FEBRUARY 14, 2006 PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES

CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
REGULAR MEETING
FEBRUARY 14, 2006

CALL TO ORDER

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Tetreault at 7:12 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard.

FLAG SALUTE

Vice Chairman Knight led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.

ROLL CALL

Present: Commissioners Karp, Mueller, Perestam, Vice Chairman Knight, and Chairman Tetreault. Commissioner Gerstner arrived at 7:25 p.m.

Absent: None

Also present were Director of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement Rojas, Senior Planner Schonborn, Senior Planner Alvarez, and Assistant Planner Sohn.

APPROVAL OF AGENDA

The Agenda was unanimously approved as presented.

COMMUNICATIONS

Director/Secretary Rojas distributed the Follow-Up Agenda for the City Council Tactical Planning Workshop and briefed the Planning Commission on the City Council decision on February 7, 2006 to initiate a code amendment to preserve the City’s equestrian districts.

Vice Chairman Knight reported he received a phone call regarding the Crestridge Estates project.

Commissioner Mueller reported that he attended the City Council tactical planning workshop and also reported on his attendance at the Residential Standards Development Committee meeting on February 13th.

COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items)

None

PUBLIC HEARINGS

1. Conditional Use Permit (Case No. ZON2004-00174): 30359 Hawthorne Blvd.

Assistant Planner Sohn presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project. She explained that staff determined the site was adequate to accommodate the proposed use, the site is sufficient to carry the type and quantity of traffic generated by the subject use, there will be no significant adverse affects on adjacent properties, the proposed use is not contrary to the General Plan, the subject site is not within any overlay control district, and the proposed use can meet any of the requirements the Planning Commission finds necessary to protect the health, safety, and general welfare that have been imposed. Therefore, staff was recommending approval of the Conditional Use Permit as conditioned by staff.

Vice Chairman Knight asked if there was another antenna at the site being used by another company.

Assistant Planner Sohn answered there is another antenna on a different light standard that was approved in 1997.

Vice Chairman Knight noted that the existing antenna has a lot of wires dangling from it and is not very attractive, and asked if the proposed antenna will have these types of wires

Assistant Planner Sohn explained that, to staff’s knowledge, the moc-up represents the final appearance of the antenna.

Vice Chairman Knight noted a statement in the staff report regarding radio frequencies which states it is not within the City’s purview, and asked if that was because the City does not have any regulations regarding radio frequencies.

Director/Secretary Rojas answered that the City is pre-empted from that topic by Federal law.

Vice Chairman Knight asked if there was any type of illustration to show the security fencing around the pedestal.

Assistant Planner Sohn answered that there is not any illustration of the security fencing at this time, as staff wanted to work out the details with the applicant.

Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.

Scott Longhurst representing T-Mobile gave a brief history of the site in regards to this project. He felt the project before the Planning Commission meets the Code requirements, but also the design guidelines under the City’s Wireless Facilities Development Guidelines. He stated he was available for any questions.

Commissioner Perestam asked how long the anticipated construction period would be for this project and the impact the construction would have on the immediate area in terms of parking and access to the park.

Mr. Longhurst answered that overall construction should take approximately 4 weeks and since the existing pole will be utilized the impact of the construction to the immediate area will be very minimal.

Vice Chairman Knight asked Mr. Longhurst to explain what the proposed vaults are and where they will be located relative to the surface of the ground.

Mr. Longhurst explained that the equipment cabinets will be place on a down slope area behind some retaining walls, with additional landscaping placed around the retaining walls. He explained the vaults depicted on the plans are pull vaults and splice vaults that are the normal little vaults seen everywhere on the sidewalks. He stated these vaults will be at grade.

Vice Chairman Knight discussed the existing antennas and the ugly black wires, and asked Mr. Longhurst to describe how this proposed installation will look when finished.

Mr. Longhurst answered that the proposed design will have the cables run up through the pole and the antennas will be placed back to back.

Vice Chairman Knight asked what type of fencing material would be used in this proposal.

