Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Citizen Rally Doesn’t Change Council Stance on New City Hall

• Charges of Broken Campaign Promises Are Dismissed as Majority Upholds Theater Redesign

BY BILL KOENEKER


Dressed in T-shirts emblazoned with “Save Our Seats” and carrying placards protesting the planned loss of theater seats in the new City Hall, a contingent of arts and music folks came to Malibu City Council chambers Monday night to urge members to change their minds on scaling back the former theater of the Malibu Performing Arts Center.
However, Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who had said she would reconsider the previous council’s approval for final design plans, restated her position on why she was confirming the previous council’s decisions on final plans, including urging a scale back of the theater because a community theater was best for Malibu.
“I don’t want to keep spending $1 million in rent on this [current City Hall] building. It doesn’t have an adequate conference room. The new city hall will have so many more things. We are not destroying the theater. We are changing the theater into a great community theater for use of the residents of Malibu, which is my number one goal. It is not a cultural center. We do need a cultural center. That place was never it,” she said.
Protestors like Guardia Fox, who has spearheaded the criticism of the theater cutback, insisted to council members the theater would not be better because it was smaller. She said the city could save money by leaving the theater untouched.
Kim Cunningham and her ten-year-old daughter Macy came to tell council members how much they had utilized the Malibu Performing Arts Center in the past.
Others insisted the lack of success of the MPAC was due to poor marketing and a failed public relations campaign.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who holds the sole minority position on the council not supporting reducing the size of the theater, said she too was wearing an SOS T-shirt and argued there were just too many seats being taken out.
The previous council, over the objections of Conley Ulich, had approved the final design plans for the new City Hall which had even become a campaign issue during the city council race.
Conley Ulich has kept the issue alive, helping organize protestors and has faced off with her colleagues over the issue on several different occasions.

City Initiates Procedures to Try to Bring Back CHP for PCH Traffic Enforcement

• Public Safety Activists Back Council Members’ Stance

BY BILL KOENEKER


It was a campaign promise that Councilmember Lou La Monte was making long before several recent accidents on Pacific Coast Highway: “Bring back the CHP on PCH.”
Following three PCH traffic fatalities in two months, La Monte’s campaign stance on the California Highway Patrol has been adopted by many public safety activists, especially some who have spearheaded the citizens group “A Safe Pacific Coast Highway,” or ASPCH.
When the CHP item appeared on the agenda Monday night, proponents were there to offer encouragement and keep the fire lit under the Malibu City Council on public safety.
Public safety commission member Marlene Matlow came to the council chambers and offered some historical perspective on how and why the CHP has not patrolled PCH in the City of Malibu since the community incorporated in 1991.
When it came time for La Monte to speak, he repeated the refrain he had used on the campaign trail. “We need to bring back the CHP and to get them back and do anything to get them back,” he said.
The agenda item stated, “To direct staff to contact the appropriate state officials to begin the process that would allow the CHP to provide traffic enforcement services along Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.”
The announcement was also made that Malibu’s top officials would be going to Sacramento this week to lobby state officials for the CHP’s return.
Mayor Jefferson Wagner indicated he and others, including City Manager Jim Thorsen, had an appointment with the state Secretary of Transportation to discuss the issue.
“We will represent you in Sacramento,” the mayor said.
Activists were encouraged, but some also voiced doubts.
“I applaud city efforts, but it does not seem like it is on the top of the list,” said Maria Flora Smoller, who had just sat though the city’s budget hearing and learned the council’s priorities for how it wants to spend money.
David Saul praised the CHP and noted that they are the traffic experts and the sheriff’s department represents the policing experts.
With summer fast approaching and the accompanying beach traffic, it is important for city officials to act immediately, according to Saul, who noted another sheriff’s vehicle could be put on the street if the city was willing to pay for it.
“We cannot wait any longer,” he added, saying some of the city’s other priorities such as acquiring land in the west end of Malibu need to take a back seat to public safety.
Susan Saul, another ASPCH member, told council members that public safety needs to be the city’s most important agenda item.
“You should not be buying real estate. Public safety should be your main focus,” she said.
Councilmembers Laura Rosenthal and Pamela Conley Ulich said they too wanted the CHP back on PCH, but they did not want to have to pay extra for their service.
It is what Marlene Matlow had previously talked about, calling it the Malibu penalty. When Malibu and other cities incorporated years ago, special legislation was enacted that requires new cities to pay for the CHP to stay on their highways.
Malibu indicated it could not afford the extra expense in 1991, and some council members were reiterating that stance.
“I totally agree. No other cities are treated this way. We can’t pay for the CHP,” added Conley Ulich.
“We may represent only 20 percent of the drivers on PCH, but it is up to us to get the CHP back,” said Matlow.
The ever growing influence and importance of the public safety activists was felt this week at the council meeting, when they widened their view sights to comments about the budget, the council priorities and the organization of the public safety commission.
Marshall Thompson, whose wife, Susan Tellem, sits on the city’s Public Safety Commission, accused the city of moving at a “glacial pace.” He called for a reorganization of the commission.
“How many children have to die for the city to take public safety seriously,” he shouted into the microphone.
Tellem said it is time to take another look at the commission and how it does things. “Give them power. They need to have space,” she added.
Smoller issued a challenge to everyone, saying they should learn to slow down on PCH, “I challenge everybody. Shut off your phone and slow down. Take it seriously. There should be more enforcement,” she said, adding the safety commission should be filmed and broadcast, much like the planning commission and the city council.
Susan Saul had more to say on the matter. “Malibu needs to change. People come to the meetings and say, “We won’t be able to change anything. The safety commission needs to be reorganized. They need a face,” she added.

City Seeks Funding Leeway for More Law and Largess

• Revenues Would Have to Increase

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council had its first hearing on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 at this week’s meeting.
The council had looked at the proposed budget at a previous meeting, but this was the first scheduled public hearing.
“Things have not changed dramatically since [the] April [meeting],” said Administrative Services Director and Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman, who put the document together.
The hearing Monday night also concerned the full council looking at its Administrative and Finance Subcommittee’s recommendations.
Feldman said the additional costs from the current budget in the upcoming budget reflect an added $116,000 for law enforcement, another $526,000 for street repairs. The money is now coming form the general fund rather than other grants and funding that have all been spent, and $15,000 recommended by the A&F subcommittee for maintenance at the Equestrian Park.
This hearing, according to Feldman, was to get feedback from the council to any adjustments they wanted to make. “I will be back in June with the final budget and point out the changes that affect the bottom line,” she said.
Both Ryan Embre and Susan Tellem suggested the council increase funding for the sheriff’s department,
Embre said the city needs to allocate more for road maitainenance.
“I agree with Ryan, we should increase law enforcement,” Tellem added. “We should have more motorcycles. We can have more speed traps and have more revenue,” she said.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said she wanted to see a larger amount for grant funds. The amount this year has been limited to $65,000. She suggested the $4000 earmarked for an orthodontic program for city employees could be better spent for those in need, such as urgent care, where the city grant goes to subsidize a private practitioner staying open longer in the summer time.
Councilmember Lou La Monte noted the A&F Subcommittee, (he is a member with Councilmember John Sibert, who was not at Monday night’s meeting), waded through a quarter of a million dollars in grant requests with only the $65,000 to give out. “It is up to the council to increase it,” he said.
“I completely agree with Pam about increasing the grant program,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal. “We should have $150,000 in grants.”
Rosenthal wanted to know if the city was having problems with its roads and maintaining them.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said the city is currently indexing the roads “We would like to see more [money],” he answered.
La Monte had the question everybody wanted answered, “If we increase grant money, increase law enforcement and increase street maintenance, where is the money coming from?” he asked.
Feldman said ideally the money could come from a windfall, but barring that it would require dipping into the general fund reserve.
Council members briefly talked about increasing revenue by utilizing such traditional as ticketing or putting parking meters on available streets or at city-owned parks.
The council unanimously agreed to direct staff to look at increasing funds for the grant program, law enforcement and street repair and bring back numbers and on how much money would have to be used from the general fund reserves which in undesignated funds is hovering between $8 and 9 million.

Coastal Commission to Look at an Array of Local Issues Next Month

• Will Consider Restoration Plans for Malibu Lagoon

BY BILL KOENEKER


The state Coastal Commission will have a plate full of Malibu agenda items to deal with in June when it meets in Marina del Rey.
The commission is scheduled to consider an application from the state Department of Parks and Recreation for the proposed restoration of Malibu Lagoon.
The parks agency, which must obtain permission from the Coastal Commission, wants to recontour the lagoon to offer better circulation through the small body of water that is the end point of a 105-square mile watershed.
The project entails bulldozing about 51,200 cubic yards of cut and 37,500 cubic yards of fill and exporting about 13,700 cubic yards of soil.
The project is described as an effort “to improve the function of the lagoon ecosystem by recontouring, the lagoon configuration, slopes and drainage to increase hydrologic flow,” according to a CCC public notice.
There is also a habitat restoration plan involved that includes replanting native species and removing non-native species.
The plans also call for a public access trail around the lagoon and the construction of interpretive public educational amenities. A long-term monitoring plan is also a part of the design package.
Two Coastal Commission panelists are appealing the City of Malibu’s approval of a 110-foot-long, private staircase which is three-feet wide on a bluff face located within a pedestrian easement that extends servient property adjacent to the applicant’s residential triplex parcel connecting Birdview Avenue to the public at Westward Beach.
Commissioners Mary Shallenberger and Sara Wan, who lives in Malibu, are the panelists filing the appeal.
Malibu City Council members, who approved the controversial staircase, did so knowing that private individual staircases are no longer allowed.
However, the applicant presented a complicated legal argument suggesting to deny the permit would constitute a “takings” issue subjecting the city to legal action.
Consequently, the majority of the council agreed to approve the plans with the thought in mind that the commission or some one else would appeal the matter and any takings issue could be settled by the state agency in the courtroom.
Coastal panelists are also expected to consider a request by Los Angeles County Department of Public Works to repair the roadway and construct a “bioengineered slope.”
The county wants to repair 70 linear feet of roadway on Tuna Canyon Road and construct the slope over a 3,900-square-foot area with 15- to 48-inch diameter rocks at the toe of the slope along Tuna Canyon Creek with willows planted in cardboard tubes within the bioengineered slope. The project is located along Tuna Canyon Road at mile marker 5.04, according to CCC documents.
The commission is also scheduled to consider the City of Malibu’s Local Coastal Program Amendment, which proposes to change the zoning of a beachfront lot, the site of the old Albatross Hotel, from commercial- visitor serving to multi-family beachfront.

