Malibu Surfside News

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Overnight Camping May Now Be Non-Issue

• Conservancy Plan Critics No Longer Pack Council Chambers

BY BILL KOENEKER


The California Coastal Commission is scheduled to consider certification of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy’s Malibu Parks Public Access Enhancement plan, which includes overnight camping, at its meeting on Oct. 13 in Oceanside.
The Malibu City Council met this week to talk about its response and strategy to what has been regarded as a highly controversial proposal.
However, the council had little to say about the matter at the meeting other than to endorse the staff report. There were no public speakers in contrast to last year’s hearing at council chambers when the room was packed with the plan’s critics.
The council was told the staff had requested that the item be pulled from the agenda in October and be put on the agenda when the commission meets in Los Angeles in November. The city was turned down by the CCC staff.
The planning staff sought direction in submitting a comment letter to the Coastal Commission stating that the proposed public works plan is not consistent with the city’s Local Coastal Program and that the Environmental Impact Report prepared for the plan failed to adequately address potentially significant impacts to Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas, or ESHAs.
The specifics of those impacts include the new development related to the construction of permanent employee housing at both Corral Canyon Park and the Malibu Bluffs property.
The city said the single-family homes and their septic tanks were never revealed except in the final EIR. They were never discussed or studied in other documents, according to city officials.
The impacts to the amount of ESHA disturbance for the 35 campsites at SMMC Bluffs property represents another significant impact not adequately addressed, according to city officials.
The city’s staff also mentions the override provisions of the Coastal Act that enables the Coastal Commission to consider whether to amend the city’s Local Coastal Program “outside the usual procedures” and approve the state agencie’s public works plan.
The Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority are seeking the certification of the plan, which includes overnight camping and is described by SMMC officials as a public works plan for the recreation and parks areas in Ramirez Canyon Park, Escondido Canyon Park, the Latigo Trailhead property, Corral Canyon Park and the SMMC-owned Bluffs Park.
The proposed improvements include parking, camping areas with associated support facilities, and trail improvements to support existing recreation and to facilitate an increased level of accessibility “for visitors with diverse backgrounds, ages, interests, ages and abilities.”
The Conservancy and the MRCA had revealed its revised plans that include overnight camping at Bluffs Park at a meeting last month, when the boards of the two agencies approved the plan now being presented to the coastal panel.
While the original plan proposed campsites at five parks, the current plan calls for the bulk of proposed campsites in one Pacific Coast Highway cluster at Corral Canyon Park and in two clusters at the SMMC-owned Bluffs Park. Two Americans-with-Disabilities-accessible campsites were retained at Ramirez Canyon Park, but the current plan eliminates all the campsites at the Latigo property and Escondido Canyon Park.
The plan includes 64 campsites, compared to the 71 in the previous plan.
However, there are a higher percentage of large size campsites to equalize the number of campers that can be accommodated between the two versions of the plan, according to Conservancy officials.
The remaining campsites in Corral Canyon are close to PCH in the modified plan, an upper camping area is now reserved for day use only.

City Voters May Be Asked to Approve a Safety Parcel Tax

• Ballot Measure Would Gauge Commitment

BY BILL KOENEKER


When the Malibu City Council this week discussed the use of red light cameras. or auto license identification system cameras, the discussion turned to cost and how the city is going to pay for a growing wish-list of public safety devices and personnel.
Councilmember Lou La Monte, who ultimately agreed with the other council members to turn over the issue of the city purchasing cameras to the Public Safety Commission for further study and a recommendation, revealed city officials are in the early stages of exploring the feasibility of a safety parcel tax.
“We have got to figure out a way to pay for this, we have another $250,000 [cost] for the extra motorcycle officer next year. We also have a fiscal responsibility,” added La Monte, who agreed with Councilmember John Sibert, that the city’s Administrative and Finance Committee, made up of Sibert and La Monte will need to get more closely involved in the city’s expenditures when it comes to public safety.
Some public safety proponents have accused the city of holding back when it comes to spending money on the item.
“I have discussed the parcel tax with Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman and City Manager Jim Thorsen,” said La Monte, who added that it is imperative that the city get hold of its finances.
The city passed a 2010-2011 budget that was not balanced and has steadily drawn down on its general fund reserves.
After the council decided to send the matter back to its Public Safety Commission, Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who had said she wanted to intentionally bypass the commission, took shots at the other council members.
“This [issue] is a no-brainer. When it is a no-brainer, I act on it,” she said.
However, other council members had more questions than answers in terms of how many cameras to install, what kinds of arrangements can be made other than outright purchase, and what precisely are the traffic improvements needed to reduce the recent cluster of traffic fatalities on Pacific Coast Highway.
“If it saves one life, isn’t that enough?” Conley Ulich insisted.
The staff report indicated the red light cameras could have a price tag from $50,000 to $60,000 each and cost an additional $25,000 for installation. The council would decide at which intersections they would be installed.
The automatic license plate recognition system can be located at a fixed location, such as one at each end of the city, or can be installed in an officer’s vehicle.
The council was told Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station has one camera-equipped vehicle that is shared by the cities the station serves. The system can cost about $160,000.
The council was also told that speed cameras are currently prohibited in California, but mounted cameras on busy streets have been known to deter motorists from speeding. Cameras that record violations of red light and railway crossing laws are permitted in California. The cameras automatically take pictures of the driver and the license plates of the violators, and citations are issued by mail.
The auto system cameras read the license plate number, which is then entered into a database to determine if the car is stolen, there is an amber alert on it, or other factors that would require additional action by law enforcement.
Since PCH is a state highway, the city would need to get permission from Caltrans to attach any fixed camera, according to city officials.

