CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
SEPTEMBER 25, 2001
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Lyon at 7:03 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Commissioner Long led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Cartwright, Long, Mueller, Paulson, Vannorsdall, Vice Chairman Clark, Chairman Lyon
Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Senior Planner Fox, Senior Planner Mihranian, Assistant City Attorney Pittman, and Recording Secretary Peterson.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Chairman Lyon suggested changing the order to hear item 4 before item 3. The Commission unanimously agreed.
Director Rojas distributed 2 items of correspondence relating to Agenda Item No. 3 and 11 items of correspondence relating to Agenda Item No. 5.
Commissioner Long reported he had received a letter from Dena Friedson expressing concerns over the zoning of Upper Point Vicente.
1. Minutes of September 11, 2001
Vice Chairman Clark requested that the minutes reflect the reason he was absent from the last meeting was because on the night of September 11,2001 he was on special alert status duty associated with his status in the United States Air Force.
Commissioner Long noted a clarification to his statement on page 20 of the minutes.
Commissioner Mueller suggested a clarification to his statement on page 6 of the minutes.
Commissioner Cartwright noted a typo on page 16 of the minutes. He also noted a clarification to his statement on page 16.
Commissioner Paulson noted a typo on page 18 and a clarification on page 21 of the minutes.
Without objection, the minutes were approved as amended, (6-0-1) with Vice Chairman Clark abstaining since he was not at that meeting.
2. Conditional Use Permit No. 158 – Revision ‘E’: Makallon RPV Associates LLC, Tract NO. 46628 (Oceanfront)
Commissioner Long noted that Capitol Pacific Holdings is a client with the law firm in which he is employed and, as he has done in the past, he will recuse himself from this item.
Vice Chairman Clark stated that he had held he had recently had a campaign event at Oceanfront Estates and would therefore recuse himself from this item.
Senior Planner Fox presented the staff report. He noted that currently the only accessory structures allowed to encroach into the setback areas were in-ground pools and spas. He stated the purpose of the existing restriction was to maintain and have visual corridors along and through the rear yards of the homes in the community. However, several of the new property owners have expressed interest in constructing additional accessory structures, such as built in barbecues and low planter walls, in the rear yard setback area. Therefore, the developer has made the request for the revision on behalf of the current and future homeowners of the Oceanfront Community. He stated that staff has determined that all of the necessary findings for the Conditional Use Permit Revision could be made. He noted that in a recent telephone conversation with the developer’s representative there was also a request made to include fire pits. Staff reviewed the request and felt a fire pit would be similar to a low wall, as long as the fire pit did not exceed 30 inches in height. He stated that the developer had expressed concern about the proposed condition q-6 which would prohibit placing accessory structures on the slope areas of the rear and side yards. He stated that staff felt it was important to include this restriction in that it will to maintain the integrity of the slope areas and protect the rear yard visual corridors.
Commissioner Paulson asked if there had been a discussion about including these types of structures in the original approval of the project.
Senior Planner Fox believed there was a discussion regarding these type of structures, and that is why the condition was written the way it was so as not allow accessory structures to encroach into that area. He felt the concern of the Commission at that time was having large freestanding types of accessory structures in the rear yards. He noted that staff now believes, that based on the limited height and the types of the structures being proposed, they will not have adverse visual impacts for those on the loop road or view impacts from homes that are adjacent. He stated that the types of structures proposed in this revision are those that are not constituted as lot coverage and frequently do not require a building permit. He stated these types of structures are allowed in other areas of the City.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Fox if he felt these exclusions were unintentional.
Senior Planner Fox stated that staff felt the language was overly broad in the original condition.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated he was not directly involved in original discussions for the project, however he felt these modifications meet the intent of the original condition.
Commissioner Mueller felt the original condition was meant to keep structures in the backyard flush with the ground so as to consider the look of the bluffs and the view corridor. He felt that adding structures such as this was deviating from the original intention. He asked if the Planning Commission who approved this project had discussions regarding barbecues in the backyard.
Senior Planner Fox answered that staff was not aware of any specific discussions regarding barbecues. He had talked to the former staff project manager and her recollection was there was not a specific discussion regarding built in barbecues. She felt the focus was on larger structures, such as freestanding patio covers and gazebos.
Chairman Lyon opened the public hearing.
Tim Hamilton 4100 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach (applicant) distributed a handout for the Commissioners to review. After researching the question, Mr. Hamilton felt sure that the conditions did not mean to prevent homeowners from having a barbecue or gas fired fire pit in their backyard. He stated that currently the City has denied a small, 6-inch high fire pit and a $16,000 barbecue that is almost hidden from view. He asked the Commission to review the condition in light that the homeowners are anxious to improve their backyards and make them look as attractive as possible. He stated that CPH has set up an architectural committee that has to approve every landscaping plan in the Oceanfront community. He concluded by asking the Planning Commission to support the staff’s recommendations.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if there were currently any accessory structures built on any of the 12 homes that are currently occupied.
