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MINUTES FROM MARCH 11th 2011

Voting Members in Attendance:  David Kaplan, Richard Cohen, Chris Spitz, Karen Ridgley, Sue Kohl, Matthew Quiat, Reza Akef, Craig Natvig, Beth Holden-Garland, Steve Cron, Haldis Toppel, Richard Blumenberg, Jim Kirtley, Trish Bowe, Peter Powell, Brenda Theveny, Eric Dugdale

Voting Alternates:  Rick McGeagh, Mary Mueller, Melanie Bouer, Bruce Schwartz

Non-voting Advisors and Alternates:  Allison Polhill, Cindy Kirven, Rick Mills, Lee Anne Sanderson, John Padden

1.    Call to order and reading of Mission Statement.  The Vice Chair David Kaplan (presiding in the absence of the Chair) called the meeting to order at 6:00 pm.  He read the Mission Statement.

2.    Introduction of Zoom engineer.  The Vice Chair/Presiding Officer welcomed everyone and introduced the technical engineer Alex Ponting.  Introductions of the Board and audience were deferred.

3.    Roll call of voting members and certification of quorum. The Vice Chair /Presiding Officer called the roll of voting members and certified that there was a quorum.

4.    Approval of Minutes.  The minutes of February 25, 2021 were approved. Upcoming meetings: March 25, 2021: CD 11 presentation on proposed regulations and a pilot program for “Personal Delivery Devices” (remote-controlled/robotic delivery of purchases).  April 8, 2021: City Redistricting 2021 presentation (Michele Prichard, Commissioner/CD 11 Representative to the Redistricting Commission).

5.    Consideration of Agenda.  Agenda items may be taken out of order at the discretion of the Chair.

6.    Treasurer’s Report.

The Treasurer Richard G. Cohen reported that PPCC’s cash balance is $35,805.22. This month, he paid the renewal premium for our general liability insurance. The cost was $964.36, the same premium as last year. Last month he reported paying the renewal premium for our Directors and Officers’ liability insurance, so this year’s insurance renewal cycle is now complete. Our P.O. Box also renews this month at a cost of $176 per year.

7.    General Public Comment.

7.1.   Bruce Schwartz (speaking as a resident). T he pavement on La Cruz Drive after the last rainstorm has lots of potholes.  He wishes that this stretch can be repaved one day.

8.    Reports, Announcements and Concerns.

8.1.    From the Chair/Presiding OfficerNone.

8.2.    From Officers.

8.2.1.     Chris Spitz (Secretary).

The Secretary provided an update on legislative developments. The Executive Committee has submitted a letter regarding SB 290 (Skinner) which has been forwarded to the Board [http://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/PPCC-Letter-Senate-Housing-SB-290.pdf]. Anyone with questions should contact the Secretary.

SB 10 will be heard on March 18 in the Senate Housing Committee but at the request of bill’s author, Sen. President pro Tem Atkins, SB 9 was removed from the hearing schedule.  We have no information as to why or when it will be heard.  Meanwhile, the City still hasn’t taken up the two Koretz resolutions in opposition to these bills; we’ll continue to monitor.

We also learned a few days ago that the City’s Administrative Officer is recommending that the City raise the fee for filing appeals of land use decisions from the current $89 fee to . . .  $16,000.  To repeat, instead of paying $89, residents who wished to appeal a decision about a project that they oppose – just as an example, the Jack-in-the-Box site project — would have to cough up a whopping $16,000.  This is the supposed “cost recovery” amount to the City to process a constituent’s appeal.  The matter will be heard in the City’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee on April 6.  Some of the WRAC member councils are taking up motions to oppose this fee increase and we may do so as well at the March 25th meeting.