Two Main Corral Fire Suspects Pleas Are Rescheduled Yet Again——Pair Now Set to Return to Court on June 2

• Judge Acknowledges Enormity of Burnouts’ Losses

BY ANNE SOBLE


The guilty pleas that Corral Fire defendants Brian Alan Anderson, 24, and William Thomas Coppock, 25, had been expected to enter last week to felony charges of starting the Nov. 27, 2007, wildfire were postponed until a hearing set for Wednesday, June 2.
Judge Susan Speer used the May 21 court session to allow those whose lives were unalterably changed by the Santa Ana wind-driven flames to describe their losses while face-to-face with the suspects deemed most culpable for the devastation.
The two other men charged with starting the blaze—Eric Matthew Ullman, 20; and Dean Allen Lavorante, 21—also were in court but are not expected to enter guilty pleas until Anderson and Coppock have pled and are sentenced. Court observers expect their sentences to be more lenient because they left the scene before the fire spiraled out of control.
A fifth defendant, Brian David Franks, 29, was sentenced last year to five years probation and ordered to do 300 hours of community service. He agreed to testify against the others.
The prosecution alleges that the men went to a known party cave on state parkland above Corral Canyon to carouse around a roaring campfire while Malibu was under a red flag alert because of high winds and low humidity.
The two primary defendants allegedly built up the campfire, allowed it to go out of control and it sparked a wildfire that destroyed 53 homes, damaged 23 others and injured six firefighters.
Anderson and Coppock face charges of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury and recklessly causing a fire to an inhabited structure. Their conviction was the primary goal of the county district attorney’s office because their actions are viewed as more egregious by the prosecution.
Those who lost homes or watched neighbors’ homes burn testified about the anguish and the financial loss from which some of them, including a number of elderly residents, many never fully recover.
Judge Susan Speer empathized with the burnouts providing testimony, indicating that she understood the extent of their anger and anguish.
Speer told those in the courtroom that the case was among the most difficult she has had to decide in her career on the bench.
Longtime Corral area resident Beverly Taki oversaw the effort to collect testimony about the Corral Fire’s impact on the residents in the area.
A number of residents who lost their homes and all their belongings had submitted pre-written victim statements to Judge Speer, and some read them in the courtroom.
Speer thanked the Corral attendees and stated that she read all of their prepared material and considered their opinions important.
Deputy DA Frances Young coordinated the presentation, asking people to read their prepared statements, and projecting photos of the fire, structure remnants, and pets killed in the fire.
Judge Speer indicated that she lives in a high risk fire zone and her pets also are important to her.
One resident said, “Anderson and Coppock looked at the victims as they spoke and at the screen, while Ullman and Lavorante looked away expressionless. From their neutral expressions, we could not sense whether they felt remorse.”
Many of the residents say they hope that stringent sentences will deter future fire starters.
If the two men’s pleas are entered on June 2, it is likely the pair will be remanded to state prison for assignment evaluation.
A number of residents say they plan to attend that hearing as well.

Opponents of Resumption of Whale Hunting State Their Case

• Malibuites Join Ranks with Residents from Other Areas Urging President to Change His Stance

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


A determined group of environmental activists, including a number of Malibu residents, braved gale-force winds on Sunday, gathering at the end of Santa Monica Pier to protest the Obama Administration’s plan to endorse the resumption of legalized whale hunting.
The rally, one of 16 held in California, was organized by longtime Malibuite and California Coastal Commissioner Sara Wan with the Western Alliance for Nature.
It attracted a wide range of supporters, including the Coastal Commission’s executive director Peter Douglas and Louis Psihoyos, director of “The Cove,” the 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary on the slaughter and exploitation of dolphins, who recently made the news for exposing a Santa Monica sushi restaurant that was serving endangered Sei whale.
For many of the 150 participants, the event had a depressing feeling of deja vu.
The 1986 ban on commercial whaling enacted by the International Whaling Commission after years of concerted global pressure, has been hailed as one of the 20th century’s greatest environmental victories.
The ban reduced the number of whales killed from 38,000 a year to fewer than 2000, according to IWC data. Environmental groups say that in the quarter century since the moratorium was enacted, several species of whale have begun to recover, despite a loophole that allows nations like Japan to continue commercial whaling under the guise of research, but that many species are still threatened with extinction.
When he was campaigning for president, Barack Obama stated, “As president, I will ensure that the U.S. provides leadership in enforcing international wildlife protection agreements, including strengthening the international moratorium on commercial whaling. Allowing Japan to continue commercial whaling is unacceptable.”
On April 15, the Obama Administration sent shockwaves through the environmental community when it announced that the U.S. would be leading an effort to broker an agreement that would allow the commercial hunting of whales for the first time since 1986. The IWC is scheduled to vote on the proposal in June.
Environmental groups say that the move would put all whale species at risk—including the California gray whale—and would open the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to hunters.
“Whales are not fish and should not be harvested,” Wan said at the rally. “We need to send a strong message of solidarity.” Wan said that the Coastal Commission has passed a resolution opposing the plan to legalize whaling.
“There is no justification for the resumption of whaling,” Callie Hurd, speaking on behalf of California State Senator Fran Pavley and Assemblymember Julia Brownley, stated. “The IWC is dead wrong. We will not tolerate it. Our twenty-first century society does not need whaling. It’s barbaric and archaic. The hunts need to end once and for all,” she said.
Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and spokesperson for the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the 1986 ban “the single greatest conservation achievement of the twentieth century,” adding that “A large majority in California, America and the international community don’t want to lift the moratorium, they want to see it strengthened.”
“It’s no longer acceptable to hunt dolphins and whales, or to keep them in captivity” James William Gibson, CSU professor of sociology and author of “A Reenchanted World,” said. “The game’s not over. We may take some losses but we are going to stop whaling.”
“This proposal is the height of insanity,” Heal the Bay’s Mark Gold told the protesters.
“Although the whales are voiceless, we are not,” Malibu Mayor Jefferson Wagner said, adding that he hopes the City of Malibu will join with numerous other California communities to pass a resolution opposing the plan to lift the moratorium. “Let’s whale on the whalers.”
“Whales carry the memory of the birth of the world, the memory of the ancestors,” Chumash leader Mati Waiya said. He blessed the gathering in a ceremony that included burning sage and blowing on a conch shell.
“The ocean is the blood of our world. We don’t need research for our own selfish gain,” Waiya said. “We need to be practitioners of nature. How can we trust a government that has turned into a business?”
More information on the effort to oppose resumption of commercial whaling is available online at www.nrdc.org, wanconservancy.org, or healthebay.org. The IWC will vote on the whaling proposal in June. Malibuites who wish to provide input on the issue can call the White House Public Comment Line at 202-456-1111.

City Council to Consider West Malibu Land Acquisition

• Funding of Purchase Appears to Be Major Obstacle

BY BILL KOENEKER


A soils expert described the Fig Tree Ranch known today as Vital Zuman as having some of the finest examples and possibly oldest example of organic soil in the county.
The comments were made at a Malibu City Council meeting this week, where members were considering on how to proceed about acquiring land in the west end of Malibu.
The expert from the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains said the ranch, which is for sale, should be preserved as an agricultural exhibit for educational purposes. “Sixty years of top soil. There is nothing like it in Malibu,” RCDSMM spokesperson Clark Stevens said.
The council is considering acquisition of the six-acre ranch and another 10 acres of vacant land adjacent to the ranch. The price tag for the two properties might be over $20 million.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said it could represent a community asset.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said if the city could afford it, then buy it. “How do you pay for it?” he asked.
That seemed to be question that remained unanswered.
However, council members did not want to give up on the idea and instead of tabling the matter approved going forward in attempting to seek a way to acquire the property.