Mr. Hamilton answered that in the model complex there are some barbecues and fire pits built, but thought the City previously approved these.
Senior Planner Fox stated that the improvements in the model homes are covered through the Special Use Permit for the models.
Trevor Dodson 17320 Redhill Ave Irvine stated he was MDS consulting, the civil engineers for the project. He stated that what was proposed was easily done and urged the Planning Commission to approve the staff’s recommendations.
John Hoffman 65 Via del Cielo stated he was in the final stages of developing his home in Oceanfront Estates and beginning the landscaping process. He stated he was surprised to learn he could not build a barbecue when he submitted his landscape plans to the City. He stated that the only place he could build a barbecue under the current conditions of approval was a very thin area to the side of the home where the stairs come down. He did not think this was an area anyone would want to have a barbecue. He noted that the barbecue proposed was consistent with the one built at the model home and is very tasteful. He felt this proposed barbecue would not only enhance the living experience, but also the outside view from anyone driving or walking by on the road.
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that it was hard for him to believe that the intent of the condition was to restrict any kind of accessory structure. He felt this condition severely restricted homeowners in how they could use their backyard. He felt barbecues and fire pits were typical in homes, and not the exception. He felt this amendment was a reasonable request and he could support the request.
Chairman Lyon agreed this was an expected amenity in any home.
Commissioner Mueller asked if there could be restrictions in the amendment stating these structures could not be contiguous. He felt it would be possible for a type of wall to be built when two or three of these structures were built side by side.
Senior Planner Fox answered that there might be some type of wording to reflect this idea.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that there was nothing restricting a homeowner from building planters under 30 inches in height one next to another. He felt it would be very difficult to prevent the building of something that looks like a planter wall.
Commissioner Lyon moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2001-31, approving Conditional Use Permit No. 158 – Revision ‘E’ with the amendment that fire pits be included as well as a three foot setback (help) , seconded by Commissioner Vannorsdall. Approved, (5-0-2) with Commissioner Long and Vice Chairman Clark abstaining.
4. Variance No. 475, Minor Exception Permit No. 572, Grading Permit No. 2228, Site Plan Review No. 8808 Revision ‘A’, Coastal Permit No. 161 Revision ‘A’: 33 Marguerite Drive
Commissioner Long stated that he would recuse himself from this application, as the owner of the property was a judge, and while he had a case before this judge in the past there was no way of knowing if he would be before him in the future.
There being no concerns from the Planning Commission, Chairman Lyon asked if there was any audience member who wished to speak. There was nobody in the audience who requested to speak.
Commissioner Mueller asked the difference between a guesthouse and a second unit.
Senior Planner Mihranian clarified that a second unit has food preparation facilities where as a guesthouse has only sleeping quarters. He noted that on this plan a guesthouse was proposed that would be attached to the existing second unit. He stated that although attached, there was no internal access between the two structures. Therefore, staff considered them two separate structures.
Commissioner Cartwright moved to adopt P.C. Resolution No. 2001-32 thereby approving Variance No. 475, Minor Exception Permit No. 572, Grading Permit No. 2228, Site plan Review No. 8808 Revision ‘A’, and Coastal Permit No. 161 Revision ‘A’ as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Paulson. Approved, (6-0-1) with Commissioner Long abstaining.
3. Tentative Tract Map No. 53305, Conditional Use Permit No. 228, Grading Permit No. 2242 and Environmental Assessment No. 738: California Water Service & JCC Homes, 5837 Crest Road
Senior Planner Fox presented the staff report. He explained the request and how the proposed residential lots would be used. He also explained the size of the proposed lots as well as the size of the proposed houses. Mr. Fox discussed Lot 7, which contains the underground reservoir and pump station will be retained as open space and the developer will be required to pay an in-lieu park fee on City Council approval. He noted that the General Plan land use designation for the California Water Service site was infrastructure facility while the zoning designation was RS-4. He stated that the City Attorney felt that there would be the need to add a General Plan Amendment to this project before it moves forward to the City Council. He explained that staff felt this could be accomplished by renoticing prior to the next meeting. Mr. Fox stated that most of the required findings for a residential planned development could be made, however both staff and surrounding residents have concerns about the project consistency to some of the required findings. He explained that typical homes in the surrounding neighborhoods are approximately 2,400 square feet in size on lots approximately 9,000 square feet. The homes proposed by the developer range in size from 5,600 to 6,500 square feet in living area on a lot size of approximately 12,000 square feet. He stated that at this time staff was recommending the Planning Commission accept public testimony on the proposed project and the draft (SOMETHING), provide staff and the applicant with direction on key issues of concerns with the project, and continue the project to the meeting of October 9, 2001. He noted that staff has received a total of 10 letters in opposition to the project.
