In 2012, the City of Palos Verdes Estates and the Palos Verdes Homes Association (PVHA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District (PVPUSD) and Robert and Delores Lugliani that included the transfer of 1.7 acres of parkland around the Lugliani's home from the City of PVE to the PVHA, and then from the PVHA to the Lugliani's for $500,000. In the previous 37 years, the Lugliani's had built extensive encroachments on this parkland, including stone driveway, sports court with 22 foot high retaining wall, gazebo, barbecue, walls 40+ foot trees and other expensive landscaping. For photos, see the image above and click here for more.
In February 2013, the City tried to rezone it from OS (open space) to R1 (residential), but the Planning Commission denied the application. It then went to the City Council who was prepared to approve but there was strong public opposition and the City proposed to create a new zoning category for this property that would allow the encroachments to be rebuilt.
In May 2013, a group of concerned residents called "Citizens for Enforcing Parkland Covenants" filed a lawsuit against the City of PVE and the PVHA to reverse the sale and force removal of the encroachments. In June 2015, the Judge made a ruling in favor of CEPC and ordered the sale of parkland reversed and encroachments removed -- for that ruling, click here. In September, the Final judgement was issued -- click here.
Central to the ruling was that the sale violated underlying deed restrictions put in place in 1931 and then again in 1940. These restrictions "run with the land" meaning they bind all future buyers and thus cannot be changed. Here are the relevant excerpts form the 1940 deed:
“That, except as hereinafter provided, said realty is to be used and administered forever for park and/or recreation purposes only … for the benefit of the (1) residents and (2) non-resident property owners within the boundaries of the property heretofore commonly known as “Palos Verdes Estates”…¶ 3 (pp 6-7)
“That, except as provided in paragraph 3 hereof, said realty shall not be sold or conveyed, in whole or in part, by the Grantee herein except subject to the conditions, restrictions and reservations set forth and/or referred to herein and except to a body suitably constituted by law to take, hold, maintain and regulate public parks; provided, that portions of said realty may be dedicated to the public for parkway and/or street purposes. ¶ 3 (p 7)
“That, except as provided above, [exceptions are for utility easements] no buildings, structures or concessions shall be erected, maintained or permitted upon said realty, except such as are properly incidental to the convenient and/or proper use of said realty for park and/or recreation purposes.” ¶4 (p 9) ”
— For the full document in context, click here.
In November 2015, the City of PVE City Council and the PVHA Board of Directors both unanimously decided to appeal. Most likely, the appeal will not be decided until the end of 2017. In the meantime, the Lugliani's are allowed to continue to use the purchased parkland for their own private use.
For all the documents, press articles and commentary on this transaction, see www.pveopenspace.com
In addition, a group of concerned citizens called "Residents for Open Board Elections" was formed in late 2015 to try and open up the PVHA Board Election process and nominate new Directors. See www.pvegoodgov.org.
Chronology of Events:
1923 Protective Restrictions on Palos Verdes Project Established -- For the documents, click here
6/14/1940 PVHA Deeds Parkland to the City of PVE -- For the deed, click here.
5/8/2012 PVHA, City of PVE and PVPUSD all unanimously sign the MOU which includes the sale -- for the staff memo, click here.
7/23/2012 PVE City Council approves final version of MOU -- for the MOU, click here.
8/14/2012 PVHA Deeds Parkland to Lugliani -- for the deed, click here.
3/12/2013 City Council Considers Rezoning Request -- for the staff report, click here.
5/13/13 CEPC petition to Los Angeles Superior Court for writ of mandate and complaint for injunctive relief -- click here.
6/29/15 Court Rules in Favor of CEPC's Motion for Summary Judgment. Judge declares the City of PVE and the PVHA acted "ultra vires" (illegally) and requires the sale be reversed and the encroachments removed. For the full ruling, click here. For CEPC's Press Release on the Ruling, click here.
9/24/15 Final Judgment. Official registered judgment of the Court including descriptions of actions that need to be taken to nullify deed and remove encroachments -- click here
Voting Record of Elected Officials:
There have been several key votes on this matter since 2012.
