CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Knight at 7:04 p.m. at the Fred Hesse Community Room, 29301 Hawthorne Blvd.
Commissioner Tetreault led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Present: Commissioners Karp, Lewis, Perestam, Ruttenberg, Tetreault, Vice Chairman Gerstner, and Chairman Knight
Also present were Director of Planning Building and Code Enforcement Rojas,
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
The Agenda was unanimously approved as presented.
Director/Secretary Rojas distributed 3 items of correspondence for Agenda Item No. 3, reported that the Peninsula Seniors have applied for and received a Special Use Permit to locate their trailers at Upper Point Vicente, and there has yet to be an appeal regarding the flagpole at Trump.
COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE (regarding non-agenda items)
1. Interpretation procedure regarding permitted grading within and outside the building/grading restriction (BGR) line for lots in Tract No. 31617
Associate Planner Fox presented a brief staff report explaining that a memorandum was distributed to the City Council, Planning Commission, and interested parties dealing with the Director’s interpretation regarding allowable grading within and outside the BGR line in Tract 31617, and the Planning Commission asked to review this interpretation. He explained the Director’s interpretation and stated that if there is a disagreement with the Director’s interpretation in behalf of the Planning Commission or if further input or analysis will be needed staff would appreciate it at this time. Otherwise, attached to the staff report is a Resolution affirms the Director’s determination in this matter.
Commissioner Karp asked how staff arrived at 50 cubic yards of grading and 10 percent.
Associate Planner Fox explained that there are two different issues, noting that the 10 percent applies to grading outside the BGR Line, which is in the existing regulations adopted in 1993 for grading outside the BGR Line. He stated that the issue that needs clarifying is what is meant by “no grading”, and if that meant no earth movement whatsoever or no grading that requires a grading permit approval. He stated that staff determined that “no grading” means no earth movement on any slope that is steeper than 10 percent. He further explained that the 50 cubic yard threshold is the threshold that is currently in the Code as what qualifies for a minor grading approval, explaining that any grading over 50 cubic yards will then qualify for a major grading approval.
Chairman Knight asked staff if this discussion of grading and slopes in the tract is based upon the approved grading plans, rather than what may currently exist at the site.
Associate Planner Fox answered that it is based on the approved grading plans, explaining that staff has the original approved grading plan for the entire tract which depicts the as built grading and the location of the BGR Line for each lot.
Chairman Knight questioned if it would be a good idea to make a reference that this is in reference to the approved grading plans of the tract.
Associate Planner Fox explained that reference could be added to the Resolution.
Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.
Jim Beggens 6015 Ocean Terrace Drive stated that he and the other 21 interested parties agree with the recommendations in the staff report, adding that he did not think this interpretation would add any limitation or restrictions on development in the tract.
John Muckel 6024 Ocean Terrace Drive also agreed with the staff’s recommendations and felt it was important to clarify this issue so that future residents who want to do some type of development on their property will have a guideline as to what they can do within and outside of the BGR Line.
Commissioner Karp asked Mr. Muckel if this interpretation coincides with the CC&Rs of the community.
Mr. Muckel answered that if does not conflict with the CC&Rs and did not see anything in the interpretation that would change the CC&Rs.
Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Tetreault stated that at a previous discussion regarding a request to build in this area he was confused as to the terminology and interpretation as to what is grading and what is not grading. He felt this clarification helps take care of that confusion and was in favor of adopting staff’s recommendation.
Commissioner Perestam stated that this proposed interpretation passes the reasonableness test on where its been and where we are today, and supports the staff’s recommendation.
Commissioner Karp stated that 50 cubic yards is a very small amount of dirt, and questioned if that was too small an amount.
Vice Chairman Gerstner agreed with Commissioner Tetreault’s comments.
Commissioner Ruttenberg felt that staff’s interpretation of the 1993 Resolution is accurate and correct and therefore supported the staff’s recommendations.
Commissioner Lewis also supported staff’s recommendations.
Chairman Knight also agreed with staff’s interpretation, noting there are still seven undeveloped lots in the tract, and was therefore in favor of staff’s recommendations. He requested that when a motion is made, language be added that the reference point for grading be the tract grading plans that were approved with the tract.