Father of Slain Escondido Teen to Assist in Next Volunteer Search for Clues to the Whereabouts of Mitrice Richardson

• Strong Parallels Appear Evident in Every Family’s Search for a Missing Child of Any Age

BY ANNE SOBLE


Mitrice Richardson isn’t going to be another unsolved missing person statistic, and no other member of a family who disappears will be allowed to fade into oblivion, if Maurice Dubois and his advocacy effort—More Kids Organization—can play a part in how these cases are treated.
Dubois says the families of missing persons can experience comparable frustration when dealing with public agencies that may have limited resources and personnel who can appear to be unresponsive and indifferent.
Extensive searches by law enforcement, search and rescue teams and aerial drone units took place in the area where his 14-year-old daughter Amber Dubois disappeared, but produced no results.
After more than a year, Dubois did not learn that his daughter had died until the man who would be convicted of her murder and that of another teenager led authorities to her shallow grave.
Dubois is assisting Mitrice Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, and her committed support group of family and friends in their non-stop efforts to find the woman who disappeared over eight months ago.
He attended the family’s private celebration on the date of Richardson’s 25th birthday—Friday, April 30—when the honors college graduate about to begin teaching and graduate school was remembered lovingly by those who gathered in her memory.
Dubois is helping to plan the next major search effort—a volunteer field search in the Malibu Canyon/Monte Nido area where Richardson might have wandered, or been taken, the morning of Sept. 17, 2009, after she was released from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.
Richardson was released from the isolated facility at about 12:30 a.m., alone, on foot, without her purse or cell phone, after having been transported there the previous evening for booking at the request of Geoffrey’s restaurant because she did not pay an $89.51 dinner check.
Restaurant personnel had described her behavior as “crazy” and said she was speaking gibberish.
When deputies searched Richardson’s car parked in the restaurant lot, its interior was in shambles, filled with clothing and other belongings, and it showed signs of having been lived in, which would subsequently be described by medical experts as indicative of bipolar disorder and acute mental anxiety and exhaustion.
When deputies found a negligible trace of marijuana in the car, they added that as a second misdemeanor count.
Both offenses could have been ticketed and the woman allowed to leave on her own. But deputies put Richardson in a black-and-white, leaving her purse and cell phone in the car, which the restaurant subsequently had towed from the lot.
Having been through related issues with other law enforcement agencies, Dubois says, “There are many holes in investigative patterns.” He knows he might have never learned his daughter’s fate, if the man who murdered her had not killed again and, to avoid the death penalty, agreed to lead authorities to where she was buried.
He says he shares the concern of Richardson’s family that the state of her car, her physical appearance and unstable behavior should have led someone to question whether she was “not in her own recognizance” when she was released from Lost Hills.
Dubois adds that “something is wrong here” with agency efforts to find a person who has been missing this long. This is in large part because he views the most critical factor in a missing person case as “timeliness...immediate response is critical.”
It is on this issue that Richardson’s family has been especially critical of what they describe as “Lost Hills Station’s sluggish response to the case” from the beginning.
They point to audiotapes of telephone calls to Lost Hills from Sutton, during which deputies appear to dismiss the mother’s concerns for her daughter’s well-being, give her misinformation about procedures and seem unaware of what is going on at the station.
JUNE SEARCH
The family has put out a call for volunteer hikers, mountain cyclists, equestrians and others to help scour the rugged terrain in areas surrounding the sheriff’s station on the weekend of June 5 and 6.
Dubois says the upcoming search effort will focus on the heaviest chaparral stands that have not burned in many years.
He says those who would like to take part must be over 18, have a valid ID to register as a volunteer, and be dressed for backcountry terrain, wearing jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and high boots.
He adds that if any local businesses want to contribute bottled water or other supplies for the two-day effort, it would be appreciated.
Volunteers can sign up by telephone at 323-777-0453, or send an email to mitricefund@gmail.com. The search times for Saturday, June 5, and Sunday, June 6, have been changed to 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. to factor in the weather. The base station is slated to be Juan Bautista de Anza Park at the intersection of Lost Hills Road and Las Virgenes Road.
DOJ ACTION
Latice Sutton met with Congressmember Maxine Waters last Saturday, May 22, to discuss the status of the representative’s efforts to involve the U.S. Department of Justice in the missing person investigation.
Sutton says Waters told her that U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer also wants to add her support to the effort to open a federal investigation.
Waters is awaiting a response to a letter she wrote to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, requesting their involvement.
Waters has stated she is concerned that Richardson’s civil rights have been violated. In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, she wrote, “I believe that the Justice Department is the best-equipped agency to handle this investigation.”
VIDEO REQUESTS
Members of the family continue to ask Lost Hills whether there is any other additional video of Mitrice Richardson in the station lobby or other areas.
They indicate that an email from LASD Lieut. Mike Rosson stated he has “found there were no other areas of the station recorded by cameras. The station lobby does have some real-time cameras, however, they are not recorded.”
He added, “There was no other video available to investigators from surrounding businesses near the Lost Hills Station, nor Geoffrey’s restaurant.”
However, since family members say they were mislead about the existence of the booking cage video of Richardson that subsequently turned up in the former Lost Hills Station captain’s desk, they plan to continue “asking and asking” so there is no doubt about the seriousness of their inquiry.
The mother and her support group members were permitted to view that videotape, but media are being told that they cannot look at it because of “the prospect of litigation” against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department by members of the family.
Additional information about the case is available on the mother’s website at www.findmitrice.info and by contacting Dr. Ronda Hampton at 951-660-8031. Information about Maurice Dubois’ organization is available at www.morekids.org

NEWS BULLETIN
An informant called the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Tuesday about skeletal remains found in the area of Piuma Road and Cold Canyon. Two LASD vehicles monitored the site until the County Coroner's Office arrived to take the bones in for testing.
Lost Hills Captain Joe Stephen told the Malibu Surfside News that photos taken of the find that were emailed to the LASD’s homicide division have elicited a preliminary response that the remains “look like animal bones.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

La Paz Plans Nearing the Finish Line

• Regional Water Board Slated to Hear Discharge Permit

BY BILL KOENEKER


The La Paz retail and office complex planned for the Civic Center area next to the library could be clearing one of its last hurdles when the proposal’s wastewater treatment plant’s discharge permit is heard by the Regional Water Quality Control Board in July.
In a somewhat surprising move, the RWQCB has scheduled a public hearing for the permits required by the state agency. The project has the approval of the City of Malibu and the California Coastal Commission, and includes a development agreement that would give the city 2.3 acres of land to be used for municipal uses, such as a wastewater treatment plant.
The board is scheduled to hear the permit request at its July 9 meeting in Ventura. The board is expected to act on the application for waste discharge requirements and for water recycling requirements. If the board decides not to approve the permit, it can direct further investigation.
Written comments and testimony regarding the order must be received at the board’s office no later than June 14.
The Los Angeles staff and the developers had been involved in a tug of war about the zero discharge system, with the RWQCB insisting it did not have enough information to process the application and La Paz officials insisting they have a valid permit since the RWQCB failed to hear the matter in a timely manner as required by the Permit Streamlining Act.
La Paz developers want to build about 100,000 square feet of offices, retail and restaurants on about 15 acres.
The facility will generate an average of 19,000 gallons per day of effluent treated to Title 22 recycled water quality, which will be used for irrigation and recycling, accordion to RWQCB documents.
The system also includes a segmented storage tank of 800,000 gallons.
The reclaimed water system includes storage of treated effluent, landscaping irrigation on the property, toilet recycling and possibly delivery to recycle/reclaimed system users who have yet to be identified. The system is designed for 100 percent recycling, but if effluent cannot be discharged through irrigation or during system malfunction, storage is available.
The RWQCB’s tentative order sets out a plan for how the plant should be monitored, how recycling should be managed and various discharge requirement limiting the amount of chemicals, compounds and nutrients allowed in the treated effluent.

Rambla Pacifico Access Fix Is Slated for Airing

• Planning Commission to Consider

BY BILL KOENEKER


Las Flores Canyon residents are moving closer to obtaining an emergency access route in the disaster-prone area as city officials are being asked to approve the most recent plans.
At its June 1 meeting, the Malibu Planning Commission is set to consider granting permits, several variances, site plan review and approving the environmental impact report for what is being called the Rambla Pacifico street reconstruction project.
The proposal calls for constructing a 20-foot-wide, 1800-linear-foot-long private access road “to re-establish a linkage between the northern and southern sections of Rambla Pacifico, previously destroyed by a landslide.”
The planning panel will have to grant issuance of four variances for the construction of retaining walls on slopes in excess of two-and-half to one, for grading in excess of 1000 cubic yards per residential parcel, another variance from the required 1.5 geologic safety factor, and for the reduction of the 100 foot setback from an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area stream.
A site plan is required for the 6400 cubic yards of remedial grading as recommended by the project’s consulting geologist, according to city documents.
Residents in the area have been working for years to come up with an acceptable and financially feasible plan that would provide emergency and disaster access to a slide-prone area that has burned several times in the last few decades.
At one time, the city itself planned to restore the road and “fix” the slide that destroyed the road and several homes. Funding for the ambitious project was nixed by state and federal officials and residents have endured several disasters without an alterative access to Pacific Coast Highway.
Several plans for a private road and even a public/private road were not successful for various reasons and the recent endeavor may finally be the successful approach to a thorny problem.

Council Scheduled to Address Ways to Improve Disaster Communications

• Malibu in a Disaster — ‘There [Could Be] an App for That’

BY BILL KOENEKER


Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich has an idea and wants to float it past her colleagues at next week’s council session.
Conley Ulich wants to consider funding money from the city’s coffers to develop a smart phone application that could keep city officials connected with citizens in a constant stream of updates with critical emergency information and other news about the city at non-crisis times.
In a staff report prepared by City Manager Jim Thorsen, the fiscal impacts are discussed and his preliminary numbers suggest that from information he has seen, an application can cost anywhere from $995 plus $20 month for basic premade content to information based app templates costing from $10,000 to $50,000, or more, for a custom application.
A transcript of the emails between Thorsen and Conley Ulich was released where Thorsen asked Conley Ulich if she wants to put forward to the council something that has such a high price tag.
Thorsen talks about utilizing social media, such as Facebook. Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, or any number of other networks.
“It would be possible to send out non-emergency messages via Twitter that a traffic accident has occurred, or a power outage is going to happen. If our goal is to provide an application where people can provide information to the city for potholes, signal malfunction, then I have heard that Twitter and others are not that good,” Thorsen said.
A consultant that weighed in on the discussion indicated if Malibu wished to allocate the money for it, an app could be developed that would keep people in the city connected, and updated with critical information related to fires and floods and other natural disasters, emergency information, evacuation routes, road closures, accidents and Sig Alerts.
“You are basically creating a social network for your community to participate in. This is a one stop shop for anything you need to know. Plus, you would be able to monetize this through advertisements. It could be free to the consumers and they also could find products and services they are looking for,” wrote the consultant in an email.
Conley Ulich argued that the money being spent on a public relations firm might be better spent,” communicating directly with our constituents.
“I am very concerned that the public and our own city council is not notified immediately when accidents and majortity issues occur. We have to work on this,” she added.

