RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
AUGUST 15, 2006
The meeting was called to order at 5:00 P.M. by Mayor Wolowicz at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard and was immediately recessed into closed session. The meeting reconvened at 7:00 P.M.
City Council roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Clark, Gardiner, Long, Stern, and Mayor Wolowicz
Also present were City Manager Les Evans, City Attorney Carol Lynch, Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Carolynn Petru, Director of Finance/IT Dennis McLean, Interim Director of Public Works Ray Holland, Director of Planning, Building & Code Enforcement Joel Rojas, Associate Planner Kit Fox and Building Official Roy Bronold.
The Flag Salute was led by Joan Kelly.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Moved by Councilman Gardiner and seconded by Councilman Stern to approve the Agenda. Councilman Clark asked that Future Agenda Items be combined with Council Reports because he had a potential future agenda item that would come up during his Council Oral Report. Hearing no objection, Mayor Wolowicz so ordered the Agenda approved as amended by Councilman Clark.
Mayor Wolowicz reported that the Interim Director of Public Works Ray Holland would be assisting with the Mayor’s Did You Know Facts.
With the aid of slides, Interim Director Holland highlighted the City’s Home Improvement Program. He explained that the City Council has budgeted federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to provide grants and zero percent deferred loans to homeowners of single family detached dwellings to preserve decent, safe and sanitary housing, to correct hazardous structural conditions, to make improvements necessary to eliminate blight, to improve handicapped access and to correct building and health code violations.
Interim Director Holland explained that a grant of $5,000 is available as well as a zero percent deferred loan up to $10,000 which is payable upon the sale or transfer of title of the property. He noted that strict eligibility requirements are set by HUD, that applicants must not exceed low moderate household limits to qualify and that they must make the approved improvements. Interim Director Holland summarized program statistics noting that $110,000 is available for approximately 8 projects for the current 2006-2007 program year and that applications were available from www.palosverdes.com/rpv or by calling (310) 544-5252.
Mayor Wolowicz thanked Interim Director Holland for his presentation.
Councilman Clark pointed out that it was important to remind people about this program and he asked for clarification about the quantification of the funds.
Interim Director Holland explained that the City is allocated CDBG funds based on its population and can use the funds for different community development purposes. He noted that some of the funds would be used for ADA restroom improvements at Fred Hesse Community Park.
Mayor Wolowicz announced that the recyclers of the month from the August 1 meeting were Bill & Judy Henry and Ida Lee Kempler. He indicated that all winners received a check for $250 representing a year of free refuse service and he urged everyone to participate in the City’s recycling program.
Mayor Wolowicz reported that new recycle drawing entry cards had been sent to all residents and anyone who had not received one could contact City Hall for one.
Mayor Wolowicz clarified that this was the time to speak about items not on the agenda.
David McMillan, Rancho Palos Verdes, a long time resident in the area, expressed concern regarding new landslide movement on Narcissa Drive. He had questions on the moratorium and how it might relate to potential new development in the area and suggested putting the item on the agenda for the next meeting.
Councilman Stern asked for clarification on what item would be on the agenda.
Mr. McMillan indicated that he would like to know what the City Geologist, Mr. Lancaster, found when he investigated cracks on Narcissa Drive and how that might impact the moratorium and any potential development in the area.
Mayor Wolowicz acknowledged that there had been much interest in the issue and there is a pending lawsuit involved in Zone 2 in the moratorium area. He added that Council had been discussing the matter in closed session and because of the sensitivity of the issue had to be careful about what was said in open session. He assured Mr. McMillan that the Council was responsive to the concerns of its residents, aware of the issue, and looking for and exploring ways to post information on the City’s website about the issue. He stated that there would be information available by the end of the month and he apologized if any anxiety had been caused by the lack of information, noting that it was an unusual situation.
Mayor Pro Tem Long stated that the report of the City Geologist is public and available to interested parties for review. He indicated that it was not clear what affect there would be on future development as it would be impossible to predict in advance how development applications that have not yet come before Council would be handled.
Mr. McMillan noted that in the absence of information a lot of worry is caused and he expressed concern that decisions were being made that affected people’s lives in the neighborhood.
Mayor Wolowicz acknowledged Mr. McMillan’s concerns.
Mayor Pro Tem Long clarified that Council did not make decisions in private. All decisions have to be announced and made in public, and he noted that it was not a lack of information that created rumors but rather people making assumptions.
Councilman Stern indicated that Council was aware of and eager to eliminate rumor and misinformation as best it could but that this was not a normal situation, and that residents are aware the City is in the midst of litigation and Council does not want to prejudice the potential outcome.
Councilman Gardiner noted that Council had agreed to publish as much as was public on the City’s website and he asked that the City Geologist’s latest report be posted there as well.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that much information was on the website but there were issues being worked out with how to format the depositions in a readable format.
Director McLean explained that the depositions were difficult to read in the current format with four pages displayed in a single view and that staff was looking at alternatives to display them in a more readable fashion.
Councilman Gardiner questioned whether the City had taken the depositions, because if that were the case, they should be available to view one page at a time.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that she did not have that information available.
Mayor Pro Tem Long asserted that the depositions currently in the City’s possession must not be official or certified transcripts and thought that there should be a way to get official transcripts.
Councilman Gardiner wanted to see that information made available to the public as soon as possible.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that the City Geologist’s latest report would be posted as soon as possible.
Councilman Clark acknowledged the resident concerns, assured Mr. McMillan that the City would provide as much information as possible and questioned whether there was a mechanism for the public to provide input to the Council on the item that could be used to the City’s best benefit.
Mr. McMillan reiterated that he felt a public meeting with the item on the agenda would be the best method because it was hard to make a change once a decision has been made by the City and he did not want that to be done without public input.
City Attorney Lynch stated that there was litigation involving individuals who wish to pursue development rights in Zone 2 with a trial date scheduled for September 12, 2006 and a continued mediation hearing scheduled on Saturday, August 19, 2006. She reported that the same individuals have filed 16 applications with the City to develop their properties which are being processed through the usual course and if they decide to go forward, these applications will all be heard in public at a dually noticed Council meeting. She explained that no decisions could be made by the Council except at a dually noticed hearing regarding those applications and everyone would get notice of that and have a chance to present their concerns so that nothing would happen outside the public record with respect to the plaintiff’s individual application.
Mr. McMillan again asked if there was any format to put the item on the agenda.
Mayor Wolowicz felt that would be premature at this stage and indicated that Council was sensitive to correspondence received from the residents but that it wanted to protect against any information being released improperly.
Councilman Clark indicated that Council was looking for the proper forum to share information and pointed out that the Council had been elected to represent the City and he felt confident that the right people were there to sort through and make decisions with the input of the residents. He asked that Mr. McMillan help quell the rumors and misinformation circulating in the neighborhood and assured him that Council would continue to provide information and look for a forum to receive information from residents.
Mayor Pro Tem Long indicated that there would be ample opportunity for public input for any decisions Council made but there were some decisions it could not make as the City is in the midst of a lawsuit and Council could not control decisions made by the court. He added that Council could not hold a general public forum to discuss the City’s strategy for defending itself, but Council would work to defend the City the best that it could.
Mr. McMillan understood that Council could not discuss the case but wanted an opportunity to talk about the recent GPS movement to allay residents’ fears.
Mayor Wolowicz indicated that review of the recent GPS data was in the works but that it would not be possible to present it by the next meeting.
City Attorney Lynch announced that the public would be invited to a Geology Workshop to be held on Saturday, October 7, 2006 to discuss the geology and the new information for the entire landslide area.
Mr. McMillan indicated that residents of the area were sensitive to safety and wanted to ensure that any development was done safely.
Mayor Wolowicz pointed out that safety was very important to everyone.
Councilman Gardiner reported receiving information from time to time from residents of Portuguese Bend, which he always passes on to his colleagues and encouraged everyone to send along information to Council that they felt would be helpful.
Mayor Wolowicz added that the information that had been received had been distributed to the entire Council.
Marianne Hunter, Rancho Palos Verdes, reported attending a community meeting on August 15th where she learned interesting information about the general geology of the area and that it was noted that the trucks taking materials away from the old Marineland property along Palos Verdes Drive South are making houses in the area rumble. She pointed out that the City of Palos Verdes Estates did not allow heavy truck traffic so those trucks have to travel through Rancho Palos Verdes and that this truck traffic is causing Palos Verdes Drive South to deteriorate. She observed that the street had never been in such poor condition and she questioned whether it might be better to have more trucks with smaller loads. She suggested that the City investigate the matter and she expressed concern with what would happen once the cement trucks started coming through and materials were brought in as the cliff that is holding up Palos Verdes Drive is very fragile and she felt it was deteriorating quickly.
Ms. Hunter also suggested that a mechanism be put in place for residents to donate the $250 they win in the recycling drawing back to the City, as most people who live in the City do not need the money.
Mayor Pro Tem Long commented that there was not any special mechanism needed to make a tax-deductible donation to the City and that a specific account could be specified when the donation is made.
Sunshine, Rancho Palos Verdes, noted that there were several actions going on that would affect the names of various geographic landmarks in the City and that the Open Space Planning and Recreation & Parks Task Force had a motion on the table and was still awaiting the Council’s requested staff analysis on this issue. She felt that it would be unfortunate that decisions would be made on naming various locations in the City without any clear direction from the City Council and she offered to provide the names of some of the groups to which she referred.
Mayor Wolowicz asked Sunshine to provide those names to the Council.
CITY COUNCIL ORAL REPORTS/FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:
Councilman Gardiner thanked the residents who take the time to email him, noting that he works to address each email, which he considers to be a form of meeting with residents.
Councilman Clark complimented and thanked City staff for organizing the tour of the Pointe Vicente Interpretive Center with the California Coastal Commission and staff on Thursday, August 10, 2006, noting that it was an opportunity for an important state commission governing 1,200 miles of California coastline to see this major public asset as it was expanded and reopened. He explained that the Commission had met in San Pedro and the tour and reception was co-sponsored by the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy. He indicated that Mayor Wolowicz was out of town for the event so Mayor Pro Tem Long presided in his stead and that much positive feedback was received from those attending. Councilman Clark thanked staff members Ron Rosenfeld, Karen Peterson, Holly Starr, Matt Waters, Carol Preciado, Chris LaFrance, Marcella Lemke, Angela Madrid and Shauna Mosby who all helped organize the event.