Commissioner Cartwright noted that there were some very large Monterey Pines located on the California Water Service property. He asked if there was any concern regarding view impairment from those trees.
Senior Planner Fox stated there are concerns, however there are also concerns about retaining those trees as a buffer between the development and the existing residences.
Commissioner Paulson asked what was proposed to happen with the activities and the garaging facilities located on the property.
Senior Planner Fox stated that California Water Service would be relocating most of their operations to a new facility in Torrance.
Chairman Lyon opened the public hearing.
Kurt Nelson 3480 Torrance Blvd., Torrance (applicant) stated he has taken the time to review the staff report, the recommendations for the mitigated negative declaration, and the letters sent in opposition very thoroughly. He felt it was possible to address any reasonable issues of any significant view impairment, preservation or replacement of landscaping, and the redesign of the house on lot 9 (as recommended in the staff report) could be adequately addressed at the next Planning Commission meeting. He stated he would like to listen to the public and Commission comments made at this meeting so that he could provide a possible solution at the next meeting.
Vice Chairman Clark asked Mr. Nelson why JCC Homes was proposing such large homes on these lots, which was tripling the size of homes on similar lots in the area. He was especially concerned with the cumulative effect of that kind of massing on lots.
Mr. Nelson answered that the surrounding neighborhood had homes of approximately 2,500 square feet, where the homes proposed by JCC were approximately double that size rather than triple the size. He noted that the lots for the proposed homes were significantly larger than the lots in the surrounding neighborhood. He also stated that, for better or worse, larger homes are what the market desires.
Commissioner Paulson stated that he had visited the site and studied the plans, and felt that he was looking at two separate areas. He stated that there was a residential development proposed with 6 lots. Across from California Water Service, almost as an afterthought, there was another piece of property (lot 9) thrown in to make a little money. He was very uncomfortable with this type of approach to the development.
Tim Racisz 3480 Torrance Blvd, Torrance, stated he was the architect for the project and was at the meeting to gather information and answer any questions.
Robert Allen 5822 Scotwood Drive stated his property was located behind the proposed lots 4 and 5. He stated that, based on the silhouettes placed on those lots, he will lose 90 percent of his view of Catalina. He stated the proposed houses would be much taller than the existing foliage on the property. He did not feel it was right for a resident who had lived in their home for 27 years to lose an entire view.
Chairman Lyon asked Mr. Allen if he had any basis to know if the portion of the view obstructed would be higher than 16 feet above the existing grade.
Mr. Allen stated he did not do any measuring. He simply stood in his backyard and felt he would only be able to see the top inch of Catalina rather than the entire view he has now.
Chairman Lyon noted that the property owner has a right to build up to 16 feet in height, but not higher than that if there is a view obstruction.
Vice Chairman Clark asked Mr. Allen if he had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Nelson or anyone from JCC Homes.
Mr. Allen said he had not talked with anyone from JCC Homes.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Mr. Allen if his view was over the southern border of the development and if the trees on the property obstructed his view.
Mr. Allen answered that the trees did not obstruct his view as he could see the ocean and all of Catalina Island.
Carolynn Tuttle 29541 Oceanport Road stated she currently has a view of Catalina Island. She stated that she currently lives in a 2,400 square foot home and does not think the proposed 5,000 to 7,000 square foot homes are in any way compatible with the neighborhood. She was very concerned about the loss of her view of Catalina. She felt the Planning Commission should find out if there is a diver who periodically goes into the existing reservoir to seal leaks. She stated that swimming pools get fissures and leak after an earthquake. She wondered what would happen to the surrounding area if there were a leak in the reservoir. She felt the Commission should ask for extreme geological studies of the land. She stated she would much rather be listening to how the water company would propose added security around the facility rather than a chain link fence.
Commissioner Cartwright asked Ms. Tuttle if she had the opportunity to read the staff report.
Ms. Tuttle replied that she had not had the opportunity to read the staff report.
Commissioner Cartwright explained that for lot 9 staff had recommended structures be limited to a height of 16 and the square footage and setbacks were also restricted. He asked if what the staff was recommending would satisfy Ms. Tuttle’s concerns.
Ms. Tuttle stated that the lower structure would allow her to see the top of Catalina, however she would not be able to see the water line. She stated that the area of the proposed home was her only viewing area. She was also very concerned with chimneys obstructing her view.
Greg Johnson 29643 Stonecrest Road stated that he was deeply concerned with this proposed development. He stated that instead of looking at beautiful trees 10 feet behind his back fence, he would be looking at mini-mansions. He stated that it appeared that all along Stonecrest Road there are two or three of the houses in the new development which will represent a gross discontinuity between Mesa Palos Verdes and the big houses in the new development. He was disappointed that the developer did not put up silhouettes to give the neighbors an idea of what was proposed. He felt that as a minimum, the six houses should be moved back more than 10 feet from the back fences of the people who live on Stonecrest Road. He stated that all of the foliage and trees along Stonecrest Road currently affords definition and privacy to the backyards should remain. He felt the new homes should not block existing views and they should be compatible in size and style.
