Malibu Surfside News

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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Malibu Reels as Word of Accident Involving Members of OLM Family Filters Out

Longtime Teacher at OLM Is Killed
By Anne Soble
According to preliminary Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol reports, at about 1:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 25, Ambassador to Malta Douglas Kmiec, Our Lady of Malibu Pastor Emeritus Msgr. John Sheridan, and Sister Mary Campbell, who taught generations of OLM students, were involved in a solo vehicle accident at Mulholland Highway and Malibu Canyon Road.
Sr. Mary Campbell, a Sister of St. Louis and longtime assistant to Msgr. Sheridan, was killed in the accident. Authorities said she was declared dead at the scene.
Sheridan, who is 94, and Kmiec, were both suffering from what were described as serious injuries. They were taken to the UCLA Medical Center Trauma Center.
Members of the OLM parish gathered throughout the afternoon and evening at the church where longtime parishioner and school supporter Cynthia Bollinger said love and prayers for the three resounded.
Authorities say the accident remains under investigation and may have involved dashboard control adjustment, according to Tracy De Mello, the Malibu liaison at Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. among those monitoring the situation Monday night.
Sheridan underwent surgery last night and reportedly remains in critical condition. OLM issued a statement that doctors “have stopped most of the internal bleeding; they are treating several broken ribs; and they are watching him carefully for signs of infection and/or pneumonia.”
Kmiec, who was appointed to the Malta post by the Obama Administration and was on leave from his position as a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine University, was driving the car when the accident occurred. He underwent surgery last night and is reported to be improving.
Cardinal Roger Mahony visited the hospital Wednesday night and issued a statement asking everyone in Malibu and elsewhere to “please keep all three of these wonderful and devoted disciples of Jesus Christ very much in your prayers.”
Sr. Mary Campbell’s order, the Sisters of St. Louis, and her family will determine services. She had just returned from visiting her mother in Ireland. OLM will post the details as soon as they are made public.
OLM also announced that it is planning to schedule a blood drive in Sheridan’s name.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Controversy Continues in Lumber Yard Shopping Center Lease Sale

• Partners Deny Recent Allegations That Indicate They Built the Project on Speculation

BY BILL KOENEKER


Before the Malibu Lumber Yard high-end shopping center was built, the Malibu City Council announced they chose Richard Weintraub and Richard Sperber to construct and remodel the old hardware store and lumberyard site and awarded them the ground lease because they were both locals, who were raising their families in Malibu and were committed to the long-term success of the project. So much so, the council gave the two businessmen a 39-year ground lease with options for a total of 54 years.
Consequently, the recent remarks by the real estate broker who sells leasing space at the Lumber Yard has caused a quiet uproar in Malibu over his controversial comments.
Jay Luchs, of CB Richard Ellis, was quoted in a national publication, California Apparel News, that both Sperber and Weintraub, “always planned on building it and selling it. It is an investment property.”
However, Luchs has backed away from that statement when questioned by the Malibu Surfside News, saying he never read the article and the question was about high-end retail real estate properties in general.
“Richard and Richard never told me that they were building it to sell it. I could see how that would read differently in Malibu,” he said.
Asked about the $38 million price tag he was quoted as saying was the asking price for the 30,000-square-foot mall when it was put up for sale in late July, Luchs also backed away from that statement.
“There is no asking price. That is a number I came up with, that is in the range. from $35 to $40 million. That is my guess. I am not the selling agent,” he said.
Luchs insisted the retail sales slump of the last two years is over for many merchants and now would be a good time to sell.
“Now I am seeing things get better. The vacancy rate is getting much better. Is everyone doing better? No,” he said.
A shopping center owner was quoted in the article saying nobody is selling if they don’t have to.
Weintraub and Sperber were quick to deny ever having made those comments and confirmed there is no asking price since neither claim to know what the price might be.
Weintraub was asked by The News if the reason for the sale had anything to do with widespread and persistent rumors that he and his company were not doing well financially, and he was being forced to sell.
He said the rumors about him being in financial trouble are completely untrue. “I have bought $40 million in real estate in the last 60 days. There is no question that we are living in a different world. Each of the properties have issues,” Weintraub said.
He denied letting go of his interests in the hotel project, once-owned by Adamson Companies.
“My partner is in bankruptcy. I increased my ownership in the property recently. I am completely committed to it,” he insisted.
Another question was cleared up about the final plans for his ownership of the Sportsman Lodge located in the San Fernando Valley.
”We did not do the full retail [plan], but we completely remodeled. It is beautiful. We are constructing a flagship building for Equinox,” he said.
Returning to a discussion about the Lumber Yard, Weintraub deferred a question about why sell now and what a partner could do that neither he nor Sperber could or could not do, to his partner.
Sperber told The News things have not worked out as he anticipated. Costs were more than anticipated. Rents were not what was expected. Construction costs, like the additional money needed for the septic system, were much higher. And he said, “The bad PR.”
“It is very stressful. I really did not do this for the money. Sure, I could make some money. I even thought when my kids grew up they could work in one of the stores,” he said.
And now the city council is waffling on the loan modification and has made the entire enterprise risky, according to Sperber.
“Getting the loan extension is very important,” he said. “I don’t think some of the city council knows what they are doing. It really was an administrative process.”
Sperber went on to say he wasn’t sure the current city council wanted him or his partner as owners any longer.
“I don’t know if the city is happy with the ownership, if they are delaying this bank loan. If we don’t get this loan what if they foreclose on us? I guess some corporate owner could buy us out. The real story is this loan.
“I don’t want to own this asset if the city does not want us as owners,” he concluded.
Sperber said the LLC is a 50-50 partnership and Weintraub is the general partner. He said that either one of them could buy out the other.
Weintraub heads up Weintraub Financial, a Malibu-based real estate holding and development company.
Sperber is the co-CEO of ValleyCrest Landscaping, described as a billion-dollar-a-year business.
Recently, Michael Dell of Dell Computers purchased a majority share of the family-owned company.
Luchs sells tenant space for not only the Lumber Yard, but also, he said, for Malibu Village, where he acquired a small ownership interest, but also sometimes places tenants in the Malibu Country Mart.
Luchs also brokers deals for tenants and landlords in Beverly Hills and also along Melrose Avenue.7

Public Comment Period Is Open for South Coast MLPA Initiative Plan DEIR

• Point Dume Area Proposed Marine Protected Areas Could Potentially Be Given Chumash Names

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative South Coast Study Region’s Marine Protected Area plan was released on Aug. 18. A 45-day public comment period on the report will continue through Oct. 4.
“The DEIR analyzes the potential environmental impacts of each of the five MPA proposals currently under consideration for this area, which extends from Point Conception to the California border with Mexico. The MPA proposals are part of the larger Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process, which will create new MPAs along the length of California’s coastline.” a Department of Fish and Game press release states.
“The DEIR was prepared by the California Fish and Game Commission with assistance from the California Department of Fish and Game as part of the required environmental review process under the California Environmental Quality Act,” the press release states.
“The process began in June with a public scoping phase, during which DFG solicited comments on the range of issues and type of information that should be considered in the DEIR. These comments helped to shape the content of the DEIR released this week.”
Although the DEIR examines all five MLPA alternatives, ranging from maintaining the status quo through the various stakeholder group proposals, observers say that a version of the final Integrated Preferred Alternative, or IPA, is expected to be adopted.
In Malibu, the IPA includes a State Marine Reserve, the highest level of protection, for the waters from just west of Paradise Cove to Zuma Creek, and a State Marine Conservation Area, the next level of protection—for the area between Zuma Creek and El Matador State Beach.
The two areas may receive Chumash names: The proposed name for the SMCA is “Sumo,” the original Chumash place name for Zuma, which is said to mean abundance in the Ventureno Chumash language.
The suggested name for the SMR is “Lisiqsihi,” which, according to Chumash language specialist Richard Applegate, was the original name for the large Chumash community in west Malibu. Applegate states in his 1974 monograph on Chumash place names published in the Journal of California Anthropology that the name Lechuza—Spanish for barn owl—may be a folk-etymology derived from the area’s original, somewhat similar sounding Chumash name, which may provide a clue on how to correctly pronounce the word. According to Applegate, Arroyo Sequit, at Leo Carrillo, may also derive from Lisiqsihi.
The proposed Lisiqsihi SMR, which includes Point Dume’s submarine canyon and a portion of kelp forests and reefs popular with kayak anglers and divers, would extend “from the shore due north-south along the 118 53.00 W to state waters” with the eastern boundary running “from shore along the 118 49.00 W to state waters.” The SMR designation means that “the take of all marine resources would be prohibited,” except under “a permit or specific authorization from the managing agency for research, restoration or monitoring purposes.”
The Sumo SMCA is defined as extending “along the shore due north-south along the 118 53.20 W to state waters; the eastern boundary runs from shore along the 118 49.00 W to state waters.”
Comments can be submitted by email to MLPAComments@dfg.ca.gov with “MLPA CEQA Comments” in the subject line, or posted to MLPA South Coast CEQA, Department of Fish and Game, 4665 Lampson, Suite C, Los Alamitos, CA 90720. All comments must include the author’s name, address and a daytime telephone number, according to the DFG. The document is available online at the www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/impact_sc.asp. Print versions will reportedly be available at the Malibu, Ventura and Santa Monica public libraries.