Litigation Might Complicate Shane Sign Action

• Family Did Not Disclose Legal Claims Before City Council Met

BY BILL KOENEKER


Surrounded by a phalanx of television broadcast television cameras at a hastily called press conference Tuesday morning, an attorney representing the family of Emily Rose Shane, the 13-year-old who was fatally injured last April, announced that the Shanes intend to file a lawsuit against the State of California and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Attorney Terry Goldberg said the lawsuit has not yet been filed because the claims being made against the two governmental entities are a required first step in the process. The City of Malibu has not been named in the lawsuit, according to Goldberg.
Even if the city is not a direct defendant at this time, a lawsuit against the sheriff’s department could theoretically involve it, as the city contracts with the agency for public safety services, Malibu’s willingness to increase budget allocations for improvements is an issue with vocal public safety proponents, including “A Safer PCH,” which took part in the press conference.
Goldberg said no dollar amount would be attached to the Shane lawsuits. This would be up to a jury to determine, he said.
The Shane claims allege that the state knew about the dangerous conditions that confront pedestrians on Pacific Coast Highway, but has done nothing to prevent further fatalities.
The claims also allege that the sheriff’s department had knowledge of the erratic driver, who is being charged with the murder of Emily Shane, and had sufficient time to respond—and apprehend the driver—but did not do so until it was too late.
“For around 20 minutes, prior to the fatal accident, witnesses had called 911 to notify law enforcement about the dangerous driver,” the claim states.
“Look where my daughter was walking,” said Emily’s mother, Ellen Shane, pointing across the street from where the press conference was being held at the corner of PCH and Heathercliff Road,
“There is no protection. She was walking where she was supposed to be. We don’t want any other family to go through this.”
Emily’s father, Michel Shane, said the proceeds from the lawsuit would be used to fund the Emily Shane Foundation and to make improvements on PCH.
He also urged the return of the California Highway Patrol to help monitor traffic on the coast highway.
Most of the rest of the press conference was taken up with showing the out-of-area media pictures of Emily and talking about her and how the couple learned so much about their daughter after her death.
The announcement came just hours after the Shanes had appeared at a Malibu City Council meeting asking the city to change the name of a portion of Heathercliff Road to Emily Shane Way.
However, in council chambers, this action met with opposition from some residents who complained the name change would be too costly for them and area businesses and was an unfair and inappropriate personal burden to put on them.
These residents have also stressed that the accident did not occur on Heathercliff, but on the north side of PCH near the nursery. Emily Shane had been visiting the home of a friend that is nearby and, rather than be picked up at the house, she was supposed to meet her father at the shopping center across the highway on Heathercliff.
Council members heard from speakers who lauded the teenager. One even compared Emily to Anne Frank and likened the fatalities on Pacific Coast Highway to the Holocaust, eliciting a few quiet gasps from onlookers who appeared to be questioning the comparison.
Hours later, the council, after much deliberation, turned down the Shanes’ request for a complete name change and, instead, agreed upon a honorary dedication of the portion of the street, which would still entail signage in both directions on PCH.
Ellen Shane told council members she had made the request so “that a street named after Emily would be a name never forgotten.” The mother was quick to defend against detractors, who opposed the name change.
She dismissed the argument that such a move would engender trauma in some folks. “Listen to me. I’m her mother. I suffered trauma, sadness and pain. I want this,” she insisted.
She said she was presenting the council with a petition signed by 800 residents, “just to make a point.”
“I cannot express how much this means to me,” she added.
However, critic Clair Lynch took a different tack. “I mean no disrespect,” she explained, and suggested numerous other ways the dead child could be remembered or commemorated without disrupting the community and putting what could be extensive legal fees on those whose addresses would have been changed.
“Don’t set a precedent to name a street after everyone who dies,” Lynch added.
No one brought up the young solder who had served in Iraq who was killed, leaving behind a family; the cyclist who was fatally injured by a city employee, as his son watched; an older caregiver to an ill resident who died on PCH, or the other four people killed on PCH this year. One person in the audience mentioned to no one in particular that a number of them happened to be persons of color.
Countering criticism heard in a number of quarters, Emily’s father, who is working on a documentary on her death, insisted this is not simply a pair of grieving parents who are looking for a public monument.
He then said that Emily had told him, “I really want to be famous.” Shane told the council that his daughter “has become famous.”
When it came time for council comments after many more speakers, Councilmember Lou La Monte, who noted he knew Emily because she was in sports with his daughter, said, “The last thing Emily would want is to be in the middle of a controversy. I wish there was a more appropriate way to do this,” he said.
Councilmember John Sibert, who said he did not know Emily, became choked up as he spoke about the matter and appeared to equate the magnitude of naming a Malibu street after her with the honoring of Martin Luther King, Jr., with a street name after his assassination.
Sibert said a town on the East Coast, split on renaming its main street after Martin Luther King, Jr., decided to change the road’s name to Main Street/Martin Luther King, and offered this as a guideline for council action.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she has known the Shane family for 10 years and had talked to Ellen about all kinds of memorials, including trees, park benches and other ideas.
“Whatever we do here, [Emily] will be famous,” she said, adding she had to make a decision based on what is best for the community.
Council members were asked after the press conference if their vote would have been different if they had known about the lawsuit that was kept under wraps until the day after the council meeting.
Most said no, it would have no bearing. But most also declined to say whether the city council would be willing to pay for the signs, if Caltrans is constrained by the initiation of litigation from doing so. La Monte was the only council member to go on record and state he thought that Caltrans would erect the homage.

Chamber Has Own Clash with the State H2O Board

• Business Owners Question Raised Fees

BY BILL KOENEKER


Malibu city officials were not the only ones who traveled to Sacramento last week to do battle with the State Water Resources Control Board.
Malibu Chamber of Commerce officials say they have another issue apart from the septic prohibition they wanted to take up with state officials after they said they did not received adequate answers from the Regional Water Quality Control Board and its staff to questions about their concerns.
“Due to the tiered fee schedule adopted by the state board, permit fees have increased dramatically (in some instances, several hundred or thousand percent) as a result of the new rating,” states a letter sent to the State Board Chair Charles Hoppin by the Malibu business group.
“Permit holders have received no formal notice of the changes or explanations as to the factual basis for the changes,” the letter states.
Chamber officials, who say they are aware of a group of business owners organizing in opposition to the fee increases, are asking the state board for additional information, including a list of all permit holders in the Los Angeles area that have had their rates adjusted, a report or analysis on how the fees were determined, and the general and scientific criteria used to determine the basis for the fee increases.
“As an advocate of the 600 business members within the City of Malibu, we truly feel the fee increases of this scale in this economy could render our businesses unviable,” wrote Rebekah Evans, who is the chamber president/CEO.
Evans and a small contingent of chamber officers visited Sacramento.
They indicated that the chamber decided to go to the state water board after it could not get adequate answers from the regional board’s staff.
“Thus far they have not been forthcoming in providing relevant details as to the process for adjusting the rates and the specific application of the criteria used,” Evans said.
The letter goes on to cite specific fee hikes impacting such businesses as the Malibu Lumber Yard, Moonshadows and HRL Laboratories which had their annual fees raised without notice or explanation, according to the chamber, other than the RWQCB asserting they were not paying the proper fees.
“We are deeply concerned there is a lack of transparency and wish to make sure that there is consistency in applying applicable standards at the local as well as regional and state levels,” the chamber letter goes on to state.
Evans told the Malibu Surfside News that the chamber was going “to take a hard stand for Malibu business, and we hope to see this fee adjusted correctly.”

Malibu Questions Are Given Short Shrift at First School Board Candidates Forum

• Contenders Put Incumbents on Defensive over Past Decisions

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The eight candidates running for four Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District board of education seats in the Nov. 2 election came together for the first time for a forum at the main Santa Monica public library sponsored by education advocacy groups CEPS—Community for Excellent Public Schools, and LEAD—Leadership Effectiveness Accountability Direction for Santa Monica Malibu Public Schools.
The candidates were given a minute each for introductory statements and a minute to answer questions collected from the audience and read by moderator John Keen, Although several candidates made an effort to mention Malibu, the focus was on Santa Monica issues.
Questions regarding Malibu were submitted but none were selected by the moderator.
All of the candidates agreed that reducing class size should be a priority, and that the district’s focus should be on the classroom. How to accomplish that goal was a different matter. An opportunity to discuss which one decision of the current board each candidate disagreed with generated a wider range of views, and put the three incumbents on the defensive.
Chris Bley, a Santa Monica resident who graduated from Santa Monica High School and has taught high school in a neighboring community for the past 10 years, blasted the current board for voting to increase the administration budget by 4.5 percent while cutting 53 teachers and staff. “They allowed this to happen,” Bley said, “during a very, very difficult and tumultuous year.”
Pat Cady, the only Malibu resident in the race, criticized the board’s decision to import the past two superintendents from other areas. “I think there were people from the area that would have served us well,” Cady said, adding that he taught in SMMUSD schools for 35 years and that past superintendents who came from the community were more vested in its issues and concerns. “Letting go of teachers, nurses, councilors?” he added. “I’m not screaming mad about them but I think we could do better.”
The hardest decision for me was to lay off 53 [teachers and staff],” incumbent Oscar de la Torre said. La Torre, like Bley, is a graduate of Samohi. He served as board president from 2007-08 as board president from 2007-08. “These are lives that are impacted,” he said.
De la Torre also indicated regret over the special education crisis that led to the involvement of the Santa Monica City Council and an independent review. “In special education, I regret that we didn’t move sooner,” he said. “I am very proud that I took the lead when we had to act.”
Laurie Lieberman, a longtime public education activist who has worked as a Santa Monica city attorney for 13 years, deplored the special education situation. “Parents tried to raise the issue,” she said. “The board was very slow to react. By the time it did, parents were involved, the city was involved. It hurt [the district’s] relationship with its partners. “
Incumbent Ralph Mechur, an architect, said that, in the past three years, “I’ve learned our focus needs to be on the students. He said his toughest decision was “taking away things were there is the most need,” including reading specialists.
Mechur defended his stance on special education, stating he came onto the board at the height of the special education controversy. “I believe I was crucial,” he said.
“Something is not right,” Nimish Patel a member of the district’s financial oversight committee and school site governance council said. Malibu and Santa Monica, northside and southside, teachers and the board of education. Something is not right. “We are on the threshold of developing amazing relationship,” he said, indicating that the current state of conflict was preventing that relationship form developing.
“It was very difficult to come to the decision to lay off as many people as we did,” incumbent Barry Snell, the owner and operator of an accounting firm, said. “I fought for open and transparent process.”
“Our community does work together,” Jake Watchel, a journalist and producer who serves on the Santa Monica College Journalism Advisory Board, said, disagreeing with Patel. “Firing teachers was something that was coming,” Watchel said. “It was going on. [There] needs to be much better community outreach.”
A question about what the top priority for additional BB-funded campus improvements should be put the spotlight on Santa Monica High School.
“Samohi is the flagship of the district,” Snell said. “We need to be able to put the money into our high school. Any additional funding has to go to the high school.”
Patel agreed. “Samohi [has] 60-year-old buildings. We need to first make them safe and conducive [to learning]. He described Samohi as the district’s crown jewel.”
“All of our schools, almost all of them, are old,” Mechur said, advocating a plan to rebuild all of our schools over next 25 years, redoing sports and then academic facilities.
“I worked hard to get Samohi a greater portion of BB money,” Lieberman said. “We had to shortchange our elementary schools. Malibu High and Middle School have their own issues that result from sharing the same ground. We have our work cut out. Bond measures for sure,” she said. adding that the board should also “look to out cities, redevelopment funds.”
“The answers are right on about Samohi,” de la Torre said. “The bathrooms are terrible, still today. [It comes down to building the right infrastructure.” De la Torre said he was proud to be responsible for Olympic High receiving accreditation. “If we invest in it it can be an alternative,” he said.
Cady was not in favor of the new building idea. He said that Samohi has “wonderful historic buildings” that should be preserved. Adding that improved custodial service and maintenance would address many issues.
“I would definitely want to allocate the funds to Samohi, but to elementary schools, too, Bley said, advocating for the “safety and security of kids.”
“We are a district of two cities,” cautioned Watchel. “It’s very important that we remember. I want to make sure that you go to every single school. There are issues in the classroom that the board members aren’t aware of. It’s very important to get inside the school and make decisions based on each school.
A second forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. at the main Santa Monica Library, 1652 16th St. Questions can be submitted to league@lwvsantamonica.org. Additional information is available at www.SMvoters.org

