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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

City Hall Theater Debate Continues

• $3.9 Million Approved for Remodel Construction Plan


Despite a plea from Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich to keep the new city hall theater intact, a majority of the Malibu City Council, this week, approved over $3.9 million for a construction contract for the makeover.
Conley Ulich started off by saying she had very few regrets making decisions as a council member, but thought one of the biggest mistakes being made was reducing the size of the theater. “I know that it will be better for the spoken word [for city council meetings]. These meetings are great, but not the most important thing. I urge the council and am making one last plea to save the theater and make Malibu Vienna,” she said.
Other council members were quick to debate Conley Ulich’s contentions, but no one discussed the costs.
When the design contract and other costs are added in, the total estimated price tag for the project amounts to $5,429,415. Most of the funding is coming from borrowed money, or what is called certificates of participation, according to Reva Feldman, the assistant city manager and administrative services director. Feldman has indicated at the present count, the city will need to take out $640,415 from its general fund.
The makeover of the new city hall has been enmeshed in controversy since the building was purchased during an auction, with two separate councils debating what should or should not be done, especially what is involved in reconfiguring the theater seating.
Councilmember John Sibert was the first to respond to Conley Ulich’s remarks this week. “We have had this debate prior to this. Pam and I respectfully disagree. I do not believe it is good for just the spoken word, but good for music. It will be better overall,” he said.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal agreed. “I am really excited. It will be a great city hall. It is time for us to have a city hall. I look forward to the community theater,” she said.
Councilmember Lou La Monte, who said he has been involved in the theater most of his life, said he looked at it as an improved space. “The 285 seats are great seats,” he said.
Mayor Jefferson Wagner weighed in on the side of the majority.
“It is our duty to govern. The city hall is about governing. Our vote is in the best interests of the people. Modifying the theater is in the best interests of the people,” he added.
Last summer, the city awarded a contract to LPA, Inc., a design firm that also did the design for the library remodeling project.
However, review and rereviews of the conceptual plans dragged on. It wasn't until nine months later, that the current sitting council gave final approval and the project was put out to bid.
Feldman indicated, in a memo to the council, that the construction contract will consist only of interior renovations. A separate contract will be issued for the purchase and installation of furniture, fixtures and equipment including audiovisual equipment for the council chambers, Feldman noted. The council made no comment about those additional costs.

Council Says No to Changing Pot Law

• Radius Requirement from ‘Sensitive’ Locations Is Key


Malibu City Council members made it clear this week they were unwilling to make changes to loosen restrictions on where a pot pharmacy can be allowed in the city.
An attorney for Green Angel Collective, which has already closed it doors, told council members that his clients Noah and Linda Parsley wanted the law changed from the 1000-foot radius from sensitive areas, such as schools, parks and playgrounds, to a 500-foot radius so the distance restriction between the cannabis outlet and a park would allow the dispensary to remain where it is. The pot pharmacy is less than 1000 feet from Las Flores Canyon Park.
Green Angel Attorney Jeff Valle said when the moratorium was placed there were two dispensaries and the law was crafted to allow the two existing facilities. He said he believed that was also the intent of the city council. He charged the city would in effect be creating a monopoly if it allowed just one dispensary to exist. “It was not the intent of the council to create just one collective,” he said.
Valle reminded council members the issue was not about the merits of medical marijuana, but about the zoning issues.
The council heard from a small contingent of supporters and opponents, who either urged the council to keep the restrictions or insisted the council should loosen them to allow Green Angel to stay.
David Price, the owner of Terra restaurant, which is next to the pot pharmacy, said he saw mostly kids in the parking lot and going into the dispensary. “There must be a lot sick kids in Malibu,” he said.
Susan Saul, who said she was speaking as a private individual, stated the restrictions should stay in place and not be reduced. Saul went a step further and proposed that medical marijuana dispensaries should be banned. “It is a problem on Pacific Coast Highway,” she said.
Others argued they use the drug medicinally and one of the more affordable outlets was being taken away from them.
A staff report states that of eight cities that regulate medical marijuana, seven municipalities impose a 1000-foot limit from from “sensitive use” locations.
Dispensaries are banned in four of the cities examined by the planning staff.
The city’s planning commission recommended the city council not approve the zone text amendment for the shorter distance.
Valle revealed the dispensary was operating under what is called a compliance agreement with the city that expired June 2010.
It was also revealed that the collective has been looking for months for another location to no avail. Green Angel has not found a location with a willing lessor.
Councilmember John Sibert said he had previously voted to allow two dispensaries in the city. “But that does not mean we require two,” he added.
He said he was reluctant to approve the change in law because Green Angel had never shown it would obey the law. “Green Angel continued to operate after a denial by the planning commission and the city council. The 1000 feet is a standard for distance. The radius is standard. I am going to vote to deny it,” he said.
Mayor Jefferson Wagner said it was the council’s intention to spread the two dispensaries out along Malibu, one in the east and one in the west.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said the issue was not about medical marijuana. “It is about the law. We are not voting on medical marijuana, but on the law,” he said.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she did not think it was the city’s responsibility to avoid or prevent a monopoly “I am going to vote to keep it at 1000 feet. Green Angel has not been a good neighbor. I know that is not a reason to [deny a ZTA],” she said. “I am a huge proponent of medical marijuana.”
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, the council member who insisted the 1000 feet be put into the law before it was enacted, said “I wanted to make it safe for kids. They are the ones who go to the park.”
Conley Ulich said maybe the city does not need two pot pharmacies. “Maybe one is enough. Maybe we don't need any,” she added, suggesting that the council just might revisit the entire issue.

Commission Studies WiFi Plan for City Owned Parks

• Bluffs Is the Top Pick for Hotspot


The City of Malibu Telecommunications Commission was scheduled to hold a special meeting last week at Bluffs Park, but had to cancel the meeting because the location was unavailable.
When the commission does meet, it is expected to talk about turning Malibu’s city-owned parks into WiFi accessible locations, with Bluffs Park being possibly the first.
The commission, which plans to meet with Mario Reyna, the city’s information systems administrator, was assigned the task by the city council. At a previous meeting, commissioners prioritized the wireless Internet and the needed facilities for Bluffs, Trancas and Las Flores canyon parks based on public WiFi usage needs.
WiFi is already offered by the state Department of Parks and Recreation at several locations in Malibu, including Malibu Lagoon, Leo Carrillo and Point Mugu state parks.
The state partnered with AT&T to bring high-speed Internet access to the picnic tables, tents and RVs of park users.
WiFi is short for wireless fidelity and it enables park visitors with wireless enabled laptop computers or handheld devices to access the Internet.
Park visitors can gain access within about 150 to 200 feet of the WiFi hotspot located in the park, according to state park officials.

Date for Setting Prelim in PCH Death Announced

• Murder Charge Could Result in Life Term


Sina Khankhanian, 26, who is charged with taking the life of a Malibu teenager that has spawned a safety movement campaign for Pacific Coast Highway, had another court date last week.
The matter was scheduled for Aug. 27 to set a preliminary hearing date for the San Fernando Valley man, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
Deputy District Attorney Marna Miller said Khankhanian, who gave deputies a Winnetka address when he was arrested, was arraigned on the murder charge at the Airport Branch of Superior Court, according to the DA’s media office.
Khankhanian, who was ordered jailed on $3 million bail, is charged with one count of murder with a special allegation of using his vehicle as a deadly weapon to commit murder, according to the DA.
The felony complaint states Khankhanian “unlawfully and with malice aforethought murder[ed] Emily S.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum prison term of life with the possibility of parole.
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.

Council Subcommittee Considers New Cultural Arts Fee Program

• Creation of Ordinance to be Discussed


The Malibu City Council’s Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee is scheduled to meet this week to discuss creating a public arts fee on 121 development.
Before the current council made certain efforts to reinvigorate the arts discussion, the previous council had started to bring something to the table.
In 2007, Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich introduced the idea about creating a public arts and culture ordinance, according to the staff report.
Then at the end of 2007, Conley Ulich presented the council with a draft ordinance requiring the provision of public art or payment of an in lieu fee in conjunction with commercial construction in the city.
Later in 2008, the city council adopted a resolution or a zone text amendment to consider the addition of a new section to the municipal code regarding the creation of a public arts program and directed ZORACES to develop recommendations for the planning commission.
“Staff completed an extensive review of the public arts programs by other similar cities, including Dana Point, Carlsbad and Newport Beach. The original included all facets involved with implementing a public arts program such as types of projects that must contribute fees, how the total fee owed is assessed, how the artwork is selected and what permitting requirements are necessary for installation of art,” the staff report added.
Just recently, the current city council formed an ad hoc committee composed of Councilmembers Laura Rosenthal and Lou La Monte to further discuss formulation of a Malibu Arts Commission.
“After consultation with the ad hoc committee, staff has decided to move forward with only the implementation of a public arts fee at this time,” the report goes on to state. A more comprehensive ordinance focusing on all the facets of a public arts program (i.e. types of art desired, potential for donation of physical art rather than fee, permitting requirements, use of the fees that have been collected, etc.) will be put forward at a later time,” the report goes onto state.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal at a city council meeting this week acknowledged the two prong approach and said she and Councilmember Lou La Monte would continue their fact finding mission on the arts and report back to the full council about what to put forward at a later time.
Planners said they found most cities apply a one percent fee on all new commercial development with the exception of Santa Monica, which applies the fees to not only commercial development, but larger commercial remodels or tenant improvements, as well as residential projects of five or more units.
ZORACES members were told there is much to talk about in terms of how to set up fees and how much to charge. The fee could be applicable to anyone or entity constructing or reconstructing a commercial building with a total construction cost valued at one million dollars.
The fee may have a value that equals or exceeds one percent. The public arts fee could be applied to projects with construction costs of a lower value than $2 million such as $250,000 or $500,000.
The subcommittee will also have a chart of how much commercial and residential property has been built over the years.
At a previous council meeting, City Attorney Christi Hogin reminded council members that by comparison to other cities, Malibu does not have much commercial build out left, thereby making a fee program vulnerable to a scarcity of funding.

