CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Lyon at 7:05 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Chairman Lyon called for a moment of silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives in New York and Washington D.C.
Chairman Lyon led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Cartwright, Long, Mueller, Paulson, Vannorsdall, Chairman Lyon
Absent: Vice Chairman Clark was absent (excused)
Chairman Lyon noted that, because of the unfortunate events of the day, Vice Chairman Clark was on special alert status duty and not able to attend the meeting.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Without objection, the agenda was approved as presented.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed a set of plans relating to Agenda Item No. 3 and five letters regarding Long Point. At the direction of the Commission, he distributed 7 items of late correspondence regarding Long Point.
Commissioner Mueller discussed the letter by Commissioner Long that was published in the Daily Breeze and Peninsula News. He felt it was a Commissioner’s right and privilege to express their views in public after a vote has been taken on any matter before the Commission. He stated that he would accept Chairman Lyon’s challenge from the last meeting to continue to convince the Planning Commission of his views on the Long Point project and looked forward to upcoming discussions on the project.
Commissioner Long commented on the letter to the editor dated August 30, 2001 written by Sonya Hayes. He applauded the second half of the letter, which discussed her points of view regarding the Long Point project. He was disappointed in the first half of the letter where she stated that it dishonors the Commission for Commissioners to present different views. He stated that he remains unrepentant and continues to feel that he is free to express his own views even when they differ from the majority.
1. Minutes of August 14, 2001
Without objection the minutes were approved as presented, (6-0).
2. Minutes of August 28, 2001
Chairman Lyon noted on page 11, fifth paragraph, “hole no. 2” should be inserted for clarification.
Commissioner Long stated that on page 3 Vice Chairman Clark had stated he regretted the timing of the letter to the editor. He felt this should be reflected in the minutes. He also noted on the same page that his comment regarding the letter to the editor had been misstated and offered a clarification.
Commissioner Long noted on page 5 that he had asked his e-mail addresses be included.
Commissioner Paulson noted a wording clarification on page 4 of the minutes. He also referred to page 6 regarding the enrollment at the Montessori school. He asked that the paragraph be clarified.
Commissioner Long noted a grammatical error on page 19 of the minutes. He also referred to page 22 and asked that his comments regarding his vote on the motion be added to the minutes.
Commissioner Cartwright asked that the paragraph on page 4 regarding computer accesses be clarified.
Without objection the minutes were approved as amended, (5-0-1) with Commissioner Mueller abstaining since he was absent from that meeting.
3. Amendment to conditions for Height Variation No. 901 and Site Plan Review Permit No. 8822: Jack & Irene Hung, 27856 Longhill Drive
Commissioner Long asked staff if they had measured the distance from this property to his home.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that they had not.
Commissioner Long felt he should recuse himself from this item. He felt his residence was probably more than 300 feet from the project, however he could not be sure.
Chairman Lyon waived the reading of the staff report.
Without objection, the item was approved as presented, (5-0-1) with Commissioner Long abstaining.
4. Variance No. 485, Grading Permit No. 2294 and Encroachment Permit No. 34: William Urso (applicant) 3825 Crest Road
Chairman Lyon waived the reading of the staff report.
Commissioner Mueller asked for clarification in the staff report. He noted that on page 1 the requested height of the fence was 6 feet, however in the following pages of the report it was referred to as 5 feet.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that the fence was 5 feet high as measured from the grade closest to the street, and 6 feet in overall height on the low side.
Commissioner Mueller asked if a condition could be added regarding the visibility through the fence.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that per the definition of a fence, the fence must have a visibility of light and/or air of at least 80 percent through the vertical area.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if the current fence was in the public right-of-way and if that fence was permitted.
Associate Planner Schonborn stated that the current fence was in the public-right-of-way and there were no approvals for that fence.
Commissioner Mueller noted that the plan showed pilasters every six feet. He asked that a condition be included that stated pilasters could be placed no less than 6 feet apart.
Commissioner Vannorsdall asked if there was a condition included that would ensure the owners could not have vines or plants growing along this wrought iron fence that would obstruct the 80 percent light and air.
Associate Planner Schonborn answered that incorporation of a condition that a minimum 80 percent light and air be maintained would cover the potential of growing bushes and vines.
Commissioner Lyon opened the public hearing. There being no speakers, the public hearing was closed.
Commissioner Vannorsdall moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2001-28 thereby approving Variance No. 485, Grading Permit No. 2294 and Encroachment Permit No. 34, seconded by Commissioner Paulson.
Commissioner Mueller asked the motion be amended to include language that the fence have 80 percent light and air visibility and the pilasters be placed no less than every 6 feet.
Commissioner Vannorsdall accepted the amendment, seconded by Commissioner Paulson. Approved, (6-0).
5. Conditional Use Permit 231: Focus on Learning Center 500 Silver Spur Rd.
Assistant Planner Yu presented the staff report. She stated that the request was in compliance with the Development Code in terms of the required parking spaces. She stated that the proposed project will not have a significant impact on the traffic flow, noise level, or an increase in intensity of the use of the existing building. She stated that the applicant had contacted staff after the staff report had been distributed and indicated that the hours of operation on Saturday were 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., which is different than what was indicated in the staff report. She stated that staff recommends approval of the Conditional Use Permit with the modified condition regarding the Saturday hours.
Chairman Lyon opened the public hearing.