Contentious Road Project on Rambla Pacifico Runs into Potential Obstacles

• Legal Complications Include Easements that Could Impact Some Specifics of Construction

BY BILL KOENEKER


A slew of legal complications and other problems have apparently arisen while homeowners formally known as the Lower Rambla Road Association, or LRRA, are trying to put in a private emergency access road to reopen the slide-beleaguered Rambla Pacifico Road.
There has been a flurry of emails between city officials, concerned residents below the proposed roadway and slide area, and the La Costa homeowners about the current state of the project.
Malibu city officials are still involved for a number of reasons, including the permit with conditions granted by the city’s planning commission for the project, the thousands of dollars given by the city in the form of forgiven permit fees to the homeowners to assist in completing the private access road, and the much delayed vacation of the public roadway by the city.
City Manager Jim Thorsen, who has visited the construction site in response to several emails, noted there were some certainties the city was sure about.
“”I will state that both the city and LRRA were aware that LRRA did not have written documentation to access the La Costa homeowners’ property at the time the planning commission approval was given. It is not necessary to lock up all easements prior to planning commission approval, however, all easements must be secured prior to any work on that property. If such easement is not secured, LRRA must redesign this area to ensure they stay closer to the La Costa property. LRRA was not approved to begin grading on the La Costa property until such time as an acceptable easement or other document was presented to the city. Which has not been done,” he wrote.
Several homeowners below the slide mass have expressed concern about what might happen to the already bulldozed hillside if heavy rains should come and the project is still delayed in some kind of legal limbo.
One concerned homeowner talked about how a potential slide could affect his and all the adjacent residences from the children’s area in Las Flores Creek Park downstream to Duke’s Restaurant
During a brief interview, Thorsen said he did not think a redesign could cause a long delay, and added he thought that was the way LRRA would probably have to go.
A La Costa homeowner, who did not wish to be identified, said there did not seem to be much of a chance that the HOA would meet, for a full vote to allow for the easement. “I don’t think that is going to happen,” she said. “A full vote is required.”
Thorsen, in his email, indicated he did not think those easements would be acquired. “It may not happen quickly, or not at all,” he said.
City officials and the LRRA have been working at a feverish pitch to get the road open, or in a passable state, as the Santa Ana fire season is underway and will be followed by the potential for flooding in several months.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Governor Signs SB 435 •

ANNE SOBLE


Governor Schwarzenegger opted to listen to his constituents in Malibu and all of the other communities in the state where outrageous noise levels from illegally modified motorcycles bombard residents, visitors and even wildlife with their ear-splitting cacophony.
Schwarzenegger, the state’s most prominent motorcyclist, took the high road and signed SB 435, which gives law enforcement a tool to enforce current anti-tampering and noise level statutes aimed at rogue bikes.
Biker groups in the state had lobbied fiercely for the measure’s defeat. They were able to water SB 435 down appreciably, but it still has some enforcement bite if state and local personnel give it the attention it deserves.
The bill, authored by Senator Fran Pavley who represents Malibu, was sponsored by the American Lung Association, because illegally modified motorcycle exhaust systems are a public health issue.
Many modifications that can make a bike louder, such as removing the catalytic converter, also make the bike a greater threat to air quality.
Since the past decade has produced improvements in pollution control equipment for bikes, and most come with catalytic converters and other emissions control devices, they do not have to be the polluters they once were.
Bikers who remove this factory installed emissions control equipment and replace it with custom parts that create more noise and air pollution than the factory kits or legal aftermarket replacements, are thumbing their noses at society’s well-being.
Conscientious motorcyclists acknowledge that use of illegal, attention-seeking loud pipes bolster the user’s ego, but does nothing for the image of the biker community.
Illegal tampering already violates current state law and federal regulations, but enforcement has been lax due to a lack of effective legal tools and the bias of many in law enforcement toward the motorcycle community.
Vehicle tampering could be more readily discovered if motorcycles were subject to smog checks, as are other motor vehicles, but the bike lobbies block this. Until smog checks, or other testing mechanisms, are implemented in California, it is necessary to prevent motorcycles from skirting existing requirements.
The new law requires that motorcycles maintain their federally required emissions equipment (on original, and aftermarket exhaust systems), including a readily visible EPA stamp certifying compliance. Similar regulations have been on the books since 1983.
This visible and unalterable stamp gives law enforcement a way to cite violations under the state vehicle code, as required by federal regulation. A violation is citable only as a secondary infraction, meaning the rider has to be pulled over for some other reason initially.
A first offense is punishable by a fine of up to $100 but that can be dismissed upon proof of correction. Subsequent offense(s) are punishable by a fine of up to $250. The law applies to bikes and parts from 2013 on.
Now that the governor has signed SB 435 into law, it’s up to local sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers to put it to work.

Pie Fest Has the Best Ingredients

• Oct. 9 Fundraiser Is Always a Community Favorite

The annual Malibu Pie Festival, on Oct. 9, has a new location this year: the courtyard of Malibu United Methodist Church, 30128 Morning View Drive, from 11 a.m-3 p.m.
The traditional pie baking awards, pie tasting and pie eating contest will be augmented by live bands, a karate demo, a petting zoo and a drum circle, a press release states.
For those who prefer to preface pie with lunch, catering trucks will be on hand, offering an array of food choices.
The event will also include a silent auction and plenty of children’s activities.
More information, including pie contest entry forms and instructions, is available at www.malibuumc.org/piefestival.html or by calling 310-457-7505.

Monsignor Sheridan Remembered for His Faith and Empathy

• Hundreds Attend Funeral Mass for Revered Pillar of the OLM Community

RESPECTED—Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony was the celebrant for the liturgy at the memorial. The service took place in a tent to accommodate everyone.
IN MANUS TUAS, DOMINE, COMMENDO SPIRITUM MEUM—”Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” Cardinal Roger Mahony and his recently appointed successor-to-be Archbishop Jose Gomez (above) took part in the mass of burial for Monsignor John Sheridan. Hundreds of people—members of the clergy, parishioners, family, friends and neighbors —came to pay their final respects to the pastor emeritus of Our Lady of Malibu on Friday. Sheridan was described as “a brilliant theological scholar and a fair, humble and deeply devoted servant of God.”
REMEMBERED—OLM Pastor Bill Kerze celebrated the monsignor’s life. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Monsignor John Sheridan Scholarship Fund were requested.
HONORED—The OLM choir sang at the Mass of Christian Burial, as well as at the Vigil Mass the previous evening. The vigil offered the parish an opportunity to gather quietly as a community and pay their respects. Father Bill Kerze and Malibu residents Leo Lagasse and Martin Sheen joined Reilly in the eulogy at both services. MSN Photos/Frank Lamonea
LOVED—Judge Bridget Reilly, the monsignor’s oldest niece from Ireland, expressed the family’s love for Sheridan during the eulogy. She also offered a reminder of his lighter side. Asked once what his last words would be, he reportedly replied: “Thanks for coming.” MSN Photos/Frank Lamonea

