Rancho Palos Verdes has adopted a wildlife and habitat conservation plan, viewed as a major milestone for the city even though it had been acting on a draft version of the plan for the past 15 years.
The Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan, passed by the City Council Nov. 19, serves as a general permit for compatible and appropriate development in areas that might affect sensitive habitat home to threatened and endangered species.
The plan had run afoul of developer Jim York's plan to build up to 37 homes in the Portuguese Bend area. York, instead, had agreed to sell roughly 60-70 acres of his property to add to the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve's 1,400 acres. He will not build the housing development, but he will be allowed to himself a home and another for his farm manager.
Due to York's concern, the city made changed to the plan in November. The final version requires a 1.4 to 1 ratio of mitigation to development for any large project.
"This is still a major problem because the property is not develop-able with these conditions," York wrote by email.
In January, the City Council will consider hiring an appraiser to determine the fair market value of York's offer. State and federal wildlife agencies could potentially provide funding for the acquisition, York said.
At the heart of the city's efforts, in collaboration with United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is to protect multiple at-risk species that are among the preserve.
Among the species under protection that live and grow on the peninsula are the coastal California gnatcatcher (federally threatened), cactus wren (federally threatened), Palos Verdes and El Segundo blue butterflies (endangered), and coastal sage scrub, cactus scrub, and grassland vegetation.
"Healthy living communities like coastal sage scrub provide natural benefits from filtering and purifying air and water," said Conservancy Executive Director Adrienne Mohan in a press release, "to building soils, stabilizing landscapes, absorbing carbon dioxide, buffering against floods and high winds, and in various other ways contributing to human well-being."
Without the NCCP/HCP in place, private land owners would need to acquire separate permits for each project they want to pursue, which would require more work and time, according to city officials.
The NCCP/HCP permit term is 50 years, although lands preserved under the plan will be permanently protected through conservation easements.