M I N U T E S
The meeting was called to order at 7:02 p.m. at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, Rancho Palos Verdes.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Stern, Gardiner, Clark, Long, Mayor Wolowicz
Also present were City Manager Les Evans, Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Carolynn Petru, City Attorney Carol Lynch, Director of Financing/IT Dennis McLean, Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Joel Rojas, Deputy Planning Director Greg Pfost and Associate Planner Eduardo Schonborn.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by former Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Marilyn Lyon.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Stern to approve the agenda, with deferment of Item Nos. 22 (Preservation of the Equestrian (Q) Overlay District) and 24 (Site Drainage Review Procedures for New Construction) to February 7, 2005 and Item No. 23(FY 04-05 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and Independent Auditors Report on Compliance and Internal Control) to February 21, 2006. The motion was seconded, and the agenda stands as modified.
Mayor Wolowicz indicated that he has asked representative from the South Bay Energy Savings Center to make a presentation as this evening’s Mayor’s Did You Know Facts.
Marilyn Lyon, South Bay Energy Savings Center, indicated that the Center is funded by ratepayers through a grant program under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission and is a cooperative program between the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG), Edison and the Gas Company to promote public education and provide opportunities for increased energy savings. She stated that during the first two years of its operation, all of the goals for the grant were surpassed, and another three-year grant has been approved. Ms. Lyons then introduced Kurt Kammerer, a technical consultant who has been retained by the Center to assist it in implementing its various energy savings programs.
Kurt Kammerer, K.J. Kammerer & Associates, Inc., indicated that he had worked for the SBBCCOG over the last two years and highlighted a pilot project that had been implemented during that time focusing on public facilities. To set the stage, he stated that the energy crisis of five years ago is still ongoing, noting that there are still supply and reliability issues, and that energy prices continue to skyrocket with significant impact on the environment. He explained that the benefits of energy efficiency include not only saving taxpayer dollars but also the potential for economic development in helping to meet state and local policy goals while mitigating reliability problems and the energy impacts on the environment. Mr. Kammerer stated that many energy efficiency measures pay themselves back in a few years, and a lot of cities and governments have found that smart energy planning and energy efficiency can pay for future services and actually be a cash flow revenue generator. Mr. Kemmerer showed a portfolio of the projects that were looked at in public agencies much like the ones in the South Bay and Rancho Palos Verdes. He reported that the average return on investment was over 40%, and noted that the savings get even better as energy prices increase.
Mr. Kammerer commented that a huge emphasis is being placed on energy efficiency right now by the State and that this concept is more important than building new power plants and transmission lines. He said that the utility companies must exercise all available options for energy efficiency prior to building the next power plant and noted that they are spending about twice what they were spending towards this effort last year. He indicated that the goal of the South Bay Energy Savings Center is to get as much of that money back into the South Bay area as possible. He cited a report that was issued regarding the public facilities of Rancho Palos Verdes, which was part of a four months effort in 2005 involving 14 of the 15 cities in South Bay and included over 60 facilities. He stated that the report found over half a million dollars in potential energy savings per year totaling well over $3 million in cumulative savings over five years. He emphasized that the report does not include every opportunity, which would result in saving far in excess of the identified amount. He concluded that the identified savings for Rancho Palos Verde were modest, but taking into account the City’s size, they would likely still be of interest.
Mr. Kammerer outlined some other possible programs that might be pursued jointly with the other South Bay cities, including lighting retrofits that have returns on investments in excess of 30 to 40%. He also mentioned that heating, ventilation and air conditioning constitute the second highest use for energy and represent an area where a lot of opportunities exist. He stated that the Center would be looking aggregate programs aimed at making municipal water pumps and vending machines more energy efficient in the coming year.
Mr. Kemmerer encouraged maximum participation in the Center’s programs going forward and commented that there is more technical assistance available within the region to major developers and businesses, as well as cities. He requested that a link to the South Bay Energy Savings Center be placed on the City’s website.
Mayor Wolowicz announced Blake Bartash and Petria Milleau as Recyclers of the Month and urged everyone to participate in the City’s recycling program.
Troy Braswell, Forrestal Steering Committee, publicly thanked the 103 volunteers who turned out for trail work at the Forrestal Nature Preserve on December 10th. He also thanked the sponsors of the event, CORBA PV and Giant Bicycle Company, and announced that the next workday is scheduled for February 18th, and that REI will be the sponsor. He indicated that more information was available at the website for the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (www.pvplc.org) and CORBA PV (www.MTBPV.org).
Mayor Wolowicz thanked Mr. Braswell for his efforts and also thanked all of those who participated in the event.
CITY MANAGER REPORTS:
City Manager Evans updated Council on the Public Works Department’s activities since March 15, 2005, when Council provided extra funds for storm drain work. He indicated that the following projects have been completed: Palos Verdes Bay Club storm drain, the Salvation Army project on Palos Verdes Drive South, the catch basin on Palos Verdes Drive West and the Bronco Drive storm drain. With respect to Phase 1 storm drain lining projects, he indicated that the construction is complete with about $930,000 of work in place. He listed tentative completion dates for a number of other storm drain projects that are to be completed in the next month or two, indicating that these projects totaled approximately $740,000. In addition, he reported that there is nearly $2 million worth of projects that are either ready to be advertised for bids, nearly ready to be advertised for bids, or in the design stage. He said that the Public Works Department has done an incredible amount of work in a very short time with a very small staff, and that the City will continue to aggressively pursue the program Council approved on March 15th.
Councilman Clark asked whether all of the approved projects the City Manager listed as being complete or close to being complete are interim fixes.
City Manager Evans responded that the storm drain lining projects are permanent, but that the rest are a mix of interim fixes and projects that resulted from unexpected failures.
Councilman Stern commented that due to the nature of drainage projects being underground, the public doesn’t see them, and that the public needs to know that the City is being proactive and is trying, as much as it reasonably can, to eliminate the problems as quickly as possible so that there will be no repeats of what happened during last year’s rainy season in terms of storm drain failures.
Mayor Wolowicz commented that what is being shown is work in a prospective manner. He commented that $3.8 million in needed project has been identified and that the Public Works Department is making progress in getting out in front of these projects.
Councilman Clark reported that he received a number of complaints from residents over the holidays about the lack of parking availability at the Golden Cove Shopping Center. He said that he had personally seen a sign in the parking lot indicating that it is an MTA park-and-ride lot, but that this sign was recently removed and replaced with two signs stating that it is unlawful to park and leave your car there for any period of time. He asked if the City was monitoring the use of the parking lot to ensure that only customers and employees of the businesses there are using it.
City Manager Evans said he is not aware that staff is monitoring the parking at Golden Cove Shopping Center.
Councilman Clark suggested that staff should monitor the use of the parking lot.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru informed the audience that items previously discussed and continued to a future meeting could be viewed on the City’s website at www.palosverdes.com/rpv.
APPROVAL OF CONSENT CALENDAR:
Mayor Pro Tem Long asked to remove Item No. 6 (Approval of Minutes) for a comment.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru indicated that she had requests from the audience to discuss Item No. 2 (Interim Improvements to Barkentine/Seacove and other Miscellaneous Drainage Improvements) and Item No. 3 (Repair of Four Storm Drains).
Councilman Clark asked to pull Item No. 14 (Mayor’s Appointment of City Council Members to Intergovernmental Organizations and Associations).
Mayor Wolowicz indicated that Item Nos. 2, 3, 6 and 14 have been pulled from the Consent Calendar for further discussion.
Repair of the Tarapaca Storm Drain (604 x 1204)
Authorized staff to conduct an informal bid process to repair the Tarapaca Storm Drain.
Pontevedra Emergency Storm Drain Repairs (604 x 1204)
Authorized staff to conduct an informal bid process to repair the Pontevedra storm drain line.
Motion to Waive Full Reading
Waived 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.
Records Retention and Destruction Schedules (301)
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2006-01, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AUTHORIZING THE DESTRUCTION OF CERTAIN CITY RECORDS AS PROVIDED BY SECTION 34090 OF THE GOVERNMENT CODE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, MAKING CERTAIN CHANGES TO EXISTING RETENTION SCHEDULES, AND AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2004-75.
Forrestal Nature Preserve – Funding for Trail Repairs (1201)
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2006-02, APPROVING A $25,000 BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR TRAIL REPAIRS AT THE FORRESTAL NATURE PRESERVE.
Forrestal Swale Drainage Improvement Project (1204 x 1201)
Rejected the only bid received on December 19, 2005, for Forrestal swale drainage improvement project. Requested staff to re-advertise the project at a later date.
Amendment No. 3 for Contract to Prepare the Environmental Impact Report for the Point View Project [6001 Palos Verdes Drive South] (1801)
Authorized the Mayor and the City Clerk to sign an amendment to the professional services agreement with PCR Services Corporation (PCR) in an amount not to exceed $16,548 to complete the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Point View project, located at 6001 Palos Verdes Drive South.
Notice of Completion for Improvements to the Palos Verdes Bay Club Storm Drain (604 x 1204)
1) Accepted the work done by Southwest Pipeline and Trenchless Corp. on the rehabilitation of the Palos Verdes Bay Club storm drain, as completed; 2) Authorized the City Clerk to accept the Maintenance Bond in the amount of $160,490, issued by Safeco Insurance Company of America (Southwest Pipeline’s Surety Company), which will remain in force for a period of one (1) year after the date of Notice of Completion and acceptance; 3) Authorized the City Clerk to file the Notice of Completion with the Los Angeles County Recorder; and if no claims are filed within 35 days of recordation of the Notice, City Clerk shall notify Safeco Insurance Company of America (Southwest Pipeline’s Surety Company) to exonerate both the Payment and Performance Bonds; 4)
County Sanitation District Proposal to Use Portion of Eastview Park as a Western Avenue Project Staging Area (1402 x 1201)
Approved request from County Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County for an occupational right-of-way to utilize an undeveloped portion of Eastview Park for a Western Avenue Pumping Plan Modifications Project construction staging area.