Mr. Longhurst stated that currently there is a chain link fence on the site and he is proposing to have the new retaining wall tie into the existing fence. He stated that he would be open to any suggestions to alternate fencing.

Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.

Vice Chairman Knight asked staff if it was possible for T Mobile to co-locate their equipment on the existing antenna site at the park.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that from past experience with co-location on light poles, co-location requires the pole height to be increased in order to get the required separation between antennas, and staff’s objective at this location was to try not to add any height to the light poles that are currently in the park.

Vice Chairman Knight asked staff when they last received an update from T Mobile on their master plan.

Assistant Planner Sohn answered that staff was given a master plan update with the submission of this application.

Vice Chairman Knight noted that language should be added to the Conditions of Approval that the Conditional Use Permit shall expire in 10 years from the approval date, as per the City Guidelines.

Chairman Tetreault discussed the enclosure around the actual equipment and that in the staff report the Recreation and Parks Department had a preference for a chain link fence, and asked staff what would be placed if this project is approved.

Assistant Planner Sohn answered that staff had consulted with the Recreation and Parks Department, Public Works Department, and the Building Official, and all had agreed that a chain link fence would be most appropriate. She explained that currently a 3’6” chain link fence is being proposed for the area.

Commissioner Mueller added that the staff report discusses adding nine 5-gallon shrubs to help screen the chain link fence.

Commissioner Mueller moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-07 thereby approving the Conditional Use Permit as presented by staff, seconded by Commissioner Gerstner.

Vice Chairman Knight stated he would like to amend the motion to add a condition added that spells out the expiration of the Conditional Use Permit as 10 years from the date of approval, as per the City Guidelines. He also requested that there be mention that the foliage added be of a drought tolerant variety.

Commissioner Mueller and Commissioner Gerstner agreed to the amendment.

The amended motion to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-07 to approve the Conditional Use Permit, as amended, was approved, (6-0).

2. Scoping meeting for Crestridge Estates Notice of Preparation

Director/Secretary Rojas noted that the scoping meeting is not a requirement of CEQA, but is recommended. He stated that the purpose of this meeting is solely to hear comments regarding issues that should be addressed in the forthcoming EIR, which will be prepared by the City EIR Consultants, RBF Consulting.

Senior Planner Schonborn presented the staff report, giving a brief history of the project and an overview of the currently proposed project. He explained that staff was recommending the Planning Commission open the public hearing to receive public comments on the environmental issues that should be analyzed in the draft EIR, and provide any additional input on the environmental issues to be analyzed in the draft EIR.

Glenn Lajoie of RBF Consulting explained the purpose of the public scoping meeting, noting the importance of obtaining public comments regarding potential environmental issues of concern associated with the construction and operation of the proposed project. He explained that all comments received during the public review process of the draft EIR will be responded to and will be combined into the final EIR, and explained the key issues to be addressed in the EIR.

Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.

Dana Yogel, Director of Development for Laing Urban (applicant), 6167 Bristol Parkway, Culver City. She gave a brief history of John Laing Homes and Laing Urban and the mission of the company. She felt it was very important to understand that the company designs its homes for the specific location and surrounding neighborhood. She gave a brief description of the project, including the offered amenities.

Ken Dyda, president of the Peninsula Seniors, noted that the proposed senior center will be placed in an area that is below and behind the existing Belmont Village, and will therefore have no impact to the surrounding neighbors. He noted that in Section 3 there is a discussion on public agencies financial approval, which he did not think applied, as Peninsula Seniors have planned to raise all necessary money independent of any public money. He discussed Section 4.12 item D referring to primary lighting, and noted that the City has had extensive experience with lighting that lights the surface and does not create any glare, and the Peninsula Seniors will use such lighting. He discussed Section 4.6 Item E, a discussion on supporting septic tanks, and explained that the Peninsula Seniors plans to connect to the existing sewer system. He also noted that there has been discussion on using gray water for landscaping. He noted that his full comments have been submitted to the City.

Robert Rockoff 5525 Seaside Heights Drive stated concerns regarding the project blocking his and his neighbors views, as well as concerns regarding what types of trees will be planted and how the lighting will affect their views. He requested the developer construct a silhouette so that the homes on Seaside Heights Drive, Mistridge Drive, and Oceanridge Drive can evaluate the impact of the construction on their properties.