Dorothe Turley 5814 Scotwood Drive stated she currently has an end to end view of Catalina and has had that view since she moved into the home in 1954. She stated that she picked this lot because it had a pristine view of Catalina and would always have that view. She felt that if these houses were built she would have lost the rest of her end-to-end view of Catalina. She explained that she had endured 19 months of construction during the building of the existing reservoir in the 1970’s. She stated it was dirty, noisy, and very disconcerting. She stated she did not complain at the time because she knew when she bought her property that the California Water Service property was set aside for a water reservoir. She was now concerned that trucks and equipment for California Water Service use was now going to be parked behind her home.
Ray Mathys 5738 Whitecliff Drive stated that normally a developer will work to contact the neighboring property owners and work out any concerns and differences there may be with the proposed project. He stated that he was not aware of any such effort made with this project. He was very concerned with the size of the proposed homes and felt they were in no way compatible with the neighborhood. He was concerned with the existing reservoir and the water lines to the reservoir. He felt the moving of dirt, compaction, and vibration of heavy equipment could cause damage to the underground water and sewage lines. He requested the project be redesigned to provide a landscape buffer, those comparable to what exist today, and require the physical inspection needed to ensure no leaks will occur from the tanks or water lines as a result of the work performed on the property.
Vice Chairman Clark noted that Mr. Mathys was president of the Mesa Homeowners Association and asked if the board or homeowners association had taken a position on this project.
Mr. Mathys answered that the board had not discussed the matter for the simple reason that it was never brought to their attention, which is one of his main objections.
Vice Chairman Clark asked Mr. Mathys what he would like to see at the California Water Service site.
Mr. Mathys stated the project was not compatible with the neighborhood and asked the developer to redesign the project and take into consideration the concerns and complaints of the neighbors.
Commissioner Cartwright asked staff if the early neighborhood notification process applied to this project.
Senior Planner Fox stated that it did not because this was not a height variation application. He explained the height was being reviewed through the conditional use permit for the residential planned development rather than a height variation.
Robert Shirley 29635 Stonecrest Road stated that he has written two letters to the Planning Commission regarding the project. He stated he was horrified to learn California Water Service had sold their site to a developer and that homes were being planned 10 feet from his rear yard boundary. He did not think the developer was showing any sensitivity to the existing homeowners. He explained that the residents along Stonecrest, Scotwood and Sunmist have enjoyed privacy and park-like ambiance for nearly 40 years. He felt that there were a number of environmental issues in the mitigated negative declaration that are not adequately addressed. He stressed that because the project met the technical code requirements of lot size, setbacks, etc., it still does not mean the project is a good one, makes sense, or is compatible with the neighborhood. He felt the mitigated negative declaration was very vague on the proposed treatment of vegetation and landscaping.
Issac Huang 29538 Oceanport Road discussed the issue of traffic and stated he was very concerned with the safety of the children and adults in the immediate area during construction. He stated there was already an increase in traffic in the area from the Seabreeze community, especially in the mornings and afternoons.
Charles Joo 5840 Scotwood Drive stated he has enjoyed a beautiful ocean view and a view of Catalina. He stated he strongly objected to and was opposed to this proposed development. He discussed Proposition M and felt its intent was to protect views for the citizens of Rancho Palos Verde. He stated the approval of this project would produce entirely the opposite effect of what the legislation and the intent of Proposition M.
Chairman Lyon felt that the Planning Commission had heard some very good comments and legitimate concerns from the speakers. I felt what was needed was what the staff was recommending, a healthy discussion between the applicant and the concerned neighbors. He felt that with a positive attitude going into the discussions, he felt some progress could be made in accommodating the concerns.
Commissioner Paulson asked staff to see if there was any City vegetation in the public right-of-way that may be causing view problems in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Cartwright felt there should be some representation of what the water company expects to do with the property they intend to retain.
Commissioner Vannorsdall felt this was one of the poorest planned proposals he has seen presented to the Planning Commission. He felt the houses were too crowded onto the lots and there were too many outstanding view issues. He felt the project should be totally redesigned.
Vice Chairman Clark felt the size of these proposed deserved lots of one-quarter to one-half acre, not the size lots of this proposed development. He also stated that although one could technically say these homes were within the zoning requirements, that does not make it compatible with the general neighborhood. He stated he had serious reservations about the proposal and unless it was changed dramatically he could not support the project.
Commissioner Long asked staff what constitutes open space. He asked when something was considered open space and when something was not considered open space. He did not feel space used as commercial, industrial, or utility use could be considered open space.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated there was a discussion of open spaces as they refer to residential plan developments and staff will discuss this in their next staff report.
Senior Planner Fox stated that the zoning was residential, however the General Plan designation was infrastructure facility.
