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MINUTES FOR OCTOBER 25th 2018
Voting Members in Attendance: George Wolfberg, Peter Culhane, Richard Cohen, Chris Spitz [recused and left during Item 11.3 below], Maryam Zar, Sue Kohl, Rick Mills, Joanna Spak, Steve Cron, Alan Goldsmith, Rick Lemmo, Dick Wulliger, Brenda Theveny, Sarah Conner, Bill Bruns, Duke Ostendorf, Richard Blumenberg, Jean Sharp
Voting Alternates: Amy Baker, Howard Robinson, Andrew Wolfberg, David Peterson, Cathy Russell
Non-voting Advisors and Alternates: Mary Mueller, Melanie Bouer, David Card, Jason Sklar, Barbara Marinacci, Jan Ostendorf
1. Certification of Quorum. The Chair George Wolfberg called the meeting to order at 7:00pm and certified that a quorum was present.
2. Reading of Community Council’s Mission. Howard Robinson read the Council’s Mission.
3. Introduction of the Board and Audience. The board and audience were introduced.
4. Approval of Minutes & Upcoming Meetings. 1) Approval of Minutes – The minutes of 10/11/18 were approved as corrected. 2) Upcoming Meetings – November 8, 2018; topics: 1) announcement of Citizen of the Year and Golden Sparkplug awardees; 2) proposed beach walk path; 3) City and regional policies/regulation of dockless electric scooters and bikes. December 13, 2018; Holiday Meeting and Awards Gala. Note: There is only one meeting in November and December.
5. Consideration of Agenda. The Chair announced that the agenda was as distributed.
6. Treasurer’s Report. The Treasurer Richard Cohen reported that PPCC’s bank balance is $31,735.58 and there were no significant transactions since the last report.
7. General Public Comment.
7.1. Marge Gold (resident). The Village Green has hired someone to pick up trash for a monthly fee of $150. She thanked Vintage Grocers for putting the Village Green trash in their dumpster. The Village Green is raising money for the trash service. Visit www.palisadesvillagegreen.org and donate online.
8. Reports, Announcements and Concerns.
8.1. From the Chair George Wolfberg.
8.1.1. 2018 Citizen of the Year and Golden Sparkplug Awards. Citizen of the Year and Golden Sparkplug Awards: Deadline for receipt of nominations: 9pm on October 27. The committee will be sending to all board members for possible comment a confidential list of nominees. Pay careful attention to the deadline, which will be sometime next week. The selected honorees will be announced by the Awards Selection Committee on November 8. The Awards Gala will be on December 13 at Gladstones Restaurant. Peter Culhane and his Event committee already are hard at work. Details to come.
8.1.2. Orientation Session update. A well-attended session focusing on new board members and other interested parties was held last Thursday. Secretary Chris Spitz assisted in running through many of the nuances of the PPCC. Another make-up session will take place a week from tomorrow morning at 8am — meaning it will have to be at a coffee place. If you missed out, contact the Secretary.
8.1.3. WRAC Meeting update. WRAC Leadership met on November 17 in WLA City Hall. There were no specific motions passed although WRAC has released a letter supporting strengthening of the Protected Tree Ordinance and advocating for more comprehensive notice prior to removal of protected or street trees as well as an increase in the Urban Forestry budget. This letter will be posted on the PPCC website. [See Letter here. ]
8.1.4. Potrero Canyon update. The City surveyed the boundaries of the park, finding that there were encroachments by some of the neighbors onto park property. You cannot gain possession of government land by adverse possession and the property owners with these encroachments were given extra time by the City to comply. Some are pushing back and challenging the accuracy of the survey and City people are meeting with them. There also are questions about the fencing of the park, which has sparked an ongoing discussion. Lisa Cahill is ably dealing with these issues. The Chair learned yesterday that Caltrans will be installing deceleration and acceleration lanes along PCH for trucks entering/leaving the canyon. Since all the needed soil is now on-site, he expects these lanes will be rarely used.
