Malibu Surfside News

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

North (West) PCH Slide Problems Require More Cleanup

• Wet Weather Forecasts Prompt Caution by Caltrans Crews •

BY ANNE SOBLE


A nearly 10-mile stretch of Pacific Coast Highway near the Ventura County line that had been closed since Dec. 18 tried to reopen Tuesday, but safety concerns shut it down again hours later.
A rockslide and about three feet of mud in some parts of the roadway had closed PCH from Yerba Buena Road to Las Posas Road, which serves as Malibu’s coastal route to points north, or northwest.
State Department of Transportation, aka Caltrans, crews have been cleaning up debris and removing loose boulders that appeared headed for the highway.
After being open until 5 p.m. on Dec. 28, Caltrans engineers determined that a projected strong mid-week storm and the weekend storm expected to follow might be too much for the saturated hillsides to handle.
Although the rain forecast for Wednesday proved to be less than anticipated, Caltrans is hedging its bets on the three or more days of consecutive precipitation forecast for the end of this week and the beginning of next.
Caution is now the watchword, and the stretch of highway will remain closed until further notice.

RAPPELLING—A Caltrans “mountaineer” maneuvers around a multi-ton boulder and prepares to send it down the hillside so it will no longer pose a danger to motorists on PCH.

Record Rainfall Is Expected to Be a Drought-Buster If It Continues

• Farmers and Malibu Well Owners Have Reason to Rejoice

BY BILL KOENEKER


While water experts are not yet quite willing to say the drought is over in California, the amount of precipitation and the snow pack for this year appear to have helped alleviate or ease the current drought conditions.
Experts explain that drought, unlike other disaster or emergencies such as flooding or earthquakes, is a long term process that develops over years.
For instance from 2007 to 2009 the state experienced drought conditions and in 2010 except for the last few months, below normal runoff occurred.
This week, the California Department of Water Resources will conduct its first manual snow survey of the new winter season near Lake Tahoe.
Snow depth and water content figures should be available for the survey, which will be the first of five monthly measurements that help water supply planners estimate the amount of spring snowmelt runoff into reservoirs.
DWR’s projection, made before the Pineapple Express roared across the state, is that it will be able to deliver 50 percent of required water in 2011.
“The delivery projections will increase as hydrologic conditions continue to develop, but already equal the amount being delivered this calendar year,” states a DWR press release.
DWR officials note that snow water content is important in determining the coming year’s water supply. The measurements help hydrologists prepare water supply forecasts as well as provide others, such as hydroelectric power companies and the recreation industry, with valuable data.
In addition to results from manual measurements, the latest electronic readings of snow pack water content from remote sensors are available and can be observed by anybody on the Internet.
There are a number of other factors and waters res 230 ounces that are counted to come onto a full picture of the state.
According to a DWR report, even by the end of November statewide conditions looked upward with news that precipitation was 155 percent of average to date, that runoff was 115 percent of the average to date and reservoir storage was 105 percent of the average for the date.

City Issues a Call for Applicants for Malibu Arts Consultant Post

• Cultural Arts Task Force Set to Go

BY BILL KOENEKER


Malibu city officials issued a request for a proposal for a consultant to work with the municipality’s newly formed Cultural Arts Task Force.
The RFP is seeking a professional who can work with the 11-member arts panel created last October by the city council to provide input regarding the development of a comprehensive plan for the arts for the coastal community.
The council appointed the members from the community to assist the staff in numerous tasks including the potential financial impact and funding of any plan and to come up with a set of recommendations for the plan and a time frame.
The focus of the plan, according to the planning staff, is to build the arts infrastructure of Malibu as “the foundation of a healthy arts ecosystem. The strong cultural infrastructure includes places for arts creation, sales, exhibitions, performances and rehearsal, people, including artists, audience, patrons and organizations to produce and present art.”
In the RFP, Senior Planner Stephanie Danner writes the arts and humanities are now being seen as tools for civic engagement and our cultural organizations as promoters of social capital, part of the glue that holds our community together.
“Because the arts help to define and communicate Malibu’s culture, it is important that those working in the creative sector are provided with both the tangible and intangible resources they need to work and thrive,” she added.
The city council, according to Danner, is committed to the view that the planning process can make a positive change in the city.
The RFP also indicates the city is seeking proposals from a consultant with specific experience in public arts to facilitate the development of the arts plan for the city.
The scope of work goes on for nearly a half-dozen pages and includes the meetings the consultant needs to attend besides the task force meetings.
The proposals will be read by the planning manager, senior planner, city arts task force chair, task force vice chair and one other designated member of the panel. The top candidates will be interviewed by the committee which will select the preferred consultant. The contract will be approved by the city council.

Local Agricultural Landmark Sold to the Malibu Owner of the Clippers

• Nothing Has Been Announced about Possible Changes

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Fig Tree Ranch, now called Zuman Vital Farm, has reportedly been sold to Donald Sterling, a part-time Malibu resident, who might be best known as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and investor/owner of thousands of commercial and residential properties.
The farm property, which was described by a soils expert as some of the best organically prepared land in Malibu and maybe even Los Angeles County, had been on the market for most of the past year and was purportedly threatened with foreclosure before the reported purchase.
The expert from the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains told the Malibu City Council the ranch should be preserved as an agricultural exhibit for educational purposes.
“Sixty years of top soil. There is nothing like it in Malibu,” Clark Stevens of RCDSMM said.
Some members of the council had been considering acquisition of the six-acre ranch, which at that time was for sale. However, finding funding for the acquisition has remained the stumbling block.
Alan Cunningham, who has described himself as the sole owner of the property after he bought out other investors, declined to comment on the matter.
A property manager for Sterling’s Malibu properties was unable to say if the company had purchased the farm.
The farm has become a magnet for school children and others, who want to learn about organic farming. The property contains numerous exotic fruit trees, including many varieties of figs.
The Malibu City Council created an ad hoc committee comprised of Mayor Jefferson Wagner and Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, to explore the possibility of acquiring the land and adjacent parcels for some kind of west end community center/park.
A Blue Ribbon Task Force created by the city council had made recommendations of what might be suitable on the farm and other properties.
Currently, Zan Marquis, owner of the Point Dume Village shopping center, is in escrow on the adjoining land known as the DeWind property.
Conley Ulich said she envisioned the city keeping the organic farm intact as a working heritage farm much like other municipalities or counties that have acquired and then operated orange groves or other kinds of farming or ranching that represent a part of the state’s history.

Point Dume School Charter Petition Aired by County Ed Office

• Slated for Jan. 11 in City of Downey

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The Los Angeles County Office of Education will hear the Point Dume Charter school petition at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 3 p.m., at LACOE headquarters, 9300 Imperial Highway, Education Center Board Room, in the City of Downey.
According to the LACOE website, the Los Angeles County Office of Education is “the nation’s largest regional education agency,” providing “a range of programs and services to promote the academic and financial stability of the county’s 80 school districts and the achievement of more than two million preschool and school-age children.”
The Point Dume charter petition was denied by the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District last month.
By law, the petitioners have the right to submit the request to the county board for review. If the county board finds the petition meets the state-mandated criteria for charter conversion, LACOE will become the authorizer.
Supporters of the Point Dume charter say they are optimistic that LACOE will approve the plan.
If the county board denies the petition it can be appealed to the state office of education.
The agenda for the Jan. 11 meeting was not yet available when the Malibu Surfside News went to press. It will be posted later this week on the LACOE website at www.lacoe.edu

Malibu Restaurant Owner Asks Sheriff Baca to Look into His Department’s ‘Misstatements’ on Mitrice Richardson’s Arrest

• Geoffrey Staffers Say that They Receive Hate Calls and Death Threats from the Public

