PVE OpenSpace

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126 Residents Have Signed Letters in Support of Our Efforts
to Reverse the Sale of Parkland -- Thanks!

We care about preserving Palos Verdes Estates parkland as Open Space. The genesis for this website was a transaction in 2012 wherein the City of Palos Verdes Estates and the Palos Verdes Homes Association unanimously approved the sale of 1.7 acres of parkland to a private homeowner to expand their property at 900 Via Panorama. It was part of a broader Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which provided some significant benefits to the community. However, the sale of City/PVHA owned parkland to a private individual without appropriate consent of PVE residents was unprecedented, and violates the deeds and Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions established at the formation of Palos Verdes Estates in 1923. At that time ninety years ago, 849 acres of 3200 acres were set aside to be parkland/open space "forever". In early February 2013, neighbors on Via Panorama and Via Mirada became aware of the transaction when the owner applied for rezoning from OS (Open Space) to R1 (Single-Family Residential), which triggered a grass-roots mobilization in which 100 residents submitted letters in opposition to the re-zoning. 

At a hearing of the PVE Planning Commission on February 19th, 2013, the Commission voted unanimously to recommend against the re-zoning. However, it was revisited and voted upon at a PVE City Council meeting on March 12th, at which time the Council reconsidered and decided to create a new zoning category to specifically address conditions within the MOU for "open space owned by private owners." This former City-owned Parkland property is the only property currently covered by this new zoning category; in addition, the City has drafted codes that will allow the City to permit the construction of structures such as gazeboes, barbecue, walls and a sports field on the property as was promised in the last year's MOU between Palos Verdes Estates City Council, Palos Verdes Homes Association, Palos Verdes Unified School District and a representative of the owner of 900 Via Panorama. 

A group of concerned members of our community called the
Citizens for Enforcement of Parkland Covenants (CEPC) believes this solution is inappropriate since 1) parkland should not have been sold in the first place, and 2) the sale was a dangerous precedent that needs to be reversed. CEPC asked the City and Homes Association to reconcile their actions with the legal requirements of the restrictive covenants, but the City and Association have not provided any explanation to justify how the covenants can be simply disregarded.  

The new zoning category was scheduled for the May 21, 2013 Planning Commission Meeting.  However, the matter was pulled and instead the City met in closed session on May 14th to review the legality of their past actions. CEPC members were hopeful that the City and Association would ultimately do the right thing and unwind this ill-conceived arrangement with the owners of 900 Via Panorama. But since they did not do so, CEPC filed several petitions, including a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for injunctive relief in Los Angeles Superior Court to have the transaction reversed. 

The defendants filed a "demurrer" response that was accepted by the Court on October 28th with "leave to amend." CEPC filed an amended petition on November 7, 2013, with subsequent “demurrer” responses by the defendants. For details and links to the legal documents and arguments, see "Recent Updates" below. The PVHA stipulated that they have the
"right but not the duty" to enforce the restrictive covenants, thus transforming what we believe is their obligation to maintain all parkland for public use "forever" as discretionary; the sale of parkland to private owners fell under this “discretionary” power  The City has argued that they have no duty to enforce the restrictions, even though they passed a resolution in 2005 indicating otherwise (see below), and that the City has full "police power" and hence has no obligation to be bound by the deed restrictions that they freely and openly accepted when they received the property in 1940. We of course disagree with these arguments, and further find it disturbing that the City of PVE and the PVHA are embracing such disregard for the public interest by selectively enforcing the law -- thus signaling that no parkland is safe from being sold. The encroachments built on this property over the past 38 years by the resident purchasing the parkland are also clearly in violation of PVE Municipal Code. Please refer to their court filings below for their full arguments, which should enable you to come to your own conclusions.