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

State Water Board OKs Civic Center Septic Ban

• City Says It Will Continue to Explore Its Options at Regional Level

BY BILL KOENEKER



The State Water Resources Control Board unanimously voted to approve the Civic Center septic prohibition ordered by the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board at a hearing in Sacramento on Tuesday.
Malibu sent a contingent of officials to the meeting where the city attorney, the city manager and three council members unsuccessfully urged the panel to remand the matter to the regional board for further discussion.
However, there was a glimmer of hope, according to municipal officials, when it was agreed that the city and the regional board’s staff would continue to discuss the size of the prohibition zone.
“We were disappointed, but also encouraged by the chair’s offer of further discussions,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who was at the meeting.
Councilmember Lou La Monte, who also attended the session, said he thought the meeting was conducted fairly and everyone was given a chance to speak.
“It was open. It was very friendly,” said La Monte, who added that the city manager and the executive officer of the regional board would participate in the ongoing discussions about the size of the septic ban area.
“We are 90 percent there,” added Rosenthal.
The proposed order prohibits on-site wastewater disposal systems of any kind in the Malibu Civic Center area, including residential areas in Serra Retreat and the Malibu Colony.
The state board approved the amendment adopted by the regional board and directed the state board’s executive director to submit the amendment adopted by the RWQCB to the Office of Administrative Law for approval of the regulatory provisions, one of the final actions required of the state agency for the prohibition to take effect.
Environmental groups and surfing organizations, which support the board’s stance, were on hand to testify.
The city offered an alternative plan, insisting the size of the prohibition area would preclude discharge except by a pipeline into the ocean or creek aquifer.
Malibu’s plan calls for a wastewater plant for the Civic Center commercial area, allowing for Serra Retreat to come on line later and exempting the Colony from hookup to a centralized plant but requiring its beachside homes have a disinfection process.
Municipal officials tried to convince the state board that there is much more science and research to look at than the regional board considered in order to determine if a prohibition should be in place or what the size of the prohibition area should be.
The research given to the regional board did not make it into the record and, consequently, the RWQCB made its decision without the benefit of the most up-to-date science, city officials said..
The regulatory action, when finalized, would immediately prohibit all new discharges from a new OWDS in the Malibu Civic Center area, and establish a schedule to cease discharges from existing systems by Nov. 5, 2019.
Types of OWDS that would be prohibited range from passive systems with conventional septic tanks, to active systems with equipment that more aggressively removes pollutant loads from sewage before subsurface disposal.
The prohibition would cover all OWDS that serve an individual property (residential, commercial, industrial and public properties, as well as systems that serve groups of properties), according to SWRCB documents.

City Council Approves Graywater Ordinance Proposal

• Members Stress That Use Would Be Restricted and ‘Site Specific’

BY BILL KOENEKER


Malibu City Council members, encouraged by Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, agreed to move forward with the enactment of a graywater ordinance at a recent meeting.
Rosenthal had made it a campaign promise during her run for city council.
The state incorporated its regulations in the plumbing code nine months ago.
“Graywater is a significant potential water source that could alleviate some of what is currently being experienced [during drought years],” said Craig George, the division manager for the city’s building department.
“The use of graywater requires careful consideration of potential health and environmental risks that may arise from improper use,” added the building official.
Council members, during a discussion of the matter, were quick to point out that certain areas of Malibu would probably be off limits to graywater use, such as at the beach and near creeks such as Malibu Creek.
“The real issue is the nitrogen and phosphorus,” said Councilmember John Sibert. “Any ordinance has got to recognize graywater is site specific.”
Rosenthal talked about how it is currently legal to use washing machine water without a permit for graywater.
However, George said he recommended that a Malibu ordinance require a permit.
George spelled out the health risks, including exposure to pathogenic bacteria and viruses, which may occur through direct contact with graywater.
George said there needs to be guidelines and an education program for residents. Regulations need to be codified into law and the city should oversee the installation of graywater systems, he said.
Mayor Jefferson Wagner said any ordinance had to be carefully thought out and agreed with Sibert extra precautions taken because of Malibu’s unique environment.
“It is something we need. However, people look at Malibu with a microscope. We don’t want phosphates ending up in our waters,” he added.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said she endorsed all that had been said, but reminded her colleagues that recycling graywater is only one of many ways to conserve water.
She said some residents were trying to conserve water by utilizing rain catchment devices.

Former Council Candidate Faces Another Fine

BY BILL KOENEKER


The State Fair Political Practices Commission announced last week it was fining Kathleen Wisnicki and Colleen Baum, who “failed to timely file three semi-annual campaign statements.”
Wisnicki was an unsuccessful candidate for a Malibu City Council seat in 2008.
“Her controlled committee and the committee’s treasurer,” [Colleen Baum] did not file the three statements required by the law when they were supposed to be filed for the periods ending June 30, 2008, December 31, 2008 and June 20, 2008, the watchdog organization stated in its findings.
The FPPC noted that the fine is $1200.

Opposition to Renaming Road Begins to Organize

• Critics Say Accident Did Not Occur on Heathercliff

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Opposition is being organized to a plan to rename a portion of Heathercliff Road on Point Dume “Emily Shane Way,” in honor of the 13-year-old Malibu resident who was killed by a reckless driver several hundred yards away from the Heathercliff intersection and across Pacific Coast Highway in April.
The city council will consider changing the name of a 660-foot stretch of the road from Pacific Coast Highway and Dume Drive.
According to a staff report, 73 commercial and residential properties, including part of a condominium complex, the U.S. Post Office, the Point Dume Village and the Coldwell Banker Building, would be directly impacted by the proposed change.
The name change request, which was made by Shane’s mother Ellen Shane, will be heard by the Malibu City Council on Monday, Sept. 27. The request is reportedly accompanied by a petition containing over 700 names. Opponents of the plan say that the signatures of the majority of Heathercliff Road residents are conspicuous by their absence on the petition.
“The pain of losing a child is terrible, but this plan has not been thought out and it has the potential to put other lives at risk,” a resident of the Point Dume Club Mobile Home Park told the Malibu Surfside News.
“It will be confusing to have Emily Shane Way at the PCH intersection and then have Heathercliff start halfway down. We have a lot of elderly people in the mobile home park. Fire crews or ambulances who aren’t familiar with the area could lose time in an emergency looking for the street. That could mean life and death in a heart attack or a fire.”
Heathercliff Road residents are circulating a petition that states: “Changing the name of a street is an expensive and time-consuming burden for street residents, businesses and others.”
There is concern that the change could result in major legal fees for all affected parties. The petition states that “it’s not just a matter of putting up a few new street signs! Driver licenses, wills and other legal documents, maps and other public records that mention the street name must be all modified. With all due respect for the intentions of those who support the street name change, we suggest that creative alternatives, such as public art projects, or public works projects that directly improve the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists that travel our local roadways, would be better ways to bring healing and a healthier future to our community.”
“We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens of Malibu who urge our leaders to seek alternatives to changing the name of Heathercliff Road that are more effective and efficient ways to bring healing and a healthier future to our community.”
“The loss of a child is a terrible tragedy, but to force this on everybody is not the way to go,” 30-year Heathercliff resident Clair Lynch told the Malibu Surfside News.
Lynch suggested a scholarship at the high school in Emily Shane’s name, or a segment of walkway, separated from traffic, along the stretch of PCH where Shane actually was killed, to prevent another tragedy.
“The people who want the name change, they don’t live here, they never asked us what we want,” another Point Dume resident told The News, requesting that their name not be used.
“Many of us feel like our hands are tied. We can’t say anything, because everyone is so emotional and we don’t want to be insensitive, but we don’t want to be reminded of this tragedy every day of our lives. I don’t understand why the [Shane] family wants this instead of something positive and life affirming.”
Opponents point out that the owners of the only block of condominiums that would end up in the primarily commercial street will require the same changes a move would entail, including new passports and driver licenses, changes to gas, electric, phone, waste, car registration, tax and insurance bills, library cards, the IRS and Social Security, and changes to mortgages, bank accounts, wills, deeds and family trusts.
They also point out that patrons of the two banks located on Heathercliff will require new checks and other paperwork reflecting the address change.
According to the staff report, the city council, instead of opting for an official name change, could instead elect to “honorarily” dedicate the portion of Heathercliff Road as “Emily Shane Way/ Heathercliff Road.” The honorary designation would not require businesses or residents to change their street address.
There is a precedent for the honorary designation: Burgess Meredith Way, a lane located between Civic Center Way and PCH on Cross Creek Road, was given its honorary name as a tribute to the longtime Malibu resident and actor, who died in 1997.
The city council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 27, 6:30 p.m. at city hall. The agenda for the session is available on line at www.ci.malibu.ca.us

