Rancho Palos Verdes Planning Commission delays Marymount decision
By Melissa Pamer Staff Writer
Posted: 05/27/2009 06:15:53 PM PDT
After months of meetings, the Rancho Palos Verdes Planning Commission again this week delayed making a decision on Marymount College's controversial expansion proposal.
At a Tuesday evening meeting that lasted well into Wednesday morning, the four commissioners went in detail over documents needed for the approval of the project, which has been altered in response to concerns from the community and city staff.
Those changes included the removal of two proposed dormitories that would house a total of 250 students. That element of the project has raised the most ire of a group of neighborhood opponents.
Commissioners were split 2-2 on that part of the plan at an April meeting, and Marymount officials altered their proposal in response.
"Rather than waste everyone's time, we just redesigned the campus taking out the residence halls," said Michael Brophy, president of Marymount College. "Our main task right now is to meet the needs of the Planning Commission so we can have approval of what they approve of. And that, for now, is really quite fine."
Although the dorms are no longer part of the plan before the Planning Commission, Marymount officials could still appeal that component to the City Council. Brophy said that decision has not yet been made.
"We are keeping all our options open," he said.
The expansion plan includes a large athletic center, a new library and other facilities that would more than double the footprint of the campus, which is surrounded by residential neighborhoods off Palos Verdes Drive East.
A group of area opponents, Concerned Citizens Coalition/Marymount Expansion, lobbied successfully to have the dorms tabled, but its efforts to have the athletic center removed from the plan has thus far failed. Some changes, however, have been made to that portion of the project.
The group, which has retained lawyers for the battle over the plans, on Tuesday repeated its request to have Commissioner David Tomblin recuse himself after his name appeared on a list of Marymount supporters compiled by the college. Tomblin said he had been advised by the City Attorney's Office that he did not need to recuse himself, adding that he did not recall ever signing any document in support of Marymount.
Three other commissioners had previously recused themselves.
The commission is set to continue deliberations June 9.
There is much more to this story as a result of the recent meeting the Planning Commission held.
During the most recent meeting the Chair of the Commission forbade any speaker from providing any comments about the recent tragedy of the death of a second-year student of the College as a result of a single-vehicle incident.
Lawyers have already been notified about the possible problems with the Brown Act and any speaker's possible violation of their first amendment rights.
However, any mention of the tragedy and its effects on on-campus student housing was already moot since dorms had been taken off the table before the incident occurred.
Next, it seems the Commissioner who recused himself wound up on a printed and published list of supporters of the project even though he never considered himself to be one.
Opponents of the project believe they have grounds to question more of the 897 names submitted by the project's supporters because of that and possibly more irregularities.
What does this all mean to San Pedro?
First, get ready to continue to see the two off-campus housing facilities remain in use, if not grow.
Since one of the Alternatives to having on-campus housing at the College is to expand the off-campus housing along Palos Verdes Drive North, that may still come into play.
The off-campus housing site at 24th and Cabrillo in San Pedro known as Pacific Heights has been slated to be closed by the College for years now. Please don't bother betting it will soon be closed.
The folks at Marymount do not wish you to know that two of their students were injured in a traffic collision on Western Avenue earlier this month, either.
Opponents of the College's Expansion Project may now go after the expansion of the Athletic facilities on the Rancho Palos Verdes Campus.
Since there will not be anyone living on the campus, folks who never liked the large gym playing fields may wish to seek to have them eliminated, too.
I feel that would be a shame because there are lots of students and others that could benefit from having better access to athletic facilities on The Hill.
But it sure looks to many of us like the NIMBYs living close to the campus stuck it again to San Pedrans.
But I can honestly claim that San Pedrans were never out in number to support on-campus housing and the closing of the Pacific Heights housing site when the Planning Commission met.
Where were you San Pedrans? If you really wanted Pacific Heights to close, why weren't more of you commenting to the Planning Commissioners and R.P.V. City Council?
Where are the northwest San Pedro and eastern R.P.V. residents when all the traffic problems that will continue as long as Palos Verdes North stays open with 300 students?
I spoke out many times about the increase of traffic along Western Avenue would have because of the project.
The main opposition group to having on-campus housing used their belief in the expansion of the Palos Verdes North off-campus facility.
It is expected by many that once whatever is granted in the way of the Expansion Project is complete, the College will come back and demand on-campus housing.
Perhaps we on the east side of The Hill have more chances to have our wishes considered.