Surfrider Beach Declared World Reserve

• Other International Locations Will Be Chosen

Malibu Surfrider Beach has been chosen as the first surf spot to be declared a world surfing reserve, according to several international surfing organizations.
Save the Waves Coalition, in partnership with National Surfing Reserves Australia and the International Surfing Association, made the announcement last week about the forthcoming dedication of the world-famous surfing break as the first World Surfing Reserve.
What is described as “an enshrinement ceremony” will be held on October 9. The all-day event will feature a paddle out celebration, daytime media event and evening fundraiser.
“The October 9 event will also mark the commencement of a stewardship and preservation plan for Malibu aimed at building general awareness around the importance of protecting the world’s greatest and most cherished surf spots,” a press release states.
A local stewardship council made up of community members familiar with and dedicated to surfing at Malibu beaches will be responsible for implementing the stewardship plan. Confirmed members of the council include Alan Sarlo, Andy Lyon, Bill Parr and Mayor Jefferson Wagner.
The WSR program, inspired by UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, would be utilized to identify and preserve surfing heritage, through their important surf breaks.
“Malibu makes any short list of the world’s most famous beaches and remains a reference point for much of what we think of the style in or out of the water,” said Michael Blum, president of the Malibu Surfing Association and a member of the Malibu World Surfing Reserve Local Surfing Reserve Stewardship Council.
Earlier this year, the California Coastal Commission adopted a resolution in support of world reserve surfing posts.
The designation of Malibu is described as the first in a series of planned designations of world surfing reserves for the coastlines of Australia, Hawaii and numerous other destinations. For more information visit: www.worldsurfing

Patrick Cady Plans to Run for School Board Seat


Longtime Malibu Resident Patrick Cady has announced that he plans to run for one of four seats on the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District’s board of education in the November election. Malibu has not had a representative on the board since 2008, when boardmember Kathy Wisnicki decided not to run for a second term.
“It’s something I’ve thought about during the past 10-15 years,” Cady told the Malibu Surfside News, adding that as a Malibu resident and a teacher who taught in Santa Monica schools for many years, he has a good perspective on the needs and issues in both of the communities that comprise the district.
Cady, who has a master’s degree in U.S. history, taught for 34 years in the SMMUSD. Cady taught history, math, English and P.E. at SMASH, SMMUSD’s Santa Monica Alternative School House. He went on to teach A.P. history and math at Santa Monica High School, where he also coached the track and field team. His wife, Linda Cady, taught P.E. at Malibu Park Junior High School before it became Malibu High School, and later at John Adams Elementary School in Santa Monica. Their daughter Kristen grew up in Malibu and attended district schools.
Cady says that at Samohi he was involved in developing a life skills class for incoming freshmen, that combined humanities, study skills, counseling and community service. He describes it as “the class I was born to teach.” He indicated that serving on the board would be an opportunity to extend the ideas that he developed for that course.
“I asked [the students] to do community service,” Cady said, “How could I ask that of them if I wasn’t willing to do the same? I want to give back to the community,” he said.
“It sounds sort of silly, but I listen to what people are saying,” Cady told The News. I would listen to the board, the community, close the gap.”
I’m not blown away by a lot of talk,” Cady said. “I think we could be spending money better.”
Board incumbents Oscar de la Torre, Ralph Mechur and Barry Snell are running for reelection. Boardmember Kelly Pye has announced that she is not running for a second term.
Education activist Laurie Lieberman and Santa Monica residents Nimish Patel and Chris Bley are also reportedly taking part in the race. Potential candidates have until Aug. 6 to collect 100 signatures from registered voters in the district and file nomination papers at Santa Monica City Hall.
Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, a political activism group that traditionally has tremendous power to influence voters’ choices in Santa Monica election issues, will be endorsing its preferred slate of board of education candidates on Aug. 1, well ahead of the Aug. 6 filing deadline.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Lowering the Vroom in Malibu •


Whether California’s state legislators are willing to risk the wrath of a sea of seething motorcyclists to respond to longstanding constituent concerns about bike noise at levels that interrupt conversations and rattle windows from Pacific Coast Highway through the Santa Monica Mountains and beyond, will be evident when SB 435 reaches the next rung on the legislative ladder at its scheduled airing before the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, August 4.
The measure, authored by local State Senator Fran Pavley, would make it an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $100, to operate a motorcycle without a readily visible [noise standard] stamp that proves that the bike’s exhaust system complies with federal Environmental Protection Agency standards.
This is all about noise—a major environmental pollutant—with the issue as it relates to motorcycles being largely the modification of bikes with aftermarket parts, especially straight pipes that are capable of taking decibels to the max because those bikers equate noise with power—the biker’s and the bike’s.
In SB 435’s language, it “would be a crime for a person to park, use, or operate a motorcycle, registered in the state, that is manufactured on and after January 1, 2011 or a motorcycle, registered in the state, with aftermarket exhaust system equipment that is manufactured on or after January 1, 2011, that does not have the EPA stamp.”
The motorcycle lobby, ABATE, the American Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education, has already killed an effort to include a motorcycle smog check provision in the bill, in return for which it agreed to remain neutral on the EPA stamp issue. However, the überpowerful American Motorcyclist Association is still soundly against the bill, as is the Harley-Davidson Dealers Association.
While civic-minded motorcyclists urge fellow bikers to tone down the pipes, others want to kill any attempt at noise restrictions. Noise is an ingrained part of biker culture, and modification is big business. Those opposed to controls intend to fight.
Local residents and all others in California who support controls on the eardrum-busters need to let members—all members—of the state legislature know where they stand. Several Malibuites have told me that the law is so long overdue that, of course, it will pass. Since SB 435 has already been watered down appreciably, if the clamor for killing it outright is as loud as the bikes the law would attempt to regulate, don’t bet on it.

Top Chef Offers ‘Savory’ Malibu Menu at New Point Dume Restaurant

• Chumash Concept of Bounty Inspires Seasonal Palette of Locally Sourced Delicacies


Malibu resident Paul Shoemaker has built a reputation in his profession as the executive chef of haute cuisine restaurant Bastide, on Melrose. This week, he’s opening his own restaurant, Savory, a project close to his heart—and home—on Point Dume.
The location, familiar to most Malibuites as the home for nearly 30 years of a Chinese restaurant and before that for several years, a diner, is now bright, tranquil and inviting, taking advantage of natural light and the view from the plate glass windows.
Shoemaker, deemed by many to be one of the West Coast’s rising young chefs, is overseeing every detail at Savory from the floor plan to the table candles. “My philosophy is that everything matters,” he says.
The tables and a long, full-service food bar are made of honey-colored wood. The white china is simple and generous; the flatware substantial. A wooden bowl at each table holds fleur de sel. One wall is lined with custom wine racks.
Shoemaker says he plans to stock approximately 40 labels of wine—20 red, 20 white. “I envision a bottle at every table,” he says, adding that prices will be reasonable.
Custom-roasted coffee is ground to order and brewed in a state-of-the-art machine. “We’ll be offering the best cup of coffee in Malibu,” the ebullient chef says. The iced tea is brewed. The milk and butter are organic. The restaurant plans to bake its own bread.
Shoemaker describes the menu as “American food with a French influence.”
A sample menu, printed on paper made from bamboo, is short but diverse. It focuses primarily on seafood and vegetables. Selections range from a salad of heirloom beets to crab cakes, steamed black mussels and the Jidori chicken that is seen on the best restaurant menus.
Shoemaker stresses that the menu will be locally sourced and will change frequently to reflect what is currently in season.
He says he has already lined up a variety of Malibu produce, including lemons and salad greens.
The Malibu-grown produce will be augmented with selections from local farmers markets.
Shoemaker adds that he plans to offer fresh local fish, and anticipates having spiny lobster in the fall.
“For the Chumash, this was the land of plenty,” Shoemaker says. “Zuma means bountiful [and] that’s the philosophy of Savory. It’s whatever inspires, simple and beautiful. I want to keep it local, just cook and not worry.”
The restaurateur says his first date with his future wife was at Zuma Beach. The couple were married in Malibu and now live on Point Dume, within walking distance of the restaurant. He describes this stage of his life as bliss.
Shoemaker plans to start with dinner for the first month at Savory, adding lunch when his staff is settled and comfortable.
But he’s also looking further ahead. “I’d like to do outreach,” he says. “Teach kids how to eat, show them the restaurant. Cooking is an art, an affordable art.”
Savory is opening this week in Point Dume Village, 29169 Heathercliff Road, 310-589-8997.