Herbert Roberts 5693 Mistridge Drive explained one of the most important factors in buying his home was the view. He stated that Belmont has taken some of that view away and therefore his strongest concern was preserving, to the greatest extent possible, the view he has enjoyed for 30 years and to minimize any distraction to the view from over lighting the sight. He also requested a silhouette, but questioned where the ridgeline starting point would be located on this sloping lot. He asked that the draft EIR discuss precisely how the ridgeline will be determined, given the massive amounts of grading that must be done. He also discussed traffic, noting that there is a considerable amount of traffic on Crestridge Road. He asked the EIR to consider traffic and safety issues. He also stated that there have been discussions of a horse trail on the property, and if that is the case he asked the EIR to address how the horses will enter and exit the property.

Luella Wike 29172 Oceanridge Drive stated her concern with the Senior Center, which appears to encroach into the Open Space Hazard area behind the Belmont Center. She stated that it has been the City policy in both the General Plan and the Development Code to not encroach onto extreme slopes and Open Space Hazard area. She also was concerned with adequate parking, noting the Senior Center may have occasion to hire busses to transport individuals to various events. She questioned where these people would park their cars when taking the busses. She noted that there are currently three churches and the art center on Crestridge Road which already generate quite a bit of parking on the surrounding streets. She objected to allowing horse trails on the property, questioning if the horses would have to use the sidewalks on Crestridge Road. She suggested the trail be designated for pedestrian use only. Ms. Wike discussed the small distance between Belmont and the proposed Senior Center, and her objection to the noise the Senior Center would generate into Belmont. Lastly, she discussed the proposed lighting, noting that there are currently 86 10-foot high light poles on the project and 50 wall bracket lights proposed. She explained that Belmont’s lighting already destroys some of the city light view from her property and others in the neighborhood. She recommended looking into reducing the number of lights around the facility, and reducing the light poles to ballards and limit the wattage of the lights. She also suggested reducing the number of wall bracket lights as well as the wattage of those lights.

Linda Puentes, 5575 Mistridge Drive felt that this project will dramatically increase the traffic, the noise, the view impacts and will deplete the wildlife in the neighborhood. She noted that there are currently quite a few accidents on Crestridge Road because of the amount of traffic and this proposal will only increase the risks. She discussed noise and pollution, noting that she was able to clearly hear construction workers at the site from her backyard. She asked what steps will be taken to minimize this noise to the neighbors. She added that since Belmont has been built she now hears sirens several times a day. She was concerned about the pollution generated by more cars in the area because of the condominium units being built. She was concerned about the lights on the property, and suggested putting in lights embedded in the street so that there are no poles. She felt the lights would have an adverse impact on her view of the city lights. She was also concerned with the rural and open spaces, noting the hillside is magnificent in the spring, which would now be destroyed. She discussed the wildlife that would be adversely affected by this development. She questioned how this proposed development would be allowed in an area zoned for institutional use. She asked that more parkland be included in the proposal. She also requested that a silhouette be constructed before she can provide meaningful comments on the proposed project.

Jim Hathaway 28955 Crestridge Road stated that he recently walked the trails at the Trump golf course and found them to be spectacular, and hoped that the City would require the same type of trails at this location. He felt that to the extent this project can be constructed so that the neighbors don’t see it, hear it, or notice it will be greatly appreciated. He asked that the representatives from Laing Urban attend a HOA meeting and listen to the concerns of the neighborhood.

RECESS AND RECONVENE

At 8:30 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 8:40, at which time they reconvened.

PUBLIC HEARINGS (cont)

Commissioner Gerstner stated his particular concerns were the lighting issues at the site. He asked that the EIR look at the Belmont property to see how the lighting at that property has affected the neighborhoods and how the additional lighting will further impact their views. He stated that his other main concern was the traffic in the neighborhood and how this project will affect and add to this problem.