Councilman Clark agreed with Councilman Gardiner that in between meetings Council members receive a variety of input from the public through phone calls, emails, and meetings and he commented that there had been a tremendous amount of interest in the flag pole and flag at Trump National Golf Club which was constructed without a permit. He distributed a memorandum he prepared on a proposed solution to this situation and he asked that the matter be agendized for September 5, 2006. He reported informally contacting the Executive Vice President of Trump National to provide an overview of his approach and receiving positive potential support from him and the Trump Organization.
Mayor Pro Tem Long thanked staff and the Coastal Commission for organizing and participating in the reception at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, which he felt to be very worthwhile. He reported meeting with Dr. Brophy, the new President of Marymount College, regarding the impending application to expand their facility and encouraging him to engage in more community outreach.
Mayor Pro Tem Long related that he had met with Rolling Hills Estates Councilmen John Addleman and Frank Zerunyan to discuss the issue of how to handle trash pickup on particular border streets, which will be an upcoming agenda item.
Mayor Pro Tem Long indicated support for Councilman Clark’s proposed agenda item regarding the Trump flagpole and he noted that he had traded phone calls with Mr. Stellio in an attempt to discuss the issue, which will be deferred until the item is properly agendized. He added that although he had been able to handle all email regarding previous issues such as the Storm Drain User Fee, the City’s budget, or whether or not Eastview should be part of the Palos Verdes School District, the volume of email on the flag pole overwhelmed him and he was not able to respond to each one, but he indicated that he had read them all.
Councilman Stern reported that he and Mayor Pro Tem Long had been appointed as a subcommittee to deal with the litigation referred to by Mr. McMillan and while he could not discuss specifics of the matter, he indicated that they had met with trial counsel and were assisting him in preparing for the case.
Mayor Wolowicz reported meeting with Ken Zuckerman on August 3, 2006 regarding his observations and comments on the proposed Civic Center Master Plan and indicated that he appreciated receiving input from a knowledgeable resident of the community.
Mayor Wolowicz indicated that he and Mayor Pro Tem Long had met with the Assistant City Manager regarding agenda planning for this Council meeting to make sure that the items are in the right order and that the proper things are on the agenda.
Mayor Wolowicz stated that on August 9, 2006 he also met with Dr. Michael Brophy, the new President of Marymount College, who was very knowledgeable about what is happening in the community and wanted to ensure that the college was sensitive to the needs of the community and to fit in.
Councilman Gardiner noted that the Education Subcommittee received a reply back from Dr. Romer from LAUSD, but had not had a chance to respond back.
Mayor Pro Tem Long suggested making that an agenda item for an upcoming meeting.
Councilman Gardiner agreed that making it an agenda item would be helpful so the matter could be discussed.
Councilman Clark suggested that it might also be helpful for the Education Subcommittee to report on any new information or interaction with respect to the Mayor of Los Angeles or his representatives as he is attempting to take over LAUSD and has promised more interaction with cities throughout Southern California that are adjacent to or near LAUSD areas.
Councilman Gardiner related that the entire Los Angeles City Council had supported the Mayor’s plan and it appeared that there was considerable momentum for Mayor Villaraigosa to take over control of the LAUSD.
Mayor Wolowicz reported that the Los Angeles Mayor’s staff had referred the press to him for a quote on the changes from the perspective of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.
Councilman Clark questioned whether the Council still anticipated continued interaction from Palos Verdes Peninsula School District and Board on the open offer to work with the City on solving the Eastview school district boundary issue.
Mayor Wolowicz indicated that the City was still waiting for a response from the PVPUSD Board with great anticipation.
CITY MANAGER REPORT:
City Manager Evans reported that Jim Bell, the current Public Works Director in North Las Vegas had been hired as the City’s new Public Works Director and this meeting would be the final one for Ray Holland who had provided leadership in the Public Works Department for the past 10 months and was much appreciated. City Manager Evans acknowledged that Mr. Holland had worked for many cities and had many plaques, so he presented him a City Employee Pin designed by former Mayor and Councilman Tom Hollingsworth.
Mayor Wolowicz complimented City Manager Evans for finding Mr. Bell to join the City staff and he complimented Mr. Holland for all of his hard work and for being a valuable part of City staff during the interim period. He indicated that Mr. Holland understood the City’s issues and was always extremely responsive and an active participant in the decision-making process.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru reminded the audience that items previously discussed and continued to a future Council meeting could be viewed on the City’s website at www.palosverdes.com/rpv.
APPROVAL OF CONSENT CALENDAR:
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru distributed late correspondence on Item No. 3, Adoption of the Flood Plain Management Ordinance, and explained that an amendment to this ordinance had been read into the record last time but was inadvertently omitted from the ordinance included in the packet, so a copy of the correct ordinance was being provided to Council prior to taking final action.
Moved by Mayor Pro Tem Long and seconded by Councilman Gardiner to approve the Consent Calendar. A roll call vote carried as follows:
AYES: Clark, Gardiner, Long, Stern, Mayor Wolowicz NOES: None ABSTAIN: None ABSENT: None
Motion to Waive Full Reading
Adopted a motion to waive reading in full of all ordinances presented at the meeting with consent of the waiver of reading deemed to be given by all Council Members after the reading of the title.
Approval of Minutes (301)
Approved the minutes of December 6, 2005, and May 6, 2006.
Ordinance No. 441 (604)
ADOPTED ORDINANCE NO. 441, AS AMENDED; AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES ADOPTING FLOODPLAIN REGULATIONS AND ADDING CHAPTER 15.42 TO TITLE 15 OF THE RANCHO PALOS VERDES MUNICIPAL CODE.
City Manager Recruitment (1101 x 1202)
1) Authorized the Mayor to execute the professional services agreement with Avery Associates; and, 2) ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2006-60, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2006-41, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006-07, FOR A BUDGET ADJUSTMENT TO THE CITY’S GENERAL FUND.
Contract Amendment for Additional Sheriff Traffic Enforcement Services (1206)
Authorized the City Manager to sign the City’s Service Level Authorization for FY 06-07 to add an additional Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department regional traffic enforcement deputy during the p.m. and weekends shift.
Register of Demands
ADOPTED RESOLUTION NO. 2006-61 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.
Planning Case No. ZON2004-00265: Amendment to Various Sections of Title 17 (Zoning) to Regulate the Use of Cargo Containers on Public Private Property (1801)
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru reported that late correspondence had been received on the item and the notice on the public hearing was duly published and any written protest was included with the late correspondence.
Mayor Wolowicz declared the public hearing open.
Associate Planner Fox provided a brief summary of the material of record.
Mayor Wolowicz clarified that the only permitted long term uses for cargo containers were indicated on page 11, for City owned property and commercial and institutional zones only.
Councilman Stern complimented the Planning Commission and staff for their work on the item and he questioned the thinking behind permitting commercial and institutional use, as he was unaware of containers already in use in those zones or any requests for that use.
Associate Planner Fox responded that the Planning Commission saw the need for business and institutional uses, particularly schools, for storage outside of their main structures and for storage of emergency supplies on campus and they believed there might already be a number of such containers on school sites within the City. They were not sure exactly how many were in use at commercial establishments either but Associate Planner Fox personally recalled seeing some at locations on a temporary basis in the past.
Councilman Stern questioned whether they were aware of any commercial facility that had ever expressed a desire to have a container on their property on a permanent basis.
Associate Planner Fox indicated that he was not aware of requests for permanent containers from commercial facilities in the past.
Councilman Stern expressed concern with offering up an option that no one had asked for and he did not want to see encouraged.
Councilman Gardiner stated that it had not been clear to him why an ordinance was being written for the entire City to address a problem in one area. He related his experiences with cargo containers noting that he had seen a house with cargo containers being used for a foundation but they blended in so well that at first he did not even notice that they were cargo containers. He also reported seeing a house with 8 cargo containers stacked up that was an eyesore and he also found them used for storage at other locations. He felt that in an area where there is considerable land movement that it would be appropriate to allow one cargo unit per dwelling and he expressed interest in hearing from the speakers as to whether the ordinance solved a problem.
Councilman Gardiner felt that the mobility of the containers was important for areas with movement and while he agreed that they could be unsightly, when they were used as a foundation that they blended in easily and helped those people whose houses are moving. He suggested improving those used as storage aesthetically and he questioned whether the Council was trying to deal with cosmetic issues or a proliferation of the containers.
Mayor Wolowicz observed that there had been a lot of conversation on the issue and he thought that everything was technically correct in the report. He noted that the Planning Commission had been asked to look at containers in one neighborhood and he felt that the cure would be to exclude the use of cargo containers in that neighborhood but now they are being allowed in other places. He echoed Councilman Stern’s concerns and was also interested in hearing from the speakers.
Mayor Wolowicz was not willing to let people build entire structures out of the containers as Hermosa Beach has done but he noted that if they were to be permanently placed that would require a foundation. He questioned why a compromise was not considered and he suggested something between temporary and permanent with annual inspections by the City and annual renewal fees to make sure that there was effective compliance with safety.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether staff felt it appropriate that containers not be stacked for temporary use or occupied for temporary use as those are clearly prohibited for permanent use but not clearly prohibited to use in that manner temporarily.
Associate Planner Fox clarified that throughout the development code, if something is not explicitly listed as a permitted use then it is not permitted so staff believes it would not be necessary to explicitly state that but he indicated that language could be added to make that more clear.
Mayor Wolowicz supported having the clarification written in and he noted that there was no prohibition for occupancy by animals and he wanted to make sure the containers were not used for raising rabbits or other animals. He questioned whether the City had any jurisdiction over what schools did.
Director Rojas indicated that the City did not have any jurisdiction over school uses related to classroom activities.
Mayor Pro Tem Long noted that in the past schools had used a very loose definition of classroom activities.
Councilman Gardiner noted that there were many groups that used school property and he was not sure whether that would be considered part of classroom use.
City Attorney Lynch felt certain that the school district would claim that as classroom use and she reported that several years ago the school district had adopted a resolution that exempted them from the purview of City zoning ordinances.
Councilman Gardiner clarified that container regulations did not apply on school property.
Mayor Wolowicz reiterated his concern about animals occupying the containers and he pointed out that all structures were permitted on slopes less than 35% steepness, but that was not specified for temporary placement.