The hearing on the amended demurrer in our writ of mandate case was held on Friday January 3rd.  The scope of the hearing was very narrow: Judge O’Brien only ruled on one of several claims and has not, for example, ruled on whether the sale of public parkland to a private person constitutes an "ultra vires" act in violation of the law. The Judge announced that he intended to sustain the demurrer on the writ of mandamus claim because he “did not see evidence of a ministerial duty” which required PVE City and PVHA to follow the protective restrictions.  The PVHA had argued that they had the "right but not the duty" to follow the CC&Rs, and they based this on the word “shall” in the CC&Rs claiming that it actually means “may” and hence is optional. The Judge apparently accepted that argument, much to our surprise and amazement.  Contrary to the belief held by many members of our community,
the PVHA and City have now gone on record as stating the enforcement of land use restrictions is now a matter of discretion.  It remains to be seen what problems this may cause the PVHA and City when they later attempt to enforce the same restrictions at issue here.  

On January 8th, Judge O’Brien issued a written ruling in favor of the defendants, with no leave to amend.  We have decided to seek appellate review of this decision.  Three justices of the court of appeal will review Judge O’Brien’s decision. Note that the demurrer only covers 1 of the 3 counts in our original petition.  We are disappointed by the outcome but resolved to see this case through on the remaining claims.  

Meanwhile, the
Palos Verdes Homes Association held their annual meeting on January 14th. The agenda of that meeting was to vote in their Board of Directors. Since the five board members on the ballot were all in their positions at the time of the decision to sell this parkland on Via Panorama to the Luglianis, and the vote was unanimous, many of us voted against the current slate. As a further signal that we do not agree with their decision to interpret their mandate as selectively enforcing the protective restrictions on parkland, several dozen people attended the annual meeting to express their concerns. 

We are disappointed that the PVHA and City have chosen to drag this out to further waste taxpayer money and postpone the inevitable. The discovery process has produced much documentation that makes our case even stronger, and at some point we hope they realize that we are not going to back down and they need to face the consequences of their actions and follow the law like everyone else.

This website will keep concerned residents informed of the facts and coordinate a response. If you would be interested in signing a letter, and/or adding your name to our email list so you can be notified of future developments, you can do so on this website. You can also use this website to download documents about the transaction and rezoning request. Finally, if you would like to make a contribution to CEPC, please email us at info@pveopenspace.com.

Recent Updates

4/9/14 Article in Daily Breeze on "Palos Verdes Estates adopts parklands policy for first time in its history" -- click here 

3/28/14 Letter to PVHA Board
 clarifying the legal basis for the CEPC lawsuit, and pointing out that the information in the 1940 deeds (that had been illegally withheld from the discovery process by the PVHA and PVE CIty) clearly proved that PVHA had to abide by the stronger restrictions it placed on the property when it wrote those restrictions into the 1940 deed transferring the Via Panorama Parkland to the City of PVE. Under those more stringent restrictions, the property must "be used and administered forever for park and/or recreation purposes only" and "shall not be sold or conveyed, in whole or in part, ... except to a body suitably constituted by law to take, hold, maintain and regulate public parks." Further, it binds all future owners (including PVHA) of the property to those restrictions. Therefore, PVHA clearly acted illegally by selling the property to a private individual for his own private use. -- click here

3/15/14 Correspondence Notices from City of PVE Citing Encroachments and Demanding Remediation 2003 - 2011
This file contains letters during the period 2003 - 2011 from the City of PVE Code Enforcement Officer and Public Works Director citing illegal encroachments by the Luglianis and demanding they be removed. When the MOU was developed in 2012 and the City of PVE, PVHA and the Palos Verdes Unified School Districts together were paid $2 million by the Luglianis, enforcement efforts were dropped. The City now has asserted in Court Filings in our case that the City has no obligation to enforce its Municipal Code in this matter, even though its own Code specifies that "shall" is "mandatory". For the letters, click here.

3/13/14 Article in Palos Verdes Peninsula News: "Draft Parklands Use Policy Still Deficient" -- click here

3/11/14 Deeds and Resolution transferring Tract Containing Panorama Parkland from PVHA to City of PVE in 1940:
These documents impose more stringent conditions on the parklands, including "parkland forever" language and "prohibition on sale of parklands. For Deed of portion of Lot A in Tract 8652, click here. For Deed of portion of Lot A in Tract 7540, click here.  For the Resolution 12 in City Council Minutes accepting the parklands from PVHA, click here.

