Malibu Surfside News

Malibu Surfside News - MALIBU'S COMMUNITY FORUM INTERNET EDITION - Malibu local news and Malibu Feature Stories

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Public Safety Issues Continue to Take Center Stage in Municipal Rhetoric

• Council Is Told Money Will Help Solve Major Concerns


BY BILL KOENEKER


Some Malibu City Council members balked this week when asked to approve a memo of understanding between the City of Malibu and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department regarding traffic control services.
Councilmember Lou La Monte led the charge. “We pay them $6.3 million and they can’t find the time or personnel. I can’t understand that,” he said, about the city having to pay overtime costs for deputies to direct traffic.
City Manager Jim Thorsen explained the practice allows overtime deputies to be hired for traffic control in the event of a signal malfunction. Deploying deputies to direct traffic through the impacted area removes those deputies from normal patrol, he said, so the use of overtime deputies.
“I expect that it happens a couple times a year,” Thorsen said, resulting in about $1000 to $2000 in costs.
The MOU would spell out these services on an as-needed basis. The overtime personnel would respond to the affected intersection and assume traffic control duties, but would not be subject to call except in the event of a “significant emergency.”
The cost would be based on the prevailing hourly rate of the current law enforcement contract and the city would be billed on a monthly basis.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said this was the kind of thing the city’s Public Safety Commission should review.
The council gave the green light for the city manager to execute the MOU with the condition that the matter be reviewed by the commission.
On another public safety matter, the council approved going forward with the recommendations of the city’s Public Safety Commission on traffic improvements for Civic Center Way, but stopped short of providing any kind of funding.
“We will seek funding when it becomes available for use from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority,” said Thorsen.
The recommendations were previously identified by the Civic Center Way Task Force and approved by the council in 2004.
While some of those recommendations were implemented by the city, the Public Safety Commission reviewed the remaining recommendations in May and reprioritized them for council consideration.
The council approved those recommendations and added another requiring a pedestrian pathway that connects the Malibu Pier to the Civic Center, which would continue from the Civic Center up to the Bluffs Park.
In another matter, the city council, responding to a challenge of whether it had the political will, gave the go-ahead for ridding the encroachments along public portions of Busch Drive.
For years, Malibu Park residents Marshall Thompson and Susan Tellem have cautioned about the hazards and attempted to get the city to move forward.
“It is impossible to walk or ride a horse or a bike and not step into the roadway,” said Tellem, who is a member of the city’s public safety commission.
City officials contend the right-of-way is 60 feet, but the roadway easement next to the pavement is littered with vegetation, trees, irrigation systems, mailboxes, driveways and retaining walls.
“It is a severe problem. But we can’t just go have people go in there and chop down trees,” said Councilmember Lou La Monte.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal talked about how Busch is the ingress and egress for most of Malibu Park. “There are a lot of people who walk on that street,” she said, explaining she has stopped walking on the road because of the dangers.
Rosenthal said Busch would be a good test.
Other council members agreed on both points and said they wanted first for folks to be informed about the encroachments by letter and then a face-to-face meeting with homeowners and staff about how clearing encroachments could be accomplished.
At first, council members could not decide how they wanted to proceed. After some initial suggestions, City Attorney Christi Hogin stepped in. “It is a matter of political will. It is a matter of prosecution. We want to know which way you want to go. We need your backing,” said the city attorney, seeking a clear-cut answer from the council for staff direction.
In other action, the council decided to cut in half the time for a contract with a public relations firm from one year to six months.
Fionna Hutton and Associates has been working with the city and the staff wanted to extend the contract for another year.
However, Tellem, who heads up her own public relations firm, questioned why the contract had not gone out to bid and told council members the city might be better served by a local PR firm. She said there are about 10 agencies in Malibu. She also questioned the amount of the retainer at $8000 per month, saying that was too high for this economy.
The council debated for some time about what it wanted to do. Both Rosenthal and La Monte, who head up a communicators subcommittee said a year was too long since they would have made their recommendations by then.
Sibert said it was not the time to “changes horses,” given how Hutton had worked closely with the city on regional water board issues and a big meeting was coming up in September.
Conley Ulich questioned how much was being spent per month on the contract.
The council agreed to shorten the contract to six months and then have it go out to bid or revisit the Hutton contract.
When it came time to appoint youngsters to the Harry Barovsky Youth Commission, members said they just could not leave anybody out and decided to change the rules of membership so that all 18 youths who applied would be able to serve on the panel.

Council Listens to Bid for City to Make Gift of Public Funds for a Private Road

• City Attorney Cites Legal Constraints


BY BILL KOENEKER


Las Flores Canyon residents, who recently got a permit to build an emergency access road to reopen Rambla Pacifico, came “hat in hand,” as one resident put it, to ask the Malibu City Council Monday night for funding for the nearly $3.5 million private project.
Homeowners argued that the law and court cases were on the city’s side on a government entity funding a private project to help them gain an access for emergency vehicles and an exit for residents during a disaster.
However, upon the advice of the city attorney, council members, who expressed an interest in helping, declined to do so for legal reasons.
City Attorney Christi Hogin, who reminded the audience she has been involved for years in seeking a solution, said the city is stuck in a conundrum.
“I have been involved in the issue since 1990. This is a house of cards,” she said. “The city cannot put money in a gated road. That is a private road versus a public road. The biggest problem is the road standards. The problem is, it is an active landslide. We have to put up gates to limit access to make the road possible,” she said.
There were 46 residents who wanted to speak, some gave their time to others. They urged the council to come up with some kind of funding, though they knew, they said, the city was already into deficit spending. There seemed to be a consensus that at the least the city could spend $200,000 to help homeowners pay for nearly $1 million in permit fees and geological studies that amounted to a nine-foot high stack of reports.
The main problem that looms over all of the discussion are laws that prohibit governments from giving gifts to private entities.
One resident said there is plenty of case law on the city’s side that allows a city to give money if there is an “incidental benefit” to other residents.
However, Hogin rejected that claim and said the resident had not done his homework and there were other court decisions that would not allow the city to do what residents wants it to undertake.
Hogin explained that while everybody in council chambers favors city action, the matter is complicated because there are other homeowners that do not like the road and have already successfully litigated certain actions of the city.
Hogin reminded everybody the city had lost in a lawsuit when it tried to issue an emergency permit and the court found in favor of the litigant.
Without saying so, Hogin brushed aside the arguments about moral imperative. “We are a land of laws, not passion only. We have faced a lawsuit by neighbors who don’t like the road,” the city attorney said.
One council member completely agreed with Hogin.
“If we gave you the $200,000 now, it would not stand up in court like the emergency permit. We have to come up with something else” agreed Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who is an attorney.
Council members were told each household would have to pony up $50,000, which would be a hardship for many families. Area resident Graeme Clifford reminded the council every previous council had promised help and supported the homeowners. “This is not a private road through a gated community,” he noted. He said many need financial help. “This is a public safety issue,” he added.
Former Councilmember Ken Kearsley insisted the matter is a moral issue. He cited a list of former council members who had promised the residents help. He also insisted he knew the current council would help.
Kearsley said the city built up the reserve fund just for such an emergency. “The benefit far outweighs the legal issue,” he added.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said he understood the issues. “We just have to find a way to help you,” he added.
Councilmember John Sibert, said he has friends that live up in the canyon, including the late David Kagon. He noted that he had reviewed the issue as a planning commissioner six years ago. “We have to find a way to help you guys. We are looking for the right way,” he added.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal asked many speakers questions, wanting to know how many belong to the road association, how many other households are involved and expressed shock at how long it has taken to come up with a final solution. “Any land you could sell to the city to get through the legal issue?” she asked.
Council members talked about how they could “buy” something from the homeowners. “We will work out a solution,” said City Manager Jim Thorsen.

Contentious Marijuana Pharmacy Issue Goes before the City Council

• Fate of One Local Outlet Depends on Members’ Action



BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council is scheduled to consider an amendment to the city’s code to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to reduce the distance restrictions from a 1000-foot radius to a 500-foot radius from parks and playgrounds under certain circumstances on July 26.
Green Angel Collective, which indicated on a sign on the door it was closing its doors this week, is described by planners as seeking the council to weigh in on the matter.
A public notice was issued for this week for the scheduled meeting.
A person who answered the phone at Green Angel Collective on Monday and again on Tuesday, said the cannabis outlet was closing on Tuesday, but would provide no further information. Linda Parsley, who is one of the owners, was not available for comment.
The planning commission last week voted to recommend that the city council deny any rule that would reduce the distance between pot pharmacies and schools, parks, places of worship or other “sensitive areas.”
Panelists had originally recommended a 500-foot rule when the ordinance establishing marijuana dispensaries was recommended for approval.
The municipality’s current law states that any dispensary should not be located within a 1000-foot radius of a church, temple, or other places used primarily for religious worship or a playground, park, library, licensed child day care facility, nursery school or school.
It was the city council that changed the rule of 500 feet recommended by the commission to the current 1000-foot radius.
Green Angel, a medical marijuana dispensary, is located within a 1000-foot radius of Las Flores Canyon Park, according to city planners.
The collective has come before the planning commission and city council on several occasions trying to get the proper permits since the council enacted an ordinance regulating pot pharmacies.
The staff indicated that there are several locations within the city that appear to comply with the current provisions of the ordinance, but did not know whether the property owners of those locations would be willing to lease their property for a pot pharmacy.
It was not clear at press time whether Green Angel would attempt to relocate or had successfully done so.