Commissioner Mueller agreed with Commissioner Gerstner’s comments. He also was concerned with the view, the location of the building, and the ridgelines, and would like to see those addressed in the EIR. He was concerned with the traffic and wanted to make sure there were enough traffic statistics to make a determination as to whether additional signage or traffic lights would be necessary. He wanted to make sure lighting was looked at and what kind of lighting was necessary to illuminate the roadways and walkways, and what could be done to minimize the lighting. He asked the EIR consider whether the project will create any additional noise in the neighborhood, other than the construction noise while the project is being built. He asked the draft EIR look at the trail issue as to where the trails will be located, what the intent of the trails is, how they fit into the City’s Trails Plan, and what the access will be to these trails.

Commissioner Perestam stated he was interested in the overall carrying capacity of the parcel and the things necessary to maximize the development and design of the project. He questioned if this proposed use was too much for the property or is there the possibility of changes that would more accommodate this property.

Commissioner Karp was concerned with the amount of dirt to be exported and wanted to know how many truck trips this would require, how long this grading would take place, and where the dirt would go. He asked what impact this development would have on the existing paramedic service in the City.

Vice Chairman Knight agreed with the comments by his fellow Commissioners and added that he would like to see an analysis of the traffic impacts and air quality during the grading of the project. He asked for clarification of the relationship between the RDA and this project, and what impact this project will have financially on the City. He asked how this project will meet the affordable housing requirements of the City, including the amendments made to the affordable housing section of the Code. He wanted to make sure the traffic study not only took into account the senior housing, but the senior center as well. He discussed the public land owned by the City, noting that particular area is under an NCCP agreement, and he wanted to know what the impact of the project will be to that agreement. He stated that the NCCP calls out 3 acres that will be affected by this project and there is a 3:1 mitigation ratio required, and the City needs to know how this affects mitigation requirements. Discussing the RDA land and noting it has a different tax base, he questioned if rather than selling the land, the City could craft some type of lease arrangement or other alternative. He asked the EIR address previous geologic concerns and if these concerns have been addressed in the current geologic reports.

Chairman Tetreault stated he was interested in how this project fits in with the General Plan and Development Code, and how the Institutional Zone fits in with this project. He too was concerned with the trails and how they will impact the overall plan for a trail network throughout the City.

Director/Secretary Rojas stated that staff anticipates the hearing for comments regarding the draft EIR in May.

CONTINUED BUSINESS

3. Proposed View Restoration and Preservation Guideline amendments

Senior Planner Alvarez presented the staff report, explaining that the proposed revisions reflect some of the City Council’s decisions regarding fees and fines and the hiring of a professional mediator, as well as suggested revisions that staff feels may help to clarify and streamline the current process. He gave a brief background of the process since the last Guideline revisions occurred in 2003. He reviewed the suggested Guideline amendments and the streamlined View Preservation process. He explained that staff’s recommendation is to review and approve the proposed amendments and forward the draft amended Guidelines to the City Council for adoption.

Director/Secretary Rojas reminded the Commission that View Preservation Permits are staff level administrative decisions. He mentioned, as a side note, that an appeal of the Director’s decision regarding a View Preservation Permit will be coming to the Planning Commission at the next meeting.

Commissioner Karp disagreed with the permit process stage in which the foliage owner must pay directly to the service to have his/her trees trimmed or removed, and therefore waits until staff has verified the work to be reimbursed. He felt that this part of the process should be improved upon.

Chairman Tetreault agreed, however he noted that there may be legal issues with a tree service vendor entering private property and having that work paid for by someone other than the property owner.

Vice Chairman Knight asked staff to clarify and explain how the fees for tree trimming are established, who pays the fees into the trust deposit, and how the money is reimbursed to the foliage owner.

Staff gave the Planning Commission an explanation on the procedures involved in getting bids for tree trimming and how the money is then reimbursed to the foliage owner.

Chairman Tetreault opened the public hearing.