Consideration of an Ordinance Generally Requiring Members of City Commissions and Committees to be Residents of the City (106 x 103)
INTRODUCED ORDINANCE NO. 433, AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES GENERALLY REQUIRING THE MEMBERS OF CITY COMMISSIONS AND COMMITTEES TO BE RESIDENTS OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AND AMENDING THE RANCHO PALOS VERDES MUNICIPAL CODE.
September 2005 Treasurer’s Report (602)
Received and filed the September 2005 Treasurer’s Report for the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.
October 2005 Treasurer’s Report (602)
Received and filed the October 2005 Treasurer’s Report for the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.
Register of Demands
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2006-03, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES ALLOWING CERTAIN CLAIMS AND DEMANDS AND SPECIFYING FUNDS FROM WHICH THE SAME ARE TO BE PAID.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Long, approve the Consent Calendar, as amended, with Items 2, 3, 6, and 14 removed for discussion.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Gardiner, Clark, Stern, Long, Mayor Wolowicz
ITEMS REMOVED FROM CONSENT CALENDAR:
Interim Improvements to Barkentine/Seacove and Other Miscellaneous Drainage Improvements; and,
Repair of Four Storm Drains
Rudy Maus, Pacific Palisades, speaking to both Item Nos. 2 and 3, stated that quite a bit of the history cited in the staff report regarding the Barkentine/Seacove project is incorrect. He explained that the project has not stayed on schedule and expressed his desire to know exactly what is going on because the plans he received from the City’s engineer appeared to be different from what is actually under construction. He also requested that the City consider putting in a drainage pipe similar to what was recently installed at the Palos Verdes Bay Club, indicating that the project currently underway will not address the real drainage deficiencies in the neighborhood. He asked that the contractor keep the amount of noise generated to a minimum and complete the work as quickly as possible, noting that any further property damage will result in reduced property taxes, which will be a loss to everyone including the City.
City Manager Evans confirmed that there is a drainage project currently under construction in Mr. Maus’ neighborhood and said he would confer with the Public Works Director to confirm that the project is moving forward as expeditiously as possible.
Mayor Pro Tem Long moved, seconded by Councilman Stern to approve Consent Calendar Item Nos. 2 and 3.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Clark, Gardiner, Stern, Long, Mayor Wolowicz
Approval of the Minutes (301)
Mayor Pro Tem Long requested that the minutes of July 19, 2005, page 13 of 32, be amended to change the sentence beginning with, “He declared . . .” to read, “He declared that Council was unable to consider anything other than the sliver of view impaired above the 16-foot height level to the top of the structure even though the part below that sliver may be the most important portion of the view.”
Without objection, Mayor Wolowicz declared approval of the minutes of July 5, 2005, as amended, July 19, 2005 and August 2, 2005 and noted that he was abstaining from voting on the minutes for July 5 and August 2, as he was absent from these meetings.
Councilman Gardiner inquired about the reasons for the delay in Council receiving the draft minutes for approval.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru reported that it has been a very taxing year for the City’s two contract minutes takers given the extended length of the Council meeting and the addition of several adjourned meeting and workshops to the meeting schedule. She reported that staff is implementing some changes in an effort to get caught up, such as allowing the minutes takers to forego attending the meetings and using the videotapes of the meeting to transcribe the minutes.
Mayor Pro Tem Long suggested hiring additional contract staff to work through the backlog.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru indicated that is was difficult to train temporary staff to prepare minutes in the detailed summary style Council is accustomed to, but reported that she is looking to hire a third contract minute taker on a permanent basis to relieve some of the pressure.
Mayor’s Appointment of City Council Members to Intergovernmental Organizations and Associations (306)
Councilman Clark indicated that he had no issue with the assignments proposed by the Mayor, but requested clarification regarding the Open Space Acquisition ad hoc committee, noting that the assignment had been changed to Mayor Pro Tem Long and Councilman Stern. He indicated that there is some on-going interaction with one of the property owners that may warrant his continued involvement on the committee for an additional period of time.
Mayor Wolowicz suggested that a transition strategy could be implemented where Councilman Clark could conclude the last bit of negotiation and conversation that he and Councilman Stern are currently engaged in with one property owner, and that Mayor Pro Tem Long would be called on to participate in the discussions of all other potential open space property acquisitions. Mayor Wolowicz noted that he would look for a quick transition in the membership of this ad hoc committee.
Councilman Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Stern, to adopt the Mayor’s Council assignments with the one modification to the Open Space Acquisition ad hoc committee to provide for a transition from Councilman Clark to Mayor Pro Tem Long.
With no objection, Mayor Wolowicz so ordered.
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Code Amendment to Chapter 17.11 - "Affordable Housing" (701)
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru reported that notice of the public hearing was duly published, no written protests were received, late correspondence was distributed on this item and there were no requests to speak.
Councilman Gardiner questioned whether there is an off-line or downloadable form available to developers outlining the rules for preparing the cost/benefit analysis referenced in the draft ordinance, such as what it is to contain and how it is to be done. He suggested that further guidance might be needed, indicating that the results could be manipulated depending on what parameters are used and gave some illustrative examples, such as discount rates and time horizons, as issues that may require clarification.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost indicated that staff did not currently have such a reference available, but that it certainly could be looked into with more detail.
City Manager Evans suggested that Councilman Gardiner could direct staff to an appropriate source of this type of information that could be made available to developer, or perhaps City staff could prepare the cost benefit analysis and charge the developer for that service.
Councilman Gardiner concurred with the City Manager’s suggestion that staff prepare the cost benefit analysis, thereby ensuring that the City controls the parameters, rather than the developer, and thereby providing uniformity in the process.
Councilman Stern stated that he would like to see a clear statement that it is the City’s preference that the developer builds the required affordable units. He agreed that the City needs some mechanism to deal with the developer who does not want to build the units and wants to pay the in lieu fee instead, although he was uncertain what the criteria should be to make that determination because the developer will always want to pay the fee rather than build the units.
Councilman Gardiner commented that Councilman Stern has raised a good point about what criteria should be applied to determine if building the units is too burdensome, such as what is a reasonable return on investment and when would the figures fall below that level.
Mayor Wolowicz stated that he was surprised to learn recently that there was no such preamble as Councilman Stern referred to in the current Municipal Code regarding affordable housing. He also stated that he was under the impression that developers were required to build affordable housing units in conjunction with their projects, unless they were less than five units in size, in which case they were required to pay an in lieu fee. He indicated that he was surprised to learn that the actual situation was just the reverse, with all developers being given the option to pay an in lieu fee. He said that he did not have a problem with the situation, per se, but was simply surprised it had evolved in the manner that it had.
City Attorney Lynch commented that staff had included a preamble similar to what Councilman Stern had suggested, but noted that the Planning Commission had changed the language slightly during its review of the ordinance. She indicated that she still preferred inclusion of a concrete statement that would require the developer to cite specific environmental, economic or technical factors that would render the provision of the required affordable units infeasible with respect to a particular project. While not as comprehensive as Councilman Gardiner’s suggestion of a cost-benefit analysis, she explained that this was staff’s attempt to make the developer account for why they were unable to comply with the City’s affordable housing requirements.
Councilman Stern observed that the way the system was set up previously, there was no incentive for the developer to build affordable housing units. He stated that, unless the City can craft a system so that there is no cost difference between building the units and paying the fee, in which case other factors may come into play to render building as infeasible, the economics will always favor the developer paying the in lieu fee to the City. He said that the more the City under-values the fee, the more economic disparity there is between the two options and the more justification there is for the developer to pay the fee, which fosters a situation that is the opposite of what the City would like to have happen.
Councilman Gardiner observed that there are two decision-makers in this case, so the question becomes whether the cost benefit analysis is being done for the developer or the City. He stated that the default position seems to be that the developer should be required to build the units, unless they can show a financial reason why they should not have to. If that’s the case, the cost benefit methodology may not get at the heart of the issue, since the real question is at what point does the affordable housing requirement make the project infeasible to the developer.
Mayor Pro Tem Long pointed out that what the City is trying to say is that it wants to impose on the builder an obligation to actually build the units unless, after looking at everything, the City determines that the burden relative to the anticipated profitability of the project is unfair. He opined that the question is how to capture that concept in a comprehensible manner.
Councilman Clark agreed with his colleagues that, if the ordinance were not crafted to convey that the default is for the developer to build the units, in every case developers would predictably pay the fee and be done with the requirement.
Councilman Gardiner suggested that the City simply require the developer to build the affordable houses and if it is an extraordinary case, they can attempt to plead the case and try to persuade Council otherwise, without the City establishing defined criteria to make the determination. He suggested that another approach would be to say that unless the developer can show specific findings, they will not be allowed to opt out by paying an in lieu fee.
City Attorney Lynch opined that it would be best to have some standard in the ordinance and suggested that it could perhaps be analogous to the variance approach used in the Planning Department where the requirements are stated and the only exception is if the developer applies for an exemption from the requirement, in which case the Council would have to make a ruling on a case by case basis.
Mayor Wolowicz suggested that staff consider the input provided by the individual Council members and come back with proposed revisions to the draft ordinance. He observed that allowing staff to put the concepts expressed into perspective would also allow Council to see how the various steps of the ordinance would flow together.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru noted that included in the Mayor’s direction to staff was opening of the public hearing and continuing the discussion to March 7, 2006.
Acceptance of Public Trail Easements, Revised Grant Deeds for Founder’s Park and Non-Golf-Setback Area, Indemnity Agreements, and Release Agreement (Trump National Golf Club Project) [Continued from December 20, 2005] (1411)
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru said that she has no requests to speak on this item although the applicant was in the audience.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost stated that on December 20, 2004, Council approved a three-month temporary opening of the golf course and driving range, with a further extension contingent on the applicant meeting specific Coastal Commission requirements as well as certain City conditions of approval. He reported that Coastal Commission staff has indicated that the main issues from its perspective were related to acceptance of the public trails by the City and had required the developer to provide a survey of the public trails, as opposed to allowing them to be accepted by depiction on a map. He noted, however, that Coastal Commission staff is in favor of continuing with the temporary opening while the metes and bounds descriptions are being prepared. He indicated that the City could also accept the documents as is and then incorporate the metes and bounds documents into them at a later date. He noted that included in staff’s recommendation was the acceptance of Founder’s Park and various open space lots within the project boundaries.