Mr. Nelson (in rebuttal) suggested the people who spoke at the meeting leave their names and telephone numbers with staff so that he could contact them, visit their homes, and look at the view angles from their properties. He did not believe there was a view impact created by the lots, other than lot 9, and felt it may be his company’s fault for the misunderstanding by getting together with these neighbors sooner. He stated that this was not a park site, but private property, however he would try to preserve as many trees as possible. Mr. Nelson stated that the proposed lots were quarter-acre lots that he felt could support the size home proposed. He stated he had listened to the speakers and the Planning Commission and felt he could come back in two weeks with an improved project.
Commissioner Paulson cautioned Mr. Nelson to not limit his discussion of the project only to those people who have voiced a concern at the meeting, as a different neighbor may show up at the next meeting unless he talks to him before hand.
Carolyn Tuttle stated that she did not give permission to the City to give her phone number to the developer.
Don Jansen stated he was the district manager for California Water Service. He stated that over the next two weeks that any staff, developer, or resident who wished to visit the facility was more than welcome, however he asked that they first check in with California Water Service office.
Commissioner Mueller asked Mr. Jansen about lot 9 and the company’s intention regarding that lot.
Mr. Jansen answered that the company identified a certain amount of square footage as surplus on the property. He noted that approximately one third of the staff at the site was being moved to Torrance and this facility would be used strictly for maintenance.
Commissioner Vannorsdall asked Mr. Jansen to address the issue of leaks in the reservoir.
Mr. Jansen explained the reservoir was an earthen and concrete reservoir whose structural integrity was monitored on a yearly, monthly, and weekly basis. He stated that a diver was sent down periodically to ensure that any leakage is inspected, contained, and held to a minimum.
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Director/Secretary Rojas felt that based on the scope of issues which needed to be addressed at the next meeting, it would be prudent to continue the item to the October 23 meeting.
Commissioner Long moved to continue the matter to the Planning Commission meeting of October 23, 2001, seconded by Commissioner Mueller. Approved, (7-0).
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 9:25 p.m. the Commission took a short recess to 9:40 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (REGARDING NON-AGENDA ITEMS)
Lois Larue 3136 Barkentine Road addressed the Chairman of the Planning Commission and stated that he discounts audience comments. She stated that what the citizens have to say to the Planning Commission is very important and should not be discounted.
Bob Nelson 6612 Channelview Court discussed Jim York as his next door neighbor and what a good neighbor he feels he is.
5. Long Point Resort Consisting of Coastal Permit No. 166, General Plan Amendment No. 28, Conditional Use Permit NO. 215, Conditional Use Permit No. 216, Parcel Map No. 26073, Grading Permit No. 2229, Grading Permit No. 2230, and the associated Final Environmental Impact Report: Destination Development Corporation (applicant), 6610 Palos Verdes Drive South and 30940 Hawthorne Boulevard.
Senior Planner Mihranian presented the staff report. He briefly discussed the content of the draft Resolutions and stated the contents of the Resolutions are comprised of what was given to the Commission in regards to the findings. He stated they are a summary of what is contained in the findings. In regards to the draft conditions, he stated that condition no. 8 (page 2 of 23) will be revised to include language that pertains to public park improvements, so in the event the project is approved the applicant will be responsible for improving the Upper Point Vicente area with amenities that consist of grading, vegetation, and irrigation. He stated the environmental consultant team was available for questions. He also noted that the response to comments on the recirculation of the biological resource section of the EIR was given to the Planning Commission earlier in the meeting. He reminded the Commission of the time sensitive nature of the EIR and sought direction pertaining to the certification of the EIR. Pursuant to CEQA, if desired and if the Commission forwards a recommendation, the City Council must certify the EIR by October 17, 2001. He stated that, per Planning Commission direction, the grading findings have been revised to reflect the most current plans.
Glen Lajoy RBF Consultants (preparers of the EIR and documentation) stated that the City of Rancho Palos Verdes has fully complied with CEQA in terms of documentation of the process which has led to this evenings hearing. He discussed and briefly explained the five volumes that make up the Final EIR documentation. He stated that the City of Rancho Palos Verdes has fully complied with their obligations to CEQA in terms of the process. He then briefly discussed the process involved, included public notices and public hearings. Mr. Lajoy then briefly summarized some of the key issues addressed in the EIR. He stated there were two impacts that could not be mitigated to below a significant level: air quality and noise. He stated that if the project should be approved a Statement of Overriding Considerations will be required by the City Council pursuant to CEQA.
Vice Chairman Clark stated that Volume 5 had just been received by the Planning Commission at the break. He noted that at the end of the document there is wording indicating the document had been presented to the Planning Commission for their review. He stated it was not possible for the Planning Commission to have reviewed this document.