8.1.5. New Brush Clearance Ordinance. The City Council recently passed a new law to protect properties in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (VHFHSZ) from the occurrence of brush fires. The law establishes specific safety measures for engaging in brush clearance activities. Among other things, it prohibits the use of certain cutting blades to clear grass or brush in this zone; it requires the presence of safety equipment, such as specific fire extinguishers and safety straps; it prevents brush clearing operations on red flag days; and it imposes strong penalties for violation of the law ($250 for first violation; thereafter, prosecution as a misdemeanor with fines up to $1000, or imprisonment in County Jail up to six months, or both). You are probably asking if this ordinance applies to you — the answer is “Yes,” if you live in Pacific Palisades. Here is a link to the Brush Clearance Ordinance.
8.1.6. PCH Task Force. The Task Force met yesterday in Malibu. A few quick notes: Santa Monica is having to re-do the environmental documents for the replacement bridge to the pier, delaying the project to 2022. Completion of the water storage project near the pier has resulted in 111 more parking places. Passage of Proposition 6 is not anticipated to impact any of the projects we have been following as they are already funded. There was a robust discussion of the RVs parked on PCH between Coastline Dr. and Topanga Canyon Rd. CHP, which has jurisdiction in that area, marks the tires and the RVs are moved before the 72-hour limit is reached. The campers are made up of vacationers avoiding fees, homeless persons as well as people with jobs and nowhere else to live. There was even somebody living in a tent on the highway. New regulations are pending an appeal on December 2. Sunset Mesa residents above the highway are concerned with possible fire danger and there are 3-4 complaints a day. The $7 million project to install warning signs on the Santa Monica Freeway prior to the McClure Tunnel along with improved lighting and painting of the tunnel is now expected to start in December 2019. There is a new District 7 Caltrans Director (LA-Ventura Counties) who has stressed better communications by staff. The Chair distributed handouts prepared as part of the Task Force Safety Grant, which ended Sept. 30; he noted the child-oriented game inside.
8.2. From Officers.
8.2.1. Chris Spitz (Secretary) gave an update on a recent City Council resolution and three ordinances that PPCC has been monitoring. First, a resolution was introduced yesterday in Council by Councilmember Koretz. It proposes opposing a recent ruing of the FCC that preempts local control of small cell facilities in the public right of way, particularly those that are expected to be deployed for 5G installations. If the resolution passes, the City would also join a coalition of other CA cities that are organizing to oppose the FCC and to retain local control. PPCC strongly supports local control in these matters and we, along with our WRAC colleagues and the City of Los Angeles, were a part of the effort this past year to defeat a state bill that would have similarly preempted local control for these purposes. You may recall that that bill, SB 649, was appropriately vetoed by Governor Brown. The fight was nonetheless expected to continue and it has now moved to the federal level. We will continue to monitor.
Regarding the three ordinances: 1) Sidewalk Vending. The Secretary has prepared a summary of PPCC’s positions and the status of the matter. See summary here. The ordinance was heard by a joint session of three Council Committees on October 17, which directed the City Attorney to draft a revised version of the ordinance consistent with new state law that allows the City to prohibit vending only on specific public safety, health or welfare grounds. 2) Home-sharing/Short-Term Rentals (STRs). This was scheduled to be heard by the Council PLUM Committee on October 23 but was continued to a date to be determined. 3) Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). This had been postponed by the City Planning Commission (CPC) to today’s meeting, but was continued again to November 29. The Secretary has previously reported on all of these ordinances and will be happy to answer any questions offline.
8.3. From At-large and Area Representatives.
8.3.1. Sue Kohl (Area 5 representative). See VPCLC report, item 9.1 below.
8.4. From Organizational Representatives.
8.4.1. Rick Lemmo (Chanber of Commerce) passed out the brand new Chamber informational pamphlet for membership. The Chamber’s Bob Benton Bash will take place on Oct. 30 at Mastro’s. Seating is limited so get tickets now on the Chamber website, www.palisadeschamber.com. The Chamber’s first annual Christmas Stroll in the commercial Village will take place on Friday, November 30.
8.4.2. Duke Ostendorf (YMCA) reported that the YMCA membership asked him to let everyone know about the ongoing issues with parking along Via de la Paz.
