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RPV Planning Commission Takes No Action on Park Designations

The Rancho Palos Verdes Planning Commission requests more clearly defined park designations.

The Rancho Palos Verdes Planning Commission sent park designations back to the drawing board at last night’s planning commission meeting.

The city staff had recommended the planning commission keep the recreational land use designations, “active” and “passive,” as part of the General Plan and the commission approve the staff’s revised definitions for each designation as well as approve the staff’s proposed designations of “active” or “passive” for local parks.

The city staff made changes after last summer, when residents complained about a staff proposal in July 2011 eliminating the designations “active” and “passive” to replace them with simply “park.”

“As you can see in the report, the staff has actually changed its position after listening to the public,” said Gregory Pfost, deputy community development director for Rancho Palos Verdes.  “The staff did not see an issue with keeping the ‘active’ and ‘passive.’”

During last night’s meeting, the staff reviewed its report defining “active” parks as those that involve “outdoor recreation” and similar activities that involve a “high expenditure of energy and/or are organized in nature,” citing baseball and soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts and golf courses as examples.

“Passive” parks were defined by the staff as “recreation activities with low or moderate expenditure of energy and/or are non-organized.” Picnic tables, “viewing nodes” and walking paths were some of the activities listed as examples.”

“What we found was in the general plan, some of the ‘active’ and ‘passive’ designations were a little confusing,” Pfost said.  “We had some parks that seemed to fall in both ‘active’ and “passive.”

Most of the planning commissioners said they would like to see the definitions of “active” and “passive” more clearly defined.

“I want to lean on the definitions National Parks have,” Planning Commissioner Gordon Leon said.

Four area residents showed up to voice their concerns about the park designations with some focusing on how they relate to Hesse Park.

“Hesse Park is really composed of two parks,” said John Freeman, president of the Pacific View Homeowners Association. “It’s a very distinct demarcation line.”

As a result, he told the commission upper Hesse Park should be designated “active recreational” while lower Hesse Park should be “passive recreational.”

Les Chapin, who said he can see Hesse Park Trails from his kitchen window, echoed Freeman’s sentiment.

Pfost said he understood Freeman’s sentiment but had concerns about designating certain areas as “passive” and “active” in one park.

“It would preclude ‘active’ recreation in the future in those areas if that was indeed a direction we moved forward with,” he said.

Planning Commissioner Bob Nelson said he would not have a problem “bifurcating” Hesse Park. Planning Commissioner Jeffrey Lewis agreed as did Gordon Leon.

However, Lewis and Chair Paul Tetreault preferred to defer such a decision to the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council.

“I think that is a substantial policy issue that the City Council should make,” Tetreault said.

Rancho Palos Verdes resident Sharon Yarber said she was concerned about recreational activities that seemed to be left out of the staff report.

“I noticed that the controversial issues of horseback riding and mountain biking are not dealt with any place,” Yarber said. “Are we going to include them someplace?”

She said she would like equestrian use to be designated as “passive.”

Horseback riding or biking could fall under “active” or “passive,” Pfost said.

John Wessel told the commission he supported the general staff recommendations but would like Gateway Park to be designated as “passive.”

A couple of commissioners pointed out they have not yet visited all of the parks in the area and would need more time to do so in order to know how to properly classify them.

The planning commission asked the city staff to keep the designations, “active” and “passive,” within the General Plan but asked the staff to work on the definitions and return to the commission with clearer definitions that include input from the planning commission. Members of the planning commission also plan to visit the parks they have not yet seen in order to make a determination on them before the next meeting.

City staff is expected to report back to the planning commission on Oct. 9.

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