Chairman Lyon stated that it was his understanding that it was not a necessity that the Planning Commission review the response to comments section of the EIR before a recommendation is forwarded to the City Council. He stated that the reason for this was the Planning Commission was not the approving body for the project.
Assistant City Attorney Pittman that the Planning Commission was required to look at the body of the EIR and they have had the comments to the EIR. He stated that if the Planning Commissioners had specific concerns about comments that were raised which will impact their ability to make a recommendation, there was a ??? to direct specific questions to which may or may not allay these concerns. He stated that in the event the Commission could not resolve any concerns entirely, a recommendation may be made to the City Council contingent upon the response to comments.
Commissioner Long asked staff about the status of the current entitlements on the Long Point property.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated staff had received a request for an extension to the current entitlements, and it will be on the October 9 meeting as a consent calendar item.
Commission Long asked what was meant by staff when they said the EIR was time sensitive and wondered if staff was suggesting the Commission approve something they have not yet fully reviewed.
Assistant City Attorney Pittman stated that there are statutory time limits for the preparation of the environmental review documents. He stated the City has received a one-time 90-day extension for the certification of the EIR, and therefore the certification deadline is October 17, 2001.
Commissioner Long asked what the consequences were if the City failed to certify or not certify the EIR before October 17, 2001.
Assistant City Attorney Pittman stated that CEQA does not set forth any specific penalties for that action, however permits would not be deemed approved because the deadline had not been met.
Commissioner Cartwright asked when the re-circulated document made available to the Planning Commission.
Senior Planner Mihranian responded that it had been given to the Planning Commission in late July.
Commissioner Cartwright stated that it was his understanding that as long as the Planning Commission reviewed the re-circulated document, it was not necessary to review the response to comments document prior to forwarding a recommendation about the EIR to the City Council.
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that was correct.
Vice Chairman Clark asked why the Planning Commission should even receive the response to comments and why should the EIR consultant say to the public when responding, that upon compilation the responses will be provided to the Planning Commission for their review.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated that the Planning Commission has been on a schedule to certify the EIR before the responses to comments was to be completed and staff did not anticipate the Planning Commission even seeing the document before them. Since the document is now available, staff would be remiss in not giving the Planning Commission the document since the consultant brought it to the meeting. He stated that the preparation of this document was necessary to complete the CEQA process. However, it is the City Council that needs to see and review the document before the EIR is certified, not the Planning Commission.
Vice Chairman Clark stated that there now a focus on what the Planning Commission should do in terms of certification of the EIR and what to do about attention to the responses and comments from the public to the biological revised EIR.
Commissioner Long agreed and felt that even though review of the comments may not be technically required, if it is part of the spirit of the process why would they not at least take a look at the document and take it into account.
Commissioner Paulson asked what the latest date was that a recommendation from the Planning Commission could get to the City Council concerning the EIR certification where it could be agendized for the October 16 meeting.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated staff would have to send out notices for the October 16 City Council meeting, however conceivably staff could publish a notice that the City Council was going to take action on the EIR on October 16 while the Planning Commission waits until October 9 to make their recommendation on the EIR.
Commission Paulson stated there were several consultants available at the meeting for the Planning Commission to question and he felt the Commission should take advantage of this. He also stated that it was obvious to him that a majority of the Commissioners was not willing to proceed in sending a recommendation for EIR certification to the Planning Commission without having read the responses to comments. He therefore proposed the Planning Commission proceed with any questions they may have for the consultants who are available at the meeting and that the Planning Commission schedule a meeting at which the time the Commission will have had time to read and understand the response to comments document. At that time the Planning Commission should be able to make a recommendation to the City Council.
Commissioner Mueller agreed with Commissioner Paulson’s idea as he felt very uncomfortable with making decisions about documents that are handed to him at the meeting. He stated he was able to read the Resolutions but did not think he had a good set of comments on them at this time.
Chairman Lyon felt the Planning Commission was being painted into a corner, which was not comfortable. He felt the Commission should revert to the truth and pass along to the City Council a statement that although the Planning Commission has had the EIR documents for many months, they have not had the opportunity to review the response to comments and therefore forward the EIR to the City Council for their certification.
Commissioner Vannorsdall supported the Chairman’s approach.
Commissioner Long supported staff’s approach in that the matter could be agendized and properly noticed for the City Council meeting of October 16. The Planning Commission could discuss and make their decision on October 9. If, however, the Planning Commission could not make a decision on October 9, then the Chairman’s approach may be the best approach.
Commissioner Paulson moved to proceed at this meeting with discussing questions and concerns with the experts available at the meeting and make a determination of the recommendation of certification of the EIR at the next regular Planning Commission meeting, seconded by Commissioner Long. The motion was unanimously approved, (7-0).
Commissioner Paulson indicated a trail system on the map that lead down to the overlook area near the Coast Guard site and the area dedicated to holes 3 and 4. He stated that he has concerns with the trails system as it interferes with a habitat area. He asked if the trail should be removed.
