issues; that he is confident their consultants have done a proper job; and he asked the City to consider the possibility of allowing them to open the golf course.
Mayor Clark questioned if it is true that in order to open the driving range, which has a temporary construction permit, the applicant has to obtain approval from the Coastal Commission.
Mr. Stellio indicated that they are hoping to have the driving range heard at the Coastal Commission’s December meeting.
Mayor Clark stated that the point in this case is even if Council was amenable to allowing the use of the driving range beyond the recent LPGA event, Trump National would not be able to use the driving range until it is also approved by the Coastal Commission.
Mr. Stellio stated that he could return to the Coastal Commission and ask for an extension to the same temporary use permit that was previously issued for the LPGA tournament. With regard to the finished golf course, he noted they are waiting on the County to approve the storm drains that have been installed.
With regard to the inclinometer that measured displacement in Landslide A, Mayor Clark noted his understanding that this displacement had been observed and recorded as far back as 2000 and he questioned if City staff was aware of this reading in 2000.
Mr. Stellio stated that they have produced periodic inclinometer readings on a regular basis and that those reports were submitted to staff and forwarded to Cotton Shires. He noted that if and when the City or its geologists are concerned with anything data submitted, those issues are addressed in a timely fashion. Mr. Stellio reiterated that they have continued to monitor this area and that it has not changed in those four years this unusual reading was first observed. He noted that this inclinometer has not been removed and is still being read.
Mayor Clark questioned if there have been further readings indicating movement on this inclinometer.
Mr. Stellio answered in the negative.
Councilman Stern stated that Mr. Stellio is correct that a 1.5 factor of safety is not required for non-residential uses, but noted that the staff report indicates the issue is not whether the property meets the 1.5 factor of safety, but whether there is some actual land movement taking place on the property; and agreed with staff that this is a valid question that needs an answer. Referring to page 2 of Converse Consultant’s October 31, 2005 letter, which states “thus most of the cumulative readings are neither real nor relevant, except at a slight spike offset about .08 inch, a depth of 118 to 120 feet below ground”; Councilman Stern requested that the City’s geologist provide an opinion of whether this statement raises a concern. With regard to the issue of the unusual reading observed in 2000/2001, he noted that the staff report on page 6 states that the applicant has verbally indicated that their geologist believes the inclinometer is defective and needs to be replaced, and he asked Mr. Stellio if that was an accurate statement of what he reported to staff.
Mr. Stellio explained that because the reading from this particular inclinometer has not changed over the past four years, his geologist believes that there is probably a defect in the boring casing; and stated that because the reading has remained consistent over time, it is more likely that this is an equipment error than actual land movement.
Councilman Stern asked, if this reading was observed four or five years ago, why it was not addressed and resolved at that time.
Mr. Stellio stated that his geologist most likely felt this was a very tiny increment that did not warrant an investigation because they are familiar with the allowable instrument tolerances; and he pointed out that other monitoring devices in other locations on the golf course have shown no movement. He indicated that his geologist was present that evening and was available to provide more specific information if Council so desired.
Councilman Stern indicated that he understood from Mr. Stellio’s remarks that the pubic has been walking on the trails through Landslide C and asked if the public had been also walking on the trails near Landslide A.
Mr. Stellio stated that the public is walking on all the trails; that the only trails that were ever closed on the site were the ones affected by the Landslide C and were under construction. He reiterated that those repairs have been made and the trails through Landslide C have been open and used by the public for the last four or five months.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz questioned if there was an effort being made to replace the defective inclinometer, noting that doing so would destroy all of the baseline data previously collected from this instrument.
Mr. Stellio reiterated that the anomalous reading is small enough that it is still within the equipment’s specifications. He stated that inclinometers also tend to suffer damage over time because of the harsh coastal conditions that corrode the wires or because wildlife damages them. He said that Trump National would do what ever is necessary to increase the level of comfort regarding this issue, noting that there is another instrument located 50 feet away from this inclinometer that might be modified to improve the readings and that there is another inclinometer located 450 feet away that shows no movement at all. He stated that they have complete confidence in the monitoring program and that the readings to date do not cause them any concern. He pointed out that the Trump organization has the most liability in this issue and it is of utmost importance to them to operate a safe facility.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked if Mr. Stellio concurs with the staff recommendation and conditions for approval, as noted on Page Nos. 5 and 11 of the staff report.