Library Set to Close Sept. 7

• Temporary Facility Opens Two Weeks Later


Malibu city officials announced this week that the Malibu Library is shutting its doors on Sept. 7 for the proposed remodeling as part of what municipal officials call the “Malibu Library Renewal Project.”
The temporary library will open, according to city officials, on Sept. 20. It will be located in the county building just west of the current location.
City officials maintain it will take about one year to complete the renovation.
The renovation will include a new children’s area, teen services area, group study room, seating, teen computers, kitchen, copy center, story time nook, and a bookstore for the Friends of the Library. The community room will be enlarged, and remolded and the lobby will be redesigned and decorated with Malibu tile.
The temporary facility will offer wi-fi and basic services.

SMMC Board Approves Modified DEIR

• Camping Reduced and Propane Use Cut from Modified Plan

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


It was standing room only when the board of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority met to vote on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Malibu Parks Malibu Parks Public Access Enhancement Plan—Public Works Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report Modified Redesign Alternative on Monday night at Temescal Park in Pacific Palisades.
A large contingent of Malibu residents—some complaining bitterly that the meeting was in Pacific Palisades, not Malibu—attended the meeting, but the tone was generally calmer than at earlier meetings.
For many, recent changes, including a reduction in campsites and other development and a new prohibition on propane use, appeared to have allayed at least some fears.
However, opposition to a variety of plan aspects remained strong, especially among among residents of Ramirez Canyon and Malibu Road.
Paul Edelman, MRCA Chief of Natural Resources and Planning, began the meeting with a presentation on the Modified Redesign Alternative, stating that the redesign addresses many of the concerns expressed during the project’s development. “No more propane or lanterns,” Edelman said. “Every alternative strictly forbids any kind of campfire.”
Edelman explained that while the original Proposed Plan included campsites at five parks: Corral Canyon Park, Conservancy Malibu Bluffs Property, Ramirez Canyon Park, Latigo Trailhead, and Escondido Canyon Park, the MRA concentrates “the bulk of the proposed campsites” into one PCH-adjacent cluster at Corral Canyon Park and in two clusters on the Conservancy’s Malibu Bluffs property.
The MRA retained the potential for two Americans with Disabilities Act accessible campsites at Ramirez Canyon Park, but eliminated all camping at the Latigo property, and Escondido Canyon Park.
According to the MRA’s DEIR, the plan now includes 54 campsites, compared to the 71 in the Proposed Plan. However, the MRA includes a higher percentage of large sized campsites to equalize the number of campers that could be accommodated between the two versions of the plan.
The remaining camping sites at Corral Canyon are close to PCH. In the modified plan, an upper camping area is now reserved for day use only.
At Bluffs Park, the main campground would now be located to the west end of the property. A central camping and access from Malibu road have been eliminated.
Edelman stated that, in addition to the 54 campsites, the MRA includes 71 new parking spaces, 12 day-use areas and 17.5 miles of new trail.
“Most ESHA impact is from trail construction,” Edelman said, adding that the maximum number of trees that could be removed is 13, with one or two the preferred number. “There are no unmitigatable impacts,” Edelman said. [The MRA] is environmentally superior.”
Not everyone agreed. Many Ramirez Canyon residents expressed concern over a component of the plan that calls for widening the narrow canyon to 20 feet, 25 feet at fire hydrants.
Steve Amerikaner, the attorney representing the Ramirez Canyon Preservation Fund stated that the plan would create “two slashes in Ramirez Canyon 60-65 feet wide,” with “no shade, no specimen trees. It will fundamentally change the character of the canyon. We do not object to camping for the disabled. We do not object to trails, we object to the road,” he said.
“How in good conscience can you deliberately ruin a neighborhood?” asked Joyce Ball, a 45 year resident of the canyon. “We're never been able to get a bridle trail, we've tried for 40 years. We would like that but we don’t want to see caravans of trucks driving through.”
“We’re like you,” RCPF member Rick Mullen said. “We own property. You do too. We would hope a neighbor like the conservancy would be an ally. Ironically, we find ourselves opposing [you] because of excess development.”
Many of the Ramirez speakers stated that they would prefer that the conservancy pursue an easement into its canyon property from Kanan by a road called Via Accero, limiting its canyon road use for emergencies.
After public comment, SMMC executive director Joe Edmiston described the road widening plan as “grossly exaggerated,” and explained that the project was included in the plan at the request of the fire department, to ensure that the road would be accessible during an emergency.
The actual language in the MRA states: “In response to receipt of the LACFD comment letter, MRCA communicated with LACFD by email, phone, and in person to better understand the fire department's comments and to ensure that, as necessary, that the MRA adhere to LACFD’s recommendations. The Proposed Plan and the Redesign Alternative included the widening of the existing access road and removal of encroachments in the road easements, as necessary, to provide 20-foot clearance for emergency ingress/egress in the canyon along Delaplane Road and Ramirez Canyon Road. In addition, the MRA provides for additional widening to a total road width of approximately 26 feet, for a length of approximately 50 feet adjacent to all existing fire hydrant locations. This additional widening would occur in order to maintain adequate room for operations during an emergency incident along Ramirez Canyon Road and/or Delaplane Road, if required by the responsible fire agency.”
Representatives of the Malibu Road Association were also unappeased by MRA modifications, cautioning that the Bluffs area is “geologically unstable and fire prone.”
“It's not NIMByism,” Malibu Road Association attorney Greg Aftergood said. “We are strong advocates of public space. If you drive alone Malibu Road, two things apparent: undulating road and water mains above ground. We submit that less could be more. More undisturbed areas, more oversight. [Eliminating campsites] eliminates inherent risk of having waterline and electrical all over,” he said.
Other Malibu Road residents criticized plans for a two stall restroom, located on the road near the public beach access, potential view impacts, and loss of what was described as grasslands deemed “ESHA-worthy.”
The City of Malibu, represented by associate planner Joseph Smith, requested more time to review the DEIR documents. “The city hopes you will not take action tonight, that you will take time to reviewed the documents.”
Upper Winding Way and and Murphy Way Homeowners Association representative attorney Stanley Lamport was there to thank the conservancy for listening to the HOA's concerns and modifying the plan in that area. “The association supports the modified alternative,” he stated.
Retired firefighter and Santa Monica Mountains open space advocate Don Wallis applauded the MRA. “This is the best and most thorough fire plan ever devised. I rise in support of modified plan. Adopt it soon and get us on trails,” he said.
After public comment and a break for dinner, the board voted to approve the Modified Re-design Alternative with just one no vote—cast by City of Malibu representative Mayor Jefferson Wagner—and one abstention.
The entire DEIR document is available online at smmc.ca.gov

Drug Rehab Owner Is Cited by the FPPC

• 2008 Malibu City Council Campaign Mailing Triggered Investigation

BY BILL KOENEKER


The owner of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Malibu has been investigated by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to report expenditures in the 2008 city council race for two mass mailings, according to authorities.
The FPPC has imposed an agreed upon fine of $9000. The maximum penalty for the three counts cited could have been $15,000.
Chris Prentiss, who owns Passages Malibu, paid $8400 for mailings that were sent out in support of unsuccessful candidate Kathy Wisnicki. That amount of money kicked into effect reporting requirements by the state agency that considers such payments an independent expenditure that must be reported, according to FPPC documents. Prentiss was not available for comment.
“Under the Political Reform Act, when a person makes independent expenditures totaling $1000 or more in a calendar year, that person qualifies as an independent expenditure committee, which triggers certain filing requirements. Also, under the act, a mass mailing must include identifying information regarding the sender, if the sender is a candidate or committee.
“As set forth in the counts below, Respondent Chris Prentiss violated the act by failing to file required late independent expenditure reports and by sending at least two mass mailings without including the required sender identification information,” an FPPC report states.
Investigators indicated that the invoices for the mailings were paid for by Pax Prentiss, Chris’ son. They told authorities they often pay one another’s bills, with the father admitting he was the true source of the funds.
Each mass mailing was sent to about 2700 addresses, with the mailings expressly advocating the election of Wisnicki.
“The public harm inherent in reporting violations, especially where late independent expenditures are not reported before an election is that the public is deprived of time sensitive information regarding the sources and amounts of expenditures made in support of a candidate.
Additionally, the failure to provide proper sender identification for a mass mailing is a serious violation of the act because it deprives the public of important information regarding the sponsor of the mailing. The sender information on the mass mailings was misleading in that the mass mailing was purported to be from “Buites for Wisnicki,” a non-existent committee,” the FPPC report goes on to state.
Investigators reported that Prentiss cooperated with enforcement, agreed to an early settlement resulting in the lower fines.