Kiwanis Seek City’s OK to Hold Chili Cookoff at Land below Malibu Knolls

• Effort Gets Closer Scrutiny with More Local Impact


BY BILL KOENEKER


No matter that the Chili Cook-off site is now home to Legacy Park, the Malibu Kiwanis Club wants to hold the 29th Annual Chili Cookoff and Carnival from Sept. 3 through 6 at a new location.
The service club has plans that will be reviewed by the Malibu Planning Commission at its meeting on Tuesday, July 6.
The club wants to use the Malibu Bay Company–owned Ioki site, located at the northeast corner of Stuart Ranch Road and Civic Center Way. Parking would be located on the La Paz site.
The event, as almost everyone knows, is comprised of a carnival that includes amusement rides, a chili cookoff competition, and various booths that will be occupied by merchandise and food vendors and public service groups. The event draws an estimated 3000 to 5000 guests from the surrounding communities.
The proceeds from the event reportedly go to its costs, management fees, the club, and a percentage of the profits are contributed to a list of organizations and institutions.
A municipal planner indicates that the proximity of the site to the Malibu Knolls neighborhood may be problematic for those residents.
“Due to concerns raised relating to the new event location and proximity to the Malibu Knolls neighborhood by residents, the planning manager has determined that this proposal should be heard by the planning commission at a regularly scheduled public hearing to allow the surrounding neighbors to comment on the proposed event,” the staff report states.
A discussion of the event’s public versus private benefit is also expected to take place.
Amplified music with outdoor and live bands is planned. Amplified sound, according to the staff planner, will only be permitted from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

SWB Changes Deadline

• Comments Are Now Due by July 12


The State Water Resources Control Board has issued a revised notice of opportunity for public comments on the proposed Civic Center septic ban.
Comment letters to the state board must be received no later than noon on July 12.
The controversial ban, which impacts the Civic Center and surrounding areas, including the Malibu Knolls and Serra Retreat, was adopted by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board in November and must be approved by the state board before it is enacted.
The state board’s staff has recommended approval of the ban. A water board spokesperson said a public hearing is tentatively set for the first meeting of the board in September or no later than the last meeting of that month.
The state agency has indicated a separate notice will be sent for a scheduled time and place for the SWRCB hearing.
Comments should be sent to Jeanine Townsend, Clerk of the Board by email at commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov, by fax to 916-341-5620 or by mail to State Water Resources Control Board, 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814-2828.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu’s ‘Sound’ of Wildlife in Crisis •


BY ANNE SOBLE



I never thought I could find anything to say about the Deepwater Horizon disaster that wasn’t tinged with utter despair. The despair may be just as powerful, but one has to acknowledge that the horrific magnitude of the catastrophe is such there is no way it could have been swept under the rug the way most large-scale corporate failings tend to be. The usually compliant mainstream media has no choice but to keep the spotlight on a technological and, yes, moral failure of this magnitude.
Not so with the deaths occurring daily in the mountains in which Malibu is so luxuriously ensconced. There are no klieg lights, no screaming film footage, but animals from the smallest field mouse to the majestic cougar that call this area home are being lost to a silent disaster—the use of rodenticides. Whether they have paws, claws or wings, every living thing in the natural food chain is imperiled in the name of green lawns, non-native exotic plants or the notion that humans have the right to exterminate whatever they want.
Body counts are impossible to verify. Most of the victims die their painful death out of sight, not only of humans, but of other animals, as is the way of the wild. If it was possible to amass the carcasses of mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossum, and squirrels that have succumbed to rodenticides in one place, the seriousness of the problem would be evident. If these critters suffered convulsions or collapsed in public places, perhaps the indifference would lessen.
We also might then better comprehend the critical role each of these species plays in the overall balance of nature around us. If that balance is harmonious, the rodentia targeted by the poisons are kept in check by those above them on the food chain. It is when humans meddle with this balance that a species numbers multiply unchecked.
All rodenticides should be banned in favor of non-chemical approaches to control. What some people view as “pests,” others know to be critical links in nature’s own housekeeping program. If people would stop categorizing critters by the ways they inconvenience them, they might realize just how much they do for them. Asking that a human-centric perspective give way to an appreciation of all of nature may be asking too much. But ask we will because the animals cannot.

Research Indicates Rodenticide Use Is Causing Deaths Among Urban Predators

• Anticoagulant Rat Poison Is a Death Sentence for Malibu’s Declining Bobcat Population

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN



Anticoagulant rat poison is killing more than rodents in Malibu. Among the documented victims of inadvertent poisoning are mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, owls, weasels, opossums, hawks and snakes.
Many species impacted by rodenticide die as a result of direct poisoning, but according to National Park Service research, rat poison is a slow and painful death sentence for the mountain lion's smaller cousin the bobcat.
UCLA Ph.D. student Laurel Klein, who is studying bobcats for her thesis, says that they rarely die from direct exposure to rodenticide, instead, repeated exposure weakens the immune system, causing the animals to die from extreme emaciation, shock and dehydration, covered with skin lesions caused by ectoparasitic mite disease. The death process can take several weeks.
About twice the size of a house cat and many times smaller than a mountain lion, the nocturnal bobcat, with its distinctive spotted coat and stubby tail, is an expert mouser, who makes a living preying primarily on rodents.
“[Bobcats are] strict carnivores, but they're generalists,” Klein explained during a recent presentation at NPS headquarters in Thousand Oaks. “They eat wood rats, gophers, ground squirrels and rabbits, those seem to be their favorites, but they'll eat smaller rodents and even reptiles.”
The small, shy wild cats have mastered the art of avoiding humans and do not prey on domestic animals.
According to Klein, NPS research indicates Malibu’s bobcats appear to be an increasingly isolated population that has been declining since 2002.
“They cross secondary roads regularly, but the 101 is a significant barrier,” Klein said, adding that bobcats that do succeed in crossing the 101 appear to have a difficult time establishing a successful range on the other side. Klein describes the freeway as a social barrier in addition to being a physical barrier.
The increasing urban interface that fragments habitat also puts the cats at greater risk for rodenticide exposure.
“We need to consider the far reaching effect of our pest control,” Klein said, adding that she recommends snap traps rather than poison, and suggests that homeowners encourage natural predators, such as owls and raptors “Owl nest boxes are a great way to encourage natural predators,” Klein explained. Prefabricated nest boxes and directions for homemade versions are available from a variety of sources online.
Other suggestions include clearing brush and low growing vegetation from around residences, and not feeding wild birds. Klein also recommended that dog owners follow park laws and not allow their pets off leash or into areas where dogs are not permitted. “Dogs in parks can lead to the spread of disease,” she said.
According to Klein, a healthy bobcat can live for 10 years in the wild, but it's up to humans to ensure that this shy and beautiful wild cat has that chance.
Klein says that bobcats afflicted with the mange condition can potentially be saved if they receive early treatment. Malibu residents who observe a sick or dead bobcat can contact Klein at Laurelklein@ucla.edu or 214-729-2328.
More information, including ways residents can help support research, is available at www.nps.gov/samo
Malibuites have an opportunity to learn more about bobcats, as well as mountain lions and coyotes, from NPS biologist Seth Riley at a talk on urban carnivores on July 10 at 2 p.m. at the NPS visitor center, 401 West Hillcrest Drive, in Thousand Oaks.

Mother of Mitrice Richardson Files Lawsuit against County and LASD—Naming Nine Individuals and ‘Does’ 1-20

• Attorney Says Legal Action Will Allow the Use of Discovery and Depositions to Get Blocked Information

BY ANNE SOBLE


On Tuesday, Latice Sutton, the mother of Mitrice Richardson who has been missing since being released from the custody of the Lost Hills Sheriff's Station just after midnight on Sept. 17, 2009, formally announced that she is suing Los Angeles County, its sheriff’s department and nine named and numerous unnamed personnel “for the negligent and discriminatory acts” that resulted in her daughter’s disappearance.
Richardson, then 24, was reported missing after she allegedly left the Lost Hills Station alone and on foot, without money or a means of communication, because her car had been impounded in Malibu, with her cellphone and purse still inside the vehicle.
Richardson was arrested at Geoffrey’s restaurant for not paying an $89 dinner tab. Staff telephoned Lost Hills about taking her into custody and described her behavior as “really crazy.”
The deputies who transported her to Lost Hills and other personnel who encountered her all maintained that she appeared normal and engaged them in lucid conversation.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s official stance on Richardson’s release is that she was treated in accordance with standard LASD protocol.
Among the personnel named in the lawsuit are Deputy Frank Brower, Sgt. Mike Holland, Sgt. Eric Lasko, Deputy Jim Mulay, Deputy Armando Louriero, a Deputy Hill, a Deputy McKay, Sgt. Derrick Alfred, Deputy Ken Baumgartner and former station commander Tom Martin.
Unnamed, but included in the lawsuit, are all personnel who booked and released Richardson, such as jailer Sharon Cummings, the last person who is believed to have had contact with Richardson at the Lost Hills Station.
At a press conference held outside the Los Angeles County government complex, Sutton said the LASD failed her daughter by not listening to the witnesses who reported her bizarre behavior, such as speaking gibberish and acting so oddly that they didn’t think she should be allowed to drive her car.
The mother reiterated earlier statements she made to the Malibu Surfside News about an LASD videotape, the existence of which was first denied then reluctantly acknowledged by the agency, that she said shows her daughter exhibiting acute mental distress, which the lawsuit alleges should have resulted in her being 5150’d—held for a medical and psychiatric evaluation.
Issues related to Richardson having been taken in for booking for what is normally a field citable offense (as was the trace amount of marijuana found in her car) add the issue of possible false imprisonment to the complex litigation mix.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages. Sutton and her pro bono counsel, civil rights attorney and activist Leo Terrell, said this week’s filing is necessary to gain access to official documents and witnesses now being denied to them.
In addition to using discovery for reports and documents, the ability to depose “people who actually had contact with Richardson before she disappeared is imperative.” Because of perceived inaccuracies and misrepresentations, Terrell views depositions taken under oath as the only way to get closer to the truth.
The family also hopes to be able to obtain a copy of the videotape that Sutton was allowed to view but not allowed to subject to analysis for editing or other manipulation.
The nine points in the complaint filed this week also include violations of the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution; negligence; emotional distress; and disability discrimination that is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The latter reflects the subsequent determination from documents and diary entries found in Richardson’s car that appear to indicate that she may have been experiencing the onset of bipolar disorder and should have been afforded special legal protection because of that.
The suit also alleges wrongful death, although there are conflicting views on whether the woman is still alive. Some LASD officials maintain that Richardson is a “willing” missing person, who left of her own volition and does not want to be found.
Her family, however, has repeatedly denied that premise and grapples daily with the unanswerable question—without a body or remains—of whether she has died.