Joint Law Enforcement Effort Searches for Mitrice Richardson in the Las Vegas Area

• Woman Who Disappeared 11 Months Ago Is the Subject of a Major Deployment of Resources


As the saga of the honors college graduate and beauty pageant competitor who disappeared after being released from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station starts its eleventh month, a new and dramatic turn of events has sent some family members of Mitrice Richardson and others monitoring the mysterious case reeling.
Law enforcement officials have not gone public with all of the details yet, but family members have told the Malibu Surfside News that a multi-agency investigation—including the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles City Police Department and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department—with over a dozen detectives and related forensic personnel has been under way in Las Vegas for almost a month, following a June sighting of Richardson that is said to be the first important break in the case.
Lt. Michael Rosson, the LASD’s lead homicide detective on the case told The News Tuesday that it is too soon to definitively say the woman sighted in Las Vegas is Richardson “but the investigation leads us to believe that it could be, and we are going to deploy resources to prove or disprove it.”
A call for assistance from the public to help locate Richardson is expected to be issued in Las Vegas on Thursday that will address the alleged sighting and the major investigation that already includes interviews of several hundred people in that city, including individuals in security and other fields that might have had contact with the woman believed to be Richardson.
A plea will be directed at Richardson herself to contact local authorities and assure them that she is well and acting under her own volition. She will be assured that she is not in any legal trouble and will not be detained.
This is the second reported sighting of Richardson in Las Vegas. Her father, Michael Richardson, reported a sighting of her there in January, but there wasn’t as much detail to follow up as with the recent event.
The woman’s family and the media were requested not to make the probe details public before now, in order to allow an unimpeded investigation and prevent any action that might prompt the person they seek to incur harm or flee the area.
Richardson, who is 25, African-American and a slightly built five-foot, five-inches, was released just after midnight on Sept. 17, 2009, after being booked at Lost Hills following a citizen arrest in Malibu by Geoffrey’s restaurant personnel for alleged inability to pay an $89 dinner tab, although she had credit cards and several thousand dollars in a bank account.
This might have been evident from the contents of a purse that was left in her locked car, which the restaurant had towed from its small parking lot to a local impound yard. She was released alone without money, her cell phone or a means of transportation.
Apart from a possible sighting in a Monte Nido backyard just after dawn that same morning, some distance from the station, to which she might have been driven, the 25-year-old woman has neither been seen, nor contacted her family, nor accessed her bank funds or used credit cards.
The June sighting was learned about first by family members of the missing woman who immediately shared the details with the LASD and the LAPD, the law enforcement agencies cooperating on the search effort under the latter’s lead.
Richardson’s aunt, Lauren Sutton, told The News she received a call from the father of the man—then a teenager—who had taken Richardson to her tenth-grade winter formal. He has not seen Richardson since she was 15, according to her family, but Greg Amerson is reportedly adamant that he saw the missing woman in Las Vegas in June.
Amerson reportedly told family members that he was in the lounge of the Rio Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, an older resort on Flamingo Road, a short distance from the Las Vegas Strip.
Although there appear to be time variations in versions of the story that have been told, Amerson said he was in the lounge of the Brazilian-themed casino, when he noticed a woman sitting at the bar and talking to people. The woman was wearing a white dress and heels. Sutton was told that he thought the woman might have been soliciting.
Sutton said that Amerson told his father that he walked over to her and reportedly said, “Hello, Mitrice.” He said the woman looked surprised, and then hurriedly left the location without saying anything.
Amerson did not notify the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department or anyone else that evening because he didn’t know Richardson was still technically missing. He told his family about the incident several days later, and it was another few days before the father called Sutton.
So much time had elapsed since the alleged sighting that the film in the casino’s security cameras had been erased—this is done every six days—and possible corroboration of whether the woman in question was Richardson was no longer available.
The aunt immediately got hold of Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, who contacted Lt. Rosson, Sutton’s main contact at the LASD in recent weeks. He jump-started the dispatch of personnel to Las Vegas that at one time comprised 10–12 detectives following up on the lead, including Rosson.
The specifics of the announcement expected later this week are being kept under wraps. As of Tuesday afternoon, Richardson’s mother was awaiting more information about the public statement slated to be issued in Las Vegas. The final details of the announcement were expected to be finalized on Wednesday.
When there was the report of a Las Vegas sighting by the father in January, it was indicated that Richardson knows people in Las Vegas. In addition, she had visited there in August, a month before the Geoffrey’s incident, but her mother adamantly says, “In my gut, I do not believe Mitrice is in Las Vegas.”
Sutton said she told that to Lt. Rosson, and he asked her why she doesn’t want to believe her daughter is there. She said she told him that she cannot believe that her daughter could have spent over ten months without contacting members of her family, especially her maternal great-grandmother with whom she resided, unless she was ill or under some form of duress.
Several days before last September’s Malibu incident, Richardson had been sending family and friends puzzling text messages that rambled on about nature and the universe, and on Sept. 16, she said to watch the TV news.
No one appears to know why Richardson was in Malibu on Sept.16, went to Geoffrey’s, where staff said she was behaving bizarrely, speaking gibberish and acting as if she was substance impaired. No one has explained why, if she was acting strangely in the restaurant parking lot, she was able to go inside the restaurant and order dinner at a table with diners she didn’t know.
Medical experts reviewing documents and diary entries found in her car have since indicated that she may have been experiencing the onset of a bipolar episode and the law enforcement agencies have labeled her a “critically” missing person because of possible mental illness. But law enforcement representatives say that, until there is an official medical examination, this is not a confirmed diagnosis.
Latice Sutton has high praise for the manpower and expense involved in the Las Vegas investigation of her daughter’s possible sighting. She said everyone appreciates the effort that has been expended. She expressed the hope that it will continue for future leads if the woman turns out not to be Richardson.
Among other leads that have recently attracted the family’s attention is a report from a man who noticed a woman fitting Richardson’s description, in the Los Angeles area. The woman reportedly was talking loudly to herself, repeating comments such as “see how pretty she is,” and “isn’t she beautiful,” as she walked along the street.
Both of Richardson’s parents have now filed separate lawsuits against Los Angeles County, the sheriff’s department, and a number of named and unnamed LASD personnel.
The two lawsuits seek unspecified monetary damages, and charge the LASD with negligence in the release of someone who they contend should have been 5150’d—detained for observation under medical supervision.
Attorneys for both parties indicate litigation is perceived as necessary to gain access to official documents and LASD personnel testimony. The LASD has steadfastly maintained that it adhered to all established protocol in handling Richardson’s release and declines further statements until the matter reaches the courtroom, if that indeed is going to be the case.
Richardson’s parents, who never married, dissolved their relationship when their daughter was young and, according to court records, engaged in paternity, child support and custody disputes.
In Mitrice Richardson’s March 28, 2009, participant application for “America’s Next Top Model” program, the beauty pageant competitor and self-described go-go dancer in a gay nightclub was asked to describe her relationship with her parents.
Of her mother, she said. “I love, love, love my mother. I appreciate her so much…she did an amazing job raising me…and I want to make her proud. Telling my mother I am lesbian was the hardest thing I had to do and, although she doesn’t agree with my lifestyle, she still loves me and doesn’t treat me any differently.”
Of her father, Michael Richardson, she said, “I’m used to him not being around,” but she added, “It’s amazing how much genes play [a part] in a person’s personality, because I have never lived with him, but we are the exact same.”
To the question “who is your hero?” she responded, “My mother is my hero because she pops out of the bushes like a superhero when I need her most.”
The mother and father have conducted separate and sometimes mutually critical media campaigns to keep their daughter’s name in the public spotlight.
Recent separate interviews with the parents reflect increased acrimony, with the father publicly stating that he is the closest of kin to his daughter, despite not having raised her.
Some of the law enforcement personnel on the case who can be contacted by the public include: Detectives Chuck Knolls or Steven Eguchi with LAPD at 213-486-6900; and Detectives Dan McElderry or Ken Perry with LASD at 323-890-5500.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Questions Abound in Last Friday’s Double Fatality Crash on PCH

• Authorities Seek Witnesses as They Try to Determine What Led Up to Fiery Tragedy in Malibu