Council to Consider Naming Street for Dead Youth

• Public Road Change Does Not Need OK of Affected Addresses

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council at its meeting next week is expected to consider a citizen request to change the name of a portion of Heathercliff Road to “Emily Shane Way,” in memory of the local teen killed by a driver while walking along the north side of Pacific Coast Highway across from Point Dume.
If the council decides to proceed with changing the name of the road, one of the main entryways to the Point, it must adopt a resolution declaring its intent to make the change and set a hearing date.
An alternative is for the council to call for an honorary dedication of the road in the youth’s name.
A municipal staff report notes that Emily’s mother, Ellen Shane, has requested the road name be changed in memory of her child.
The report states that the request was accompanied by a petition with over 700 signatures of Malibu residents in support. Staff notes that the signers “must be 18 years of age or older.
The request stipulates that the renaming apply to the portion of Heathercliff Road from PCH to Dume Drive that includes the Point Dume Village shopping center with a supermarket, two banks, stores and professional offices, the post office, a six-unit office complex, a real estate firm and part of a condo complex.
The report indicates that Caltrans has agreed to bear the cost and provide the labor to replace the two hanging signs on PCH.
The report makes no reference to the private costs and inconvenience of changing addresses on business leases, supermarket records, bank accounts, mortgages, letterhead, financial records and other documents that could be affected by the name change.
The council memo states that city council policy No. 34 establishes procedures by which a street name can be changed. A public street can have its name changed by an act of the council. A private street or road is a different matter and another set of procedures is required, including a petition signed by the road’s residents.
“The remainder of the street would retain the name Heathercliff Drive [sic]. Ms. Shane has indicated that the partial street name change would greatly reduce the number of impacted addresses and still accomplish their goal. If the council desires to proceed with the changing a portion of Heathercliff Road to Emily Shane Way, it is necessary to adopt the attached resolution of intention and set a date for a public hearing,” the report adds.
The report states that staff received a phone call and email from two residents in opposition to changing the name (see separate story). The staff also indicated it polled businesses along Heathercliff and there were a few responses supporting and a few opposing the street name change.
Consequently, the staff has offered an alternative for the council in order to minimize any impact on residents and businesses. “The council could elect to honorarily dedicate the portion of Heathercliff as Emily Shane Way/ Heathercliff Road,” the report notes.

Community Mourns Beloved Local Clergyman

• Funeral Mass for OLM Pastor Emeritus Monsignor John Sheridan Set for Friday

BY ANNE SOBLE
Reverend Monsignor John Virgilius Sheridan
 The Malibu Catholic community and all those whose lives were touched by the late Our Lady of Malibu Pastor Emeritus Monsignor John Virgilious Sheridan are preparing to bid him farewell at a funeral mass on Friday, Sept. 24, at 11 a.m.
Sheridan, 94, died peacefully on Friday, Sept. 17, at 4:30 a.m. at the UCLA Medical Center, from complications from injuries sustained in an auto accident on Aug. 25. He was in the hospital, much of the time in an induced coma, after suffering major trauma in the collision that claimed the life of his longtime friend and assistant, Sister Mary Campbell, 74.
Campbell died instantly in the solo vehicle accident on Mulholland Highway, east of Stokes Canyon, when the 2009 Hyundai Accent, a subcompact vehicle being driven by Ambassador to Malta and Pepperdine constitutional law expert Doug Kmiec, crashed.
Campbell was in the back seat and Sheridan sat in the front passenger seat when, according to the California Highway Patrol preliminary report, the vehicle drifted off the road onto the shoulder and went into a drainage ditch where it overturned.
Kmiec, 58, who often transported his two close friends to events, suffered moderate injuries and has been released from the hospital.
The three were returning from an event at Louisville High School for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the local Sisters of St. Louis, Campbell’s order. This is a route Kmiec drove regularly when his daughters attended the school.
CHP Officer Leland Tang said the formal investigation of the accident has not been completed. He indicated that, “as always the case when a traffic collision involves a fatality,” the agency is preparing a final report for the District Attorney’s Office to review. Tang indicated that the Hyundai has already been inspected and was determined to have “no mechanical issues.”
In an email announcement on the day Sheridan died, Los Angeles Archdiocese Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote, “Ever since his serious automobile accident, his injuries and his age of 94 years have been huge challenges for his recovery. But his long and grace-filled journey on this earth has come to its conclusion, and he now enjoys the fullness of God’s life as he believed and preached over these many decades.”
Sheridan, who was born in County Longford, Ireland, will be interred at Holy Cross Cemetery on Sept. 25. Relatives from Ireland, Canada and the East Coast are expected to come to California for the mass and interment.
Sheridan, who was OLM’s pastor from 1965-1991, came to California in the early 1940s to complete his theological studies at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. He was ordained in 1943.
As an associate pastor, Sheridan worked to develop inner city projects for at-risk youth. He later directed the Catholic Information Center in Los Angeles, regularly wrote articles for magazines and newspapers, including a weekly column for the Catholic newspaper The Tidings. He also hosted a radio program and authored 14 books, including a meditation on the Psalms and reflections on life in Malibu. His writings reflected compassion, intelligence and a lively sense of humor.
Sheridan was never afraid to tackle controversy or open a dialogue and was drawn to ecumenical work, meeting with representatives from other faiths to develop multi-faith programs in Malibu and elsewhere.
Sheridan described his time at OLM as “a wonderful journey.” He often expressed his joy at being a priest and serving the church he deeply loved.
The monsignor retired in 1991, but continued to be active in the Malibu parish and community as pastor emeritus for the past 19 years.
“We have lost a grand priest and a true patriarch of our Catholic community,” Cardinal Mahony said in his email.
Friday’s services are going to be held in a tented area on the OLM grounds to accommodate the large crowd that will attend.
Among the large number of clergy expected is Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio, who will succeed Cardinal Mahony at the helm of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic diocese.

Official Point Dume Marine Science Charter Petition Submitted

• Reorganization Could Be Completed by Fall of 2011 If SMMUSD Board Approves Proposal

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The parents, teachers and community members who are seeking to transform Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School into a public charter school, have announced that they have submitted their official petition to the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education.
The board will have 30 days to schedule a public meeting on the petition, followed by 60 days to approve or deny the request.
If the petition is denied, the petitioners can appeal the decision at the county level. The county board of education could then authorize the charter school plan directly.
According to Robyn Ross, one of two lead petitioners, members of the charter school committee met with each school board member over the summer.
The board of education also held an information meeting to learn about the process. If the petition is successful, Point Dume will become the area’s first public charter school.
The petition was developed with the support and input of the school’s teachers and parents.
“We really hope that the [SMMUSD] school board will be our authorizer,” Ross told the Malibu Surfside News. “We’re planning to work closely with them to write a memo of understanding [if the charter is authorized].
“The board of education has been extremely open minded,” charter advocate Loree McBride said. “I think [the petition] is a really positive move. Everyone wants what's best.”
If everything comes together as planned, the petition’s supporters say that Point Dume Marine Science Charter could open in fall of 2011.

Mitrice Richardson Family Holds Vigil as Search for Cause of Her Death Continues

BY ANNE SOBLE
LIGHT—Latice Sutton, the mother of Mitrice Richardson, the 24-year-old honors college graduate whose skeletal remains were found in the rugged backcountry of state parkland in Malibu Canyon on Aug. 12, lights the candles for a vigil last Friday evening in her daughter’s name that also was an affirmation of the ongoing effort to determine the cause of her death and effect change in Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department nighttime release policies.     