Associate Planner Fox indicated that could be added as a development standard.
City Attorney Lynch suggested applying all the standards to both temporary and permanent uses.
Mayor Wolowicz reiterated that he wanted to hear from residents of Portuguese Bend, as the issue seemed to be unique to the area.
Councilman Stern acknowledged that the issue had originated in Portuguese Bend and he questioned whether there had been requests to use containers in other parts of the City and, if so, on what basis. He observed that the proposed ordinance allowed for temporary use for construction related activities with a building permit and for emergency storage.
Director Rojas responded that there had been several inquiries from residents outside the Portuguese Bend area wanting to use them for household storage and in one case when someone was renovating their house they had to get a special use permit because it was not addressed in the ordinance and so they had to notice the neighborhood and they were allowed to have one for a specific period of time.
Councilman Clark indicated that he had become aware of articles about the popularity of using cargo containers to build home structures and he felt that would become a more popular option for property owners in the future with the issue coming up more frequently as time goes on. He questioned whether the staff report on the summary of Commission recommendations was referring to the future use of cargo containers for homes.
Associate Planner Fox noted that was initially prohibited but pages 11 and 12 of the ordinance were reworded with the intent to allow the use of cargo containers as a primary structural component for single-family residences.
Councilman Clark noted that under the code, neighborhood compatibility would have to be taken into consideration and he did not want to see cargo containers populating the city as part of a new neighborhood look for Rancho Palos Verdes.
Mayor Wolowicz clarified that the concern for use of the containers for housing is a moot point because the report prohibits the use of the containers for long term use except for on City owned property, commercial property and institutional zones unless the City Council takes other action.
Councilman Stern indicated that he read the information in a different way noting that the bottom of page 11 states: “The following development standards apply to all cargo containers proposed for long term use unless incorporated into a design for a residence that meets all the applicable zoning and building code regulations.“
Mayor Wolowicz asked for clarification noting that the staff report indicated that “a building permit shall be obtained for the long term use of a cargo container for City owned property, commercial and institutional zones” and then the report goes into prohibited uses and development standards which he felt was a red herring unless they allow another use under B. He suggested that they look at section B again to clarify, as he did not see any room for anything else.
Councilman Gardiner related growing up in New England and observing the transition from traditional housing to pre-fabricated housing and he was not sure what the objections were to building homes out of containers if, when they are done, you can not tell that is what was used. He felt that the real concern was what it looked like, not what it was made out of.
Mayor Wolowicz noted that the Planning Commission had proposed to ban the use of cargo containers for long term uses in other residential areas.
Mayor Pro Tem Long noted that that there seemed to be two issues: one is in the context of building a house that otherwise adheres to the development code whether a cargo container can be used and with regard to that are the neighborhood compatibility codes sufficient to address that. He did not feel it was clear whether that use was being allowed or not. The second issue was the use of cargo containers not as part of houses built according to the development code but as their own structure without a foundation or their use for a foundation for a different structure.
Councilman Gardiner agreed with Mayor Pro Tem Long and pointed out that mostly they are used for tool sheds or granaries because they are handy since the ground is sliding around and they can be moved.
Councilman Clark suggested that based upon construction costs going through the roof it is an alternative that more and more property owners will look at and he supported the concept of containers as part of the residence so long as they do not look like cargo containers and Rancho Palos Verdes does not look like a surplus lot for storing excess cargo containers.
Mayor Wolowicz asked that staff go back to clarify ambiguities in the report.
Director Rojas agreed to work on that.
City Attorney Lynch questioned whether the Council wanted to see specialized foundations incorporated into the ordinance or whether that should be a separate item.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru distributed correspondence from Don Fraser.
Don Fraser, Rancho Palos Verdes, reported living in the area longer than any other resident and while he acknowledged that containers are not attractive, he noted that they are very practical for those who live in the landslide area and he felt that if they were properly screened so they can not be seen they were a viable option. He felt they made excellent foundations for homes in the landslide area because they have foundations built into them and he reported that it would be a hardship for him to give up his container, which he has had since before there was a Rancho Palos Verdes.
Councilman Stern questioned whether he used the container for storage or for a foundation.
Mr. Fraser indicated that he used his container for storage after he inherited a lot of antiques and he could not build an extra room because of the moratorium. He reported that his container was screened and he felt that it would unfair to deny those people who have containers in the landslide area.
Mayor Wolowicz thanked Mr. Fraser for his comments noting that they helped put things in perspective.
Madeline McJones, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that her house was on a steel foundation and she owned a shipping container for storage. She reported that her father-in-law had been before the Council some years ago to support cargo containers for use as foundations and their house has been at its current location for 30 years, has withstood earthquakes and has never had any complaints about aesthetics.
Ms. McJones was not clear why the regulation was to be taken out as they worked very hard to get it put in the ordinance and she felt as though the City was taking a basic building material away noting that steel had been suggested for use but it costs more money and is a hard to get shipped into the community whereas cargo containers are easily brought in and a known use. She felt it was something they need in Portuguese Bend and she had not ever known of people squatting in the containers.
Ms. McJones pointed out that there was a concern with flying shipping containers during earthquakes but she noted that if the containers were going to fly then so would her car and her RV. She questioned why the containers were approved for City use but not for the residents as they have been used for years and are proven to be safe and she acknowledged that some people had gone too far with them and should be regulated.
Ms. McJones suggested that the RV code be used to regulate the use of cargo containers or perhaps the containers could be allowed only in Portuguese Bend as there are issues with shifting land and the containers provide flexibility. She wanted to have the flexibility to use the containers as a foundation and for storage and she found the proposed ordinance upsetting.
Justin McJones, Rancho Palos Verdes, observed that the City must not think the containers are dangerous as they would be allowed on City property and at schools and he touted the safety and usefulness of cargo containers. He pointed out various businesses in the area that use containers and he suggested that boats on trailers and RV storage was less safe than cargo containers. He felt that issue was mainly aesthetic and he suggested that conditions could be put on them to improve their appearance.
Mr. McJones proposed that treating cargo containers as personal property rather than structures and he invited staff and Council members to visit his home which is built upon 3 containers. He felt that the City should be more open to homes that cost 50% less to build and he felt that the ordinance was creating multiple standards, which meant that businesses and the City could use the containers but residents could not.
Sunshine, Rancho Palos Verdes, pointed out that the 8 containers that Councilman Gardiner had referred to were sitting out because they had been meant for use underneath a house but the City had stopped them. The Building Inspector told the Planning Commission that from reading the code, the containers were a safety issue but he did not indicate why containers on City property or those on property for less than a year were safe. The Building Inspector mentioned that the State had a section specifically addressing special anchoring methodology for mobile homes and he implied that the City could not consider the containers mobile homes because the state had not added containers to their list of what constitutes a mobile home.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Wolowicz called a brief recess from 8:55 P.M. to 9:06 P.M.
Mayor Pro Tem Long suggested considering the issues separately.
Mayor Pro Tem Long moved to instruct that the proposed ordinance be crafted so as to permit the use of cargo containers as part of structures where they otherwise comply with the development code including in situations where they comply with the portions of the development code that currently allow their use as part of foundations. Councilman Gardiner seconded the motion.
Director Rojas noted that one of the reasons it took eleven meetings by the Planning Commission was initially there was an attempt to prohibit cargo containers in all residential districts and the Commission heard the testimony and tried to allow them in Portuguese Bend but ran into conflicts. The building code requires the containers to be anchored to the ground and, as they are designed to be on a ship, it is unknown what they will do in an earthquake. He explained further that if the containers were allowed long term in the Portuguese Bend area, there is a potential conflict with the moratorium ordinance’s maximum 600 square foot addition provision, which would have to be amended, so ultimately the Planning Commission prohibited the use of cargo containers everywhere in the City.
Mayor Pro Tem Long received clarification from Director Rojas that a cargo container as part of a house, with a proper foundation otherwise compliant with the development code and all City rules, would be allowed.
Mayor Pro Tem Long questioned whether under the development code a cargo container could be a portion of engineered foundations of houses.
Director Rojas explained that the impetus for the special foundation section was the use of cargo containers for foundations but the Commission is recommending that they not be used for that purpose.
Mayor Pro Tem Long asked what the current staff interpretation was.
Director Rojas explained that currently if someone proposes a special foundation using cargo containers and they pass the engineering and building code tests, they would be approved.
Mayor Pro Tem Long indicated that his motion was to keep the status quo on those two items and to incorporate it into the proposed ordinance.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether a foundation would be required for a container used for a special foundation.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that would depend on the engineering design, if an engineer designed it otherwise, staff would sign off on that.
Director Rojas added that it was up to the property owners’ engineer how they present their design, which is then reviewed by the City Engineer.
Mayor Wolowicz did not want to see an inconsistency about where foundations are required, noting that if a container is used for storage it needs a foundation but if it is a foundation it doesn’t need a foundation.
City Attorney Lynch clarified that if it is used as part of a foundation design it is required to be affixed to the ground in at least one point so that does not require a traditional foundation design when it is incorporated as part of a foundation design.
Mayor Wolowicz received clarification that there was no conflict with the current proposal.
Councilman Gardiner was concerned with preserving the status quo and he noted that if cargo containers were required because the land is moving but then the containers have to be bolted to the ground that defeats the purpose of being able to easily move the cargo container to adjust to on-going land movement.
Councilman Stern questioned what was required with the container foundation system that was previously permitted and he also questioned whether that was consistent with what the planning official believed was appropriate.
Director Rojas reported that the container foundation that he had seen approval for had been approved by County building inspectors.
Councilman Stern questioned whether that would be consistent with building codes.
Building Official Bronold indicated that it would not be consistent with building codes because the geological hazard map indicates the City is in a liquefaction zone and an earthquake induced landslide zone, so design factors get more restrictive and try to create structures that can resist overturning in earthquakes and landslides. He reported touring one building where the cargo containers were not in the ground but were sitting on W beams and noted that in an earthquake or landslide, the containers would move but it is unknown exactly how they would move.
Building Official Bronold explained that the code defined a structure in a certain way and cargo containers meet the definition. His focus on cargo containers was as storage use only in the Portuguese Bend landslide zone and the code directs them to pin a structure like that down so it doesn’t overturn or slide. He added that in a liquefaction zone containers move more quickly than other structures, which would generally collapse and not move very far from their original location.