Mr. Stellio expressed his belief these conditions can be met and that they are willing to continue to work with the staff in any way they can; and noted their goal is to allow people to safely play on the golf course. He stated that they do not intend to open the course and then refuse to close it should an issue arise that warrants the City closing the facility; and stated that he has already agreed to comply with the recommendations and decisions of the Peer Review Board.
Responding to Councilman Gardiner’s inquiry regarding the reading of the inclinometer in question, Mr. Stellio reiterated that the inclinometer’s reading of some movement four years ago has remained consistent during each subsequent reading, and that that no increase has been observed.
Regarding the earlier discussion of a checklist, Mr. Stellio reiterated for Councilman Gardiner that his checklist indicates that there is only one item to be completed prior to opening the golf course.
Councilman Gardiner asked staff to confirm whether the applicant has completed most items on that checklist.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost responded that the applicant has made progress on many of the remaining items; but noted that there are still some issues, such as the “as-built” report that was referred to earlier that evening.
Councilman Gardiner briefly noted his concern with the disclaimer of the applicant’s geologist on their findings; and questioned if an agreement could be drafted where, in exchange for granting a temporary opening of the golf course pending the completion of a defined checklist of conditions, the developer would agree to not sue the City if the developer failed to comply with all of the conditions and the City closed the golf course.
City Attorney Lynch stated that adding such an agreement would not be as iron clad as not allowing the applicant to open the course until all the conditions were satisfied, but indicated that such an agreement could be drafted.
Councilman Stern stated his opposition to an agreement of the type suggested by Councilman Gardiner due to the uncertainty of how a court would view it.
Councilman Gardiner stated that he is not sure why the course can’t be opened if people are already being allowed to walk on this property.
City Manager Evans stated that the bottom line is the City and the applicant are very close to finalizing all of the remaining issues, and that staff only recently became aware of the fact that the anomaly in the inclinometer reading occurred in 2001 and was previously under the impression that it was a recent event.
Councilman Gardiner stated that as a result of this evening’s discussion, he is inclined to let the applicant open temporarily if the City can craft adequate language to assure accomplishment of all the conditions of approval within a specified time frame.
Mr. Stellio reminded Council that they closed the course following the LPGA tournament; that they have no intention of neglecting their duty to comply with all of the conditions of approval, that they are willing to consider any safeguards the City may wish to impose to guarantee compliance with the conditions; and that he is not asking for the removal of any conditions. He also commented that the property withstood the last season’s heavy rainfall very well and no movement has been detected on the property during the months since that time.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
Mayor Clark recessed the meeting at 9:48 P.M. and reconvened the meeting at 10:03 P.M.
Tom Redfield, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that the City could not have a better world class organization on site than Trump National and that the applicant has exceeded his expectations for the golf course and its related public amenities; but noted that most members of his Coalition strongly discourage Council to consider any approval of a temporary permit to play golf, believing that the City will give up any leverage it has for the completion and satisfaction of all the conditions. He expressed his belief that Council and staff have treated the developer with the utmost respect and worked in a very professional manner; and noted his opposition to the applicant putting pressure on the City to open the golf course prior to the completion of all of the conditions.
Councilman Gardiner suggested, based on the earlier comments of City Manager Evans and Mr. Stellio, that perhaps finalizing the conditions and opening the course is not that far away, and wondered if this issue could be brought back to Council at the next or the following meeting for a final conclusion. He noted that the City was also losing approximately $25,000 per month in golf tax revenue for every month the golf course remains closed.
Mayor Clark noted his expectation that at the next meeting, Council should have all the information from the geologists, particularly with respect to the issue of the inclinometer.