Councilman Clark asked for clarification regarding who would be required to prepare the metes and bounds descriptions. He also mentioned that another member of the Coastal Commission visiting the golf course had asked him how the signage is being handled to let the public know that there is a five-acre City park located on the property.
Deputy Planning Director Pfost indicated that the applicant would be required to prepare the metes and bounds for the public trails and reported that the Coastal Commission staff did not express concern about providing additional signage for Founders Park, but mentioned that the City’s dedication plaque would be installed in the park the next day.
Mayor Pro Tem Long asked for a status report on the permanent opening of the golf course, noting that there are certain things that the applicant has to accomplish during the temporary opening, and if those things are not accomplished within three months, the applicant will have to appear before the Council to request an extension. He asked whether there were any items in the City’s list of requirements that would pragmatically preclude the applicant from being able to complete the necessary items within the 90-day period
Deputy Planning Director Pfost answered that it is really up to the applicant and their geologist as to how they quickly they can respond. He noted that the 90-day temporary opening had not yet begun, and that the City and the applicant were moving as quickly as possible to satisfy the remaining conditions of approval.
Vincent Stellio, Executive Vice President of Development for the Trump Organization, stated that they are moving forward and putting closure on the few remaining items. He indicated that with the City’s acceptance of the trails, open space areas and Founders Park, the Coastal Commission’s remaining conditions would be satisfied. He stated that their surveyors are currently working on the metes and bounds descriptions of the public trails. He explained that a meeting with the geologic peer review panel has been scheduled for January 30th, and that they have authorized Deputy Director Pfost to send the City’s geotechnical consultant’s review of their latest geology report onto the peer review panel, with the hope that the panel will make a determination in four to six weeks on the issues still in dispute regarding the proposed expansion to the clubhouse and the required building setback from Landslide A. He concluded by stating that this project was subject to a large number of conditions of approval; that the Trump Organization is diligently attempting to satisfy all of the conditions as quickly as possible; and that it is his preference not to request multiple extensions to the temporary opening of the golf course and would prefer instead to be operating it in a permanent fashion.
In answer to a question from Councilman Stern, Mr. Stellio indicated that the surveyors should be able to complete their work within three months.
In answer to a question from Councilman Clark regarding the signage for Founders Park identifying it as a public park at the main entrance to the project, Mr. Stellio said that he would meet on-site with staff and look at various options for the sign location.
In answer to a question from Mayor Wolowicz about the adequacy of the 90-day temporary opening, Mr. Stellio responded that he was comfortable working within this time frame on the items that are under his direct control, but indicated that resolution of the geologic issues was more difficult because of the involvement of outside parties, such as the peer review panel, but expressed his hope to finalize all of the remaining requirements within the 90-day period.
Mayor Wolowicz declared the public hearing closed.
Councilman Douglas Stern left the meeting at 8:59 p.m.
Mayor Pro Tem Long indicated that he was not present at the meeting on December 20, 2004 when Council approved the concept of a temporary opening of the golf course; expressed concern about the risk to the City of granting a temporary opening, characterizing it as a “slippery slope;” stated that he would not be in favor of granting an extension beyond the initial 90-day period unless an extremely compelling reason is demonstrated; and indicated that he was not yet persuaded to support the staff recommendation on those grounds, although he was generally in favor of accepting public open space and trails.
Councilman Gardiner indicated that he feels a temporary opening is appropriate based on his understanding that it is required to allow the developer to complete some odds and ends, as opposed to anything that is of major significance. He pointed out that the developer has indicated that an enormous amount of money is required each month just to maintain the course in its current condition, and that allowing the course to open would not only provide revenue to the property owner, but to the City as well. He also noted that the Trump Organization has the resources to complete the project and what they have been able to accomplish so far has been of the highest quality.
Councilman Clark agreed with Councilman Gardiner and added that probably the biggest remaining issue is verification of the as-built grading, and particularly the as-built clay cap under the golf course. He noted that both staff and the City’s geologists did not believe that the final review and analysis of the as-built report should in and of itself hold up a temporary opening.
Mayor Pro Tem Long agreed that his colleagues have raised good point in support of the temporary opening, but expressed concern, given the history of the site, which included a landslide failure, about the level of assurance the City could reasonably expect.
City Attorney Lynch clarified that the outstanding issues include the as-built report, the clubhouse review which is going to the peer review panel, and the issues regarding Landslide A, which primarily deal with the proposed housing units in Tract 50666, but which also somewhat implicated the driving range because it is located in the same general area. She indicated that all of the issues related to the indemnity agreements and the release have been resolved with respect to the acceptance of the park, the non-golf setback area and the trails.
In answer to a question from Mayor Pro Tem Long, Deputy Director Pfost indicated that the City geologist’s preliminary review of the as-built report did not raise any issues that the consultant found to be public safety concerns. With regards to the peer review panel’s review of Landslide A, Deputy Director Pfost indicated that although the number of housing units in Tract 50666 was decreased with the construction of the driving range, no building permits will be issued for these houses until foundation setback is clearly understood. He stated further that the building permit for the clubhouse expansion will also not be granted until the issues with Landslide A are resolved, but pointed out that the issues related to Landslide A do not impact the operation of the golf course, but only the developers ability to complete these additional components of the project.
Mayor Pro Tem Long indicated that he was now persuaded that the temporary opening is not related to any issues of public safety; that Landslide A is still a long way from being fully addressed, but is not related to the issue of the temporary opening, and that he consequently had changed his position on the developer’s request.
Mayor Wolowicz expressed his inclination to move toward the approval with the idea that the conditions attached to the temporary opening be monitored carefully and with direction to staff to alert Council if the geologists start to have major concerns regarding any aspect of the project.
Councilman Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to 1) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2006-04, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES, ACCEPTING CERTAIN PUBLIC TRAIL EASEMENTS, FOUNDER'S PARK, "NON-GOLF SETBACK AREA" AND PUBLIC OPEN SPACE LOTS WITHIN THE TRUMP NATIONAL GOLF CLUB PROJECT; 2) Authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to execute the Indemnity Agreement and Easement Deed between the City and V.H. Property Corporation pertaining to the City's acceptance of certain "Public Trail Easements;” 3) Authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to execute the revised Indemnity Agreement between the City and V.H. Property Corporation pertaining to the City's acceptance of "Founder's Park" and the "Non-Golf Setback Area;” and 4) authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to execute the Release Agreement between the City and V.H. Property Corporation subject to the option for the minor modification on the grant date.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Gardiner, Clark, Long, Mayor Wolowicz
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Clark recessed the meeting at 9:17 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 9:25 p.m.
Councilman Stern rejoined the meeting at 9:25 p.m.
Eastview School Legislation (310)
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru reported that she had received two requests to speak regarding this item.
Councilman Clark explained that once a year members of the City Council participate in the California Contract Cities Association’s “Legislative Days” in Sacramento, which occurred during the past week. He reported that while in Sacramento, he and Mayor Wolowicz met with Assemblywoman Betty Karnette, and during the discussion of various items, he raised the topic of Eastview and the fact that residents in this area of the City are not full members of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District (PVPUSD). He explained that in the mid-1990’s, state legislation was passed that allowed residents of the Eastview portion of Rancho Palos Verdes to petition to have their children attend Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified Schools but did not make them full members of the District, and that as a result, these residents do not contribute to PVPUSD through their property taxes and are precluded from voting for PVPUSD board members. He reported that Eastview residents have repeatedly asked when the City can move forward to help them to become full members of the PVPUSD.
Councilman Clark reported that Assemblywoman Karnette explained at their meeting that in order consider the matter, draft legislation needs to be submitted to legislative counsel in Sacramento as a placeholder and that the deadline for submittals is the 27th of January. Councilman Clark proposed that Council direct staff and the City Attorney to put together draft language to deal with the matter by this deadline. He noted that there are two schools in Eastview that are the property of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and he would suggest that the language indicate that these two schools be excluded from the re-crafting of the school district boundaries so that they would remain within the jurisdiction of LAUSD for the time being.
Councilman Gardiner said that Councilman Clark’s proposal was a temporary fix and not a long-term fix. He indicated that he is supportive of arriving at a long-term fix, but observed that this proposal would allow time to develop the details of a long-term fix. He stated that he would like to dispel the second-class treatment of the citizens of Eastview that has occurred through the legislation that was passed in the mid-1990’s.
Councilman Stern asked whether there was any data on how many of the Eastview students opted to remain in LAUSD.
Mayor Pro Tem Long indicated that he had seen an article in the Los Angeles Times about the number of voters in the Eastview area and drew an inference from that data that only 10% to 15% of the students elect to remain in LAUSD schools.
Councilman Clark recalled from previous discussions with PVPUSD Superintendent Toibin indicated that the majority of the children in Eastview now attend PVPUSD schools, and that the number is well over a thousand and growing.
Councilman Stern pointed out that, if the point of this legislation was to address Eastview residents feeling disenfranchised with PVPUSD, shifting their voting rights to the PVPUSD would result in the residents who remained with LAUSD becoming disenfranchised in their turn. He pointed out that PVPUSD receives Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funds for every Eastview student that attends PVPUSD, which is the lion’s share of the revenue the school district receives per student. He stated that he needed more information regarding any potential tax shift, pointing out that both PVPUSD and LAUSD have voted bonded indebtedness that appears on the property tax bills of residents living within their respective districts. He opined that LAUSD would be opposed to any tax shifts that would take more funds away. Councilman Stern started that he would vote against Councilman Clark’s proposal primarily out of concern that nothing has been written up to articulate the proposal, that all of the associated issues have not been worked through carefully and that not enough time remains to process the proposal in an appropriate manner.
Mayor Pro Tem Long pointed out that if the common goal was to have the boundaries of PVPUSD match the boundaries of the City, a better way to proceed may be to ask staff to work up some of the issues, bring it back to Council as expeditiously as they can, and then move on to the next step.