We have also learned that Senator Stern is going to be amending SB 55 – the bill that would ban all new development in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (VHFHSZ).  We are told that he will include amendments to ensure that property owners can rebuild on a 1:1 basis because of a catastrophe or any other reason.  His staff has asked us to submit any other suggested amendments we may have, but these need to be submitted by March 16 due to a Senate deadline for getting in bill amendments).  Because the Executive Committee will need to take action for the Board, the Committee would like to conduct a straw poll to ascertain the Board’s opinion about the follow possible amendments:

  • Amend to make clear that structures on both residentially-zoned and commercially-zoned properties can be rebuilt on a 1:1 basis for any reason.
  • Amend to make clear that vacant land purchased prior to the effective date of the legislation can be developed in accordance with all zoning code provisions and development standards in place at the time that title was vested in the property owner, for a period of three years from the effective date of the legislation (i.e., include a sunset clause).
  • Amend to make clear that Accessory Dwelling Units and/or Junior Accessory Dwelling Units that weren’t previously built, but were allowed to be built prior to the effective date of the legislation, can be built on residentially-zoned properties for a period of three years from the effective date of the legislation (i.e., include a sunset clause).

The Secretary read aloud each possible amendment and asked for comments.  Several members, both voting and non-voting, spoke.  Speakers expressed strong opinions that there should be no sunset clause (Richard Blumenberg, Trish Bowe, Rick Mills, Reza Akef).  Karyn Weber and Rick Mills suggested that rebuilt construction should be legal and subject to current applicable codes.  Karyn Weber didn’t understand what was meant by “a 1:1 basis for any reason.” Rick Mills was also concerned that there are complicated statewide fire zone issues that this bill doesn’t address. Reza Akef indicated that restrictions should apply only to residential properties. Richard Blumenberg owns vacant land and does not wish to be prevented from future development. Howard Robinson believes that PPCC should support existing zoning laws as indicated in our Guiding Principles. Haldis Toppel would like to prevent oversized buildings from being constructed to replace existing structures. The Treasurer explained that PPCC’s position is to oppose state bills that seek to increase density in our residential areas because they eliminate local control and don’t include fire zone exemptions; we are concerned about the risk to public safety with more density in fire zones; Senator Stern is attempting with this bill to address the problem; we do not want to see increased development beyond the level that we are entitled to build.  Reza Akef agreed with the Treasurer. The Secretary stated that the Executive Committee would take the comments into account in deciding on suggestions for bill amendments.

8.3.    From Area and At-large Representatives.

8.3.1.    Karen Ridgley (Area 4 Representative).  There was a recent burglary in the community which was on the front page of the Post.  Neighbors cooperated and provided video footage to the police.  She had a meeting with officers, developed a rapport and received active help from LAPD.  She will be meeting with Capt. Tom and the new Palisades rotating SLO next week.

8.3.2.    Reza Akef (Area 3 Representative).  The area around the storm drain heading east on Sunset Blvd. near Paul Revere now has homeless tents.  The school and principal are aware.  Homeless individuals are going onto the Paul Revere grounds at night.  Palisades Patrol has been watching the gates at the school.

8.4.    From Organizational Representatives.

8.4.1.    Jim Kirtley (YMCA).  Over 40 participants registered for the Y’s food program (donations of free produce and canned goods) this week.  Please continue to spread the word to people who experience food insecurity.  The program is for anyone who lives in the City; it takes place at noon on Thursdays in front of the Y on Via de la Paz.

8.5.    From Government Offices / Representatives.   Contact information available at: http://pacpalicc.org/index.php/government-contacts/

8.5.1.    LAPD acting SLO Jae Lee – not in attendance; Officer Lee’s rotation is ending.

8.5.2.    CD 11 Field Deputy Durrah Wagner – not in attendance

8.6.    From PPCC Advisors None

9.     Reports from Committees.

9.1.    Executive Committee.  WRAC-recommended motion re affordable housing legislation (sponsored in PPCC by the Executive Committee). Request for Board support of motion. See attachment below.