SOS Funds Restore Funding for Teachers in the SMMUSD

• Some Federal Grants May Also Be Available

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation’s Save Our Schools campaign and its organizers received a standing ovation at a special board of education meeting on Aug. 18 in Santa Monica.
District Superintendent Tim Cuneo described the 60-day fundraising drive that gathered more than $1.5 million to offset budget cuts as “a daunting task.”
“It’s a pleasure to commend the SOS campaign and the Education Foundation,” Cuneo said, calling the effort an inspiration to the district’s children. “Maybe this is a new model for us in the district,” Cuneo added. “For us, it’s a vote of confidence on our work.”
The board voted to use the SOS funds to restore 19.75 positions for the 2010-11 year, including nine full time elementary teachers, two secondary school teachers, one full time and one part time counselor, one part time and two full time music teachers, and four library coordinators. The superintendent announced that additional positions could potentially be restored using federal Education Jobs Fund grants.
The funding will help offset class size increases and program cuts necessitated by the state budget crisis. According to a staff report, class sizes in Kindergarten will drop from 27:1 to 23:1 and from 27:1 to 25:1 in grades 1-3.
Class size and counselor to student ratios will also improve in middle and high schools; elementary school libraries on all district campuses will remain open; and the district's highly acclaimed elementary music program will be restored. Funding is also being allocated for additional reading specialists.
“Thanks to the outstanding work of our SOS volunteers, along with an unexpected boost from the federal government, we have made significant progress in bringing almost everything back—for this year,” said Linda Greenberg Gross, Executive Director of the SMMEF. The final fundraising tally was $1,517,201.68.
However, district officials caution that the funding provides only a temporary reprieve and that the district will continue to be faced with a shortfall as long as the budget situation in Sacramento remains unstable.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu Lumber Yard: Time for Clarification •

ANNE SOBLE


The Malibu Lumber and Hardware sign still stands on the shoulder of Pacific Coast Highway near Cross Creek Road. It is a mocking reminder of what was and what could have been, if the City of Malibu had not been boxed into a legal and financial corner when the terms of the acquisition of the property where the sign stands were dictated to it.
Some municipal officials can be expected to have their judgment questioned, if the recent reports swirling about the Malibu Lumber Yard center are corroborated. The people of Malibu were given many assurances of the wisdom of putting in a boutique-oriented shopping mall that was going to provide the financial wherewithal for the core of the area’s commercial and public services planning.
The community was told a major factor in the decision to go the MLY route was that the owners would be local residents who would be part of the city’s commercial future for the proverbial long haul. Now national media are reverberating with statements that the owners might have intended to sell the project from day one. Taken in or out of context, such statements are leading to questions of whether the center is in trouble and the city council is in danger of winding up with designer oeuf on its face.
It is time for all of the parties to clarify the status of the center. Is the problem more than wanting an infusion of capital? Is MLY for sale? Although the city has a say about whom the center might be sold to, what if there is only one viable option? Could the city become entangled in a situation that not only does little to fulfill municipal financial obligations, but also disconnects it from the residents even more?
Driving by MLY’s concrete facade facing PCH, one sees windows with strip-mall type banners and “for lease” signs within feet of each other. The uninviting gray may suit the eclecticism of those who espouse a free-for-all of local styles and colors, but does it say “Malibu?”
The needs and wants of Malibuites have never been a part of decision-making regarding the old lumberyard site. The property’s development might have been a critical component of community-building. It could have complimented what already exists in the neighboring centers, instead of replicating it.
Instead, locals must travel west, north or east for basic necessities. Since they are already in their vehicles, many consolidate their to-do lists and take their valuable sales tax dollars to the coffers of other cities. Hopefully, the clarification process will indicate that it is not too late to turn this around.

RWQCB Holds Public Hearing on Tapia Noncompliance Issue

• Discharge Cease and Desist May Be Discussed

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on the discharge permit sought by the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District on Sept. 2 in downtown Los Angeles.
The board is expected to consider the Tapia plant’s tentative waste discharge order, a cease and desist order and a time schedule order.
The cease and desist order is the result of the Tapia treatment plant “not being able to comply with the total trihalomethanes and dichlorobromomethane effluent limit,” according to RWQCB documents. The chemicals are potentially toxic by-products of the water treatment process.
“The regional board addressed both constituents under a single enforcement order, namely the tentative CDO,” states a memo explaining the agency’s position in a letter to LVMWD.
The water district asked for the time schedule for TTHM since the final effluent limit is a new limit.

Mitrice Richardson’s Life Is Celebrated at Private Family Services

• Sermon Calls for ‘Vast Army of God’ to Be Drafted in the War for Accountability and Justice

BY ANNE SOBLE


On Saturday, family and close friends filled the New Testament Church of Christ in South Central Los Angeles to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Mitrice Richardson, who had been missing for eleven months before her remains were discovered three weeks ago in the dense chaparral of the Malibu area mountains.
The white and gold coffin was covered with a large spray of multi-hued roses and was surrounded by copious arrangements of more multi-colored flowers evoking the rainbow theme that many family members associate with Richardson.
FUNERAL SERVICES—Family members and close friends gathered at New Testament Church of Christ in South Central Los Angeles to celebrate the life of Mitrice Richardson and pledge to “make things better in the world.” 
CALL TO ACTION—Pastor Robert Hendricks told the congregation that “the journey is not over.” He exhorted everyone to work for “accountability, integrity and justice” for Mitrice Richardson.
 There were so many magnificent stargazer lilies in the arrangements that their lush fragrance filled the air, enhancing the backdrop for video photomontages of the vivacious 24-year-old honors college graduate from infancy to her Cal State Fullerton commencement in 2008.
In the photos, there is one constant, the radiant smile that speaker after speaker described as emblematic of the upbeat personality and joy for living that Richardson embodied.
Those who came to say farewell ranged in age from newborn to Mitrice’s 92-year-old great-grandmother Mildred Harris, with whom Richardson lived before she disappeared last Sept. 17 in the now familiar story of her booking and release from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station with no money, cell phone or transportation just after midnight in a remote area she had never been in before.
The services were visceral farewells for deeply religious family members who waved their arms in the air and praised their Lord aloud during sermons and speeches.
It was also a rallying cry to action by Pastor Robert Hendricks, of the church where the young woman was part of the youth ministry, who said, “The search for Mitrice is now over, but the journey is not over.”
Proclaiming, “Mitrice’s blood still cries out on the ground,” he said, “A vast army of God [is charged with] bringing accountability, integrity and justice.”
He added, “All of us are just a breakdown away. But for $89...would those involved have done this to their own daughters?”
“We are our brother’s keeper. We have an obligation to each other and must be committed to justice.” Hendricks said this should be the goal of every community.
The dead woman’s mother, Latice Sutton, her stepfather, Larry Sutton—who helped to raise her, and her 12-year-old sister, Miiah, were comforted by a strong circle of relatives and longtime friends.
Among those who attended the services was Moe Dubois, whose own teenage daughter was murdered. He now is a missing persons advocate and assisted with field searches near the area where Mitrice Richardson’s remains were found Aug. 9 by state park rangers.
Congressmember Maxine Waters, who championed the missing woman’s cause on the federal level, was among those who spoke to the congregation.
Waters said what happened to Mitrice Richardson was a “never again moment. Never again should we release someone without their belongings, and never again should we release someone alone at that hour.”
Waters said her staff will “continue in the quest to find out the truth” about how Richardson died.
Speaker after speaker extolled the bright and attractive beauty pageant competitor who had just earned teaching credentials to use while she pursued a doctorate in psychology.
Uniformed ushers went up and down the pews handing out boxes of tissues for the tears that flowed freely. At times they were tears of joy, but at other times, they reflected a deep and profound grief.
One of Richardson’s “favorite uncles,” Malcolm Wade, roused the crowd when he said, “Those who say God put a period after Mitrice’s name are wrong. It is a coma, and it is up to everyone here to complete the story [for] when we see her later.”
Attending alone in the background was Jeff Peterson, the owner of Geoffrey’s restaurant, who said he does not understand how his staff’s concern for a troubled woman went the way it did at the Lost Hills Station and she is dead.
After the ceremony, he said, “I thought the service was a beautiful celebration of her life. I was deeply honored to have been invited to share that moment with her family” after he telephoned them to express condolences.
Richardson was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery under a bright blue sky. There was a gentle breeze. Her mother and her 12-year-old sister released several dozen beautiful butterflies, symbolizing that they and Mitrice Richardson are now free.