Panel to Look at Reducing Pot Park Periphery by Half

• Current Legal Distance Is 1000 Feet

BY BILL KOENEKER


In what may grow into a controversy, the Malibu Planning Commission is being asked to consider at its meeting on June 15 reducing the distance between parks and playgrounds from a pot pharmacy from 1000 feet, which is the current restriction, to 500 feet.
The applicant, Green Angel, an existing marijuana dispensary, has been trying for several years to meet the city’s code requirements, but stumbled when municipal planners insisted the dispensary was less than 1000 feet from Las Flores Canyon Park and its Pacific Coast Highway address.
At the time, the applicant argued that the 1000-foot radius should not apply, since there is a side of a ridge blocking the park from the pharmacy.
However, the planning commission and subsequently the city council insisted they had no choice but to stick to a literal interpretation of the law and deny the applicant a permit. Green Angel was told at the time it might remedy the matter by seeking a zone text amendment.
In an effort to do that, the applicant is seeking the ZTA to change the current municipal code and wants to do so in a way the applies to Green Angel only.
David Shukan, who represents Green Angel, submitted three different versions to revise the municipal code, according to a municipal planner.
On one version the planning commission could consider, the panel will only make a recommendation on a ZTA, it must go before the city council for approval, would allow a reduction in certain instances, much like Green Angel’s, if there are topographic features that made real time movement to a park or playground impossible within a 100 feet, thereby requiring a reduction in the distance requirement to 500 feet.
None of the versions attempt to make reductions on the distance requirement for schools, churches and other facilities that call into play the distance requirement.
Another version would seek a reduction in the distancing requirement, if the playground or park could not be seen from the pot pharmacy.
The third version of the amendment would be much more generalized and apply city-wide to any park or playground.
The code also addresses the distance between churches, schools and other areas, but the ZTA would only address distance requirements between dispensary and parks and playgrounds.

Plans Unveiled for Yearlong Refurbishing of Public Library

• Almost Every ‘Malibu’ Theme Imaginable Is Incorporated Somewhere in the Expanded Space

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Modern is out, postmodern is in. That was the message delivered at an open house showcasing the planned renovations for the Malibu Public Library, which will trade its utilitarian mid-century modern brick and concrete, built in 1970, for colorful tiles and whimsical decor.
Planners hope the colorful and imaginative new library will be an inviting place for the community to congregate and provide a venue for a wide range of activities.
“People wander in [to the current building] and think they’re in the courthouse,” consultant Linda Demmers said at the presentation. “This library will tell the Malibu story.”
Demmers stressed that the ambitious project is a remodel not a rebuilding. “We’re not closing to demolish [the library], we’re closing to refurbish,” she said, adding that the existing 12,000 square-foot building has “good bones.”
The improvements outlined by Demmers range from practical—a heating, air conditioning and electrical system that is separate from the adjacent county court house; natural lighting; new bathrooms; a community room that will be nearly twice as large and include with a fully-equipped kitchen; and additional computer terminals—to whimsical: brightly colored hanging lamps and glass “bubbles”; a suspended surfboard sculpture in the teen section, and a decorative “lighthouse” that will house a family-friendly restroom in the children’s section.
Other improvements will include storage and space for a permanent Friends of the Malibu Library bookstore; a copy center; self-service checkout; a study room; and two new reading areas, the existing patio behind the current community room will be open to the public, and a new “reading garden” and outdoor performance space will be created at the front of the building that will be the centerpiece of the new library, accessed from inside the library by a wall of glass that will overlook Legacy Park, and from outside via a ramp for the disabled.
According to the presentation, the remodeled main entry will feature a Malibu Potteries-style tile rug and a “heritage wall” showcasing photographs selected from the archives of the Malibu History Association with the assistance of longtime Malibu resident Jane Hemenez.
The community room will have an equestrian theme, while the main library will evoke the beach, with a wooden ceiling feature that suggests the pier, in addition to the lighthouse, surfboard sculpture, murals depicting waves and Malibu girl surfer Gidget and lamps shaped like buoys and bubbles.
The exterior of the building will be sheathed in a colorful tile material called Trespa, which Demmers described as “virtually indestructible.” The new reading garden will feature native plants.
According to Demmers, the remodeled library will be LEEDs certified. The library renovation is described as the city’s “first project to meet the rigorous environmentally sustainable design, construction and operation standards required to obtain certification from the Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) program—a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.”
The cost of the project is $5.7 million, most of it covered by the County of Los Angeles. “It’s money that the county has been carefully saving the past five years,” Demmers said.
“For 17 years the county didn’t give us any money,” former Malibu City Councilmember Sharon Barovsky commented from the audience.
The Malibu Library Fundraising Task Force has launched a donation drive to raise $500,000 that would help pay for extra features, including solar panels.
The library is scheduled to close on June 1 and reopen summer 2011. Its 92,466 books, 6491 audio recordings, 5117 video recordings and other special materials, such as telephone directories, pamphlets, California topographic maps, and local history will go into storage. However, a temporary facility will be established at the other end of the county buildings. Patrons can also use their library card to access any of the county’s libraries, including Westlake Village and Agoura Hills. “You are not going to not have a library,” Demmers said.
At the end of the presentation, Demmers received a pair of live caterpillars brought to her by Konrad Ulich, the son of city council member and library project advocate Pamela Conley Ulich.
“The theme of this project is transformation,” Conley Ulich told the audience.
Conley Ulich presented each of the task force members with a butterfly made of paper containing flower seeds. All donors to the fundraising effort will receive a butterfly with their name on it. When the library reopens, the butterflies will be planted in the reading garden, she explained.
Donors willing to make a larger contribution will receive a more permanent commemoration, with their name engraved on the wall.
Donors may send tax-deductible contributions to the City of Malibu Library Renewal Project, 23815 Stuart Ranch Road, Malibu, CA 90265. More information is available at the city’s website: www.ci.malibu.ca.us

Corral Fire Area Residents Prepare to Share Experiences in Court This Week

• Recovery Organization Hopes for Heavy Local Turnout at Hearing

BY ANNE SOBLE


After innumerable delays and reschedulings, residents affected by the November 2007 Corral Fire hope to have their day in court on Friday, May 21, in Department V at the Van Nuys Courthouse.
That is the sentencing hearing date for two of the five suspects charged with setting the Santa Ana wind-driven wildfire that led to over $100 million in losses, claiming more than 50 homes, killing family pets and possibly indirectly contributing to one human death.
The pair, Brian Alan Anderson, and William Thomas Coppock, had been expected to plead guilty to recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury and recklessly causing a fire to multiple inhabited structures at one of numerous repeatedly rescheduled hearings since January.
The third defendant, Brian Franks, received probation and community service for his role in the fire. He provided testimony against Anderson and Coppock.
The other two men of the five, Eric Ullman and Dean Allen Lavorante, who are deemed to be of lesser culpability for the fire, have yet to enter pleas.
Beverly Taki has been coordinating the effort to present testimony about the Corral Fire’s impact on the residents in the area.
Taki emailed residents, “It is extremely important that, as a team, we appear in court, so that that our faces are seen, and that we continue to keep the heat on the defendants.”
A number of residents who lost their homes and all their belongings have submitted pre-written victim statements to Judge Susan Speer, which they may be asked to read in the courtroom.
To those not submitting a statement, Taki said, “Your presence is still needed in the courtroom to show a continued and committed group effort. I hope it will be a priority to be there this Friday.”

City Council May Be Poised to Take First Step to Try to Bring CHP Back to Malibu

• Contacting State Officials Is on Agenda of May 24 Meeting

BY ANNE SOBLE


The Malibu City Council is expected to begin the process of exploring the feasibility of working with the California Highway Patrol to resume traffic law enforcement on Pacific Coast Highway and other state roads.
Newly-elected Councilmember Lou La Monte, whose campaign platform called for the CHP’s return, has asked city staff to prepare an agenda item for the May 24 council meeting asking “the council [to] direct staff to begin the process of bringing the CHP back.”
Since Malibu incorporated 19 years ago, the city has contracted with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for both traffic and criminal law enforcement.
Recent PCH fatalities and concerns about handling of road closures and signal malfunctions have generated local criticism of LASD on traffic-related issues.
La Monte told the Malibu Surfside News, “The CHP agenda item will be the first step in bringing the Highway Patrol back to Malibu to provide additional traffic enforcement on PCH, one of the most dangerous highways in the state.”