BY ANNE SOBLE


The owner of the Malibu restaurant where the Mitrice Richardson saga began said he was finally able to speak directly with Sheriff Lee Baca this week and voice his concerns about what he thinks is misinformation concerning the role of Geoffrey’s in the Los Angeles woman’s arrest in September of 2009.
Jeff Peterson first indicated he wanted to publicly address statements made by Baca after the August 2010 press conference held by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to announce that partially skeletonized and mummified remains found in the Malibu Canyon backcountry belong to the 24-year-old honors college graduate who had been missing for 11 months. No cause of death has been determined.
The location where the remains were found is less than eight miles from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station where Richardson was transported and booked after a citizen’s arrest for failing to pay an $89.51 dinner tab at Geoffrey’s. Responding deputies, who found some pot in her car after what was described as a consensual search, as well as packages of alcoholic beverages and several empty prescription bottles, ordered the car towed to the Malibu impound yard.
Peterson said the telephone conversation he had with Baca on Tuesday left him “feeling confident that the sheriff will look into his concerns about misinformation and call him back.” Geoffrey’s owner said Baca “seemed very helpful and concerned,” and added that the “sheriff’s word is so powerful that it is critical that he have a true picture of events to present to the public.”
Although there had been some harassment of the restaurant after the Richardson story first broke, Peterson said it became worse after the August press conference. Baca then appeared to shift some of the responsibility for what transpired to the staff of Geoffrey’s restaurant, who had called Lost Hills directly when the 24-year-old Los Angeles resident said she could not pay her bill. Baca described “the irate owner or manager of the restaurant telling us to come and pick her up.”
Peterson said he told Baca that the manager, who is not named in the LASD reports and has requested not to be named in media coverage, was “not irate, but was concerned about Richardson’s safety” and had Lost Hills called because she was speaking gibberish, stated she was from Mars, would become fixated on computer and other bright lights, and exhibited other signs of mental instability.
Richardson family members are circulating a tape of the telephone call made by a Geoffrey’s staffer to Lost Hills, a transcript of which has been posted online.
When the phone rings, a sheriff’s deputy, who family members believe is Deputy Yoav Shalev, answers, “Lost Hills Station.”
The female staffer says, “I’m calling from Geoffrey’s restaurant in Malibu. We have a guest here who is refusing to pay her bill. We think she may…she sounds really crazy. She may be on drugs or something. We are wondering if you could come by and pick her up.”
The caller to Lost Hills does not appear to be angry as she responds to the deputy’s routine questions for the write-up on which a sheriff’s car will be dispatched.
However, the report from the Office of Independent Review, the panel designated to serve as the watchdog for the LASD that concluded the department acted with due diligence, states that “the [Geoffrey’s] manager demanded” that Richardson be arrested.
But Peterson said his staff—he was not there in person when the incident occurred—wanted the woman assisted because they were concerned that something was wrong. “This was not about punishment, she needed attention.”
Peterson said the restaurant staff’s assumption was that Richardson would be transported to get special medical attention.
According to the report, drafted largely by the then deputy chief attorney of the OIR, Benjamin Jones, the restaurant staff reported their concerns to the three male deputies, who said they then took their action based on the manager declining telephone bill payment without signature verification and having performed a citizen’s arrest.
The OIR document further states that the deputies took Richardson into custody “without conducting any interviews of Geoffrey’s Restaurant customers or employees.”
The Malibu Surfside News has attempted to contact some of the restaurant patrons that evening, but a wall of silence has surrounded people who indicate that they don’t want to get involved because of the time it will require; they don’t want to have to testify in court; or they don’t want their names to become public.
In subsequent interviews, the OIR attorney was able to chronicle Richardson’s bizarre behavior, but if witnesses were not interviewed at the time she was taken into custody, that might help to explain why deputies missed what should have been obvious behavioral cues.
With regard to the woman’s car, Peterson said the restaurant did not insist that the car be towed, but offered to park the car on the street and keep the keys until she was able to come back and pick it up.
The News has learned who the tow truck driver is who took the vehicle to the impound lot, but he has declined to respond to the newspaper’s contacts. Because he might have observed behavior and be able to clarify who wanted what done when, he will likely be deposed when family litigation proceedings get underway.
At the August press conference, Baca indicated that LASD policies on responses to “defrauding an innkeeper” charges would be reviewed by the department. Baca 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?”
Members of Richardson’s family have been critical of Lost Hills sheriff’s personnel for taking her to jail for field-citable offenses, not being able to detect her psychological issues—she might have been experiencing a bipolar episode, and after taking her to Lost Hills, for releasing her shortly after midnight in the remote industrial area without her car, cell phone or purse.
Richardson’s parents have filed separate lawsuits against Los Angeles County for negligence and civil rights violations.
They continue their campaign for the involvement of the FBI in the case and demand additional forensic study of her exhumed remains for clues as to how she died.

Random Thoughts as the Year of 2010 Draws to a Close

• Locals Reflect on 2010 and Look Ahead to the Coming Year

BY JULIE WALLACH


Mary Jennings, new mom to Tulsi, four months old, shared, “I love the water features at Legacy Park. Tulsi loves story time at the library.” Her hope for Malibu in 2011 is to “see a community garden where people can gather and learn how to grow food.”
Farah Stack, a 6th grader at Malibu High, shared, “I liked the two new parks in Malibu.” Stack’s personal 2010 highlights include winning Junior Lifeguard medals this summer. For the upcoming year, Stack shared, “I want everyone to be happy and healthy this year and everyone in the world to be at peace.”
Jaclyn Gelb said, “I had an amazing year of growth and expansion of my heart. For 2011, I wish to fall even further in love with the world.”
She added, “I would like Malibu to bring in the Whole Foods already.” When asked about the changes she disliked, she mentioned, “More mom-and-pop shops disappeared, more chains came in.”
Fourteen-year-old Audrey Eamer shared what she did not like about 2010. “My friend Emily Shane was killed by a speeding driver as she walked to a cross walk. My wish for 2011 is that our community of Malibu does not forget Emily and makes walking to the market or to a friend’s house safe for all of us kids.”
Ben Markiles, age 14, shared, “The best of 2010 was the World Cup.” Ben added that he didn’t like “no summer weather during summer.” He hopes for good grades in school this coming year.
A group of Malibu West children shared about their highlights and hopes for this and the coming year. Joemack Leonardo said, “Legacy Park opened, which was a waste of land.” Cameron Smoller added, “They should put in soccer fields there.” Smoller’s twin sister Ellery shared, “HOWS should stay open.”
Ashley Ferbas, who is in third grade at Webster Elementary, shared, “I love that I got a new kitten and I love Legacy Park.”
Ashley’s parents, Kathie and John Ferbas, shared that their favorite thing about Malibu in 2010 was the return of the Farmers Market. Their least favorite thing was “the cuts to the public school budgets and the difficulties we face funding programs at the local level.”
The Ferbas’ added that their wish for 2011 is that “the economy will stabilize and that California will extend equal rights to all who want to marry.”
Dalton Rondell shared about his highlights for 2010. “Runman [a local punk band] started and there were good sandbars. I didn’t like that they kicked out small businesses.” For 2011, Rondell hopes that Malibu will keep small businesses and not turn Trancas into Cross Creek.” I’m mad that HOWS is leaving.”
Rondell added, “I love Malibu because of the friendly faces I see every day and the good waves.”
Jeff Higginbotham, a lifelong Malibu resident, hopes that in 2011, he will “keep breathing and smiling at the same time.”
Krishna Jaret shared, “I loved the painted lifeguard huts created for Haiti. I hope they create them again in the summer of 2011.” When asked what she’d like to see stay the same in Malibu next year Krishna said, “Levon and European Shoe Repair at Cross Creek.”
Krishna’s daughter, Harmony is five years-old and attends Point Dume Elementary School. For 2011, Harmony wants to “turn the world into a big smiley face.”