BONE FIND
Everyone rallied upon hearing on Tuesday of the report of another possible human bone find in an area where Richardson might have hiked, or more likely been driven, after leaving the Lost Hills Station.
A patrol car was dispatched to the scene. A preliminary analysis of photos of the find indicates the bones appear to be animal, but they were transported to the County Coroner’s Office for testing.

SATURDAY SEARCH
A team from REACT, Los Angeles County’s Radio Emergency Associated Communication Teams, which strives to establish a monitoring network of trained volunteer citizen-based communicators, took part in a volunteer search effort on June 26.
No new clues directly related to Richardson’s whereabouts were found.

TOLL EVIDENT
All parties in the case appear to be showing signs of incredible stress. Family members and friends look and sound exhausted as nerves become increasingly frayed.
Even law enforcement personnel can be curt, perhaps without realizing it, since many of them may be juggling numerous cases at the same time.

ALL LEADS
Each new lead that materializes, no matter how seemingly insignificant, gets investigated. LASD spokespersons reiterate what was said when Sutton filed notice of a legal claim in January, that the agency’s goal is to determine what happened to the young woman at the center of the mystery that now has continued for over nine months.

PRESS CONFERENCE—Attorney and civil rights activist Leo Terrell tells members of the media gathered outside the Los Angeles County complex downtown that filing of a lawsuit is the means to gain access to documents and witnesses that have been denied the family of Mitrice Richardson who went missing last Sept. 17. Richardson’s mother holds a copy of the college graduation photo of the woman who graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Cal State Fullerton and planned doctoral study.
Photo/Charles Croft

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CHP Will Do Its Part to Facilitate Return

•Council Member Urges Group to Let City Take the Lead

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


West Valley CHP spokesperson Officer Leland Tang attended a recent meeting of the grassroots highway safety organization A Safer PCH, to talk about the community’s current efforts to bring the CHP back to the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.
“We’re going to be working together,” Tang said. “We’re going to be looking for grant money, federal money, to try to revitalize the PCH safety corridor.”
Tang said that the next grant cycle begins in the fall, and added that he hopes to include an educational component in the grant proposal, although he cautioned that the process is long and complicated. Tang indicated that even if a grant can be obtained in the fall, the program would not be funded until 2012.
Tang reminded the grassroots group that every aspect of the highway construction, repair and improvement process is part of a lengthy cycle of government agencies, and that all aspects are currently impacted by the financial crisis in Sacramento, but indicated that there are some safety measures that can be implemented quickly and at relatively little cost.
Tang recommended portable changeable message signs as a practical acquisition for the city. “The county has some [that are not currently in use],” he said. He described the units as “small enough for a patrol car to tow,” and easily positioned where needed to provide road closure or traffic hazard messages. Tang said that the county-owned message signs also contain a radar system, and can be used to post speed check information.
“We’re willing to step out as a group to raise funds,” ASPCH founding member Susan Saul said.
Tang and Lost Hills Sheriff Station traffic officer Phil Brooks dismissed the idea that the two branches of law enforcement do not cooperate or are mutually exclusive. “We’re working together,” Tang said.
“We have been working together,” Brooks agreed.
Members of ASPCH met with Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky on Monday to discuss Pacific Coast Highway.
“It was a great meeting,” Saul said. “We’re on the same wavelength.”
City Councilmember Lou La Monte said that a meeting between city representatives and California’s transportation secretary was also positive, stating that they were “on the same page,” but he expressed what came across as disapproval of citizen involvement in the process.
“They almost cancelled the meeting,” La Monte said, stating that the city’s lobbyists had informed him that “a lot of people” called and emailed about the meeting.
“The secretary of transportation does not operate under pressure,” La Monte said. “Sometimes it does work. Everyone calling? Maybe, maybe not. People don’t like to be put into a corner. It’s a lot easier to work with if we all do it together,” La Monte said.
At La Monte’s request, the city council established a PCH ad hoc committee at the last council meeting to serve as a clearing house for PCH related issues.
“People like a nonpolitical route,” ASPCH member Julie Eamer said.
”It’s not a political issue, it’s a representational issue,” La Monte said. “If you don’t want me to help you, tell me.”

Trancas Shopping Center Owners and Neighbor Who Challenged Expansion Plans Reach Settlement

• Critic Drops Appeal in Exchange for Lagoon Preservation

BY BILL KOENEKER


An agreement between the new owners of the Trancas shopping center and a California Coastal Commission appellant has resulted in a withdrawal of the appeal in an exchange for no development on 7.4 acres of open space, consisting of Trancas Lagoon and Creek.
Shopping center critic Hans Laetz, whose residence overlooks the project and had filed a Coastal Commission appeal, said he was willing to withdraw the challenge once he and Trancas partner Dan Bercu, with a new investment firm in place, had worked out the details.
The CCC staff had indicated it would make a recommendation that there were substantial issues involved in the appeal filed by Laetz, of the City of Malibu’s approval of the Trancas shopping center expansion plans.
The commission requested additional information and a hearing might have been months, or a year, away.
Laetz said it was not just the conservation easement of the lagoon property, but a myriad of other public safety issues that helped win him over, although he was quick to point out that he did not get everything he wanted.
“But what we are also getting is a right turn lane that starts at the Trancas Creek bridge and goes to the Trancas signal. That lane will also include a bike lane and adjacent sidewalk,” he said.
Bercu, who confirmed there is a new capital partner, which he described as a private real estate investment trust, agreed.
“It is a win-win for the environment, for public safety and for Hans and us,” said Bercu, who added that he and his investors plan to break ground in January.
Laetz said he is no longer fighting what he described as the encroachment on Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area or objecting to a sign on the roof or the planned parking lot across Trancas Canyon Road. “We got a great deal out of this,” he said.
Laetz went on to explain some of the details of the conservation easement, which would forever preserve those 7.4 acres.
“He has promised to transfer the lagoon, the Riders and Ropers lot and the west bank of the creek to a conservation easement within one year. It will be sold or purchased [perhaps by the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority], and then hopefully transferred to the [National Park Service].
“At my request, restrictive language has been inserted into the deed that prevents camping, sewage plants, etc.,” added Laetz.
Bercu said the agreement allows him to either establish the easement or sell to a park agency
The National Park Service is trying to purchase the acreage, but has not yet acquired all of the funding, leading Laetz to suggest the land could be preserved through the conservation easement and then maybe the NPS could use whatever funding it eventually gets for restoration of the lagoon and creek channel.
“Perhaps, more importantly Dan and his new partners have committed to the safety of Malibu residents and the general public by designing, building and dedicating a right turn lane, bike lane and sidewalk, built to city, [Americans with Disability Act], and Caltrans specifications,” Laetz added.
Bercu agreed, saying, they would work with the city and Caltrans.
The permit currently pending for the proposed development would be for the remodel and expansion of an existing shopping center, including a total of 26,726 square feet of new retail space in five new buildings, two new parking lots, remodel of the two existing retail buildings, parking lot drainage improvements, two existing parking lots and alternative wastewater treatment system.

