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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vacating Rambla Pacifico Back Before the City Council Members

• Legal Issues Prove to Be Difficult

BY BILL KOENEKER


The on-again, off-again, scheduling of a Malibu City Council hearing on vacating Rambla Pacifico Road is back on.
The city’s Public Works Department has scheduled another hearing for November 22 when the council is expected to consider vacating the easements to the mountain roadway.
Despite a staff report recommending the council could go forward with a vacation of the road, the city attorney at a previous hearing sought to postpone the matter. More than a half-dozen hearings have been scheduled and subsequently postponed, some without explanation.
The Lower Rambla Pacifico Road Owners Association is trying to put in a private emergency access road to reopen Rambla Pacifico Road, but keeps running into more legal roadblocks.
The public notice for the council’s upcoming hearing, indicates the same staff report for the October 25 hearing will be used. That report recommends the city vacate the road and indicates the city is prepared to do that now.
The staff report, prepared by the city’s senior engineer, states, in no uncertain terms, city officials have finalized the legal description and associated map and, “We are ready to vacate the road easement.”
City Attorney Christi Hogin said this week she was still looking into the matter, when asked if she would present a separate staff report to the council.
At the previous hearing that was postponed, Hogin had said she wanted to sort out the lengthy process and called for continuing the matter.
At that time, she offered no explanation what she was looking for or hoped to find.
Council members did not ask any questions nor did they ask why the hearing had been postponed so many times.
The ROA had pleaded with the city council at still another meeting to not go forward with the vacation until they finished their road.
At that meeting, Hogin said nothing, but City Manager Jim Thorsen insisted the hearing would go forward.
The engineer’s staff report indicates first and foremost, the city’s road easement does not give the municipality the legal right to permit construction of a private road. The city can only retain the easement or vacate it. The public road easement cannot be transferred to individual parties nor can it be sold by the city, according to Senior Civil Engineer Robert DuBoux.
The staff report recommends the city not retain the public road easement or obtain any other easements within the roadway as the street would then be subject to public road standards and the road must be accessible to the public at large.
Otherwise, the city might incur liability or be partially liable or perceived to be responsible for private hillside and roadway operations and maintenance, according to the report.