Birds of All Kinds of Feathers Flock to Malibu for Winter Season

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Each year, millions of birds travel the Great Pacific Flyway along the coast of California.
Many birds are headed to their winter foraging grounds farther south. Some stop over only for a day or two. For other species, Malibu is the destination. The mild climate, protected coves, wetlands and mountains that make Malibu appealing to humans also attracts avian visitors.
According to the National Park Service, approximately 100 bird species winter in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, including Malibu.
Many species are garden residents. A birdbath has the potential to attract an assortment of winter warblers, sparrows, and songbirds like the Oregon junco, hermit thrush and oak titmouse—a small gray bird with a peaked cap and a feisty, scolding song—to even the smallest gardens. Other birds require more room to roam.
The Point Dume Headlands are a good place to see—and hear—the western meadowlark. Its distinctive yellow plumage, black arrow marking and lilting, soaring song are unmistakable. The western bluebird is another west Malibu visitor.
At the beach, a bewildering assortment of shorebirds can often be seen, ranging from the charcoal and white Heermann’s gull to the long-billed curlew, with its sword-like curved beak and mournful cry.
Malibu Lagoon State Park and Zuma Lagoon attract other winter species, including a wide variety of colorful ducks and wading birds, like the elegantly black and white ring necked duck and the Virginia rail-a bird with impossibly long legs and enormous feet.
This year, participants in the Audubon Society's Annual Christmas Bird Count identified a willow flycatcher in Ramirez Canyon, reportedly only the second winter sighting of the small insectivorous bird in Los Angeles County.
Malibu-area Audubon bird count compiler Larry Allen told the Malibu Surfside News that the volunteer bird watchers who braved the torrential rains on the day of the local count, also spotted red breasted nuthatches on Point Dume and in Malibu Creek State Park and an osprey—a large and impressive fish raptor—at Malibu Lagoon.
According to the Audubon Society, the Christmas Count, now in its 110th year, is the longest running citizen science survey in the world. The information collected by volunteer bird watchers is used by scientists and the U.S, Government to track bird populations.
Rockslides, road closures and torrential rains meant some teams couldn’t reach their assigned bird watching areas, but the Malibu circle managed to ID 149 species, despite the weather.
According to Allen, the winter storms have also blown some unusual species off course this year, including a red-necked grebe and a marbled murrelet—a north Pacific member of the auk family, spotted at Paradise Cove. “They were seen outside of the count period,” Allen said, “so we couldn’t include them [in the count].”
“I’ve been compiling the Malibu bird count for 20 years,” Allen said, “and this was only our second big rain out.”
Allen said that almost all of the Christmas bird counters are from out of the area. He travels to Malibu for the annual event from the San Gabriel Valley. One Malibu bird counter reportedly comes all the way from San Dimas to participate. Malibu residents are incredibly fortunate, bird watchers say. They have a bird watching Mecca in their own backyards every day.
Malibuites interested in learning more about winter birds can join one of several bird walks scheduled this month in the SMMNRA. The National Park Service’s event calendar is available online at www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s online bird guide offers easy identification for those who don't have the time to join a guided walk. Viewers can search based on taxonomy, name or shape.
A smartphone app lets bird enthusiasts access the Cornell digital field guide in the field, at least in areas where there is adequate cell reception. www.allaboutbirds.org
Binoculars can be helpful, but birdwatchers say the most important thing is just taking the time to go out and look and listen.

Former Longtime Resident Leaves Comedic and Serious Film Legacy

• Life in Malibu Provided Inspiration and a Backdrop for Several of the Filmmaker’s Movies

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Screenwriter, director, producer, artist and longtime former Malibu resident Blake Edwards has died. He was 88.
Edwards was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on July 26, 1922, his stepfather’s father was silent film director J. Gordon Edwards.
The family moved to Los Angeles when Edwards was three. He grew up in the film industry, appearing in bit parts in numerous films as a child and young man.
During WW II, Edwards served in the US Coast Guard, where he was severely injured in a diving accident.
After Edwards recovered, he returned to the film industry. When he failed to receive studio backing for the first film he wrote—a western titled “Panhandle”—he financed it himself with help from his friend John Champion. The film debuted in 1948.
Edwards wrote extensively for radio in the 1950s. In 1954 he transitioned to television, writing and directing “Peter Gunn,” where he worked for the first time with composer Henry Mancini, who became a close friend and would score Edwards’ most memorable films.
Edwards continued to develop film projects. “Operation Petticoat,” starring Cary Grant, was a major success in 1959.
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” regarded by many critics as Edwards’ greatest film, followed in 1961.
“The Pink Panther,” which introduced Edwards’ bumblingly incompetent Inspector Clouseau to the world.
By the late 1960s, Edwards reportedly had become increasingly disillusioned with Hollywood, leaving California to work for several years on projects in Europe with his second wife, actress Julie Andrews, whom he married in 1968.
The couple returned to Los Angeles in the early 1970s.
Edwards’ 1979 comedy “10,” featuring British comedic actor Dudley Moore and ingenue Bo Derek was reportedly inspired by his observations of beach life in Malibu.
Edwards directed Andrews in the 1981 comedy “S.O.B,” a scathing satire of the Hollywood film industry. The film was shot in part on location at their Malibu house, as were several of Edwards’ later films.
Andrews also starred in Edwards’ 1982 adaptation of the genderbending German comedy “Victor Victoria.” The film received seven Oscar nominations and went on to become a successful Broadway musical.
Edwards and Andrews were active in the Malibu community for many years, dividing their time between Malibu and their home in Switzerland.
Although Edwards may be primarily remembered for his numerous comedies, he directed six actors in Academy Award nominated performances: Andrews, Jack Lemmon, Audrey Hepburn, Robert Preston and Lesley Ann Warren.
In addition to his work as a filmmaker, Edwards was a painter and sculptor, whose abstracted figurative works received critical acclaim.
Edwards was also a founding board member of Operation USA, a relief organization that provides aid to the survivors of disasters.
For more than 30 years Edwards assisted fundraising efforts for the organization. The proceeds from a recent show of Edwards’ paintings reportedly went to support relief efforts in Haiti.
Malibu friends and neighbors remember Edwards as kind, genuine and generous.
He is survived by his wife, five children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fish and Game Approves MPA Network that Includes Point Dume

• Regulations Will Be Sent to Office of Administrative Law for Approval Before Taking Effect

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The California Fish and Game Commission has voted 3-2 to approve the creation of a network of marine protected areas off the coast of Southern California from Point Conception to the Mexican border.
The decision brings to a close two years of debate and discussion on how the South Coast Study Region, which includes Malibu, should enact the directive mandated in the Marine Life Protection Act to create its share of underwater conservation areas.
The commission opted to adopt the Integrated Preferred Alternative, which will create 36 new MPAs encompassing approximately 187 square miles—eight percent—of state waters in the study region. Approximately 116 square miles—almost 5 percent— have received the highest level of protection, designated no-take state marine reserves and no-take state marine conservation areas.
The remainder has been designated as state marine conservation area with different take allowances and varying levels of protection, according to the DFG staff report.
In addition to approving the MPA regulations, the commission also certified the environmental impact report prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act.
The existing MPAs in the northern Channel Islands, which encompass an additional 168 square miles—seven percent of state waters—in the study region were not modified as part of this decision.
In Malibu, the IPA includes a State Marine Reserve—the highest level of protection—for the waters from just west of Paradise Cove to the outflow of Zuma Creek at Westward Beach, and a State Marine Conservation Area—the next level of protection—for the area between Zuma Creek and El Matador State Beach.
All fishing activities will be prohibited in the SMR, according to the IPA. Limited fishing for certain species will be permitted in the SMCA.
The DFG Commission agreed that the “MPA designation cannot restrict activities that have already received approved regulatory permits.” In the Malibu SMCA “pre-existing and ongoing beach nourishment activities,” including the massive revetment project underway at Broad Beach, will not be impacted by the creation of the MPA.
DFG Commissioners Richard Rogers, Jack Baylis and Michael Sutton voted in favor of the MPA plan, while Commissioners Kellogg and Daniel Richards opposed the proposal.
The vote came at the end of nearly six hours of discussion, debate and public testimony.
Approximately 100 public speakers addressed the FGC before the vote in Santa Barbara on Wednesday. Proponents outnumbered opponents at the meeting more than 3:1.
The proposed Point Dume SMR was one of the most hotly contested portions of the MPA plan, attracting the support of conservation advocates and drawing vociferous opposition from the sportfishing community.
The environmental advocacy group The National Resources Defense Council has described the MPAs as the nation’s first network of underwater parks adjacent to a major urban area, good news for ocean life, and a vital legacy of hope for future generations.
Opponents of the plan say that it is unenforceable and have indicated that they plan to challenge it in court.
The new protections are anticipated to take effect sometime in 2011. More information is available at www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa

City Hall Does Holidays: Meetings Are Cancelled and Hours Truncated

Malibu City Hall, the city council and the planning commission are scheduled to go into holiday mode with different hours and cancelled meetings for the rest of the month of December.
The planning panel’s regular meeting that would have been held on Tuesday, Dec. 21, has been cancelled.
Cancelled as well is the Malibu City Council’s session that would have been slated for Monday, Dec. 27.
Both municipal bodies will resume their regular meeting schedules in January.
City Hall will close its doors on Thursday, Dec. 23, at noon because the Christmas holiday will be observed on Friday, Dec. 24, according to city officials, who cite municipal code sections that state when legal holidays fall on a Saturday, they are observed on the preceding Friday.
City Hall will operate for normal business hours Monday through Wednesday, Dec. 27 through-29.
City Hall will close at noon on Thursday, Dec. 30, and will be closed all of Friday, Dec. 31, for the New Year’s Day holiday.
The municipality’s parks and recreation department has posted holiday hours of operation for all of the city’s parks and facilities on the city’s website.
For other city updates, see www.ci.malibu.ca.us

Break in Storms Allows Malibuites to Put Their Ark-Building 0n Hold

• Record-Breaking Rainfall Saturates Ground and Hillsides

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


A series of storms propelled by the Pineapple Express—the tropical air stream originating near Hawaii—have battered California with record amounts of rain over the past week. In Malibu, as much as 12 inches of rain have fallen in some parts of the community, filling creeks and streams and saturating hillsides.
Rain-soaked and unstable cliffs caused several rockslides on Pacific Coast Highway west of Malibu on Saturday, flooding the highway with mud and rocks and raising concerns that large boulders, some reportedly the size of SUVs, could fall onto the highway. Approximately nine miles of Pacific Coast Highway remains closed between Las Posas Road at Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station and Yerba Buena Road at County Line.
Although Caltrans is calling the road closure a “precautionary” measure, geologists at the scene have reported hearing the stones “groaning and creaking.”
Caltrans officials report that the agency plans to wait until the current series of storms abates before sending geologists in for a closure re-evaluation.
Motorists are being asked to detour around the nine-mile stretch of PCH using Kanan Dume Road, or one of the other canyon roads, and the 101 Freeway through Thousand Oaks and Camarillo.
Smaller rock and mudslides continue to pose a hazard to drivers. A rockslide in the Big Rock area of PCH reportedly sliced the tires on six vehicles over the weekend. Rocks, mud and flooding were also reported on PCH between Corral and Latigo canyons on Sunday night.
A slide on Malibu Canyon at the start of the current storm cycle and several small slides on Kanan Dume Road over the weekend have reportedly caused lane closures but were swiftly cleared by state and county crews working overtime. Mud, rocks and flooding will continue to be hazards on PCH and all of Malibu’s mountain roads.
Longtime Malibuites know that the danger of slippage can continue to occur even after the rain is over, as rainwater continues to seep into the earth.
Broad Beach residents may be dismayed to see new sand loss and beach erosion, but relatively little storm-related beachfront damage has been reported so far in the City of Malibu.
NOAA is forecasting heavy rains through Wednesday night, after The News goes to press, with the potential for continued storm activity throughout the holiday weekend into next week. Small stream flood watch and high wind alerts will remain in effect, along with high surf advisory warnings and high rip current risk.

Center Owner Seeks Zoning Change for Flower Farm to Permit Parking

• Former Nursery Is Potential Off-Site Vehicle Solution

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council’s Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement subcommittee met last week and turned back an initial effort to allow parking which serves a commercial use to be located on properties in the rural residential zoning districts through the issuance of a conditional use permit.
“They mostly felt that it was not something for the staff to move forward on,” said Planning Manager Joyce Parker Bozylinski.
The subcommittee is comprised of Mayor Jefferson Wagner and Councilmember John Sibert.
The review and recommendations regarding a potential zone text amendment came about after discussions with Zan Marquis, the owner of the Point Dume Village center, when he submitted a CUP application for a new restaurant called Village Cafe to replace a retail store in the shopping center, according to a staff report.
“At the present the CUP cannot be approved as there is no place onsite to add the additional parking spaces, which would be required for the restaurant use. The shopping center was built in 1969 and was constructed in accordance to the old parking requirements in the Los Angeles County zoning code,” Planner Stephanie Danner wrote in the staff report.
Presently, there are 180 parking spaces onsite to serve 23 tenants, including a grocery store, two banks, several restaurants, retail and offices, according to city planners.
The parking problems at the center have reached the staff in other ways, according to Danner, who indicated for the past two years property owners in the immediate neighborhood have complained about employees and patrons of the center taking up public parking on the streets when the center parking lots are full.
Planners noted Marquis looked elsewhere for a location to site the additional parking spaces required for the new restaurant.
“He has been in contact with adjacent developed commercial properties, but has not been able to obtain a joint use parking agreement with any of the adjacent property owners,” Danner wrote.
City officials have learned that Marquis is finalizing acquisition of a 9.84-acre vacant parcel, known as the DeWind property, on Pacific Coast Highway across from the center where off-site parking could be located.
Marquis confirmed that he is “closing on the purchase of the DeWind property in the next few days.” The Point Dume Village owner said, “Because the property is adjacent to the signalized crosswalk that crosses PCH at Heathercliff, it is a logical place for employees of Point Dume Village to park, freeing up the shopping center’s parking lot for customers, and freeing up the local streets for resident parking.”
He said, “Employees could park on the site, walk down steps to the crosswalk, and walk to work. The parking lot would take up a small portion of the parcel, and could be surrounded by landscaping and made invisible to neighbors.”
Because the crosswalk serves most of the private work force for Point Dume, it is regularly in use.
Marquis seeks a Zone Text Amendment that would allow the site to be used for parking.
“The problem with the vacant parcel is that it is zoned RR-5, which does not allow parking for a commercial use,” Danner stated.
A preliminary sketch by the property owner’s architect was submitted showing a parking lot layout site plan to demonstrate how about 38 parking spaces would fit if parking is concentrated on the southeast edge of the site next to the Pacific Coast Highway and Heathercliff Road intersection and away from the residential areas along the northern edge of the property.
“In the current configuration, the nearest residential use would be approximately 450 feet away from the proposed parking lot,” the planner wrote.
The staff noted the additional parking spaces could solve a two-fold problem, to allow the property owner to obtain new tenants and to help solve the problem of overflow parking going onto public streets in the surrounding neighborhood.
The planning manager noted the subcommittee also talked about how any ZTA should not be site specific, but rather apply citywide.
And, subcommittee members noted it would be important to know what the impact would be citywide if the law was changed.
Parker-Bozylinski acknowledged that a ZTA can be initiated by the city council, the planning commission, or by the applicant.
Marquis told the Malibu Surfside News, “I am trying to solve the parking problems and meet everyone's needs, I would appreciate support from the city for this kind of win-win approach to local planning.”