Council Approves Creation of a City Arts Commission

• Member Who Worked Hardest Left Out

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council, last week, gave the OK to the formation of a municipal arts commission. Members agreed that the formidable task should be explored by a council ad hoc subcommittee.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who for several years has been calling for the establishment of such a panel, apparently got the ear of Councilmember Laura Rosenthal at a previous meeting and the item was rushed onto the agenda.
Conley Ulich, who was absent, was not chosen for the subcommittee. Instead, newcomer Rosenthal said she wanted to be on the subcommittee and fellow first year Councilmember Lou La Monte also volunteered.
Planning Commission Chair John Mazza, who was speaking on behalf of the Malibu Arts Foundation, said the formation of the commission should not be made on the fly and urged the council that some further study should ensue.
Mazza also stated that the council should include the formation of a non-profit arm for the city to raise funds. City Attorney Christi Hogin agreed about a separate fundraising arm or foundation.
“That is going to be really important for donations come to a 5013C and work with the foundation,” said Councilmember John Sibert.
The council must determine the membership requirements and direct the staff to bring back an ordinance establishing the arts commission by law.
Rosenthal said she liked the approach of cities, such as West Hollywood and Manhattan Beach, in using the commission to establish an agenda.
Hogin said, since her firm represents West Hollywood, she could introduce the subcommittee to commission members and anybody else in West Hollywood that might help Malibu.
A staff report indicated an estimated cost of the commission at about $10,000 to $12,000 per year.
The cost is related to the practice of each commission having a staff liaison, who is responsible for housekeeping chores.
The council must also determine the duties of the new commission and provide the parameters of subject matter to be discussed by the commission for the purpose of making recommendations to the city council.
Rosenthal also talked about implementing a development fee of one percent to help pay for items.
However, Hogin said that works for places like West Hollywood where there is a lot of commercial development, but would not yield much to Malibu.
The council must also determine the membership of the commission, both the number of members and residence requirements, as well as how those members shall be appointed, whether by individual council member appointment or by the council at large.

Planning Commission Nixes Distance Change for Cannabis Outlets in ‘Sensitive’ Locations

• Hot Topic Passed On to City Council

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu Planning Commission last week voted to recommend that the city council deny any rule that would reduce the distance between pot pharmacies and schools, parks, places of worship, or other “sensitive areas.”
The planning panel was scheduled to consider a zone text amendment changing those rules, but instead, it recommended the council not consider any ZTA.
In a turnabout for the commission, panelists refused to consider what they had originally recommended, a 500 foot rule when the ordinance establishing marijuana dispensaries was recommended for approval.
The municipality’s current law states that any dispensary should not be located within a 1000 foot radius of a church, temple, or other places used primarily for religious worship or a playground, park, library, licensed child day care facility, nursery school or school.
It was the city council which changed the rule of 500 feet recommended by the commission to the current 1000-foot radius.
Most commissioners had little to say about the hot topic. Chair John Mazza asked if the city’s refusal could some how be construed to be a “taking.”
Assistant City Attorney Greg Kovacevich answered in the negative.
Green Angel Collective, a medical marijuana dispensary, is located within a 1000-foot radius of Las Flores Canyon Park, according to city planners.
The pot dispensary had their advocates at the meeting insisting Green Angel represented an affordable alternative to the other pot pharmacy in Malibu.
However, Green Angel also had its detractors, who argued the dispensary was too close to a bus stop where children wait. One close-by business owner complained about the location and another neighbor sent her attorney to argue against Green Angel.
The collective has come before the planning commission and city council on several occasions trying to get the proper permits since the council enacted an ordinance regulating pot pharmacies.
Green Angel had been told the 1000 foot limit was the law in Malibu and would have to be changed.
Both the planning commission and the council said they could do nothing but uphold the law of a 1000-foot radius distance and Green Angel should come back with a zone text amendment to change the distance requirements.
However, the planning staff, after analyzing the three alternatives submitted by an attorney representing Green Angel told commissioners none of them are workable or meet the council’s intention.
The first alternative works as a grandfather clause and stipulates that only a dispensary operating since Jan. 1 2007 could be located as close as 501 feet from any of the sensitive areas.
“An illegal, nonconforming use is not eligible for ‘grandfathered’ rights,” the staff report states.
Another alterative, turned down by the staff, would be to allow pot pharmacies within 500 feet of the various sensitive facilities if the dispensary could not be seen because the church, school or playground is separated by some topographical feature 500-feet or more and there is more than a 1000 feet of pedestrian travel between the two.
The third alterative suggests the 1000-foot restriction could be relaxed for just playgrounds and parks, but not other facilities such as churches, schools and other sensitive locations.
The staff indicated when the original law was under consideration by the council, members insisted 500 feet was not sufficient in mitigating secondary impacts of dispensaries. The city council then increased the distance to 1000 feet.
The staff indicated that there are several locations within the city that appear to comply with the current provisions of the ordinance, but did not know whether the property owners of those locations would be willing to lease their property for a pot pharmacy.

City Council Agendas Reflect More Emphasis on Public Safety Concerns

• Commission Now Has the Ear of Majority of Members

BY BILL KOENEKER


It seems apparent from the Malibu City Council meeting agenda for next week, that public safety items, especially concerning the roadways of Malibu, have recently risen to the top of the priority list.
The council is being asked to approve a memo of understanding between the city and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department regarding traffic control services.
The MOU zeroes in on how the sheriff’s deputies should provide traffic control during signal malfunctions.
A protocol over the years has been established and the city would like to formalize it. The practice allows overtime deputies to be hired for traffic control in the event of a signal malfunction.
Deploying deputies to direct traffic through the impacted area, removes those deputies from normal patrol, hence the use of overtime deputies.
The MOU would spell out these services on an as-needed basis. The overtime personnel would respond to the affected intersection and assume traffic control duties, but would not be subject to call except in the event of a “significant emergency.”
The cost would be based on the prevailing hourly rate of the current law enforcement contract and the city would be billed on a monthly basis.
Also on tap, the council is scheduled to review the recommendations of the city’s Public Safety Commission to allocate funding for the implementation of traffic improvements for Civic Center Way.
According to city officials, the recommendations were previously identified by the Civic Center Way Task Force and approved by the council in 2004.
While some of those recommendations were implemented by the city, the Public Safety Commission reviewed the remaining recommendations in May and reprioritized them for council consideration.
The commission recommended that the city council approve funding and implementation of the remaining traffic improvements for the Civic Center in a priority order determined by the commission.
The city council is also expected to consider what to do about public easement encroachments along Busch Drive.
City officials contend the right-of-way is 60 feet, but the roadway pavement to 24 is littered with vegetation, trees, irrigation systems, mailboxes, driveways and retaining walls.
Some members of the community have urged the city to clear the public shoulders for pedestrians and equestrians.
The council has already approved a recommendation made by the Public Safety Commission to hire an additional sheriff’s department patrol car and motorcycle deputy for traffic enforcement on Pacific Coast Highway.
With the addition of one motorcycle deputy included in the upcoming budget, no further action is required.

Bill in Sacramento Raises a Budgetary Red Flag for Cities and Counties in State

• Measure Affects Collection of Transient Occupancy Tax

BY BILL KOENEKER


A bill wending its way through Sacramento, could wreak havoc on county and city budgets, including Malibu’s.
Without discussion or comment, the Malibu City Council last week agreed to protest Senate Bill 625, a measure that would “undercut local governments’ authority to fully collect local transient occupancy taxes from online hotel sales.”
A memo to the city council explained that as of last year, the city collects over a million dollars in TOT revenue which represents about four percent of the city’s annual revenue. Malibu levies a 12 percent tax on hotel guests as a percentage of the full room rate.
According to the staff memo, if the measure should pass the city could lose a “significant percentage of that revenue in uncollectible TOT from online hotel bookings.”
The memo explains that more than 400 California cities and 55 counties levy a local TOT, at the average rate of 10 percent. Cities have consistently fought against efforts by online travel companies seeking an exemption from paying the full amount of TOT levied on a customer.
“Major litigation is pending in California and in other states over a practice engaged in by online travel companies, which results in less tax being remitted to local agencies than would otherwise be owed. In practice, online companies purchase rooms from local hotels at a discounted rate and then resell the space to the general public over the Internet at a higher price. While the online company collects from the customer the TOT, based on the higher price, they only remit to the hotel (which then pays the local government) the TOT collected on the lower, discounted rate. By pocketing the rest of the collected tax, the online companies are shortchanging local governments and keeping the difference for profit,” the memo adds.
Not surprisingly, the online companies are sponsoring a bill that in the city’s words would undercut the cities’ authority to fully collect TOT online hotel sales.
The special interest legislation is being opposed by the League of California Cities, which is urging member cities to write letters of protest to state lawmakers and the governor.
They will argue that legislators should not be giving away local tax interests to business interests at the expense of already strained city and county budgets and any effort to reduce a major revenue source would be considered unacceptable and should be rejected.