3/10/14 CEPC Files Appeal on Writ of Mandate: Click here for the brief.  For the attachments mentioned in the brief, click here for volume 1 and click here for volume 2. 

1/17/14 Timeline and Summary: For a two-page summary of this issue with a timeline of events over the past 39 years, as well as one page of photos of the property in question and the encroachments on that property, click here.

1/14/14 Speeches made at PVHA Annual Meeting
: For John Harbison's speech click here. For Renata Harbison's speech, click here.


1/2/14 Article in Palos Verdes Peninsula News: "2013 Year in Review" -- click here

1/8/13 Status Update on the Court Case: The Court issued a ruling on the demurrer motion, and we responded by filing an amended petition. The court then issued a similar ruling without leave to amend on the amended petition. We have decided to seek appellate review of this decision. Here are the documents and a brief summary of each:
  • 7/15/13 Lugliani et al file briefing to support demurrer (click here). Lawyers representing the Luglianis argued that the Palos Verdes Homes Association has a right but not a duty to enforce the parkland restrictions; therefore they don’t need to pay any heed to the restrictions whenever they decide to ignore them.  This is a creative argument, but it falls apart because PVHA’s bylaws written in 1923 specifically say they have a duty to enforce. The lawyers also argued that we did not have any standing to sue because we did not participate in the MOU. This is also incorrect, because as a taxpayer and resident we are a party to the protective restrictions that we seek to see followed and enforced.  They also claimed that it was an issue of one neighbor disgruntled with the actions of another neighbor, which is also incorrect since 121 residents from many areas across PVE have signed letters objecting to the sale of parkland. 
  • 7/16/13 PVE City files briefing to support demurrer (click here). The City Attorney argued that any municipality has full “Police Power” and cannot be bound by any private contract, even one to which they were a signed party and specifically accepted the “forever parkland” clauses. 
  • 10/11/13 CEPC flies its response to demurrer by Lugliani et al (click here) and demurrer by PVE City (click here). Our briefing refutes these arguments, and makes some additional ones. For instance, we cited a staff report and Resolution passed in 2005 that specifically states that the City will enforce removal of all encroachments and defend the Protective Restrictions; those documents are also available on the website for your reference. We also cite a case where the City tried to build a maintenance facility on parkland and the courts enforced the parkland covenants over the City’s objections; thus they cannot remake claims that have already been decided by the courts. For supporting exhibits for the response to Lugliani et al demurrer, click hereFor supporting exhibits for the response to PVE City demurrer, click here
  • 10/18/13 PVE City and Lugliani et al file their replies to CEPC response. For PVE City reply, click here. For Lugliani et al reply, click here
  • 10/28/13 Court Ruling on the Demurrer (click here). In favor of the defendants: “The demurrers to the third cause of action for writ of mandate are sustained with leave to amend on the ground that there is no ministerial duty shown in the pleading.”  Note that this ruling only affected one of our three legal theories in the petition.  
  • 11/7/13 Amended Petition by CEPC (click here). We filed an amended petition (First Amended Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Injunctive Relief) with the court.  It addresses the issue of ministerial duty more specifically than the original petition filed last May and removed the PVPUSD as a party to the suit.  Through the discovery process, we were able to obtain information that supported our contention that the City and Homes Association have a duty to enforce the CC&Rs and deed restrictions that govern us.  
  • 12/5/13 Lugliani et al files briefing to support demurrer on First Amended Petition (click here for demurrer, and click here for motion to strike portions of the First Amended Petition). 
  • 12/5/13 PVHA changes laws firm (click here) and files briefing to support demurrer (click here). Their new argument is that "shall" in the Protective Provisions really means "may", and thus they have a "right but not a duty" to enforce the restrictions and protect parkland from sale or encroachments.
  • 12/6/13 PVE City files briefing to support demurrer on First Amended Petition (click here).
  • 12/19/13 CEPC files Responses to Defendants' briefings. For opposition to Lugliani click here. For opposition to PVHA, click here. For opposition to PVE City click here. Other documents filed include Opposition to Lugiani Motion to Strike (click here), Request for Judicial Notice on Lugliani Demurrer (click here), Request for Judicial Notice on PVHA Demurrer (click here).
  • 1/7/14 Judge O'Brien ruled in favor of the defendants in the writ mandamus part of the case saying he saw "no ministerial duty" that requires the CIty and PVHA to abide by the deed restrictions. We have decided to seek appellate review of this decision
11/19/13 PVE submitted a draft of a new Housing Element plan to the state that asserted that parkland CC&Rs would not allow other uses of that land (including low income housing). So the City is using the CC&Rs when it suits them, and then ignoring them when it does not suit them. Click here for the two-page excerpt from the Housing Element plan that refers to CC&Rs. You can also find the entire document in the “full packet” on the PVE website under the November 19, 2013 meeting -- click here.

