MINUTES FROM MARCH 25th 2021
Voting Members in Attendance: David Card, Richard Cohen, Chris Spitz, Karen Ridgley, Sue Kohl, Matthew Quiat, Joanna Spak, Reza Akef, Alan Goldsmith, Beth Holden-Garland, Steve Cron, Haldis Toppel, Peter Powell, Brenda Theveny, Eric Dugdale
Voting Alternates: John Padden, Rick McGeagh, Mary Mueller, Janet Anderson
Non-voting Advisors and Alternates: Cindy Kirven, Mary Mueller, Kimberly Bloom, Andrew Wolfberg, Bruce Schwartz
1. Call to order and reading of Mission Statement. The Chair David Card called the meeting to order at 6:00 pm. Karen Ridgley read the Mission Statement.
2. Introduction of Zoom engineer. The Chair 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 Chair called the roll of voting members and certified that there was a quorum.
4. Approval of Minutes. The minutes of March 11, 2021 were approved. Upcoming meetings: April 8, 2021: (1) City Redistricting 2021 presentation (Michele Prichard, Commissioner/CD 11 Representative to the Redistricting Commission); (2) Appointment of Nominating Committee, 2021 Officers Election. April 22, 2021: Update on the Gladstones redevelopment project (by the concessionaire’s representative).
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 $35,454.22. There were no significant transactions since the last report.
7. General Public Comment – None.
8. Reports, Announcements and Concerns.
8.1. From the Chair/Presiding Officer.
8.1.1. Letter re SB 55: https://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/PPCC-EC-Letter-SB55-amendments.pdf.
The Chair explained that SB 55 (Stern & Allen) is the bill that would ban all new development in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. At Sen. Stern’s invitation, on March 19 the Executive Committee sent this additional letter linked in the agenda, with further comments on bill amendments proposed by Sen. Stern (we were told that our comments had to be submitted by 3/24). In this latest letter, the Executive Committee reiterated and explained the points that were made in our March 15, 2021 letter about amendments to the bill.
8.1.2. New: Traffic signal at Sunset-Chautauqua intersection. The Chair announced that a new left turn signal has been installed at this intersection. He drove through it the other day; the signal is operating and it works. The installation has made the intersection much safer. The Chair thanked Councilmember Bonin, his staff, LADOT, Patti Post and other members of the community who supported this project.
8.1.3. New: Potrero Canyon. The Chair explained that the bids for landscaping have come in and were a little under the BOE estimate of $10 million; they came in at around $8.9 (the lowest bid). That was the base bid number but there may be extras. The City is now analyzing the bids. We have also learned that there is a possibility of federal funding for a pedestrian overcrossing at the mouth of the park at Potrero Canyon, to allow safe crossing over PCH. The overcrossing was supported by the Potrero Canyon Community Advisory Committee. A government sponsor (city or state) is needed for the request for federal funding, which in turn will require community support. We expect to learn more about whether a government sponsor may be possible in the coming days.
8.2. From Officers.
8.2.1. Chris Spitz (Secretary). WRAC and legislation update.
The Secretary reported that Congressmember Ted Lieu was the special guest at the last WRAC meeting. He presented information about the American Rescue Plan as well as infrastructure legislation and possible earmarks. Dave Card was able to bring Rep. Lieu’s attention to the proposed pedestrian overcrossing over PCH at Potrero Canyon as a possible infrastructure project that the Congressman might support. The Secretary also noted that WRAC members and Rep. Lieu praised Janet Turner during the meeting for her work for the Westside community. She further reported that the WRAC Board voted to recommend the motion to oppose the appeal fee increase, which the PPCC Board will consider later this evening.
On the legislation front: SB 10 and SB 290, which PPCC opposes, passed in the Senate Housing Committee on March 18 and will next be heard in the Governance & Finance Committee (date TBA). It is worth noting that PPCC’s objection to SB 290 was specifically cited in the Senate’s written Analysis of the bill, along with a response from the bill’s author (a rare occurrence). The Secretary will include a link in the meeting recap and minutes. [See Analysis: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billAnalysisClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220SB290.]
A bill that PPCC supports, SB 15, also passed in the Housing Committee. We don’t know when the Committee will next agendize SB 9, which we also oppose. Meanwhile, the City still hasn’t taken up the two Koretz resolutions in opposition to SB 9 and 10; we’ll continue to monitor.