Biological Father Storms Out of Mitrice Richardson’s Funeral

BY ANNE SOBLE


In a display of what a number of people at Mitrice Richardson’s funeral said was disrespect toward his deceased daughter, Michael Richardson angrily stomped out of the church nave after services had begun.
Repeatedly flashing a bright orange bandanna, he appeared to scowl and fidget in the front pew on the Richardson family side of procession aisle.
When the pastor praised the role of the dead woman’s mother Latice Sutton, and her stepfather Larry Sutton, who helped raise Mitrice Richardson from about five years of age through college, her biological father became visibly agitated, then reached for his mother who was seated behind him, stood up and told his family members and friends to walk out.
Many of the people filing out looked puzzled and even embarrassed. Some of them tugged on the person next to them to follow.
As they left, the pastor continued his comments, those in attendance listened and the empty pews spoke to the attitude of the man who repeatedly declares, despite rulings to the contrary, that he is Mitrice’s “legal next of kin” and entitled to act on behalf of her estate in litigation.
About 15 minutes later, most of those who had walked out returned to their seats but Richardson remained outside. It was announced that he would join those making remarks to the congregation.
Comments by his mother, Sally Ann Kelly-Richardson, who spoke with a deep rich cadence, preceded those of her son. She eased the tension in the nave as she told an endearing story about her granddaughter and the humorous havoc that a mischievous toddler could wreak with the contents of a container of baby powder.
Then Michael Richardson went up to the microphone. He said, “I don’t want everyone to get nervous [about what I’m going to say],” still waving the orange bandanna as if it was a flag or colors.
Though not as charismatic a speaker as his mother, he lavished praised on his daughter’s stepfather, Larry Sutton, and said, “When I wasn’t ready to be a father, Larry was.”
Richardson then publicly announced, “I went to prison [and Latice did an excellent job as mother], while I was in jail.”
Family members have indicated that Michael Richardson was sentenced to a prison term of over six years for strong-arm robbery. They add that the dead woman’s biological father played no role in her life from when she was three until about 15, when intermittent visits began.
Describing himself as “a very angry person,” the father said, “I am going to try to keep dignified and professional,” then said, “Latice Sutton is no joke, [and] neither am I.”
Michael Richardson has repeatedly refused to work with other family members on the searches and public information outreach, and the funeral was no exception.
Latice Sutton said that the money he collects at fundraisers, which largely take on a carnival-like air, was not contributed toward any of those searches or media campaigns.
Sutton added that Richardson offered “not a penny for funeral costs, not the casket, not the cemetery, not anything.”
Nor does Richardson disguise that he relishes the media spotlight. He frequently contacts members of the press himself and gives his own public appearances high marks on his website and blog.
Mitrice Richardson’s biological father held his own memorial service Aug. 16 and has announced he plans to hold another larger one for all those who “have grown attached to Mitrice’s unfortunate fate,” as well as begin an another series of fundraisers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mitrice Richardson's Family Announces Public Memorial Events

BY ANNE SOBLE
Latice and Larry Sutton, the parents of Mitrice Richardson—her mother and the stepfather who helped to raise her—are holding events to honor the 24-year-old’s life and mourn her tragic death.
There will be a reception to pay respects at Inglewood Park Mortuary, Chapel, 3901 W., Manchester Boulevard, in Inglewood, on Friday, Aug. 20, from 3 p.m. to 8.p.m.
A candlelight vigil memorial in Richardson’s honor is also scheduled for this Friday, at the Forum Lot—Northside (across the street from the funeral home)—on Manchester and Prairie Avenue in Inglewood, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Private funeral services for the family will take place on Saturday, Aug. 21.
Sutton issued a statement thanking “all who have supported the search efforts” to find her daughter.
She also thanked those who sent well wishes. She said those “who have inquired about sending donations” may do so at www.findmitrice.info/donations, or mail condolences and contributions to the Mitrice L. Richardson Fund, c/o Latice Sutton, 23441 Golden Spring Drive, #115, Diamond Bar, CA, 91765.
Richardson’s biological father, Michael Richardson, held his own separate event at Leimert Park earlier this week.

City Reveals Price Tag for Water Quality Lawsuit with Environmental Groups

• Expert Witnesses and Consultants Were Expensive

BY BILL KOENEKER


In the ever-increasing public relations battle between the City of Malibu and outside environmental groups, who are litigating their disagreements with the municipality, Malibu City Council members directed staff to post on its website legal expenses of a lawsuit involving the city and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The posting involves the high price the city has paid in defending itself in the lawsuit filed by the NRDC and the Santa Monica Baykeeper in 2008 under the federal government's Clean Water Act.
According to the city’s records, Malibu taxpayers have footed a whopping $874,470 in fees to the city attorney’s law firm, a specialty law firm and various other consultants during the past three years. The detailed breakdown of costs were reported for the last three fiscal years and do not include the mounting costs for the current fiscal year.
Hogin reported her firm received a total of $153,235 for a total of 639 hours billed.
The specialty law firm Downey Brand Attorneys LLP has received a total of $358,765. Geosyntec Consultants, Inc. has for the past three fiscal years earned a total of $220,285.
Malibu city officials describe this case as the most complicated matter and the fees include the defense in the federal trial court, coordination with relevant or related cases and work related to settlement efforts. The case is still pending in the U.S. district court.
According to the city’s summary, the court has made certain pre-trial rulings that are mixed results for both parties and the case is currently proceeding to trial.
The unsigned summary indicated in a memo attached to the litigation expenses the lawsuit involves essentially five claims.
“The plaintiff’s claim that no evidence is required to demonstrate that the city specifically caused or contributed to exceedances at Malibu Creek Waters, that the city is responsible for any water quality standard exceedances because it is a discharger (operates storm drains) and that the city’s treatment facility does not alleviate liability.
“[The] plaintiff’s claim that all violations at Surfrider Beach are attributable to the city without proving that the city took any action to cause or contribute to the degradation of water quality.
“The plaintiff’s claim that the Ocean Plan water quality standards are incorporated into the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and that the city violated water quality standards in the ABSB (Area of Special Biological Significance).
“[The] plaintiff’s claim that the city violated the NPDES permit's requirement that the city file certain forms known as Receiving Water Limitations or RWL’s.
“Plaintiff's claim that the city is liable for a nuisance,” the memo states.

City Settles with RWQCB over Alleged Illegal Discharges into Solstice Creek During the Controversial 2008 Bridge Replacement

• Municipality to Pay $30,000 but Refuses to Admit Wrongdoing

BY BILL KOENEKER



The City of Malibu and the Regional Water Quality Control Board have ultimately entered into a settlement agreement after the RWQCB staff alleged the erosion control and drainage practices employed by the city during construction of the Corral Canyon Road bridge over Solstice Creek in 2008 were inadequate and resulted in illegal discharges into state and federal waters.
Those alleged discharges can result in the board imposing fines.
Initially, a complaint was issued and a civil fine in the amount of $62,375 was imposed on the city. After discussion between state and the city, the amount was reduced to $30, 915.
However, a dispute arose between the city and the state agency over the allegations, with the city deciding to challenge the findings, according to RWQCB documents.
Later, both parties agreed to settle. The state and the city gave recitations of what they believed happened and, in effect, agreed to disagree, but the city, according to the settlement papers, admitting to no wrongdoing.
Under the settlement, the city agrees to pay $30,000 to resolve the complaint.
The bridge replacement project, completed in fall 2008, was intended to “improve the migration of steelhead trout in the Solstice Canyon Creek Watershed” by “removing barriers preventing fish passage and migration into the rich riparian habitat of the Solstice Canyon Watershed,” a city staff report states.
The project included the demolition, removal and replacement of the old concrete bridge located on Corral Canyon Road just north of Pacific Coast Highway.
Additional work on the project included “road improvements, riparian re-vegetation, landscaping and irrigation work.”
Project funding included grants from the State of California Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Conservation Board and State Coastal Conservancy, as well as contributions from the National Parks Service, Caltrans and Heal the Bay.
The final cost of the project was reportedly $1.6 million. The city contributed $239,000 of the total.
The project drew criticism from Corral Canyon residents who stated that they depend on the bridge for access to their homes, and emergency evacuation during disaster.
It also received opposition from critics who claimed that, even with improved access, the creek was unlikely to provide adequate habitat for the endangered steelhead trout.