Malibu Village (nee Cross Creek Plaza) Prepares to Unveil New Look and a New Mix of Commercial Tenants Soon

• Pace of Center Makeover Is Expected to Begin to Quicken

BY BILL KOENEKER


Shoppers and others are expected to see the changes happening at a much faster pace at Malibu Village now that the makeover of the shopping center has started and a line-up of new stores is underway, according to a shopping center spokes-person.
“We are very excited about it,” said Pouya Abdi, who heads up Retail Holdings Group, a Los Angeles based property development company. “There are going to be green areas and more emphasis on Malibu Creek.”
Abdi said the creek is a natural resource that the shopping center owners in the past have traditionally turned their back on. He wants to change that.
The Retail Holdings spokesperson said the current project underway is an attempt to transform a building much in need of a makeover into a rustic charming village.
Some of the new stores that will be opening in the shopping center are also causing a buzz.
Abdi said many shoppers are familiar with Missoni, high-end Italian fashion wear that is carried in many stores in Malibu. Now that line is under one roof, according to Abdi, at the new Missoni store at the village.
Another Italian import coming soon to Malibu is Grom Gelato, well-known in Italy and other parts of Europe, is expected to open a store here in Malibu at the village, Abdi said.
“There are only three stores in the U.S., all in New York and now they are expanding to the West Coast in Malibu,” Abdi enthusiastically explained.
As a teaser, Abdi said a Levi’s store is also coming to the village, but “unlike the Levi’s of your father and mother.”
Abdi said he knows how annoying construction can be and insists they will make every effort to be respectful of the tenants, all of who will remain open and the customers who patronize Marmalade, Radio Shack, the movie theater, the Diesel bookstore and other shopping venues.
The renovation project is expected to be completed by January 2011, according to Abdi.
And about those rumors about Guido’s departure? “We respect and like the owners. We hope we can work something out,” Abdi said.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu: Draw a Line in the Sand •

BY ANNE SOBLE


Washington has signed off on at least five new offshore oil drilling permits this month. Three of the projects were given waivers exempting them from environmental impact studies—the same waiver that BP received for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that is now in the process of destroying the marine environment in the Gulf of Mexico and the financial stability of thousands of people in what may ultimately be four states.
There are more than 7500 active offshore oil and gas drilling leases in the United States. These major industrial operations have tremendous impacts on the ocean floor, water and air quality, and fragile marine ecosystems everywhere the sea touches the shoreline. And that’s only what is visible. No one in any of the sciences is willing to even speculate on the extent of the damage below the ocean’s surface, where life is giving way to death as the environmental norm.
It is imperative that everyone who cares about the ocean, the world, and all living things, tell the world’s political leadership to stop offshore oil drilling. It is up to us to speak out for ourselves, as well as be the voice for the beings that have no voice. They are dying in unprecedented numbers in water that may be fouled for decades or longer. Since we don’t have the hundreds of millions of dollars each major oil company spends on lobbying politicians, we have to resort to body count if we want to get their attention.
We can show up for “Hands Across the Sand” on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Surfrider Beach. We can dial the White House Hotline, 202-456-1111, and state, “I’m calling to ask that you restore the federal moratorium on all new offshore oil and gas development and exploration.” If you have access to elected officials, and are a donor, bend ears and twist arms.
Thousands showed up on 80 Florida beaches for the first “Hands” event earlier this year. It is hoped that there will be hundreds of thousands or more individuals willing to take a stand and urge the world to say no to offshore oil drilling and yes to clean energy alternatives. We have the best chance we have ever had of moving past our outdated fossil fuels mentality while the realization of what could happen to any of our beaches is vividly imprinted in our minds. The public relations pros are at work on campaigns to downplay the impact of Deepwater Horizon. If they succeed, we have lost.

Three Mountains Lion Kittens Born in Santa Monica Mountains

• Found May 26: Two Females and One Male Are Expected to Enhance Cougar Gene Pool

BY ANNE SOBLE


Three mountain lion kittens were born last month in the Santa Monica Mountains. It is the second documented litter of mountain lion kittens since the ones born here in the summer of 2004.
The kittens—two females and a male—were discovered on May 26 by National Park Service researchers in parkland adjacent to the Kanan Road and Mulholland Highway area.
All documented cougars are designated by the letter P, which stands for puma, another name for mountain lion or cougar and the specie’s genus (Puma concolor), and a number that represents its order in the research project.
Thus, the new female kittens are P17 and P19, and their brother is P18.
In some parts of the United States, cougar young and the young of most larger carnivores are called cubs. The NPS in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area uses the research term kitten.
According to this week’s formal birth announcement, NPS researchers “intensively monitored P13, the kitten’s mother, throughout the spring, after GPS tracking revealed that she and P12, a collared male, spent several days in proximity in late January.”
Adult cougars rarely interact with each other except to mate and clash over territory. In fact, the father of the 2004 litter killed its mother in 2005.
Each kitten has been implanted with a tracking device that will allow researchers to follow its movement. NPS indicated, “This is the first urban mountain lion study that has had the opportunity to track mountain lion kittens from such a young age.”
The wildlife researchers will monitor the littermates to see if the male will move to new habitat when he matures, and whether the females will have litters in two years.
The litter of kittens is also significant because P12, the unconfirmed father of the kittens, is genetically different from other mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains.
P12 made the only documented mountain lion crossing across Highway 101 in spring of 2009 to enter the Santa Monicas, and it is thought that he might be from farther away, meaning a new infusion into the gene pool.
Life will not necessarily be easy for the triplets. Although the habitat in the Santa Monica Mountains is ideal for the species, increased development and lack of crossing locations to other wildland areas to the north and west can lead to conflict over territory and inbreeding.
In another major cougar development, a new adult cat, P16, was added to the research study in May. P16 lives in the Santa Susana Mountains.
Research in the Santa Monica Mountains indicates that male mountain lions frequently travel the entire length and breadth of the mountain range from the I-405 at the east end of the SMMNRA, to Camarillo to the west, and from the Pacific Ocean and Malibu to the south to the 101 freeway to the north, which acts as an almost impenetrable barrier farther north.
Artificial impediments created by humans and their development mean SMMNRA cougars rarely leave the area’s confines.
The National Park Service mountain lion study started eight years ago with the initial collaring of P1.
Since then, researchers have tracked 19 mountain lions. Currently, the study monitors six working GPS collars on adult cougars, as well as tracks the new kittens that are monitored by vehicle, or on foot, using VHF transmitters.
This is the largest number of mountain lions ever followed at one point in time during the study.
The research data has spurred proposals to establish a safe and effective wildlife crossing point under Highway 101 in the wildlife corridor east of Kanan Road to help guarantee gene pool health.

Search for ‘Lost Lizards of Los Angeles’ Sheds Light on Local Reptile Population

• Malibu Residents Are Invited to Participate in Natural History Museum Research Project

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Herpetologists are looking for the “Lost Lizards of Los Angeles” and Malibu residents are invited to help them with the search.
The LLOLA project, sponsored by the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, encourages area residents to document their backyard reptiles and amphibians with a camera and submit the images to the project.
“We will definitely accept any lizard submission,” says Leslie Gordon, the LLOLA project coordinator. “As for our mission, on the science side of it, I am particularly interested in where and how “herps”—reptiles and amphibians—are hanging on in urban and suburban environments, because we already know they do fairly well when they are left alone in natural settings.”
Project coordinators stress an “observe but don’t disturb” approach for project participants, and remind citizen-scientists that wild lizards are protected by law.
The LLOLA team recommends the following technique for photographing lizards:
“Freeze and wait a moment. Slowly get your camera in place before you get any closer. Move slowly toward the lizard, taking as many photos as you can while you walk (watch out for rocks—we don’t want you to trip). If your camera has a zoom, use it. Make sure you rehearse your controls before heading out. Try to get pictures of the lizard in full sun. Photos in the shade are sometimes harder to identify. After getting several good photos of the lizard, take a moment to photograph its habitat—both macro and micro.”
According to LLOLA, local lizards are currently diurnal—active during the day. As the June gloom gives way to hotter weather, lizards become crepuscular—visible only during the cooler mornings and evenings.
“The best places to look for lizards are dry, sunny areas with rocky outcroppings or rock piles, underbrush, and wood or trash piles,” the LLOLA website advises.
Most Malibu residents won’t have to go farther than their patio or driveway to find the western fence lizard—the most common area species—at home. Other species are often present but not as conspicuous. Amphibians, including those masters of disguise the salamanders, require more effort and patience to spot.
The slender salamander can easily be mistaken for a large earthworm. The California salamander, which moves from water to land during its life is elusive on land but easy to locate during its aquatic phase.
“Once you have found a likely lizard habitat, scan the area with a pair of binoculars, or your naked eyes,” the LLOLA website suggests. “You are looking for movement close to the ground. If you see no movement, begin to walk slowly through the area. As you walk, any lizard that has been motionless may begin to move. Some lizards are more approachable than others, so remember to use slow movements. Also many lizards are territorial, so you may come back to the same spot next week and find the same lizard.”
Research indicates that numbers of reptiles and amphibians are rapidly declining worldwide, with urban areas unsurprisingly experiencing the highest levels of attrition, but there are things residents can do to help this area’s lizards survive.
Gordon encourages Malibuites to be aware of the presence of lizards and amphibians and to make yards and gardens lizard-friendly habitats.
“Because our reptiles and amphibians are mainly terrestrial (ground dwelling) they are particularly susceptible to urban development, but there are some very simple ways you can help,” the LLOLA coordinator says.
Recommendations include cutting back on overhead watering, eliminating pesticides and providing rocks or even broken pottery for lizards to shelter under and bask on. Mulching with leaf litter by “leaving leaves” can help to conserve water and provide habitat. Keeping pesticides, pool water, landscaping runoff and exotic species out of local creeks, streams and storm drains can also help.
LLOLA indicates that many people have reported lizards returning to their yards and neighborhoods when habitat was provided.
The LLOLA team recommends keeping cats indoors, where they will not have the opportunity to prey on native animals, or become prey themselves. According to LLOLA, cats are “major offenders” when it comes to killing small wild animals.
In one study a “well-fed cat” that roamed a wildlife experiment station was recorded to have killed more than 1600 animals over an 18-month period. Surprisingly, another major problem for reptiles and amphibians is drowning. Containers, including outdoor pet water dishes, container ponds, vases, urns, and even swimming pools or Jacuzzis can present a hazard to lizards and even frogs and toads.
“Any container that lizards and other small creatures could get stuck in, needs a ladder,” LLOLA biologists suggest. “You can use small piles of rocks, or branches to help small critters get out. Or you can put wire mesh over openings to prevent access.”
Experts advise using small-gauge mesh. Larger gauge material, like the netting used to keep birds away from fruits and vegetables, can inadvertently trap and kill reptiles.
“We want to get the word out about the value of herps to any ecosystem,” Gordon says. “And get people to understand that science is fun. It’s not something that secretive men in lab coats do in faraway places. Science is something that is achievable, important, and in fact kids do it every day by questioning what they see around them. So we encourage any level of participation and we will consider any submission valuable data.”
To learn more about the Lost Lizards of Los Angeles project, access field guides, read additional tips on how to co-exist with lizards, and submit sighting data and photographs of Malibu’s resident herps, visit www.nhm.org or email lostlizards@nhm.org