In the Chair’s absence, Secretary Chris Spitz announced that the Executive Committee moved for the PPPC Board to approve the WRAC-recommended motion as set forth in the agenda.  She read the motion text out loud.  A second was not necessary as the motion was made by a committee of more than one voting member.  The Treasurer then explained the reason for the motion was to show that we are not simply against all legislation; we recognize that there is an affordable housing shortage and we would like the problem to be solved.  The Secretary followed up by saying that it is important to be able to show to our elected officials that we take reasoned, thoughtful positions and we support positive solutions to the policy challenges facing the City and state.

Trish Bowe (Rotary Club):  Are we dealing with the fact that people are leaving the state?  The Secretary: There is still a shortage of affordable housing, whether or not people leave; this motion involves solutions to the affordable housing crisis.  There was no further discussion.  A vote was then called.  Result:  Unanimous in favor of the motion.

9.2.    Land Use Committee (LUC; Howard Robinson, Chair).  Upcoming public LUC meeting to address concerns re zoning height regulations in lower Marquez and other areas of the Palisades (date TBA).  Mr. Robinson explained that an interesting project in lower Marquez has come forward and the LUC is now focused on this. The committee has had two working sessions to discuss the project and do background research.  This project involves a single-family home that is much taller than other homes in the neighborhood.  The building permit states that it is just under 45 ft. in height.  The home is about 75-80% completed.  A group of neighbors is opposed.  The LUC is researching what can be approved in the area.  The neighbors couldn’t understand how a home that tall could be approved.  According to  initial research by the LUC, there is a 45 ft. is height limit in this area which has been for many years, at least since 2008.  We will continue to do serious research on development standards in similar areas: R1 neighborhoods that are in the Coastal Zone but are not in hillside areas. Non-hillside Coastal Zone areas are not controlled by the hillside ordinance or the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO); they are governed by old, standard R1 zoning.  The LUC is hoping to be able to produce a comprehensive map and a report that will outline a series of zoning characteristics that apply to several neighborhoods.

The committee also wants to work with Councilmember Bonin’s office to understand what can be done about this situation. More than a year ago the Councilmember introduced a motion to apply the BMO to non-hillside areas of the Coastal zone in CD11.  The full City Council approved his motion in March 2020 but the matter has been sitting with City Planning staff with no action since that time.  These things move at a snail’s pace.  Is this the right move or are there some other moves to address this issue?  So many people were confused about the height limit, when in fact the height limit was 45 ft. and the owner didn’t need a variance.  Someone else could also build at this height in this area.  But on this particular house, LADBS has issued a Stop Construction order which lists a number of specific violations.  The order also stated an intent to revoke the building permit, which is an indication that the City admits it did something wrong in issuing the permit in the first place.  The City will have to work with the developer on how to resolve these issues.  Mr. Robinson noted, however, that the overall height was not one of the things cited as a violation.  The LUC will be studying this further and making recommendations to PPCC in the coming weeks about the project and the broader issues involving zoning.

Bruce Schwartz (Area 2 2nd Alternate) commented that this situation reminds him of the issue at Brooktree & Greentree 10 years ago, involving improper set-backs.  Mr. Robinson:  He has been in touch with several neighbors to ascertain what they believe are violations.  We will try and get a complete list of what the neighbors think are violations and look into whether the City’s Stop Construction order should be amended. Haldis Toppel (Area 3 Representative) thanked the Committee Chair and the Committee.

9.3.    [New item] Palisades Forestry Committee (PFC; Cindy Kirven, Chair).  Ms. Kirven reported on the status of historic Eucalyptus trees at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Solerno in the lower Marquez area.   She explained that the PFC tries to review as many street requests as possible in order to see if trees can be saved.  She saw a notice about a requested removal at this location, in which the property owner wanted to remove a Eucalyptus tree.  She explained that there are two old, historic Eucalyptus trees on the corner and she showed several slides depicting the trees and condition of the location, which includes a historic house.  She called Palisades historian Randy Young, discussed the location and got historical photos from him.  She spoke with both the architect and the owner and they explained that they wanted to protect the historic house from damage from falling tree limbs.  Ms. Kirven talked with them about tree trimming and maintaining the health of the trees.  The owners live in Northern California. After these discussions they decided to withdraw their application, trim both trees and clean up the property. The PFC appreciated the actions of the owners and their decision not to remove the Eucalyptus tree.