8.5. From Government Offices/Representatives.
8.5.1. Lisa Cahill, Palisades Field Deputy, Councilmember Mike Bonin.
Lisa gave an update and answered questions about the status of the Potrero Canyon Park project. A City survey found that some properties along the Canyon rim were encroaching onto dedicated City Park land. Notices to comply have been sent to these property owners with a deadline of November 11. Forty-five notices were sent out, and property owners were given extra time to remove encroachments at Councilmember Bonin’s insistence. Some owners have already removed the encroachments or have plans to comply by the deadline. Neighbors cannot obtain a prescriptive easement over government land. There were challenges to the accuracy of the City survey and Councilmember Bonin has directed the engineers to repeat the survey. At the end of the process, any noncompliance will be referred to the City Attorney. The grading contractor will begin staging equipment in the canyon within the next few weeks to begin the 14-month grading contract. More details will come about a proposed fence around the property and whether trees in the Park near residences can be saved.
On other subjects: The matter of the Preferential Parking District (permit parking) for the Alphabet Streets will be heard soon by the City Council. Councilmember Bonin is working hard to expedite installation of permit parking signs as quickly as possible after the City Council’s expected approval. There are motions dealing with trees in Council and the Final Report on the Urban Forestry Master Plan will be out on December 4. Email Lisa with any questions. Questions about the Marquette sewer matter should be directed to Len Nguyen, CD11 Planning Deputy. Plans for the proposed bocce ball court at the Palisades Recreation Center are ongoing. Lisa is working with Joe Halper and the CCC on the Santa Inez Canyon trailhead bathroom issues. A special PAB meeting will take place on October 30 at 7pm. The agenda includes the proposed Veterans’ Gardens and bocce ball court as well as public comment (no voting) on the topic of moving trash bins to the Frontera entrance at the tennis parking lot; there will be no decision on this latter issue until January.
8.5.2. Zach Gaidzik, West LA-Metro Field Deputy, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. There is good news regarding homelessness. The Supervisors voted to allocate $2.5M in capital funds for temporary housing at the WLA VA. This will open in early 2019. The Supervisors also passed several motions: provision of vocational training and guidance for incarcerated women; expansion of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program in order to reduce arrests and homelessness; development of a county-wide guiding document for all County Bike Paths; and restriction of plastic straws in unincorporated areas of the County.
8.6. From PPCC Advisors – None.
9. Reports from Committees.
9.1. Village Project Community Liaison Committee (VPCLC; David Kaplan and Sue Kohl, Co-Chairs).
Sue Kohl reported that the City Council Transportation Committee has approved the application for a Preferential Parking District (permit parking) for the Alphabet Streets; the matter will soon go to the City Council for final approval. She gave further details of the permit parking program, reiterating some of the information she had provided at the PPCC board meeting on September 27. Lisa Cahill stated that Councilmember Bonin is attempting to get the process expedited so that signage can be in place as soon as possible.
Sue also explained that while Caruso’s decision to increase complimentary parking to one hour (in response to the VPCLC’s earlier messages and the PPCC letter) is a step in the right direction, employee and visitor parking on the neighboring residential streets continues to be an issue; the VPCLC has brought this to Caruso’s attention. This is an ongoing problem and there is still work to be done.
10. Old Business – None.
11. New Business.
11.1. New Landscaping Plan for Fire Station 69. Presentation by Tracey Price of American Growers and LAFD Capt. Robert Bates of Station 69.
Tracey and Capt. Bates presented information about the beautiful new landscaping plan for the Station. They showed a plan and renderings, which can also be seen on www.pacpalicc.org at Resources/Presentations to PPCC. Tracey explained that all plantings will be low maintenance and there will be a drip irrigation system. They have raised half of the $55K-$60K budget in the last few weeks. All donations are tax deductible. There will be a fun pancake breakfast/brunch fundraiser for the project and the Station on November 3 at Porta Via Restaurant; for more information, to donate, or signup for the event visit the fundraiser website here.
Capt. Bates also reminded everyone to make sure all emergency contact numbers are current and updated with your alarm company.