Mitrice Richardson’s family and friends gathered outside the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station for a candlelight vigil last Friday to mark the one-year anniversary of her disappearance last Sept. 17, after being released from the station without her purse, cell phone or car at 12:35 a.m.
Richardson’s partial skeletal remains and clothing were found Aug. 12 in remote terrain in the Malibu Canyon area by state park rangers inspecting locations where marijuana had been grown in the past.
The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Department has still not completed its investigation of the remains and issued a final report.
Any determinations that have been made so far are on what the coroner’s office calls a “security hold.” Captain John Kades said this means no information is “being released at this time.”
Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, and other participants reiterated their concern that no one should be released from Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department facilities under unsafe conditions. They assert that Lost Hills Station’s disregard for Richardson’s safety was compounded by her having evident mental issues that required medical assessment.
As darkness fell at the Friday vigil, the participants grew solemn and many shed tears.
Jewel Moore, who has known Richardson since the seventh grade, talked about her lost friend and the importance of transforming her death into a catalyst for a better world.
Richardson’s mother announced the formation of a non-profit organization based on the premise that “Justice for Mitrice Is Justice for All.” The group will emphasize administrative and legislative reform.
Sutton said, “First, we will find out who murdered my baby, then we will focus on changing [the LASD’s] rules to bring decency, humanity and common sense to its nighttime release policies.”
Pastor Robert Hendricks, who spoke at Richardson’s funeral last month, rallied the participants to action. He said, “Mitrice’s blood still cries out from the grave. We must bring the dark to light and obtain accountability, integrity and justice.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

City Officials Prepare to Battle State Water Board in Sacramento

• SWRCB Staff Is Recommending Approval for the RWQCB’s Malibu Civic Center Septic Ban Proposal

BY BILL KOENEKER


It appears Malibu city officials and the State Water Resources Control Board staff are on a collision course when the state water board meets next week in Sacramento.
City Council members this week agreed to send a contingent of officials to the meeting on Sept 21. The city attorney, the city manager and three council members agreed to go. They will be given only 15 minutes to make an oral presentation. Mayor Jefferson Wagner and Councilmember John Sibert could not attend.
The state board is scheduled to consider a resolution of the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board on prohibiting on-site wastewater disposal systems in the Malibu Civic Center area.
The state water board’s staff is recommending its board approve the amendment adopted by the regional board and direct the state board's executive director to submit the amendment adopted by the RWQCB to the Office of Administrative Law for approval of the regulatory provisions, the final action required of the state agency for the prohibition to take effect.
Environmental groups and surfing organizations which support the board’s stance have organized a surf-in rally at Surfrider Beach this week on Thursday morning.
Last week, the city revealed its strategy of asking the state board to remand the matter back to the regional board so that the city and the RWQCB could work out some kind of negotiated settlement that would create a timetable for the city’s proposed wastewater plant, allow for Serra Retreat to come on line later and exempt the Colony hookup to a centralized plant but require the beachside homes have a disinfection process.
If the state board sides with the regional board, the prohibition would, in effect, be a de facto building moratorium in the Civic Center, Serra Retreat, Malibu Colony and other areas.
It is going to be up to municipal officials to convince the state board that there is much more science and research to look at in order to determine if a prohibition should be in place. The state board staff report seems to rely solely on the research investigated by the regional board staff and had this to say about the matter.
“[The technical staff] report meets the requirements of the California Water Code, for determination that discharges of OWDSs in the Malibu Civic Center area result in violations of water quality objectives, impairment of present or future beneficial uses of water pollution, nuisance or contamination or unreasonable degradation of the quality of waters of the State,” the staff report states.
Citing the technical memos of the regional board's staff, state officials report the conclusions of those technical memos as conclusive.
Malibu officials argue there is a whole body of research, much of it sponsored by the city, that would require different conclusions and thus, a different approach. City officials also argue the regional board did not include in their technical memos the research about groundwater monitoring and other research issues the regional board had mandated.
Municipal officials also point out that none of the new research given to the regional board made it into the record and consequently, the RWQCB made its decision without the benefit of the most up-to-date science.
The state staff report goes on to state, “The Malibu Civic Center area supports a population of approximately 2,000 residents and is the core of the city's business, cultural and commercial activities. The area, which includes the renowned Surfrider Beach, attracts a high volume of visitors. Residents, businesses, and public facilities in the area discharge wastewaters totaling about 270,000 gallons per day through OWDS to the subsurface and underlying groundwater. These high flows of wastewater coupled with unfavorable hydrogeologic conditions have raised concerns about reliance on this wastewater disposal strategy.”
When asked to comment on the state staff report, City Manager Jim Thorsen said he was surprised the report did not discuss nor at least touch upon the city’s volumes of research that had been sent to Sacramento.
“I was surprised it wasn't even mentioned,” the city manager said.
The regulatory action would immediately prohibit all new discharges from a new OWDS in the Malibu Civic Center area, and establish a schedule to cease discharges from existing systems by November 5, 2019.
Types of OWDS that would be prohibited range from passive systems with conventional septic tanks, to active systems with equipment that more aggressively removes pollutant loads from sewage before subsurface disposal. The prohibition would cover all OWDS that serve an individual property, (residential, commercial, industrial and public properties, as well as systems that serve groups of properties, according to SWRCB documents.

Council Says Yes to Lumber Yard Loan Modification Plan with Unanimous Vote

• Real Estate Attorney Insists Deal Is ‘Good’ for Malibu

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council unanimously granted approval this week for loan modifications sought by Richard Weintraub and Richard Sperber, who want to change the terms of their $20 million construction loan for the Malibu Lumber Yard.
Council members, at a previous session, seemed wary given the recent news at the time that the two were trying to either sell the 39-year ground lease awarded to them in exchange for developing the city-owned property or were trying to attract other investors.
The council decided they wanted to be sure they were protected by any action they took and deferred making any move until they could have the city’s real estate attorney attend the meeting to answer any additional questions regarding the city’s exposure and liability on the matter.
The city’s attorney, Tony Canzoneri, said it did not make any sense not to approve the modification. “There is no circumstance where you could expose yourself to the obligation,” he said.
He explained and reassured council members there was no exposure or liability that, in fact, there was a greater liability if the council did not take action.
The issue involves amendment no. 1 to the ground lease when a previous council approved deferral of certain ground lease rent payments that would otherwise be paid on a current basis to the city.
However, when Weintraub and Sperber attempted to obtain an extension of the maturity date of the $20 million construction loan, the bank, Wells Fargo, indicated it is requiring that Weintraub and Sperber through Malibu Lumber LLC agree to waive or forgo any deferral of rents it might otherwise have the right to receive under the amendment.
The ground lease gives the city the right to approve any financial arrangements by Malibu Lumber LLC.
Canzoneri answered more questions from the council. He explained what would happen if the bank foreclosed on the LLC. Weintraub and Sperber have personally guaranteed the loan.
“What happens if the borrower defaults on the loan? We are in first position. The lender has to pay the lease,” he said.
The 30,000-square-foot shopping mall is owned by the city, which offered Malibu Lumber LLC, a nearly four-decade long ground lease with options for three five-year extensions.
The lease requires the LLC to pay a little less than $1 million per year with an escalation clause.
The proposal to sell the ground lease may stem from one of the partners wanting out of the development. The LLC is a 50-50 ownership. Each partner has the option to buy out the other.