10/13/13 PVE Staff Memo and Resolution passed in 2005 on parkland encroachments:  We just uncovered this PVE staff report from 2005 which articulates a clear policy by the City of PVE for removal of unauthorized encroachments in the City's parklands. Contrary to what our City has said this past year defending its decision to sell parkland, the memo says "The City wholeheartedly accepted" the deed restrictions in the Protective Covenants. Further the City passed a Resolution R05-32 on removing encroachments that it is clearly now violating in this illegal sale of the Via Panorama parkland. -- click here 

10/2/13 Letter to PVE City Council about 900 Via Panorama owners blocking fireroad access with a storage container, in violation of deed restrictions (photos included) -- click here

  

9/17/13 Blog entry in PV Patch -- click here

8/15/13, 8/22/13, and 8/29/13 Letters to the Editor, Palos Verdes Peninsula News
: We believe municipal codes, as well as the covenants and restrictions that guide our City should be applied equally to all residents, without prejudice. As such, John Harbison submitted a Letter to the Editor of the Peninsula News, and the letter asked why all City Councilmembers sought prosecution of a group of people that had cleared brush from the Douglas Trail (a neglected responsibility of the City) while ignoring 38 years of extensive digging and grading on the parkland adjacent to 900 Via Panorama. This letter was published on August 15, and one resident (Catherine White) published a response the following week. Concerned that she had missed John’s point, he wrote a follow-up letter to set the record straight, and that was published on August 22nd.  All three letters are attached -- click here 

8/20/13 PVE Planning Commission Meeting: John brought up the issue of encroachments on public pathways and pointed out that there was an encroachment next to a residence seeking approval for revisions on Via Guadalana.  While the Planning Director indicated that the Planning Commission normally addresses encroachments when applications are submitted, the lack of a policy addressing these issues made it beyond the Planning Commission’s purview to deny the revisions in this case. The Planning Commission thanked John for his comments and indicated they wanted to be involved in the policy discussion -click here 

7/23/13 City Council Meeting on "Determination of the Scope and Process to Develop a Parklands and Trails Policy":
 Both John & Renata Harbison made presentations, along with a few other residents in support of maintaining access to parkland, trails and paths. However, there were speeches by residents living next to trails and/or the Del Sol fire road who were very vocal in their desire to shut down trails and access to parkland. Comments by the City Councilmembers seemed to signal they are moving towards reducing or closing access to the parklands around the Del Sol Fire Road and the “Douglas Trail” (originally called the Paseo Del Sol Trail on the 1926 City Map.  Since those two tracts of parkland combine to represent about 30% of all parkland in PVE, and some of the other parkland tracks have no public access, we find this disregard for public parkland access very disturbing. Parkland and trail policy and will likely be an agenda item for a City Council Meeting this fall, so stay tuned. 
-- click here 

7/17/13 Letter to PVE City Council in response to inaccuracies in the "legal matters' page of their website -- click here