Malibu Lagoon ‘Restoration’ Plan Hearing Is Postponed by the Coastal Commission

• Project Controversy Continues to Grow

BY BILL KOENEKER


The California Coastal Commission at its meeting last week postponed a hearing to grant a permit for the “restoration” of Malibu Lagoon.
The controversial request by the state Department of Parks and Recreation has come under increasing fire as more information was revealed before the commission hearing.
The plans call for “recontouring/reconfiguring slopes and drainages to increase the hydrologic flow by excavating 51,200 cubic yards of muddy wetlands and grading 37,500 cubic yards of fill,” the staff report states.
The restoration also involves “revegetating with native wetland and upland plant species and removal of non-native plant species, the construction of a public access trail around the lagoon with new interpretive public informational and educational improvements and implementation of a long-term lagoon monitoring plan.”
Critics claim the restoration project is too invasive and will destroy existing habitat and put species at risk.
Commission staff had recommended approval of the proposal with 16 special conditions.
In other commission news, the coastal panel approved a one year extension sought by the CCC staff to extend the time limit for action on the City of Malibu's request to amend its Local Coastal Program to allow for the utilization of off-site view corridors and public benefits in lieu of required on-site view corridors.
The commission also agreed to postpone an appeal by the Malibu Coalition for Slow Growth to a permit granted by the City of Malibu to WFS Seastar Company LLC for the demolition of an abandoned gas station and construction of 2388 square feet of commercial office building with rooftop parking, vehicular ramp, landscaping and 1270 cubic yards of grading on Pacific Coast Highway near the Malibu Pier.

SOS Campaign Concludes

• $1.5 Million Raised to Restore Cut Programs

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation’s “Save Our Schools” fundraising campaign raised $1.517 million in 60 days, a press release states. The funds will be “put to work in classrooms at the start of school on Sept 7.”
Linda Greenberg Gross, the executive director of the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, confirmed at the SOS Grand Finale event in Santa Monica where the final numbers were announced, that the funds would be “immediately available to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District for the 2010-2011 school year.”
Contributions were earmarked for three “buckets,” or areas: $655,000 was donated to reduce elementary class size; $332,000 was collected to help restore secondary teachers and counselors; and $397,000 will go to support music and libraries.
Save Our Schools also reportedly received a large number of undesignated contributions that can be put to use “where the SMMUSD Board of Education determines will make the greatest impact,” the press release continues.
“These totals could represent up to 18 positions that could be restored, making a significant impact for all SMMUSD students by lowering class sizes and restoring programs for the next school year.” That decision is expected at a special Aug. 18 board of education meeting in Santa Monica at district headquarters.
“The success of Save Our Schools breaks a number of records for the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation,” Gross announced. “Not only is it the largest dollar amount that we have raised in such a tight time-frame, but this campaign has seen more volunteer and community participation than any previous campaign in our history.”
According to the press release, the Save Our Schools “core volunteer committee” numbered more than 100, with participation from across the district.
Total volunteers numbered more than 1000. More than 2000 contributors participated, including businesses, foundations, community members and families.
“Our community has demonstrated time after time that it cares about maintaining the quality of our local public schools. This summer it has rallied to do just that. This energy and commitment is one of so many reasons that I’m proud to be a member of this wonderful community,” wrote Santa Monica-Malibu Council of PTAs President Shari Davis.
“I am so excited by how much we were able to accomplish in such a short time,” Gross said.
“I’m so grateful to everyone for all of their hard work, and when school starts next month, I hope everyone will appreciate what a significant impact we’ve all made, together, to help protect the quality of education for students across our great school district,” Gross added.
“The Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation looks forward to continuing its work to help support our local schools.”

Camping Issue to Air at SMMC Meeting

• Public Comment on Project’s Draft EIR Is Being Solicited

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy’s executive director announced this week that the Draft Final Environmental Impact Report for the public works plan that includes overnight camping at several locations in Malibu has been completed.
In an email sent to Malibu City Manager Jim Thorsen and City Attorney Christi Hogin, Joe Edmiston, who is the head of the SMMC, wrote that he was aware of the city’s workshop this week and consequently, the document was being posted on several sites.
“We have now posted the Draft Final Public Access Enhancement Plan—Public Works Plan on the web. You are free to publicize this as you see fit so that persons attending the workshop can be better informed as to what is actually being proposed at this time,” Edmiston wrote.
The SMMC and the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority are conducting a joint meeting on Aug. 23, Monday night at 5 p.m. Public comment is encouraged.
Edmiston, who also formally announced the hearing date, is also executive officer of the MRCA.
The meeting will be held at the Temescal Canyon Retreat and Conference center at 25601 Sunset Boulevard.
The draft document can be found at www.smmc.ca.gov or www.mrca.ca.gov
The plan is described by SMMC officials as “a comprehensive set of policies and implementation measures, and identifies certain actions and park improvements, intended to enhance the public access and recreation opportunism for specific park properties and recreation areas within the City of Malibu and Los Angeles County.”
The properties included in the plan are Ramirez Canyon Park, Escondido Canyon Park, the Latigo Trailhead property, Solstice Canyon Park, Corral Canyon Park and Malibu Bluffs Park, according to Malibu municipal officials.

View Preservation Public Workshops Are Discussed by City Council Subcommittee

• Controversial Issue Continues to Be Contentious

BY BILL KOENEKER



A Malibu City Council subcommittee agreed last week to schedule more public hearings on a view preservation and restoration ordinance before any proposed law goes before the planning commission.
Members of the city’s Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee, or ZORACES, comprised of Mayor Jefferson Wagner and Councilmember John Sibert, recommended two workshops be scheduled for the public to talk about the proposal.
The two members of the subcommittee, who had expected a large turnout, were mostly greeted by members of the now defunct View Preservation Task Force, which had spent nearly a year on crafting an ordinance for consideration.
The former task force panelists spoke in favor of the city adopting what they said was an ordinance that had already been vetted for over a series of 19 public hearings for about a year by the task force. Members of the retired panel say they gave the city about $250,000 worth of consultation and work product.
Former taskforce chair Sam Hall Kaplan spoke, along with Harold Greene, Barry Tyreman, Marilyn Santman and Leon Cooper.
None of the minority members of the task force were present, including Councilmember Lou La Monte, who sat on the task force as a minority member. No one spoke in opposition.
However, Planning Commission Chair John Mazza, who was not present at the meeting, had his testimony read into the record.
Mazza wrote, “Since you cannot possibly cover the view protection issue in one hour, I suggest that the Zoraces Committee recommend that the planning commission hold two special meetings, one at night and one in the morning, to consider the item. They could be workshops then have an official planning commission meeting.”
The staff had come to the council subcommittee for direction and in a 165-page report laid out the history and issues of the matter.
On April, 2008 the voters were asked in an advisory measure if the city council should adopt such an ordinance. Subsequently on approval by the voters, the city council formed the View Protection Task Force to study the issue. The task force came back with a proposed ordinance after the panel sunset in June 2009.
A year later the new sitting council had picked up the issue with its first action being to send the matter to Zoraces.

Great White Shark Caught on Video Is Likely a Local

• Great Whites Are Demonized in Most of the Viral Postings

BY ANNE SOBLE
BENIGN ENCOUNTER—A standup paddleboarder filmed a pair of white sharks as curious about him as he was about them. His video went viral and soon became “Surfer Battles for His Life,” “Sharks Attack Surfer,” “Close Call with Killers,” and every erroneous stereotype spawned by the movie “Jaws.”