Car Wash Owner Appeals Landlord’s City-Issued Planning Permit Approval

• Complicated Building Project Already Controversial

BY BILL KOENEKER


A proposed office building that was recently approved by the Malibu Planning Commission and then was scheduled for an appeal before the California Coastal Commission was back before the planning panel recently where it got a thumbs up for modifications sought by the applicant.
However, in a somewhat unusual move, the business owner and operator of a car wash on the property has filed an appeal in an attempt to have the city council overturn the commission’s most recent approval
Norm Haynie, who took an ownership of the vacant service station on Pacific Coast Highway near McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken, had gotten approval for the demolition of the existing remnants of the gas station and a permit for the construction of a new 2499 square foot commercial office building with rooftop parking lot and a vehicular ramp connecting the rooftop parking lot with an existing parking lot located directly north of the subject property.
After planning commission approval, an appeal was scheduled before the California Coastal Commission by Patt Healy, who argued the city’s planning panel had not followed the rules for landscaping and open space.
The matter had been continued before the CCC on two occasions and in the meantime Haynie and Healy negotiated an agreement that was incorporated into another application before the planning commission that included the negotiated modifications, according to Malibu planners.
Now, however, after the planning panel approved the application that included those modifications, the car wash operator is appealing the matter to the city council.
“The project was not appealed [by Healy] to the city council, however it was appealed to the California Coastal Commission by Patt Healy and the Malibu Coalition for Slow Growth. The project was scheduled to be heard at the August hearing, however it was continued at the applicant's request. [It was again continued at the November CCC meeting] The applicant [was] in the process of private negotiations with the appellant to address her concerns. As a result, the applicant submitted an application to convert the previously approved parking areas to landscaped areas in order to provide additional landscaping on the project,” wrote Associate Planner Ha Ly, in a staff report.
Consequently, Haynie successfully submitted an amendment to the permit to replace six parking spaces into 2463 square feet of landscaped area.
In challenging the approval, business owner Jacob Zanki wrote in his appeal letter, “The finding is not supported by the evidence because the elimination of six of the 12 spaces in front of the building will prevent the new building from being a successful business that serves people living in and visiting Malibu, which is contrary to the zoning specified in the Local Coastal Program.”
Zanki went on to indicate the project was not in conformance to the LCP, because it “is inconsistent with the intent of the community commercial zoning (the zoning specific in the LCP) with respect to the required parking in this zoning. If you don’t know where to park or if the parking is not convenient then people will not park in the unseen spaces and the business will fail. No retail business, including mine, will ever survive with so few parking spaces.”
After taking Zanki’s $1000 appeal fee, the planning department will notice nearby property owners, prepare a staff report, then schedule a hearing before the city council.

MLY Leaseholder Puts His Family’s House on Market for $75 Million

• Vacant Canyon Property Is Also Listed

BY BILL KOENEKER


Another property owned by Richard Weintraub, who is a developer and leaseholder of the city-owned Malibu Lumberyard, is on the market.
Known as La Villa Contenta, the 13-bedroom,14-bath estate located on a blufftop above Latigo Point is for sale for $75 million.
The home has been the family home of the Weintraubs since it was built in 2002.
The eight-acre compound includes a guest house, pool house, three swimming pools, a pond and office space which can be used as a six bedroom second home, according to listing information.
The property has been opened by the Weintraubs for many local fundraising efforts.
The president of Weintraub Financial also had on the market vacant land in Escondido Canyon, formerly a Christmas tree farm and nursery.
Weintraub’s real estate transactions became of interest within the past year after he and his partner went before the city council and successfully sought a change in the language of the lease in order to secure an extension of a bank loan on the Lumberyard shopping center.
At the same time, it was revealed that Weintraub and his partner Richard Sperber were seeking an investment partner which could result in the sale of the shopping center. City officials were quick to point out that any new investment entity, financial arrangement or new leaseholder would require city council approval.
Weintraub continues to insist his financial house is in order and has talked about all of the traveling he has been doing and how he plans to build another house near the villa.

Panel Recommends Wi-Fi System for City’s Parks

BY BILL KOENEKER


During a series of meetings, Malibu’s Telecommunications Commission has taken steps in evaluating the wireless status at various city-owned parks to make recommendations to the city council.
The commission, at a special meeting, met at Bluffs Park and was given an update by the city’s information systems administrator about existing wi-fi capabilities currently in place at Bluffs Park.
The commission was told that any changes to the current system would need to be incorporated into the plans for the new building proposed for the site. Parks and Recreation has plans to demolish the current Michael Landon center structure and construct a new two-story building on the site, according to city officials.
The commission agreed to recommend incorporating a wireless network system at both Bluffs Park and Legacy Park using solar power to provide continuous operation during local emergencies and for FEMA use during disaster emergencies.
During non-emergencies the wi-fi could be accessed by municipal employees working on the premises and for parkgoers to use without fees or registration, according to a commission report.
There was also a consensus to recommend the use of existing structures such as foul ball poles at the baseball diamonds, and street lights along Pacific Coast Highway to mount antennas.
The panel also considered recommending a radio frequency consultant, who might be needed to determine optimal placement of the antennas for complete coverage.
The installation of security cameras at designated areas around the parks connected to the mesh wireless system with monitoring screens at the new city hall, was also discussed as a possibility of use.
The panel established a priority for installation or use of wireless and decided to recommend Bluffs Park at the top, Trancas Park, Las Flores Park and Legacy Park..
Upon additional research, staff noted that mesh systems unlike conventional wi-fi or wi-Max wireless systems work through the deployment of a grid of radio repeaters and components that use solar power, require no FCC license and anchors on trees, poles and structures in the park and may include easements with right-of-way grants from neighboring businesses such as the city-owned Lumber Yard shopping center, the library and the veterinarian hospital, according to the report.
The wi-fi evaluation is ongoing and the same process will continue with research at Trancas Park and Las Flores Park during 2011.

Mitrice Richardson’s Mother Issues Another Call for FBI Involvement

• Takes Strongest Stand Yet that Daughter Was Murdered after Her Lost Hills Release