Commissioner Tetreault moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-39 affirming the Director’s interpretation in this matter, as amended to add language that the reference point for the grading be the tract grading plans on file with the City, seconded by Commissioner Karp.
Associate Planner Fox suggested language stating that the basis for determining the approved grade for lots in Tract 31617 shall be the as built grading plan that is retained in the City’s files.
The Planning Commission agreed on the suggested language.
The motion to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-39 was approved, (7-0).
2. Conditional Use Permit (Case No. ZON2005-00508): 29000 S. Western Ave
Senior Planner Alvarez presented the staff report, describing the scope of the project and pointing out the existing antennas on the building. He pointed out on a photograph the mock up enclosure that currently existing on the building to house the proposed antennas. He stated that staff has received no public comments regarding the proposed antennas. He explained that staff was able to make all of the necessary findings required by the City Municipal Code and the City’s Wireless Communication Antenna Guidelines, and therefore was recommending approval of the Conditional Use Permit, as conditioned.
Chairman Knight asked if a master plan was submitted and if it identified any equipment that has become obsolete or will soon become obsolete.
Senior Planner Alvarez answered that a master plan has been submitted, but it does not identify anything that has become obsolete.
Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.
Michael Blackwell 2922 Dimlar Street, Santa Ana (representing Cingular Wireless) stated he has read the staff report and conditions and agrees with staff recommendations.
Commissioner Perestam asked how long the installation and implementation process takes at any given site.
Mr. Blackwell answered that once permits have been issued installation typically takes between 3 weeks and 90 days, depending on the scope of the project. He felt in this case installation would take less than 30 days.
Commissioner Tetreault asked if there were any other Cingular antennas on this particular roof.
Mr. Blackwell answered that there are not.
Commissioner Tetreault asked how these antennas would be adding to the network that already exists.
Mr. Blackwell explained that this is considered a brand new cell site for Cingular and will be a part of the existing nationwide network.
Commissioner Tetreault asked Mr. Blackwell if these antennas will be replacing any obsolete antennas in the City.
Mr. Blackwell answered that these antennas are meant to be the start of a new networking system, and was not aware of any obsolete antennas in the City.
Commissioner Lewis asked Mr. Blackwell if it would be a hardship to require, as part of the approval, that Cingular provide an updated map that reflects the future network once Cingular has to leave the T Mobile network of antennas.
Mr. Blackwell did not think it would be difficult to provide such a map.
Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Lewis explained that, as part of the City’s Wireless Communication Antenna Guidelines, an applicant must submit a network master plan as part of the application process. He noted that the currently submitted plan might be technically accurate, but is not really useful to the City. He did not feel the Planning Commission would need the revised map in order to make a decision, however he felt that City should have the corrected map in its files. Therefore, he felt that Condition 19 of the Resolution should be modified to state the City receive this modified map sooner than the stated 5 years.
Director/Secretary Rojas noted that there are currently three other applications from Cingular on file with the City and staff can require an updated master plan before these applications are deemed complete.
Commissioner Tetreault stated that based upon what the Director said, he is not that concerned with getting the master plan before approving this application. He felt this plan should be allowed to go forward, and inform Cingular that the next application before the City will be required to have an updated plan.
Commissioner Tetreault moved to adopt PC Resolution 2006-40 as presented by staff, seconded by Vice Chairman Gerstner. Approved, (7-0)
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 8:14 p.m. the Planning Commission took a short recess until 8:30 p.m. at which time they reconvened.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (cont)
3. Non-commercial Amateur Radio Antenna Permit (Case No. ZON2006-00227): 30938 Hawthorne Blvd.
Commissioner Karp recused himself from the hearing, as he is an ex-member of the organization proposing this antenna.