Two juvenile white sharks were filmed late last week off the San Onofre nuclear power plant.by Chuck Patterson on board a standup paddleboard and the video went viral on the Internet.
The larger juvie measured nine feet or so, which sounds menacing until one realizes that it is still in the fish-eating stage and has not progressed to the staple of great white cuisine—plump pinnipeds.
This isn’t all that surprising to most Malibuites, as they know the local waters have long been ideal great white nursery habitat, probably since well before the arrival of the first humans.
Sightings of young-of-the-year sharks and juveniles occur often, and even when they are not seen, no one should assume they are not out there. Except when demonized in exploitive movies, they pose little danger, except to the fish, rays and smaller sharks that help them grow.
Ralph Collier’s Shark Research Committee website regularly chronicles regional sightings. One of the latest took place at Sunset Beach on Aug.13, when a pilot was flying a helicopter reconnaissance mission with a 33-foot companion vessel.
Collier says the pilot documented the presence of three great white sharks 200-to-300 yards off the beach and photographed them. The pilot said one of the sharks was about 12 feet in length and the other two were an estimated 16 feet in length.
As impressive as these larger sharks were, one of the smaller sharks filmed by the paddleboarder offers a more interesting tale with a possible Malibu angle.
Ken Peterson, the communications director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium announced that it’s likely the animal that the paddleboarder videotaped is one that MBA researchers tagged in Southern California waters, most likely at Malibu, when the floating holding pen was set up off Point Dume.
If one closely watches the paddleboarding video, they can see a yellow-green object on the shark’s left side that Peterson indicates “is most likely the leader left behind when the shark’s electronic tag popped free.”
These two sharks are also more representative of the animals in the Malibu area, as the local waters are too warm for most adult whites.
In addition, the adults prefer elephant seals as their plat du jour, but the possibility that they mistakenly nibble on a human—in wetsuits, they look quite pinnipedish—is not likely to be an endearing experience.
Collier is concerned that laws protecting the pinniped population will increase their numbers and bring adult whites closer to the shoreline, but that does not appear to be borne out yet by the low numbers of adverse encounters that occur.
Indeed, despite the hypothesis that whites are never that far from the local coast, the paucity of attacks—mistaken identity or not—is surprising.
Of course, anthropomorphists might argue that not only do sharks not relish humans as prey, but the animals have also learned that humans are their biggest threat.
Since there is no shortage of pinnipeds farther out at sea, especially the robust elephant seals that help the adult whites’ grow to over 20 feet, there appears to be little likelihood that the number of adverse encounters will increase in the future.
Indeed, humans take a much greater toll on the great white population that the sharks take on them.
The need to project the species continues to rank high on the marine science research agenda, as scientists stress the need to educate people on the important role of the great white shark in the marine environment.

Mitrice Richardson Press Conference Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

• Sheriff Tries to Shift Blame to Restaurant and Citizen’s Arrest Policies

BY ANNE SOBLE
 TENSE MOMENTS—Sheriff Lee Baca became visibly irritated by media efforts to obtain more information about the skeletal find that was announced to be the remains of Mitrice Richardson on Thursday. County Coroner spokesperson Ed Winter also sidestepped many of the media questions, stating that “the investigation is still in progress.”

REMOTE LOCATION—This weathered carved wooden post is the only marker for the isolated Dark Canyon area where Mitrice Richardson’s remains were found last week.

At a press conference on Thursday, Aug. 12, at Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department headquarters downtown, Sheriff Lee Baca announced what had been conjectured since the previous Monday that skeletal remains found in dense chaparral in the Malibu area mountains are those of Mitrice Richardson, the Cal State Fullerton honors graduate who had been missing since Sept. 17, 2009.
The final determination by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office that it was the 24-year-old Los Angeles woman was the result of a daylong analysis by a pathologist, forensic anthropologist and an odontologist who used dental records and x-rays provided by Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, to verify the identification.
Baca, flanked by a phalanx of nearly every LASD officer who worked on the Richardson case, used the word “chagrin” to describe the reaction of the LASD and others to the findings, yet any sense of humiliation or failure connoted in that word was not evident, as the county’s top lawman testily affirmed that his people had done everything properly and professionally.
At the press conference, the ongoing confusion about the location of the skeletal find and its distance from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, from which Richardson was released at about 12:30 a.m. the day she disappeared, as well as from the Monte Nido residence where she is thought to have been seen at 6:30 a.m. the same day, was still being resolved.
Richardson’s remains were found about six miles from Lost Hills and two or so miles from the rural location where she apparently stopped to rest on a back porch.
Although the find, according to spokespersons in the County Coroner’s Office, includes 90 or more percent of the skeleton when assembled, Baca said, “I don’t believe the remains are capable of telling us a story [that] would enable the determination of homicide.” The sheriff said he has asked the coroner’s office “to work to see if foul play” was involved.
Baca, at times visibly agitated by media questioning, staunchly defended his officers, but the LASD chief acknowledged that “[acting] properly doesn’t mean that we didn’t do something, or [that] we could have done something more.”
Appearing to try to shift some of the responsibility for what transpired to the staff of Geoffrey’s restaurant, which had called Lost Hills Station directly when Richardson told them she could not pay her $89 dinner tab, Baca described “the irate owner or manager of the restaurant telling us to come and pick her up.”
A 57-page draft report from the Office of Independent Review, supposed to serve as the watchdog panel over the LASD, essentially concludes that the LASD acted with due diligence. It also states that “the [Geoffrey’s] manager demanded” that Richardson be arrested.
Baca indicated LASD policies on responses to “defrauding an innkeeper” charges would be reviewed. He said, “Because a restaurant owner…decides to make a citizen’s arrest, the deputies’ options are to field cite or take the individual to jail.” He added, “The question is [whether] defrauding an innkeeper of $89 is enough of a crime to take someone to jail?”
Baca said, “That is the issue, and I think that should be looked upon.”
To the question of when Richardson died, the sheriff replied, “It was within the sequence of her release.”
A series of searches, including the single biggest field search in county history, combed nearby areas, and may have even come within less than a mile of the grisly find by state park rangers checking a remote former marijuana grove.
The chaparral in this area is so dense that the remains had to be helicoptered out. When asked if Richardson could have walked the several miles from Dark Canyon and Piuma Road to the isolated site, Baca said, “I don’t know if she could walk that far.”
Richardson, an urbanite with no backcountry experience, was clad only in a T-shirt and jeans. Members of her family do not think she could have traversed the difficult terrain unless assisted or coerced by one or more individuals.
When LACCO spokesperson Ed Winter was asked about Richardson’s clothing, he said it “was around the scene,” and added he would “not say more at this time.” He indicated that the garments are still being analyzed.
Subsequent inquiry to the coroner’s office by the Malibu Surfside News was responded to with comments that the clothing believed to be Richardson’s was “scattered around” and was described as being in “fair” condition for items that may have been in the elements for as long as 11 months.
No information was provided to indicate if this might shed light on whether Richardson’s body was clothed when she died.
If wild animals encountered clothed human remains, it is likely they would have shredded the garments. This hypothetical premise might warrant additional assessment of the possibility of human predation and foul play.
The discovery of a culvert wall covered with an obscene hand-painted mural depicting African-American women who resemble Richardson and apparent references to the specifics of her case compound the family’s concerns about foul play. That mural, since painted over, was located a few miles to the northeast of where the remains were found, and Sutton believes it is related to what happened to her daughter.
RESTAURANT RESPONSE
Following the press conference, the owner of Geoffrey’s told The News that he has put in a call to Sheriff Baca, but has not heard back. Jeff Peterson said the sheriff’s comments, ostensibly shifting blame on the restaurant’s staff, exacerbated his already “devastated state, after learning an hour earlier that the remains were Richardson’s.”
Peterson said his staff wanted to help the woman. The OIR draft report acknowledged that the staffers were going to chip in to cover her dinner tab, but decided they feared for her safety if she went back on the road in a car with dangling electrical wires under the dash and a large quantity of packaged alcohol in the trunk—reportedly left over from a family event several weeks prior—that was discovered when deputies searched her vehicle.
He said the three deputies who responded to the call were repeatedly told, “Something is wrong,” and “She needs help.” Peterson voiced concern that Sheriff Baca put emphasis on the restaurant’s citizen’s arrest and not on the deputies’ assessment of the situation.
He said he couldn’t understand how Geoffrey’s employees saw one Mitrice Richardson and LASD personnel saw another.
The OIR report stated Richardson told restaurant staff she was meeting someone named “Hannah, [who is] tatted up,” or heavily tattooed, who never showed up—if she even existed—which might explain why the dinner check was marked party of two.
Despite stressing the woman’s lucidity and self-awareness, the OIR report notes statements that Richardson would enter a trance-like state watching the lights in the restaurant and became fixated on the moving numbers on the cash register screen, yet this did not raise a red flag.
According to the report, Richardson told staffers she was watching television in the break room at her office when “[she] stated [she] received a message from God and had to leave work.” She ostensibly then headed to Malibu.
When she was asked who to call for assistance with the dinner tab, she is quoted as having said, “I do not have any parents. The only family I have is my great-grandmother.”
Peterson talked to members of the woman’s family circle last Thursday—one of whom said they could see that he “was in pain.” He told them, “We thought we were protecting her and others if she was kept from driving on Pacific Coast Highway.”
He said the deputies who led her away in handcuffs did not have to do what they did. “What they did should not be represented as our actions. If we could see this was someone in distress, why couldn’t they?”
FEEDBACK
Noted Los Angeles African-American author and commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson described the LASD on Friday as having “vehemently denied any responsibility for Richardson’s disappearance. It exonerated itself in a lengthy report, which insisted it followed proper rules and procedures.”
Hutchinson calls the report a “Pontius Pilate hand wash” and asks, “If Richardson’s family and friends hadn’t turned her case into a cause célèbre in the media... [would] she have been less than a mere footnote in the news?”
If members of the mainstream media’s questions could set off Sheriff Baca, the black blogosphere will undoubtedly produce even more of a reaction, if LASD officials are even aware of the complex network of African-American communications outlets that provide news and opinion to a community that largely views the mainstream media with indifference, if not contempt.
There are blogs with photos of Sheriff Baca with the word “guilty” written across them. The sheriff is called a liar, a murderer—and worse.
A petition drive is currently under way to demand that Baca and all LASD personnel who had contact with Richardson take independently administered lie detector tests in public.
There is an outpouring of outrage among many of these African-Americans that a young woman, who embodied aspirations that most families might have for their own children—a college degree, teaching credentials, entrance into graduate school, participation in beauty pageants and even club entertainment—is gone.
This drumbeat is expected to become ever louder in the weeks ahead.