Santee Albiar 3603 Hidden Valley Lane, PVP, stated she had spoken to the owner regarding the drop-off and pick-up space and he had indicated he would comply fully with whatever staff recommended.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if she was in agreement with the conditions presented in the staff report.
Ms. Albiar stated she was in agreement.
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2001-29 thereby approving Conditional Use Permit No. 231, seconded by Commissioner Vannorsdall. Approved, (6-0).
6. Conditional Use Permit No. 198 – Revision ‘A’ Compass Telecommunications, representing Cingular Wireless, 500 Silver Spur Rd
Associate Planner Schonborn presented the staff report. He stated that staff had reviewed the proposal for compliance with the Conditional Use Permit and found all applicable findings could be made in a positive manner. Therefore, staff recommended approval of the Conditional Use Permit.
Chairman Lyon opened the public hearing.
Mark Meyers 17870 Skypark Circle, Irvine (representing Cingular Wireless). He briefly explained the project and its installation. He stated that he had read the staff report and agreed with all of the conditions of approval. He displayed photographs of the antenna mock-up showing how the antenna will be integrated into the existing building.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if there were any plans for antennas at additional sites.
Mr. Meyers stated that he was a contractor of Cingular Wireless, and based on the work he was contracted to do, there was no additional work. He felt there may be additional sites planned in the future, based on information provided through their network layout.
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Paulson moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2001-30 thereby approving Conditional Use Permit No. 198 – Revision ‘A’, seconded by Commissioner Cartwright. Approved, (6-0).
7. Planning Commission e-mail policy
Chairman Lyon stated that the staff report had done a very good job addressing and summarizing a policy for Planning Commission e-mail.
Commissioner Mueller discussed the use of e-mail and how it is being used in every day life in many facets. He noted that computers were available for use in public libraries and free e-mail was offered through several companies. He stated he supported the staff recommendations.
Commissioner Long also supported the staff recommendation and acknowledged that some people prefer a hard copy of the correspondence. He asked staff if they had researched the City’s ability to digest the e-mail.
Director/Secretary Rojas answered that he had checked with the City’s technical support and was informed that the City could not digest the e-mail at this time.
Commissioner Cartwright commended the staff on the staff report and felt the suggested policy was a good one. He stated that if a Commissioner receives an e-mail from the public on their private e-mail address they still had the obligation to make sure City staff received the information and distributed it to the other Commissioners.
Chairman Lyon opened the public hearing.
John Freeman 6850 Faircove Drive complimented the Planning Commission on the progress made since the first meeting regarding e-mail policy. He stated that disclosing private e-mail communications was not a requirement of the Brown Act, however the Assistant City Attorney had informed him that there was a due process law requiring all information be shared amongst the Commissioners. He stated he had not reviewed this law. He discussed the city roster and stated that any information the City has on elected or appointed officials is also public information. He noted that this was discussed in the California Public Records Act. Finally, Mr. Freeman noted that anyone traveling can get their e-mail from any computer in the world.
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Mueller noted that he has all of his private e-mail sent to his home e-mail address, not his work e-mail account. In this way, he was able to separate the City business from his work activity, as he did not think it was appropriate for him to do City business while at work.
Commissioner Long endorsed Commissioner Mueller’s comments. He encouraged the public to use the Planning Commission e-mail address rather than the personal ones as he felt that using the separate Planning Commission e-mail address would allow him to review the Planning Commission correspondence in an orderly manner. He stated that he has two e-mail addresses that correspondence could be sent to, however he could not be sure how efficient using those addresses would be as it would depend on how many other e-mail was received that particular day.
Commissioner Paulson asked for clarification on disclosure of e-mail and when e-mail was considered public information.
Assistant City Attorney Pittman clarified that when the e-mail was received on the firstname.lastname@example.org address in was automatically a matter of public record. He stated that when e-mail was received at the Commissioner’s private e-mail address it was up to the Planning Commissioner to determine if that information required disclosure.
Chairman Lyon moved to adopt the staff recommended procedures regarding e-mail, seconded by Commissioner Vannorsdall. Approved, (6-0).
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 8:10 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess to 8:25 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (REGARDING NON-AGENDA ITEMS)
John Freeman 6850 Faircove Drive discussed the Planning Commission’s reaction and comments to Commissioner Long’s letter to the editor in August. He asked why the Commission had no comments regarding Vice Chairman Long’s letter to the editor which appeared in the Daily Breeze a few days prior to Commissioner Long’s letter. He concluded that if the Commission agreed with the Commissioner it was o.k. to write the letter, if the Commission did not agree with the Commissioner it was not o.k. to write the letter. He asked the Commission to act consistently and adopt consistent policies. He asked the Commission to encourage all open communications regardless if they agreed with the position or content.
Lois Larue 3136 Barkentine Road discussed Jim York and the fences that he had put in place along the property line of the Upper Filiorum property.
8. Long Point
Senior Planner Mihranian presented the staff report. He stated that in response to Planning Commission direction, a revised site plan had been submitted to staff and is now before the Planning Commission. He explained the revised plan to the Commission. He stated that the City’s golf safety sub-consultant had reviewed the modified plan and his comments and recommendations were included in the staff report. Mr. Mihranian explained that the applicant had submitted an alternative layout to the Upper Point Vicente Park area with respect to the modified hole no. 2. He stated that staff had not analyzed this alternative, however the Planning Commission may wish to consider this proposal if desired.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if there were any connection between the reduction of the villas and the proposed golf holes.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated there was no connection, but believed the applicant was responding to staff’s recommendations to modify the plan for compliance with the Coastal Specific Plan, which establishes height limitations within vertical zones.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if there were other concerns regarding views from these vertical height zones.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that there were concerns with respect to one of the casitas. He stated there was a condition imposed addressing this issue.