Councilman Gardiner reiterated his preference in obtaining a checklist of things that still need to be completed prior to the next meeting.
Councilman Stern noted that the staff report indicates the City’s geologist has committed to a 3-week turn-around on the applicant’s geology reports, believing that the City’s review will not be completed in time for the next meeting given the large quantity of materials that need to be reviewed; and given the critical nature of this issue, he does not support a rush in reviewing the documents that have recently been submitted by the applicant.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to continue this matter to December 6, 2005, and to include the status of all the outstanding conditions remaining to be evaluated and completely satisfied.
Councilman Long indicated his support for the motion; stated that he will not be present at the second meeting in November and that this would not be an optimal meeting at which to consider the matter due to the Thanksgiving holiday; and noted that the project’s conditions of approval were essentially the same as the checklist that had been discussed that evening, and should be used for that purpose.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that he will support the motion; asked that the issue regarding the displacement in the inclinometer readings be clarified/resolved prior to this item returning to Council; that he wants assurance from the City’s geologist that there are no other outstanding issues of concern; and that the Trump organization confirm their concurrence with the conditions listed on Page Nos. 5 and 11 of the staff report.
Deputy Director of Planning Pfost confirmed for Councilman Gardiner that there are 7 remaining issues that will be addressed in the December 6th staff report.
Mayor Clark noted his understanding the Trump organization wants a temporary opening of the golf course, stating that he sees this issue as separate and distinct from a temporary opening of the driving range; pointed out that on Page 13 of the staff report, it states, “The Commission staff has indicated they do not have the authority to allow temporary opening of the driving range until the Coastal Commission has approved the permanent driving range,” and questioned if the applicant is only requesting a temporary opening of the golf course, not the driving range.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost stated that the applicant is requesting a temporary opening of both the driving range and the golf course; and advised Council that the applicant is currently working with the Coastal Commission staff on this request.
Mr. Stellio confirmed that they are working with the Coastal Commission to open both the golf course and the driving range on a temporary basis, similar to the approval granted by the Coastal Commission staff for the temporary use of the driving range during the LPGA tournament, subject to conditions that must be satisfied before the use of the driving range can become permanent.
Mayor Clark asked for clarification, based on Mr. Stellio’s comments, if the statement in the staff report that the Coastal Commission staff does not have the authority to allow a temporary opening of the driving range is factual.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost indicated that the statement in the staff report is correct.
Mr. Stellio expressed his understanding that the Coastal Commission staff is open to considering the request to open the driving range on a temporary basis prior to the Coastal Commission taking action on the driving range as a whole, and if the Coastal Commission staff is amenable to this request, he would like to again present this request to the City.
Mayor Clark stated that he wanted accurate input as to the Coastal Commission staff’s position on this issue and its ability to permit a temporary use of the driving range.
Councilman Stern highlighted the issue of affordable housing mentioned on page 12 of the staff report, with staff recommending that three of the one-site affordable units be rented prior to the temporary opening of the golf course; and stated this is not part of his motion, but that he agrees with staff and hopes it is not an issue.
Mr. Stellio stated that one of the affordable units is being used as a temporary sales facility; that they are requesting a trailer that was used as a construction office be relocated to the house lots in Tract No. 50667 and used as the news sales office; and that he submitted the required permit application to staff, and once it’s approved, the affordable unit can be rented as required by the conditions.
Councilman Stern reiterated his support for staff’s recommendation on that issue.
Mr. Stellio stated that is a non-issue for him.
Mayor Clark stated that at the December 6th meeting, he wanted to see a concurrent City acceptance of Founder’s Park and the public trails with the temporary opening of the golf course.
Mr. Stellio stated they are close to completing the documents that will allow the City to accept the referenced park and trails.
Mayor Clark noted the reference on page 13 of the staff report regarding the acceptance of the trails where staff indicates that the City has requested Trump National to provide a descriptions of the subject trails and that this information has yet to be submitted to the City.