Mitrice Richardson Family Expresses Outrage over OIR ‘Whitewash’

BY ANNE SOBLE


Critics of the Office of Independent Review, which is supposed to act as a watchdog over the operations of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, say the panel is muzzled by the very agency it is supposed to monitor.
The sheriff’s department issued copies of the 57-page OIR report last Thursday, the same day as the LASD press conference to announce that human remains found in the Malibu area mountains were those of Mitrice Richardson, the 24-year-old Los Angeles woman arrested on two field-citable charges, who disappeared after being released from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station just after midnight last Sept. 17.
The confidential report, which exonerates the LASD of any wrongdoing in the Richardson case, is addressed to the county Board of Supervisors and dated July 9. No reason is given for the delay in its release, which followed repeated demands for a copy by the Malibu Surfside News.
A possible reason for the delay might have been the LASD’s elation at the prospect that Richardson had allegedly just been spotted in Las Vegas a few weeks earlier by an acquaintance from her teens. Her biological father, Michael Richardson, had reported a similar sighting in January.
If the woman—from whom there has been no contact since she disappeared and who had not accessed a bank account with several thousand dollars—was alive, the report clearing the agency would have confirmed that its actions were all proper and by the book.
With the announcement the Cal State Fullerton honors graduate was dead, release of the report on the day of Sheriff Lee Baca’s press conference might have been an effort to blunt criticism that her death was attributable to the LASD, or cloud perception of LASD negligence, as her parents allege in separate lawsuits against the department and Los Angeles County.
Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, never accepted the validity of the Las Vegas sightings. In addition, The News reported that the man who thought he saw the 24-year-old in the Hotel Rio casino had second thoughts about it being a case of mistaken identity and shared them with his father.
Sutton repeatedly voiced concern that the LASD did not move quickly enough when her daughter first was reported missing, and that the focus of search efforts should have been where she was last seen in Monte Nido. A number of residents of that community have provided input and possible leads to the family that they say Lost Hills deputies did not adequately follow up.
These include that when Richardson’s footprints ended on Cold Canyon Road—some of these prints indicated that at times she was running—and her scent could not be picked up by tracker dogs—not far from the Monte Nido residence where she is believed to have been sighted several hours earlier, this information was downplayed.
The OIR report indicates that deputies were at the scene within 20 minutes of a telephone call reporting a woman on foot matching Richardson’s description, but this is being questioned by family members, as are assertions that deputies began to check out the Monte Nido area immediately.
Family members say the first comprehensive search of that area was not until two days later, on Sept. 19, and it apparently did not include the former marijuana farm in Dark Canyon where Richardson’s remains were found. It’s not clear how thoroughly homes on Cold Canyon were searched, or their residents questioned. The same applies to the homes overlooking Dark Canyon.
The OIR report focuses less on possible shortcomings of Lost Hills personnel than it does the backdrop of some of the most comprehensive and expensive missing person searches in county history. There is an underlying tone that the extent and cost of the searches mitigates prior issues related to booking and release.
The report occasionally engages in circular reasoning, such as “[Since] Richardson had no safe transportation away from the restaurant, the deputies’ decision to take her into custody and transport her to the station was reasonable and prudent.” It then states she had no transportation because “the deputies decision to impound her car was also reasonable.”
The report indicates three deputies were dispatched to Geoffrey’s, which some view as a sizable contingent for nonpayment of a restaurant bill of $89, but only one arresting officer’s name is unredacted on the arrest report, and two names mentioned in the report.
OIR reiterates that the hour of Richardson’s release—just after midnight with no transportation, cell phone, purse or jacket on a cold night—“was within department policy.” OIR regards the jailer’s offer that the woman could remain in a locked cell—all inhabited cells must be locked, according to department policy—until daylight or the arrival of transportation, as an indication the station exceeded its obligations.
Sutton contends that she repeatedly encountered indifference or apathy, as well as received misinformation, from Lost Hills deputies during three phone calls to check on her daughter. OIR acknowledges that deputies had “limited information” but does not appear to think deputies should have tried to obtain more information while the mother was on the line.
OIR states, “Each time Ms. Sutton spoke with someone from the station, it was a different department member who was uninformed about the circumstances of Ms. Richardson’s arrest or release from custody.”
In a station as small as Lost Hills, with as few arrests as are the norm, OIR accepted that deputies at the front desk wouldn’t know what was going on elsewhere in the station.
The second deputy assured Sutton she would be called before her daughter was released. There is no indication that this information was relayed to the jailer, and the mother never received a call.
Sutton said her third call—after Richardson had been released—was also marked by deputy disconnect from the rest of station. This deputy assured Sutton that “nothing dire” would happen to her daughter and suggested she might have caught a bus, even though there is no overnight bus service in the area, which deputies on assignment there might be expected to know.
Regarding the lack of exterior video footage showing Richardson actually left Lost Hills; the report acknowledges that video surveillance equipment at Lost Hills is “antiquated.”
In addition, calls made on the booking telephone line are not recorded, so there is no way of knowing whether calls Richardson tried to place to her great-grandmother, Mildred Harris, went through. Harris has indicated she never received a call from Lost Hills. Also, a previously denied video of Richardson in the booking cage is perceived by her mother as showing frustration with getting the phone to work or complete a call.
On this videotape, Richardson’s behavior is described as “normal” in the OIR report, but family members who have seen the footage say she looks anxious, clutches at the wire mesh, rocks back and forth, pulls at her hair, and curls up into a fetal position.
Requests by the family for a copy of the tape, as well as requests by the Malibu Surfside News to review it, have been denied.
The OIR report reinforces and may be the basis for Sheriff Baca’s attempt to shift the onus for Richardson’s fate to Geoffrey’s restaurant for initiating her arrest and to her mother for not heading to Lost Hills as soon as she was contacted.
In what may be the cruelest of ironies, the OIR stance appears to be that no parent should ever assume that a family member is safe in the custody of sheriff’s deputies, and they should pick them up immediately, or accept the consequences.
Sutton has said she will forever regret that she had confidence in law enforcement to, in the words of the LASD motto, “protect and serve.” She told one of the deputies that she was not worried about her daughter while she was in custody, and didn’t think “release in the morning” might mean minutes after midnight.
The report takes pains to debunk concerns expressed by family members who saw the videotape—the existence of which was first denied—that when Richardson is leaving the station, a deputy is seen exiting a nearby door. OIR notes this officer “later” transported a DUI suspect to a hospital for a blood alcohol test and returned them, then, within an hour, he and his partner conducted a traffic stop near the intersection of Calabasas Road and Mulholland.
On the explosive issue of whether station personnel abducted Richardson after her release, OIR states there “is no evidence” of that, and cites the 6:30 a.m. sighting at 507 Cold Canyon Road and a sighting on Malibu Canyon Road at 7:30 a.m. as proof that “Richardson made it through the night.”
A third sighting, also believed to be Richardson, has her on foot on Piuma Road, headed away from Malibu Canyon Road, at about 1:30 p.m. She was going in the direction of Dark Canyon where her remains were ultimately found.
Despite the blanket absolution of the LASD in the Richardson case, OIR does make some recommendations directed specifically at Lost Hills Station.
Among them are that all calls made by arrestees from jail should be made on a recorded line; if an arrestee has a cell phone, it should be maintained with the arrestee’s possessions and returned at the time of release; and that all telephone calls regarding release should be directed to the station jailer.
OIR further recommends that if release is to take place between sunset and sunrise, an arrestee should be allowed “to remain in jail voluntarily”—locked in a cell—until daylight, or transportation has arrived.
OIR further recommends that sheriff stations should be equipped with video surveillance equipment outside the station to record activities on station property and, if possible, extend surveillance to adjacent areas.
FEEDBACK
Ronda Hampton, a clinical psychologist who often speaks for Richardson’s mother and other members of her support team, emailed criticism of the OIR report to Benjamin Jones, the panel’s deputy chief attorney, a signatory and principal author of the report.
Hampton said the family was denied a copy of the report that was available to the press, and, “From what I hear, your report is full of lies and inconsistencies. I plan on reading the report line for line and pointing out every lie, and I will expose you for what you are—a liar and a sheriff sympathizer.”
She said, “I saw how familiar you were with the deputies on the day of the drone search, and your explanation of why you were there was insulting to me. I may not be a lawyer, but I am not an idiot, and the relationship that you displayed that day was telling.”
Hampton wrote Jones, “You should be ashamed of yourself for playing semantic games in your report. The next person who needs to be reviewed is you. I do not know how you sleep at night.”
Jones did not respond to an MSN request for comment on Hampton’s statements.
Congressmember Maxine Waters, who spearheaded an attempt to bring the Federal Bureau of Investigation in on the case, but the FBI said its hands were tied because the sheriff’s department would not request its aid, has not commented yet on the OIR report.
Waters issued a statement on the finding of Richardson’s remains last week: “While this grim discovery concludes one chapter, lingering questions remain regarding the manner in which Mitrice was released from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, and the quality of the investigation that took place following her disappearance.”
The representative added, “Notwithstanding today’s announcement, the family will not have absolute closure until they know all the facts concerning Mitrice’s detention and release. I remain committed to ensuring that the local authorities followed proper procedures, and that no federal statutes were violated during the course of this tragic case.”
This week, Hampton disclosed receipt of an unsubstantiated communication from someone who wrote:
“It’s sad the way police treat women today. I too was recently arrested for driving on a suspended license, I was released at 4 a.m., Century Detention Center in Lynwood, and I live in Lancaster one hour and a half away. When they impounded my car, my purse was left inside because they wouldn’t let me take it. I had no cash, ATM, ID or anything. I asked to use their phone, and they said no. I was so scared, I had to walk two miles down the road alone on the streets of Los. Angeles projects. I begged for money for a train ticket until an older woman let me use her phone. I called my father, and he came and got me. I wish Mitrice was as lucky. May she rest in peace.”