Building Official Bronold explained that there was nothing in the state codes that talked about cargo containers being used as foundations but if containers were addressed they would have to be pinned down into the ground so they could resist ground movement. He felt it would be difficult to get a foundation system like that approved but indicated that applicants could ask the state’s geological hazard mapping agency, but felt that the state agency would tell them to go back to the City and ask what the City’s geologist or soil engineers would say.
Councilman Gardiner questioned what portion of the City was subject to liquefaction.
Building Official Bronold indicated that there were no liquefaction zones in the City but there were earthquake-induced landslide zones.
Councilman Gardiner pointed out that the house with the cargo container foundation that he toured had been there about 25 years, which encompassed a number of earthquakes, and he felt that the real problem in the area was landslide movement. He did not want to penalize residents in the area so he supported the motion and if that required portions of the code to come in compliance with the motion, he supported that. He did not think it was a problem in other areas of the City, but where the land is actually moving there is a bigger issue with what would happen in an earthquake and he felt that containers were more stable than some of the structures and would not be as susceptible to movement, as they are not in a liquefaction zone.
Councilman Gardiner favored the motion with respect to using containers as a foundation similar to the existing examples on Tangerine Road and Peppertree Drive, as it accommodated the ability to move or adjust the house to on-going land movement.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether the motion on the floor anticipated cosmetic issues regarding the foundations.
Mayor Pro Tem Long indicated that he was trying to preserve the status quo with the use of containers and foundations though he was not clear on what the status quo was. He received clarification that staff’s concern was not with the use of cargo containers as part of a structure with a normal anchored foundation but rather that the containers are a less desirable foundation than a fixed foundation in an area that is not moving.
Mayor Pro Tem Long questioned whether the use of containers for foundations was less desirable for safety purposes on land they know is moving.
Building Official Bronold indicated that he did not have an opinion on that because it had not been studied.
Mayor Pro Tem Long questioned how performance would differ if the land is moving between a house on a conventional foundation and a house on containers.
Building Official Bronold noted that the typical foundation has footings around the perimeter but a conventional foundation could not be designed for use in the Portuguese Bend area, as caissons would have to be embedded into bedrock. He explained that the existing code would require something similar to what is used in liquefaction zones, which is a foundation that is tied together with grade beams which are steel cages tied to caissons that go as deep as possible into the ground, so the structure moves as a unit. He explained further that in an earthquake, the foundation capsizes but after the event it can be righted.
Mayor Pro Tem Long interpreted the remarks to mean that in areas where the land is moving, a cargo container is better than a conventional fixed foundation but would be below what the current conventional engineering standard would be if one were building a new home there now.
Building Official Bronold agreed with Mayor Pro Tem Long’s assessment.
Mayor Pro Tem Long modified his motion to specify that cargo containers could only be used as a foundation in areas within the moratorium area where the property was proving to be moving.
Mayor Wolowicz wanted to make sure they were specifying the Portuguese Bend area.
Mayor Pro Tem Long indicated that the area was broader than that but he was defining the area by the moratorium and land movement.
Councilman Gardiner supported the changes as the person who seconded the motion. He pointed out that the containers he saw used as a foundation were arranged in a triangle which is tough to tip over and he noted that the real test was for the engineers who design the foundation and submit to the City for evaluation as then the engineers talk to engineers to verify. He felt that anchoring the foundation defeated the purpose for an area where there is an active landslide. He felt it was an unreasonable burden to require caissons to be sunk 180 feet into the ground, so he felt it was a good solution and restricts it to the area where the land is moving and there is a need for a creative way to address the problem.
Councilman Stern saw the value in using containers as foundations but was not clear on the geographic limitation. He felt it was more a matter of reasonable necessity that would justify their use for foundations and while he agreed that there must be a geographical limitation because of the movement of the land he was not clear what constituted movement for allowing the foundations. With the exception of the distressed area on the east side of Portuguese Bend he did not see a need to use containers as foundations anywhere else in the moratorium area even though some of the other areas are moving, as he observed that many of the homes that are not in the immediate distressed area seem to have done reasonably well on conventional type foundations appropriately modified. He did not like the idea of container foundations proliferating because they are reasonably economical and he pointed out that many of the homes in that area had been able to be adjusted with less severe foundation changes.
City Attorney Lynch noted that the Planning Commission had proposed listing the names of certain streets where containers could be used because, based on the current motion on the floor, it would also apply to the Seaview area.
Councilman Stern noted that if they were to be location-specific, the City would need to make necessary findings that the conditions were such in those locations. He stated that he was inclined to go in that direction with City staff identifying those locations where they believed it was a reasonable necessity given what the physical characteristics are there.
Mayor Pro Tem Long expressed concern that the streets could change and he suggested that the area has to be in the moratorium with proven land movement and in the judgment of appropriate City staff it has to be demonstrated that given the conditions on that property a container foundation would be likely to perform better than a conventional foundation as opposed to specifying the location.
City Attorney Lynch felt that put a burden on the Building Official.
Mayor Pro Tem Long noted that the land could shift and other areas could be affected.
City Attorney Lynch noted that the ordinance could be amended at that time. She expressed concern that sole decision-making would be transferred from the engineer for the applicant to the city Building Official instead and she indicated that staff would work to come up with a proper solution.
Councilman Gardiner supported Councilmember Stern’s suggestion that using containers for a foundation be a reasonable necessity and he wanted to specify streets. He also suggested that it be worded to indicate that it is an allowable alternative foundation rather than to say it is better than the alternatives.
Mayor Pro Tem Long asserted that for it to be a reasonable necessity that means other foundations would not work.
Councilman Gardiner noted that the reasonable necessity referred to the land moving.
Mayor Pro Tem Long suggested that they indicate the conditions on those streets are such that this is a reasonable alternative.
Councilman Stern felt that to be acceptable.
Mayor Pro Tem Long adopted as part of his motion that it include the streets specified by the Planning Commission.
Councilman Clark expressed concern that the Planning Commission had spent eleven meetings on the issue but that Council was trying to create a significant modification on the spot. He recommended that unless there was an urgency that the matter should be held over for discussion with the Planning Commission and he observed that there was no one present from the Planning Commission as is the usual practice and noted that Council was not getting the benefit of any input from the Commission except from the minutes. He felt they would be better served to wait for interaction from the Planning Commission, as he was not convinced his colleagues were going down the right path.
Mayor Wolowicz felt Council had good practical forward momentum that bridged the gaps left by the Planning Commission and he questioned the likelihood of properties coming back and requesting to use cargo containers as foundations. He pointed out that the City knew of a 25 year old home with a container foundation and another one even older than that, and he questioned how many there had been in the last decade or two.
Associate Planner Fox reported there had been none in the past decade; there was the home that staff was aware of constructed in 1980 and another one built before that, but no others have been approved since that time.
Mayor Pro Tem Long questioned whether one set of streets had been specified.
City Attorney Lynch confirmed that the Planning Commission had specified one set of streets.
Mayor Pro Tem Long wanted to allow the use of cargo containers in homes as they are currently allowed consistent with the current development code for homes that are being anchored to a foundation to the ground and also to allow cargo containers to be used in foundations in homes on the streets in the areas identified by the Planning Commission and he wanted the ordinance to be modified accordingly with the appropriate findings made to permit the alternative foundations to be used in those areas consistent with the way that it is currently allowed.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether the verbiage was acceptable and consistent and that it did not affect other codes inadvertently.
City Attorney Lynch confirmed that they would draft something to be brought back to the City Council.
Councilman Stern felt that it crossed into the realm of building codes and expressed support for allowing additional time to consider the matter.
Mayor Pro Tem Long stated that neighborhood compatibility was considered but he felt it probably made sense to go beyond that and to focus on those things that must be incorporated to address potential aesthetic issues. He stated that if the use is going to be allowed it has to comply with building standards and neighborhood compatibility should specifically focus on the consequences of this and what should be included to camouflage as much as possible the fact that containers are being used. He acknowledged that it is a relatively narrow area of the City but he felt it worthy of further thought and discussion.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether Mayor Pro Tem Long’s last point should be included in the motion.
Mayor Pro Tem Long pointed out that at this point Council was only directing staff on how to draft an ordinance consistent with its instructions and that Council would have a chance to take a second look at it. He felt that all the issues were well incorporated within the neighborhood compatibility rules and when the ordinance comes back for another look someone can sit down with the ordinance and the rules and see if everything is covered.
Mayor Wolowicz asked if his direction to staff was to make sure those issues are covered.
Mayor Pro Tem Long asserted that if someone felt the neighborhood compatibility rules were not adequate that could be dealt with separately.
Councilman Gardiner observed that Council had spent over an hour discussing a problem that did not exist, to maintain the status quo. He did not object having staff go back and look at the ordinance and he expressed support for bifurcating foundations from the rest of the issues that seemed to be causing the problem. He indicated that he did not understand the argument for anchoring cargo containers being used for storage to the ground because he thought the advantage to the temporary structures was not anchoring them.
Mayor Pro Tem Long stated that one could have a house anywhere in the City like the one in Manhattan Beach that is constructed entirely of cargo containers as long as the development code and neighborhood compatibility requirements are met. He noted that the second issue was allowing cargo containers to be used as building foundations on a limited number of streets in the moratorium area.
Councilman Stern explained that he was focused on the aesthetics and going beyond neighborhood compatibility because in that part of the Portuguese Bend neighborhood he was not sure that anything would not be compatible. He added that there were things in that area that he would prefer not to see proliferate through out the City and while they might be allowed to remain where they are now, the neighborhood did not necessarily dictate the optimal solution given what Council could put into a regulation that addresses a new foundation.
Councilman Gardiner observed that the area is private and has a community association. He expressed concern that there are CC&Rs in place that might be compromised by the proposed ordinance and he felt that the City could set some general conditions and the association could sort the other details out.
Mayor Wolowicz called for a vote on the motion
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru noted that there was one item that had not been addressed in the ordinance. She indicated that Council had charged the Emergency Preparedness Committee with finding areas in the City to store emergency supply caches and, as the ordinance is currently written, storage containers to house these supplies could only be placed on City property, which posed a difficulty because the City did not own many parcels on the east side of the City.
Mayor Pro Tem Long clarified that his motion did not deal with the entire ordinance.