Ava Shepherd 3117 Dianora Drive stated she was very happy with what the staff was recommending, as she felt they were very positive changes. She referred to page 5 of the staff report, and commented there should be something included where the foliage owner is responsible for informing staff when the work will be done so that the work can be monitored by staff to ensure the work is properly performed. She also referred to page 7 of the staff report, relating to the appeal period and the statement that the foliage owner, applicant, or any interested party can appeal a Planning Commission decision. She questioned what other interested party would be involved other than the foliage and view owners. Ms. Shepherd discussed a trust account when there is a private agreement being discussed. She felt that it would be helpful to have the City hold money in a trust for private agreements, just as is done in a formal application. Lastly, with respect to the ambiguity of multiple ridgeline trimming levels, she questioned if there was a grandfather clause in cases where there is a private agreement and the foliage owner trims trees higher than what the multiple ridgeline level provides, can a view owner then request the Planning Commission direct the trees be trimmed to the lower ridgeline level. .

Commissioner Mueller asked staff if there was a requirement in place where the foliage owner provides staff with a trimming schedule date prior to work commencing.

Senior Planner Alvarez explained that there is no such requirement, however staff currently encourages foliage owners to provide staff a trimming schedule. He noted that it is much easier for staff to be on site when the trimming is being performed.

Commissioner Mueller asked staff who directs the tree trimmer at the site.

Senior Planner Alvarez answered that the foliage owner gives direction to the tree trimmers on site, based on the trimming requirements outlined in the Planning Commission decision.

Michael O’Sullivan 30466 Via Cambron stated he endorses the increase in fee for View
Restoration Permit applications, as in many cases view restoration decisions include the destruction of property and the fee should not be trivial. He objected to a replacement tree limited to no larger than a 24-inch box. He noted that in many cases a 24-inch box replacement tree is in no way comparable to the mature tree that was removed. He also referred to the discussion on page 5 of the staff report regarding the statement that removal shall not include the stump and root system, since they usually assist in erosion control. He recognized that there are many situations in which this is not an issue, however he noted that if the stump and root system are not removed replacement foliage may have little chance of surviving. He asked the Planning Commission to consider modifying this language. Mr. O’Sullivan noted there is language discussing what will happen if the foliage owner does not comply with the Resolution, however there is no language addressing what will happen if the applicant or City staff do not comply with the language in the Resolution. Lastly, he objected to the term “view owner”, as he did not feel anyone can “own” a view.

Chairman Tetreault closed the public hearing.

Vice Chairman Knight asked staff if the foliage owner has any say in the tree trimmer’s insurance, as the work and risk is on the foliage owner’s property.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that the City verifies the contractor has insurance, however there is no policy on how much insurance is required. He noted that if the foliage owner does not feel comfortable with the insurance the contractor carries, they can choose another bid with a contractor that has insurance coverage they feel more comfortable with.

Vice Chairman Knight asked if there is a mechanism in place where future buyers of a property that has been involved in a view restoration case will be informed that they have an obligation to keep their foliage trimmed.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that Planning Commission decisions run with the land and are in the address files, and potential buyers or their agents go through the address files as part of the due diligence when the property is purchased.

Commissioner Karp did not feel that in the real world potential buyers or their agents will be checking the address files at City Hall for information on the property. Regarding insurance, he felt the foliage owner should be named additional insured and specify minimum amount of insurance for liability and the company be required to have workers compensation.

Commissioner Mueller asked staff about removal of the stump and root system, and why, other than in cases of helping with erosion, the language regarding stump grinding is not recommended.

Senior Planner Alvarez explained that the language regarding stump grinding is not being removed, only clarified that if the stump is located on a slope and stump grinding machines cannot be effectively used due to slope topography, then the stump be cut flush to grade level.

Commissioner Perestam referred to Ms. Shepherd’s comments regarding “other interested parties”, and asked staff if this was necessary language.

Director/Secretary Rojas explained that “interested parties” is in the View Guidelines because the Municipal Code defines an interested party as someone who writes a letter or speaks on an item at a public hearing. He stated that Commission decisions are made at public hearings and in theory, although unlikely, an interested party could be someone other than an applicant or foliage owner.

Commissioner Perestam asked staff how far the City goes in terms of being involved in the mediation process, specifically as to who holds funds and who doesn’t hold funds. He asked if the mediation process itself determines who shall hold the funds.