Commissioner Paulson noted in the staff report there was a copy of a fax from the city’s biological sub-consultant, Ann Johnson, regarding the trails near holes 3 and 4 (south and east of the Coast Guard location). He reviewed the fax and noted that the trails would cut through ungraded existing habitat and ungraded new habitat. He also noted that these trails would increase the indirect impacts to habitat and wildlife in these areas, and that the sub-consultant had recommended relocating the trails. He asked staff if they had in comments on these trails.
Senior Planner Mihranian responded that staff was recommending that the trail be realigned along the golf cart path to address the concerns raised by the consultant.
Commissioner Paulson discussed the area of the villas. He asked if the City had ever approved a subdivision in the past with the type of density this villa project was proposing.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that there were subdivisions existing close to that density in regards to lots per acre. He noted, however, that other subdivisions are zoned residential while this subdivision is not zoned residential, but commercial/recreational. He noted that the subdivision recently approved by the Planning Commission off Palos Verdes Drive West was zoned for 13 lots on 3.92 acres.
Senior Planner Mihranian added that the subject property was the only property located in the City zoned for commercial/recreational uses. He did not think the commercial/recreational zoning district was designed to accommodate residential units and the villas are considered accommodations in association with the hotel. He stated that the Commission has the mechanism to regulate the lot size criteria through a Conditional Use Permit.
Commissioner Paulson asked if staff was comfortable with the conditions relative to the height issues.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that staff was comfortable with the height issues concerning the villas as measured from existing grade.
Commissioner Paulson noted a condition stating that if the villas are not sold they will revert back to the hotel. He asked if a third party could buy all 32 units as a whole.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that it was conceivable for someone to buy all 32 units, however the same restrictions would exist.
Commissioner Paulson discussed Exhibit F and the discussion regarding the Rancho Palos Verdes Parks Master Plan of 1989. He noted that in this discussion a municipal golf course was mentioned for the Upper Point Vicente Park area and noted that golf was not a new idea for the use of the area.
Commissioner Paulson then discussed the development agreement in the draft conditions of approval. He stated that this was a condition that the Planning Commission requested be put in, however he felt that the wording should be more specific guaranteeing upfront money paid annually to the City based on the returns of the resort area.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated the wording could be clarified.
Commissioner Paulson noted that the word “equestrian” should be eliminated from 50B, page 8, regarding trail use.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that this trail was actually off the site along Palos Verdes Drive South and was in compliance with the City’s Conceptual Trails Plan, as the trails along Palos Verdes Drive South are designated in the plan as multiple-use trails which include pedestrian, bicycle, and equestrian users.
Commissioner Paulson questioned the condition of approval regarding tee times. He asked if this draft condition was meant to give preference to golfers living in the City over guests at the hotel.
Commissioner Long stated that the literal words of the draft condition were that residents get priority tee times over non-residents who are not staying at the hotel. He stated there was nothing in the condition saying that residents get a priority over guests at the hotel.
Chairman Lyon stated the purpose of the condition was that residents of Rancho Palos Verdes will have a priority over non-residents. He stated that whether or not hotel guests will have priority over city residents will be a matter of policy that still must be developed.
Director/Secretary Rojas added that the Commission can direct that city residents will have priority tee time over hotel guests if that is what they choose to do.
Commissioner Cartwright asked what procedure the Planning Commission was going to follow regarding the public hearing and discussions of this project.
Chairman Lyon suggested the Planning Commission and public hear from the applicant first to better understand the new proposal before the City. Following that, he suggested allowing each Commissioner time to discuss their thoughts on the overall issues before them, and then hear comments from the public on what had been said. He felt the Commission could get more meaningful public comments based on what the Planning Commissioners were discussing rather than on what had been submitted previously.
Commissioner Cartwright felt the Commission should hear from the public before expressing their thoughts and concerns. He stated that his opinion was based on the staff report, input from the public, listening to the applicant, and discussion amongst the Commissioners. The Commission agreed.
Chairman Lyon opened the public hearing.
Mike Mohler 11777 San Vicente Blvd. Los Angeles (applicant), explained that the plan submitted focuses mainly on the Lower Point Vicente area and that there are no changes made to the Upper Point Vicente area. He stated that, at the direction of the Planning Commission, the plans had been revised to reflect a dedicated driving range and practice facility of the same quality as the prior plan and separate hole no. 8. He showed on a display how the plan had been modified to accommodate these requests. He explained how hole no. 8 had been modified and noted that Ocean Trails, Pebble Beach, Pelican Hill, and Spanish Bay all have par 3 holes shorter than this particular par 3. Mr. Mohler pointed out that two of the villa units are now single story, thereby reducing the villa count to 30. He stated the two units were originally 26-foot structures within a 16-foot high zone.
Commissioner Vannorsdall asked if any new major utility lines would have to be brought in for the project.
Mr. Mohler answered that all major utilities were already stubbed into the site. He stated they would abandon existing water lines in deference to new water lines throughout the project site.
Commissioner Paulson asked about the trail discussed earlier in the Upper Point Vicente area and if the developer would be willing to relocate that trail.