Pioneer Malibu Resident Celebrates 90 Years

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


“Malibu Millie” Mae Meek Decker is celebrating her 90th birthday, May 22, and the Malibu community is invited to attend the festivities.
Decker, who was born in Des Moines Iowa in 1920, grew up in Malibu at Mesa Ranch—now part of Leo Carrillo State Park.
The family moved to Mesa Ranch in 1926, where Millie went to school at the little, one-room Decker school house, and grew up with horses. The family says she learned to ride almost before she could walk.
Decker has stories of horseback rides through miles of land in the remote Santa Monica Mountains traveled only by cowboys, shepherds, cattle rustlers, and remembers a time when there was no PCH, no urban sprawl, and Point Dume was a windswept headland where cattle grazed.
At 90, Decker continues to enjoy the company of her horses. An expert equestrian, she reportedly obtained a jockey license in 1940—an unusual accomplishment for a woman—and has ridden in countless races, competions, rodeos, gymkhana events, parades and movies.
Decker worked with horses for the film industry during the era of the Hollywood western, together with her husband Jimmy “Dynamite” Decker, a demolision expert and another Malibu pioneer. Decker still lives on a ranch in the canyon named for her husband’s clan. She still has her horses, and is a member of Trancas Riders and Ropers. Her father, Perc Meek, was the club’s first president in 1952.
Decker’s children Bonnie Decker and Chip Mandeville continue the family equestrian tradition in Malibu. Her daughter Vivian was a model, and is the mother of photographer Adam Lewis Smith.
Smith presented a photographic exhibition of the life of Decker two years ago. He describes his grandmother as “one of the original and last remaining ranch land owners in the Malibu canyons,” who continues “a long family tradition of living off and caring for the land and its nature.”
A birthday celebration for Decker is planned for May 22, 1-5 p.m. at 3133 S. Decker Canyon Road.
The family asks that guests bring a dish to share at the potluck. Birthday cards and yellow or white flowering rose bushes for Decker’s garden would also be welcomed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

PCH Safety Group Brings Its Message to Malibu City Officials

• Requests to Bring Highway Patrol Back to Malibu Continue to Receive Support

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


A Safer PCH, the advocacy group that formed following the death of 13-year-old Emily Rose Shane in a traffic incident on April 3, has taken its message to both the Malibu City Council and the municipal safety commission.
“We’re going to continue meeting until we come up with solutions to make PCH safer,” ASPCH founding member Maria Flora Smoller told the safety commission.
“We are a small grassroots organization,” Julie Eamer, another of ASPCH’s founding members, told the city council Monday night. “But we have a lot of passion, a lot of anger. Maybe we can do something big.”
ASPCH’s suggestions for potential improvements on PCH include: reclaiming the right of way on PCH where landscaping and construction extends up to or over the fog line; lowering the speed limit on PCH during peak periods; increasing sheriff’s department presence; bringing the CHP back to Malibu; adding right turn lanes at hazardous intersections, including Morning View Drive, Trancas Canyon, and Westward Beach; adding left turn lanes at various intersections, including Guernsey, Latigo and Winding Way; installing additional paddles on PCH at restaurants, beaches and other illegal U-turn locations; placing bollards or k-rail to protect bus benches from traffic; and proposing traffic signals at Broad Beach Road and Latigo Canyon.
Responding to the call for action, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have already authorized additional hours in Malibu.
Caltrans has also responded. “I’ve cleared my calendar through Thanksgiving,” Caltrans traffic safety engineer Jim Riley told the safety commission, explaining that he plans to continue to attend all safety commission meetings, instead of the previous Caltrans arrangement of meeting with the commission quarterly. Riley also attended the May 10 meeting of ASPCH.
“Projects take years to complete but there are simple maintenance [projects] we can do on our own, like signage and striping,” Riley said, describing PCH in Malibu as “a unique corridor” that presents many challenges.
Riley suggested that the fog line on PCH could be widened from four inches to six inches to increase visibility. “Qwick Kurb [prefabricated center dividers that include plastic paddles] is in the construction phase in six different stretches [of PCH],” Riley said, adding that the Zuma area will have its new paddles in time for Memorial Day.
Riley reminded the commission and ASPCH that PCH also has “invisible” uses, including power and water lines, and that major changes require a complex approval process that can take years and involve many state agencies, including Fish and Game and the California Coastal Commission.
ASPCH member Jeremy Walker, who was one of several witnesses to call 911 on April 3 after observing the erratic driving of the suspect who struck Emily Shane, told the city council that he views public service announcements as a key tool in getting the message out that Malibuites will call 911 to report dangerous drivers.
“I see the looming Memorial Day weekend as a starting gun for more carnage,” Walker told the city council. “I hope the council views that date with the same urgency. We need to send a strong message in advance of Memorial Day that articulates just how much likelier it is now for dangerous drivers on PCH to get caught.”
Walker also called for the city’s current PR firm to develop PCH safety messages. “The PR firm is a powerful tool the city already has in its box,” Walker said. “It’s a tool that could, in coordination with the sheriff’s department, change drivers’ attitudes and save lives.”
Other speakers expressed the hope that the heightened awareness of PCH safety issues would extend to other Malibu roads that currently present safety issues. A large contingent of Malibu Park residents and equestrian park users spoke at the council meeting, asking the city to reclaim the right of way on Busch Drive. They presented a video of the street, showing that landscaping and structures extend up to or past the fog line in many places, potentially impeding pedestrians, bicyclists and equestrians.
The council suggested placing the right of way issue on a future agenda.
“It’s a long, arduous task getting people to remove things,” city manager Jim Thorsen cautioned.
Improved signage, increased sheriff’s presence and the call to return CHP to PCH appear to have garnered widespread support.
“We’ve finally got the attention of our state representatives,” mayor pro tem John Sibert said at the city council meeting. [Fran] Pavley called Caltrans. It’s important to keep pressure on. We’ll keep pushing.”
“Of course everyone is in favor of safety, even ‘heartless’ bureaucrats,” ASPCH member Don Schmitz said to the council. Schmitz said that the current effort has the potential to “manifest real, substantive change,” and make PCH “a safer place for use and recreation.”
The next ASPCH meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, May 17, at the Malibu West Beach Club, 30756 West Pacific Coast Highway.

City Council Maps Out a Lobbying Strategy to Get Its Way with CCC

• Some Municipal Observers Wonder Whether Announcing Strategy Will Rile Commissioners

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council, at its meeting this week, decided to take the advice of former council members and get into the game of lobbying the California Coastal Commission to get the panel to vote for what it wants.
The CCC turned down a development agreement calling for ball fields at the Winter Mesa site, known to old-timers as the Crummer property, when the city’s Local Coastal Program Amendment was modified by the commissioners disallowing active recreation on a 1.75 acre site for ball fields in exchange for allowing a five-home subdivision of 11,000-square-foot homes. Most of the LCPA was approved by the Coastal Commission, but not the ball fields sought by the city for vacant land near the Bluffs Park.
Former Councilmembers Jeff Jennings and Joan House, in a somewhat unusual move, had previously come to council chambers and urged members to hire a lobbyist and delegate the mayor and mayor pro tem to meet face to face with the panelists and urge the commissioners to give back what was “taken” from Malibu. The council unanimously agreed to do just that.
Their advice, according to the pair, was based on their successful lobbying of coastal panelists in the past for acquiring the ball fields at Bluffs Park.
At the same time, the council unanimously agreed to put off any decision about what to do about the modified LCPA that can be rejected or resubmitted.
The council agreed to delay a decision for four weeks, ostensibly until after lobbying efforts begin.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said it was unacceptable for the city to end up with a passive park and that it is important to negotiate with the commissioners.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said he thought there was a mistake made. “The train was rolling along and hit a bump and went off the track,” he said. “The ball fields are important for the city. It’s a great deal for the Coastal Commission. They get the $2 million mitigation fee. It is a great deal for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. They get seven deeded acres. It is a great deal for the [developer]. But it is not a great deal for the city,” he said.
Councilmember John Sibert said the city needed the council members talking to the coastal commissioners.
Council members were urged by developers, land use consultants, who deal with the commission everyday and the applicant that the situation was unusual and they believed under the circumstances the commissioners would be open to lobbying by the city in urging them to do a turnaround.
The pot for the city was sweetened by the applicant’s representative who said they wanted the city to resubmit the LCPA accepting all the CCCs modifications and seeking to remove the passive park and gate restrictions, the commission had also eliminated the security gates. Robert Gold, speaking on behalf of AZ Winter Mesa, LLC, the property owner seeking the permits and entitlements, said they would pay the city $1 million even if the commissioners would not change their minds.
“The passive park came out of left field,” Gold agreed.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said she thought the council was told the value of the land and improvements for the ball fields amounted to $3.5 million. “I would like to see if we can get more public benefits,” she said.
When it was time to call for a vote, the council agreed unanimously to spend $20,000 for a lobbyist and delegate Mayor Jefferson Wagner and Mayor Pro Tem John Sibert to lobby the Coastal Commission.