Associate Planner Fox presented the staff report, giving a brief history of the proposed project and explained the scope of the project. He explained that, unlike commercial antennas which require the approval of a Conditional Use Permit, the installation of a non-commercial antenna requires a Non-Commercial Amateur Radio Antenna Permit to be approved by the Planning Commission. He stated there are four required findings that must be made for the approval of such an antenna. He discussed the four findings, noting that staff was able to make all of the necessary findings to approve the project. He informed the Planning Commission that in 1985 the FCC issued a ruling, known as PRB1 that established a limited Federal preemption of local zoning regulations with respect to amateur radio communications. He explained that the FCC found that state and local regulations that operate to preclude amateur communications in their communities are in direct conflict with Federal objectives and must be preempted. He stated that staff believes that the conditional approval of the permit are consistent with this limited Federal preemption. He stated that there were four written comments attached to the staff report objecting to the project and two additional comments distributed to the Planning Commission this evening. In conclusion, he stated that staff was recommending approval of the proposed project, as conditioned.
Commissioner Tetreault noted that in this instance the applicant is the City and questioned how Federal preemption affects the applicant, which is a governmental entity.
Director/Secretary Rojas explained that staff has discussed, at some length with the City Attorney, issues regarding PRB-1, and it is the City Attorney’s position that it this application is subject to PRB-1 and the City is subject to the Federal preemptions that apply to amateur antennas. He noted that in the staff report there is no alternative listed to deny the application, and therefore any issues with the antenna should be worked out through conditions.
Chairman Knight asked if this antenna would be strictly for emergencies, or if there would be ham operators using the antenna on a daily basis.
Associate Planner Fox answered that the use would be for both.
Chairman Knight asked how this use would fit in with the City Hall renovation plan and how it would affect the Art Center.
Associate Planner Fox explained that there currently is no formal approved plan for it to fit into.
Chairman Knight asked if there was any consideration in consolidating the existing antenna at City Hall and the antennas at the Coast Guard station to one location.
Associate Planner Fox answered that was not part of this application.
Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.
Mel Hughes 28017 San Nicolas Drive (representing the Emergency Preparedness Committee) explained that in 2001 the City formed an emergency preparedness task force to try and evaluate how prepared the City was for some type of disaster. He gave a brief background of what the Emergency Preparedness Committee has done over the past couple of years. He discussed amateur radio operators and what their role is during an emergency. He explained that the radio antenna needs to be close to the Community Room at City Hall, which acts as the command center during an emergency, noting that this proposed site would greatly improve the communications capability. He explained the actual antenna tower and explained it is designed to be cranked down only for service and maintenance. He concluded that this site at City Hall provides, by far, the best location for the emergency use of this proposed antenna.
Commissioner Perestam asked what would be tested at the site on a weekly basis and with whom.
Mr. Hughes explained that they would be running drills between the amateur radio operators and the sheriff’s department.
Commissioner Perestam asked Mr. Hughes if he knew approximately how many amateur radio operators there are in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Mr. Hughes stated that the last time he checked there were more than 250 licensed radio amateurs in Rancho Palos Verdes, noting that not all of those are active.
Commissioner Tetreault asked Mr. Hughes how often the amateur radio operators are put to use in a disaster, and asked if he had an example.
Mr. Hughes noted that the amateur radio operators were activated after the Sylmar and Northridge earthquakes, during the fire near Del Cerro Park, during and after Hurricane Katrina, and many other instances.
Chairman Knight asked if there was a relay system used with other antennas.
Mr. Hughes answered that type of system is not used here, but rather there is a mobile station that can be dispatched for relays as well as repeater towers.
Chairman Knight asked if the repeater towers were beefed up, would that enable him to lower the height of the antenna at City Hall.
Mr. Hughes answered that the Committee wants the City Hall site to be stand alone, explaining that if a repeater is lost at the top of the hill which they are depending on, and then the system won’t work.
Chairman Knight asked if the antenna at City Hall could be at a default lower level with improved repeaters at several sites, but if the repeaters were to fail the tower at City Hall could be cranked up higher for better communications.
Mr. Hughes stated that is very difficult to implement. He explained that the proposed height is the minimum height needed to function as a stand-alone antenna.