Mayor Wolowicz added that Council would address the rest of the ordinance after dealing with the issue of cargo containers as building foundations.
The amended motion, moved by Mayor Pro Tem Long and seconded by Councilman Gardiner, was to instruct staff to craft the proposed ordinance to permit the use of cargo containers to be used as part of structures citywide, as provided for in existing codes, and as foundations for structures located on the specific streets within the landslide moratorium area previously identified by the Planning Commission, provided that the engineering requirements specified in the code are met.
Councilman Clark indicated that he would abstain from the vote, as he had concerns with limiting what they were attempting to do in terms of containers as foundations for certain streets based upon today’s perceptions.
Councilman Stern voted yes on the motion on the floor, but commented that he would have supported Councilman Clark’s motion to continue.
Councilman Clark made a substitute motion to continue the item.
Mayor Pro Tem Long pointed out that Council was already taking a vote and that the roll call had to be finished.
The motion carried as follows:
AYES: Gardiner, Long, Stern, and Mayor Wolowicz NOES: None ABSTAIN: Clark ABSENT: None
Mayor Wolowicz asked for questions or discussion on the use of individual containers for storage purposes.
Councilman Gardiner moved to send the matter to staff for review and return with the proper wording but the essence of his motion was to allow no more than one cargo container per dwelling in areas of active land movement on those streets previously specified by the Planning Commission. He stated that outside of that area where conventional foundations can be put in place, cargo containers would not be allowed as storage units. He felt that cargo containers should be used for storage where there are land movement issues and he wanted containers to be aesthetically improved for the neighborhood.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether there was clarity on where foundations would be required for cargo containers.
Councilman Gardiner clarified that the intent of the motion was that foundations would not be required for containers on those specified streets where there is land movement.
Councilman Stern stated that, as proposed in the present ordinance, there were temporary classifications that applied citywide and there were long-term classifications for a specific area of the City.
Councilman Gardiner clarified that the containers could be used for permanent long-term storage, but not for short-term storage, such as when a house is being remodeled.
Councilman Stern suggested that in terms of aesthetics, screening in some of these regions is quite viable.
Councilman Gardiner agreed that screening could be suitable but if one is looking from above some thing else should be done.
City Attorney Lynch suggested a false roof could be required to obscure the top of the container from residents who might view it from above.
Mayor Pro Tem Long asked for clarification as to whether Councilman Gardiner’s motion included the staff recommendation regarding containers that are not part of a foundation or a building, with the exception that additional permanent use on specific streets for suitably cosmetically adjusted or screened structures, with direction to staff to include screening or cosmetic rules in the ordinance and to specify that only one cargo container per parcel. He stated that if that was the motion on the floor, he seconded it.
Mayor Wolowicz clarified that he heard one cargo container per dwelling as opposed to one per parcel.
Councilman Gardiner said one per dwelling was preferred by the residents.
Mayor Pro Tem Long agreed with the specification of one cargo container per dwelling and he reaffirmed his second.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether there were requirements as to how close containers can be placed to houses because of potential land movement and earthquakes.
Associate Planner Fox explained that formerly a 10 foot separation between containers or any other structure was required but that had been taken out.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether staff supported including a specific distance.
Associate Planner Fox thought that would be a good idea.
Mayor Wolowicz asked the motion maker to include that.
Councilman Gardiner did not agree that was a concern noting that vehicles park closer than that to houses and they do not tip over in earthquakes.
Mayor Pro Tem Long suggested having staff bring back a recommendation about that.
Councilman Stern noted that the specific streets were not identified in the materials he had and he questioned whether staff had a sense of how many homes in the area identified by streets were using containers, whether any of them were using more than one and what the implications of the suggestion were to the area.
City Attorney Lynch received clarification that Councilman Stern was referring to stand alone storage containers.
Associate Planner Fox indicated that he did not have that data available but he had heard anecdotes of there being as many as 30 containers on the streets involved.
Councilman Stern pointed out that the motion would prohibit containers in the other streets in Portuguese Bend as well as the rest of the City and he wanted to know what that implication was in terms of the number of people who would have to get rid of their containers.
Associate Planner Fox suggested that staff could drive around and do a windshield survey.
Councilman Gardiner felt that one container per dwelling was acceptable but he did not want to create a hardship on someone with many horses that uses them for that. He asked staff to go to the Portuguese Bend Community Association and find out if there were instances of more than one container per dwelling, as he wanted to find the appropriate number so that they did not create a hardship.
Councilman Stern concurred noting that while he did not like the containers and felt they were not a preferred methodology for storing in residential areas, he acknowledged the unique situation because of landslide areas. He wanted to properly recognize the situation and understand what the impact would be if the ordinance went forward.
Mayor Wolowicz reopened the public hearing and recognized Mr. Kelly
Tim Kelly, Rancho Palos Verdes, stated that the real answer was pretty complicated. He appreciated that the Council was trying to make it easier for residents to live in a blighted area that needs help and he observed that some people advocated no containers and others wanted one or more. He observed that a number of people had multiple units that and would lose depending on the decision and he reported that a single container is 320 square feet which he felt to be a reasonable amount of storage. He indicated that he could help with information on how many containers there are per resident rather than have staff do a drive by survey.
Councilman Stern noted that there had been a concern from the Board of Directors of the Community Association about aesthetics being followed and his view was that the standards of the community were their business not Rancho Palos Verdes business, and the City would not enforce them or stop them from being enforced. He questioned whether the Association had done anything to address their standards in the CC&Rs with respect to containers.
Mr. Kelly reported that they were in the process or redrafting their CC&Rs and architectural standards to make them more enforceable but there had not been much new construction in the area for a while so the standards were not implemented, as they should have been.
Councilman Stern received clarification that heretofore the Association had not attempted to impose standards with respect to the containers.
City Attorney Lynch expressed concern with one per parcel vs. one per residence as there could be a concern with consistency between developed property and undeveloped property and she advised the Council to consider that. She added that storage units of 120 square feet or less were allowed on undeveloped parcels and if they were going to go forward this way she felt undeveloped parcels should be included and with the aesthetic requirements.
Mayor Pro Tem Long questioned whether this would apply to only those streets specified.
City Attorney Lynch agreed that it would just apply to the specified streets.
Mayor Pro Tem Long agreed to that as an amendment.
Mayor Wolowicz asked about the issue raised by the City Clerk about Emergency storage units.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru indicated that issue could be incorporated or handled separately according to the will of the motion maker and seconder.
Councilman Gardiner preferred the matter be handled separately as only a certain number of streets were being discussed.
Councilman Stern suggested directing staff to come back with a recommendation, as they do want emergency supplies properly stored.
Mayor Pro Tem Long sought to amend the motion to include that statement. Councilman Gardiner thought that was part of the original motion and agreed to the change.
Councilman Gardiner moved to adopt the staff recommendation as to containers that are not parts of foundations or buildings with the exception that additional permanent use on specific streets for suitably cosmetically adjusted or screened structures with staff to formulate screening or cosmetic rules in the ordinance with one container allowed per parcel, and to direct staff to come back with a recommendation about Emergency Storage. Mayor Pro Tem Long seconded the motion.
A roll call vote on the motion carried as follows:
AYES: Gardiner, Long, Stern, and Mayor Wolowicz NOES: None ABSTAIN: Clark ABSENT: None
Councilman Stern did not think temporary storage had been addressed in the original motion.
Mayor Pro Tem Long clarified that the motion included the staff recommendation on temporary use and he felt that it included the staff recommendations on both permanent and temporary use but also included permanent use for one per parcel on the specified streets.
City Attorney Lynch agreed that was also her understanding.
Councilman Stern indicated that had not been his understanding.
Councilman Gardiner did not recall that being part of the motion though he felt he should.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru indicated that was not her understanding either.
City Attorney Lynch suggested adding it as an amendment.
Councilman Gardiner pointed out that a vote had already been taken.
Councilman Gardiner moved the staff recommendation on temporary storage and Mayor Pro Tem Long seconded the motion.
Councilman Stern noted that the staff recommendation for temporary storage during building construction encompassed the time when the building permit is active and he asked how long that could be.
Associate Planner Fox explained that was usually 18 months.
Councilman Stern wanted to know how long it could be as there was a house he had seen on Palos Verdes Drive South that seemed to be under construction for a few years.
Associate Planner Fox indicated that project had active building permits for 30 months and they received a six-month extension so it ended up being three years.
Councilman Stern felt that was excessive and an imposition on the neighbors.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether temporary storage on City property was also a three-year period.
Associate Planner Fox explained that temporary means 12 months within a three-year period.
Mayor Pro Tem Long questioned whether temporary storage was allowed during building for 18 months, as building permits are usually 18 months.
Associate Planner Fox clarified that residential permits depend upon square footage: up to 5,000 square feet - 18 months plus a 6 month extension; 5,000 to 10,000 square feet - 24 months plus a 6 month extension and over 10,000 square feet - 30 months plus a 6 month extension.
Councilman Gardiner questioned whether all containers were encompassed or just cargo containers.
Director Rojas clarified that they were just referring to cargo containers.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether staff wanted to change the now standing proposal to include all containers.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that they preferred it be limited to cargo containers.
Councilman Gardiner moved the staff recommendation on temporary storage and Mayor Pro Tem Long seconded the motion. A roll call vote was taken on the motion:
AYES: Gardiner, Long and Mayor Wolowicz NOES: Stern ABSTAIN: Clark ABSENT: None
Councilman Stern explained that he had voted no because he was bothered by the amount of time a temporary storage container can be present.
Mayor Pro Tem Long clarified that the motion was to adopt the staff recommendation on temporary storage that is the length of the building permit and to bring back a recommendation on emergency storage.
City Attorney Lynch questioned whether the public hearing had been closed and suggested continuing the matter while it was still open so that the public could have additional input.
Mayor Pro Tem Long moved to continue the matter until October 3, 2006 with direction to staff to address the Council’s concerns. Councilman Gardiner concurred and hearing no objection, Mayor Wolowicz so ordered.
Councilman Stern received clarification that the action would not hold up any permits on the use of cargo containers as foundations.
Mayor Wolowicz paused to consider the remainder of the agenda and the Council decided to move forward.
Mayor Wolowicz indicated they after Item No. 9, Council would decide whether to finish the Agenda.