Mr. Mohler answered that the developer would relocate the trail according to staff and the City’s biological consultant’s recommendations.
Chairman Lyon asked that the audience try to limit their comments to items that the Planning Commission has not heard before. The Commission agreed to a two-minute time limit for each speaker.
Sonya Hayes 54 Via Capri discussed the concerns that the Long Point Resort would be successful and the City can be assured their money will be there. She stated that the series of trails built by CPH at the end of Hawthorne Boulevard combined with the proposed trails at Upper Point Vicente Park and the proposed trails through the old Marineland site will always be available to the public for their use, at the developer’s expense. She felt the Planning Commission should apply all of the necessary conditions to the project and recommend approval to the City Council.
Rowland Driskall 30 Via Capri discussed a letter he wrote regarding 14 reasons for Long Point and Ocean Trails to enter into a joint development agreement. He stated he received a favorable e-mail response from Ken Zuckerman of Ocean Trails. He stated that the Coastal Commission letter of August 20 poses another hurdle for the developer if he continues to pursue City property for the use of resort golf. He stated that the letter indicates that if the City requests the city park to be graded as a golf course then the city park will be subject to a review as though it were in the coastal zone, and request for an Incidental Take Permit will not be granted. He stated that he has three goals regarding this agenda item: 1) save the park; 2) see Ocean Trails succeed as a world-class 18-hole golf course; and, 3) see Destination Resorts build a world class resort on their own property.
Bob Nelson 6612 Channelview Court stated he was a businessman and the business side of this project must be emphasized. He stated that the Finance Committee report was well known and stated that if changes to the project occurred as proposed in May it would endanger the internal rate of return and endanger the project. He stated that the City was losing $394,000 per month while the City was debating placing more milestones upon the developer. He encouraged the Planning Commission to make a decision and move the project to the City Council.
Dena Friedson 1737 Via Boranado, PVE, discussed the Coastal Commission and their authority to review the affect of golf at Upper Point Vicente. She stated that the suggested conditions of approval do not limit the number of days that guests could occupy the villas. She stated that if guests were to stay longer than 30 days then the transient occupancy tax would be lost, unless the guests signed an agreement with the hotel to pay the tax for their extended business. She did not think the proposed tentative parcel map had any benefit to the City.
Joseph Picarelli 30311 Via Borica discussing hole no. 4 and speaking on behalf of St. Paul’s Church, referred to the City sub-consultant on golf course safety. He stated that the sub-consultant referred to 1960 and 1970 golf standards because this golf course was designed as a 1960/1970 golf course. Therefore, he has made a judgement to review this golf course safety based on that basis. He felt that was totally unacceptable as there are new standards which the golf consultant has made clear to the City are not being used. He stated that the drives from hole no. 4 put the entire cul-de-sac and part of the church’s property in the way of errant shots. He felt this was a tremendous liability the City is assuming.
Ann Shaw 30036 Via Borica stated that in previous meetings the public has heard continually about the importance of golf as a draw to the Long Point Resort. She did not think the public would be drawn to a par 32, 9-hole golf course. She agreed that there were many golf courses that have a short par 3, however they do not have four short par 3 holes on a 9-hole golf course. She felt the Planning Commission should recognize golf for what it was, an amenity the same as a swimming pool, tennis court, and spa. She stated these amenities were primarily a method to enhance the ability to acquire investment capital. She stated that Destination Resorts was unwilling, not unable, to reduce the number of rental units on the Long Point site. She felt the Planning Commission should ask the developer to make a scale model of the development, including both the Upper Point Vicente area and the lower area.
Alfred Sattler 1904 Avenida Aprenda stated that, in addition to a need for trails for those in wheelchairs and those less physically capable, there was a need for trails which are more strenuous. He felt that trails should be layed out so as not to minimize impact on habitat.
Barbara Sattler 1904 Avenida Aprenda hoped that the Commission had the opportunity to read some biological comments and that there were now letters from California Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the Coastal Commission all of who are very much concerned with the impact to habitat this project would cause. She reminded the Commission that the biological concerns of this project are part of the original motion and she did not want this aspect of the project lost in all of the details being discussed.
William Tolliffee 6347 Tarragon Road stated that the latest resort site map illustrates how impossible it is to put a safe golf course and a first class golf academy in with the hotel, villas, casitas, parking lot, and other amenities. He felt there were a number of hazards associated with the holes on the Upper Point Vicente site. He felt that the lack of a beach, no museums or other entertainment within a reasonable driving distance, no local nightlife of special interest would not the resort a very attractive destination.
Holly Cain 52 Avenida Corona suggested, in addition to the golf academy, two putting greens at different levels of experience. She felt that along with a practice area and a good driving range, these amenities would make for a better ambiance rather than a short 9-hole golf course. She felt a first class golf academy would be a far superior amenity to a first class resort hotel than an inferior 9-hole golf course. She distributed to the Planning Commission a copy of an attachment to a letter to Mike Mohler from David Levine from Natural Resource Consultants who is conducting a survey of Upper Point Vicente Park. She noted that the circled areas represented gnatcatcher pairs. She asked the developer to put the yardage onto each hole and felt that this would show that this proposal was not a championship 9-hole golf course. Further, she asked the developer to define the term public play course. She understood the terms private course, semi-private course, and public course, but she had not heard the term public play course. She asked that a condition of approval be added that there will be no nets or fences allowed on that golf course. She stated that if a golf ball causes a problem at a hole then the hole should be re-evaluated.