BY ANNE SOBLE


The mother of Mitrice Richardson took one of her strongest public stands so far, stating that she thinks her daughter was murdered and sexually assaulted and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is unable to conduct an aggressive and thorough investigation of the allegations because it has a “conflict of interest” attributable to its own negligence and shoddy police practices.
Latice Sutton said there is no way an agency intent on shielding its own mistakes can give Richardson’s case the attention it deserves. Sutton said only the involvement of the FBI and its national crime lab has the potential to provide answers to the growing list of questions surrounding the 24-year-old Los Angeles woman’s death.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Sutton said that although Sheriff Lee Baca and others keep saying that it will not be possible to determine how Richardson died, her daughter’s remains “scream and yell her story,” and the science that can help decipher these screams is available and needs to be applied.
Sutton took this forceful position at the briefing held in the New Testament Church where her daughter’s funeral was held in August and the nave was filled with family and friends who openly vowed that they would keep up the fight to bring justice to the dead woman.
Sutton also took aim at the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner and explained that she engaged outside forensic expertise to address her concerns about the coroner’s procedures and report.
Numerous written communications with the coroner’s office have begun addressing these concerns. Last week, a coroner’s department Special Operations Response Team, or SORT, crew was scheduled to return to the site in a steep Malibu Canyon ravine where Richardson’s remains were found 11 months after she mysteriously disappeared in September 2009, but the recent series of powerful winter storms made accessing the terrain difficult until the area dries out.
The press conference was also another opportunity for Sutton to keep the attention of the mainstream media on the African-American honors college graduate and beauty pageant competitor who may have been in the throes of a bipolar episode when she spent several days in her car in Malibu.
Richardson went missing after being booked at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station on Sept. 16, 2009, for alleged nonpayment of a Malibu restaurant tab, at which time she reportedly was acting bizarrely, and was determined to be in possession of a minimal amount of marijuana, even though both allegations are field-citable offenses.
Richardson was released the next morning shortly after midnight, alone, without her car, which had been taken to the Malibu impound lot, her purse, or her cell phone, in the remote industrial area where the Lost Hills Station is located.
Eleven months later, park rangers stumbled upon her partially skeletonized and mummified remains on a routine reconnaissance of a former marijuana grove less than eight miles from Lost Hills in an area where neighbors think growing still may be taking place. According to the county coroner’s official report, the cause of death could not be determined from Richardson’s remains.
A dispute over the mishandling of those remains between the coroner’s office and the LASD is currently under investigation by a joint agency task force and the Office of Independent Review, the ostensible watchdog over sheriff’s department practices.
Sutton expressed hope that the OIR will also reopen issues she said were ignored when the OIR issued a report in July that concluded that deputies at the Lost Hills Station treated Richardson “properly and legally.”
Sutton has said the mishandling of the remains, which LASD now acknowledges after publicly denying it, compromised the county coroner’s office ability to evaluate the remains, and she involved Clea Koff with the nonprofit Missing Persons Identification Resource Center to do a private evaluation before her daughter was buried.
Now, four months later, this evaluation is said to provide grounds for Sutton’s request to county Chief Medical Examiner Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran to approve exhumation and extensive retesting and new testing of her daughter’s remains.
Sutton said that among the procedures she has requested is a craniotomy, which involves surgical opening of the skull for detailed examination, noting that a “defect” on the woman’s skull that was not discovered by the coroner’s team might be an indication of a sharp blow to the head.
Also deemed important is that the woman’s hyoid bone, a neck vertebra, is missing. The hyoid is a horseshoe-shaped bone in the anterior midline of the neck. Due to its position, it is not usually susceptible to fracture. When murder is suspected, a fractured hyoid might indicate choking or strangulation.
Because the hyoid is not articulated, careless handling of remains might have led to it being dropped or otherwise lost.
That Richardson was strangled is a hypothesis shared by several residents of the Monte Nido area who say they heard cries for help from a residence in the vicinity and a possible stifling or muffling of a cry that they fear might have been Richardson’s last breath.
Another aspect of the coroner’s findings questioned by the mother’s research team is the separate batch of hair found with the remains that wasn’t x-rayed. Koff said she found jewelry and artifacts in the hair that may or may not even be Richardson’s.
The private analysis also raises questions about the handling of the articles of clothing found in the vicinity of the remains, including Richardson’s unzipped jeans, her unhooked bra and unbuckled belt. Not found so far are her two shirts, tennis shoes, underpants or hat.
While some county officials have said they surmise that wild animals removed the clothing, or flowing floodwater had taken it off the body, both explanations were quickly refuted.
The Malibu Surfside News corroborated the week after the remains were found that the clothing was in good condition and showed no signs of animal shredding to get at human tissue.
As for flooding removing articles of clothing from a body, Koff, who has a master’s degree in forensic anthropology and has done field work for the United Nations international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, displayed sketches that showed extreme flexion of woman’s left arm, which would have made removal of upper body attire virtually impossible.
It is also asserted that LASD detectives mishandled not only the skeletal remains but also the clothing, as they never sent it to the sheriff’s department’s own highly ranked crime lab for DNA sampling and other testing.
Indeed, the detectives appear to have thought so little of the clothing as evidence that they didn’t even know where it was until Sutton informed them it had been left in the body bag with Richardson’s remains and given to her. Sutton has stored the items in a specially controlled environment for future analysis, which she wants done by the FBI.
Koff also questioned why the dead woman’s pubic hair had not been combed for fibers and unidentified hair samples.
There are other issues related to inadequate assessment of teeth anomalies, such as possible pink discoloration. Also being recommended is collection and analysis of leaves and organic matter embedded in the separate hair.
Similarly sought is collection and analysis of pupae casings. Koff asserts that the casings from which maggots hatch that were found on the remains were never tested to determine if the insects were consistent with the area where the remains were found.
This could be important as there has been ongoing conjecture that Richardson was killed somewhere else, stored at that or another location, then moved to the Malibu Canyon area site.
Sutton and a close circle of supporters are scheduled to meet with Sheriff Baca at his office on Dec. 29.
At her press conference, Sutton said, “Baca may not have all the information he should have about this case.” She said, “He was surprised to learn her clothing was never analyzed,” which prompted Sutton to inquire, “What else is he not being briefed on?”
Repeated often throughout the Monday briefing was the refrain, “Mitrice has a lot to say.” Her family is determined to make certain that people listen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fish and Game to Vote on Plan to Create MPAs per 1999 State Law

• Opponents of Malibu Proposal Continue to Roil the Waters and Vow to Fight Any Fishing Curbs

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


After two years of discussion and spirited debate, the California Department of Fish and Game Commission will be voting this week in Santa Barbara on the state-mandated plan to create 35 new Southern California Marine Protected Areas to meet the requirements of the Marine Life Protection Act, which was passed by California legislators in 1999.
The Final Environmental Impact Report for the project, released last week, states that the network of Marine Protected Areas proposed for the Southern California Coast from Point Conception to the Mexican border is compliant with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act and will not have a negative impact on the environment or people of California.
After extending the comment period for an additional 15 days, the Department of Fish and Game has approved the Final Environmental Impact Report for the South Coast Region’s Marine Life Protection Act’s Implementation Plan with only minor changes from the draft version.
The massive report, which incorporates thousands of pages of findings, including more than 1000 letters from hundreds of agencies, organizations and individuals, received only minor changes from the draft EIR released in August.
Although the FEIR examines all five MLPA alternatives, ranging from maintaining the status quo through various stakeholder group proposals developed during the MLPA implementation process, observers say that a version of the final Integrated Preferred Alternative, or IPA, is expected to be adopted at the meeting.
In Malibu, the IPA includes a State Marine Reserve, the highest level of protection, for the waters from just west of Paradise Cove to Point Dume, and a State Marine Conservation Area—the next level of protection—for the area between Point Dume and Zuma creek.
The Malibu 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,” according to the FEIR.
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 Malibu 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.” At the SMCA, “the take of all living marine resources is prohibited except the recreational take of pelagic finfish, Pacific bonito and white sea bass by spearfishing. The commercial take of coastal pelagic finfish by pelagic round haul nets; market squid by pelagic round haul nets; market squid by dip net; and swordfish by harpooning,” according to the FEIR process.
The proposed Point Dume SMR has drawn vociferous opposition from the sport fishing community.
The FEIR addresses the concern raised by the United Anglers of Southern California that the Point Dume MRA will eliminate kayak fishing activities at Paradise Cove. “Point Dume is one of the most weather and wave protected areas in the SCSR,” one letter states. “The Paradise Cove area has been a long time very popular fishing area due to the protected waters in the lee of Point Dume. The area to the west is also very important waters and considerable economic pain to many stakeholders results at that end,” another letter, signed by UASC President Steven Fukuto, says. “This area is the area of operation of two kayaking fishing schools.”
“Point Dume rocks represent one of the premiere spearfishing experiences in the world,” wrote Fukoto. “The promontory at Point Dume is frequently visited by yellowtail, white seabass, bonito and occasionally bluefin tuna. The public parking lot provides a rare opportunity for the shore-based diver easy swimming distance access to this opportunity. A diver can pull off the Pacific Coast Highway, park, suit up, and swim to the rocks in altogether about 15 to 20 minutes. It is an experience that the divers very dearly do not want to lose.”
The FEIR suggests that there are other alternatives. “While Point Dume [offers] protected areas for such fishing, other areas in the SCSR could accommodate these fisheries that are equally available, accessible, and protective; however, it not possible to predict where fisherman would choose to relocate. If fisherman are displaced to less protected waters, potential hazards may be present. However, such hazards may not represent adverse significant impacts if mitigation such as proper equipment and precautions are used.
The FEIR also states that fishing is a privilege, not a right.
“The so-called ‘right to fish’ is neither absolute nor fundamental, but has been characterized by the courts as only a ‘privilege’ or a ‘qualified right’ subject to the Legislature’s regulation of fishing,” the FEIR states. “The California Supreme Court has long declared that the power to regulate fishing has always existed as an aspect of the inherent power of the Legislature to regulate the terms under which a public resource may be taken by private citizens.”
Comments in the FEIR by California Coastal Commission staff also addressed access issues. raised during the stakeholder phase of the MLPAI process.
“ It is the Commission staff’s understanding that the proposed designation of state
marine reserves and state marine conservation areas in southern California would in no way impede or limit the ability of the public to access, enter, transit or visit coastal areas including beaches, intertidal areas and nearshore and offshore waters,” wrote Cassidy Teufel, a CCC Coastal Program Analyst.
“In many locations the designation of state marine reserves and state marine conservation areas will serve to encourage the visitation and non-consumptive recre“ Cassidy Teufel, a CCC Coastal Program Analyst, wrote “Non-consumptive recreational activities such as beach visitation, wildlife viewing, surfing, diving, kayaking and boating will not be restricted or prohibited from occurring within any of the marine protected areas currently being considered.”
Readers can check the Malibu Surfside News online Thursday for an update on the meeting’s outcome at www.malibusurfsidenews.com. Video of the entire meeting is available at www. dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/meetings_sc.asp