New President of University of Nigeria Has Malibu Ties

• First Woman to Head the African School Says Challenges and Opportunities Await Her

BY ANNE SOBLE


The board of trustees of the American University of Nigeria announced the appointment of Margee Ensign as the third president of the African university founded in 2005.
Ensign, who has strong family ties in Malibu, said, “I am excited and humbled by this opportunity. I will be the first female president of a university in the country...the challenges and expectations are high.”
Both of Ensign’s parents, who lived in Malibu for over 30 years, were airline pioneers. Margaret Ensign was a flight attendant when one had to be a registered nurse, and Richard Ensign (who passed away a few years ago) helped to start Western Airlines and went on to be the executive vice-president of Pan Am.
Margee Ensign said, “I had the incredible opportunity of traveling and seeing the world because of them and know that without their support and pioneering spirit, I would not be able to take on this challenge.”
Nigeria is the largest country—by population—in Africa and is expected to become the fifth largest country in the world in 20 years. The founder of the AUN, Atiku Abubukar, who is now running for president, located the university in primarily Muslim Yola.
Ensign said, “I think it is very important that we as Americans learn more about Islam, and I plan to do that during my presidency.”
The new AUN president said students not only come from Nigeria but throughout Africa. The university was started in partnership with American University in Washington, where Ensign once taught.
Of her family ties, Ensign said, “My parents moved to Malibu in 1976. “Mom called me at college when they moved here and said, ‘Don’t make plans this summer. We are opening a bookstore. There isn’t one in Malibu.’ That is when she opened The Book Mark in Cross Creek shopping center, just as it was opening.”
Ensign added that she was “enjoying a few beautiful Malibu days with [my mother] before I move to a place that is extremely hot—close to the Sahara.”
The AUN announcement of Ensign’s selection notes that she was chosen after a broad, thorough and highly competitive search that spanned three continents.
Ensign has a PhD in international politics and economics from the University of Maryland, where she also earned a master’s degree in political science. She received her bachelor’s degree from New College.
The new AUN president heads to Nigeria from the University of the Pacific, where she is the dean of the School of International Studies and associate provost for International Initiatives.
Ensign has developed educational partnerships benefitting several universities in the United States, Rwanda and Uganda.
She helped establish a graduate program in international development at Tulane University, which is now offered on four continents, and she has worked on development projects in Central America and in Central, East and West Africa, including a large-scale project in Rwanda.
Ensign recently completed a book, “Rwanda: History and Hope” about the post-genocide period.
The chairman of the AUN board of trustees, Ahmed Joda, said: “Dr. Ensign brings to American University of Nigeria highly valuable international experience, expertise and excellence, which are critical to meeting the unique challenges of Nigeria and the continent.”

REACT Volunteers to Aid with Next Search for Mitrice Richardson

• LASD Questions Connection of Mural to Case But Family Remains Convinced There Is a Tie

BY ANNE SOBLE


Another volunteer field search is planned for Saturday in the area of Calabasas where Mitrice Richardson is believed to have wandered or been driven on the morning of Sept. 17, 2009, when she was released just after midnight from the custody of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station alone, on foot, and without her wallet and cell phone, which deputies had left behind in her car impounded in Malibu.
A team from REACT, Radio Emergency Associated Communication Teams, which strives to establish a monitoring network of trained volunteer citizen-based communicators, is going to participate in the June 26 effort.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department continues to assert that Richardson’s release followed protocol, but Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, contends that the LASD acted negligently because witnesses indicated that her daughter was exhibiting signs of mental illness and different procedures exist for those circumstances.
Richardson, 24 at the time, had been transported to Lost Hills for booking after Geoffrey’s restaurant personnel asked the station to pick her up for non-payment of an $89 dinner tab. Deputies subsequently found a small amount of marijuana in her vehicle.
Family members claim that an LASD video of Richardson in the Lost Hills booking cage shows her in a state of mental stress, unable to complete telephone calls and curling up on the floor in a fetal position. However, the jailer has described her as lucid and coherent and said she engaged Richardson in conversation about music and other topics.
MURAL INVESTIGATION
A large-scale field search on the weekend of June 5 and 6 did not uncover any new clues to Richardson’s whereabouts, but searchers stumbled upon a concrete culvert wall covered with obscene graffiti about African-American women in a remote area. The artwork featured young females with a natural or Fro hairstyle similar to that of Richardson when she disappeared.
The mural uses bold, bright colors and, whether it was executed by one or more individuals, appears to have been an effort that took time and resources.
Paintbrushes and paint can lids at the scene had not yet dried, leading to conjecture that the mural might have been painted the day before the well-publicized search was set to begin.
Family members say they believe the perpetrator(s) wanted the mural to be found during the search. The location of the search area had received widespread media coverage.
They have asked that samples of fecal matter that were conspicuous at the site undergo DNA testing in case that could shed light on who was involved.
This inner circle also asserts there are so many references to specific details of the Richardson case, even less publicized ones, that whoever executed the mural appears to be very familiar with all aspects of the missing woman’s saga.
And, because it may be axiomatic that most taggers prefer to work in areas where their efforts will be seen by a large audience, family members say that they do not understand how anyone could not think the graffiti is connected to Richardson’s disappearance because of the remoteness of its location.
Although all of the graffiti disturbs Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton singles out a depiction of a woman in a wheelchair, making what could be construed to be a raised thumb or hitchhiking gesture. She asks whether this might be a clue to what happened to the young woman in the early hours of Sept. 17.
Sutton is adamant that the mural is not “just vandalism” as many in the LASD maintain. She has said, “This is a message. Someone is trying to tell me something,” but what that might be has not been determined.
The mural has been shown to several psychologists and psychiatrists who say it is possible to see a connection between the graphics and aspects of Richardson case. The combination of elements exceeds coincidental levels.
However, LASD Lt. Michael Rosson, who is overseeing the investigation, told Malibu Surfside News this week, “Regarding the mural, there is additional info that might change [those professionals’] opinion in this case.”
Rosson said, “We have located information about like murals by the same artist/vandal, which were painted in the city of L.A. prior to Mitrice Richardson’s disappearance. But our attempts to locate the suspect continue.”
Rosson has told The News that photos of the mural and evidence from the location, including potential DNA samples, are being analyzed, but has not provided further specifics.
Information and inquiries about the Mitrice Richardson case can be relayed to the LASD’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
A $25,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the missing woman’s whereabouts or the person(s) responsible for her disappearance.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

City to Fund Second ‘Motor’ on PCH

• The Price Tag for a Motorcycle Deputy Is $179,000 p.a.

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


In response to the current community concern over highway safety generated in the wake of a series of fatal accidents in April, the Malibu City Council unanimously voted to budget $179,000 for an additional Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department motorcycle deputy, or “motor,” for the 2010-11 year.
Several members of the grassroots safety organization A Safer PCH—including ASPCH founding member Maria Flora Smoller and newly appointed ex officio Public Safety Commissioner David Saul—spoke during public comments at the start of the meeting, requesting the additional traffic enforcement on Pacific Coast Highway.
According to Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station commander Captain Joseph Stephen, who spoke at a recent ASPCH meeting, a motor is more expensive than a black-and-white unit because of liability but is more versatile for highway safety enforcement because a motorcycle deputy has the ability to move through traffic even when roads are congested.
Advocates for the additional motor say that the cost will be partially offset by the $17 the city receives from each ticket written. Malibu’s current motorcycle officer reportedly holds the ticket-writing record for the department—3000 tickets per year.
Councilmember Lou La Monte stated at the meeting that he is continuing to work on his campaign promise to bring the California Highway Patrol back to PCH, a cause also championed by ASPCH. La Monte, Mayor Jefferson Wagner and City Manager Jim Thorsen traveled to Sacramento on Tuesday to meet with the state Secretary of Transportation on the issue.
“This is something we are going to try to make happen,” La Monte said, calling the process “complicated” and “delicate” but not impossible.
The council also voted to create a PCH ad hoc committee consisting of La Monte and councilmember Laura Rosenthal. La Monte described the committee as a way for the council to remain current with PCH highway related issues. “It’s all interrelated, but eventually it ends up here,” he said, adding that many agencies “find it easier to deal with an elected official.”
“It’s great,” Rosenthal said, adding the condition that members of ASPCH should be included. “It’s a way of getting everyone at the same table.”