Councilman Clark said that the first step in the process is to submit some draft language to legislative counsel in order to create a placeholder, which in turn provides additional time to work through the specifics of the language and the related issues with the various stakeholders. He did not see any benefit in delaying the submittal and losing another year in the legislative process, especially in light of the fact that the Eastview residents have been asking the City to address this issue for many years.
Mayor Wolowicz asked City Manager Evans to relate a telephone conversation he had recently had with the PVPUSD Superintendent on this topic.
City Manager Evans reported that PVPUSD Superintendent Toibin called him as a result of being surprised at seeing the issue posted on the City Council’s meeting agenda and expressed concern that the school district received no prior notification that this item was going to be discussed at the Council meeting. He reported that Dr. Toibin asked him how the City proposed to deal with the issue of both school districts’ bonded indebtedness from parcel taxes. Mr. Evans indicated that Dr. Toibin also expressed the opinion that the elementary children in the Eastview area did not opt to attend PVPUSD schools with as great a frequency as high school-age students, primarily due to the transportation issues associated with the smaller children. He reported that Dr. Toibin also expressed doubt that PVPUSD would have enough classroom space to accommodate all of the Eastview elementary school children and was also very concerned about the mandatory requirements to accommodating pre-school children with special needs, particularly due to the financial issues associated with these requirements.
Councilman Gardiner pointed out that he was on the PVPUSD board when the entire Rancho Palos Verdes City Council came to one of its meeting to argue in favor of the original proposal to allow Eastview students to attend PVPUSD schools. He indicated that he and another board member voted in favor of the proposal and that the other three school board members voted against it. He commented that timing in life is everything; that the City currently has the ear of Assemblywoman Karnette on this issue; that she has the history on this issue and is in a position to assist the City in this effort, but that she faces being termed out of office and the advantage of her assistance on this issue will be lost if Council waits to tackle it until sometime in the future.
Councilman Clark reported that he had spoken with PVPUSD Vice President Dave Tomblin about this issue and that Mr. Tomblin expressed support for the idea, offered to brief the President of the School Board on this issue and to promote working collaboratively with the City to move this concept forward. He explained that this item was added to the agenda at his insistence on the previous Wednesday following his return from Sacramento due to the critical deadline to submit draft language to legislative counsel and expressed regret that the PVPUSD Superintendent felt slighted by this appearing on the City Council agenda, but he felt it was too important an issue to forego for another year.
Mayor Pro Tem Long stated that even if the ultimate long-term solution is not attained in this effort, it may be a step in the right direction and that multiple steps might be required before the ultimate goal is reached. He indicated that he is leaning in favor of pushing forward with something now.
Councilman Stern pointed out that the City was successful eight to ten years earlier in getting the most important aspect of this issues addressed when it was able to get legislation passed allowing Eastview children to attend schools in the PVPUSD. He said that in his six years on the City Council he has not heard from a single individual that feels disenfranchised by the current situation. He stressed that any further proposal must be well crafted and well thought out so that most of the implications are understood and the end product does not end up with unintended consequences. He also stated that the City should try to gain the support of the community and the school district for its proposal before advancing it, thereby giving it a better chance of passing. He noted that there is a significant risk in putting forth a premature idea that could get batted down and then not be afforded a second chance. He stated that in his opinion, while it is a noble goal, the approach is not well-crafted or well thought out and stated that he will vote against it.
Mayor Wolowicz asked for clarification regarding whether it was the City Council in place at the time that made the original proposal that Assemblywoman Karnette sponsored in the state legislature.
Councilman Gardiner recalled that the previous legislation was crafted by both Assemblyman Steve Kuykendall and then state Senator Karnette.
Mayor Wolowicz asked whether the previous legislation was drafted by the City Council at the time, or whether it was drafted by the state Assembly members who sponsored it.
City Attorney Lynch recalled that while the Council at the time supported the legislation, it did not actually draft the language that was eventually approved by the state legislature.
Mayor Wolowicz asked if there was anything that would prevent current City Council members from meeting with an Assembly member on this issue and drafting their own proposal to further amend the existing legislation.
City Attorney Lynch answered that there was no such limitation.
Mayor Wolowicz went on to point out that his primary concern is the citizens, and his inclination is that they would prefer having as Councilman Clark pointed out, City boundaries consistent with school board boundaries. However, it is not uncommon even now to have irregular boundaries in terms of overlay. He noted that the last major effort of a community to succeed from LAUSD was defeated, and the last successful withdrawal from the LAUSD that he was aware of was the City of Torrance, which took place a long time ago. He opined that LAUSD is quite proprietary in defending its territory and that, in light of this fact, he would like to see a pragmatic assessment of whether LAUSD was likely to agree with this proposed legislation. He continued by saying that he is not a fan of legislation written in haste with emotional overtones, and has yet to see any such legislation that has proven to be truly helpful. He stated that he is troubled by the fact that the City would not, at a minimum, approach the PVPUSD beforehand to make the case that this issue needs to be addressed by both agencies in concert. He also indicated that he is troubled by the prospect of the LAUSD schools remaining within the City’s boundaries.
Don Schultz, Rancho Palos Verdes, speaking on behalf of the Rolling Hills Riveria Homeowners Association, which represents approximately 720 homes in Eastview, thanked Council for discussing this issue and indicated that if there were anything his Homeowners Association could do to speed things along or get things done, they would be more than happy to support it. He recalled that during the first proposal, it was suggested that enrollment and the two school sites be moved from the LAUSD into the PVPUSD and that LSUSD did not want to give any of it up. He indicated that LAUSD’s attorneys had a very loud voice in Sacramento, and obviously, the original proposal was not successful. He explained that the initial rejection was re-crafted by Betty Karnette to allow Eastview residents to pick which school district they wanted their children to attend, subject to certain conditions that needed to be met. He indicated that LAUSD offered Eastview residents no assistance in moving their children out of LAUSD and into PVPUSD. In hindsight, he felt that the first proposal was too far reaching and ended up having to be cut back to the current situation. Mr. Schultz stated that in his opinion, if Assemblywoman Karnette believes that this proposal has a good change of succeeding, the City Council should support it and move ahead, although he doubts that Council will see any cooperation from LAUSD.
In answer to a question from Mayor Wolowicz, Mr. Schultz said that his Homeowners Association has discussed this issue before, and that they were very satisfied with what came out of the last negotiations, but agreed that there was room for a few more improvements.
Councilman Clark asked Mr. Schultz if it is fair to say that over the years the majority of residents in his portion of Eastview would like to become members of the PVPUSD like the rest of the residents in the City.
Mr. Shultz responded that this was the case.
Councilman Clark asked if it is also fair to state that there has been a continuing expectation in the community that the City would do something proactively with the state representatives to find a fair and equitable final solution to the Eastview school district boundary issue.
Mr. Schultz concurred that he thinks that is the case.
Christine Schmidtz, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that she is a homeowner in the Eastview area of the City and is a mother of two elementary school-aged children. She stated that this issue is extremely important to her, her husband and every other parent that she knows in the Eastview area. She expressed concern that the PVP School District could deny Eastview children access to its schools at any time. She said that she appreciates Councilman’s Stern concern about the level of cooperation that would be forthcoming from the LAUSD, but noted that if this school district is placed under the control of the Mayor of Los Angeles and a new high school is built off of Western Avenue, the LAUSF would be even more difficult to deal with. She stated that their children deserve to be full-fledged citizens in the PVPUSD. She acknowledged PVPUSD Superintendent Tobin’s concerns about overcrowding, and indicated that she was surprised to find when they first sent their children to PVPUSD schools that at least half of the children in her son’s kindergarten class came from Eastview. She stated that every Eastview child that she knows that is elementary school age attends Dapplegrey Elementary School and not one Eastview parent she knows has chosen to send their children to the LAUSD elementary school in their neighborhood, which she found to be very telling. She underscored that, like her, all of the young parents that recently purchased home in the Eastview area, did so specifically for the opportunity to send their children to PVPUSD schools. She stated that she is quite certain that she could fill the Council Chambers with parents for whom this is a major issue and concern.
Mayor Wolowicz asked for clarification as to whether the property tax assessment for public schools paid by Eastview residents goes to LAUSD.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that is the case.
Mayor Wolowicz asked, if Eastview residents elect to send their children to a PVPUSD school, whether there is any transfer of compensation from the LAUSD to the PVPUSD.
Councilman Stern clarified that all school property tax revenue is filtered through Sacramento and is then reallocated to individual school districts. He stated that the process is more complicated than he is describing, but there is essentially a per student amount paid to each school district, so that when the student enrolls in the PVPUSD, the tax dollars follow that student to the school district where they are enrolled. He pointed out that it is a misstatement to say that the school property tax dollars that are paid by the residents who live in Eastview go to the LAUSD if their children attend school in the PVPUSD. He noted, however, that the bonded indebtedness and any parcel tax would be paid into the LAUSD, but that that is a relatively small portion of the tax revenue. In light of these complexities, Councilman Stern suggested that the City needed to develop a well thought out plan that had a significant potential for success, as opposed to coming out with a hastily prepared placeholder.
Councilman Gardiner said that he would probably favor Councilman Stern’s position on this matter if it were the first time Council was hearing about the issue, but he pointed out that this issue already has a ten-year history, and he believes that the solution lies in formulating the proper strategy. He acknowledged that the biggest stumbling block was the issue of the two LAUSD schools that are located in Rancho Palos Verdes. He opined that if the solution includes a provision to allow these two schools to remain with LAUSD, the tax revenue LAUSD would stand to lose would be insignificant because its budget is so astronomical. He stated that because approximately 1,000 Eastview students already attend PVPUSD schools, he does not think there will be a significant increase in the number of new students migrating to PVPUSD schools from Eastview. He stated that if every piece of legislation that was put in as a placeholder had to be well thought out and finally crafted, most of it would not get in the hopper in the first place. He opined that it behooves the City to try to seize the moment and put a placeholder in for consideration, because, if nothing else, it would give the issue a visibility and priority that might not be there if the option is chosen to pause and reflect.