Conley Ulich Is Unable to Get New Colleagues to Back Her Theater Plans

• Number of Seats Is Reduced

BY BILL KOENEKER


Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich and other like-minded individuals calling for no physical changes to the performing arts center space at the new City Hall were overruled by the majority of the Malibu City Council this week when it came time to approve the final plans to reduce the size of the theater.
“You have got to reconsider tearing up the theater,” said Conley Ulich, who even urged that the council hold its meetings in the multi-purpose room rather than use the theater for council chambers.
“I am so disappointed we cannot save that theatre,” said Conley Ulich, who turned aside all arguments and responses by other council members and the architect about being able to make the theater into something better if it is smaller.
The city council had previously agreed to have an ad hoc committee comprised of Councilmember Laura Rosenthal and Mayor Jefferson Wagner take another look at what the previous council configuration had approved.
Rosenthal, who said the assignment gave her the opportunity to “get up to speed” on the issue, in dicated that if the theater was over 300 seats more, exits would need to be created. “The new code says if 300 seats, then it requires three exits,” she said. The architect concurred.
Rosenthal also said she did not believe, based on her own experience, that the theater was acoustically sound for the spoken word. “It really is good for music and concerts,” she said.
“What I came away with was a sadness that we could not keep all the seats, but we get a much better theater. If we do it this way, it is much better. We do need it for the city council,” she added.
Wagner said once he met with the architect and looked at the building again. “I looked at it in a different light,” he said.
Then it came to a showdown when Conley Ulich urged the council to consider a town hall meeting for more community input.
She could not get a second even to discuss the matter and the council went on to approve completion of the final plans. The council voted 4-1, with Conley Ulich dissenting,

Memorial Garden to Be Planted at the Location Where Young Malibu Resident Was Killed

• Volunteers Will Care for Site

BY ANNE SOBLE


This Saturday, May 15, friends and family of Emily Rose Shane are expected to hold a planting ceremony for a memorial garden at the site on Pacific Coast Highway across from Heathercliff Road where a driver struck and killed the 13-year-old Malibu High School student on April 3.
Motorists on Pacific Coast Highway are being put on alert that the number of people gathering at the roadside during the afternoon—expected to be sometime after 3 p.m.—might be sizable, and drivers should exercise caution when traveling past the location.
The planting ceremony is scheduled to follow a free four-hour retreat that is being held for MHS students at a private residence in Malibu where they can honor Emily Shane, share their thoughts about what happened, and continue the healing process in the aftermath of the tragedy that has galvanized many in the community to explore ways to make Pacific Coast Highway safer.
The dead girl’s father, Michel Shane, told the Malibu Surfside News this week, “I looked on Emily’s Facebook page, and the kids are saying that the eighth grade class has bonded [following the accident] and the change in attitude has been incredible, but they are hurting.”
Detailed information about the retreat has been distributed to students over the Malibu High School e-network and flyers have been distributed on the MHS campus.

Postponement of Hearing Dates in City Employee Hit-and-Run Case Continues

• Record Clerk Remains on the Job in Planning Department

BY BILL KOENEKER


The hearing date for a municipal employee who allegedly hit a bicyclist on Pacific Coast Highway, resulting in the man’s death, was once again continued, according to the District Attorney’s office.
Robert S. Sanchez, who is out on $100,000 bail, had a court date last week to set a preliminary hearing date, which was continued to May 26.
The accident took place last July when Sanchez reportedly hit two bicyclists who were riding in an organized cycling event on PCH. Rodrigo “Rod” Armas, 45, died from his injuries. His son, Christian, 14, was seriously injured.
Sanchez has pled not guilty to three counts, which include gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence and failure to stop after an accident involving an injury.
According to official law enforcement reports, Sanchez allegedly fled the scene of the accident and was subsequently found hiding in the vicinity, at which point he was picked up and taken into custody by Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies.
Sanchez is a record clerk in the planning department of the City of Malibu.
It is not the city’s policy to place employees on administrative leave when they are facing criminal charges.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu Should Join Hands Against New Offshore Oil Drilling •

BY ANNE SOBLE


Concerned residents of Florida could not have been more prescient when they formed “Hands Across the Sands” earlier this year to give voice to citizen opposition to any new oil drilling off that state’s coast. Californians should follow their lead, whether they seek to use the same name or come up with a new one, and make certain there is no doubt in the mind of any elected official in this state that the citizens do not want to see any new offshore oil drilling here.
The Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Surfrider Foundation, and other like-minded organizations are part of the “Hands” effort, and would readily join ranks with anti-drilling groups in California. Similarly, local governments, including the City of Malibu, should be prodded by their constituents not to remain silent on this issue. They should decry the impact of the Deepwater Horizon debacle on the Gulf Coast and close ranks to prevent it here.
The oil rig collapse and ongoing flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico is a serious threat to the entire Gulf environment and economy. A disaster of this magnitude shouldn’t have had to happen to open political minds to the risks that oil drilling presents to all coastal communities and fragile environments. But little else can counter that oil company lobbyists keep election campaign coffers bulging. And they spend millions of dollars on slick television and print advertising that creates a false sense of drilling safety and environment impact.
Deepwater is the second major incident of its kind within a year. Off the coast of Australia’s Timor Sea, a similar explosion and fire occurred, and it took 50 days just to stop the oil flow. Now contaminated is one of world’s richest marine wildernesses. Dolphins, sea birds, turtles and other wildlife bore the brunt of this August 2009 disaster. As with Exxon Valdez, the adverse impact is far from over.
If it was not for members of the California State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission, this coast would most likely have already seen the approval of the first new oil drilling in four decades. The governor, who at first could see no farther than the financial benefits of drilling, now knows what the hidden costs really are. It took the devastation of up to a fourth of the nation’s coastline for a learning experience that others repeatedly warned could happen.
Instead of remaining locked in the nation’s outdated fossil fuels mentality, policymakers need to push for clean and renewable energy while pictures of dead marine life and oil impacted beaches assault the senses. One way to ensure that the pressure will remain after the media spotlight has moved onto the next crisis is for Californians to join hands under a banner proclaiming that they won’t be “gulfed,” and any elected officials who think otherwise should be voted out.

Federal Probe Sought in Case of Woman Missing for Eight Months

• Concern Shifts to Whether Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Violated Mitrice Richardson’s Civil Rights •

BY ANNE SOBLE


Congressmember Maxine Waters continues her steadfast efforts to assist the family of Mitrice Richardson, who vanished eight months ago, following an incident in a Malibu restaurant that led to her being transported to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station for booking.
Rep. Waters is awaiting a response to a letter she wrote last week to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, requesting a federal investigation of the puzzling case.
Waters is adamant that she is deeply concerned that Richardson’s civil rights have been violated. She directed key staffers to meet with the woman’s mother, Latice Sutton, and her family support group members, including Dr. Ronda Hampton, a psychologist with whom Richardson, a Cal State Fullerton honors graduate in psychology, interned, after Waters received numerous telephone calls, emails and faxes asking her to assist their efforts to find the missing woman.
In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who heads the civil rights section, that was copied to Attorney General Eric Holder, Waters writes, “I am deeply concerned about the circumstances surrounding the detention and release of Mitrice Richardson…who disappeared on Sept. 17, 2009.”
The representative challenges the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s assertion that deputies didn’t know Richardson was mentally ill.
Waters says that restaurant personnel told deputies about the woman’s bizarre behavior, and there reportedly are witnesses who attest to at least one deputy acknowledging that she was “acting crazy.”
Rep. Waters continues, “People with disabilities, including mental disabilities, are a protected class in this country. It appears the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department failed to follow its own policies, which state that individuals with mental disabilities are to be released into the care of family, friends, or medical professionals.”
The Congressmember concludes “I believe that the Justice Department is the best-equipped agency to handle this investigation.”
Spokespersons for the LASD maintain that Richardson was handled properly, according to all the department rules, and that she was coherent and rational while in LASD custody.
Reiterating her concerns, Waters said, “I believe that Mitrice’s civil rights were violated when she was arrested and then let go in the middle of the night without money, a phone, or transportation. The roads of Malibu are dark and dangerous at night, and since the Los Angeles Police Department later concluded that Mitrice appeared to be suffering from bipolar disorder that evening, I believe that the circumstances surrounding her disappearance warrant a thorough federal investigation.”
Waters is giving the case this attention even though Richardson is not a resident of her Congressional district.
RECAP
On Sept. 16, 2009, Geoffrey’s restaurant personnel placed a 24-year-old African-American woman, Mitrice Richardson, under private person arrest for nonpayment of an $89.51 dinner tab. A staffer telephoned Lost Hills Station directly, saying “to come pick her up.” The female caller described the woman’s behavior as “crazy.” Witnesses said Richardson told them she was from Mars and began speaking gibberish.
Several deputies took Richardson into custody and drove her to Lost Hills for booking on misdemeanor charges, which could have been handled with field citations that would have allowed her to return to her car and drive away.
A booking cage video, the existence of which was first denied by Lost Hills officials, reportedly indicates physical and mental stress. Richardson appears to be trying to curl up into a fetal position. Family members say her booking photo differs dramatically from her usual appearance. Her eyes appear vacant.
None of the LASD personnel involved in the booking process is willing (or being allowed) to speak to the media.
Richardson was released from the station shortly after midnight on Sept. 17 on foot into the dark and remote industrial area with no money or cell phone.
Her purse had been left in her car that the restaurant reportedly called the Malibu tow yard to remove from the parking lot, including documentation that the woman had several thousand dollars in the bank.
No immediate search was undertaken the first few days that Richardson was reported missing by her mother, but there have been several official agency search efforts in the weeks and months that followed, including aero-drone reconnaissance and mountain search and rescue team field checks that covered areas around the Lost Hills Station. These have not produced a single clue to her whereabouts.
Richardson’s mother, who agrees with subsequent medical assessment that her daughter was experiencing bipolar disorder onset, and her circle of relatives and friends have repeatedly expressed frustration with what they view as foot-dragging by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the City of Los Angeles Police Department—the agency formally in charge of what is still classified as a missing person case.
BACKGROUND
Ronda Hampton and Charles Croft, another support team member, have been working with Congressmember Waters’ staffers from her Washington D.C. and Los Angeles offices for several months.
Several weekends ago, one of her reps, who flew in from Washington, and another rep from her L.A. office met with Hampton and Croft in Malibu to trace Richardson’s steps.
The four also went on an extensive tour of Monte Nido where Richardson is believed to have been sighted at around dawn on the morning that she went missing and several other areas where suspicious activity has been reported.
They then drove to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station and talked with a deputy at the front desk. Finally, the four made contact with people who had been at the restaurant on Sept. 16 who “confirmed that Mitrice was not in her right mind and one deputy [who was at the restaurant] agreed.”
After several hours of reconstructing what is known to have transpired, Hampton said Waters’ staffers were reportedly convinced that the FBI needed to become part of the investigation and that Richardson’s civil rights had been violated.
The FBI had declined earlier involvement in the case because Richardson is an adult and there is no indication of foul play, but civil rights violation allegations might be viewed differently.
Hampton told the Malibu Surfside News “that Maxine Waters’ office has stated that they have been following the case, particularly through [MSN articles], and they were waiting for something to break that would allow them some intervention. They stated that there had been nothing they could really do to push for a missing person investigation, but after [the MSN] article about the viewing of the [previously denied] video, they felt that this was an opportunity to investigate a civil rights violation.”
PARENTAL DISCORD
The close cooperation between Waters staff and the mother’s support group has reportedly angered Mitrice Richardson’s father, Michael Richardson, who interrupted Rep. Waters at a political press conference on Monday, demanding recognition that it was he who was bringing about potential DOJ involvement, not the Congressmember.
The father originally took his daughter’s missing person case to a number of media outlets, but many of these outlets are now downplaying his involvement, according to Latice Sutton, who says that they question his behavior and statements.
Mitrice Richardson’s parents never married and went their separate ways when she was very young. Sutton said that since her daughter was six, her husband Larry Sutton was Mitrice’s “de facto” father. She indicated that Michael Richardson was “out of his daughter’s life for about 10 years” and only recently began establishing contact.
Latice Sutton said that public officials tell her they do not want to work with the father, which prompted her to write Congressmember Laura Richardson (no relation), whose political aid Sutton is also trying to enlist, “I do not support Michael Richardson’s antics, views, methods, intimidation, or narcissism, and do not work with him in any way.” Laura Richardson represents the Congressional district where Mitrice Richardson was living before she disappeared.
Sutton said Michael Richardson’s “ambush” of Waters at the press conference has forced her to make her strongest statement so far about him. She told the Malibu Surfside News, “I know that when we bring Mitrice home, and she is well, she will disown his actions. Michael Richardson deserves no credit for aiding in this investigation, but he will get the credit if he destroys the federal investigation.”
NEXT SEARCH EFFORT
The mother and her family and friends are planning a large two-day search the weekend of June 5 and 6 in the greater Malibu area. Maurice Dubois, the father of murdered teenager Amber Dubois who has become a vocal missing persons advocate, will help to coordinate an effort that will involve hikers, horseback riders and trail bikers, as well as general flyer distribution throughout the region.
INFORMATION
Anyone who was in Geoffrey’s restaurant or parking lot the evening of Sept. 16 and recalls anything, no matter how seemingly insignificant, that might be related to this case is asked to email The News at editor@malibu surfsidenews.com
Additional information about the case is available on the mother’s website at www.findmitrice.info; or by contacting Dr. Ronda Hampton at 951-660-8031.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Malibu Budget for FY 2010-11 Is City Council’s First Order of Business