Two men died and a third was seriously injured last Friday when a wrong-way driver on Pacific Coast Highway, who may have been traveling more than 80 mph, collided with another car, strewing wreckage on the roadway and causing both vehicles to burst into flames.
James Sorg, 39, the driver of an older model Saturn, was reportedly speeding south in a northbound lane just after midnight when he struck a Ford Mustang, killing himself and the driver of the Mustang, Petty Officer Oscar Avila Mendoza, 23, a Seabee from Port Hueneme.
The lone passenger in the Mustang, Petty Officer Jesus Saenz, 24, was critically injured in the collision. Both Seabees were with Construction Battalion 40 and slated to deploy to Afghanistan in a few weeks.
The Saturn fire spread quickly and the Mustang was so severely mangled that a good Samaritan who arrived on the scene was unable to open the door.
Saenz had to be freed by firefighters with special equipment who arrived within minutes of the crash that occurred near Zuma View Terrace, about a half-mile from the site where a speeding car killed a pedestrian in April.
A resident of Zuma View Terrace, Richard Kraft, a builder, was among the first on the scene where a group of bystanders gathered within seconds. Kraft said he was in his garage when he heard the thud, went outside, saw flames engulfing the Saturn as a smaller fire burned under the Mustang’s front end.
Kraft said he checked the three men, saw that the drivers were dead and “touched the passenger who had reflexes.” He tried to open the badly crushed Mustang door, and when he couldn’t, he “knew the only hope was to put out the [car] fire.” He ran back to his house to get a fire extinguisher, put out the flames and likely saved Saenz’s life.
All of this transpired within seconds, Kraft said, adding that “people standing by the side of the road and watching, shouted at [him] to get away, saying the car would explode.” No one else offered to help.
Kraft said he was compelled to try to put out flames “because if this was me or someone in my family, I would hope somebody would do this for [us].”
There may never be answers to all of the questions that are being asked about James Sorg, who moved to Malibu from Minnesota in March. His car still had its Minnesota tags.
Sorg lived in a single rental unit in Latigo Canyon, where the property owner and neighbors described him as “a very sweet and caring man.”
Longtime Malibu resident Fred Pierson, who owns the property, said he had spoken with Sorg the day before the accident and he seemed upbeat.
Pierson said he knew that Sorg had been devastated by the death of a close friend in Minnesota ten days before the accident. He added that he never saw Sorg drunk and did not think that he used drugs.
He said Sorg, who had enjoyed some writing and acting success in Minnesota, wanted to break in to entertainment in California. Pierson added that he had read some of Sorg’s work and thought he was “very talented.”
Sheriff’s deputies searched Sorg’s quarters the morning of the accident and again on Monday for clues to what might have triggered his wrong-way driving.
Lost Hills Traffic Sgt. Phil Brooks told the Malibu Surfside News, “We didn’t find a suicide note or anything that might indicate depression.” However, Brooks added that deputies found what appears to be “meth paraphernalia” among Sorg’s belongings during the 4 a.m. search after the crash.
Brooks said it may be weeks before Sorg’s personal toxicology results are in. Even though the wrong-way driver’s body was badly burned, Brooks indicated that if there is a liver sample, that should provide information about what was in his system.


Photo 1: The remains of the two burned vehicles. (LASD Photo)
Photo 2: Recent photo of James Sorg posted on a social network page.
Photo 3: Memorial set up at PCH accident site for the two Seabees.

James Sorg’s mother, Noreen Sorg, told the Malibu Surfside News on Monday by telephone from her Minnesota home that her son “was a Christian who would never hurt anyone by crashing into [them] on purpose. He loved life and his family. He was the beloved ‘Uncle Jim’ to all his nieces and nephews.”
Noreen Sorg said her son went to California “to find success.” She said he loved California, a theme evident on his social network site posts.
His mother said Sorg was a diabetic who required insulin and other medications, but she feared that “he didn’t always take them.” Being diabetic, he was not supposed to drink alcohol. Noreen Sorg wondered about whether her son might have lapsed in and out of consciousness at the wheel, when she was told that witnesses reported to sheriff’s deputies that the man might have crossed sides of the PCH as many as three times.

Sorg’s mother said he and two other men in a close-knit circle of friends “took the death hard,” when one of them, a few years older than her son, died of a massive stroke two weeks ago. She said the longtime friends loved the Minnesota outdoors, and spent time hunting, fishing and hiking.
Petty Officers Oscar Avila Mendoza and Jesus Saenz, were good friends. Both served in Construction Battalion 40, “The Fighting Forty,” based at Port Hueneme that was getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan. It would be the second tour of duty for both men.
The battalion is only weeks away from shipping out and word from the base is that crewmembers were shaken by the loss.
On Monday, Mendoza’s widow was driven to the accident scene where an impromptu memorial has been created with flowers, American flags and the CB 40 insignia. She is expecting the couple’s first child.
Saenz, who was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center, is said to be recovering from broken bones and a concussion.
LASD’s Brooks said Sorg might have been traveling 80 mph at the time of the crash, based on skid marks at the scene. Neither vehicle appears to have braked, he has reported.
Because of the condition of the Saturn, it could not immediately be determined whether the wrong-way driver was wearing a seat belt. It appears both Seabees were wearing seat belts, and their air bags deployed, according to the report.
The PCH was impacted in both directions around the crash site until close to 9 a.m. as crews cleaned up the road and investigated the collision.
Sheriff’s officials said because they received multiple reports of wrong-way driving and speeding in both directions, they are investigating the possibility that the driver crashed intentionally. If so, the obvious question is why?
Sgt. Phil Brooks said, “People can speculate all they want, but until we find something specific or get further information from the coroner’s tests, we may or may not ever be able to make a determination.”

City Employee Faces Four Years of State Prison in Hit-and-Run Death

• Plea Deal Agreement Calls for Two Concurrent Terms


In a plea agreement approved by the court, Robert S. Sanchez, a Malibu city employee who crashed into a bicyclist last year, fatally injuring him on Pacific Coast Highway, pled no contest to two felony counts and was sentenced to two separate four-year terms to be served concurrently in state prison, according to authorities.
A restitution hearing is scheduled for July 30, when Sanchez, who remains out on bail, is to surrender himself to authorities to begin serving his sentence immediately, according to a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Court Clerk’s office.
Rodrigo “Rod” Armas, 45, died after he and his son were struck by Sanchez, who fled the scene of the accident. The two Armases were participaing in an established cycling event and adhering to the rules of the road. The fatal hit-and-run crash took place on June 28, 2009, near the 34000 block of PCH.
Armas died at the scene, while his son suffered serious injuries.
Sanchez, who was accused of being intoxicated, attempted to flee from the scene and was found a short time later hiding in nearby brush, according to the sheriff’s department report on the incident.
The spokesperson from the court clerk’s office said two lesser charges were dropped and Sanchez was convicted by Judge Lawrence Mira, who denied probation and ordered Sanchez to serve four years in state prison on violating vehicle code 20001(a), which states that a driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident.
Sanchez, who was convicted on a second count of the penal code 192(c)1 vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, was denied probation and ordered to serve a separate four-year term concurrently.
Sanchez had remained on the job as a records clerk at Malibu City Hall during the 13 months of scheduling and rescheduling of court dates in the case.

Pot Pharmacy Asks City Council to Ease Distance Rule and Legalize Location

• Issue Is 1000-Foot Radius Curb


Will the Malibu City Council make allowances next week for changes in the law to unloosen restrictions on where a pot pharmacy can be allowed in the city?
That is what the owners and an attorney for Green Angel Collective, which has already closed its doors, are hoping for.
The pot pharmacy owners want the law changed from 1000 feet from sensitive areas to a 500-foot radius so the distance restriction between the cannabis outlet would be 500 feet instead of the current 1000-foot radius.
The medical marijuana dispensary is less than a 1000-foot radius from Las Flores Canyon Park.
It was a previous city council that changed the recommended distance from 500 feet to 1000 feet and the big question remains if the current sitting council would want to relax that standard.
A staff report states that of eight cities that regulate medical marijuana, seven municipalities impose a 1000-foot limit from where a pot pharmacy may be located from sensitive uses, such as churches, schools, day care and parks among other sensitive areas.
Dispensaries are banned in four other cities that were examined.
“The method of measuring by radius and using 1000 feet as a standard distance are consistent with the Guidelines for Security and Non-Diversion of Marijuana Grown for Medical Use, published by the California Attorney General in August 2008. The guidelines state medical marijuana may not be smoked at or within 1000 feet of a school, recreation center, or youth center,” the planning staff report states.
The city’s planning commission recommended the city council not approve the zone text amendment for the shorter distance.
A letter from Green Angel’s councel, the law office of Valle K. Makoff, revealed the dispensary was operating under what is called a compliance agreement with the city that expired June 2010.
“The compliance agreement acknowledges that Green Angel will seek a ZTA during the penance of the compliance period as a step toward becoming a conditionally permitted use,” wrote Green Angel attorney.
It was also revealed that the collective has been looking for months for another location to no avail.
“Green Angel has not found a location with a willing lessor.”

Officials Remit a Forceful Reply on City Septic Ban to State H2O Board

• City Attorney Says Regional Board Uses Old Research


Malibu city officials have submitted their comments and exhibits to the State Water Resources Control Board regarding the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board’s proposed Civic Center septic ban.
A public hearing is tentatively set for sometime in September.
The state board must concur with the regional board’s decision for the prohibition to go into effect.
The city’s comments are posted on its web site and contain pages and pages of documents and exhibits, including numerous research studies and reports.
The submittal also consists of a 20-plus page letter from City Attorney Christi Hogin that lays out the strategy of the city and its request of the state board, including remanding the prohibition order back to the regional board.
Hogin sets aside the notion that the ban would protect a potential source of drinking water.
“Foremost, as discussed in detail below, no potential source of drinking water exists within the Malibu Civic Center. The [on-site wastewater disposal system] ban does not protect a potential source of drinking water, and for that reason alone, should be reconsidered,” wrote Hogin in a letter, praised by council members.
Later in the letter, Hogin cites a recent case in which the trial court found that it is improper to base standards on consideration of potential beneficial water uses, the water code only allows the board to consider probable future benefits.
“Staff’s analysis of groundwater as a potential drinking water source is not supported by the evidence and does not appear to meet the requirements of [state code],” Hogin noted.
The city attorney indicated if the board finds that there may be benefits other than protection of potential sources of drinking water, the city proposes a Civic Center wastewater treatment proposal that employs both a plan to construct a state-of-the art centralized wastewater treatment facility in the Civic Center and a regulatory program to oversee onsite wastewater systems proven effective.
The city attorney included a comprehensive analysis of the latest science research, some of it carried out under Malibu’s sponsorship. Some of that research is considered more up-to-date than the studies the regional board cited, according to Hogin, with the latest research reaching quite dissimilar conclusions.
“The Regional Board’s understanding of local hydrology is far different and some of it based on 20-to-30-year-old records from hydrogeological analysis submitted from individual dischargers pursuant to their [permits],” the city attorney added.
Hogin included lengthy specifics from the newer research, including the United States Geological Survey studies and provides the state board with a short study on the current thinking of the hydrogeology of the Civic Center, its groundwater movement, Malibu Creek and Lagoon and Winter Canyon and its relationship to the Civic Center, what the RWQCB has always called the Malibu Valley Basin.
The city attorney also wrote several pages on what she calls due process and how she opines the regional board was at fault in many instances in providing a fair hearing in November.
“The regional board and its staff were so determined to make a final decision on Nov. 5, that public comment was reduced to a formality and did not provide a meaningful opportunity for public participation,” wrote Hogin.
“The board also failed to separate staff’s advocacy function from its adjudicative function when regional board counsel acted as its adjudicative function when regional board counsel acted as both advocate in support of the amendment and as legal advisor to the regional board.”
Hogin also accused the regional board of, in effect, mandating a centralized system, which is prohibited by state code. “The OWDS unlawfully mandates the method of compliance,” the city attorney noted.