Deficit Spending Sets Questionable Pattern for New City Council

• Concerns Are Raised about Possible Impact on Municipal Bond Rating

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council, ignoring the advice of staff, approved a final budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 this week that is not balanced and requires the city to dip into its undesignated general fund reserves.
“We do not want to get into the practice of this. This is a one-time appropriation,” admonished Administrative Services Director and Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman, who had told members at the outset of the meeting that she could only find an additional $113,000 for extra expenditures.
“We were not able to come up with additional revenues,” Feldman said.
It is the first time in recent history that any city council has not adopted a balanced budget.
Dipping into the undesignated general fund reserves was never such a critical element until the city started borrowing money. The $8 million goal was set by a previous council years ago when the budget was $16 million. The proposed budget for next fiscal year is more than $30 million.
Experts in the past have told previous councils that many cities keep a goal of 50 percent of the amount of the budget in the undesignated general fund.
Despite the prudence urged by its staff, council members, with Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich absent, insisted there are items they want to spend money on, including an additional sheriff’s department motorcycle unit for one year, more funds for several grant fund programs and money for clean water studies.
ASPCH members had urged the council to spend the extra money on another motorcycle unit, insisting that public safety is the number one priority for the council.
City Manager Jim Thorsen, to no avail, reminded the council that Malibu spends on law enforcement two to three times more than what other like cities do such as Westlake Village, Calabasas or Hidden Hills.
After a lengthy discussion, the council agreed to appropriate $179,000 for the motorcycle unit (see separate story), another $100,000 for water studies, $12,500 for grant fund programs and $4000 for an employee orthodontic program.
“Will this affect our bond rating?” asked Mayor Jefferson Wagner. Feldman said she did not think so, unless the council dipped below $8 million in the undesignated general fund reserve.
No one asked, however, if the deficit spending practice could send a red flag to the bond rating company.
Councilmembers Lou La Monte and John Sibert, members of the Administration and Finance Subcommittee, who had made the recommendations for the grant program watched as Rosenthal dipped into city coffers and gave thousands of extra dollars to Malibu Foundation for Youth and Families and to Friends of Malibu Urgent Care.
Feldman had told the council at a previous session that there are additional costs from the current budget in the upcoming budget which is reflected in an added $116,000 for law enforcement and another $526,000 for street repairs, so that the money Rosenthal requested is now coming from the general fund rather than the grants and funding allocation that has all been spent.

State H2O Board to Hear Septic Ban

BY BILL KOENEKER


The State Water Resources Control Board has issued its notice for public comment on the Civic Center septic ban issued by its regional board last November.
The letter, which was issued last week, indicates the public has until June 29 to make comments about the prohibition on all on-site wastewater systems, including advanced systems.
A SWRCB spokesperson said a public hearing was tentatively set for the first meeting of the board in September or no later than the last meeting of that month.
The notice indicates the state agency will send a separate notice for a scheduled time and place for the state board’s meeting.
The state board staff has recommended approval of the current amendment before the board and also recommends the matter be submitted to the state office of administrative law for approval of its regulatory provisions.
Some city officials were somewhat taken aback by the time frame for the comment period. City Manager Jim Thorsen said municipal officials were told they would have at least 30 days to comment on the document but ended up with only 19 days.
The notice stipulates that each comment must specifically address the version of the amendment currently being considered by the board.
In other regional board news, several restaurant owners came to council chambers this week to ask for help in dealing with the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board. They said they had been told, permits would rise from the current $8000 to $37,000 and that systems would have to be custom designed to meet the specific needs of the commercial operation and the site.
Norm Haynie, an engineer and developer, said it was the state agency’s way to get owners to push the city council in building a centralized plant.
A spokesperson for Moonshadows restaurant said the owner was shocked to find out about the new permit fees.
“It is extremely difficult to stay in compliance, especially if we are forced to obtain one kind of system and that system is not developed for commercial restaurants,” the spokesperson noted
“There should not just be standards for Malibu. There should be equal standards and equal fees,” another owner added.
The council was not unsympathetic to the business owners’ plight, but offered no assistance or advice.

Yet Another Postponement of Hearing Date on Malibu City Employee Hit-and-Run Case

BY BILL KOENEKER


The hearing date for a municipal employee, who allegedly hit a bicyclist on Pacific Coast Highway was once again continued, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
Robert S. Sanchez, who is out on $100,000 bail, had a court date this week to set a preliminary hearing date, which was continued to July 19.
The accident took place almost a year ago, when Sanchez allegedly hit two bicyclists, who were riding in an organized event on PCH.
Rodrigo “Rod” Armas, 45, died of his injuries. His son, Christian, 15, was seriously injured.
Sanchez 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.

Malibu Public Library Now Slated to Remain Open during Summer

• Closure Rescheduled to Early Fall

BY BILL KOENEKER


Contrary to the much publicized announcement of the closing of the Malibu public library on June 1, patrons will find that the library is still open.
A spokesperson for the library said the facility would remain open until the end of August.
City and county officials had scrambled in May to come up with a temporary location for the library, which has a planned one-year closing for the remodeling of the aging structure.
A proposal, still operative, is to open the lobby of the old sheriff’s station during the year of remodeling.
Malibu city officials describe the new timetable as a result of the remodeling project falling behind schedule.
The city just recently put out to bid to get a contractor.
Administrative Services Director and Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman said once the contractor is on board, there will be a better opportunity to determine when everything should mobilize.
Feldman said the end of August would probably be when the city is ready, but it is possible that things could happen before that time.

Date for Prelim in Teen’s PCH Death Is Continued

• Driver of Vehicle Faces Murder Charge


Sina Khankhanian, who is charged with being at the wheel of an erratically speeding vehicle and taking the life of a Malibu teenager on April 3, was ordered into court this week.
Khankhanian, who is charged with one count of murder with special allegations of using a deadly weapon to commit murder, had the matter of setting a preliminary hearing date continued until July 22, according to a spokesperson with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
Deputies reported that Khankhanian drove his vehicle off the roadway at Pacific Coast Highway and Heathercliff Road fatally hitting Emily Shane, before he overturned the vehicle.
Shane’s death has mobilized many in the community in a drive for renewed awareness of public safety on PCH.

School Group Meets Locally to Explore Ways to Finance $5.7 Million Shortfall

• Foundation Has 60 Days to Raise Money to Prevent Cuts

BY JULIE WALLACH


The Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, a fundraising organization founded in 1992 to improve academics, arts and athletics districtwide, met in Malibu on Tuesday to discuss “Save Our Schools,” a 60-day fundraising effort that will attempt to restore at least a portion of the $5.7 million the district would have received had Measure A passed.
According to SMMEF, state funding for SMMUSD schools dropped $10 million per year for each of the last three years. Sixty-five teachers and district staff lost their jobs within the last month. District reserves will be exhausted by the end of the 2010-11 academic year.
Linda Gross, who is the SOS’s steering committee chair, explained SMMEF’s three reinstatement priorities, described as “buckets,” for the 2010-11 school year. The top priority, or first bucket, would include funds to restore elementary school class size ratio from 27:1 back to 23:1 for first, second and third grade classes, then kindergarten. The second bucket would enable reducing secondary class size from 35:1 to 33:1 and reinstate secondary school counselors. The third bucket would fund elementary music and library services.
Donations can be earmarked for a particular bucket and could spill over to other priorities. According to the SOS website, “If fundraising within any or all of the three categories does not reach the full amount needed to restore all positions, then partial restorations will be made.”
According to Rebecca Kennerly, SOS steering committee member and Center for Excellent Public Schools chair, this is the first time an independent organization has permission to raise funds for teacher salaries in the district, with the exception of “monies raised for some targeted programs, mostly arts, which includes some teacher positions.”
The board of education will have the final say on how the funds are allocated and who gets rehired and where. Teachers with the highest seniority will be rehired first. Malibu High PTSA president Wendy Sidley explained that “time is of the essence, as teachers will look elsewhere to secure employment for the coming school year.”
SMMEF asked for a minimum $425 contribution per student that will cover the shortfall for the upcoming academic year only. A total of $1.68 million is required to decrease elementary school class size. Kennerly added, “We don’t have to raise all of that money to make a difference.”
Approximately 80 Malibu parents and PTA members attended the meeting. Malibu parents pointed to the allocation of funds raised and whether that money would be earmarked for Malibu schools and more specifically, Malibu teachers whose positions are now threatened.
Parents raised their concerns about funds benefitting Santa Monica schools rather than Malibu schools, reiterating their concern about donations being used for Malibu students.
Contributions cannot be restricted to use in Malibu, but Sidley responded to this concern with, “We hear a lot about Malibu not getting its fair share of funds but we are; SMMUSD gives Malibu $7 million, which we have to remember helps Malibu students.” Kennerly clarified, “Malibu receives 20 percent of all district funds, as Malibu has 20 percent of students in the district. The district has a $110 general fund, so Malibu receives $23 million from the district.”
Sidley emphasized the need for parents to “view [the funding shortfall] as a community issue that requires collaborative effort in Santa Monica and Malibu,” noting that “the division between the two areas does not serve the community as a whole.” Julie Masterson, Special Education Foundation board member, suggested that Santa Monica and Malibu students “come together for bake sales, car washes, garage sales…people who donate will respond to students from both communities working together.”
Malibu High senior Kaitlyn Connors attended the meeting to emphasize the importance of elementary school music education. Connors said, “You don’t really care as much about knowing quadratic formulae as who your kids are as human beings,” noting that students cultivate a love of music education at an early age, which positively shapes them and helps them to become better people, adding that “by middle school, our passion for learning–even music–isn’t as strong as in elementary school.”
“We have to look at anything we do as success,” Gross stated, mentioning the time constraints given summer vacation and teachers seeking alternative employment for the coming school year.
Meetings will be held in the district office each Monday during the 60-day campaign. Information regarding the budget cuts, fund allocation and fundraising effort can be found at www.smmef.org