Barbara Gleghorn 28850 Crestridge Road discussed the Parks Master Plan. She stated that when the plan was developed years ago the City was looking for anything they could do to get revenue for the City. She noted that the plan has never been approved by the National Parks Service. She stated that the only current and only existing program of utilization is one that has passive recreation in the bluff areas where the golf course is planned. She stated that any action that makes the area into a golf course will require a change of the program of utilization.
Stasys Petravicius 15 Seacove Drive discussed a trip he recently took to Ohio. He explained that the City he visited had a population of approximately 12,000 and that the local City park there not only contained the civic center, but a library, an Olympic sized swimming pool, a jacuzzi, tennis courts, a baseball field, and acres of open space. He felt this was a good example of what a civic center should be like.
Commissioner Vannorsdall felt that in Ohio the County and State most likely paid for these improvements. He wondered who would pay for these type of improvements in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Mr. Petravicius did not feel money was an obstacle, it was just a matter of desire.
Lois Larue 3136 Barkentine Road discussed a recent letter to the editor in the Peninsula News stating that the Planning Commission seemed to be apologetic about what was being offered. She stated this piece of property was probably the last big piece available along the ocean and Destination Resorts was most likely going to make alot of money with this property. She stated that the City has the final say, but one would never know that by the way the Planning Commission was talking. She did not think the City should bend over backwards to give the developer everything he wanted. She felt the Planning Commission should tell the developer what the City wants.
Tim Fitzhugh stated he was speaking on behalf of the Los Angeles diving community. He stated they had two concerns which they felt would make this project a disaster for the Los Angeles diving community. He stated there were some rock reefs offshore in an area he indicated on the map. He stated showed that one set of rock reefs is easily accessible rock beach that is also a launching beach for kayaks and divers. He stated that by limiting the access to the beach to the one switchback road, this effectively denies access to the public beach by kayakers and divers. Additionally, he was concerned by the pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer runoff from the golf course into the ocean.
Commissioner Paulson asked Mr. Fitzhugh if any development placed on the site would be disastrous for the diving community.
Mr. Fitzhugh stated that development was inevitable on the site. However, he felt that the development should not have runoff that could potentially affect the offshore habitat and should allow the public easy access to the public beach.
Angelica Brinkman-Busi, San Pedro, discussed the fragmented habitat proposed by this project. She stated that the developer has been discussing numbers but what was needed was quality habitat. She stated that habit needed to be contiguous. She pointed out that there was no buffer between the holes and the habitat areas.
Mike Mohler (in rebuttal) stated the developer has planned to install a parking lot closer than currently exists to the public beach discussed earlier that will be open to the public forever. Further, they are proposing to make the path down to the fishing access wheelchair accessible. He explained that the requirements of the City and the EIR call for higher water quality than exists today. He also discussed the linear elements of the habitat as shown on the plans and stated that those linear elements are up to six times wider and bulkier than the linear elements provided at Ocean Trails. He pointed out that Ocean Trails is now having a successful increase in nesting pairs of gnatcatchers. He also stated that the proposed golf course has a higher safety rating and safety setbacks adjacent to public paths and development than Ocean Trails. He stated that the proposed golf course was intended to be a fun golf course and was not a championship golf course by virtue of the decisions made by everyone at this forum. He felt there were four or five golf holes that were every bit as good as those found at Ocean Trails. He stated that the current yardage of the proposed golf course was 2,570 yards.
Commissioner Paulson asked what the total distance from the tee to the hole was on holes 4 and 3.
Mr. Mohler answered that on hole no. 4 the distance from the pro tee it was 162 yards and from the upper tee it was 122 yards. On hole no. 3 the distance was 327 yards.
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Chairman Lyon began by stating he has heard many good arguments for and against the golf course. He stated that the process the Planning Commission must follow was to look at each of the permits and to consider all of the findings for each of the permits. He stated that the Planning Commission had not even begun to look at the findings. Moreover, the Commission must carefully review the conditions of approval. He stated he had many concerns about the safety issues of the golf course that had not been discussed. Chairman Lyon stated that the Planning Commission must also look at all of the details of the resort hotel area, which they had not begun to do. With that being said, he felt the Planning Commission was in the position of having several more meetings before they could get through all of the necessary details. He realized that the priorities of the developer were not with the golf course but with the villas and casitas. He indicated an area on the map that the resource agencies had indicated they may not be able to approve if development was planned. He wondered what the point was to approve a plan, knowing it would not be approved by these resource agencies.
Chairman Lyon felt very strongly that the Planning Commission should provide the City Council with alternatives. He stated the very obvious alternative was to say no golf at Upper Point Vicente. He felt the Commission should be able to come up with a reasonable compromise to present to the City Council to consider. He stated that he planned to suggest a motion to forward the following conclusions and recommendations to the City Council for their consideration and action: 1) the Planning Commission supports the concept of a resort hotel on the Long Point property; 2) it is believed that an agreement with Ocean Trails golf course and the availability of a suitable golf practice facility and/or driving range is important to the success of the project; 3) it is uncertain whether a contiguous 9 hole golf course is necessary for the project to succeed; 4) however, to this end, the Planning Commission supports by a vote of 4-3 use of the lower (southeastern) portion of Upper Point Vicente for golf provided that a revised project plan incorporating certain public safety, habitat protection and parkland development conditions is acceptable to the Commission. Otherwise golf on Upper Point Vicente is denied; 5) to date no plan totally acceptable to the Commission has been submitted by Destination Development Corporation; 6) the Planning Commission recommends that the City Council decides whether to: a)deny the project, b)direct that the project be restricted to the developer owned land, or c) conditionally approve the project using some city land along the lines specified in the most recent plan revision and conditions of approval; and, 7) if 6b or 6c is selected by the City Council, the City Council may wish to ask the Planning Commission to further develop appropriate conditions of approval. Chairman Lyon stated that he felt it was easier to make the big decision first and then work the details.