Bob Nelson 6612 Channelview Court explained that he had a friend that lived very close to a repeater tower in Palos Verdes Estates and every time they pressed the broadcast he got a half inch of static across his television and lost his sound. He asked what the recourse would be for the residents of Rancho Palos Verdes who may have a similar problem because of this antenna. He asked if there would be a problem adding this antenna to the existing commercial already existing at City Hall. He asked who would be listening if there was a major disaster, asking if it would be Long Beach, Los Angeles, or Rancho Palos Verdes who would get the attention. He stated that the City has already been told by the Sheriff’s Department to expect a week to two weeks out here on our own after a disaster, and therefore the City will have to be self sufficient for that time. He qualified that he stands in favor of this proposal, however he wants the City to realistic about what will happen.
Dale Hanks 5225 Middlecrest Road stated that he is the City Radio Officer. He distributed a map of the City noting that the stars on the chart are the PVan members. He explained that these members are trained to be proficient and will know what to do in the case of an emergency. He stated that the proposed tower is not only to communicate with Sacramento or the Lomita Sheriff’s Station, but also to communicate with the individual neighborhoods.
Commissioner Tetreault asked Mr. Hanks if he had any information regarding interference to the residents because of this tower.
Mr. Hanks responded that, even if invited, he would hesitate to put his equipment on the existing cell phone tower because the intermodulation between the amateur radio frequencies and the commercial frequencies could cause interference to the commercial equipment. He stated that he did not want to be blamed for causing interference to the commercial equipment.
Commissioner Tetreault asked about other types of consumer communications such as radio and television reception within the vicinity of the proposed tower.
Mr. Hanks responded that the tower will be 1,000 feet away from the nearest neighbors. He explained that interference is usually caused because of the intensity of the signal and the signal is intense because of the close proximity.
Richard Smith 5951 Armaga Springs Road distributed to staff a copy of a brochure from Palos Verdes Estates that describes how that City has implemented the same type of function that PVan performs in this City, as well as publication from the Sheriff’s station in Lomita which discusses the Peninsula Volunteer Network.
James E Smith 30960 Via La Cresta stated he is a member of the La Cresta Point HOA and noted that the HOA is against the tower in the current location. He stated that no view analysis was taken from the 30950 or 30960 areas of Via La Cresta, which look directly down at City Hall. He stated that he is an engineer and understands all of the technical aspects, but he is speaking on behalf of the views from the homes on Via La Cresta.
Chairman Knight asked Mr. Smith if his comments were representing the HOA or himself.
Mr. Smith stated that his comments were representative of both the HOA and himself.
Commissioner Ruttenberg asked Mr. Smith if he had a photograph showing the view of the antenna from where he lives.
Mr. Smith answered that he does not have a photograph, as he has been out of town, but suggested looking at the staff’s pictures to show how he looks directly down at City Hall.
Commissioner Lewis asked if the existing towers and/or antennas at City Hall block his view of the ocean or the horizon,
Mr. Smith answered that he can see all of the antennas at City Hall, which are right at the point of the horizon line.
Herb Stark 32306 Phantom Drive explained that there is currently a flagpole at City Hall that has many antennas mounted on it. He stated that this new proposed antenna would replace the flagpole with the many elements on it with a single antenna, which will be much less visible than what exists. He stated that there is a trade off between helping the citizens of the community during a disaster and a very minimal visual impact to the residents on Via La Cresta.
Alan Sauterberg 27653 Flaming Arrow Drive stated that he is the Chairman of PVan, and his primary responsibility is to organize this group of citizens to provide emergency communications among themselves and to the City. He described the function of PVan and how they will help in an emergency. He explained that it is very important for a tall, efficient antenna to be placed at City Hall so that PVan can communicate to City Hall during an emergency.
Jack Karp 31115 Ganado Drive stated this is about emergency preparedness. He stated that the discussions have centered on earthquakes, and pointed out that earthquakes are not the only disaster the City may face. He stated that there could be fires, landslides, emergencies at the harbor, and even the potential for a plan crash. He realized the risks are relatively low, but if it happens the City must be prepared. He felt that if a disaster does strike the City may be isolated, as there are only a few roads that lead out of the City, and it is important to have communications with the outside cities.
Gina Park, stated that she is the Assistant to the City Manager and the cities emergency preparedness coordinator. She explained that the Art Center is aware of this proposed tower and management staff and the Emergency Preparedness Committee chose this site with the knowledge that it may have to be relocated in the coming years when the City Hall renovation plans are put into place.