Highway Safety Group Wants to Have More DUI Checkpoints Held in Malibu

• Members Learn that Everything They Want Costs Money


Members of A Safer PCH, the grass roots highway safety group, learned at a recent meeting that the California Office of Traffic Safety funds an average of 15 DUI checkpoints in the City of Calabasas each year, while Malibu has three and Agoura Hills is host to two. All three areas are served by the Lost Hills Sheriff Station.
Several members of the groups were invited to observe at a recent DUI checkpoint event in Calabasas on Las Virgenes Road. “It was great,” ASPCH founding member Susan Saul said. The checkpoint netted two DUIs and two felonies. Participating deputies reportedly wrote 50 tickets for a variety of violations.
“[A checkpoint] helps educate people,” Saul said. “It makes you think.”
Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station traffic officer Sgt. Phil Brooks told the group that the station asks the OTS to “give us as many [checkpoints] as they can,” but that funding cuts have meant that recent checkpoints have not been fully staffed.
“We’re working with bare bones,” Brooks said of the current financial state in the LASD.
Asked how much money would be required to fully staff the checkpoint events, Brooks replied that an additional $1500-2000 would cover the cost of four additional deputies per eight-hour event. According to Brooks, the OTS provides approximately $12,000 in grant money for each checkpoint event.
“We need to look for new grants,” Saul suggested.
ASPCH members said that the Calabasas checkpoint offered an opportunity for them to observe the apparent lack of communication between the LASD and the CHP. Saul recounted watching multiple CHP cars pass through the checkpoint at full speed, sirens on and lights flashing, while sheriff’s deputies speculated on the nature of the response.
“We don’t communicate,” Brooks said, adding that the two branches of law enforcement use different radio frequencies.
Volunteers on Patrol, or VOP, was another issue discussed at the meeting. Brooks said that the Lost Hills station is “waiting for the pieces to come together.” However, the City of Malibu has reportedly not yet stepped up to the table to purchase a vehicle and uniforms.
City Councilmember Lou La Monte told the group that he is currently “looking into it.”
“It’s kind of surprising that Lost Hills had never talked to the public safety commission about this,” Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said. “We just started the conversation. We could have a dozen more bodies on the beach.”
Community volunteers would not participate in active service, but could act as eyes and ears for the station, and provide a deterrent for law breakers.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu Driver’s Ed for PCH •


Recent weeks have demonstrated that there is much that is still not understood about the human mind in general and when it is behind the steering wheel of a car in specific. Some psychologists ask whether the realization that one has command of a two-thousand-pound machine skews one’s perceptions and values. They seek to shed light on issues of driver anger, aggression and self-destruction.
Our Malibu concerns are much less abstract. We have to drive Pacific Coast Highway every day. In this issue of The News, we see the tragic aftermath of wrong-way driving and don’t know whether there was substance impairment, it was a conscious act, or was an indication of physical or mental illness. The search for an explanation continues, but a final conclusion may never be reached.
We also learn the fate of a driver, who may have been under the influence, but knew that he hit two bicyclists. Rather than aid his victims, he chose to run and cower in the bushes in a macabre game of hide-and-seek. His penalty is as much for his refusal to own up to his deeds, as for the life he took.
Recently, another speeder on the PCH claimed a child’s life. This occurred right after a visitor to Malibu was killed, and at about the same time, a caregiver was denied what she provided to others and died on the PCH. Not all of these cases were adjudged violations of the law, but taking the life of another comes with its own sentence. A local resident who killed a child many years ago said that even though the child ran between parked cars after a ball and “it was not his fault,” he will never forget that moment and will spend his whole life atoning for it.
Instead of focusing on atonement, Malibuites should be willing to accept increased constraints on speeding on the PCH, if only to allow any out-of-control drivers to stand out even more. Plus, we will continue to have problems with 911 calls and response times until these issues are addressed.
All of the recent accidents were in western Malibu. Is the area getting the coverage it needs? Given that traffic accidents in Malibu are more deadly than typical shopping mall crimes, why does a community over the hill have five cars to Malibu’s two?
Traffic law management needs to be proactive as well as reactive. Some citizens are now asking whether Malibu is getting its money’s worth if there is only accident clean-up and not prevention.

City Housing Element Update Is Planned to Determine Low Income Unit Requirements

• Public Workshop Focuses on Existing and Proposed Goals


Malibu’s municipal planning officials held a workshop this week to get public input into an update on the Housing Element of the City of Malibu’s General Plan.
Planners told attendees that the purpose of the workshop was to focus on the existing and proposed goals, policies and housing programs in the Housing Element.
The idea of the workshop was also to identify potential parcels in the city that could be rezoned to accommodate densities that would meet the city’s required housing needs.
Planners explained that the Housing Element must include provisions to adequately meet the existing and projected housing needs of the community for all economic levels.
By state law, the element must be updated every five years in order to assess the changing housing needs and it must establish an action plan to address those needs.
The update must be reviewed by the planning commission and approved by the city council.
The city then sends the plan to Sacramento, where it is reviewed by the state Department of Housing and Community Development for compliance with state law.
Attendees were told Monday night that, based on the current numbers of various agencies, the city must accommodate 115 very low income housing units, 73 low, 79 moderate and 174 above moderate income households through June 30, 2014.
The city does not have to build out that housing but must show it has created specific zoning designations to accommodate the numbers.
HCD reviews the update, makes comments and determines if it is consistent with state laws and accommodates the targeted number of units, which total 441.
If the update fails to meet HCD’s requirements, the city may revise the update to incorporate HCD’s changes.
If the Housing Element is adopted without HCD changes, or if the plan fails to be updated at all, the city would be regarded as noncompliant, city planners said.
Failure by the city to adopt an HCD compliant Housing Element could result in the loss of eligibility of some funds, an increase in exposure to legal challenge and the potential loss of local control of the planning and development process, according to current state law.
The status of Malibu’s Housing Element adopted as part of the city’s General Plan in 1995, is that it has been amended twice and has not been certified by HCD or comprehensively updated since its adoption.
The objective of the Housing Element update is to obtain certification from HCD.
Obtaining certification by the HCD is important because a certified Housing Element is presumed to be legally valid and in substantial conformance with state laws.
Planners explained that state law requires cities to demonstrate that their land use plans and regulations could accommodate the type and amount of housing identified in the agency’s numbers, but there is no penalty for failing to achieve the allocations.

Santa Monica Sales Tax Increase Ballot Measure Could Benefit District Schools


The Santa Monica city council has voted to place a new tax measure on the Nov. 2 ballot that could potentially provide additional funding for the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District.
The proposed half-cent sales tax increase measure, which would raise the City of Santa Monica’s sales tax to 10.25 percent, will be accompanied on the ballot by what is being described as a “non-binding” yes or no advisory item that asks voters if they would like half of the revenue from the new sales tax to fund the school district.
If it is approved, Santa Monica could use the funds for a variety of programs, including education.
The seaside community would join Pico Rivera and South Gate, the cities with the highest sales tax rates in the state. Santa Monica currently pays sales tax to the state and the county, but it does not have a city sales tax.
The proposed tax hike, which could potentially generate $12 million, is already drawing fire from critics who charge that Malibu schools will benefit from the tax but Malibu residents won’t be sharing the pain, since the tax applies to Santa Monica, not Malibu, but any money provided to the school district would be shared by schools in both communities.
Malibu has traditionally been dependent on Santa Monica not only for its school resources but for goods and services unavailable at home, and many east Malibu residents still shop in Santa Monica. However, an increasing number of west Malibu residents travel to the valley or Ventura County for goods and services.
Critics also claim that, because the school corollary is non-binding, there are no guarantees that the school district will ever receive a penny or that funding will be eliminated by a future city council.
However, Neil Carrey, chair of the SMMUSD parcel tax committee charged with researching the possibility of placing another school district parcel tax proposal on the November ballot, following the defeat of the June special election parcel tax measure that would have levied $198 parcel tax in both cities, enthusiastically endorsed the proposed sales tax measure.
Carrey told the Santa Monica City Council that the sales tax increase would “make more sense,” and would be easier to pass than a parcel tax. The sales tax increase requires a simple majority to pass. A parcel tax requires a supermajority, or two-thirds vote.
Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver was less enthusiastic about the sales tax plan. Shriver warned that the two items could create possible confusion of the school district’s “very significant financial circumstances” with the city of Santa Monica’s significant, but manageable, financial circumstances.”
Prior to the Santa Monica City Council’s decision, the SMMUSD Board of Education was set to begin the process of placing another parcel tax measure on the ballot.
The board has reportedly opted to postpone the parcel tax and instead endorse the sales tax increase.Video of the board meeting was not yet available to the public when The News went to press.
Measure A garnered only 53.11 percent of the vote in Malibu, compared to 66.96 percent in Santa Monica. In unincorporated Malibu the parcel tax measure fared even worse, receiving only a 45.81 percent yes vote.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