8.3. From Area and At-large Representatives.
8.3.1. Reza Akef (Area 8) reported that area residents are still dealing with the Riviera Country Club Longworth maintenance gate issue. He expressed concern with the lack of response by authorities. The Tennis Club has been using the maintenance gate for participants in a tennis clinic and there is a continuing steady stream of traffic on the nearby residential streets. He requested that PPCC demand swifter action by the authorities.
The Chair asked CD 11 Planning Deputy Len Nguyen (who was in attendance) to respond to these concerns. Mr. Nguyen explained that the Planning Dept. has asked for more time to address PPCC’s request for a Zoning Determination letter. The Department has been engaging in very thorough research and conducting observations at the site. We will have a report back from Planning next month and will move on from there. The Councilmember understands that residents want enforcement, but there must also be a sound basis for the letter we are seeking. The Chair reiterated that this is an important issue for area residents as well as for Paul Revere Middle School, which has additional safety concerns due to the increased traffic.
8.4. From Organizational Representatives – None.
8.5. From Government Offices / Representatives. Contact information available at: https://pacpalicc.org/index.php/government-contacts/
8.5.1. LAPD Officer Omir Perez, acting SLO for the Palisades – unable to attend.
8.5.2. Durrah Wagner and Len Nguyen, respectively, CD 11 Palisades Field Deputy and Planning Deputy.
Ms. Wagner announced that she will be leaving CD 11 on April 1 to spend time with her family. She thanked everyone who had reached out to her for the kind emails, and stated that it was an honor working with the Palisades community. The Chair thanked Ms. Wagner for her excellent service; we will miss her. Len Nguyen, CD 11 Planning Deputy, will temporarily take over Ms. Wagner’s responsibilities and fill in as our Field Deputy while waiting for her replacement. Mr. Nguyen’s contact information can be found on the PPCC website under Resources/Government contacts [linked above]. See also Mr. Nguyen’s remarks in Item 8.3.1 above.
8.5.3. Janet Turner, Field Supervisor, U.S. Representative Ted Lieu.
Ms. Turner provided figures from the American Rescue Plan that she believed may be of interest to the Palisades community: The City of Los Angeles will receive $1.35 billion; LA County will receive about $1 billion; and the State will receive $26 billion. LAUSD will receive $2.9 billion, 20% of which must be used for “learning loss.” There will be a child tax credit of up to $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for kids under 18. Close to $5 billion will go to assist state and local governments with homelessness, including funding for services and for housing/shelters. The allocation for new Section 8 housing vouchers will be $5 billion. Other funding to assist lower income individuals will include renters’ assistance. Regarding “community investment projects” (also known as earmarks): Rep. Lieu can submit a total of ten projects, and there must be large community support in order for projects to be picked. The Chair stated that at our April 8th meeting, we may be asking this Board to vote in favor of sending a letter in support of a City application for one of these earmarks (the pedestrian bridge over PCH).
8.5.3. CD 11 Transportation Deputy Eric Bruins – See Item 11.1 below.
8.6. From PPCC Advisors – None.
9. Reports from Committees.
9.1. Executive Committee. WRAC-recommended motion to oppose proposed increase in land use decision appeal fee (sponsored in PPCC by the Executive Committee). Request for Board support of motion.
The Secretary announced that the Executive Committee moved for the PPPC Board to approve the WRAC-recommended motion as set forth in the agenda [see attachment below]. She then 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 Secretary explained that the City’s Administrative Officer (CAO) was proposing the increase from $89 to $16,097 and that this was a supposed “cost recovery” amount. Five WRAC board members have already passed this motion. This proposal will be heard in the Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee on April 6. The Executive Committee unanimously agrees that this enormous increase is discriminatory and will prevent the vast majority of Los Angeles stakeholders from exercising their right to appeal any city land use procedure.
One question was asked as to the reason for the huge proposed increase. The Secretary explained again that the CAO maintains that this is the amount needed to recover the cost of processing these appeals; this information is contained in the supporting documents that were linked in the agenda. She has been told that the CAO is serious about requesting this fee increase. There was no further discussion. A vote was then called. Result: Unanimous in favor of the motion by all members voting (one abstention).
9.2. Land Use Committee (LUC; Howard Robinson, Chair). Update on investigation and research re 16796 Marquez residential project and related zoning matters. See LUC Interim Report: https://pacpalicc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/PPCC-Land-Use-Committee-Interim-Report.pdf.