• Sheriff Is Almost 29 Percent of Municipal Costs

BY BILL KOENEKER


The newly reconfigured Malibu City Council had little time to settle in on the dais last week before they were confronted with the preoccupation of most lawmakers today, the budget.
They are apparently luckier than many of their colleagues in other municipalities because they were presented with a proposed balanced budget.
Assistant City Manager and Administrative Services Director Reva Feldman laid out the proposed general fund budget for 2010-2011, saying the budgetary goals are expected to be $20.6 million in revenues and $20.6 million in expenses.
The city’s estimated undesignated general fund reserve at June 30, 2011, is $9.4 million. That includes $510,539 from the Trancas Canyon Park Reserve, which is being transferred back into the undesignated general fund and $140,000, which is being transferred from the Prop A special revenue fund as the exchange of funds with another city, according to Feldman, who said the total projected general fund balance at the end of the fiscal year would be $10.3 million.
Council members were told the good news is that property tax revenue is expected to increase by $100,000 from last year. The bad news is that other sources of revenue, such as the utility users tax and sales taxes, are expected to decrease $100,000 from FY 2009-2010.
“The transient occupancy tax is budgeted to increase $50,000. Minor increases in many other general fund revenue sources will help offset the decline of these tax revenue sources,” she said.
Feldman noted that while there have been many slight declines, the city’s revenue is about on par with last year.
The capital improvements budget totals $13.4 million for the next fiscal year, according to Feldman, who said some of the highest costing projects include the library improvements at over $5 million and city hall improvements at $4.7 million. Legacy Park improvement costs total over $2.3 million.
Feldman explained that some of the capital projects are grant funded and the revenues have been budgeted from those grant funds. For example, $5.8 million will be transferred to the capital improvements fund to reimburse expenditures for the library. That $5 million in funds come from Los Angeles County.
An additional $116,706 is needed—a two percent increase—to cover the law enforcement contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The total operating budget for law enforcement is $5.9 million.
Another expenditure increase noted by Feldman in her staff report is street maintenance on city roads, which includes $526,877 that is being funded by reserves from prior years.
The Consumer Price Index increased. It was 1.4 percent and is reflected in increased cost of living adjustments for city employees, according to Feldman.
Retiree benefits also played a role in increases. The same as last year, the budget includes $264,756. There is also another $275,000 annual ongoing expense for the state-mandated retiree other benefits program, such as health coverage and insurance.

Ex-Council Members Offer Advice on How to Succeed with Coastal Commission

• Suggest that a Paid Lobbyist Might Win Over Commissioners on Issue of Public versus Private Recreation

BY BILL KOENEKER


Two former city council members came to the first meeting of the newly installed Malibu City Council—last week’s quarterly session— with some advice about how to influence the members of the California Coastal Commission.
Jeff Jennings and Joan House came to the meeting to advocate that the council should put on a “full court press,” trying to change the coastal panel’s decision against allowing community ball fields on the donated land for the Crummer fields development agreement.
Jennings and House maintained that the council could hire a lobbyist to get them in the door and then have some of the council members go talk to the commissioners on a one-on-one basis.
“Spend the money on a lobbyist, go face to face with the commissioners. That is what we did,” said Jennings.
The city council indicated that it might just do that. Next week, it is scheduled to consider hiring a consultant at a cost of $20,000 to communicate directly with the commission to request the fields on the Winter Mesa site be designated for active recreation and also to decide whether to select two council members to form a Winter Mesa Ad Hoc Committee.
Jennings told council members that having the municipal staff talk to members of the coastal staff is not the same as city lawmakers meeting personally with coastal panelists.
Jennings said the commission staff successfully presents its viewpoint to the commission, but often that’s the only perspective that the commissioners hear.
Jennings said the direct approach of lobbying the commission proved very effective in acquiring Bluffs Park for ball fields.
House said she echoed Jenning’s take on the matter and added that it can be surprising how uninformed some commissioners might be on a certain topic or point of contention.
“They do have an attitude about Malibu, but we sat down with them,” House said.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said she had little success attempting to lobby the commission by herself during the city’s fight with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy over Coastal Commission approval of overnight camping.
“I tried to meet with the commissioners, but nobody would meet with me, including [Malibu resident] Sara Wan,” said Conley Ulich.
She said the head of the SMMC, Joe Edmiston, has little trouble lobbying the commissioners, including providing a ride in a helicopter, so commission members could get an overview before voting on proposals.

City Officials Think Zoning May Be on Their Side in Ball Fields Dispute with State Coastal Panel