Chairman Knight asked Mr. Hughes to return to the podium and asked him if some vegetation grows up near the hillside of the antenna, if that would interfere with the communication of the antenna.
Mr. Hughes answered that if an 80-foot Canary Island Pine were to be in front of the antenna dripping wet it could conceivably interfere with communications. He noted, however that he would much rather have the antenna in his view than the Canary Island Pine, as you can easily see past the antenna if you can see it at all but you can’t see past the Canary Island Pine.
Chairman Knight asked if the weekly drills mentioned earlier are currently taking place.
Mr. Hughes answered that the drills and training take place every week.
Chairman Knight asked if these drills are taking place with the antennas that are in place today.
Mr. Hughes stated that they are and that is why we are where we are today. He explained that the current disaster communications center is located in a closet where it is noisy. He stated that only two people can fit into the closet, the necessary equipment cannot be placed there, and he is unable to communicate with a number of people in the PVan group. He stated that the system is currently, at best, marginal.
Commissioner Tetreault stated that currently the proposal is for a 55-foot tall lattice type tower upon which would be an extension of another 14 feet of the 2-inch tubular antenna element. He asked if there was a way to lower the height of the lattice tower and increase the length of the smaller antenna on top in order to get the height and coverage required but reducing the height of the more visible larger structure.
Mr. Hughes answered that may be a possibility, however he would have to do the calculations on that.
Chairman Knight asked if the proposed tower is in compliance with FAA regulations and will not require illumination.
Mr. Hughes answered that nothing under 200 feet requires illumination.
Vice Chairman Gerstner asked if there would be any problem painting the tower black.
Mr. Hughes stated there would not be a problem, however he noted that the tower is galvanized metal and when they are painted the color fades very quickly.
Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Lewis stated that he is in favor of the tower as proposed. He stated that the lessons of Hurricane Katrina show that the City cannot rely the outside and must be able to communicate within the City.
Commissioner Ruttenberg agreed, adding that this is an important and necessary improvement to the community.
Vice Chairman Gerstner also agreed adding that he felt this was a necessary improvement and would like to see it in place. He stated that he would like to Condition 13 changed from the tower being gray or gray / blue to being painted black, as that will make the tower disappear.
Commissioner Tetreault noted that there is not much the Planning Commission can do to prevent this application from going forward other than add some conditions of approval. He felt that a lot of research and time had gone into choosing this location for the optimal use of the antenna. He stated that he was in favor of the application, however he would like to take the opportunity to explore the possibility of having the lattice structure lowered in height and having a taller mast. He felt that even lowering the tower by five feet with a five-foot higher antenna would help with the visual aspect of the structure. He also agreed that painting the tower black would be helpful.
Commissioner Perestam stated he was also interested in the idea of lowering the lattice structure and increasing the height of the antenna.
Chairman Knight stated that this tower will provide a service to the City that will enhance the emergency preparedness. He explained that he was trying to find a way that the default height would be at a lower cranked height with repeaters increased on the top of the hill, and in the event of an emergency the antenna can be raised to its full height.
Commissioner Lewis stated that he was in favor of approving this application, however if the other Commissioners have questions they would like to see explored or the neighbors would like to have time to take pictures to help express their concerns on views, he would have no problem agreeing to a continuance of the application.
Commissioner Ruttenberg asked staff if there was a reason they chose the color of grey or grey/blue for the antenna structure.
Associate Planner Fox answered that it is a condition used before for commercial antennas, and painting it black would be acceptable to the staff.
Commissioner Perestam requested reopening the public hearing to ask one of the speakers if it makes sense to recalculate the height of the antenna.
Chairman Knight re-opened the public hearing.
Mel Green explained that he has made sure this tower is designed well below the load limits of the system and did not want to get in a position where the tower is lowered and the mast type is designed to the structural limit of the tower. He stated he wanted this tower to be as safe as possible and that the tower and antenna are well below the maximum load limit of the system.
Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Ruttenberg moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-41 thereby approving the non-commercial amateur radio antenna permit as amended to modify the language in Condition No. 13 to state the antenna tower shall be painted black, seconded by Commissioner Lewis.
Commissioner Tetreault stated that the Planning Commission has a limited ability to regulate what is being proposed, however that doesn’t mean the Planning Commission has no ability. He felt that the Planning Commission has the ability and duty to explore alternatives to mitigate the impact of the proposed tower. He stated that in no way was he suggesting that the tower and antenna be taken to their design maximum, as there should be a margin of safety built into it. He noted that the Planning Commission does not have any numbers or calculations showing the stress loads on the structure at different heights. He felt that if the numbers calculated out that lowering the tower by five feet was a safe alternative, the visual impairment would be reduced by five feet. He felt this is something the Planning Commission should be doing, as there have been complaints from neighbors that these antennas are a visual blight to have to look upon and there is some view impairment.
Chairman Knight felt that Commissioner Tetreault had the right idea, but was not sure how much that would change the application. He added that he was also concerned there are many different towers on the property and would like to encourage co-location to try to reduce the number of towers. He noted that the speakers felt this would be a very difficult task and there didn’t seem to be a solution to that problem.
The motion to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-41 as amended was approved, (5-1-1) with Commissioner Tetreault dissenting and Commissioner Karp recused.
Commissioner Tetreault clarified that his dissenting vote should not be construed as being against the idea of having this antenna and the Emergency Preparedness Committee should be commended for their hard work.
4. Height Variation (Case No. ZON2006-00014): 28731 Shire Oaks Drive
Associate Planner Fox presented the staff report, explaining the scope of the project and the need for the Height Variation. He stated that staff felt all of the required nine finds to approve the Height Variation could be made. Therefore, staff was recommending adoption of the Resolution to approve the Height Variation.
Chairman Knight noted that this plan calls for a 5:12 roof pitch, which is fairly steep, and did not see any other roofs in the neighborhood with that steep of a pitch.
Associate Planner Fox stated that the current roof on the house has a 5:12 pitch.
Chairman Knight opened the public hearing.
The owner and architect stated they were available to answer any questions.
There being no questions, Chairman Knight closed the public hearing.
Commissioner Tetreault felt that proposed addition is in keeping with the neighborhood and the existing sizeable roof pitch allows the owners to accept the addition without much of an impact to the size of the house. He therefore is in agreement with staff’s recommendations.
Vice Chairman Gerstner noted that the architectural styles in this neighborhood are quite diverse and therefore allows for quite a bit of flexibility. He felt this proposed addition is quite modest and also agreed with staff’s recommendations.
Commissioner Lewis moved to adopt P.C. Resolution 2006-42 thereby approving the Height Variation as presented by staff, seconded by Vice Chairman Gerstner. Approved, (7-0)
5. Height Variation and Site Plan Review (Case No. ZON2006-00015): 2701 San Ramon Drive
Chairman Knight noted that the request was to continue the public hearing to the meeting of September 12, 2006, and there being no objection, the item was continued.
6. Review past decisions on projects approved by the Planning Commission
Director/Secretary Rojas presented the staff report. He began by showing a photo of the lot prior to being built on, reviewed the silhouette and plans that were presented to the Planning Commission, and showed a picture of the completed house.
The Planning Commission reviewed the photographs and had a brief discussion on what was approved and how it fit into the neighborhood.
Commissioner Karp asked that this type of review process happen on a regular basis, and the Planning Commission agreed.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
7. Minutes of July 11, 2006
Commissioner Tetreault noted a clarification on page 10 of the minutes.
Commissioner Tetreault moved to approve the minutes, as amended, seconded by Commissioner Perestam. Approved, (4-0-2) with Commissioner Lewis and Chairman Tetreault abstaining as they were absent from that meeting.
8. Minutes of July 25, 2006
Continued to September 12, 2006
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON FUTURE AGENDAS
9. Pre-agenda for the meeting of August 22, 2006
Commissioner Tetreault noted that he will be absent from the August 22nd meeting.
Commissioner Karp asked that a staff member accompany him on a site visit for Agenda Item No. 1.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:55 p.m.