City Staff Fundraising without Express Council Approval Stopped

BY BILL KOENEKER


Malibu Knolls resident Steve Uhring returned to Malibu City Council chambers this week, saying he was still looking for an answer to his question about what city council members thought about the staff raising funds without their approval.
Uhring had come to the city council’s previous session and said he had heard staff fundraising was underway.
Uhring emphasized he did not think anybody was on the take and was quick to point out he thought everybody on the staff and city council was beyond reproach, but thought the fundraising by municipal employees was a bad idea.
Council members were mum on the subject and had turned to the city manager for an explanation.
Uhring said this week he wanted to hear from the council.
“This is a train wreck waiting to happen,” said Uhring two weeks ago. He said no matter how honest everyone in the Malibu government is now, down the road there could always be the possibility of temptation or abuse.
“I’ll ask again, ‘Are the city staff allowed to raise funds without city council approval?” he said.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said there is nothing that allows nor prohibits the city manager from soliciting monies.
He said there was no meeting where the city council took any kind of action on the matter.
Mayor Jefferson Wagner said he thought Uhring raised a good point. “We have no direction here. We are adrift,” he said.
Whereupon City Manager Jim Thorsen spoke up. “I have to agree with Mr. Uhring. It is not the role of the staff to raise funds.”
The city manager said the issue came about after a group of stakeholders involved in the Civic Center septic prohibition wanted to know how additional funding could come about for finishing some groundwater studies. “We did not receive any funds from them,” Thorsen said, but acknowledged there was a donation from the Malibu Knolls homeowners association. “We will be happy to return it,” he said. “We will get city council approval in the future.”
At the previous meeting, it was just after Malibu Knolls homeowner Sally Benjamin reported to the city council that the Malibu Knolls Homeowners Association was donating $2500 sought by city staffer Craig George for a municipal project that eyebrows were raised.
At that time, council members turned to Thorsen for an answer. He spoke briefly about the studies and stakeholders. “It is completely voluntary,” he said.
The city manager added the money was put into a specially designated fund.
That sufficed for council members, who asked no further questions. nor was the city attorney questioned about the practice.

Skate Park Needs to Relocate So Site Developer Can Prep for New Center

• Assistance and Funding Are Offered to Expedite Move

BY BILL KOENEKER


Steve Soboroff, who heads up the proposed “Whole Foods in the Park” shopping center in the Civic Center, announced this week he notified Malibu city officials of a 90-day termination of the agreement under which the skate park is currently operated by the municipality.
Soboroff offered a caveat and said that if the city council wanted to keep the park in its present location, he would allow for the operation of the skate park for another year at no cost to the city. There was no mention of the matter at this week’s council meeting.
“The [skate park] property is sitting where Whole Foods is going,” he noted. “Whole Foods won’t go there if the skate park is there. Skate parks need to be in a park.”
Soboroff, who insisted, “This is not a bad guy thing,” said he is willing to offer his expertise and money, $25,000, to help relocate the skate park. Soboroff, an advocate of public recreation, is a former commissioner of the parks and recreation department for the City of Los Angeles.
The shopping center proposal is at the start of the Environmental Impact Report review, which takes about nine months to a year before there are any permit hearings. “I don’t want challenges then,” said Soboroff, who estimates Whole Foods should be operating by 2014.
The site is located at 23401 Civic Center Way. Planners indicate that the shopping center proposal includes additional community and visitor-oriented commercial tenant spaces, outdoor dining and pedestrian and open space amenities.
The project is proposed for two parcels totaling 5.88 acres on the northwest corner of Civic Center Way and Cross Creek Road where the skate park is currently located.
The proposal consists of about 38,425 square feet of commercial space in five buildings, including a 25,540-square-foot Whole Foods Market building, and 13,878 square feet of additional retail space in four separate detached structures.
Plans indicate approximately 64,942 square feet of the site would be dedicated to landscape and open space, including courtyards, an accessible play area with a playground, a number of water features, and extensive native plantings.
Rather than construct its own onsite wastewater treatment plant, Soboroff proposes hooking up the new center to the city’s planned wastewater treatment plant, assuming it is then operational.
“That is required by the state,” he said, when asked if he was opting for a lengthier timetable.
He said he believes there will be a plant online by 2015.

Council Appropriates $1.2 Million for Furniture and A/V for New City Hall

• Critics Who Fought to Keep All of the Theater Seats Are Proven Right as Money Now Has to Be Allocated for an Overflow Room to Accommodate the Public

BY BILL KOENEKER



The Malibu City Council on a 4-1 vote with Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich dissenting, approved this week spending $1.2 million for work station furniture and audio/visual equipment for the new city hall while at the same time learning that a dispute between the contractor and one of its subcontractors has delayed progress.
In another action, the council appropriated $525,000 from the certificates of participation and $18,000 from the general fund city hall revenue fund for the ongoing construction and improvements at the new city hall.
The council has earmarked $270,000 for furniture, fixtures and high density filing systems and $300,000 for audiovisual and broadcast equipment.
Assistant City Manager and Administrative Services Director Reva Feldman insisted the items were already budgeted and did not represent additional costs.
She said the adopted budget included $5 million for the construction and remaining design contract.
Conley Ulich wanted to know if the high costs of the audiovisual and broadcast equipment had been vetted.
Mayor Jefferson Wagner and Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said, as members of the council subcommittee, they had toured the ongoing construction at the new city hall and had spent a lot of time going over the issues.
The mayor revealed there was a conference room earmarked as an overflow room where some of the broadcast and a/v equipment will be installed.
No one, including Conley Ulich who was vocal on the issue, mentioned about the need for an overflow room after designers had convinced the council to remove seating from the theater/council chambers despite a major public outcry against doing so.
“The overflow is a big issue,” the mayor said.
“The overflow has never been an issue on my six years on the council. We don’t need to purchase overflow equipment. I can support the furniture. I cannot support the a/v,” Conley Ulich said.
Councilmember John Sibert disagreed. “We do need the a/v in the conference room.”
Rosenthal said she did not understand Conley Ulich’s concerns. “Other people can just choose to sit in the conference room,” she said.
Feldman said some of the a/v costs are an upgrade from current equipment, citing an example, to be able to use sound on a/v equipment used during council sessions.
Councilmember Lou La Monte, who said he has the most experience with such equipment, said, “$300,000 is a lot of money, but not a lot of money for this equipment.”
Construction began in August and is expected to be completed by February 2011. Upon completion of construction, the furniture, fixtures and filing systems will be installed, according to Feldman, who indicated the expected occupancy date is March 2011.
The city will be using some of the furniture from the current City Hall space, including conference tables, chairs, filing cabinets and work stations. However, since the majority of the workstations and file cabinets in the existing building are built in and do not belong to the city, the city needs to purchase furniture, fixtures and filing cabinets, Feldman noted.
Feldman touted the cost savings of purchasing pre-owned furniture.
Additionally, the city will require audiovisual and broadcast equipment the city does not own.
Feldman indicated the funding will consist of $5 million in COPS, or borrowed funds, and $640,415 from the city’s general fund, and $18,000 from revenue from the surplus property sale.
The estimated costs breakdown is $640,415 for the design contract, $3,975,000 for the construction contract, $300,000 for the estimated change order.
The council was also called on to settle a dispute between a contractor and subcontractor.
City Attorney Christi Hogin said the main issue had become the subcontractor had not shown up on the job, causing delays, and the contractor asked the council to grant the prime contractor’s request to substitute a listed subcontractor, which the council did.