City Attorney Lynch indicated she has yet to receive the referenced materials.
Mr. Stellio stated that it might have only been delivered to the City that day.
The motion to continue this matter to December 6, 2005, carried as follows:
AYES: Gardiner, Long, Stern, Wolowicz, Clark
9:30 PAUSE TO CONSIDER REMAINDER OF THE AGENDA
It now being 10:30 P.M., Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to defer Council reports to the next meeting. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
CITY COUNCIL ORAL REPORTS:
This matter was deferred to the next City Council meeting.
REGULAR NEW BUSINESS:
Border Issues Status Report (310)
The staff report recommended that Council review the current status of border issues and provide direction to staff, as appropriate.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru noted that late correspondence on this item had been distributed to Council that evening.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz commented on the proposed residential project on the former Navy housing site in San Pedro; stated that it is his understanding the staff’s comment letter on the project EIR received no specific input from residents, save for at the public scoping session, indicated that he believed this to be significant because there are no Rancho Palos Verdes residents currently participating on a citizen advisory board for this project; and questioned whether the City should create a board that will monitor this project, addressing such issues as traffic and schools impacts.
Mayor Clark recalled that Council had previously expressed an interest in having him serve as the liaison with the City of Los Angeles on this matter, and asked if Mayor pro tem Wolowicz is suggesting a joint citizen oversight committee.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz noted his appreciation of the Mayor’s participation, at least initially, but also favored the creation of an oversight committee comprised of City residents.
Mayor Clark volunteered to contact Los Angeles Councilwoman Hahn regarding the City’s concerns with the Ponte Vista development proposed on the former Navy housing site.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Wolowicz, to 1) appoint Mayor Clark to serve as a Council liaison with Los Angeles Councilwoman Hahn on the proposed Ponte Vista project, to initiate the contact and report back, including the concept of creating a citizen-based oversight committee with membership to be approved by Council; and 2) receive and file the Border Issues Report.
Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Councilman Stern stated that he would not be opposed to creating a citizen’s advisory committee if that seems to be a prudent thing to do in the future; he encouraged all citizens to voice their concerns about the Ponte Vista project to the City of Los Angeles, as well as to Mayor Clark, but noted his belief that there is a benefit and greater ability for Mayor Clark to act as the conduit on this issue because of the limited citizen participation in this matter thus far.
Councilman Long commended staff on the draft EIR comment letter; and expressed his belief it may be more important for staff to be at the project scoping meetings rather than Council Members.
Equestrian Committee Charter (1808)
The staff report indicated that the Equestrian Committee is requesting that Council approve its proposed charter and list of officially assigned duties and responsibilities.
With regard to page 2 of the staff report, Duties and Responsibility Item Nos. 8 and 9, Councilman Gardiner questioned to what extent the Equestrian Committee provides advice or makes decisions on disputes regarding the keeping of large domestic animals.
Councilman Long pointed out that the Equestrian Committee makes decisions on Conditional Large Domestic Animal Permits, which can then be appealed to Council if either party disagrees with the decision.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz thanked staff for answering his questions earlier that day and advised his colleagues that the only other city on the peninsula with an equestrian committee is in the City of Rolling Hills Estates, which does not have a formal charter; and observed that this is something unique to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.
In response to Mayor pro tem Wolowicz’s inquiry regarding Charter Item No. 3, the concept of balancing the interests of equestrian versus non-equestrian interests and his concern that this could broaden the Committee responsibilities to be more like those of the Planning Commission, Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that the Equestrian Committee’s intent is to look at equestrian-related issues within Equestrian Zone and to look at the impacts of equestrian uses on non-equestrian trail users and non-equestrian homeowners. With respect to Conditional Large Domestic Animal Permit applications, Mr. Blumenthal indicated that these applications would only relate to activities with the Equestrian Zone.
With regard to Duties and Responsibilities Item No. 3, “Advise on all trails and the viability of the trail networks within Rancho Palos Verdes,” Councilman Stern questioned if it is intended to be broader than just the trails that are designated for equestrian use, limited to those in the Equestrian Zone, or would apply to all public trails.