May xx, 2012: PVPUSD Approves MOU containing Sale of Panorama Parkland to Private Resident who had encroached for 37 years
Voting For: Barbara Lucky (President), Larry Vanden Bos (Vice President), Anthony Collatos (Clerk), Erin G. La Monte, Malcolm S. Sharp
Voting Against: None
April 24, 2012: PVHA Approves MOU containing Sale of Panorama Parkland to Private Resident who had encroached for 37 years
Voting For: Ed Fountain, Phil Frengs, Dale Hoffman, Gabrielle Holt, Mark Paulin
Voting Against: None
May 8, 2012: PVE City Council Approves MOU containing Sale of Panorama Parkland to Private Resident who had encroached for 37 years
Voting For: George Bird (Mayor), Jim Goodhart (Mayor Pro-Tem), Ellen Perkins, John Rea
Abstaining: Rosemary Humphrey (due to conflict)
Voting Against: None
“”As has been said eloquently by my colleagues on my left and my right, this is a Win-Win-Win. The Homes Association and the School District have asked us to sign off on this, and credit goes to one person and that’s our City attorney who the public must know that she really spear-headed and brought together the parties after having talked to each of them and work together to come up with a win win win win situation…”
— George Bird (Mayor)
October 27, 2015: PVHA Approves Appeal of loss in CEPC case over Sale of Panorama Parkland to Private Resident who had encroached for 37 years
Voting For: Ed Fountain, Phil Frengs, Dale Hoffman, Mark Paulin
Voting Against: None
November 10, 2015: PVE City Council Approves Appeal of loss in CEPC case over Sale of Panorama Parkland to Private Resident who had encroached for 37 years
Voting For: Jim Goodhart (Mayor), Jennifer King (Mayor Pro-tem), Betty Lin Peterson, John Rea, Jim Vandever
Voting Against: None
What Happens if CEPT wins or loses the Appeal?
if CEPC wins the Appeal?
- Barring a further appeal to the California Supreme Court (which is highly unlikely), the case would be over and the 2015 Ruling would be implemented. That means that 2012 Deed (wherein Palos Verdes Homes Association (PVHA) sold 1.7 acres of parkland to Lugliani) would be voided
- In addition, the following could also be implemented:
- PVHA to remove all encroachments (structures, trees/landscaping) to be removed and hillside restored. Retaining walls have the potential to be buried and permitted to remain in place for slope stability
- Ruling in the CEPC case and the prior PVPUSD case would be attached to title of all 800 acres of parkland and school property that have similar deed restrictions prohibiting sale of property to private parties for non-public use. If the City of PVE, PVHA or the PVPUSD (School District) tried to sell parkland property in the future, the matter could be brought back to the Superior Court under the injunction prohibiting parkland sale without another trial
- Ruling allows (but does not prescribe) PVHA to:
- Recover costs of remediation from Lugliani
- Return $500K proceeds from sale to Lugliani, and recover the $100K from the City
- Transfer the land back to the City or to another public entity duly organize to maintain it as parkland for public recreational use (such as the PV Land Conservancy or a PVE Parks District). Otherwise, the PVHA would be responsible for property tax on the land
- Other aspects of the MOU are untouched
- School District keeps its $1.5M donation from Lugliani (because to ask for it back would be tax fraud)
- School District remains bound by its promise never to sell school property for development
- School District remains bound by its promise not to install football field lights at PVHS without paying a $1.5 million penalty
- Defendants to be responsible for CEPC legal costs (the Court does not proscribe how this will be split). Title insurance might cover this.
if CEPC Loses the Appeal?
- The case then goes to trial which would likely take another 1-2 years. Note that the judgment was based on a “Motion for Summary Judgment,” not a trial. Implications of a trial:
- Depositions and testimony would be collected, which may be embarrassing to members of our City Council and PVHA directors due to inconsistent statements and potentially illegal acts
- Judgment would be rendered based on the trial
if CEPC loses both the Appeal and a Trial?
- City and PVHA will have established the precedent that parkland can be sold, and the rest of the 600 acres of parkland are now vulnerable. They would have a court decision that might embolden them to sell parkland whenever they needed money
- PVPUSD would still be obligated to honor its agreement not to sell its property, although they may use the Ruling to argue that circumstances have changed and that they now should be able to sell their property to private parties for non-park or non-school use
- CEPC legal fees would not be reimbursed
- Lugliani would keep the parkland he bought and deny access to the public
Parkland is an essential part of what makes Palos Verdes Estates a special community. It was intended by our Founders to be permanently protected for public recreational use, and not to be sold to private owners for private use. While well-intentioned (it settled costly litigation and got the School District to agree to not sell any of their sites), the 2012 MOU did violate the underlying deed restrictions and hence the CEPC Court Ruling is appropriate and should be accepted by both the PVHA and the City of PVE, rather than continue to waste public resources fighting an unwinnable and unnecessary legal battle. By accepting the Court's ruling, the protection of all 800 acres of parkland and school property is insured by the Courts.
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