Proposed View Restoration Ordinance and Preservation Guideline Revisions (Continued from August 1, 2006) (1806)
Moved by Councilman Clark and seconded by Councilman Stern to waive the staff report.
Councilman Gardiner asked for input from the Director of Planning.
Director Rojas indicated that after the item was scheduled an issue came up with regard to a longstanding view restoration/view preservation permit that was issued to Dr. Daponte on Greve Drive. Over time Dr. Daponte has been frustrated by the process as he has a unique situation in that he has a view restoration decision that sets trimming to one level and a view preservation decision that sets it to another level and there is a discrepancy as to what new foliage should to be trimmed down to.
Director Rojas reported that after visiting with Dr. Daponte, he felt he understood the problem and that staff could insert additional language to clarify what should be done when new foliage grows up into a documented view.
City Attorney Lynch clarified that the entire item would be brought back.
Director Rojas indicated that they would like to bring the issue back in its entirety with the new language.
Mayor Wolowicz wanted to know whether there was any interest in discussing upslope views as the issue has been noted but keeps getting put off. He felt that there needed to be a way to deal with the issue of the underside of unsightly decks.
Director Rojas indicated that staff’s understanding of the Mayor’s issue was that there had been a previous decision that involved a resident being unhappy about the removal of a tree that was blocking the view of an unsightly deck and the ordinance does not address replacement foliage in such a situation. At the time the tree was removed, the issue was whether the Council wanted to add the screening of upslope views as criteria that would allow the Commission to order the replacement of foliage that provides a screening. It was not discussed at the Commission level because the owner who had the issue was at the hearings and did not raise the issue specifically.
Mayor Wolowicz noted that all view ordinances and discussions have to do with down slope views or horizon views.
Director Rojas agreed that the ordinances were to protect ocean views and not so much to protect the view of a structure people don’t want to see.
City Attorney Lynch added that the ordinance was also in place to protect mountain views.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether the Council or staff felt that this was a matter to be delved further in to.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that she would like to go back and look at the ordinance to try to determine whether it was within the parameters and scope of what the original drafters had in mind.
Mayor Pro Tem Long asked for clarification on upslope views.
Mayor Wolowicz clarified that he was referring to the underside of a deck.
Mayor Pro Tem Long indicated that if it was not a view of the ocean, city lights or mountains, or in certain cases, canyon areas and normally it is a view looking down then he was not sure what the Mayor was referring to.
City Attorney Lynch clarified that it was a screening issue and if someone is going to remove foliage that is screening something that is unattractive, can replacement foliage to screen the particular area be required.
Mayor Pro Tem Long asserted that was not a view issue.
City Attorney Lynch agreed that it was not a view issue but rather a replacement foliage issue.
Councilman Stern asserted that where foliage was removed that blocked the unsightly part, the person be entitled to get the screening back. He did not know whether the ordinance provided for that but he felt it was a reasonable response and he hoped that could be addressed.
Director Rojas felt that it was a simple change to address this by adding foliage that is screening something as an additional scenario that triggers replacement foliage.
Mayor Pro Tem Long pointed out that they were the City Council, not the View Commission and they could not go through all of it page by page. He noted that the item would be brought back and he wanted clarification on an item on page 26: “if the foliage owner does not want to grind the stump to the existing grade the stump should be flush cut to the existing grade.” He pointed out that previously they had indicated that the stump be ground down to below grade but when the word “below” was taken out it didn’t make sense.
Director Rojas explained that they had learned that there was a distinction between stump grinding and flush cutting and the intent of the paragraph was to explain the difference.
Mayor Pro Tem Long asked if they were not requiring to grind below grade anymore.
Director Rojas explained that in certain topographic conditions it is not possible to use the stump-grinding machine, which grinds the stump below grade, so instead they flush cut to grade.
Mayor Pro Tem Long questioned why the word “below” had been removed.
City Attorney Lynch suggested leaving the word “below” in.
Director Rojas agreed to clarify the paragraph.
Michael O’Sullivan, Rancho Palos Verdes, suggested changes in the wording of the guidelines in two places. First in paragraph F, page 29 there is a statement that says “the Commission shall ensure that replacement foliage is reasonably comparable to the foliage removed in terms of function and/or aesthetic” but then paragraph G indicates that “replacement trees or shrubs shall be 15 gallon size and should not be larger than a 24 inch box.” He pointed out that a 24 inch box tree is a very small tree and he recommended that the wording for paragraph G be removed as he felt that the decision as to what is reasonably comparable should be left to the judgment of the Commission or Council that rules on it. He also commented that the wording “replacement foliage should be reasonably comparable to the foliage that was removed in function and aesthetics” covers the condition that it be able to screen an unsightly view.
Mr. O’Sullivan noted that on the second page of the handout, paragraph K addressed the responsibility of the view restoration to find a compliant bid within 30 days and he wanted to add that if the applicant has failed to provide a compliant bid within that time that the resolution is voided. He noted that as it stands there is wording to address what happens to the foliage owner if he does not comply and there is no requirement that the view restoration applicant comply.
Mr. O’Sullivan indicated that he had received a communication from the View Restoration Coordinator, which indicated that Steve from G.S. Brothers understood that per conditions of approval the root ball had to be removed. He indicated that he did not wish to do this job and no compliant bid or further guidance was provided to him on the issue.
Councilman Stern clarified that the language in paragraph G indicates that replacement trees or shrubs generally should be of a 15 gallon size and should not be larger than 24 inch unless warranted by exceptional circumstances and he questioned whether Mr. Sullivan felt that provided enough latitude.
Mr. O’Sullivan felt it to be a common circumstance that mature trees are at issue, not an exceptional circumstance and that specifying the limit biased the case toward limiting the size, which seemed designed to save expense on the part of the applicant and the City at the expense of the foliage owner.
Councilmember Clark noted that the intent of the ordinance came out of the voter initiative Prop M in November 1989 and the authors did not contemplate that where there was foliage view blockage that the required foliage that had to be removed to restore views would be replaced with necessarily the same size foliage that was removed as that would potentially cause the same problem that caused the removal. He noted that he had been on the View Restoration Commission when the guidelines were formulated and he did not subscribe to the theory that when foliage is removed to restore a view that the applicant for the view restoration should have to replace it with the identical size foliage.
Mr. O’Sullivan agreed but felt there was middle ground between a 24-inch box tree, which takes years to mature.
Mayor Pro Tem Long endorsed the view of Councilman Clark adding that when he served on the Commission they had expanded the scope of replacement that was allowed under the ordinance as initially the ability to specify replacements was very limited and he noted that there are many ordinances, which don’t require replacement at all. He indicated that replacement was a compromise and promising a larger tree almost encouraged lack of compliance and not trimming. The Commission compromised and allowed a 24 inch box which as he understood was the largest size of tree that was typically readily available at nurseries and staff developed a list of fast growing trees designed to shade and screen rather than growing up into someone’s view.
Mayor Pro Tem Long observed that Mr. O’Sullivan was unhappy in his particular case and he commented that when a case goes to hearing both parties end up dissatisfied as they have unwisely gone to hearing rather than working it out themselves and the matter is then left to strangers who don’t know their property well. He added that the ordinance could not make everyone happy and had to make compromises.
Councilman Stern moved the recommendation with the modification recommended by Mayor Pro Tem Long on page 27 and the language allowing for the screening for upslope views.
Councilman Gardiner noted that the anomaly that Director Rojas pointed out earlier should be included in the motion.
Councilman Stern agreed and Mayor Pro Tem Long seconded the motion.
City Attorney Lynch noted that since the ordinance only deals with the issue of cost recovery that they go ahead and introduce the ordinance this evening so when the ordinance comes back for second reading then the guidelines could be presented then.
Moved by Councilman Stern and seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Long to 1) Continue the proposed revisions to the City’s View Restoration and Preservation Guidelines to September 19, 2006 with staff to address the issue with the Dapontes; 2) restore the word “below” on page 26 to indicate “grind the stump to below grade” and 3) INTRODUCE ORDINANCE NO. 442, AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES, AMENDING SECTION 17.02.040(C)(2) OF THE RANCHO PALOS VERDES MUNICIPAL CODE, TO MAKE IT CLEAR THAT THE CITY MAY UTILIZE THE PROCESS SET FORTH IN TITLE 9, CHAPTER 24 OF THE CODE TO RECORD ASSESSMENTS OR LIENS AGAINST PROPERTIES IN ORDER TO COVER UNPAID COSTS TO TRIM OR REMOVE FOLIAGE TO RESTORE AND PRESERVE VIEWS, AS ORDERED BY THE COMMISSION AND/OR THE DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, BUILDING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT.
The motion carried as follows:
AYES: Clark, Gardiner, Long, Stern, Mayor Wolowicz
Trails Status Report and Trail Connections at Conestoga Drive and PVIC/Ocean Front Estates (701)
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru reported that late correspondence had been distributed on the item.
Mayor Wolowicz pointed out that there were three topics contained within the section: the Conestoga Drive Hairpin Bend on Palos Verdes Drive East, the issue regarding the Palos Verdes Interactive Center and the Conceptual Trails Program and he encouraged speakers to be succinct.
Interim Director Holland noted that the equestrian community had asked that staff review their request for a 900-foot connector trail near Palos Verdes Drive, Conestoga Drive and the border of Rolling Hills Estates. At present, they have to walk along the side of Palos Verdes Drive East to get to areas in Rolling Hills Estates, which they find dangerous and they have requested that the extra right of way in the area be developed for an equestrian trail. The report notes that under the conceptual trails plan the segment is an easy type of trail, very wide with gentle slopes. The 900 foot section ranges from challenging, to intermediate to an easy configuration and staff recommends changing the designation to challenging which would allow them to design a trail to meet their needs and would also meet the concerns of the neighbors who live on Conestoga Drive which backs up to the to right of way. A neighborhood meeting was held where staff received a lot of good information about why the trail is needed and concerns of the neighbors were heard. Staff has worked to address everyone’s concerns and staff is requesting a budget of $8,500, which includes $2,500 for design and $6,000 for construction.
Councilman Gardiner moved to support the staff recommendation and Councilman Stern seconded the motion.
Mayor Wolowicz suggested that the speakers be heard.
Interim Director Holland reported that there were citizens who had offered to donate $5,000 toward the construction of the trail and then raised the amount to $10,000.