In the Committee Chair’s absence, the Secretary (who is also an LUC member) summarized the Interim Report. She further noted the following updates since the report was written: Councilmember Bonin’s staff advises that the developer complied with the order and submitted plans for review before the March 17th deadline. We understand that the stop work order is still in effect while the Building Dept. completes its review (timing unknown). The Secretary noted that the LUC’s research and investigation are continuing, and the committee expects to present a final report at public LUC and Board meetings in the near future (dates TBA). There will be a full opportunity for public input at these meetings.
Sue Kohl (Area 5 Representative) asked about the timing of construction and why there was seemingly such a long delay after permit issuance. The Secretary explained, as described in the Interim Report, that the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) was issued in 2017, that plans were then submitted and approved during 2017-2019, that building permits were then issued in February 2020, and that to our knowledge construction began in 2020 after the building permits were issued. She does not know why the process took this long, or when construction actually began after the building permits were issued.
Stephanie Shaner (resident of Marquez Knolls) advised that a group of residents is protesting the construction. She stated that she was unclear about the role of the committee and wanted to know what the committee is doing in terms of trying to stop the construction.
The Chair explained the advisory role of the LUC and of PPCC, which as a volunteer organization is not part of the City’s decision-making process and does not have authority to stop projects. Residents have the right to lobby their Councilmember, the Mayor and City agencies about this issue. Ms. Shaner stated that the opponents are already contacting City authorities but she wants to know what the committee will do to help mitigate the construction. The Secretary reiterated that the LUC is continuing its investigation with respect to this project and the larger ramifications for zoning in the Palisades. A stop construction order has been issued by the Building Dept. and we are awaiting the City’s determination on permit revocation. She also read from the introductory statement in the Interim Report as to what specifically the LUC was charged to do, and explained that its role is solely to research and report its conclusions and possible recommendations to the PPCC Board. The committee does not and would not take actions or positions independently with respect to the Marquez/Ida project or any other project.
The Treasurer then explained further that PPCC typically does not take positions in opposition to or support of homeowners on single-family residential projects; our general policy is not to become involved with disputes among individual neighbors as to a home’s compliance with building code or zoning rules. Neighbors are welcome to appeal, file a lawsuit or lobby the authorities. PPCC attempts to influence policy and we also call for strict enforcement. In many years the only time he can recall that the Board has taken a position to oppose a single-family project was the unique situation with the Greentree property in Rustic Canyon, which involved an egregious set of circumstances. He also cautioned that a few years ago, when the City was developing new anti-mansionization rules, there were widely divergent opinions among Palisades residents as to whether more restrictions should be placed on the size of homes. PPCC bylaws require a 2/3 majority vote on policy issues; this voting threshold could not be reached on the mansionization issue because the community was evenly divided between those who favored more restrictions and did not want to see high homes blocking views (such as residents of Marquez Knolls), and those who wanted fewer restrictions in order to be able to maximize property value as their neighbors had been able to do under existing rules (such as some residents in Area 5).
The Secretary also noted that PPCC represents all Palisades stakeholders, including owners/developers. Per PPCC’s Guiding Principles we support strict scrutiny and adherence to all land use and zoning laws, including the 45-foot height limit applicable to non-hillside Coastal areas. She reiterated that the LUC will issue a final report in the near future and will hold a public meeting at which time these matters can be fully discussed.
Len Nguyen (CD 11 Planning Deputy) then reminded everyone that the owner/developer of the Marquez/Ida project has the right to develop the project pursuant to the CDP, but the City also has the right to make sure the project plans are in compliance with code. That is the reason why the developer was asked to revise the plans. The City can require an adjustment in the plans in accordance with code. With respect to enacting possible new anti-mansionization rules in the Palisades, Mr. Nguyen cautioned: there was an uptick in applications to build larger homes right before we enacted more restrictive rules a few years ago. Many homeowners wanted to be able to build under the old, less restrictive rules. The new, more restrictive rules can’t be applied retroactively to require compliance by owners who file applications to build larger homes under existing rules before the new rules go into effect.
Ms. Shaner thanked everyone for these explanations. She further noted that opposing residents maintain that the Marquez/Ida structure violates code in several respects and they question the construction’s actual height. According to Ms. Shaner, the opponents believe that the measurements were incorrectly based on the assumption that the bottom floor is the basement; in their view the bottom floor is not the basement. She asked the committee to support the opposing residents’ position as to code violations. The Secretary repeated that the LUC is continuing to investigate and monitor the situation and will report its conclusions and recommendations to the Board and public in the coming weeks.
Haldis Toppel (Area 3 Representative) again referenced PPCC’s Guiding Principles which support strict adherence to code requirements. She thanked the LUC for its work.