Mayor Wolowicz summarized that the proposal currently being contemplated would modify the boundary between the two school districts so that only the residential areas would be transferred from LAUSD to PVPUSD, leaving the two LAUSD schools as “islands” surrounded by the PVPUSD. He asked what that would change for the Eastview residents if this change were made in the school district boundaries.
Council member Gardiner said that the students who reside in Rancho Palos Verdes would be able to rely on the fact that they can attend school the PV Unified School District. He indicated that it could be crafted in a particular way, Eastview residents could also be given the option of their children attending school in the LAUSD in order to allow them maximum choice while permanently protecting their ability to send their children to PVPUSD schools. He pointed out that the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) revenue would migrate with the student to whichever school district they attended and that most of this revenue is already going to the PVPUSD. He summarized that the primary issues are the ADA, the LAUSD schools sites and the bond measure/parcel tax revenues that would need to be sorted out. He reiterated that any revenues lost from LAUSD would be a miniscule percentage in comparison to its overall budget.
Mayor Wolowicz asked if there is a particular reason for using the City Council forum to draft the legislation, noting that there are both blessings and frustrations in watching legislation evolve.
Councilman Clark stated that, as the primary advocate of the proposed placeholder legislation, he saw the process as fundamentally working with the stakeholders in an effort to get more accomplished. He stated that City Council has a responsibility to do right by the residents, which means that the needs of the Eastview area should be considered equally with the needs of the other portions of the City. He noted that the Eastview residents are not currently equal in terms of participation in the local school district and that this situation should be corrected. He opined that the situation is not analogous to the City of Torrance breaking away from LAUSD, but is instead a situation of taking an annexed portion of the City and making it whole in terms of its residents. He stated that he has always advocated working cooperatively with the other agencies on the Peninsula to accomplish common goals, but that in this situation, the Council needs to be the one to start the process and that it is time to do so. He emphasized that all that is being discussed is draft language to get the process started, which will then allow the stakeholders to work through the issues that will come up along the way until something is developed that works well. He said that he saw no embarrassment in withdrawing the proposal at some point in the future if it does not work, but did not find that delaying the start for another year was a responsible thing to do considering that there is an Assembly member who was willing to receive the City’s draft language and get the process started.
Mayor Wolowicz asked Councilman Clark that if the City put forward the proposed legislation and a majority of the residents in Eastview expressed opposition to the concept, would he be prepared to withdraw his support for the proposal.
Councilman Clark indicated that he would withdraw his support if the majority of Eastview residents were not in favor of the proposal, however, he explained that if the PVPUSD Board opposed the concept, he would not abandon it on that issue along because he does not believe that the PVPUSD Board should be the gatekeeper on this issue and that the residents of Eastview deserve the same rights as residents in any part of the City.
Mayor Pro Tem Long noted that Mayor Wolowicz has posed a hypothetical question that is not before the Council at this point, but if it comes up, it can be addressed at that time. He stated that he was inclined to support Councilman Clark’s proposal to get the process started and if the residents of Eastview were to come forward in droves and persuade the Council that the majority of them were opposed to it, then certainly it would be withdrawn. He also pointed out the possibility that the legislation could be changed or amended during the process such that the City would no longer wish to support it. He stated that if the PVPUSD opposed it, the reasons for the opposition would be looked at. He added that, in a perfect world, the PVPUSD Board would take leadership on this issue, although fundamentally it is not an issue of how the PVPUSD Board is run or how the children are being educated, but which school district the Eastview residents find themselves in, which is similar to which law enforcement agency or fire district residents find themselves in.
Councilman Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to direct the City staff and City Attorney to prepare draft legislation to be introduced by Assembly member Karnette that would place the residential portions of the Eastview area in Rancho Palos Verdes into the boundaries of the Palos Verdes Unified School District and that the draft legislation be provided to Senator Karnette’s office in time to meet the Legislative Counsel’s deadline of January 27, 2006 for first review.
Mayor Wolowicz asked, given the short amount of time remaining before the January 27th deadline, if there would be an opportunity for the draft language of the proposal to be reviewed by the entire Council at a meeting.
City Attorney Lynch responded that Council could call a special meeting for that purpose.
Councilman Clark stated that he was comfortable allowing the City Attorney and staff prepare the draft language, but suggested that if the rest of the Council is not comfortable with that approach, that an ad hoc subcommittee could be appointed to review the draft legislation or a special meeting of the Council could be held prior to the submittal deadline.
Councilman Gardiner suggested that because Assembly member Karnette had shown interest in the legislation, the City Attorney could provide the draft language to Assembly member Karnette’s office for feedback prior to it being submitted to Legislative Counsel.
Mayor Pro Tem Long pointed out that because the language can be amended as it moved through the process, it was highly likely that it will be brought to the Council in any event. He did not see the need for an ad hoc committee in this instance and favored allowing the City Attorney and staff to draft the language and submitting it to the state on the City’s behalf.
The motion carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Clark, Long, Gardiner
Based on the number of speakers waiting to address Item No. 21 (Status Report Regarding Construction Issues at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive), Council decided to take this item ahead of the next public hearing, Item No. 20 (Revision to Height Variation No. 884 and Grading Permit No. 2154).
REGULAR NEW BUSINESS:
Status Report Regarding Construction Issues at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive (310)
Councilman Gardiner explained that he had met with about 30 of the residents who were concerned about this project and taken their concerns about the project and distilled them into questions that could be answered. He indicated that the issues concern the project itself, the City procedures, and whether the staff properly interpreted or followed the City procedures and the City communicated effectively with the residents. He stated that an umbrella question is whether the City has adequate procedures in place to deal with a project of the magnitude of 2 Yacht Harbor Drive. Based on his understanding, Councilman Gardiner indicated that the issues have boiled down to grading and landscaping. He suggested two options for Council to consider: 1) Sending the project back to the Planning Commission to look for ambiguities, but noted that if it is sent back without proper justification, the City could be sued and would probably lose; or 2) The experience could be subjected to some sort of neutral fact finding effort to sort out the facts and determine if the City’s procedures are adequate. Regarding the latter option, he stated that In his opinion the City Council is not a very good forum for the kind of discussions that need to take place and suggested that a Council subcommittee or a neutral third party would be more appropriate, so that if there are systemic things wrong with the procedures in place for this kind of project, the City can identify what can be learned from it and what remedies might be implemented. He asked whether there is anything related to this particular project that needs to be resolved and whether at this late date those issues are still resolvable. He indicated that the final issue is whether there is anything that can be done to avoid similar problems with like projects in the future.
Councilman Stern stated that he found Councilman Gardiner’s comments helpful, but noted his understanding that once a project goes through the City’s approval process and a permit is issued, the owner has the legal right to build pursuant to the permit. He stated that this particular project went through that process from beginning to end and the City has no opportunity at this time to modify its course unless the applicant is not complying with the conditions of approval. He agreed, however, that there is a question as to what can be done better on the front end when an individual walks in with a project and the City begins to evaluate it. He stated that it is important to separate the legislative process, which is obviously a function of state law giving it the framework that must be lived within, from using this as a tool to analyze whether the City’s procedures are working well or can be improved. He noted that this outcome would be devoid of the merits of whatever disputes the residents may have with this particular project, while also being devoid of the same time constraints of a project that is actively under construction. He agreed that if someone is building in a way that is not in compliance with the permit, that issue must be addressed in a timely fashion or it is water under the bridge. He said that from his perspective it is important to separate these two issues - whether this is a tool by which to examine systems to try to improve them or an issue of non-compliance with this specific permit. He indicated that both can be done, but in his view it should not be done together because one is a legislative action, and the other is quasi-judicial, and they should not be mixed together. He asked for clarity on what was trying to be achieved because this agenda item was being presented to Council as an informational item.
Councilman Gardiner pointed out that what the City might want to do to modify the existing procedures rise from the fact surrounding this particular project. He gave the example of what is meant by restoring the property to “original grade” when how that is defined differs between what the staff has told the adjacent residents and what the Planning Commission required of the applicant. He indicated that is was difficult for him to read the staff report and determine whether the current project is in compliance with the permit issued, as the information presented relies on facts that are not clear.
Councilman Stern responded that he hoped that there is no ambiguity between what residents are told by staff and what the permit requires, but stated that it is the permit that would control the standard of compliance to which the project would be held accountable. He stated that the project’s compliance is measured against the permit that was issued, not what the residents think they were told about it.
Mayor Pro Tem Long pointed out that this is the fifth status report that has been provided to Council regarding this project, and stated that it is his opinion that if there are disputed facts, the City Council meeting is not the forum at which to conduct essentially a trial to resolve those disputes. He stated that either the permit that was issued to Mr. Johnson is being complied with or it is not, and noted that staff has repeatedly told Council that the permit is being complied with. He pointed out that, nonetheless, in an effort to accommodate the adjacent resident’s concerns, staff has negotiated with Mr. Johnson to obtain from him addition concessions beyond what the permit requires. He observed that the residents seem to interpret that those additional concessions are now obligations that Mr. Johnson has to demonstrate. He noted that although the residents are disappointed that more cannot be done, what they do not understanding is that Mr. Johnson’s rights are measured by the permit. He stated that if there seems to be a credible case that the permit is being violated, the matter can be put on the Council’s agenda for action and City Council could then explore with the City Attorney what the remedies are available if a violation is found. He recalled that the Planning Commission this approved project by a vote of 6-0 and stated that he now regrets having voted for it when he served on that body with the conditions that were attached to the permit, but noted that this is of no particular consequence with respect to whether or not the permit is being complied with. He said that he is not convinced that the issue of whether or not the permit is being violated is an issue that is worthy of more staff time or the Council’s time at all. He stated that he is, however, convinced that the issue of conditions attached to permits is worthy of more time, either by the Planning Commission or through a Council subcommittee.