Family Plans Public Memorial Events for Mitrice Richardson on Friday

 BY ANNE SOBLE


Latice and Larry Sutton, the parents of Mitrice Richardson—her mother and the stepfather who helped to raise her—are holding events to honor the 24-year-old’s life and mourn her tragic death.
There will be a reception to pay respects at Inglewood Park Mortuary, Chapel, 3901 W., Manchester  Boulevard, in Inglewood, on Friday, Aug. 20, from 3 p.m. to 8.p.m.
A candlelight vigil memorial in Richardson’s honor is also scheduled for this Friday, at the Forum Lot—Northside (across the street from the funeral home)—on Manchester and Prairie Avenue in Inglewood, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Private funeral services for the family will take place on Saturday, Aug. 21.
Sutton issued a statement thanking “all who have supported the search efforts” to find her daughter.
She also thanked those who sent well wishes. She said those “who have inquired about sending donations” may do so at www.findmitrice.info/donations, or mail condolences and contributions to the Mitrice L. Richardson Fund, c/o Latice Sutton, 23441 Golden Spring Drive, #115, Diamond Bar, CA, 91765.
Richardson’s biological father, Michael Richardson, held his own separate event at Leimert Park earlier this week.

Some of Malibu’s Most Dangerous Critters Are Small in Size

• Conenose Insect Deserves Its Alternate Name of Assassin Bug with the Very Sensitive

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


CAPTION

PREDATOR—The bite of the conenose blood-sucking bug can cause a serious allergic reaction. The insect’s actual maximum size is .75 inches in length, indicated by the I-beam. CDPH.ca.gov

Vampires may be all the rage in Hollywood, but Malibu residents might run into another blood sucker that is substantially less entertaining—Triatoma protracta, the conenose blood-sucking bug, also called the kissing bug.
According to the California Center for Disease Control, conenose bugs are members of the genus Reduviidae, also commonly called assassin bugs. Most members of this insect family are predators of other insects, but conenose bugs prey on mammals, including humans.
The local species prefer rodents, specifically wood rats, but they aren’t fussy and will feed on pets and people.
Adult conenose bugs are approximately three-quarters of an inch long and have an elongated, cone-shaped head with a three-section beak. Wings enable the insect to access houses via windows and vents. The wings form a distinctive X pattern when folded and not in use. Some say that X is what gives tritoma the name kissing bug. Other experts claim that the name comes from the insect’s habit of biting the soft tissue of its victim’s face.
“The kissing bug label comes from the insect’s ability to steal a blood meal by painlessly piercing the lips, eyelids or ears of a sleeping human victim,” writes David Faulkner, a research associate in the Entomology Department of the San Diego County Museum of Natural History, on the SDNHM website. “The real problem is that during the feeding process, the bug injects its saliva into the victim, which can result in anaphylactic shock to persons sensitive to the bite.”
According to the CCDC, “anaphylactic reactions require immediate medical treatment and sensitive individuals may be advised by a physician to keep a kit containing epinephrine and antihistamines in their bedroom.”
Anaphylactic reactions can include weakness, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, abdominal cramping, and vascular collapse.
According to a 2002 article published by U.C. Davis, approximately seven percent of people living in areas where conenose bugs are common have the potential to develop a serious “immediate-sensitivity reaction” to the insect’s bite.
A percentage of conenose bugs can also carry a potentially deadly protozoa, Trypanosoma cruzi. According to Faulkner, “In rare cases, an individual might contract Chagas disease, a leading cause of heart disease in Latin America, which is caused by a one-celled organism carried by 40 percent of the bugs in some areas of Southern California.”
“Conenose bugs are most often encountered in summer and fall,” Faulkner writes, adding that the insects are “readily attracted to lights.”
According to Faulkner, the bugs “tend to remain hidden during the day in vegetation or in cracks in floors and walls. “Entrance into dwellings can be reduced by repairing damaged screens on windows and doors, placing barriers over open vents, and using non-white lights outdoors.”
The California Department of Public Health offers additional prevention advice: “Where conenose bugs are a nuisance around residences, management of this pest relies on removing likely harborages and sealing points of entry. Rodent harborage around the home can be reduced by removing piles of lumber, firewood, and debris. Vegetation management in close proximity to structures should be maintained. Structural problems or damaged vents that may allow rodents entry to attics, indoor spaces, or crawl spaces under the home should be fixed through screening or by other means. Chimney caps and all outdoor vents should be appropriately screened.
The CDPH also suggests that residents check to make sure screens on windows, sliders, and exterior doorways fit tightly and be in good repair and that pet doors are insect proof. The website recommends using weather stripping, silicone sealants, or caulk to repair cracks or seal openings around doors or windows where insects may enter.
“Because conenose bugs are attracted to lights at night, minimize outdoor lighting and draw curtains in lighted rooms during spring and summer months when adult triatoma dispersal flights typically occur,” the CDPH report states. “Inspect bedroom spaces and bedding before retiring for the presence of conenose bugs. Bed frames and bedding should not contact walls, furniture, or other objects which may provide crawling, host seeking conenose bugs access to the bed. A bed net, tucked in, is the best exclusionary item to use for those sensitized to conenose bites and at risk for anaphylactic shock.
“Where homes are infested with triatoma, look for wood rat nests or ground squirrel burrows around the property. Inspect attics and under the house to make sure wood rats or other rodents have not gained entry and are using these spaces for nesting. After removing the rodents, destroy the nests or burrows and any conenose bugs that may be found. Treatment of the destroyed nest materials with a short residual insecticide may be necessary to eliminate any remaining conenose adults or nymphs. Read and follow all product label directions when applying pesticides.”
Experts stress that, while the insect is common in rural areas, the number of serious incidents involving conenose bugs is extremely small, and the insects do not present a serious health risk to the majority of the population. However, in Malibu, this insect can be found anywhere its preferred host—the wood rat—lives, and prevention is advocated.
A recent Malibu victim of a conenose bug bite who suffered a moderate allergic reaction told the Malibu Surfside News, “I’d never heard of this bug in my life, I thought it was a spider bite. People need to know that this thing is out there.”