City Council Approves $189,783 Assist to Rambla Road Project

• Issue of Public Gifts to Private Parties Is Resolved by Precedent Being Set to Aid Similar Cases


The Malibu City Council conducted a special meeting last week where they agreed to establish a fee reimbursement program for the Rambla Pacifico Road Association of nearly $190,000, gave the go-ahead for creating a loan program for those homeowners who cannot pay road fees, agreed to a date for a hearing for vacation of a portion of Rambla Pacifico and directed staff not to pursue purchasing any land owned by the association as a way to help offset their costs.
City Attorney Christi Hogin insisted the fee reimbursement program would not constitute a special gift to the residents since the money was being spent for an alternative or secondary emergency access route.
Hogin said while the city may not use public money for a primarily private purpose, or toward a road that allows vehicular access of some residents but not others, the city is not required to charge for services associated with processing permit applications.
“The city must charge all similarly situated applicants the same and cannot pick and choose who pays and who does not. The creation of a secondary evacuation route is obviously an important public purpose, and this fee waiver would encourage and support those projects, even where the project is primarily a private driveway with limited access such as Rambla Road,” Hogin wrote in a staff report.
The council members were assured by the staff and road association officers that the gates would be open for all during any kind of emergency or disaster and the sophisticated system could be opened by key, code or even using an online system.
Hogin said the association would be refunded $189,783 of the permit processing fees for all three alignments, including the fees for preparation of the Environmental Impact Report and for the building permit fees.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said it is a very creative way to do what the council wants the staff to do. “And it is perfectly legal,” he said.
Councilmember John Sibert said this was not a symbolic act. “It is real money. Every dollar is coming out of the general fund,” he noted.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she agreed. “This is so close to the $200,000 the road association talked about,” she said.
However, Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich had many more questions and wanted Hogin to explain further how the reimbursement was not a public gift.
Conley Ulich, an attorney, also wanted assurances that any of the residents in the city could use the road anytime there is an emergency and wanted further assurances that the road association would abide by any conditions the city imposes on the road, such as being open for all during emergencies and disasters.
Mayor Jefferson Wagner wanted to know where the money would be coming from and was told by staff that those dollars would come out of the general fund reserve.
The council heard from road association officers about how some homeowners would not be able to pay the road fees, because the banks would not loan money on such an item despite the homeowner’s good credit. They asked the city to come up with some kind of loan program.
Hogin said she thought a loan program might be feasible for the city to undertake.
“We think we can offer loans to those in the city, but cannot help those outside city limits. We might be able to appeal to the county,” she said.
The city attorney said the staff was bringing the matter to the council because it is going to take a considerable amount of time and staff effort to come up with the details.
Sibert asked how the city would know the money was going to those who most needed it. Hogin said there would have to be proof provided that a homeowner had been rejected by the banks.
The city attorney also told council members she thought the loans might be necessary in order to provide financing for the construction of the road.
The road association has told city officials that they think the program might cost as much as $500,000; however, Hogin offered no numbers.
The council agreed to direct the staff to pursue such a program.
Another option was rejected by the council. Members agreed with City Manager Jim Thorsen’s assessment that there is no land owned by the road association that could be acquired by the city to help offset costs, since all of it is in a landslide district.
“My recommendation is to not acquire any of that land, but the association may find some land. But this is not a high priority item,” he said.
Road association members were quick to point out, that when the $200,000 figure was first suggested as the city’s contribution the number was based on an estimated cost of the project at $1 million, that number was tripled.
Membership into the road association costs $17,500, the membership fee prior to the permit from the city plus about an additional $30,000. After construction starts and before completion, the membership fee will be $42,500 plus an additional $30,000. After completion of the project, the membership fee is $67,500 plus another $30,000, according to city officials.
The municipality will conduct a hearing on July 26 to initiate proceedings to vacate a portion of Rambla Pacifico Road, beginning at about 3849 and proceeding through the landslide area to the vicinity of 3400 to relieve the city of the responsibility for maintenance of the street and storm drain improvements.

Permit for Chili Cook-Off and Carnival OK’d by Planning Commission

• Issues of Donations and Mismanagement Take Back Seat to Impact on Residents near New Site


Amidst praises and protests from Malibu Knolls neighbors, charges of mismanagement from one critic, a song from a local musical singing group, the ’Bu Notes, and lots of children urging them on, the Malibu Planning Commission, with Commissioner Jeff Jennings absent, unanimously granted a temporary use permit last week to the Malibu Kiwanis for the annual Chili Cook-Off planned in September.
There seemed to be a split between the Malibu Knolls neighbors about the event which has moved closer to their hillside locale since the former Cook-Off site became Legacy Park.
The event is planned on the Ioki property on the northeast corner of Stuart Ranch Road and Civic Center Way. Parking will be on the La Paz site.
The Benjamin family wanted fewer days for the event and shorter hours. Both Chris and Sally Benjamin complained of dust, noise and lights.
However, other Knolls residents came to praise the Cook-Off and talked about how it is only once a year and offers families a local experience to come together.
Knolls resident Bernie James, who said he and his family had just moved into their home five days ago after being burned out in the Malibu Canyon fire, said he was probably the closest in proximity to the carnival and cook-off, but said he wanted to weigh in on the side of families who love the event.
Lee Shoop, a homeowner for 25 years, said she remembers the excitement of her children when they heard the sound checks and saw the fences going up. “It is a wonderful event. We will hear the noise, but appreciate it,” she added.
However, Knolls resident Steve Uhring raised the issues of mismanagement and misrepresentation by the local Kiwanis organization.
He alleged that of the dollars generated by the event in the past three years, only a little over $337,000 was disbursed to charities, according to the club’s tax returns, which amounted to about a little less than 50 percent of the money taken in.
Uhring said that the club’s management fees for one year were $72,000, which was much higher than those of other clubs in the region.
“Are 50 percent management fees the norm?” questioned Uhring. “No they are not,” he said.
Uhring compared Malibu to other clubs, such as Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks.
Uhring claimed that in 2009 the Simi Valley club took no management fees and distributed $122,330 to causes out of a total revenue of $122,330. In 2008, Uhring pointed out, the Thousand Oaks club charged off $9869 for management fees and dispersed $71,783 to causes out of a total revenue of $81,742.
Kiwanis club member John Paola, who is a director on the board, brushed aside Uhring’s comments.
“We give back whatever we get. There is a lot of erroneous information. I don’t know where that came from. We have got a high class organization. I feel like I am defending something that has been an asset to the community,” said Paola, who did not directly address Uhring’s accusations. “We have people who take care of that.”
After hearing from several youngsters about the excitement, adventure and social venue the event provided every year for them, the commission quickly got down to business when Chair John Mazza put forth a motion for approval with conditions.
Mazza invited each of the panelists to add what conditions they wished to place on the TUP.
Most of the rest of the commission hearing was taken up with discussion of the various amendments or conditions that were attached to the permit.
The planning panel did not limit or reduce any of the days, set hours of opening and closing, set times for set up and breakdown of the carnival equipment, required water truck wash-downs and agreed to restricted parking.

‘Secrets’ Are the Theme of 39th Annual Malibu Chamber of Commerce Summer Art Festival

• Volunteers Are Requested to Assist with Setting Up and Running Event


The Malibu Chamber of Commerce will present its 39th annual Malibu Arts Festival on July 24 and 25, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., outside the Malibu Civic Center, 23555 Civic Center Way.
The theme of this year’s arts festival is “Malibu Secrets.” In keeping with the motif, the arts on display will include the work of numerous local artists, in addition to the creations of artists and craftspeople from around the county.
This event will feature 200 artists, 100 exhibitors, a children’s poster competition and village, and a food court that will offer tastes from “around the world,” a press release states. For those who prefer traditional festival offerings, hot dogs, hamburgers, milk shakes, funnel cakes, kettle corn and shave ice will also be available.
Arts on display are anticipated to include include paintings in all mediums, sculpture, ceramics, art tile, glass, jewelry and photography.
Festival-goers can visit with the artists, browse the vendors’ booths, or relax in the food court, wine garden, or coffee garden and enjoy live music provided by local musicians.
Early birds are invited to participate in the Optimist Club’s annual pancake breakfast, from 8-11 a.m. both days.
According to the press release, a special “children’s village” will offer younger participants an opportunity to engage in hands-on activities and create their own art.
Entries from the festival’s first annual poster art competition will also be on display.
“We are proud to welcome our returning and new artists for its 39th year,” Executive Director/CEO Rebekah Evans stated in the release.
“The Malibu Arts Festival is one of our favorite secrets, with over 10,000 residents and visitors experiencing the essence of Malibu lifestyle, welcoming dynamic artists from across the US,” Evans said, explaining the choice of this year’s “Malibu Secrets” theme.
The event is free, although there is a fee for parking. More information on the festival is available at
The Malibu Arts Festival is currently looking for volunteers during July 23-25 to help set up and take down the event, greet visitors and assist with the Chamber of Commerce’s coffee bar. Volunteers can contact the Malibu Chamber of Commerce at 310-456-9025.