7/8/13 Comments delivered by Jeffrey Lewis to the PVE Parklands Committee Meeting: In the public comment portion of the agenda, Jeff Lewis (attorney for CEPC) asked why the Parkland Committee was not involved in any way in the 2012 MOU involving the sale of parkland at 900 Via Panorama, despite their charter at the time which was to make “discretionary decisions regarding the maintenance, development and preservation of the City's 500 acres of Parkland and unimproved right-of-way....”. Jeff also pointed out that the PVE City website had re-written the Parkland Committee charter in August 2012 to exclude all references to parkland. He based this on a screenshot of the older website obtained at the “wayback machine” website. Interestingly, the following morning, PVE City’s webmaster added code to their website to disable compatibility with the wayback machine. Was this an attempt to evade scrutiny and destroy evidence? While this behavior by our City seems shocking, it was ineffective since we have screen captures of the earlier charter before the website code modifications were made. -- click here

7/5/13 Letter to PVE City Council with photos of the Via Panorama parkland property being enjoyed by over 200 residents for July 4th fireworks -- click here

7/4/13 Ad in Peninsula News for CEPC -- click here

6/27/13 Article in Palos Verdes Peninsula News: "
Citizens’ group files suit against PVE, PVPUSD and PVHA" -- click here

6/25/13 Article in Daily Breeze Article: "Palos Verdes Estates Residents Sue Over Land Swap" -- click here

Press Release about CEPC petition to Los Angeles Superior Court 6/24/13 -- click here.


CEPC
petition to Los Angeles Superior Court for writ of mandate and complaint for injunctive relief 5/13/13 -- click here.

Agenda for the May 14, 2013 Palos Verdes Estates City Council Meeting references the closed session discussion of CEPC letter. After the closed session, the Mayor or City Attorney will give an oral report in the public session -- click here

This issue was added to PVE Planning Commission Agenda for May 21, 2013. However, it was pulled from the agenda. Instead the PVE City Council met in closed session on May 14, 2013
  • Notice as sent to nearby residents -- click here 
  • Notice published in PV News, in which the City's plan to create a separate zoning for privately-owned Open Space is described -- click here 
Letters to the Editor Palos Verdes Peninsula News on this Issue

  • Renata Harbison's Response to Robert Calvert's Letter 4/4/13 -- click here
  • Robert Calvert's Letter 3/28/13 -- click here
Letter sent to Palos Verdes Homes Association

  • Articulates why the transaction is illegal and provides all the supporting deeds and documentation to support that -- click here 
PVE City Council Hearing was held on Tuesday March 12, 2013. For press coverage: 
  • 3/15/13 Article in PalosVerdesPatch: "PVE Council Denies Zoning Change" --  click here
  • 3/13/13 Article in Palos Verdes Peninsula News: "Controversy regarding privately owned parkland is far from over" --  click here
Four page summary of the legal aspects of the issue -- click here

Tract 8652 Protective Restrictions Palos Verdes Estates Excerpts (these pages are the definitive restrictions, and show the sale of this parkland was illegal) -- click here

100 Residents have sent letters opposing this!  Sign and return the Statement via fax (310) 349-3381 or email (info@pveopenspace.com) to be counted!
  • Notice of City Council Meeting on March 12th, 2013 -- click here 
  • Detailed Statement by John & Renata Harbison about 900 Via Panorama Rezoning Application for PVE City Council Meeting 3/12/13 -- click here
  • Statement signed by 50 PVE Residents about the 900 Via Panorama Application for PVE City Council Meeting 3/12/13 (which you can download and sign) -- click here
Public Service Announcement from PVP Watch Newsletter -- click here

1940 Deed and PVE City Council Resolution #12 specifying parkland use "forever" -- click here

Deed - Sale of Area A from PVHA to Via Panorama Trust file is now available for download on the "Documents" tab --  click here

2/21/13 Article in Palos Verdes Peninsula News:"Commission Recommends Denial of Zone Change for Private Parkland" --  
click here

2/18/13 Article in Palos Verdes Peninsula News: "PVE Commission to Consider Zoning Change for Controversial Open-Space Land" --  click here

2/17/13 Article in Daily Breeze: "Palos Verdes Estates Commission to Consider Zoning Change for Controversial Open-Space Land" --  click here
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