Sue Kohl (Area 5 Representative):   She and her neighbors have tried reporting to 311 about a giant Eucalyptus tree in front of her house.  The location is 866 Iliff.  She thinks that the tree’s condition is dangerous and its limbs could fall down and hurt someone.  However, when she calls the City, she gets a message back that her case is “closed.”  How can we get the City to trim the tree?  Response:  Ms. Kirven will look into the situation.

10.    Old Business. 

10.1.    LADWP updates: 1) Low water pressure problem in Area 5 – Deborah Hong, LADWP Community Affairs Liaison; 2) Protection of sensitive “Milkvetch” plants (upper Temescal Gateway Park/pole replacement project area) – Kathryn Laudeman, LADWP Environmental Division.

Ms. Hong introduced several experts and guests to speak on the agenda topics.  First up was  Kathryn Laudeman, an engineer with Environmental Affairs, with an update on the situation involving the protected “Milkvetch” plants in the area of the power pole replacement project.  She explained the large number of plants that LADWP had impacted.  Many more plants than they originally counted were impacted because the plants establish quickly with more seedlings after being disturbed.  She stated that with future work in the area LADWP will endeavor to ensure that no future loss of these plants occurs.  She also announced that the Coastal Commission today approved the Coastal Development Permit for the project, which will allow LADWP to resume work. There were consent and restoration orders issued in December of 2020, and LADWP is working with Coastal on a restoration plan and on a plan to mitigate for any loss of habitat resulting from the unpermitted development.

Ms. Hong then explained that we would have presentations by Edgar Mercado (LADWP Water Distribution Engineer, Western District), Linh Phan (LADWP Manager of Water Control), and LAFD Battalion Chief Joseph Everett.

Edgar Mercado began the presentation with a Power Point. He emphasized that LADWP takes every concern seriously. Water for the area is coming from the Santa Inez Reservoir.  Areas closer to the elevation of the reservoir have lower water pressure, and lower elevation areas get higher pressure. He explained the mechanics of the rate of increase of water pressure depending on elevation. The homes at the top of Chautauqua are at a higher elevation. LADWP has determined that they are meeting the minimum PSI requirements for firefighting. Mr. Mercado also stated that a site inspection confirmed that all valves are open, all fire hydrants have water and there are no water outages in the area.

Linh Phan then discussed the Santa Inez Reservoir situation. The reservoir requires periodic recycling.  LADWP has been filling and emptying the reservoir at regular intervals as a normal practice for some time.  Some of the work in this process has to be done manually.  There were pressure variations and the elevation of the reservoir dropped on December 10, 2020.  People experienced much lower water pressure as a result.  This was due to the impact on the workforce because of COVID-19. This problem only occurred at this time and they haven’t had any further problems since then.

LAFD Battalion Chief Joseph Everett:  LAFD’s concern is wildfire protection.  The Palisades fire in 2019 was the most recent notable fire in the area.  He described the steps that LAFD takes to access water in hydrants in order to fight fires.  He showed a slide depicting a fire engine “pump panel” and explained the various dials and equipment.  He also described different other tools and methods that LAFD uses to try and access water.  His team makes sure the Palisades area is well-prepared in advance with “pumpers” in order to pump water to fight fires. The Dept. also has water dropping helicopters which show up just a few minutes after being called.  Hand crews also help with fire lines.  LAFD’s partners include the County Fire Dept. in Malibu, which can supply pumping apparatus and hand crews.  Regarding the Chautauqua incident: When this occurred, firefighters from the local stations checked the pressure on every hydrant on Chautauqua from the top all the way down to Sunset Blvd.  They determined they had sufficient ability to access water to fight any fires in the area.  All of the hydrants were reviewed.