Five MPA Proposals in the Running for the Greater South Coast Region

• Area of Western Malibu May Receive Highest Protection


The environmental review process for the Marine Life Protection Act’s South Coast Study Region’s Marine Protected Areas is underway.
There are currently five MPA proposals under consideration for the South Coast Region, which extends from Santa Barbara to the border of Mexico and includes the hotly contested reefs off Point Dume.
The scoping phase is now officially underway, according to a press release issued by the California Department of Fish and Game, and “interested members of the public are invited to help identify the range of issues and type of information to be considered in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) that will be prepared in the coming months.”
The five proposals were developed during a complex, yearlong process that incorporated input from a regional stakeholder group, a science advisory team and the Blue Ribbon Task Force.
Point Dume was at the center of a lengthy debate during the first phase of the MLPA process, with members of the kayak angling, diving and spearfishing communities arguing fiercely against protection for the reefs located between Paradise Cove and Big Dume, and the environmental community countering that the area should receive the highest level of protection as a State Marine Reserve.
The current preferred proposal, officially titled the Integrated Preferred Alternative, or IPA, is a hybrid of the earlier proposals crafted by the Blue Ribbon Task Force.
In the IPA proposal, an area stretching from the western end of the Paradise Cove parking lot to the outfall of Zuma Creek at Zuma Beach would receive the highest level of protection as a State Marine Reserve. The proposed SMR includes a submarine canyon off Dume Cove described by the Science Advisory Team as a rare and vitally important habitat.
The Point Dume SMR also covers a substantial portion of the hotly contested reefs east of Point Dume, including Big Kelp Reef, a favorite sportfishing area.
The SMR would be a no-take zone that prohibits all types of fishing. However, fishing boats, including kayaks, would be permitted to transit an SMR with catch on board. Non-extractive activities would reportedly not be impacted.
“The BRTF proposal does not restrict public access or recreational enjoyment, such as boating, swimming, diving or kayaking,” BRTF chair Catherine Reheis-Boyd clarified in a statement after the task force’s final determination. “The plan allows existing commercial and recreational fishing to continue in the majority of the region, including at Rocky Point along the Palos Verdes Peninsula, while strengthening ecosystem protection at a number of key geographies, such as Point Dume in Malibu.”
The BRTF proposal for Point Dume also includes a State Marine Conservation Area extending west of Westward Beach to Lechusa Beach. The SMCA would permit limited fishing activities, including recreational spearfishing for pelagic finfish, Pacific bonito and white sea bass, and commercial take of market squid, coastal pelagic finfish and swordfish.
The DEIR process will reportedly also look at three alternative proposals and a “status quo” or “no action alternative,” although observers familiar with the MLPA process in other regions of California say they anticipate that the final MPA will closely resemble the IPA.
All five MPA proposals are available at
According to the DFG, “The DEIR will be prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act and will analyze the five proposals. The NOP for the DEIR can be found on DFG’s website at regulatorydocs_sc.asp
Malibu residents who would like to provide input for the DEIR may send written comments by Aug. 3, 2010 to: MLPA SCSR DEIR Department of Fish and Game, South Coast MLPA Office, 4665 Lampson, Suite C, Los Alamitos, CA 92679. Comments may also be emailed to Thomas Napoli, Staff Environmental Scientist, at
Members of the public will also have an opportunity to speak to the record for the DEIR at a public scoping meeting scheduled for July 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the administration building of the Port of Long Beach, 925 Harbor Way, Sixth Floor, Long Beach, CA, 90802.

Traffic Safety Issues Continue to Dominate Discussions at City Hall

• Speeding Trucks and Cars and Cyclists Running Red Lights Come in for Their Share of Criticism


PCH dangers, including motorists who speed and cyclists who ignore the rules, continued to be a hot topic at the City of Malibu’s July 6 public safety commission meeting.
Local cyclists took to task a Facebook page posted by commissioner Susan Tellem that promotes her “share the road, share the tickets” PCH philosophy that has sparked criticism on cycling blogs throughout the Southland. Tellem subsequently clarified that she established the page as a private citizen, not in her official capacity as a commissioner.
“I came down because I ride my bike [on PCH],” Malibu Park resident Hans Laetz, said. “I don’t buy it that bikes are a deadly threat in Malibu. Bikes are [at the most] an inconvenience. Let’s be honest, they aren’t killing anyone. The parity argument on tickets is really misguided.”
Commissioner Chris Frost, who is also a cyclist, concurred that when “a car hits a bike the car wins every time.”
However, commission chair Carol Randall defended Tellem’s stance. “Running red lights, that’s where there is a [bicycle] safety issue,” she said.
Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station traffic officer Sgt. Phil Brooks clarified the vehicle code pertaining to bicycles. “You always have to stay as far to the right as possible because you are a slow-moving vehicle. Riding two or three abreast? If they catch you, you could be cited. Riding three abreast is impeding traffic, it’s blocking [the] lane.”
Brooks explained that the sheriff’s deputies write tickets for bicycle violations when they see them, but that vehicular speeding is their primary concern and the cause of most serious accidents on PCH. “It’s a liability issue,” he said.
The commission learned that the sheriff’s department issued 1372 citations in May—1109 were issued as “hazardous citations,” and 483 were speeding citations documented by radar. However, actual bicycle citation statistics for the city were unavailable, because the sheriff’s department’s software currently does not have a mechanism to filter the data, according to Brooks.
The commission also discovered the reason why the sheriff’s report that accompanies each public safety meeting staff report is two months out of date: the commission meets on the first Wednesday of the month and the monthly sheriff’s report is not completed until the second week of the month.
In addition to speaking out on cycling issues, Laetz asked the commission to support the agreement he brokered with Trancas Market developer Dan Bercu. “Bercu [will] design and build a deceleration and turn lane, sidewalk [and] bike lane,” Laetz said. “I hope Caltrans is going to approve the turn lane. Bercu is willing to give this to us, but there’s lots of ways for it to fall apart.’
“I think everyone is willing to cooperate,” replied Caltrans representative Jim Riley. “We have a win-win opportunity.”
Riley also suggested a number of short-term projects that he said could potentially improve safety throughout Malibu on PCH. Suggestions included repainting crosswalks in a “zebra stripe” pattern.
“I think this is more of an attention-grabbing crosswalk,” Riley said. He also indicated that the crosswalk at Morning View Drive and PCH may be sufficiently close to the schools in the area to rate a yellow school crossing designation that would improve visibility.
Riley said Caltrans would be inventorying signs on PCH, and that additional speed-limit and share-the-road signs could be installed, although he cautioned that “three months is the fastest I’ve ever seen a sign go up.”
Riley also said that Caltrans is willing to restripe portions of PCH, where the concrete paving has not yet been replaced by asphalt overlay and the lines are starting to fade.
Medians were discussed, including the area south of Corral, where the raised concrete center divider has sunk or been overlaid by asphalt.
The commission agreed that Qwik Kurb, the channelization system that utilizes yellow plastic paddles, was not the answer for the Corral portion of the road. “I’m glad you’re showing some Qwik Kurb restraint,” said Commissioner Rick Mullen, adding, “Welcome to Malibu, 27 miles of Qwik Kurb.”
“It’s a view issue,” Chair Carol Randall said.
“Just stripe it,” ex officio Commissioner David Saul suggested. “If you put a double yellow, it’s an enforceable area.”
“We’ll figure out some way to make it work,” Riley replied.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu’s Wrong Wheel Woes •


An overstated blog assault on bicyclists has brought those for-and-against these two-wheeled modes of transportation to near blows, but I can’t help but think that’s such a waste of energy about vehicles that make little or no noise, don’t pollute and whose occasional red-light runner and maker of left turns from the far right lane at 90-degree angles give credence to Darwinian theory.
Ask most Malibuites, whether on Pacific Coast Highway or in the canyons, and the real culprits are motorcyclists, whose need for noise may be a means to assuage latent insecurities or repress rage.
Instead of screaming about bicyclists, locals should get behind State Senator Fran Pavley’s SB 435 and try to prevent the powerful motorcycle lobby from diluting this measure any more.
Pavley’s bill would make it an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $100, to operate a motorcycle without a readily visible stamp that proves that the bike’s exhaust system complies with federal Environmental Protection Agency standards.
The noise issue with most motorcycles is modification—the use of aftermarket parts. Bikers are in hog heaven replacing standard issue equipment with straight pipes that can achieve a decibel level capable of creating eardrum pain for the listener.
Surprise, motorcycle enthusiasts and dealers don’t like SB 435. They contend there already are laws against excessive noise, but they neglect to note that the laws are rarely enforced. Besides, bike “mod” is big business, as long as noise is viewed as macho, is a form of communication, and may even have a subliminal sexual component.
A visible stamp would be a quick and easy way to know whether a motorcycle is violating the law. Subjectivity would no longer be a factor in what constitutes too much noise.
Since there is no requirement that motorcycles go through smog-check, also insisting that bikes comply with federal requirements would be an added benefit, however modest, in terms of air quality.
SB 435 has cleared the Senate and is slated to go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee (perhaps by Aug. 4). Expected to pass, it would go to the Assembly floor for a vote, where motorcycle groups, such as the American Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education, ABATE, hope to kill it.
Malibuites should let their state legislators and their biker governor know that they want this much needed bill to become law.