Associate Planner Blumenthal stated that it was intended to apply to trails within the Equestrian Zone, but to balance the equestrian uses with non-equestrian uses on the trails.
Councilman Stern questioned if the intent was to give the Equestrian Committee jurisdiction over all public trails in the City, thus thereby transforming it into the City’s de-facto trails committee.
Associate Planner Blumenthal explained that as currently suggested by the Equestrian Committee, the intent is for the Committee to provide the City with advice on the design of trails, the feasibility of proposed trails and the location of all types of trails within the Equestrian Zone since the trails in these areas tend to be multi-use trails.
Citing the example of the Forrestal Management Plan approved by Council six months earlier, Councilman Stern asked if the Equestrian Committee would have authority over this type of plan.
Director Rojas explained that as issues related to equestrian trails come up in the community, the Equestrian Committee has agendized them for discussion and provided comments and recommendations to staff.
Councilman Stern stated that he is supportive of the Equestrian Committee providing input on equestrian trails uses and indicated that in his opinion it was the proper body to help the City work through those issues to ensure that the needs of the equestrian community are adequately met; but also stated that he views the issue of trails more broadly than just equestrian use and stated that if Council adopts this charter, it should not be perceived by anyone as designating the Equestrian Committee as the City’s trails committee.
Director Rojas suggested inserting clarifying language in the charter to make Councilman Stern’s point clear.
Councilman Long stated that he shares Councilman Stern’s concern and suggested that Duties and Responsibilities Item No. 3 be modified to read as follows: “Advise on equestrian issues relating to trails and trail networks within Rancho Palos Verdes.”
Councilman Gardiner suggested adding the word “equestrian” before the word “trails.”
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz moved to approve staff recommendation, including the suggested modifications to the wording of Duties and Responsibilities Item No. 3.
City Attorney Lynch suggested deleting Duties and Responsibilities Item No. 6, “Encourage trail easement dedications to the City,” as she doubted whether the City could require the dedication of trail easements unless there was a direct nexus to the project being approved. In answer to a question from Councilman Gardiner, she noted that the Equestrian Committee could make recommendations on future trail easements for possible acquisition.
Councilman Long rephrased Duties and Responsibilities Item No. 3 as follows: “Advise on equestrian trails and trail networks and equestrian issues relating to multi-use trails and trail networks.”
Mayor Clark observed that Council has actively supported and worked with the Equestrian Committee; that Council has been proactive in expanding the Committee’s scope of responsibilities; and that Council has also encouraged the Committee to take a proactive role in planning for a new equestrian park within the Portuguese Bend Nature Preserve.
Councilman Long seconded the motion, as amended.
Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Request for Additional Funds for Engineering and Inspection Services for the Point Vicente Interpretive Center Expansion (1201)
The staff report recommends that Council ADOPT RESOLUTION NOS. 2005-116 AND 2005-117, APPROVING A BUDGET ADJUSTMENT OF $85,691 TO THE CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECT BUDGET FOR THE POINT VICENTE INTERPRETIVE CENTER EXPANSION PROJECT TO COVER ADDITIONAL CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT, GEOTECHNICAL INSPECTION AND DESIGN COSTS.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru noted that late correspondence on this item had been provided to Council that evening.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to approve the staff recommendation, noting that no General funds will be used.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that he would like some assurance that there is a proper identification and approval process in place for cost over-runs, believing that in many cases, the City Manager or the respective Department Head can make these decisions and that staff should have some latitude in the approval of these items.
City Manager Evans stated that Council is advised of all project cost over-runs, either through a staff report or the weekly administrative report; stated that there is a formal process for authorizing change orders; that these are approved by the Director of Public Works and the Director of Finance; and noted that staff was aware some cost over-runs would be experienced on this project and that Council was advised of that probability in advance.