10. Old Business – None.
11. New Business.
11.1. “Personal Delivery Devices” (PDDs; remote-controlled/robotic delivery devices; proposed City regulations & pilot program) – Eric Bruins, CD 11 Transportation Deputy.
The Chair welcomed Eric Bruins, CD 11 Transportation Deputy. Mr. Bruins explained that the City does not yet have a regulatory program for these robotic delivery devices (PDDs). He provided context: Councilmember Blumenfield (second by Councilmember Bonin) brought a motion in Council last November for a report by LADOT on possible regulation of PDDs. LADOT has not yet reported back with a draft regulatory program/ordinance. The reason for the motion is that there seemed to be an emergence of PDD companies looking into spaces for deliveries in Los Angeles. This has become a huge business during the pandemic. The motivation is to do more deliveries more quickly and at lower cost. However, there are issues with these devices, such as crowded and/or broken sidewalks, and locations where there may not be enough space to accommodate the devices.
The Blumenfeld/Bonin motion was an attempt to address possible problems. Issues to be considered include: Sidewalk accessibility; visual management tools; public right of way and use fees; limitations on advertising; enforcement capacity; consumer/public privacy (potential to collect data). Basic questions to be asked: Are there real public benefits and what are the trade-offs? Mr. Bruins advised that state law authorizes PDDs but the City has the right to regulate them locally. Absent a regulatory program the devices are legal under California law, so we see them operating in some locations without regulation by the City. He hopes that LADOT will report back in the next month or so with a draft program.
The Chair: We submitted a list of questions in advance to Mr. Bruins, but the basic question is, what will be the safeguards for pedestrians and motorists? Mr. Bruins: That is Councilmember Bonin’s top priority. He wants to have a safe public right of way for all users. Mr. Bruins explained that we have started to see two types or models of PDDs. The first type involves fully autonomous devices. We have a great deal of concern over whether this technology is ready for prime time. Mr. Bruins is skeptical of the autonomous model.
The Chair: What about permitting bicycle or motor scooter deliveries? Mr. Bruins: That’s a good question; he doesn’t know why we don’t have more demand for these in Los Angeles.
Eric Dugdale (PPHS): The Alphabet Streets are very narrow streets. We would be looking at real traffic issues with PDDs in this area, and there is also an invasion of privacy concern.
The Secretary: She submitted the list of advance questions, but will wait to respond to what LADOT reports. She asked if there will be an opt in or opt out provision for communities such as the Palisades? Mr. Bruins: We are waiting to see what LADOT reports as to appropriate regulations. We don’t yet know where the companies want to operate or whether this will even be a citywide effort at this point.
The Chair: What type of program has San Pedro launched? Mr. Bruins: Councilmember Buscaino welcomed a PDD company there. This was a very limited arrangement with the City and there were no regulations; they are only operating under the state authority. Mr. Bruins has not heard anything positive or negative about how this is working.
Mr. Bruins then explained that the second type or model of PDD is a remote-controlled robot, in which an operator controls the device’s motions. The operator can see if someone is coming and can move the device out of the way.
Karen Ridgley (Area 4 Representative): What is the radius where these are practical? The Palisades has hillsides, we are spread out, and some areas have no sidewalks. PDDs are not convenient in a place like the Palisades. She also noted that people are very concerned about invasion of privacy and she has questions about liability: Could terrorists use robots to deliver bombs? Who has liability? Mr. Bruins: We have asked for an explanation of the public benefit so we can weigh the trade-offs. There are congestion and climate benefits as well as public health benefits from contactless delivery during the pandemic. But we need to weigh the negatives against the positives.
Ms. Ridgley also asked about enforcement: How can we enforce regulation of these devices, given the already-existing demands on LAPD? Mr. Bruins: That is a good question. StreetsLA is the enforcement wing for streets, so they will have a role in enforcement. It is important for the City to have data-sharing, as we do with scooters, so that we have real time data about what is happening with the devices. StreetsLA has a “for hire” division that works with enforcement.
Steve Lantz (resident; PPCC representative to WRAC Transportation Committee): How do PDDs get through intersections? Can we charge the companies to put in curb cuts? Mr. Bruins: He would love to be able to charge a high enough fee to manage the right of way in this manner. He is skeptical about autonomous PDDs, which now cross intersections by waiting for other pedestrians to cross and then by moving along with the pedestrians. The PDD companies are mapping City sidewalks to see where the curb cuts are. Mr. Lantz: How do we deal with cars making right hand turns and potentially running over PDDs? He is worried about cars not seeing the devices and ending up crushing someone’s dinner. Mr. Bruins: He shares the concern.