Commissioner Paulson stated that he needed the details to help him form his opinion on the larger issues. He was very concerned about the environmental impact from holes 3 and 4 and the trail issue in that area. He stated that if he were to make a motion it would be very similar to Chairman Lyon’s motion. He felt he could support much of what the Chairman said in his motion.
Commissioner Long felt that the Chairman had framed a good way of looking at the issues. He felt the difficulty was that the Planning Commission had not yet begun to discuss the permit findings and therefore he did not think it was appropriate for the Planning Commission to follow option no. 6 and essentially abdicate in their considerations the permit findings and have the City Council make that decision for them. He stated that early in this process the Planning Commission had asked the City Council for a workshop and guidance on how to proceed with this application. He noted that the City Council had elected not to have a workshop or give guidance other than to follow their standard procedure. In that sense he felt it was premature to send a recommendation to the City Council until they have had a chance to consider the permit findings. Following that procedure, the City Council would receive a recommendation on the land use issue, the amendment to the General Plan, and the permit findings.
Commissioner Long acknowledged that, given how long this application has been before the Planning Commission it was understandable to reach a final decision soon. However, given how long the application has been before the Planning Commission and the Commission has not yet addressed the permit findings, he did not feel it was appropriate to try to rush the matter to conclusion. He felt this was especially important given the upcoming November election. He felt that the right group to make a decision on this project might be the City Council as comprised subsequent to the November election rather than prior. He felt that at a very minimum before any motions are made the findings should be discussed amongst the Commissioners.
Commissioner Paulson agreed that the Planning Commission needed to discuss the findings before forwarding anything to the City Council. He stated that a recommendation to the City Council had to address what the Planning Commission found in their analysis of the project.
Chairman Lyon stated that the reason he suggested the motion was to expedite the process and get it before this City Council before the November election. He did not think it was fair to the developer to stall the process until after the November election. He felt that the current City Council was qualified to make a good judgement. He did not like to see politics influence the process of the Planning Commission. As an individual, he was ready to make a decision, as presented earlier. He stated he expected to and was willing to review and sharpen some of the conditions.
Commissioner Long suggested reviewing the findings item by item, because from his point of view it was one thing to ask him to support golf on public land and another thing to ask him if he has heard enough facts to make the factual findings that he is required to make to issue permits.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff to comment on the biological impacts that were of concern to the resource agencies.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that this project involves a take of habitat and that take will require a permit to be issued by the Federal government. Because of that, the resource agencies need to be involved with the process. In reviewing the most current project, they looked at the current proposal and made comments stating they had concerns from a biological perspective. They made some very loose statements about what they felt could be done in terms of golf layout that was more beneficial from a biological perspective and stated that additional time would be needed to review the current proposal.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff about the biological issues involved with holes 3 and 4 and if they could or could not be mitigated.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that from the EIR perspective staff has determined that the impacts can be mitigated to a level of less than significant, in terms of revegetation and design. He noted that it was not uncommon in the past for the City to take a position on biological issues which the resource agencies do not agree with. The issues are then worked out between the two.
Commissioner Cartwright had a bit of a concern with the Chairman’s proposed motion. He felt that the Planning Commission was given a task and they should present the City Council with some recommendations. He felt that in the past the findings have not been presented in a manner that would allow the Planning Commission to make a decision. He felt the Planning Commission has been tied up with the land use issue and have not focused on the permits and the findings. He felt the Planning Commission should focus on the permits and there were some decisions that needed to be made in order for him to take a position on the larger picture. He also sated that he believed a 9-hole golf course was needed or required for the success of the hotel.
Chairman Lyon explained that the Planning Commission had approved a motion approving golf for a limited portion of the Upper Point Vicente area provided the developer submit a plan that was acceptable to the Planning Commission. He noted that the first plan that came back was unacceptable, and he felt this second plan was unacceptable. He stated that he did not want a third plan to come back but would rather explain to the City Council what had happened and that an acceptable plan had not been presented to the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Vannorsdall stated that he could not go along with the proposed motion and felt it was a complete abdication of the responsibilities of the Planning Commission. He felt the current plan before the Commission was an acceptable plan and the developer had done what the Commission had requested of him. He did feel the Commission should go through the findings related to this current plan.
Commissioner Paulson stated he could not support a motion that would go to the City Council without the Commission first going through the procedure of reviewing the findings. Concurrently with that review, it would allow the Commission to address the issue of holes 3 and 4 and the trails in question. He proposed that at the next meeting the Commission and staff immediately start a discussion of the findings.
Chairman Lyon realized the Commission was uncomfortable with his proposed motion and felt the findings for each permit should then be discussed at this meeting rather than waiting for the next meeting.