Roll call vote on the motion carried as follows:
AYES: Gardiner, Long, Stern, Wolowicz, Mayor Clark
Tract Map No. 52666 – Affordable Housing Agreement (Applicant: 3200 PVDW, LLC) (1203)
The staff report recommends that Council place the developer’s request to exercise the option to purchase an existing housing unit and convert it to affordable status ("conversion" unit) rather than construct a new housing unit on site on hold until the Council has an opportunity to revisit its Affordable Housing Strategy to clearly establish a preference for the construction of new units or the purchase of existing units to meet the City’s affordable housing goals.
Sid Croft, representing the applicant, stated that he is aware of the three options outlined in staff’s report; that he would like to be granted the option of converting a market rate unit to an affordable unit and would like Council to make the decision that evening. He stated that they do not want to be denied the right to a particular option if it later becomes a Council policy and be ordered to build a new affordable unit and hopes that the applicant does not have to wait until Council revisits the policy. He stated that the applicant is buying a property to prove to the City that they are prepared to fulfill the affordable housing condition; noted that his client is the only one asking for this option; and stated that have been led to understand that if a conversion opportunity became available, they would have the right to proceed with this option because it makes the most economical sense.
Councilman Stern stated that state law only allows a maximum of 25 percent of the City’s new affordable housing units to be conversions and asked why the City allowed the Ocean Trails project satisfy its affordable housing obligation with 50 percent of its affordable units being conversions.
City Attorney Lynch explained that the ratio of affordable units at Ocean Trails was negotiated as part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought against the City by the Sierra Club and others parties.
Councilman Stern stated that the City needs a rational basis for allocating who gets the benefit of using a conversion and who has to build new affordable housing units. He indicated that he was inclined to approve the applicant’s request because they are the only one currently making the request of Council and noted that conversion was the most economical alternative for the developer.
City Attorney Lynch explained that when the Affordable Housing Agreement for Tract Map No. 52666 was entered into, a provision was included allowing the developer to request the option of providing a conversion unit rather than building a new affordable unit, noting that there was no obligation on the part of the City to approve the request.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that he is inclined to grant the conversion option to this developer because they are before the Council now and have been in the permit process for a long time. He stated that it would be appropriate to re-evaluate the City’s policy for new units versus converting existing units and stated that he would like some projection of future development proposals, believing that the City is due to receive another affordable housing units quota. He also stated that he has no preference between converting single-family homes or condominiums to affordable units.
Councilman Gardiner questioned if there is anything wrong with following a first-come, first-served policy.
City Attorney Lynch indicated no.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to grant Tract No. 52666 the right to acquire a conversion unit to satisfy the affordable housing requirement.
Councilman Gardiner questioned if the Trump organization can come back and request a similar conversion.
City Attorney Lynch stated that Trump National would only have this ability if it applied to amend its Conditional Use Permit and Tract Map to construct additional market-rate houses. If Trump National were to file such an application, it would have to get in line behind any other developers that might have preceded it, if Council were to adopt a first-come, first-served conversion policy.
Without objection to the motion on the floor, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Wolowicz, that staff come back with more detailed recommendations on how to address the issue of converting market rate housing units to affordable housing units.
Councilman Stern explained that he made the second motion because he is not convinced that a first-come, first-served policy is the best solution for the City; that he would like to have an opportunity to discuss it as a policy matter; that his general preference is for the construction of new affordable units; and asked staff to provide projections of number of new market-rate houses expected to be built in the foreseeable future.
Without objection to the motion on the floor, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Employee Health Insurance (1202)
The staff report recommended that Council authorize the substitution of a single Blue Cross PPO Medical Plan in place of the two Blue Cross PPO Medical Plans currently offered to City employees.
City Manager Evans confirmed for Councilman Long that the City’s health insurance costs have tripled in the last 10 years.
Councilman Long stated that he sees little potential for the cost going down in the future and questioned if the City receives any figures on the amount of the claims filed.
City Manager Evans stated that the City receives no medical claims data.
Councilman Long questioned if the City has any plans for going out to bid for employee health insurance.