Councilman Clark said that he tends to agree with Mayor Pro Tem Long on this subject. He recalled that there have been previous cases that have become illustrative of things that can be improved in the City’s processes and Development Code. He observed that joint workshops between Council and the Planning Commission have been used to deal with these types of issues in the past. In addition, he agrees with the premise that if there are violations to the permit for 2 Yacht Harbor Drive and to the conditions of that permit, they either stand or fall based upon the facts in evidence, but are not something that Council can deal with at this moment given that this agenda item is only a status report. He noted that if violations exist, the matter needs to be added to a future agenda and dealt with either at the City Council or Planning Commission level.
Mayor Wolowicz commented that he had also met with the adjacent residents to hear their concerns, but said that Councilman Gardiner has done a far more thorough job of articulating their concerns and trying to deal with the points that were brought up. He noted that Councilman Stern also did a very good job in separating the issues so that Council could understand them succinctly. He stated that in his view there are three points to consider: 1) whether the specific grade measurements are correct; 2) whether or not the City’s system, codes or building standards are flawed; and 3) whether or not there were staff errors committed. He said that he welcomes the opportunity to hear these items and have them surfaced. He observed that Mr. Johnson has the right to build his project because the City has given him the necessary approvals to proceed, but that he has doubts as to whether the City has the right measurements and other information to determine whether or not what he is doing was originally supposed to be done. He stated that he is still waiting for more information from the staff report on this item. He indicated that the remaining issue is whether or not the system is flawed and needs to be fixed to preclude this kind of situation from coming back for multiple considerations.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Wolowicz recessed the meeting at 11:17 p.m. and reconvened the meeting at 11:21 p.m.
Mayor Wolowicz asked for a brief summary report regarding the project’s status.
Director Rojas explained that while construction on the project is nearly complete, the building permits expire on February 20th. He reported that the applicant has started to call for final inspection on certain Building and Safety Division items, which will start a whole chain of events where staff will go to the property and make sure all of the Planning Division’s conditions were met. He stated that one outstanding item is the re-certification of the finished grade of the rock mesa, which still has not been submitted by the property owner. He indicated that once this document is submitted to the City, it will be evaluated and a determination made as to whether the certification is accurate. In answer to a question from Mayor Wolowicz, he indicated that he felt had adequate time to complete the required inspections of the property before the expiration of the project’s building permits.
Councilman Clark said that it is his recollection that if concerns still remained after the applicant’s civil engineer re-certifies the final grade of the rock mesa, the Council would offer the adjacent residents the opportunity to have the area independently reviewed at their own expense.
Director Rojas confirmed that that is still a potential, although he did not recall having received any e-mails from residents stating that is their intent.
Councilman Gardiner referred to the fence and the shrubbery that was supposed to have been planted along Palos Verdes Drive South and asked whether the property owner had decided not to plant the shrubbery so that the fence will meet the City’s 80% “light and air” requirement.
Director Rojas said that after concerns were raised about the fence, staff asked the property owner to redesign it such that the spacing of the pickets would be further apart. He confirmed that the City Code requirement is for 80% light and air passage through a fence and that, as modified, staff recalculated the new fence as allowing 84% light and air passage. He also commented that the new fence is further away from the street than the existing chain link fence, and that for most of its length, the fence is below the street grade, except the rock mesa area. He reported that because the adjacent neighbors expressed concern that a 1 foot high hedge next to the fence would impair views, staff requested that the property owner locate the fence such that its base is at least a foot below the top of the street grade so that if vegetation does grow to a foot in height along the bottom of the fence, it will not be higher than the adjoining street elevation.
Councilman Gardiner referred to an email included in the Council’s agenda packet and asked whether requesting the property owner to return the grade down to the pre-existing level was a bit optimistic on the part of the City.
Director Rojas agreed that in hindsight it was optimistic. He explained that there is an approved plan attached to the permit for the project, which encompasses all of the work that was permitted to occur on the property. He noted that while the plan shows the layout of the house, it also shows how the private road was to be realigned and how the rock mesa would be graded. He indicated that what the e-mails included in the agenda packet represent is a time when residents came to staff and said that the level of the rock mesa had been graded up and as such was impairing their view. He explained that rather than telling thirty angry residents that the project was approved that way and there was nothing that could be done, staff’s reaction was to tell the residents that it would approach the landowner and see what could be done to address the issue. He said that, at the time, he felt that the area could be lowered to pre-existing grade, which was optimistic because the City has legal authority to compel the property owner to do so. He noted that while the permit required one thing, the City staff was attempting to get a better result for the neighbors.
City Attorney Lynch recalled that there was a concern with lowering the grade too far, because that would interfere with the storm drain and the surface drainage off the rock mesa.
Director Rojas indicated that the project engineer had indicated during the discussion that he thought the grade could be lowered, but in the final analysis he determined that it could only be partially lowered so as not to interfere with positive drainage off of the rock mesa.
Councilman Clark recalled that during a site visit to the property, he looked at where the existing fence was at the time; where the property line was for placement of the new fence; and a sample section of the new fence. He indicated that it was clear at that time that at least a portion of the 1,300-foot length of the fence would be significantly lower in elevation than the existing fence, which would improve views along the roadway. He noted that driving by the property, it was evident to him that this is exactly what has occurred with the installation of the new fence.
Director Rojas explained that when the fence diagram was first submitted to the City, staff performed a quick calculation and determined that it allowed the passage of 79.8% light and air, which was considered to meet the 80% requirement. He indicated that one of the residents did a more precise calculation estimating that if the one-foot of vegetation at the base of the fence is factored in, the 80% requirement is not being met. He said that although the City found that the original fence met the 80% requirement, staff approached the property owner and asked him to increase the spacing between the pickets in order to satisfy the neighbor’s concern. In answer to another question from Mayor Pro Tem Long, Director Rojas indicated that there are no conditions on the property known to be in violation of the conditions of the permit.
Joe Lindorffer, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that he was an adjacent neighbor and reported that in a meeting with Councilman Gardiner, about 13 residents expressed concern about the fence even though it had been re-designed. He showed Council a two-dimensional picture of the fence, and indicated that based on the calculation of the face area, the design allowed 84% light and air to pass through. He pointed out, however, that the fence is really a three-dimensional object, and using a slide presentation, he illustrated that when viewed at an angle, the fence pickets appear to be wider, due to the depth of the pickets. He indicated that he had calculated the additional blockage cause by this phenomenon and that it reduced the openness of the fence to about 77% over the full field of view. He explained that his effect is compounded when viewed along the entire length of the fence and suggested that the two-dimensional evaluation of a single section of fence does not show what the full impact of the three-dimensional fence is on a viewer. He further suggested possibly requiring fences to use triangular-shaped pickets as a way to counteract this visual effect.
Director Rojas said that the 80% light and air requirement is very difficult to explain to both residents and applicants alike. He indicated that the City staff has uniformly applied that standard two-dimensionally, on a cross-sectional basis.
Mayor Pro Tem Long noted that, while it might not be practical to do the level of calculation that Mr. Lindorffer prepared, this is probably the first time the issue has come up in terms of the length of the fence creating the described three-dimensional effect. He asked if there were ways, without necessarily departing from the two-dimensional calculation, to effectively change the requirements based on the length of the fence.
Cathy French, Rancho Palos Verdes, commented that she has been told two different things about the issuance of a permit regarding the height of trees and vegetation on the subject property. She said that she had first been told that a permit could not be issued until a resident has trimmed their trees, and then she was also told that a permit could not be finalized unless trees were trimmed. She requested that before this project is finalized someone from the City staff actually walks the property to insure that the owner has adhered to the height restrictions that are applied to every other property owner in the City.
Councilman Clark asked staff if Ms. French might be referring to vegetation located on some land that was deed by the property owner at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive to the Portuguese Bend Club and, if so, how this might effect the trimming of any foliage that is impairing views.
Director Rojas said that there have been a couple of different landscaping plans associated with the project that have been reviewed at the staff level. He indicated that in August 2005, he reviewed a landscaping plan with the residents to understand their issues and concerns before he approved the revised plan and at that time the residents asked if the trees located adjacent to the gatehouse parking lot were to be trimmed. He determined that the trees in question were not addressed in the original permit for the new construction and told the adjacent residents that he would try to include a condition to address these trees as part of his approval of the landscape plan. He reported that the property owner has granted an easement to the Portuguese Bend Club over the parking lot area where the subject trees are located. He explained that the City Attorney advised staff that the property owner could not be compelled to trim the trees as a condition of the landscaping plan and because the easement has been granted, the responsibility for the trees rests with the organization to whom that easement has been granted. He acknowledged that staff simply missed these trees when reviewing the application five years earlier. He indicated that the Portuguese Bend Club is planning to trim the trees, but if the trees are not trimmed and the residents feel the trees are negatively impacting their views, they can pursue the remedies under the City’s View Restoration Ordinance. He noted that Council would have the authority to waive application fees under that ordinance.
Councilman Gardiner asked whether the City normally requires trees that are blocking the view to be trimmed before a permit is issued to begin construction.
Director Rojas confirmed that it is usually a condition of approval for a project.
Councilman Gardiner asked, even if the Planning Commission misses including it as a condition of the project, if the requirement is still part of the City’s Ordinances and can be invoked independently.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that the City’s Ordinance requires any foliage that significantly impairs a view to be eliminated before the issuance of the building permit. She explained that it is routinely added as a condition so that it is clear to the applicant that it has to be complied with, but unfortunately, it was not added as a condition of approval in this case, making it much more difficult to enforce. She noted that if it were not for the conveyance of the easement to the Portuguese Bend Club in the meantime, the City would have had an argument that there is required Code compliance.
Councilman Gardiner observed that the City missed addressing the issue as a condition of the project and then missed picking it up as an enforcement item before that portion of the property was conveyed to the Portuguese Bend Club in the form of an easement.
As an aside, Mayor Pro Tem Long encouraged Mr. Lindorffer to give a copy of his presentation and calculations regarding the fence to staff for further study.