Councilman Stern appreciated the offer of a contribution from the Beale family adding that he appreciated seeing that kind of public participation from the residents.
Mayor Wolowicz appreciated that participation as well.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru announced that a break was necessary to change disks.
Mayor Wolowicz called a recess from 10:46 P.M. to 10:52 P.M.
Mayor Wolowicz pointed out to potential speakers that there appeared to be a consensus by the Council.
Gordon Leon, Chairman of the Equestrian Committee, thanked the Public Works Director who had been working with the Equestrian Committee on the trail, which would be mixed use for pedestrian, and equestrian.
Lorraine Logan, Rolling Hills Estates, indicated that she had lived at that location for 40 years and had just found out that the easement behind her house was for a horse trail and not her responsibility to keep free from weeds. She stated that the City of Rancho Palos Verdes had never done anything behind her property and she was not happy that she had not received notice about the meeting and had to hear from a neighbor about the meeting and proposed project.
Ms. Logan expressed concern about fire protection as there has been no clearance, and she also expressed concern with potential of loss of privacy and erosion. She asserted that the hill had to be addressed along with the natural drainage of the property and she expressed concern about added dust, horse droppings and increased noise. She added that her upslope view would be affected and she worried about children going up there to play.
Ms. Logan questioned whether demand for the trail had increased and she wanted to know whether there was a horse count consensus and whether the horses belonged to residents or whether they were just boarded at that location.
Interim Director Holland explained that Mrs. Logan was not on the sign up sheet at the neighborhood meeting so that is why she did not get notice of the meeting tonight. He added that Rolling Hills Estate organized the neighborhood meeting and he was led to believe that all interested parties were at the meeting and so that was the list he used for notice of this meeting.
Mayor Wolowicz asked for staff’s response to the issues raised about fire protection and erosion.
Interim Director Holland noted that some mitigation measures were in the staff report with regard to fire protection including clearing out weeds and debris that would be in the right of way and he added that they had never received notice from the fire department that there were any hazards to mitigate.
Mayor Pro Tem Long commented that he was mindful of the concerns when an easement on their property has not been used for a long period of time and the residents are surprised and he regretted that Ms. Logan had not heard from her City about the property being affected. He reminded residents how important it is that all easements are looked at when buying property because even if they are not used for a long time they may be ultimately used.
Mayor Pro Tem Long felt the trail was necessary as a safety concern and that it over rode the resident’s concerns because it was not just an issue of how many horses there were. He hoped that the City would work hard to mitigate and accommodate the concerns the neighbor had and that she would work with the City in defining ways that the City could mitigate the problems.
Sunshine, Rancho Palos Verdes, was pleased with the Council’s support. She pointed out a discrepancy between the drawings in the staff report and the text noting that the intent of the Palos Verdes loop trail was to have an unpaved pathway that goes all around the hill but the drawing indicates it is to be compacted gravel while the text indicates it is a paved bridge.
Kay Bara, Rancho Palos Verdes, representing the Palos Verdes Horsemen’s Association, reported that one of their goals is to support and preserve trails and she encouraged the Council to support the budget adjustment of $8,500 from the City’s General Fund and CIP Fund for the design and construction of the Conestoga Trail and she indicated that they would donate $2,000 toward the work.
Mayor Wolowicz asserted that type of participation was heartening to see.
Anna Chu, Rancho Palos Verdes, supported reopening the trail at Conestoga and she reported meeting with Rolling Hills Estates Councilmember Andy Clark and the Homeowners Association president representing the residents at Larga Vista who spoke of their concerns and she felt it was a safety issue to get them off of Palos Verdes Drive East for as much as they can. She noted that she was a hiker and a rider and she had children who preferred not to walk on Palos Verdes Drive East.
Moved by Councilman Gardiner and seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Long to 1) Receive and file Trails Status Report dated 8/15/06; 2) Change the classification of the trail section between Conestoga Drive and the hairpin bend on Palos Verdes Drive East 900 feet from the City’s northern city boundary (also known as A-29 in the Conceptual Trails Plan), from “easy” to “challenging;” 3) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2006-62, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2006-41, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006-07, FOR A BUDGET ADJUSTMENT OF $8,500 TO THE CITY’S GENERAL FUND AND CIP FUND FOR THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE CONESTOGA TRAIL; 4) Approve the Plans for the construction of the connection of the trail at PVIC and the trail at Ocean Front Estates; 5) Award a Construction Contract to Montecito Landscape Construction in the amount of $19,000, for the clearing of brush, construction of a culvert over the storm drain and the construction of a DG path to connect the concrete walkway on the east with the DG walkway on the west and authorize staff to spend up to $1,000 for possible extra work; thereby approving a $20,000 construction budget; 6) Authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to execute a construction contract with Montecito Landscape Construction; 7) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2006-63, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2006-41, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006-07, FOR A BUDGET ADJUSTMENT OF $20,000 TO THE CITY’S GENERAL FUND AND CIP FUND FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CONNECTION OF THE TRAIL AT PVIC AND THE TRAIL AT OCEAN FRONT ESTATES; and 8) ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 2006-64, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES, AMENDING RESOLUTION NO. 2006-41, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006-07, FOR A BUDGET ADJUSTMENT OF $2,000 TO THE CITY’S GENERAL FUND FOR TRAILS MAINTENANCE.
Councilman Stern suggested that staff follow up with the generous individual who offered to finance the trail.
Interim Director Holland noted that Mr. and Mrs. Beale had intended to be present at the meeting but were unable to attend.
Mayor Wolowicz suggested a letter from the Mayor and Council to thank the group Ms. Bara represented and also the Beales for their support.
The motion carried as follows:
AYES: Clark, Gardiner, Long, Stern and Mayor Wolowicz
Request for Waiver of the Application Fee for a Landslide Moratorium Exclusion Request for Sixteen (16) Vacant Lots in the “Zone 2” Area for the Portuguese Bend Community (Planning Case No. ZON2002-00043) (1801)
Mayor Pro Tem Long moved to waive the staff report and take public comment. Councilman Gardiner seconded the motion.
Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru reported no requests to speak.
Moved by Councilman Clark and seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Long to deny the requested fee waiver. Hearing no objection, Mayor Wolowicz so ordered
Councilman Stern commented that he supported the motion and Mr. Miller might review the minutes and want to know why the issue was denied so he explained that the City strived to comply with the law. There is an ordinance and the staff report sets forth the criteria they are duty bound to follow. He noted that there had been no attempt by the applicants to demonstrate that they had met any of the requirements of the code that entitled them to a fee waiver and he did not believe he had any choice under the law other than to deny the request.
Mayor Pro Tem Long concurred noting that the City’s permit application fees are to recoup the City’s costs and especially when the applications are complicated, the costs are not even recouped. The request completely disregarded the ordinance and he felt that the comment at one point that the City was acting in bad faith by imposing the fee missed the point of what the fee was for: applications costs a great deal to process.
Councilman Gardiner thanked Councilman Stern for his succinct summary for the logic behind their position.
Minutes of Closed Sessions (301)
Councilman Gardiner moved to continue the item to September 5, 2006 in the interest of time. Mayor Pro Tem Long seconded the motion and hearing no opposition, Mayor Wolowicz so ordered.
Proposition 84 – Clean Water, Parks and Coastal Protection Bond (306)
Moved by Councilman Clark and seconded by Councilman Stern to direct staff to prepare a letter for the Mayor’s signature to support Proposition 84, Clean Water, Parks and Coastal Protection Bond.
Councilman Gardiner indicated his intent to vote no as he felt it up to the citizens to study the issues.
Councilman Stern noted that the Proposition provided additional funding for NCCP Programs and could be beneficial to the community.
Mayor Pro Tem Long noted that most tax dollars do not come back to the City but with this bond there was a good chance the money would come back to Ranchos Palos Verdes.
The motion carried as follows:
AYES: Clark, Long, Stern and Mayor Wolowicz
Assignment to the Finance Advisory Committee – Alternative Sources of Revenue and Funding (602)
Director McLean provided a brief summary of the material of record noting that staff was seeking further clarification, direction and guidance on their assignment by Council of the task of studying alternative sources of revenue in funding including borrowing and debt financing noting it was staff’s understanding that program expenditures were not part of the assignment because they were based upon the discretion of the Council. Director McLean suggested tasking the Infrastructure Financing Team including staff with analyzing the fiscal impact of the loss of the storm drain user fee to coincide with the expected and planned review of the User Fee rate for 2007-2008. That rate review is expected to take place in early 2007 and he suggested merging the financial analysis with the rate review at that time.
Mayor Pro Tem Long questioned when that process would be complete.
Director McLean expected the process to be complete by spring 2007 and the item would come back to the City Council at the same time they would present information as part of the rate review for the user fee in May or June of 2007.
Mayor Wolowicz reported that his concerns had been met during a previous discussion with the Director and he expressed support for the item noting that the extent of the task was significant requiring a significant amount of time by the Finance Advisory Committee and staff and he expected that consultants might also be used. He indicated that he was pleased with their willingness to do the task.
Councilman Gardiner asked that the study include cash flow diagrams and with respect to Terranea that it include the best case, worst case and most likely case.
Councilman Clark noted that it became clear to the Council during the budget workshop that additional revenue streams were essential if they were to continue to provide the same level of services to the residents as there have been significant increases in projected expenditures across the board including costs for infrastructure renewal and continuation of the pavement maintenance program for the roads, law enforcement and safety protection. Alternative funding was discussed at the workshop and he wanted to make sure that potential revenue was included in the study such as what the implications would be if the Council long term leased or sold some City property as a revenue-generating source.
Mayor Pro Tem Long advised adopting the staff recommendation without trying to micro manage it and letting the Finance Advisory Committee and staff use their best judgment taking into account what each Councilmember is interested in.
Mayor Pro Tem Long opposed the Finance Advisory Committee or staff looking at revenue sources that can’t yet be predicted based on any experience because he felt it to be too unreliable a source or revenue but he expressed interest in looking at existing sources which may either improve as conditions change like property taxes as there is more turnover and sale of units but also looking at the utility users tax which may deteriorate. He preferred to task the committee with looking at alternatives and he agreed that program expenditures should not be included in the process which will look at financing a program that has already been outlined so they can see if they can pay to do what they want to do.