Bruce Schwartz (Area 2 Second Alternate): How do we know that these devices won’t be stolen? Mr. Bruins: Another good question; the solution that we’ve seen is for the PDDs to be slim in profile but heavy enough so that they can’t be picked up. The companies also use different technologies to secure the cargo hatches. We are looking to the private sector to innovate more in this area.
The Chair thanked Mr. Bruins for presenting to us. He also thanked him for the left turn signal on Sunset & Chautauqua. The Chair noted that PRIDE is working on landscaping the additional islands in that intersection so that the area of the intersection will even nicer when this is all completed.
11.2. Community Forest Advisory Committee (CFAC; appointed committee of volunteers and City representatives, under the Dept. of Public Works) – Isabelle Duvivier, FAIA, CD 11 CFAC volunteer representative. Discussion only.
The Chair welcomed Ms. Duvivier, CD 11’s volunteer representative to the CFAC. Ms. Duvivier explained that she is an architect from Venice and our representative on the committee. She and the other members were appointed by the Council office and approved by the Mayor. The CFAC meets once a month to help shape City policy around the urban canopy which is in decline due to various factors. The CFAC was able to convince the City to do an inventory of street trees, the first such inventory done in a long time. Interested persons can go online and see tree species and condition by each Council District. In CD 11, they will be doing the inventory in Venice in July, but they won’t be getting to the Palisades until an unknown time. They have already mapped about 1/10 of tree species in the City. We have a new City Forest Officer, Rachel Malarich. The CFAC also was the impetus for the Dudek Report dealing with forest management.
Ms. Duvivier has been on the CFAC for four years and needs an alternate. She has been trying to find an alternate and has been meeting with Councilmember Bonin’s office for several years, encouraging them to appoint an alternate. She lives in the flats of Venice. Lots of areas in CD 11 are tree-canopy deprived. That is not true of the Palisades, but we see in hillside areas throughout the City large numbers of requests for protected tree removals. She feels we need someone as her alternate to help the City create policy to protect some of these trees. The tree removals don’t come to the City until the end of the development process instead of at the beginning. There are other interesting things happening on the CFAC and she has worked with Cindy Kirven. The CFAC was involved with the City’s recent expansion of protected tree species to include Toyon and Elderberry trees. The CFAC has also requested that the Citywide Sign Ordinance include information on trees; many trees are butchered so that billboards can be viewed. The CFAC has written a letter to the Planning Commission requesting more permitting requirements and fines for unpermitted tree removals. The committee has also issued a letter to LAFD. Currently none of the LAFD literature regarding brush clearance says anything about protected trees. Many people have removed protected trees such as Black Walnuts because in the winter these trees look dead. Information about all protected trees should be in the brush clearance literature. Another letter the CFAC has written relates to the City budget. The City is currently spending only 1/4 of 1% on street trees; the CFAC has requested that the street tree allocation be elevated to 1% of the budget.
As the CD11 representative for trees, she has been trying to get other neighborhoods in CD11 to plant more trees. There are now new groups, such as the Mar Vista Arbor Group and the Verdant Venice Committee, that encourage street tree planting. The City is actively working in disadvantaged communities for residents to take advantage of the free street tree program.
Ms. Duvivier also explained that the City of Los Angeles has issued a new biodiversity index. We are a biodiversity hot spot. The City put out a 2020 Biodiversity Report which she recommends to everyone. [See: https://www.lacitysan.org/san/sandocview?docname=cnt052553.]
The Mayor’s goal is no net loss of biodiversity in ten years. One of the things we can do is register our gardens with the National Wildlife Federation. The City wants to be the largest city in the country with wildlife gardens. [See: https://www.nwf.org/certify.]
The Chair thanked Ms. Duvivier for her interesting presentation and service to CD11.
12. Adjournment. The meeting was adjourned at 7:30 pm.
ATTACHMENT: ITEM 9.1 – WRAC-Recommended Motion to Oppose Increase in Land Use Decision Appeal Fee
Text of motion:
The Westside Regional Alliance of Councils opposes the proposal by the City’s Chief Administrative Officer (Rich Llewellyn), to raise the fee for a citizen (or a community group, such as an HOA) to file an appeal of any city land use (or Building & Safety) decision, from the current $89 to the discriminatory amount of $16,097. This amount that has no basis in reality will prohibit the majority of stakeholders in the City of Los Angeles from having meaningful access to any city land use appeal procedure. Council File 09-0969-S3