Ann Johnson felt that the trail system should be removed.
Commissioner Paulson stated there had been many discussion about an uninterrupted habitat area and asked if holes 3 and 4 were built as proposed with the mitigating measures that have been proposed, and asked if that offset the concerns of having the continuous habitat nearby.
Ms. Johnson stated that it would offset the concerns of having the continuous habitat.
Commissioner Paulson proposed the elimination of the trail leading down to the overlook just to the south edge of the Coast Guard site.
Commissioner Long stated that he did not want to be on record as supporting deletions or additions of trails in land that he is opposed to being used by private developers. He suggested amending a condition of approval, which he might be able to support.
Commissioner Mueller asked what trails on the proposal shouldn’t be removed and did not interfere with habitat. He stated he would like to understand why this one particular trail interferes with the habitat.
Commissioner Long asked if there was a suitable place for a replacement trail.
Ann Johnson stated that the trail was proposed to go through a large contiguous area of coastal sage scrub and was one of the largest pieces of intact coastal sage scrub that will be retained on site. She stated the proposed trail splits the coastal sage scrub area.
Commissioner Long asked if this trail was particularly worse than other trails proposed on the site.
Ms. Johnson stated the trail occurs in one of the most sensitive habitat areas for the gnatcatcher.
Commissioner Paulson asked if the trail were eliminated, then would the parking spaces be necessary WHERE???
Senior Planner Mihranian stated that was at the Commission’s discretion. He explained that staff believed that WHAT ARA , I’m SO CONFUSED.
Commissioner Paulson discussed water runoff, drainage issues, and collection of water that may have pesticides. He asked for an explanation of the process that guarantees the City that those waters are collected, handled in a manner that is environmentally correct, and what permitting process is required.
Rita Garcia, RBF Consultants, answered that in regards to the issue of water runoff, the project will be required to comply with State, County and City guidelines for ensuring the quality of the runoff and the impacts associated with the runoff will be reduced to a level of less than significant. She referred to the response to comments documents that reiterates the discussion in the water quality section of the Draft EIR.
Commissioner Paulson asked what permitting requirements the applicant must comply with in order to meet the water quality standard requirements.
Glen Lajoy answered that the Final EIR specifies that the project must comply with best management practices in accordance with the Regional Water Quality Control Board requirements. He stated there are also State, County, and City requirements that project must adhere to. He stated there was also a permitting sequence that would be required.
Commissioner Paulson stated that he had questions for the representative from the California Department of Fish and Game, but wondered if the public hearing had to be open for this to happen.
Assistant City Attorney Pittman stated that the public hearing could be opened for the sole purpose of questioning a particular individual only.
Chairman Lyon opened the public hearing to question Mr. Bill Tippets of California Department of Fish and Game.
Chairman Lyon asked Mr. Tippets if there were any misunderstandings or misquotes of his position that the Planning Commission heard at the last meeting.
Bill Tippets representing California Department of Fish and Game, 4949 Viewridge Ave., San Diego, stated that he did not have the transcript of the last meeting so he did not know if he was misquoted or not. He stated that he has had discussions with the City and the applicant regarding the project. He stated he could comment on an article in the Peninsula News which reflected upon the conversations between the applicant, the City, and Department of Fish and Game. He stated that the Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which was not at this meeting however he was speaking on their behalf, included in their April 5 letter to the City regarding the EIR their feelings that there were significant unmitigated affects from the project as proposed. He requested that prior to the City Council certifying the project, the departments have the opportunity to meet with the applicant and the City to discuss the differences. He stated the meeting took place and at the meeting he was given drawings of the latest proposal. He explained that at the meeting he was asked if this new plan was biologically acceptable. He stated that from the initial look the project did not appear to accommodate the concerns addressed in the April 5 letter. In particular, habitat was still fractured at Upper Point Vicente which creates pockets of habitat. His concern was that, because there are four gnatcatcher locations identified in the area, the golf paths and/or walking paths would go through the gnatcatcher territory. He stated that while the gnatcatcher can accommodate some amount of disturbance, he felt this plan provided excessive disturbance and not consistent with what the Department would expect to see in conservation of a federally threatened species.
Therefore, Mr. Tippets stated that the Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s recommendation was to remove and relocate holes 2, 3, and 4 on to the RHA area. He stated that if all of the golf could not be removed then, at a minimum, a large block of habitat should remain. He stated that in relocating holes 2, 3, and 4 it would necessitate eliminating or relocating the golf practice range and remove the villas. He stated that this would allow for the preservation of the four known locations of the gnatcatcher and allow for conservation and restoration to occur throughout the area.
Commissioner Paulson asked if that also meant eliminating trails in the area.
Mr. Tippets stated that trails would be needed to access holes 5 and 6, however the trails could be predominately away from the gnatcatcher locations.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if revegetation was an acceptable mitigation measures.