Director/Secretary Rojas agreed that part of the mediation process includes who shall hold the funds to facilitate private agreements. He noted that in only one particular case did the parties ask the City to hold funds in a trust account to help facilitate a private agreement. He stated that he was uncomfortable with the City holding money in an account, as there may be legal ramifications.

Chairman Tetreault discussed the language which suggested the foliage owner notify staff regarding the progress of the work and felt that, rather than be suggested, the language should be stronger so that staff will be notified of when work is starting. He suggested that if the foliage owner does not comply with the notification of staff then he has not met one of the required conditions and there could be some consequence to that. He then referred to page 9 and discussed the language regarding the mediator. He felt that the language could be changed slightly so that it does not appear that the mediator is representing the City in the mediation process, but rather is a neutral party. He discussed insurance, noting that the Guidelines state that the contractors must carry insurance that is acceptable to the City. He suggested the basic guidelines as to what is acceptable to the City be set out so that the foliage owner understands what the minimum insurance requirements are. He stated that this will allow the foliage owner to request a higher level of insurance if necessary. The Chairman then referred to page 21, which discusses transmitting funds from the City trust account to the foliage owner not later than 30 days after receipt of the appropriate billing, as verified by the City. He questioned what is being verified and how long the City can wait to verify. He felt there should be some time limit of action by the City staff.

Commissioner Karp stated that he takes great exception to the term “view owner” as it implies that the person who has the view owns that view over someone else’s property. He felt there should be a better description for the applicant, other than view owner. He stated again that the City and the foliage owner should be named as additionally insured on the liability insurance of the contractor.

Chairman Tetreault agreed, noting that adding an additionally insured is just a matter of a phone call and there is no cost.

Commissioner Perestam discussed the issue of stump grinding and felt that there could be some clarification to the language, possibly stating that, given the stump is accessible, the owner can make the determination as to whether or not the stump will be grinded or taken down to ground level. He felt staff could suggest some appropriate language.

Director/Secretary Rojas acknowledged there could be situations where the foliage owner may be happy with the stump and that would eliminate the issue of grinding it altogether. He stated language can be added to clarify that issue.

The Planning Commission unanimously agreed to a language change regarding the stump removal as suggested by Commissioner Perestam.

Commissioner Karp suggested staff have the City’s Risk Manager review the insurance provisions, as he felt they are inadequate. He also asked that the phrase “view owner” be changed.

Commissioner Perestam felt that if “view owner” is used in the Ordinance or other related documents it may not be easy to change. However, he suggested using “view preservation applicant” or “view restoration applicant” may be suitable alternatives.

Commissioner Mueller stated he was happy with the terms view owner and foliage owner. Regarding the insurance, he too felt the City should review the requirements.

Vice Chairman Knight agreed with Commissioner Karp’s opinion of “view owner”, and suggested staff check with the City Attorney to see if that language can be changed.

Chairman Tetreault agreed with the comments regarding the view owner and the insurance requirements. He also felt language should be added that the foliage owner shall notify staff of the date the foliage work will commence. He also referred to page 9 and felt that the language should be modified so that it does not appear that the mediator is a representative of the City. He referred to page 21, referring to transfer of funds from the trust account to the foliage owner. He felt that language should be added giving some type of trigger as to when the 30 days will commence so that the foliage owner will have some certainty as to when the funds will be transferred.

The Planning Commission agreed to the suggested changes made by the Chairman.

Director/Secretary Rojas stated that staff will make the suggested changes to the Guidelines and bring the document back to the Planning Commission for review at the March 28th meeting.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

4. Minutes of January 24, 2006

Commissioner Karp moved to approve the minutes as presented, seconded by Vice Chairman Knight. Approved, (5-0-1) with Commissioner Mueller abstaining since he was not present at that meeting.

ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS

5. Pre-Agenda for the meeting of February 28, 2006

The Planning Commission reviewed and approved the Pre-Agenda.

ADJOURNMENT

The meeting was adjourned at 11:15 p.m.