Two Most Culpable Corral Fire Suspects Sentenced

• Pair to Serve 165 More Days of Year Terms

BY ANNE SOBLE


Two of the five men charged with starting the devastating Corral Canyon Fire on Nov. 24, 2007, that destroyed 53 homes, injured five firefighters and burned over 4900 acres, were sentenced to a year in Los Angeles County Jail last Thursday.
Brian Alan Anderson, 25, and William Thomas Coppock, 26, were deemed most culpable of the men who, according to the prosecution, started an illegal late-night campfire in a cave atop Corral known as an illicit party hangout.
This culpability was based on testimony that the pair laughed as they kicked burning wood and other debris into flammable brush at a time of high wildfire danger due to strong Santa Ana winds.
Anderson and Coppock also were ordered to do 500 hours of community service, placed on five years formal probation and ordered to write letters of apology to the victims who lost their homes, the firefighters who were injured, and the agencies that responded to the blaze.
The judge also sentenced the men to four years in state prison, but suspended the sentence.
In addition, Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Susan Speer ordered them to pay $7.7 million in restitution for the firefighting costs alone. A full restitution hearing is scheduled for Oct. 20.
Anderson and Coppock pleaded no contest in June to one count each of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury and recklessly causing a fire to an inhabited structure. They pled open to the court, meaning this was not part of a negotiated settlement with the D.A.’s office.
Although the wildfire quickly took hold and began to spread down the canyon, neither of the two defendants, nor their companions, notified authorities of the fire, according to the prosecution.
Two other defendants who actually started the campfire, then left the scene when the others arrived and took it over, Dean Allen Lavorante, 22, and Eric Matthew Ullman, 21, have pleaded not guilty and will return to court Oct. 20 for a pretrial conference.
A fifth defendant, Brian David Franks, entered a no contest plea in 2008 and was sentenced to five years probation and 300 hours of community service.
Because Anderson and Coppock have already served 200 days in jail, they only have to serve the remaining 165 days of their sentence, according to the L.A. District Attorney’s office.
Alcohol containers, food wrappers and bundled fire logs at the campfire scene led authorities to the defendants. Supermarket receipts provided credit card information that led authorities to the men sentenced last week.
It has also been alleged that there was eyewitness testimony related to the campfire’s origins.
Corral Canyon resident Aya Yoshida attended the hearing. Residents who attended courtroom sessions and were involved in monitoring the case believe that their efforts made a difference in sending the defendants to jail.
Yoshida said, “I feel that our thank you letter to Judge Speer co-signed by many neighbors was very appreciated, since she started by mentioning that she considered our letters [when determining her sentencing].”
The Corral Canyon resident said, “Speer described her sentence as tough but fair for the devastation the men caused.”
While the court cases proceeded, Corral Canyon residents underwrote a nine-member volunteer fire team trained by Los Angeles County. These volunteers have made a commitment to be ready to help protect their neighbors during the next wildfire.

Motorcycle Bill Still Awaits Governor’s Signature

• Pavley Measure Could Reduce Noise on PCH and Local Canyons

BY ANNE SOBLE


SB 435, also known as the Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act, gives law enforcement officials the ability to cite noise pollution violations under the California Vehicle Code, reinforcing federal law that is rarely enforced.
Under the proposed law, motorcyclists pulled over for other traffic violations could also be cited for illegally noisy exhaust pipes and fined $50 to $100 for a first violation—a fix-it ticket that is dismissible with proof of correction. Subsequent offenses would result in fines of $100 to $250.
SB 435 would apply to motorcycles and after-market parts from 2013 models forward.
The bill, which has passed the Assembly, requires Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature to become law.
“Noise pollution caused by illegally modified motorcycle exhaust systems is a major quality of life issue across the state,” according to SB 435’s author, Sen. Fran Pavley, who represents Malibu.
Pavley says, “Many of the modifications, which are aimed at making a bike louder —for example removing the catalytic converter, also make the bike exponentially more polluting. This has direct, measurable and negative impacts on public health.”
SB 435 is a watered-down version of a bill first introduced in the Senate in February 2009. The current version focuses on exhaust-pipe-tampering and bikes that exceed the EPA-regulated 80-decibel limit for motorcycles manufactured since 1985.
The Motorcycle Industry Council, the trade association that represents motorcycle manufacturers and parts suppliers, opposes SB 435, as do many biker clubs.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Don’t Residents Count? •

ANNE SOBLE


What do the Malibu Triathlon and the Point Dume Post Office have in common this week? They each have managed to so infuriate some Malibu residents that this normally easygoing version of homo sapiens is threatening to take matters into its own hands if grievances aren’t redressed.
Many residents are openly asking why the triathlon is permitted to bring western Malibu to a halt for the better part of two days. Although the event gives some proceeds to charity, it is first and foremost commercial advertising and promotion.
When the triathlon started up over two decades ago, western Malibu had one-third to half of its present population, there were fewer organized local activities for children and adults, and local and beach traffic was appreciably less than it is today.
Allowing an event to choke off part of the community for this much time is not only inconsiderate and inappropriate, it also creates serious public safety issues for people unable to leave their homes or return to them at will. Residents were late for appointments, missed airline flights, couldn’t receive deliveries, and the list goes on.
It is likely that a majority of local residents might even wish to ban such events altogether, but the one-day Sunday event has a history that could argue for its continuance. Saturday, however, is too important a day to deny to local residents, especially those with children during the school year.
Lack of consideration and preparation is also what is rankling those who have post office boxes at the Point Dume Post Office, or just want to park and mail items. Perhaps no one thought it was worth announcing major changes in advance, but considering how the USPS is fighting to remain in business, why would it do anything to turn off its patrons?
Instead, there were raised voices and flared tempers in long lines at the counter this week when boxholders learned their boxes had been relocated or removed, and they may not have night and Sunday access to them for the foreseeable future.
These issues should have been worked out before the bulk mail annex prepared to move to Point Dume, but those in charge do not appear to be in a hurry to decide how to allow 24-7 box access, or determine whether it is even going to be available.
Also, the addition of bulk mail traffic to already crowded Heathercliff Road has motorists, who are vying for parking spaces, resorting to uncivilized words and gestures usually reserved for weekends.
If something isn’t done quickly, the term going postal may take on a distinctly Malibu connotation.

Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Involved in Recently Filed Litigation—Deputy’s Lawsuit Alleges Religious Discrimination and Harassment

• Mel Gibson’s Infamous Alcohol-Fueled Anti-Semitic Tirade Is Back in the Public Spotlight

BY ANNE SOBLE


The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department deputy who arrested Mel Gibson for drunken driving on Pacific Coast Highway in 2006 filed a lawsuit against his employer of 21 years last week, alleging that the deputy’s role in that incident has resulted in his being subjected to discrimination, retaliation and harassment by the LASD.
Deputy James Mee’s litigation seeks unspecified damages for loss of income and benefits, medical expenses, and emotional distress and mental suffering.
Mee claims that he was forced by supervising officers at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station to remove all references to anti-Semitic slurs uttered by the Malibu actor-director in the documentation related to Gibson’s arrest on July 28, 2006.
Because Mee is Jewish, he alleges that he and he alone has been suspected of leaking the original unredacted report to a celebrity website, whose owner coincidentally is also Jewish.
The website ran the documents in their entirety—complete with the incendiary anti-Semitic statements—and that fueled an international media firestorm that ultimately intertwined the mainstream press with so-called celebrity journalism in a way that permanently altered the traditional media.
Red-faced LASD officials tried to downplay the incident, but those efforts appeared to make matters worse. The department tried to shift the spotlight to the illegality of disclosing confidential documents to the press, but a Pandora’s box had been opened and the issue of whitewashing celebrity behavior took center stage.
Still, the LASD pursued the legality issue and singled out Mee, according to his lawsuit, solely because of his religion. But, although the LASD obtained a search warrant for Mee’s home, his computer, and telephone records that reportedly may have even shown calls to the website’s owner, the department was never able to put together a case that met the district attorney’s criteria for filing charges.
Mee asserts that no non-Jewish deputies who had access to the Gibson documents and a copying machine were investigated.
Mee alleges that he was subjected to religious discrimination because of the international flurry of publicity that followed in the wake of the Gibson incident, which was subsequently determined by the LASD’s Office of Independent Review to have been an attempt to give Gibson special treatment.
The complaint filed by the law offices of Etan Z. Lorant asserts that special treatment was accorded because Gibson served as a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Star Organization and was a close personal friend of Sheriff Lee Baca.
The complaint notes that Mee’s supervisor Sergeant Kevin Finch was a “member of the same church” as Gibson. It alleges that Finch and a Lt. Crystal Miranda ordered Mee to delete the anti-Semitic slurs and put them in a supplemental report “that would be marked confidential and sealed in a safe.”
Mee said he protested because the “the anti-Semitic slurs clearly revealed religious discrimination by a known spokesperson for the LASD.”
The lawsuit alleges “the order to delete the anti-Semitic slurs was discriminatory toward the plaintiff who is Jewish.”
Further religious discrimination is alleged in that only a Jewish deputy was accused of leaking the report to the celebrity website. That the LASD took four years to investigate this is described as a way to deny Mee an opportunity for professional advancement during that time.
Mee alleges that his involuntary transfer from the “prestigious Lost Hills Station Malibu Patrol Area” to the Agoura Patrol Area and subsequent negative performance report from Sergeant Tracy Palmer, who Mee accuses of erasing the Gibson booking videotape, are further signs of discrimination and retaliation.
The existence of booking tapes was vigorously denied by Captain Tom Martin in the early stages of the Mitrice Richardson investigation. Martin headed Lost Hills during the Gibson brouhaha.
Not only was there a tape of Richardson, Mee alleges there was a video that showed Gibson uttering the religious slurs.
Mee alleges further subsequent acts of harassment by Palmer and retaliation by her, including a disciplinary letter of intent to suspend him.
He chronicles other alleged wrongful actions by Captain Martin, who is now a chief downtown. He was transferred during the Richardson case.
Martin was replaced by Capt. Joe Stephen, who is also referenced several times in the complaint.
Mee asserts that his career has been stymied and he has been denied promotion to a traffic investigator or motorcycle deputy position because of the alleged discrimination.
Most recently, on May 27, 2010, the complaint alleges that “a useless, discriminatory and retaliatory ‘fishing expedition’ against [Mee] reinitiated an additional Internal Affairs investigation” in connection with the Gibson arrest.
In the legal filing, the investigation was terminated as “unresolved,” but Mee’s attorney says it should have been determined to be “unfounded.”
Mee has completed the filing of administrative complaints with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in June, which is the first step in a “right-to-sue” an employer notice.
Mee’s lawsuit reiterates that he has lost income and benefits, “was personally humiliated, and has become mentally upset, distressed and aggravated.”
The complaint states that Mee will claim damages in an amount to be proven at the time of trial.
Mee further asserts that LASD’s refusal to protect him from religious discrimination created “a hostile work environment,” which is a separate claim.
The sheriff’s department’s stance on the Gibson matter continues to be that the disclosure of confidential police information is a crime.
The LASD is expected to vigorously counter the discrimination allegations.
Mee, who is not conducting any media interviews at present, has repeatedly said he wants his reputation with the department to be restored and the lawsuit is one way to try to achieve that objective.
As for Gibson, he has apologized for his anti-Semitic tirade, attempting to blame it on the alcoholism that he says he has fought for many years.
The longtime Malibuite completed all the requirements of probation granted in the drunken driving case, and his conviction record was expunged last year.
However, Gibson is back in celebrity media headlines for being embattled in a bitter child custody fight with the toddler’s mother.
This matter is also being investigated by the LASD, but, so far at least, no one has raised the issue of favoritism this time around.