Edgar Mercado:  LADWP is maintaining pressure levels and making adjustments to prevent this incident from happening again.

Sue Kohl (Area 5 Representative):  Some of the residents near the hydrant said they also experienced lower than normal water pressure in their homes.  Did this only occur on Dec. 10-11 or is the situation ongoing?  Mr. Mercado:   We are aware that this area will experience lower pressure than other areas.  This is by default and design when the properties were developed.  The area was known and expected to have lower water pressure.  The Elevation Agreement with the developer states they are required to provide minimum pressure at the main fire hydrant.  Some houses have a “pump house” to pump water up and increase pressure at individual homes. These are all private installations (LADWP is not in charge of these pump houses).

The Presiding Officer:  Are residents currently facing the same low water pressure problems?  Ms. Phan:  This was confined to the December 10th – 11th time frame.  That was the time of extremely low pressure; otherwise, the residents in this location have always had lower pressure than other areas.

The President Officer thanked all the guest speakers.

11.    New Business. 

11.1.    School reopenings update – Allison Polhill, District Director, LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin.  Discussion only.

The Presiding Officer welcomed LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin, who thanked PPCC for the invitation.  He then spoke about the agreement ratified by his Board this morning to reopen schools.  This is the one-year anniversary since the decision was made to close schools.  LAUSD did so before the Safer at Home order was instituted.  It is now one year later and it is important to give kids the opportunity to return to in-person learning. He stressed the risk of not reopening and the harm to children.  He wants them to return as soon and as safely as possible, and he also emphasized that this must be done equitably.  LAUSD reached the agreement with UTLA two nights ago.  Palisade High is an independent charter school, with its own teacher’s union, and as a result it will be on its own reopening timeline.

Mr. Melvoin then stated that he is focused on 3 factors: 1) community spread; we will be in the red tier by Monday; 2) mitigation efforts at schools; he wants to make sure that schools are the safest places in the community and he discussed all the safety measures that they are putting in place; 3) opportunity to vaccinate the school community.  He advocated opening even sooner as per the CDC recommendation earlier in March.  LAUSD did reach agreement with UTLA and vaccinations are occurring as soon as possible.  The target date for reopening is the middle of April.  Students in pre-K to 8th grade will have the opportunity/option to have in-person learning 5 days a week.  K-5 students can attend every day, with in-person in the morning; afternoons will involve extended supervision unless parents want to pick them up.  There will be opportunity for supervised online virtual learning in the afternoon.  They have asked parents to send in preferences.

The situation with middle and high school students is more complicated. Factors that were considered: 1) need to minimize disruption; 2) the importance of having stable cohorts, which is more difficult in upper grades because there are so many different classes.  Deciding how to keep the students in the same cohorts throughout the day was difficult.  The solution: the students will come in-person to advisories throughout the day but core classes will still be conducted by virtual/remote instruction. They are also looking for summer school programs and already planning for the fall semester.  He hopes that by August there will be more in-person opportunities, especially for high school students.

Mr. Melvoin is proud of the social safety net provided by LAUSD.  There is a meals program; they are giving out computers to those in need; there are WiFi hotspots; LAUSD has one of the largest school-based COVID-19 testing programs in the country; and it has now launched a vaccination effort.

Trish Bowe (Rotary Club):  What is the status of mandatory vaccinations?  Mr. Melvoin: We agreed with unions that the return to campus is contingent on access to the vaccine; employees will have the option not to take the vaccine. COVID-19 testing is mandatory; testing cannot be declined. About 10% of school employees have declined the vaccine so far.

Mr. Melvoin concluded by notifying everyone of a virtual town hall with Austin Beutner this coming Thursday at 4pm.  The Secretary thanked Mr. Melvoin for his support for our local schools and for presenting to us.

12.    Adjournment.   The meeting was adjourned at 7:50 pm.

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