City Manager Evans responded that staff is working with the other peninsula cities and the library district to attempt to consolidate the health plans and obtain a better rate by having more people participate in the plan.
Councilman Long noted that increasing the deductible from zero to $250 would save the City 3.2% on the premium, but that the out-of-network deductible was decreased from $500 to $250, and asked if the deducible was left at $500, would the City receive any additional savings.
City Manager Evans responded that the carrier did not make this option available to the City.
Councilman Long questioned if the City is looking at health savings accounts (HSAs) for its employees.
City Manager Evans indicated that staff has not considered it, however, the issue of employee health insurance will be brought back to Council in February 2006 when the FY 06-07 budget is prepared; and noted that what is being presented this evening is not financing options, but rather plan options.
Councilman Long stated that an HSA is a high deductible PPO; that many employers will fund the deductible for the employee with pretax dollars that go into a savings account; and that an employee can then pay eligible expenses out of that account, or if the employee does not use it, it can be rolled over to a retirement account and invested.
City Manager Evans stated that the City already has a program in place employees can contribute pretax dollars each pay period into a savings account from which certain medical expenses can be paid out from, but that any unused amount is forfeited at the end of the fiscal year.
Councilman Long noted that an HSA would not have to be forfeited, that it can be carried over from year to year; that depending on the employee’s preferences, it may be better than a flexible spending account; that it may be possible to offer employees both plans; and suggested that the City look into the HSA accounts at some point. He stated that the proposal suggested by staff was reasonable and that he would like to keep the scope and quality of coverage as broad as possible and ensure that coverage is there when people need it, while trying to control costs with deductibles, co-payments and other devices.
Councilman Gardiner noted his support for the City looking at a self-insurance plan similar to one he is familiar with in New Jersey, stating that it seems to have worked well for that city and reduced its insurance premium costs; and felt that this plan should be one of the alternatives the City considers.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
Mayor Clark recessed the meeting at 11:12 P.M. and reconvened the meeting at 11:15 P.M.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that what he has seen in the last few years in private industry is a requirement for employees to pay a portion of their own medical insurance premium and that it is becoming commonplace for employees to pay for dependent coverage. He highlighted the fact that the City is facing a 18.3 percent cost increase next year; stated that Council should introduce the prospect of having the employees pay for a portion of their dependent care and a portion of their own care, suggesting that the employees should split the cost with the City; and stated it is not fair for the City to absorb the majority of the expected increase, and that there needs to be a cost sharing arrangement. He stated these are significant costs and that these costs will continue to rise in the future.
Councilman Gardiner stated that he is willing to look at the alternative suggested by Mayor pro tem Wolowicz, but noted that it is unlikely he would support it. He stated that he is not in favor of drastically changing the coverage for existing employees and would be more supportive of an HSA, as suggested by Councilman Long. He noted that if the medical insurance costs continue to rise out of control, then the City may be forced into giving Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz’s suggestion serious consideration, but in that case he felt that it should only apply to new employees. He reiterated his reluctance to change the rules on the existing employees so drastically.
Councilman Long stated that he shares Councilman Gardiner’s views on this topic; that he has been purchasing health insurance for his own firm for a number of years; and explained that the problem is that there are two competing goals which somewhat conflict with each other. He explained that one goal is to control claim costs, noting that insurance should be available for catastrophic event, but that there should be a mechanism in place to control the routine/daily use of the benefit. He explained that the second goal is to avoid creating “adverse selection” where the healthy people are chased out of the plan, which will result in significant cost increases for the people remaining in the plan. He concluded that some alternatives which look like they save money, actually don’t in the end; and as much as he wants to find a way to control the costs, he is wary of doing something that, even if appears to save money next year, will create a long-term problem. He stated that there are many things the City can do short of requiring its employees to pay a percentage of their medical insurance premiums, such as providing an HSA, increasing co-payments, etc.; and stated that the changes should be incremental and gradual and be mindful of the fact the City wants to keep as many people enrolled in the plan as possible in order to spread the risk and not suffer from adverse selection.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that because the cost of medical insurance is significant and continues to rise, he still supported splitting the cost increases with the employees.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Long, to authorize the substitution of a single Blue Cross PPO Medical Plan in place of the two Blue Cross PPO Medical Plans currently offered to City employees.