Lenee Bilski, Rancho Palos Verdes, commented that the basic questions are what was approved, when it was approved and who approved it. She asserted that there are errors and contradictions in the staff status report as well as in the comments being made at this meeting. She stated that the adjacent residents have never objected to the house itself, but to the new issues that came up since the Planning Commission hearings, namely the extensive grading, which created an artificial hill blocking their view of the coastline and a massive stone-cutting operation. She indicated that the staff did hear from the residents about issue of re-certifying the grading permit and that there were e-mails back and forth during the previous summer regarding the rights of the residents to ask for the re-grading of the rock mesa, which is contrary to what has been said in this meeting.
Referring to a site plan that had been provided to the City Council, Ms. Bilski indicated that when the project was before the Planning Commission, the residents had difficulty viewing the plans at City Hall and the property owner provided the residents with a complete set of plans for their review, which were presumably the same plans that were given to the Planning Commission. She stated that a blue line on the site plan represents the natural drainage course on the property that cut what is now called the “rock mesa” in half. She reported that this drainage course was filled in when the storm drain was installed, but the grading extended far beyond what was necessary for the installation of the storm drain. She asked if there were any indications of contour changes on the rock mesa at that time and speculated that if it is what was presented to the Planning Commissioners, they would not have known that the elevation was going to be raised four feet, thereby blocking the view of the coastline for many residents. She stated that when the grading resulted in the excavated dirt being piled up and blocking the residents’ view, staff said there was significant view impact, and that according to the criteria for the grading plans there should be no significant view impairment. While she noted that this situation has been fixed, in the process of fixing it, the direction given to the property owner to restore the rock mesa to the pre-existing status, which has not been done. She reported that instead, the applicant came back with a plan that only partially restored the view, and the residents were told that it was a construction staging area and later on may be lowered, which did not happen.
Ms. Bilski reported that Councilman Clark met with some of the residents on site regarding the issue and suggested that the residents continue to work with staff and the property owner to see what could be done to address their issues. She reported that another meeting was held with a few representatives from the adjacent neighborhood along with the City staff and the property owner’s engineer. She indicated that the residents left this meeting thinking that the grade elevation of the rock mesa was going to be lowered, however, staff approved the plan without any changes the very next day and did not notify the residents. She indicated that they did not know that there is a provision within the Code stating that any decision of the Director is appealable and noted that the residents could have appealed the approval of the revised grading plan had they know that it was approved by the staff. On the other hand, the grading involved 1,900 cubic yards of earth, and in the code a minor grading is considered 50 cubic yards or less. Were it considered major grading, there would be a substantial change to the project in which case it says in the resolution and in the conditions that any substantive change needs to be reviewed by the board that passed it, which is the Planning Commission.
Ms. Bilski indicated that the adjacent residents would like their views restored with respect to both the grading and foliage. She stated that the City should not have rules for some and different rules for others. She said that another issue in the staff status report that is in conflict with what the residents have been told concerns the grading plan that went to the Building Department for approval. She questioned, if the storm drain grading plan went to the Building Department for approval, why the Planning Commission did not approve the storm drain. She concluded by stating that the residents have a lot of questions, and they are always hopeful to get answers, but they only seem to end up with more questions.
Eric Johnson, property owner of 2 Yacht Harbor Drive, implored the Council to bifurcate this process. He stated that he and his family are feeling very harassed. He stated that he is not aware that he has done anything wrong and if he has, he wanted to know exactly what it was that is at issue. He stated that they went through the City’s permit process, received the necessary approvals, submitted plans to the City, which were stamped as approved, and then they built their house based on those approved plans. He indicated that they should not be expected to do anything more than they are currently. He observed that they are scheduled to call for final inspections, yet are facing the prospect of being sent before the Planning Commission by the City Council. He asked the Council why this was being done and how it was fair. He said that he found it to be quite inequitable and noted that he and his family does not need to be involved in reforming the City’s processes. He asked the Council to allow him to finish his project. Mr. Johnson pointed out that he has gone out of his way to be a good neighbor, even moving 1,900 cubic yards of dirt that he did not have to move, but he understood that the neighbors were upset and he tried to craft a solution with the City staff that would address the neighbor’s issues. He said that the area immediately adjacent to the entrance to the rock mesa was increased by approximately four feet, but that it is also true that it was graded down between 6 and 13 feet in the area immediately south of that, which was part of the rock mesa prior to cutting the road in. He pointed out that in order to restore the original grade, this area would have to be filled back in and the people whose views were improved by the cutting of the road certainly would not be happy if the grade was restored in that area. Mr. Johnson asserted that he never made the statement that the rock mesa would be taken back to pre-existing grade and instead his objective was to restore as much view as possible while still maintaining the hydraulic soundness of the area.
Mr. Johnson said that he does not understand why he seems to be operating under the presumption of guilt, as he has done nothing but work with the residents, City staff and City Council to make a good faith effort to address every issue that was raised to the greatest extent possible. He said that he has been accused of illegal activity, and countered that no illegal activity has in fact occurred. He said that the he has been told the City’s requirements and he has built to them. He concluded by saying that he could talk about a host of other issues, but that he would like to simply get the project done.
Councilman Gardiner stated that he did not want Mr. Johnson to feel that his questions were aimed at him. He clarified that his questions were aimed at the apparent problems in the City’s permit system and that he is trying to determine what changes can be made so that the City is smarter going forward.
Mr. Johnson reminded the Council about the context in which the project was approved, in that the City had previously approved and he had an active track map as a residential developer for a ten-home subdivision totaling just shy of 70,000 square feet of new residential construction. He noted that his single family residence was approved by the Planning Commission in two meetings and was not appealed by any of the neighbors or the Coastal Commission, and the reason was that it was a good trade over the ten lot subdivision and at that time his project enjoyed broad community support. He opined that he has become the victim of his own willingness to enter into dialog with the neighbors to address their needs and this process has emboldened them and they have subsequently mischaracterized it. He asserted that the neighbors are using the City Council to impose their issues on the project. Mr. Johnson pointed out that he has also removed all the telephone poles and overhead utilities on the property, which has improved everyone’s views, yet the adjacent residents are focusing on a small amount of view impairment while ignoring the view enhancement this project has afforded them.
Mr. Johnson said that he would be willing to participate in a discussion addressing the City’s procedures and stressed the need for flexibility because being able to foresee what is going to cause problems down the road is very difficult. He said that the adjacent neighbors should not condemn Director Rojas for his efforts because he was actually their champion in negotiating with him to lower the grades to the greatest extent possible while the grading equipment was on site.
Mayor Pro Tem Long, reiterating that he was on the Planning Commission at the time this project was first approved, said that the only issue that resonated with him was neighborhood compatibility and that this experience has suggested to him that this project may not have been compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. That said, his indicated that his memory is consistent with Mr. Johnson’s regarding the prior tract approvals and circumstances. He said that in the process of crafting the conditions for the project, however, one set of expectations were created on Mr. Johnson’s part and another set of expectations were created on the part of the neighbors, which included wishes, wants and desires in their minds that stemmed from what they felt were commitments by staff or obligations under the City’s ordinances. He observed that because those expectations diverged and the memory of the prior circumstances was set aside, the result was the current mess. He said that he has not heard anything that merits Mr. Johnson taking any further action to respond to the neighbor’s concerns. He stated that he welcomed Mr. Johnson’s input, however, on how the process can be improved so avoid the types of problems that have plagued this project from being repeated in the future.
In regard to neighborhood compatibility, Mr. Johnson pointed out that, like his project, the prior project was also considered to be a neighborhood in and of itself with ten homes of 6,000 to 7,000 square feet each. He said that he saw a better outcome for himself and for the community to proceed with the current project. Having said that, he pointed out that his expectations are finite, definite and well defined, but the community member’s expectations are what they heard or remembered and that those two sets of expectations do not have the same weight in that one has a much higher level of precision than the other.
Councilman Clark asked for the status of the civil engineer’s re-certification of the rock mesa.
Mr. Johnson explained that it seemed prudent to resurvey the entire project in anticipation of continued hyper scrutiny by the adjacent neighbors, even though it will lengthen the process of obtaining his final permits.
Councilman Clark asked when Mr. Johnson anticipates that the project will be completed.
Mr. Johnson said they are currently calling for final inspection and had the first walk through with the Building and Safety Division that same day. He indicated that another inspection is scheduled for the next day and the plan is to have all the inspections accomplished by the end of the month. He noted that the structural work is completed and about 99% of the landscaping is finished.
Councilman Stern concurred with the comments of Mayor Pro Tem Long in that if there were violations of conditions, they would be identified, the evidence set forth and everyone would understand what is being dealt with. He said that he has not seen any or heard of any, and that it is important to separate out the role of the City Council. He said that as far as he is concerned, this project should proceed through the normal process with the Planning Department and that the issue of how projects are processed and the conditions that are imposed really needs to be divorced from this current project. He indicated that if the City’s procedures are to be revisited, it should be done six to eight months from now because the issues can better be addressed when this project is finished rather than if it is done when people think the rules are able to be rewritten for this project. He stated that when the government writes rules, establishes conditions and issues permits to individuals, they have every right to expect that they will be followed. He stated that, if a post-construction grade was established for the rock mesa and then staff allowed the applicant to reduce that grade because the resident’s concerns, he did not understand why any resident would appeal it when Mr. Johnson, though not obligated to reduce it, agreed to do so and staff approved it. He said that he found this notion illogical and added that people are entitled to expect the government to follow the rules and abide by the conditions that they themselves have established. He stated that it was his opinion that the City needed to allow this project to proceed through the normal process, examine the processes used at a later time to determine whether they could be improved, but not punish the individual who has followed the City’s rules.
Mayor Pro Tem Long endorsed what Councilman Stern said, and stated that the project should not come back to Council again unless there is evidence of a violation of a permit condition that should be brought to its attention. He said that he did not in any way mean to suggest that there was anything wrong with Mr. Johnson’s expectations. He observed that requiring individuals to come back to the City multiple times when all they are doing is building according to an approved set of plans and a permit with conditions, and is not seeking modification or revisions to the project, gives the appearance that the City’s permits are subject to negotiation as time goes on and are dependent on the reactions of the neighbors. He advocated receiving and filing the staff report, then coming back in three months or so through the context of the Planning Commission or a Council subcommittee to review the lessons learned from this experience, and allowing this project to be completed without further delay.