11.2. Protection of the Urban Tree Canopy. Briefing by Ileana Wachtel of the Coalition to Preserve LA.
Ileana presented a Power Point presentation. She described the various City officials who are working on urban forestry issues and sustainability. She also explained the history of the City’s efforts regarding urban tree forestry. Currently there is very little interdepartmental action, which is detrimental to maintaining the tree canopy. Many trees are being randomly removed to fix sidewalks. There is no consideration for alternatives. Pacific Palisades is fortunate to have so many trees, but many areas of the City are barren of trees. Trees clean the air, improve soil, improve the value of homes, are good for wildlife, good for views, and reduce the heat island effect. The City spends ¼ of one percent of budget on trees; ideally the Coalition would like the budget for trees to be one percent or at least as a first step ½ of one percent of the budget. Other cities like San Francisco, Seattle and many others are far ahead of Los Angeles in best practices for growing the tree canopy. Ileana described the heat island effect and stressed the importance of trees in fighting climate change. San Francisco bans tree topping but Los Angeles does not. Developers can pay an in-lieu fee and take down trees at will. The City currently only protects four species; the list should be expanded. Development and equipment staging are big problems with tree removal. We need to exert pressure on City Hall. Ileana concluded by answering questions from the board and audience.
11.3. Proposed Residential Project for Eight Homes on Marquette St.
Secretary Chris Spitz stated that she was recusing herself from participation in this agenda item for personal reasons involving a possible perception of bias; she left the board table and Treasurer Richard Cohen took her place as acting Secretary for this item.
The Chair stated that public hearing for this project has already occurred and the public comment period will close next week. Following that, there are options for appeal to the West LA Area Planning Commission and the Coastal Commission. Normally this type of discussion would be heard before our Land Use Committee (LUC). The committee chair has recused himself as has one of the members and the developer did not reply to an invitation to attend a committee meeting. So this is an unusual situation for the board to hear this and even more unusual that the developer has not appeared. The Chair asked one of the LUC members, Richard Blumenberg, to brief the attendees on the process of the Civic League (CL), which heard the project five times. Richard can explain what aspects of the project the CL may consider and let us know some things that are beyond the CL’s purview. Then, we should hear comments from the Area 4 Rep, Rick Mills, another LUC member, who has spent an extraordinary about of time digging into the project (no pun intended).
Richard Blumenberg (CL President and representative to PPCC) explained that the project was addressed at five CL meetings from 4/24/17 until 8/28/17. At four of the meetings the CL asked for corrections to comply with the CL guidelines. The corrections mostly involved massing, height, stepping of height on sides, and also articulation and setbacks, area, envelope, landscaping, tree planting and removal and size issues. Geotechnical or sewer connection issues were not involved. The CL also required a landscape plan. It heard from neighbors and the applicant at the meetings. The project was approved at the last meeting on 8/28/17.
Rick Mills (Area 4 representative) next spoke. He recognized that there were a number of neighbors present but the developer Cosimo Pizzulli was not there, although he had been invited. An audience member stated that the developer was seen before the meeting began but left and did not attend the meeting. Rick explained that there was a hearing on October 1 and we are now nearly at the end of the comment period. He suggested that PPCC may want to make a comment for the hearing officer to consider. This project involves lot line adjustments as between the eight lots, demolition of two houses, and construction of eight houses with garages and pools, from 5300 to 8000 sq. feet and up to 33 feet of height. It also involves construction of a sewer and sewer connection and retaining wall as well as excavation to accomplish grading and to construct the wall. Rick presented a technical issue: The City should not allow the developer to use a lot line adjustment on all eight lots in this case instead of a full subdivision process. The City of Los Angeles allows sequential lot line adjustments in order to circumvent the state law that would require the subdivision route, but the City is not required to be so accommodating to allow these lot line changes.