Paparazzo v. Surfers Plays Out in Malibu Courthouse

• Trial Goes into Its Second Week


Two longtime local surfers who are accused of pushing and shoving a paparazzo and damaging equipment during a melee on the beach, were again in court as their trial moved into its second week.
A spokesperson for the Malibu court, where the trial is taking place, said on Tuesday night as the Malibu Surfside News went to press, that the trial would resume on Thursday when closing arguments are scheduled to be heard.
Skylar Peak, 24, and Philip Hildebrand, 31, were first slated to stand trial in March. The hearing was postponed after a mistrial was declared at that time because Denise Peak, the defendant’s mother, suffered serious injuries in a automobile accident.
The pair are charged with misdemeanor battery, accused of throwing photographer Richid Altmbareckouhammouand and his equipment into the water as he attempted to take pictures of actor Matthew McConaughey who was surfing off the Point. McConaughey was not involved in the incident.
Peak and Hildebrand, who have pled not guilty, maintain that they responded in self-defense after a large aggressive pack of paparazzi reportedly stormed the private portion of a beach at Little Dume Cove after being told they were trespassing.
The fray that ensued was videotaped and footage that its critics allege was edited to favor the paparazzi was shown around the world.
The video does not include an alleged attack on Peak by a paparazzo with a camera tripod that resulted in contusions. The event purportedly preceded the fight.
Observers say it is unusual for a case of this type involving a misdemeanor first offense to reach the trial phase.

Safety Commission Wants New Tsunami Warning System for City’s Coastal Areas

• Evacuation Signs Are Disappearing from Canyon Roads

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The City of Malibu’s Public Safety Commission would like to see Malibu have a tsunami warning system to protect and notify low-lying areas of the community in the event of a major tsunami incident.
According to Brad Davis, the city’s emergency services coordinator, current tsunami warning protocol consists of the city’s reverse 911 system, a plan to deploy emergency services vehicles with bull horns to warn residents and small signs at the base of Malibu’s canyon roads indicating “tsunami escape routes.”
The city has also published a one-page tsunami information sheet with practical advice that includes: “Stay away from coastal or low-lying areas. Waves might continue for several hours and travel several times faster than you can walk, run or drive.
“When you are that close, you will probably not escape the waves. Remember that a tsunami is a series of waves. Often the first wave may be the least dangerous. The waves may get progressively worse.
“Use common sense. Do not endanger yourself by trying to surf a tsunami. Because they are not like regular waves, they are impossible to surf. They are much faster, higher and can come onshore filled with debris.”
“The tsunami signs get taken down as soon as they are put up,” Davis told the safety commission at its June meeting, suggesting that the signs may be popular dorm room decorations.
Davis said that the kind of tsunami that poses the biggest concern is a near-field or “local” tsunami, one that can hit the coast within minutes following an offshore geological event, and would provide authorities just minutes to warn coastal residents and beachgoers, to head for higher ground. He reminded the commissioners that tsunamis often consist of a series of waves.
“I would feel more comfortable if we had a siren system,” commission chair Carol Randall said.
The commission moved to investigate tsunami warning systems.
Davis said that the city emergency phone number database has approximately 27,000 entries, but that many Malibu residents have provided only their landlines, not their cell phone numbers, and recommended that the city remind residents to enroll their numbers in the city’s Emergency Notification System. The city’s tsunami information sheet and more information on the emergency notification system, including an Internet submission form to add phone numbers to the system, are available on the city’s website: www.ci.malibu.ca.us

Publisher’s Notebook

• Waging War on Nature in the Gulf of Mexico •

BY ANNE SOBLE


Hundreds of children converged on Nicholas Beach last Wednesday to experience the ocean—some of them for the very first time—and learn about its multifaceted magnificence and some of its woes. Few children with access to media of any kind are unaware of the disaster that has consumed all of forms of life along the Gulf Coast. They know about the growing number of dolphins that have died, the over a thousand dead birds and counting, and the hundreds of dead turtles, including two species now headed for extinction.
Adults want oil to fuel their locomotion. For too many of them, the Deepwater Horizon debacle is the cost of being mobile. But children worry about birds and animals. They unabashedly tear up at images of birds so covered with oily mucilage that one can only tell that they are birds because of the outline of something that could be a beak. They want to know if the birds will be okay, but oil has permeated every surface without and within.
Children even sense that there are dead creatures that may never be counted, swept up in the miles of underwater plume that’s a swirling slough of oil and chemical dispersants that never should be put in the sea in the first place. Now that the world knows how ill prepared the oil industry is for a well crisis of this magnitude, no faith can ever be placed in any of its assertions about the safety of anything it does in the ocean.
When I went up to Prince William Sound 21 years ago, I thought I’d come face to face with environmental Armageddon, but the current Gulf of Mexico horror so far exceeds the Exxon Valdez spill that it is the new environmental Armageddon. The myths of engineering technology and scientific prowess are shattered.
The youngsters visiting Malibu did experiments to show how oil coats everything it touches. The children of the Gulf Coast states don’t need these lessons. They are living them. They go with family members—many of whom are devastated financially—down to the shore. They see the dead animals and plants—whole mangroves rotting before them. They smell the acridity. They breathe in the oil. Their childhood is impacted in much the same way as are the lives of children in a war zone. There are no guns, but we now can see that greed, malfeasance and incompetence can destroy nature without firing a single shot.

Elite LASD Divers Search Waters in Malibu Creek Area in Mitrice Richardson Case

• Find May Prove to Be Animal Bones But Detectives Say that All Leads Are Being Followed Up

BY ANNE SOBLE


The last official sighting of Mitrice Richardson was on Sept. 17, 2009, at 12:35 a.m., when the 24-year-old was released from the custody of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station alone, on foot, and without her wallet and cell phone, which deputies had left behind in her impounded vehicle in Malibu.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department maintains that her release followed protocol, but Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, contends the LASD acted negligently because witnesses indicated that her daughter was exhibiting signs of mental illness and different procedures exist for those circumstances.
Richardson had been transported to Lost Hills for booking after Geoffrey’s restaurant called the station to pick her up for nonpayment of an $89 dinner tab. Deputies subsequently found a small amount of marijuana in her vehicle.
An LASD video of Richardson in the Lost Hills booking cage that has only been shown to Sutton and members of her close inner circle of family and supporters is described by them as disturbing.
They say she appears to be in a state of mental stress, is unable to complete telephone calls and then curls up on the floor in a fetal position. However, the jailer has described her as lucid and coherent and said she engaged Richardson in conversation about music and other topics.
DIVE SEARCH
Last Saturday, members of the specially trained LASD Emergency Service Detail Dive Team took part in the latest effort to learn the fate of Richardson who has reportedly not contacted the family with which she is close, or accessed several thousand dollars in a bank account.
Following up a lead from a hiker about bones that couldn’t be checked out because the unseasonably late rains kept water levels high, Sheriff’s Homicide Lt. Michael Rosson said, “On Saturday, June 12, members of the LASD/ ESD Dive Team searched a body of water in Malibu Creek State Park, accompanied by Homicide Detective Kenneth Perry and members of the Malibu Search and Rescue Team.”
Rosson said, “The LASD dive team deployed into the stream and lake, but did not recover any bones or evidence considered human related. Several bones believed to be animal in nature were recovered and will be forwarded to the coroner’s office for official exam.”
ESD deputies are trained as paramedics and rescue divers to serve in one of the LASD’s special units called upon throughout the country for their water skills.
CULVERT MURAL
A large mural covering a culvert wall in the Santa Monica Mountains that depicted pornographic images of African-American women, who have natural or Fro hairstyles similar to that of Richardson when she disappeared, was discovered during a volunteer field search for the missing woman June 6.
The mural has greatly upset family members who believe it was painted the day before the well-publicized search—wet paintbrushes were still at the site—and meant to be discovered by searchers.
Rosson told the Malibu Surfside News that photos of the mural and evidence from the location, including potential DNA samples, are currently being analyzed.
FAMILY DISPUTE
Although there has been ongoing public tension between Richardson’s parents—they never married—since their daughter went missing, this tension is greatly increased. The father, Michael Richardson, has largely been uninvolved in Sutton’s efforts.
Sutton has sent emails to all parties who have been involved in her search efforts alleging that the father is misusing mural photographs that belong to her and he is attempting to financially benefit from his daughter’s plight.
She says she is especially concerned that people “may be led to believe that any donations made to Michael Richardson...are used for search [efforts].”
Sutton said she didn’t want the father to learn about the mural from the media and sent him copies of photos that he did not have permission to post on his website or blog, which he did in unredacted form.
She said she “hoped that Michael Richardson would share these images in a responsible way, rather than to exploit this information to further his financial gain.”
In addition, she said he misidentifies where the mural was located, “It is not in Malibu, nor is it down the street from the sheriff’s department, or even in Calabasas, as he says.”
Sutton summarily added, “I am not here to get my 15 minutes of fame, or marinate in what I perceive as a godfather persona. My mission is to continue to hike the land my baby was last seen in, looking for clues to find her.”
Information about Mitrice Richardson can be relayed to the LASD’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. A $25,000 reward has been offered to encourage people to step forward.