Family of Mitrice Richardson to Hold One-Year Anniversary Vigil at LHSS

• The Public Is Invited to Participate in Event and Call for Ongoing Investigation into Woman’s Death •

BY ANNE SOBLE


Family members and friends of Mitrice Richardson will hold a public one-year anniversary vigil at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, the focal point of the dramatic saga of the 24-year-old woman’s eleven-month disappearance and subsequent finding of her decomposed remains in August, on Friday, Sept. 17.
Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, said the 7 p.m. vigil is a symbolic reminder that the family’s search for the cause of the African-American, Cal State Fullerton honors graduate’s death will continue until there are definitive answers.
Sutton and a strong circle of relatives and supporters outspokenly state that they suspect foul play and will not rest until the perpetrator is brought to justice.
Richardson disappeared Sept. 17, 2009, after being released from the Lost Hills Station just after midnight without her purse, cell phone, jacket, or access to her vehicle, while in a state that has since been described as possible early-onset mental illness.
Her treatment by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has led to a major public policy debate about custodial safety and release procedures that include the Office of Independent Review recommending changes at Lost Hills.
During the time Richardson was listed as missing, conjecture about her not wanting to be found was rife in the LASD. That ended when her partial skeletal remains were discovered on Aug. 9 in the dense chaparral of the Santa Monica Mountains north of Malibu.
The County Coroner’s office has determined that the woman’s death could have occurred not long after her release from the Lost Hills station. The coroner‘s official final report is still pending.
Lt. Mike Rosson, the contact detective with the LASD Homicide Division, told the Malibu Surfside News that four investigators are still working on the case, then he reiterated what has been the investigation status for the last four weeks that there is nothing new he “can report on at this time.”

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Cycling Advocates Speak Out at Public Safety Commission Meeting

• Motorist Behavior Is Viewed as the Biggest PCH Safety Issue by Majority of Speakers

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


A dozen Los Angeles area cycling advocates attended the City of Malibu’s Public Safety Commission meeting last week, to share their Malibu safety concerns. They brought the message that bicycles are here to stay and that cyclists and motorists need to learn to coexist safely. They also unanimously supported traffic law enforcement and applauded increased law enforcement presence in Malibu.
The discussion grew out of a sometimes heated online dialog between Commissioners Susan Tellem and Chris Frost and cycling advocates on the Internet.
Tellem recently started a “share the road, share the tickets” Facebook page that has attracted attention in the Los Angeles cycling community.
Frost, an avid cyclist, has posted his cycling safety concerns in cycling forums.“No one is so entitled that they are permitted to ignore a red light,” Frost wrote in an open letter that was posted on the socalbikeforums.com forum. “And for you top tier riders, this means being a role model, not the cause of an accident.”
“On the subject of T-intersections,” Frost’s letter continued, “Please take into consideration that the residents east of [ Big Rock] use the red light interval to exit their garages and driveways. If there are riders coming through, the drivers have very little time to see this and react.
“I have to say [PCH] has gotten a lot safer,” Eric Bruins, a cyclist who commutes to Malibu, said. “Speeds have come down. I can perceive that it's different.
“A lot of the things that make PCH safer for drivers make it safer for pedestrians and safer for cyclists,” Bruins said. “Generally it’s the same things: reducing speeds, DUIs, crazy stuff that goes on out there. [There’s] something wrong with how the road is designed if it's continually creating conflict. If one thing comes out of this it would be signs to warn drivers [to give cyclists] room to pass.”
Jay Slater, a Velo Club La Grange member and the vice chair of the L.A. City Bicycle Advisory Committee, stated “The problem that we’re incurring is that we have a two way problem. Bashing cyclists isn’t going to help. How do we teach bicyclists and motorists to get along with each other? This is [a problem on] every road in the county.”
“Cyclists are tired of being beaten up by motorists,” Slater said. “Motorists are tired of seeing cyclists run red lights and stop signs. We can't interpret the law. A red light is a red light and a stop sign is a stop sign. The only way that this is going to stop is education. How do we get that point across?”
Slater said that one of the things cycling advocacy groups would like to see is a helmet law that applies to all cyclists. He suggested that Malibu could get behind the L.A. County bike plan that promotes bike lanes, bike ways, [and] education. “You need to reach out through the PCH Task Force to AAA folks and the DMV. More posters, PSAs. We all eventually end up at the DMV.”
“Running red lights? Absolutely illegal. I’m with you one that,” said bike advocate Rachel Stevenson, adding that “asking cyclists to police there own sport is unrealistic.” Stevenson said that she commended the city for acquiring an extra sheriff's motor, but that cyclists aren’t the problem on PCH.
“I'm on my own as a cyclist,” Amanda Lipsey told the commission. “I would like to urge you to embark on a campaign to think about why we have traffic laws. It makes what we do predictable. We [should] follow the law because it is safe, not because there will be retaliation. You’re not suppose to impede another vehicle. There’s no need to talk about courtesy. We should do it because it’s safe.”
“Laws should be enforced regardless of whether people are on bikes or cars,” cyclist Chris Kostman stated .
I’d like to see us all get along,” Kostman said. “I would love to see more law enforcement. I know that running lights and stop signs is the most frequent but I see violations of all [kinds] on PCH. As a driver I obey traffic laws. As a cyclist I obey. The laws are there for a reason to keep all safe and alive.”
“We’re very happy that you’re addressing this,” said Tina Geller, of the Los Angeles Triathlon Club. “Education is the key.”
“I would be happy to work with the city to take down [share the road] signs and come up with something better,” Slater said. “Signs have been effective. We hear about it.”
“I think we need to be careful here not to indict every cyclist,” Slater said. “It’s a small number of people [who run red lights]. Most cyclists are like the people here. We obey the laws. We want to obey the laws.”
At the end of over an hour of discussion, the commission voted to recommend to the city council new signs that state:
“Vehicle and Bicycle Laws Strictly Enforced in the City of Malibu.”
“A sign is not a one time expense,” community activist Ryan Embree warned.
Embree expressed disappointment that the commission didn’t take stronger action by recommending increased enforcement to the city council. “I don’t think it's redundant to make that statement,” he said.