Commissioner Long moved to find the current plans submitted were not acceptable to the Planning Commission and that pursuant to the earlier motion, the use of Upper Point Vicente for golf purposes be denied, seconded by Commissioner Mueller.
Chairman Lyon felt it was unfair to the Vice Chairman, who was absent, for the Planning Commission to vote on an important motion where his vote would make a difference.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that the Planning Commission had asked the developer to return with a plan that put the dedicated practice facility back into the plan. He stated that the developer had done that. He felt this plan was basically acceptable to him. He noted there were still issues of golf safety but that staff felt they could be mitigated.
Chairman Lyon asked staff if they felt it was likely or unlikely that the resource agencies would approve a plan that uses golf where holes 3 and 4 are currently located.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that, based on statements made at a meeting held last week, he did not think the resource agencies would issue a take permit for the proposed design.
Commissioner Cartwright asked what would be necessary to do to get the resource agencies approval.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt that the resource agencies wanted a larger block of habitat somewhere on Upper Point Vicente. He noted that these were opinions based on discussions and nothing had been put in writing or formalized.
Commissioner Long repeated his motion. The motion failed, (2-4), with Commissioners Cartwright, Paulson, Vannorsdall, and Chairman Lyon dissenting.
The Commissioners discussed how to proceed with a discussion of the findings and decided to review the findings in the order the staff presented them in the staff report.
Assistant City Attorney Pittman suggested reviewing the draft findings and if the Commission found that they could approve the draft findings, then direct staff to prepare the appropriate resolutions. He suggested the Planning Commission wait until the next meeting to formalize that when the Commission could also go through the findings of the EIR and the EIR consultants will be available for questions.
Chairman Lyon asked if the Commission should vote on each permit in turn or review all of the permits and take one vote.
Assistant City Attorney Pittman stated that the permits could be voted on in turn, in which case they should do so in a particular order as some of the permits are dependent on the approval of others. He did not think the order mattered on the resort hotel site but on the Upper Point Vicente property the General Plan Amendment should be reviewed prior to the grading permit or the conditional use permit.
Senior Planner Mihranian clarified that Exhibits ‘A’ through ‘D’ relate to the resort hotel area and Exhibits ‘E’ through ‘G’ relate to the Upper Point Vicente area.
Chairman Lyon began with Exhibit ‘A’, Coastal Permit No. 166.
Commissioner Mueller stated he had a concern with the height of the villas, which was discussed on page 2 of Exhibit ‘A’. He noted that the condition stated that the buildings would be 16 feet above grade for the single story buildings and questioned how high above Palos Verdes Drive South that would be.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that the ridge height of the 16-foot high villas would be approximately 3 feet above Palos Verdes Drive South. He stated that the other villas outside of zone 1 would also be approximately 6 feet above the street elevation of Palos Verdes Drive South.
Commissioner Mueller stated that he did not understand a view corridor if you could not see the ocean from the street. He stated he had an objection to a ridgeline that was six feet above the road and felt it was important to maintain the view for cars driving along Palos Verdes Drive South.
Commissioner Paulson felt Commissioner Mueller had a good point and asked if a condition could be added that the ridge height will not exceed the level of the road of Palos Verdes Drive South.
There being no further comments, the Commission agreed to approve Exhibit ‘A’ as amended.
Chairman Lyon then discussed Exhibit ‘B’, Conditional Use Permit No. 215. He noted that the description of the number of golf holes beginning on page 4 was incorrect. Chairman Lyon then moved through each page of Exhibit ‘B’ individually asking for any comments regarding each page.
Commissioner Long noted that on page 4 and continuing on to page 6, the mitigation measures outlined for traffic weren’t sufficient. He did not think that, based on the facts heard at the meetings, the Planning Commission could make the necessary finding. He was not convinced that the mitigation measures listed on page 6 were satisfactory. He did not want to see Palos Verdes Drive South have the same traffic problems encountered on Palos Verdes Drive North, which he felt were unsatisfactory. He noted these traffic problems were especially heavy in the morning hours heading east on Palos Verdes Drive North.
Chairman Lyon stated that the City Engineer, the City Traffic Consultant, and the Traffic Committee have all analyzed the potential traffic and all believe there would not be a problem.
Commissioner Vannorsdall stated that not only the current project was considered when discussing traffic impacts, but future potential projects.
Commissioner Paulson reviewed the EIR and the number of trips that the project would generate. He did not see where the hotel would, by itself, cause significant additional traffic.
Commissioner Long felt that may be true, but he felt he would like to see a comparison as to how many trips were generated on Palos Verdes Drive North and how many would be generated on Palos Verdes Drive South. He felt that some of the same underpinnings for what is bad on Palos Verdes Drive seem to be emerging on Palos Verdes Drive South. He wondered what the final straw would be for Palos Verdes Drive South.
Commissioner Vannorsdall pointed out that this was a hotel use and there would not be the same type of traffic flows as those generated on Palos Verdes Drive North.
Senior Planner Mihranian noted that the EIR addressed average daily traffic. The EIR stated that Palos Verdes Drive North between Crenshaw Blvd. and Palos Verdes Drive East experienced approximately 28,000 trips with a level of service of D during a.m. peak hours and E during p.m. peak hours. The EIR stated that the level of service for Palos Verdes Drive South was rated B. He also noted that with the development there would approximately 14,900 trips on Palos Verdes Drive South. He noted that this figure included the anticipated growth through 2010.
Commissioner Long was persuaded that the findings regarding traffic could be made.