Mayor Pro Tem Long agreed with Councilman Clark’s comments and felt that the five-year model had shown them a lot. He noted that part was a judgment call that needed to be left to staff and the Finance Advisory Committee as to what the range is and how realistic it is and he encouraged being conservative and not offering alternatives that are very intangible.
Councilman Gardiner felt it appropriate to specify some of the output they wanted to see and he felt that 5-year plans were a viable tool. He noted that one of the techniques that the government uses when they are light on money is a stretch out so if there is not enough money for a certain project the construction schedule can be stretched out. He indicated that he wanted to examine the options and he noted that projections that don’t take into account the variability of all the factors were not useful to him.
Councilman Stern did not have a problem asking for particular information but he did have a problem if anyone suggested or tried to skew how things come out. He pointed out that there were identified needs and information is necessary and he expressed concern with the potential repeal of the storm drain user fee noting that those seeking that were not realistic in their evaluation.
Councilman Stern had reservations with stretching things out because historically they end up paying dramatically more and he pointed out that there had been large cost increases in the past couple of years. He acknowledged that the projections would not be exact but he felt the best information possible was needed to protect the City.
Mayor Wolowicz asked the Director to take note of all the comments made and he noted that while three sets of numbers for all items might not be available, some items could be expressed verbally. He pointed out that the assignment was alternative sources of revenue and funding, not cost control per se and he was not interested in micromanaging and he trusted their proven, professional judgment.
Mayor Wolowicz expressed concern that they recognize that alternatives may exist for revenue sources they have not heretofore considered or considered but not spent much time on and he noted that the upcoming League of California Cities Conference would have a break out session on this topic and Councilman Clark would be attending. He noted that Councilman Gardiner had requested three sets of numbers but he felt it best to leave it to staff’s judgment where it is possible to exercise due professional judgment and present ranges.
Mayor Wolowicz asserted that it would take a month or two to complete so he requested that there would be no delay beyond that and if there is an element that is not included at the time for whatever reason that the entire report not be delayed. The report may warrant additional follow up on items and while there is always the desire to be comprehensive, circumstances may not allow that. He added that he would not mind seeing a draft proposal in advance.
Mayor Pro Tem Long encouraged all Council members to make suggestions for whatever they would like to see out on the table now or very soon so the quest for the perfect solution did not impede progress. He noted that in the past he had heard Councilman Gardiner push to get things finished and now he was speaking of stretching things out.
Councilman Gardiner asserted that his remarks had been mischaracterized.
Mayor Pro Tem Long stated that in the past both shorter and longer lengths of time had been suggested and he suggested having staff explore whether enough is saved by using a shorter time period because of future cost escalations and whether that offset the cost of financing or was the City better off stretching it out or doing pay as you go to avoid the cost of financing. He understood the benefits of looking at both because both are options they may need to look at in conjunction with alternative financing but at some point preferences need to be determined. He asserted that the Council needed to figure out what they wanted and stop attacking solutions as imperfect and therefore being choked into inaction by the endless study of alternatives.
Councilman Gardiner indicated that he was perhaps guilty of thinking that Mayor Pro Tem Long understood what he was thinking and he explained that he had taught decision making in complicated situations for 27 years and what they look at are tradeoffs and options and information. He was not advocating a stretch out but if it became a choice between stretching things out or selling Grandview Park he would like to know. He wanted to know what the expenses were, what likely revenues were, what the gap was and what the options were to generate new revenues and if enough revenues can not be generated, what other options would be. He acknowledged that there was a penalty with stretch out and he questioned whether there could be a way to generate revenues to avoid that penalty by crowding as much as possible up front.
Councilman Gardiner asserted that the decisions could not be made without the information and he did not want half a study. He did not advocate any solution but rather he wanted to collect information to see what the options, consequences and trade offs would be.
Councilman Clark suggested that staff look at what kind of revenue a component at Trump National Hotel Villas would generate in terms of revenue for the City.
Mayor Wolowicz encouraged staff to return with information as soon as possible.
Director McLean related that he had done projections for 30 years and he felt it best for staff to develop alternatives and identify revenue sources and financing alternatives and return with a matrix of alternatives and what they believe the impact would be. He did not think it prudent to speculate as to what the voters would do in 2007 but they could quantify if the user fee is lost there would be several alternatives worthy of considering as to what to do with the storm drain program. He sought clarification on the general idea of how to approach the project in terms of revenue alternatives and financing alternatives, the use of debt, low cost debt, etc., and he explained that they would create ”what if” scenarios.
Mayor Wolowicz felt that a matrix was appropriate but he would leave to the Director’s judgment as to how broad or narrow it would be.
Director McLean suggested they consider the broad financing needs of the City over the next 5-15 years.
Councilman Gardiner thought that the Director was talking about scenarios because if the fee is approved one matrix is developed, but if it is not approved a different matrix would be done. He asserted that was not forecasting and is very different than predictions. He observed that even if the user fees were reaffirmed the City would not have enough money to do what it wanted to do.
Councilman Gardiner felt the report was more systematic than complicated and he did not want to see anything left out, but rather wanted a complete picture of the consequences of their decisions.
Mayor Wolowicz didn’t want to see staff bogged down in detail but if the Council sees the first iteration then they can come back and ask for what they want. He felt that before decisions were made they needed to see what was available and he felt that some things should be considered with or without the user fee. He encouraged staff to come back as quickly as possible if there were any doubt in their mind as to how formatting should be done.
Director McLean did not have doubt on how to format the approach; he just wanted to be very clear. He indicated that they would deliver a matrix of alternatives before the next budget and the project would evolve over several years and staff would help assess how to proceed in light of cost increases.
Mayor Pro Tem Long moved the motion with their instructions.
Councilman Gardiner reported that he had seen a simulation modeling capability created at MIT with a dynamic model of a City with budget and cash flow that could be projected over time. He asserted that it was an enormously effective tool which could be used with a model of a system that is recalibrated it every year or as events march on and he noted that was much more difficult to do with spread sheets and matrixes.
Mayor Wolowicz reported going to Sacramento and speaking with the System Director of Budgeting at the state level and finding out that everyone was still using spreadsheets as there is not a satisfactory software package out there for municipalities of the state of California which was disappointing. He would like to see that available as that would take them to a grander scale and he clarified that they were talking about alternative sources of funding but a five-year model lacks a degree of sophistication and he did not think those tools were available for municipalities.
Councilman Gardiner indicated that Stella and Dynamo were programs available for a few hundred dollars.
Director McLean indicated that he was not aware of those programs but he was aware that staff, at Council direction, took on a project of inquiring about dynamic modeling and while he was not dismissing the merits of the concept, they found that no other California municipalities were using dynamic modeling as of a couple of years ago. He reported that the state of California had appropriated millions of dollars to develop a dynamic modeling process and after attempting to develop the program and integrate it they gave up on it.
Director McLean indicated that while he did not dismiss dynamic modeling, he preferred to use spreadsheets to do the “what if” scenarios and he preferred to let them use the tools they were accustomed to.
Mayor Wolowicz suggested that Director McLean contact his organization of Finance Directors and make inquiries to see what the state of the art is.
Mayor Pro Tem Long wanted everyone to have the best tools to make the best decisions, but he was concerned that the process was unduly delayed by more information than is necessary or by the presentation of more alternatives than is needed. He asserted that endless exploration did not necessarily yield the better result and he added that humans could still beat computers at chess even though the computer can mathematically look at every possible move.
Mayor Wolowicz noted that they would explore what existed and would provide feedback after the initial reports.
Councilman Gardiner indicated that he would look around for appropriate dynamic models and he would seek to educate Mayor Pro Tem Long on the difference between expert systems, starcastic processes and differential equations and solving them.
Councilman Clark reminded the Council of the limited time.
Moved by Mayor Pro Tem Long and seconded by Councilmember Stern to 1) accept the staff recommendation with additional input provided by individual members regarding the City Council assigned task of studying alternative sources of revenue and funding, including the investigation of borrowing and debt financing; and, 2) Task the Infrastructure Financing Team with analyzing the fiscal impact of the potential repeal of the Storm Drain User Fee to coincide with the FY 07-08 User Fee Rate Review to be conducted by the Finance Advisory Committee prior to the Public Hearing that will be conducted before the City Council in June 2007. Hearing no objection Mayor Wolowicz so ordered.
Consideration of an Ordinance Amending Chapter 3.30 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code Relating to the Application of the City’s Telephone User Tax (1501)
Moved by Councilman Gardiner and seconded by Councilman Stern to waive the staff report and to 1) Read Ordinance No. 443, “AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AMENDING CHAPTER 3.30 OF THE RANCHO PALOS VERDES MUNICIPAL CODE RELATING TO THE APPLICATION OF THE CITY’S TELEPHONE USER TAX” by title only, waive further reading, and introduce the ordinance; and 2) Read Ordinance No. 444–U, “AN URGENCY ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES AMENDING CHAPTER 3.30 OF THE RANCHO PALOS VERDES MUNICIPAL CODE RELATING TO THE APPLICATION OF THE TELEPHONE USER TAX AND DECLARING THE URGENCY THEREOF” by title only, to waive further reading, and to adopt the ordinance.
The motion carried as follows:
AYES: Clark, Gardiner, Long, Stern and Mayor Wolowicz
Mayor Wolowicz noted that the staff report was very well crafted.
CLOSED SESSION REPORT
City Attorney Lynch announced that with respect to potential litigation concerning the house at 40 Cherryhill Lane, the City Council directed by a four to one vote with Councilmember Gardiner voting no to direct staff to attempt to negotiate a license agreement with Ms. Joannou. With respect to the Turner property unanimous direction was given to the City negotiators to attempt to purchase the property with a price specified by the Council. With respect to the Taniform vs. the City of Palos Verdes case, no action was taken and with respect to Monks vs. the City of Rancho Palos Verdes unanimous direction was given by the Council regarding the upcoming mediation this Saturday with participation by Director Rojas, City Attorney Lynch and members of the City subcommittee which includes Mayor Pro Tem Long and Councilmember Stern.
At 11:57 P.M. Councilman Clark moved, Mayor Pro Tem Long seconded, and hearing no objection, Mayor Wolowicz ordered the meeting adjourned to Tuesday, August 29, 2006, at 7:00 P.M. in Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard for a joint workshop with the Emergency Preparedness Committee.
/s/ Stefan Wolowicz
/s/ Carolynn Petru