Councilman Gardiner said that he agreed with Councilman Stern and Mayor Pro Tem Long. He said that he was not in favor of changing the rules of the game once a decision has been made, but that he had a sense that something clouded what was going on in this particular instance because it is not normal for a group of residents to be so concerned about a new house under construction. He said that the suggestion to wait to take a look at the processes is fine, as long as the analysis is actually done and not forgotten.
Mayor Wolowicz stated that at a prior meeting there were action items identified that were measurable and needed to be addressed. He asked staff to confirm the status of the grading on the rock mesa, both in terms of the height of the rock mesa and the amount of graded material deposited.
Director Rojas responded that staff is still awaiting the re-certification report to determine the final height of the rock mesa as compared with the approved plan, but that it will not address the amount of graded material that has been placed on that portion of the site.
Mayor Wolowicz asked whether the debris on the rock mesa had been removed and whether the height of the landscaping on the rock mesa had been determined.
Director Rojas responded that Mr. Johnson indicated earlier that all of the debris on the rock mesa was in the process of being removed. Regarding the landscaping on the rock mesa, he confirmed that the height of the vegetation can be measured and that there is a condition of approval that requires the property owner to plant grass on this portion of the property and to mow it on a quarterly basis to a maximum height of six inches.
Mayor Wolowicz asked about the status of trees near the parking lot area near the gatehouse and the fence along Palos Verdes Drive South.
Director Rojas responded that this issue regarding the trees is being addressed by the Portuguese Bend Club and that the fence now meets the City’s current standards. He stated that the issue about the view being impaired by the fence when looked at from an oblique angle is not contemplated and would require an amendment to the City’s Code.
Councilman Clark concurred with his colleagues that the City needs to allow this project to move on.
Mayor Pro Tem Long moved, seconded by Councilman Clark, to receive and file the report on the status of construction issues for the project at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive and to direct staff to bring back a report on lessons learned from this project and possible amendments to code and procedures at a future City Council/Planning Commission joint workshop.
Without objection to the motion, Mayor Wolowicz so ordered.
Case No. ZON2004-00409 (Revision to Height Variation No. 884 and Grading Permit No. 2154), Sal Ahamed, 6270 Ocean Terrace Drive [Continued from November 1, 2005] (1804 x 1411)
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru indicated that this public hearing was continued from the City Council meeting of November 1st; that there is late correspondence from Gary Weber, representing Jim York on this item; and there are two requests to speak.
Senior Planner Schonborn indicated that at the November 1st meeting, the applicant presented certain modifications to the project that would render a tract amendment unnecessary and eliminating the need to redesign the trail along the rear of the property. He stated that staff has reviewed the revised plans, which include an addition to the first floor along the rear facade, removal of ten feet of the balcony as directed by Council, and removing some vertical support columns. He stated that staff believes the revisions are consistent with all of the required findings for the previous applications and as such recommends that City Council approve the proposed modifications with conditions.
In response to a question from Councilman Stern, Mr. Schonborn reported that since the last meeting, he had spoken with Mr. Weber on a couple of occasions regarding the project’s impact on the adjacent property owned by Mr. York, which ultimately led to the letter was distributed at the meeting as late correspondence.
In answer to a follow up question from Councilman Stern, Director Rojas confirmed that the proposed modifications to the residence would allow the property owner with the option of not having to reach a separate agreement with Mr. York.
Sultan Ahamed, applicant, Rancho Palos Verdes, indicated that his son, Minaz Ahamed, would make the presentation to Council to explain all of the changes to the project that were requested by Council and how they have been met. He stated that he would appreciate it if the Council would approval the modifications, so that they can move on with the project after five years.
Minaz Ahamed, Rancho Palos Verdes, explained that they have provided the City will all of the maps and drawings of the proposed modifications that were discussed at the last meeting. He asked that Condition No. 5 of Exhibit A be modified to give the applicant options in the event that Mr. York decides to deny permission to allow grading on his property. Mr. M. Ahamed asked to leave in the reference to “retaining walls” in the condition, but to take out the words “or improvements” because if the grading on the applicant’s property is restored to original topography, a retaining wall will need to be put in place to support the cut, but the trail itself would not be improved as such. He suggested striking the rest of sentence after the words, “…on subject the property” in order to minimize the opportunity for misunderstandings with regard to what will be done to the property.
City Attorney Lynch said that staff did not wish to require the applicant to make additional improvements to the trails, but she suggested that the condition could be modified to read, “…retaining walls or other similar improvements as required by the Public Works Department to ensure that public access through the trail easement on the subject property is safe and usable,” because at the end of the day staff want to ensure that the public can walk safely on the trail on Mr. Ahamed’s property.
Councilman Stern stated that he felt the phrase “…properly designed and functional” should not be removed from the condition.
Mr. M. Ahamed pointed out again that the trail is going to be returned to its original topography, and he did not want that fact to be lost in terms of verbiage. He indicated that as long as it was clear that the original grade was going to be restored on the applicant’s property, he did not have a problem with leaving the language of the condition as proposed by staff.
City Attorney Lynch suggested leaving the language of Condition No. 5 as drafted.
Mayor Pro Tem Long agreed with leaving the condition language as is, provided that it is understood that if the applicant is unable to work out an agreement with Mr. York, the trail will still be restored, but perhaps in not in as optimal a fashion as it might be.
City Attorney Lynch explained that her concern is that a retaining wall would need to be installed to stabilize a four (4) foot cut along the trail if Mr. York does not allow the applicant to grade on his property in order to restore the original topography.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Councilman Gardiner, to accept the staff recommendation.
Mayor Wolowicz closed the public hearing and, without objection, indicated that the motion passed unanimously.
CITY COUNCIL ORAL REPORTS:
Councilman Stern reported that on January 12th he attended the monthly Vector Control District meeting and that the main topic of discussion was the West Nile Virus.
Mayor Pro Tem Long reported that he attended the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum and heard Councilman Alex Padilla speak.
Councilman Clark reported that he attended the California Contract Cities Conference in Sacramento and that on January 9th and report on meetings with Assemblywoman Karnette, Senator Lowenthal, and the Senate Majority Leader Perata, as well as a very constructive meeting with the League of California Cities staff, which included Executive Director Chris McKenzie. He reported that they discussed the three infrastructure bond proposals that are currently in the news including the one offered by the governor, the Assembly’s AB1783 offered by the speaker and Senate Bill 1024 sponsored by Senator Perata. He reported that the previous Friday, he participated in the California Coastal Commission meeting held in San Pedro, although there were no topics germane to the peninsula on the agenda.
Councilman Clark reported that on January 6th, he and Councilman Stern attended the League of California Cities Los Angeles Division dinner meeting, at which League President Alex Padilla spoke regarding the governor’s state of the state address and the infrastructure bond initiative. He reported that during the Selection Committee meeting, they voted to give current Los Angeles Council member Jan Perry another term as the SCAQMD representative and indicated that she is committed to continuing to work to provide a separate seat on the board for the 24 cities besides the City of Los Angeles that are part of the region.
Councilman Gardiner reported that the Cable Committee met since the last Council meeting and that Channel 33 is progressing very well since.
Mayor Wolowicz reported that on December 21st he attended the Mayor’s Lunch with the mayors of neighboring cities and the PVPUSD School Board President. He mentioned that Councilman Clark also attended that meeting. He indicated that the other attendees expressed interest in helping with fundraising for the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, and that presentations will be made to their respective councils/board on this topic.
On January 22nd Mayor Wolowicz reported meeting with Marshall Esfahani and Steve Kuykendall regarding a possible project on Western Avenue to replace an existing hotel with a residential condominium project. He reported that the developer was interested in including affordable housing units in the project that would help the City meet its state requirements for providing low and moderate income housing.
On January 9th and 10th he along with Councilman Clark, Mayor Pro Tem Long and Assistant City Manager Petru attended the California Contract Cities annual legislative visit in Sacramento. He reported that he attended meetings with Assemblywoman Karnette, Senator Lowenthal, Senator Vincent’s staff director, Assemblyman Ted Lieu and the City’s lobbyist Joe Caves.
On January 11th, Mayor Wolowicz chaired the planning meeting for the Palos Verdes Peninsula Transit Authority, and on January 13th, he met with representatives of the Equestrian Committee regarding an item on an upcoming Council meeting.
Mayor Wolowicz reported that he also had two conversations with Mr. Cohen, who owns vacant land at the base of McCarrell Canyon and discussed the City’s interest in acquiring Mr. Cohen’s property for a storm drain repair project.
ITEMS POSTPONED TO SUBSEQUENT MEETING
Due to the lateness of the hour, Council voted unanimously to postpone discussion of the following items to a future agenda:
Preservation of the Equestrian (Q) Overlay District (1808)
Continued this item to February 7, 2006.
FY04-05 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and Independent Auditors’ Report on Compliance and Internal Control (Downs) (602)
Continued this item to February 21, 2006.
Site Drainage Review Procedures for New Construction (1203 x 201)
Continued this item to February 7, 2006.
CLOSED SESSION REPORT:
City Attorney Lynch reported that the Council voted 5-0 to ask Carmiel Cohen to submit a letter within five business days memorializing the agreement that has been reached regarding the purchase of the property on Tarragon Road. She indicated that if Mr. Cohen’s letter is not received within that period, Council authorized the City Attorney to proceed with the filing of an eminent domain action on the subject property. She reported that Council unanimously authorized sending a letter concerning potential price in terms of payment to the owners of the Upper Filiorum property and that no action was taken regarding the case of Monks versus City of Rancho Palos Verdes except that the Council received a status report on the case. She also reported that received a status report on the matter with Clayton Cobb, but that no action was taken.
Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Long, to adjourn the meeting.
Mayor Wolowicz adjourned the meeting at 1:06 a.m. to Tuesday, January 31st at 6:30 p.m. for a closed session meeting.
/s/ Stefan Wolowicz
/s/ Carolynn Petru