Commissioner Long raised a question on page 8 of Exhibit ‘B’ regarding bicycle safety along Palos Verdes Drive South.
Senior Planner Mihranian responded that when the golf safety expert reviewed the plan he did not consider the golf course and its proximity to Palos Verde Drive South because of the grade difference and the villas that are between the golf course and the street.
Commissioner Long was satisfied with the staff’s response to his concerns regarding bicycle safety on Palos Verdes Drive South.
There were no further questions and the Planning Commission unanimously approved Exhibit ‘B’ as presented.
Chairman Lyon addressed Exhibit ‘C’ page by page.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff why the parcels were being split the way they were.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that the applicant’s request of a parcel map was to separate the uses of golf, villas, and hotel operations.
Commissioner Long asked if there was an advantage to the City of dividing the land into these parcels.
Director/Secretary Rojas responded that the main advantage would be that if it becomes necessary in the future, it would be easier for the City to take control of all of the golf facilities with the parcels split as proposed.
Chairman Lyon asked why parcels 2 and 3 were separated.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that if parcels 2 and 3 were combined it would conflict with the hotel parcel that maintained the entry road easement to the hotel facility and further result in a land locked condition.
Chairman Lyon noted that the golf hole identification numbers on parcels 2 and 3 were incorrect and needed changing.
After reviewing the rest of Exhibit ‘C’ the Planning Commission unanimously approved Exhibit ‘C’ as amended to change the golf hole identification numbers on parcels 2 and 3.
Commissioner Long asked if the Comission should consider Exhibit ‘D’ or wait until the amended grading plan was presented.
Associate Planner Mihranian stated that the most recent grading plan submitted to the City does not include the relocation of hole no. 8 and the practice facility. He stated the plan also does not include the lowering of the proposed grade.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that staff needed to update the findings in Exhibit ‘D’ once the new plan was received and felt the Planning Commission should consider Exhibit ‘D’ at a later meeting.
Chairman Lyon reviewed Exhibit ‘E’ and asked the Commissioners for their comments.
Commissioner Long stated that he was opposed to the General Plan amendment, did not think the proposed use was a public use, felt the proposed use of the land endangers open space, and felt the Commission should recommend the General Plan amendment be rejected.
Chairman Lyon moved to recommend approval of the General Plan amendment, seconded by Commissioner Vannorsdall. Approved, (3-2) with Commissioners Long and Mueller dissenting.
Commissioner Paulson clarified that the only thing the Commission had approved by recommending approval of the General Plan amendment was the addition of active recreational land use in the area.
Chairman Lyon reviewed Exhibit ‘F’. He stated that the number of golf holes needed to be updated throughout.
Commissioner Paulson asked staff to clarify the discussion of noise and lighting on pages 8 and 9 of Exhibit ‘F’.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that if the standards of noise and lighting could not be mitigated to a level of less than significant in the EIR, then the City would adopt a statement of overriding considerations. He stated that this was a typical procedure per CEQA.
Commissioner Long asked how the Commission was going to address finding no. 4. He stated that by definition the Planning Commission could not amend the General Plan. He felt the Planning Commission could recommend all of the findings except finding no. 4 could be made as to this permit application. If the General Plan is amended by the City Council, then this finding could be made.
Assistant City Attorney Pittman stated that within the body of the finding the Planning Commission could set forth a statement that assuming the City Council adopts the General Plan amendment recommended concurrently herewith this finding could be made. He stated the Planning Commission could also condition the finding expressly on the City Council adopting the General Plan amendment.
Commissioner Long stated that he was not in support of the General Plan amendment. He stated that if the General Plan amendment is adopted by the City Council then he agreed finding no. 4 could be made. However, if he had to say that he recommended the City Council adopt the General Plan amendment, he could not do that.
Assistant City Attorney Pittman stated that the Resolution will state that a General Plan amendment has been submitted and reviewed by the Planning Commission concurrently with this application. The Planning Commission can specifically condition the approval of the Conditional Use Permit on Upper Point Vicente on the adoption of the General Plan amendment.
Commissioner Long stated that addressed his concerns.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted on page 8 that there was the topic of fencing. He stated that the applicant had submitted a proposal for fencing along the fairway for hole no. 2. He stated that if the Commission accepts the fencing then the findings language needs to be amended as there was a statement in the findings stating that the lack of fencing will enhance the natural setting of the site.
Commissioner Long suggested changing the wording to minimization of fencing rather than lack of fencing.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt that would suffice.
Chairman Lyon stated staff could also delete the second sentence of the statement so that it would read “unless the Commission finds that a fence is warranted, staff believes that a lack of fencing will enhance the natural setting of the site.”
The Planning Commission unanimously approved Exhibit ‘F’ as amended.
Senior Planner Mihranian noted the findings in Exhibit ‘G’ do not include language pertaining to the grading revisions the Commission directed the applicant to make and needed to be revised.
Chairman Lyon stated that the Planning Commission had approved all of the findings with the exception of the two grading permits.
Commissioner Paulson asked staff if the Planning Commission continues with what they are doing at the next meeting, will that be listed as a public hearing.
Assistant City Attorney stated that at the next meeting, based on the Planning Commission deliberations and recommendations, public comments can be opened if the Planning Commission so chooses.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that he would like to discuss holes 3 and 4 at the next meeting.
Commissioner Paulson stated he would like to discuss the issue of the water tank.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:15 a.m.