Council Agrees to Pilot Program for Fast Tracking Green Building Projects

• Members Have Fun with the Idea of a Municipal Song that Could Even Be Changed Annually


The Malibu City Council, at its meeting this week, unanimously agreed that “green” building projects should be fast-tracked and endorsed the staff’s recommendation that the municipality should have its own local energy efficiency standard.
The council action came about when it was given an update on the city’s green building program.
Building official Craig George explained the new mandatory state green building standards that go into effect in January 2011.
The program created by the state called CALgreen includes mandatory residential and non-residential standards that address indoor water use, indoor environmental quality and construction/demolition waste among other requirements.
Planners were seeking council concurrence about establishing a pilot incentive program that would fast-track exemplary green building projects through the coastal development permit review process. The council readily agreed to such a program.
A planner and a consultant explained what approach they were taking to an energy efficient standard.
To accommodate Malibu’s many microclimates, a modeling and technical analysis was completed, then seven different house sizes from 3000 square feet to 11,172 sq. ft. were used for the modeling.
Consultant Walker Wells said the analysis “demonstrates that even though very large houses (i.e. 10,000 sq. ft. or greater) would need to achieve efficiencies nearing 30 percent better than the energy code, or baseline, the implications on design and cost continue to remain relatively minor. The efficiencies can be achieved using off-the-shelf technologies such as tankless water heaters.”
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she would like to see a presentation on greywater reuse and was told the council would be given a report on the status of the technology and ordinances in other cities at a future date.
Mayor Jefferson Wagner said he thought the 15 percent reduction “seemed reasonable.”
“It is not just a payback [on the costs savings],” said Councilmember John Sibert, “but it is the social mores of being a good citizen.”
Council members agreed to send off to its Parks and Recreation Commission a request to devise a recommendation for coming up with an official city song whether by competition or some other means.
“This is something for fun. Just a little fluff,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who brought the idea to the attention of the council.
The notion was hatched when a local family presented a song they had written about Malibu at a May city council meeting. The song composed and performed by family members was recorded by them and played at the council meeting.
The family suggested the council adopt an official municipal song.
Rosenthal quipped that she could see the whole thing going international. “It could be a different one every year,” she said.
City Attorney Christi Hogin said the matter was not unlike when the city held a contest for a city seal. Ray Singer’s design won.
Rosenthal said it might be a nice idea to have the song chosen and ready for the city’s 20th anniversary next March.
Councilmember Lou La Monte joked he was reluctant to send it to the commission because he secretly wanted to be one of the judges much like on “American Idol.” “But let’s send it to Parks and Recreation,” he said.
“It would be a fun contest,” agreed Councilmember John Sibert, who also agreed the matter should be sent to the commission.
The city council seemed less than enthusiastic about pursuing any further study or legislation on roadside produce stands after learning most cities don’t permit them and there is an outlet for local growers at the farmers market. They agreed to deal with it on a future agenda.
“What about lemonade stands? Are they legal?” asked Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich.
Planning Manager Joyce Parker-Bozylinski said, “We don’t regulate lemonade stands. If we got a complaint we might look into it.”
The impetus for the discussion was when several folks had come to council chambers to tell members they have grown an abundance of fruits and vegetables they would like to sell to the public.
However, they have been stymied because the Malibu municipal code does not allow for produce stands.
The city’s Principal Planner Stephanie Edmondson told council members neither the Malibu municipal code nor the Local Coastal Program addresses roadside field stands. Residents can raise crops in both the rural residential and single-family zoning districts, according to the municipal code and LCP, but nothing in the documents speaks about retail sales from the premises.
Cities do not regulate or permit roadside field stands. Some counties allow roadside field or “produce stands” on agricultural or rural agricultural zoned properties with a use permit.
Council members were much more enthusiastic about local growers selling their produce at the Malibu farmers market where booths are set aside for local growers.

Board OKs La Paz Discharge Permit


The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a discharge permit last week for the proposed La Paz retail and office complex to be located in the Civic Center.
“We appreciate the unanimous approval of the Regional Water Quality Control Board. We think it reflects the undeniable fact that La Paz is a carefully designed project,” said Don Schmitz, who heads up the land use and consulting firm that shepherded the project through the approval process.
The proposal won approval of the Malibu City Council, and its development agreement with the municipality received a nod from the California Coastal Commission.
“Yes, it is the last hurrah,” said Schmitz.
Environmental groups are unhappy about the board’s decision, arguing La Paz wastewater plans had not yet passed muster. The $5 million system includes an 800,000 gallon storage tank.
“The board bought off on the biosphere-type proposal by La Paz,” complained Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, in the recent posting on his blog called “Spouting Off.”
“No discharge of treated wastewater to the ground or surface waters. So what if a similar project had never been done in Southern California,” he wrote.
“My testimony on the development’s lack of an irrigation plan and the probable need to plant a banana plantation to evapotranspire 14K gallons per day fell on deaf ears,” he added.
Gold also noted that the city was losing one of its largest funding sources for the proposed Civic Center wastewater treatment plant.
“Without this revenue and a legally binding action to comply with the prohibition requirements, what are the odds of Malibu or some local residents or businesses not litigating the prohibition?” Gold concluded.

County Supervisors Renew $10,000 Reward in Mitrice Richardson Case

• Malibu City Council Has Not Taken Any Action for FY 2010-2011


The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday re-established the offer of a $10,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Mitrice Richardson, who disappeared after being released from the county Sheriff’s Department’s Lost Hills Station last Sept. 17, at 12:38 a.m. and for successful resolution of criminal charges associated with the case.
The motion was made by Second District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who represents the area of Los Angeles where the missing 24-year-old honors college graduate resided with her great-grandmother.
The reward was first posted last Sept. 29 by the Board of Supervisors and extended twice until it expired at the end of June.
Because of Richardson’s residency, the Los Angeles (City) Police Department was designated as the original lead agency in the investigation.
Richardson, a five-foot, five-inch, African-American woman, was wearing jeans and a dark T-shirt when she was released after being booked at Lost Hills, following a citizens arrest by Geoffrey’s restaurant personnel in Malibu for alleged inability to pay an $89 dinner tab, although Richardson had credit cards and several thousand dollars in a bank account.
No reasons have yet surfaced to explain why Richardson went to Geoffrey’s, where staff said she was acting bizarrely, speaking gibberish and appeared to be substance impaired.
However, she passed a field sobriety test, and medical experts reviewing documents and diary entries found in her car have since indicated that the woman may have been experiencing the onset of bipolar disorder and should have been afforded special legal protection under LASD protocol.
Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, has viewed an LASD videotape of her daughter in the Lost Hills booking cage that has not been made public. She says it shows the young woman acting regressively and extremely agitated.
Richardson was released from the Lost Hills Station without her purse, cell phone and other possessions that were all left for an as yet unexplained reason in her car, which was directed to be towed to a Malibu impound lot by the restaurant.
Apart from a possible sighting in a backyard some distance from the station, to which she might have been driven, Richardson has not been seen, not contacted her family, not accessed her bank account or used her credit cards.
Her disappearance remains a mystery despite a number of ground and air searches by the LASD, the LAPD, REACT and countless volunteers, including one of the largest search efforts in county history.
Last Nov. 2, the Malibu City Council approved a reward of $15,000 for “the arrest and conviction of those responsible for [Mitrice Richardson’s] disappearance.”
Reva Feldman, the City of Malibu administrative services director and—this week—the acting city manager, told the Malibu Surfside News on Tuesday that this reward offer expired June 30.
Feldman said, “Every fiscal year, these types of matters need to be renewed.”
There has been no public indication yet whether the newly configured council intends to revisit the matter.
Meanwhile, both the LAPD and the LASD indicate that leads are being followed up that have run the gamut from bone finds to possible sightings.
Currently, family members have said that they have been communicating more with the LASD than the LAPD, originally designated the lead agency.
Homicide detective Lt. Mike Rosson told The News that the investigation is “ongoing,” but there is “nothing that [he] can comment on” at this time.
However, now that Sutton has filed a lawsuit against the county and the LASD, there is increased impetus for the department to find answers to the missing woman’s fate.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages. Sutton and her pro bono counsel, civil rights attorney and activist Leo Terrell, said filing is necessary to gain access to official documents and LASD personnel testimony.
LASD personnel named in the suit include 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 Lost Hills 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.
Sutton says the LASD failed her daughter by not listening to the witnesses who reported her bizarre behavior in the restaurant and saw her actions in the booking cage and having her 5150’d—held for a medical and psychiatric evaluation.
In addition to using discovery for reports and documents, Terrell has said the ability to depose “people who actually had contact [with Richardson] before she disappeared is imperative,” because of perceived LASD inaccuracies and misrepresentations.”
The missing woman’s father, Michael Richardson, has until Aug. 2 to file a separate lawsuit in his own name.
The parents did not marry, separated when their daughter was young, and faced custody and child support issues.
Sutton and Richardson have conducted separate and sometimes mutually critical campaigns to keep their daughter’s name in the public spotlight.
When the county supervisors renewed the reward for information, they listed the contacts for the case as: Det. Chuck Knolls or Det. Steven Eguchi with LAPD at 213-486-6900; and Det. Dan McElderry or Det. Ken Perry with LASD at 323-890-5500.