City Manager Evans pointed out that not one employee voiced opposition to the proposed reduction in medical benefits in order to save the City some money; and he expressed his gratitude and appreciation of this City’s employees for their support.
Councilman Stern echoed that appreciation for the City’s employees.
Councilman Long noted his appreciation that the employees understand the concept of reducing the City’s insurance costs and are mindful of Council’s intent on providing the City’s employees the best insurance coverage for the premium dollar and making sure the broadest and highest quality of medical coverage is available when needed.
The motion to approve the staff recommendation carried, with Mayor pro tem Wolowicz voting no.
COUNCIL DISCUSSION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS & SUGGESTION OF FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:
Councilman Long requested an explanation of how the issue of possibility endorsing Measures R and S proposed by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District Board had been continued from a previous City Council meeting and then dropped from the agenda. He indicated that he had been labeled as refusing to publicly endorse Measures R and S on the grounds that he agreed to the continuance of the item when it was before the Council. He stated that two of the other peninsula cities have unanimously endorsed these measures, but pointed out that these Council’s had the ability to ask questions and receive responses to those questions from the School District; and advised that this Council was not able to get its questions answered. Because Council’s request to have a representative from the School District present at the meeting to answer questions was not provided, he indicated that it was appropriate for Councilman Gardiner to request a continuance of that matter until a representative could be present to answer Council’s questions. He noted his disappointment that this item was not on the Council’s agenda and that the voters would have already decided the issue before Council would nave an opportunity to re-agendize it for discussion.
Mayor Clark expressed his belief that the system of having the Mayor and Mayor pro tem assist the City Manager in the creation of the agenda is working well and effectively; and noted his anticipation that Councilman Long will be part of that process very shortly. He expressed hesitation in supporting the notion of Council as a whole working on the preparation of the meeting agenda, believing that will not be an effective and efficient use of time.
Councilman Gardiner noted his support for putting the preparation of Council agendas on a future agenda for discussion. He also asked that, given the amount of litigation facing the City, consideration be given to forming a Legal Advisory Committee made up of volunteer lawyers to study upcoming litigation affecting the City and asked that this issue be placed on a future agenda.
Councilman Stern stated that staff should continue to place items on the agenda when requested by the Council Members, regardless of who is assisting the City Manager with the preparation of the Council agendas. He pointed out that he has no criticism of the way it is being done now and that the system appears to be working well.
Councilman Long explained that he was not concerned with who is or who is not participating in the agenda preparation process; but indicated that he found it useful for Council as a whole to review the list of upcoming agenda topics and jointly prioritize those items. He suggested that this exercise should be done at least on a quarterly basis.
City Manager Evans stated that he has no problem with doing what Councilman Long has suggested, but reminded Council that there are usually 20 to 30 items on each Council agenda; that in the last two years he has received guidance from Council and kept a running list of all future agenda items; and noted his concern that if Council wishes to address each future agenda item, it may add significantly to the Council’s already lengthy meetings.
Mayor Clark stated that he would like to see a better mechanism for tracking Council action items.
Councilman Long moved, seconded by Mayor pro tem Wolowicz, to agendize the three items that have been suggested: 1) The process for developing Council agendas; 2) The possibility of forming a Legal Advisory Committee, and 3) Tracking Council action items; and that these issues be brought back to Council in January or February 2006. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
CLOSED SESSION REPORT:
City Attorney Lynch reported that Council unanimously approved the settlement agreement with regard to the case of Kristina Oh, et al. v. The City of Rancho Palos Verdes, et al. (Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. YC047159).
At 11:42 P.M. Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Wolowicz, to adjourn the meeting. Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
/s/ Stefan Wolowicz
/s/ Carolynn Petru