• Planner Says Property Is Not Commercial Visitor-Serving

BY BILL KOENEKER


A detailed planning staff report prepared for the Malibu City Council when it considers next week how to tackle the California Coastal Commission turning down a development agreement calling for ball fields at the Winter Mesa site known locally as the Crummer property, may hold the key to how city officials can turn around the commission decision.
The city’s Local Coastal Program Amendment was turned down under the modifications made by the Coastal Commission to the city’s request to allow a 1.75 acre site for ball fields adjacent to Bluffs Park in exchange for building a five-home subdivision.
The commission scuttled the ball fields saying active recreation was not appropriate for the donated land when commercial visitor-serving property was to be rezoned, taking away a top priority zoning designation.
However, information in a city staff report asserts the commission erred because they did not zone it CV-2, but rather Planned Development, another kind of zoning designation.
The report prepared for the city council by Principal Planner Stefanie Edmondson demonstrates how the commission itself may have deviated from its own zoning designations when the property was zoned and then rezoned by the coastal agency.
Edmondson points out the clock must be turned back to 2002 when the Coastal Commission was preparing the city’s Local Coastal Program, another story all of its own.
At that time the city and the state Department of Parks and Recreation were engaged in a discussion in which the state was proposing to fund the transfer of the existing ball fields onto the adjacent, privately owned Crummer property.
“The goal of the discussion,” she writes, “was to preserve the playing fields while keeping the park’s regional uses. In the end, the goals were accomplished in an agreement different than the one contemplated at the time the LCP was being drafted; instead of moving the fields, the city bought the portion of Bluffs Park that included the playing fields and the Michael Landon Center and the remainder of the property was transferred to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, with the parking shared between the two.”
Consequently, it is argued that the Crummer property was unaffected by the transaction.
“The commission, of course, did not have any way of knowing in September 2002 what the outcome of that negotiation would be and the commission adopted a policy that reflected the knowledge of the ongoing negotiations.” added Edmondson.
She noted what the commission came up with in its Land Use Policy crafted at that time for the Crummer property.
It states, “If an agreement is reached by the State Department of Parks and Recreation to relocate the existing athletic fields at Malibu Bluffs State Park out of the prime view shed of the park onto the 24.9 acre Crummer Family Trust parcel which is adjacent to the state park on the east and south of Pacific Coast Highway up to eight residential units shall be permitted on the remainder of the Crummer Trust site. Said agreement shall cause the redesignation of the subject site to Residential in the LCP. Said agreement shall not exempt the residential development from compliance with all other provisions of the LCP, if no agreement is reached to relocate the existing athletic fields the permitted use on the Crummer Trust parcel shall remain CV-2 Commercial visitor serving.”
However, Edmonson has several comments to make about that statement.
“The policy incorrectly presumes that the Crummer Trust site is designated CV-2. When the commission adopted the Local Implementation Program, the commission designated the property planned development on all the LIP Land Use and Zoning Maps, as well as in the actual definition of Planned Development…
“A PD is the most appropriate zone for this parcel because it is immediately surrounded by residential and recreational uses and the PD designation,” the planner concludes.
So it appears, the commission’s reasons for keeping the donated parcel active rather than passive because of the priority of rezoning CV-2 is based on the erroneous assumptions about the zoning of the Crummer property.
“In addition, the policy is outdated in its reference to the state’s ownership of Bluffs Park. The city purchased the ten acres from the SMMC and now owns the Michael Landon Center, the parking lots the maintenance facility, the roads, the walkways, the picnic area/whale watching platform and the ball fields,” she notes.
The remainder of the 83 acres outside the city park was retained by the SMMC. “Since it is not the city’s intent to relocate the existing athletic fields from Bluffs Park, the LUP Policy 2.79 is now obsolete,” Edmonson states. The city’s amendment was intended to correct the inconsistency created between the policy and the zoning designation.

Publisher’s Notebook

Malibuites Urged to Join Effort to Prohibit New Offshore Drilling

BY ANNE SOBLE


An oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara jump-started the environmental movement as we know it over 41 years ago, resulting, among other things, in the offshore oil drilling moratorium in California that is now under siege. It has taken the Gulf Coast Deepwater Horizon tragedy to bring people back to their senses and the realization that oil drilling will never be as safe as its so-called experts say it is. There will always be another part that “wasn’t supposed to fail,” leading to another event that “wasn’t supposed to occur.” Somehow, the “impossibles” become possible, claiming lives and befouling the ocean and the coastline. This arrogance helps to explain why even Brazil and Norway have more drilling safeguards than we do.
When Malibuites first joined the chorus against Tranquillon Ridge, the PXP proposal for off the coast of Santa Barbara, the oil experts assured everyone that the benefits of allowing the first new leases for oil drilling from platforms since the moratorium was enacted 40 years ago outweighed the risks. Concerns about well disasters were dismissed as elitist view protection. When PXP was nixed by State Lands, the governor picked up the drumbeat. But as fears grow that the Gulf crisis could dwarf even the Exxon Valdez spill from which the environment still has not recovered, Governor Schwarzenegger has announced that he now opposes the project.
Ironically, proponents of the PXP plan say Deepwater Horizon is another reason why the new drilling is needed. It would appear that the financial benefits that could accrue to these proponents cancel out the loss of lives, natural resources, income and quality of life that accompanies these disasters. They and many of the other drilling advocates will likely maintain a low profile for a while in the hope that the short public attention span will move onto the next “crisis” and the industry can get back to business as usual. Swift political action is mandatory. Permanent protections against new offshore drilling must take shape quickly. Californians must urge the President and Congress to end the possibility of new offshore contracts now.
The Gulf Coast oil spill threatens 40 percent of the country’s wetlands and could cost fishing and recreation industries billions of dollars. What further proof is needed that expert assurances of safety are only good until the next disaster? The impact of this latest well failure on marine life may not be fully understood for years. One species—the endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle—could be decimated during its peak migration to nesting beaches. Scientists and conservationists have spent decades trying to bring about this small turtle’s recovery. No one knows whether the Kemp and four other species of endangered and threatened sea turtles will survive the current crisis.
It’s likely that this doesn’t mean much to BP, Transocean or Halliburton, all of whom are probably more concerned with trying to figure out how to get the American taxpayer to pick up the tab for the Gulf mess. Besides, isn’t it all too evident how indifferent oil companies are to turtles, whales and dolphins; fishers and beachgoers; and anything else that gets in the way of the bottom line?

Longtime Local Prepares to Assist ‘Oiled’ Birds in the Gulf

• Oil Company Imposes Bureaucratic Restrictions on Those Hoping to Save Lives

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Duane Titus, who grew up on the beach in Malibu and rescued his first pelican entangled in fishing line at the age of 13, is currently on a mission of mercy building enclosures for oiled pelicans—casualties of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Titus recently traveled to the Gulf to work alongside colleagues from International Bird Rescue and Tri-State Bird Rescue setting up a triage and care facility in Theodore, Alabama.
He is now in Pensacola, Florida helping to establish an additional rescue facility, as it appears the oil slick will impact this state as well..
“As of this morning there has been only one oiled bird, a northern gannet that was picked up from a cleanup boat days ago. It paddled up to the men, looking for a means to haul out of the water, or else it would drown. The bird has been washed and appears to be recuperating.
When it has recovered, the gannet will be flown north to be released in clean seas,” Titus reports.
“Additionally, just this morning, 19 sea turtles were found dead near Gulfport” in Louisiana, expected tpo bear the brunt of the environmental disaster.
Rescue organizations are bracing for an onslaught of oiled animals as the massive oil slick reaches the coast.
Titus’s wife Rebecca Dmytryk says she expects to join Duane and fellow teammates in the coming days. Dmytryk, also a former Malibu resident, founded the California Wildlife Center, and continues to be active in the area as a wildlife rescuer and advocate, even though she has relocated to the Central Coast. The couple runs Wild Rescues, reportedly the only Wildlife Paramedic Search and Rescue Team in the United States.
“The rescue effort [in the Gulf] is a joint response by multiple organizations who are sending their people, waiting for what they fear may be an environmental disaster like never before,” Dmytryk told the Malibu Surfside News. “Duane’s expertise as carpenter, electrician, and wildlife capture expert made him one of the first to be deployed.”
As the magnitude of the spill continues to increase, Dymytryk says rescuers are worried about “what happens if thousands and thousands of birds are collected, treated, and washed and have nowhere safe to go.”
“Where will they go? Where can they be set free, if the oil keeps spewing from the sea floor? One day, some intelligent being, human or otherwise, will undoubtedly look back at our actions and ask, “What were you people thinking?”
Readers can follow the rescue effort at http://wildrescues.blogspot.com

Malibuites Join the Ranks Preparing to Take on the Commercial Whale Hunters

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


For many Malibu residents, the sight of California gray whales passing near the coast on their annual migration is one of the greatest thrills of living near the beach, but California’s whales are again under the threat of commercial hunting and Malibu residents are rallying to join a global effort to protest the move.
On April 15, the Obama Administration sent shock waves through the environmental community by announcing that the U.S. would be leading an effort to broker an agreement permitting commercial hunting of whales for the first time since a moratorium was enacted in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission.
The proposal would legalize commercial whaling for the next 10 years, and leaves enforcement of quotas to the same nations that have been in violation of the current moratorium—Japan, Iceland and Norway, a press release from a coalition of more than 40 environmental advocacy groups states.
The proposal, which would allow the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, includes opening the California gray whale population to hunting.
The announcement has generated concern from numerous marine biologists, who have raised concerns that gray whale calf counts have been down for the past four years and that populations of the giant mammal are still perilously close to extinction.
The Natural Resources Defense Council has recruited Malibuite and marine environmentalist Pierce Brosnan as a high-profile advocate for continuing the moratorium.
“Don’t believe for a minute that this kind of deal would phase down whaling,” Brosnan wrote in an open letter. “Instead, it would breathe new life into a dying industry. Worst of all, the deal gives moral cover to the absurd notion that we can save whales by killing them—instead of by banning their slaughter.
“There is no moral justification for killing whales. There is no scientific justification for killing whales. And if the Obama Administration persists in supporting a deal that encourages the killing of whales, it will tarnish not only the White House but our entire nation,” Brosnan said.
On May 23, a coalition of dozens of volunteer organizations and environmental advocacy groups will be holding simultaneous demonstrations in all of California’s 16 coastal counties to protest the IWC proposal to remove the current moratorium on commercial whaling and allow the resumption of whaling.
Malibu residents are invited to participate in the Los Angeles County protest, planned for 10 a.m. in Palisades Park at the Santa Monica Pier.
“We will be gathering signatures on a petition to the President asking him to keep his promise to oppose whaling and direct the U.S. delegation to the IWC to support the continuation of the moratorium,” Malibu resident and California Coastal Commissioner Sara Wan told the Malibu Surfside News.
The California protests will also include a symbolic gesture of unity, as participants in the protests in all of California’s coastal counties will join hands at a synchronized time in a coast-wide show of support for whale protection.
Wan’s husband Larry Wan’s conservancy group is helping to organize the Santa Monica protest.
“I had to do something,” Wan told The News. “I couldn’t watch this happen again.”
More information about the protest and the overall effort is available at www.wanconservancy. org/whales