Linda Deacon (Marquette St. resident) then spoke. She is asking PPCC to write a letter to the hearing officer and CD 11, to ask for adequate oversight to prevent another landslide. She is concerned about the deep digging necessary for the sewer. She asked for attention to be paid to a thorough geotechnical assessment of the surrounding area, not just the three lots that have been done. Effective groundwater management requirements are needed, which is very important to prevent slippage. The plans for the sewer line and pumping have not yet been shared but need to be presented. It is an unsafe street, with one substandard lane and no sidewalks. The size and/or number of houses to be built need to be reduced because of the surrounding density. The plans should be revised to comply with Coastal Regional Interpretive Guidelines; she maintains that the proposed houses, especially the pools, would violate the Guidelines. The proposed pools are heavy and sited near the edge of an unstable cliff. Linda wants the comment deadline extended past October 29 in order for the neighbors to comment. They have not yet seen the plans for the sewer line and if the plans are provided now they need sufficient time to consider and respond.
Lisa Locker (neighboring resident) stated that a geology report for the sewer system was received on Monday, but the plans are old and from other houses’ plans for the septic systems of houses across the street.
Kenny Scherr (neighboring resident) explained that he has studied architecture and believes Marquette St. is too small for eight houses. He read from a letter he wrote and cited the unstable terrain and the impact of more cars on the narrow street with no sidewalks or street lights.
Additional discussion by board and audience members ensued. Points mentioned included the fact that Marquette St. was withdrawn from public use in 1937; the CL did not consider geotechnical issues; construction close to the edge of a steep slope; problems with the sewer (path of the pumping and changing plans for the sewer); removal of trees over time and workers already working on the property.
Rick Mills then made the following motion:
“1) The PPCC requests that the City look seriously and carefully at the detailed concerns presented in the “Recommendations Regarding Marquette street 8-House Development and Sewer Extension” from the projects’ neighbors.
“2) The PPCC urges the City to disallow use of “Sequential Lot Line Adjustments” and require a subdivision map process for the proposed reconfiguration and development of these eight lots. Historically, this property has never been used for more than two homes (a much more appropriate density). The proposed increase in density from two homes to eight homes would, under normal circumstances, warrant use of a standard, discretionary subdivision process. Unless the City has clear guidelines on when sequential lot line adjustments may be used, the City should exercise its discretion and follow state law (Subdivision Map Act Section 99412(d) as it is written and intended, to limits lot line adjustments to four parcels. The City has the discretion to disallow a sequential lot line adjustment process in unwarranted circumstances and should do so in this case.
“3) Finally, the PPCC asks that the City determine if Marquette Street has been withdrawn from public use and [if so] determine the ramifications on this project.”
Sarah Conner seconded. She stated that PPRA has received comment from residents. There is concern with fact that there are sewer and geotechnical problems and with the safety of the development. They believe an EIR should be required.
Howard Robinson (Area 3 second alternate and LUC Chair) explained that he had recused himself as LUC Chair due to a relationship with the developer but feels he can speak at this meeting. He stated it is bad form to consider a motion without hearing from both sides. This matter has been pending for about a year and the hearing has already occurred, yet only now has this come to PPCC without the benefit of the LUC being able to consider the technical issues. This is an unfair process as it is currently being considered.
Rick Lemmo (Chamber of Commerce representative) then raised a point of order and requested postponement of a vote on the motion to the next meeting in order to consult with the Chamber board, pursuant to PPCC Bylaws, Art. X.2.B. The Chair announced that the vote therefore must be postponed. Further discussion ensued, with some members expressing displeasure with this action and lack of understanding of the PPCC bylaws. The Chair recognized that the bylaws provide for the right of organizational members to make such a request and do not permit a vote once the postponement request is made for an organizational member to consult with his or her board. It was also acknowledged that the Executive Committee may act for the Board under these circumstances. Further discussion ensued about what action the Executive Committee might take, including requesting a 30-day extension of the comment deadline, insisting upon adherence to all applicable laws as per the PPCC Guiding Principles and acknowledging the neighbors’ concerns. Treasurer and Acting Secretary Richard Cohen stated that letter should make no unsubstantiated assertions; based on the discussion he summarized that an Executive Committee letter may request an extension of 30 days and cite the reason being the importance of respecting the legitimate concerns of the neighbors.
12. Adjournment. The Chair adjourned the meeting at 9:15pm.