Mr. Tippets responded that revegetation was an accepted mitigation measure.
Commissioner Cartwright asked if extensive revegetation were proposed if it would impact his decisions.
Mr. Tippets responded that the areas around holes 3 and 4 would be good areas to look at some restoration of coastal sage scrub.
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that ultimately the resources agencies are going to have to issue a take permit for the project. He stated that if the Planning Commission concurs with the consultants then the Commission would make a recommendation to the City Council that the project can be mitigated as advised by the consultants. If the City Council agrees with the recommendation, then there is an impasse that needs to be resolved between the City Council and the resource agencies. Conversely, the Planning Commission or City Council could lean more toward the resource agencies point of view. He noted that the responsibility of the City was to make a determination as to whether the impacts can be mitigated. The resource agencies role is to issue a permit for the take of the land and they may have a different set of criteria that they consider.
Commissioner Paulson stated there had been discussions at a previous meeting about the need for a water tank to be installed at the Upper Point Vicente property relative to this project and other community water needs. He asked staff if they had any further information regarding this water tank.
Senior Planner Mihranian answered that representatives of California Water Service had indicated in response to the circulation of the Draft EIR that there was a concern regarding the water supply and reservoir for the City of Palos Verdes Estates and had indicated an interest in locating a tank on City property. He stated that the water tank was not specifically recommended for the Long Point project.
The Commissioners discussed elimination of the trail and wanted to ask the applicant if he agreed to the removal of the trail.
Chairman Lyon opened the public hearing to ask the applicant about the trail.
Mike Mohler (Destination Resorts) stated that with regards to the segment of trail being discussed, the Planning Commission should be aware that there are existing trails that go around and through the area.
Chairman Lyon closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Paulson stated that in an attempt to meet trail needs a habitat area was being impacted without a real rationale of why when there are other trails existing in the area that does not impact the habitat. He did not think the proposed trail served any practical purpose.
Assistant City Attorney Pittman suggested the following language: No trail shall be located in a proposed habitat area between the Coast Guard property and hole no. 2 as shown on plans dated September 6, 2001. If the applicant relocates the proposed trail, said trail shall be located outside the habitat area subject to review and approval of the Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement.
Chairman Lyon felt it was time to discuss the two exhibits (D and G) concerning the grading permits. He stated the Commission now has the updated findings for review.
The Commission reviewed the findings page by page.
Commissioner Mueller questioned page 4 of the staff report regarding grading. He stated that the comment was made that the additional earth movement was a result of changes made to the golf course and practice facility based on recommendations of the City’s golf safety consultant and the direction from the Planning Commission. He questioned why direction from the Planning Commission revised the grading plans. He did not recall ever recommending more earth be excavated to accommodate the lowering of the building pads. He felt there were other options, such as relocating the buildings, reduce the height of the buildings, or remove the villas from the property.
Director/Secretary felt there was discussion at the meeting to reduce the height of the villas by lowering the pads.
Commissioner Mueller recalled that the direction was to bring the ridgeline down to the level of Palos Verdes Drive South and he did not think there was direction on how to do that.
Chairman Lyon stated he had specifically raised questions regarding golf safety that led to comments about making the trails safer by changing the grade of the area.
Commissioner Mueller repeated that he did not feel the grading plan, in respect to the Villas, was changed because of a direction given by the Planning Commission. He stated that his concern was the view corridors from Palos Verdes Drive South and the way to protect these corridors was to prevent ridgelines from extending above Palos Verdes Drive South. He did not think how this was to be accomplished was discussed. Mr. Mueller stated that he did not want to be on record supporting anything to do with villas on the property.
After going through each page of Exhibit D it was determined that all findings could be made for the Grading Permit in the resort hotel area.
Commissioner Lyon then began the page-by-page review of Exhibit G, the grading permit in the Upper Point Vicente area.
Commissioner Long stated that on page one he had difficulty with the phrase “permitted primary use of the property”. He asked what the permitted primary use of the lot was.
Chairman Lyon stated that the presumption in the Exhibit is that the General Plan Amendment has been approved.
Commissioner Long stated that since he opposes the General Plan Amendment he cannot support the finding.
Commissioner Mueller discussed the leveling of the public park area and in looking at the grading plan he did not think the area was level.
Senior Planner Mihranian clarified that staff’s statement was pertaining to the area adjacent to the City Hall site where the Commission directed the applicant to remove hole no. 5.
Chairman Lyon felt that the plan reflects exactly what the Planning Commission directed. He noted that the specific contours are yet to be worked out within a development agreement that the City Council will negotiate with the applicant. He felt that the condition referred to a relatively level public park area. He stated the area was relatively level compared with the bluffs on the property.
Director/Secretary Rojas stated the finding could be clarified or a condition could be added that the area not exceed a certain gradient.
Commissioner Paulson suggested staff reword the condition to recognize that relatively level is not appropriate for the total area.