Two Nurses Added to Reduce Health Services Gap at Public Schools

• District Addresses Array of Concerns

BY JULIE WALLACH


The Board of Education voted last Thursday to reinstate two nursing positions based on coverage and enrollment after a detailed description of how shortages are negatively affecting students districtwide.
Webster Elementary staffs a nurse one half day to one day per week. Point Dume is covered one half day per week. Malibu Middle and High School has one full-time nurse for 1213 students. Juan Cabrillo has a nurse on site three and a half days per week.
Lora Dorn, Coordination Nurse for the district presented the challenges and detrimental effects of decreased staffing. Dorn mentioned that based on staff sending children home needlessly without nurse assessment, many children suffer by falling behind in school.
“The nurse’s main function is assessment,” Dorn said, adding that “nurses can tell if a student needs to be sent home or can stay in school. If a student has no fever and is not vomiting they should be able to stay in school. Staff members are sometimes unable to make that assessment and send children home needlessly. We could see an achievement gap with kids going home when they don’t need to.”
Patel asked Dorn how many calls were made to 911 since the decrease in staffing. Dorn said that one 911 call was placed that she is aware of during the current academic year. Paramedics assessed the student and found it unnecessary to transmit the student to a hospital. The student stayed in school.
While some students are needlessly sent home, others may have a contagious disease and should not attend school, or be sent home until they recover. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease with a new outbreak in California this year.
According to the CDC’s website, “from January to November 30, 2010, more than 7200 cases of pertussis were reported throughout California. This is the most cases reported in 63 years.”
Dorn noted that because of the outbreak,“Nurses have to go through every record to find out if students had pertussis vaccinations before the age of seven, then send home a note to parents to get them immunized.”
Additional nursing time is assigned to schools where there is at least one diabetic student. If there are no diabetic students at a given campus, staffing time is reduced to one half-day to one day per week regardless of enrollment. The assigned nurse may need to leave to treat a diabetic student at another campus.
Nurses assess communicable diseases such as H1N1, chicken pox, conjunctivitis, strep, lice, mononucleosis and hand, foot and mouth disease. Additionally, nurses care for students with over 50 health conditions, including asthma, diabetes I and II, fractures, allergies and various psychological/psychiatric issues such as ADHD, anxiety and depression.
Additionally, nurses are an integral part of child abuse reporting, emergency care, employee wellness such as flu shots and TB test renewals; special education student observation; hearing screenings; medical referrals; scoliosis screening; social welfare referrals; and student health counseling.

Hearing Set for Murder Defendant in PCH Death

• Crash Has Led to a PCH Safety Effort

BY BILL KOENEKER


Sina Khankhanian, 26, the San Fernando Valley man charged with the murder of Emily Shane was in court again last week.
Khankhanian, who pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, was ordered to court last Thursday when he was told to reappear in the courtroom on Jan. 13 for a preliminary hearing, according to the District Attorney’s office.
Khankhanian, who is being held on $3 million bail, is being charged with one felony count of murder with special allegations of using his vehicle as a deadly weapon to commit murder, according to the DA’s complaint.
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum prison term of life with the possibility of parole.
Deputies reported the defendant drove his vehicle off the roadway on Pacific Coast Highway east of Heathercliff Road, fatally hitting Shane before he crashed into a power pole and overturned his vehicle
Shane’s death has spawned a public safety movement campaign for PCH.

Publisher’s Notebook

• December Envy: Don’t Blame Malibu •
BY ANNE SOBLE


The telephone calls, emails, tweets and smoke signals started to arrive from parts far away and very, very far away as soon as the mainstream media, faced with the usual holiday season news dearth, decided to turn a brief spell of summery weather in Malibu into an international happening and gave rise to a colossal case of December envy in nearly all corners of the northern hemisphere.
As Malibu experienced a warm and dry spell, accompanied fortunately by non-threatening doses of mild Santa Ana winds, instead of the hurricane force blasts that inevitably lead to red flag alerts and the mobilization of firefighting personnel and equipment, the photos of people on the beach in summer attire rubbed salt in the wounds of those shoveling deep snow and scraping solid ice off their windshields.
As soon as I could assure all of the irate relatives recovering from hypothermia and vertebral sprains that a series of ominous Pacific storms was now back in Malibu’s future weather picture, the December envy dissipated, or at least lessened.
Winter is supposed to be a test of one’s hardiness and survival skills was a refrain I often heard when I was growing up. However, one of the hunters in the family was fond of saying that bears are only critters that fully understand what winter is all about.
Somewhere along the way, hardiness became synonymous with out-and-out misery. Still, there has to be something positive that’s derivable from inclemency, otherwise would there be anyone left in parts of the world that experience snow, floods, tornados and other meteorological exuberance? The fact is the same part of the country that occasionally basks in 80-degree sunshine when others are trying to avoid frostbite has its own nemesis or two.
The people in other parts of the country don’t think about December envy when an earthquake sends anything not bolted down into a state of perpetual motion. Most of them talk about the notion of a potential freeway collapse as far worse than their own snowstorms or other winter-weather concerns.
Similarly, the wildfires that once were the domain of the Western states, but now are occurring in areas that never knew them before with comparable frequency, also are seen as a far greater danger than being snowed in for 48 hours or more until the public agency plows arrive to clear the streets.
So Malibu can wait for the rain expected sometime this week, which might last into next, and know that its arrival will make millions of people who have never been to Malibu feel a lot better about where they live. It may even do the same for those Malibuites who secretly wish for snow on the holidays.

Persistence Assures that Public Education Will Include the Arts

BY JULIE WALLACH


Despite recent deep cuts in arts education throughout the nation, Malibu public school students engage in an exemplary arts education program that includes dance, music, theater and visual arts courses.
Local government legislation, non-profit organization fundraising and grant writing have supplemented the state’s $17 billion shortfall in education during the past two budget years.
Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation’s For the Arts and Save Our Schools campaign; Arts for All; Malibu High School’s Arts Angels; and Stairway of the Stars have either restored or helped maintain arts instruction districtwide.
During last summer, Save Our Schools raised $1.6 million for the current academic year. A portion of the funds was allocated to restoring four art teacher positions.
Amy Loch, Malibu High School’s choir director, was pink-slipped last June due to budget cuts in the arts and other departments. Her position was restored at the end of the summer with SOS funds. Loch explained that without private fundraising efforts, “orchestra teachers with seniority would have been teaching chorus to middle and high school students and elementary school students would have no music instruction this year.”
Community involvement helps maintain arts in local schools during this difficult economic time. Loch said, “Community members are loyal patrons of our concerts. Students have also collaborated with local musicians as well as Malibu High alumni who have continued on with their pursuit of the arts after graduating.”
Arts for All is Los Angeles County’s blueprint for arts education. According to Tom Whaley, the district’s Visual and Performing Arts coordinator, “In 2006, during a wealthier time in the state, our district was selected by the L.A. County Arts Commission as one of five vanguard school districts in the county to develop a long-range arts education plan. We are in our sixth of a nine-year plan to access and equity for students districtwide.”
Part of the success of this plan is orchestral/choral music instruction for all third- to fifth-graders.
Whaley spoke highly of Superintendent Tim Cuneo’s decision to set aside a portion of federal stimulus arts funding for the upcoming academic year, when budget cuts are once again slated to reduce arts instruction. The reserves will be used to retain VAPA’s current programs.
Thor Evensen, a Malibu High visual arts teacher, noted, “High school students are required to take one year of art instruction to meet state university requirements; there probably wouldn’t be art classes without this law.” Evensen teaches six art classes that include drawing/painting, ceramics/sculpture and digital design.
“They [Malibu High] keep it where there are only two fine arts teachers to keep costs down, so when other schools are hit with budget cuts we can still offer classes.” Evensen added, “We have a strong art department in Malibu because of strong parent involvement and donations to Arts Angels.”
Benefits in retaining arts programs throughout the district are displayed throughout the year at various theatrical, orchestral and choral shows. This fall, Malibu students have performed in shows such as “Cabaret,” an annual Arts Angels fundraising event; “Radium Girls,” D.W. Gregory’s drama; and a wind ensemble and jazz band concert.
Five singers from Malibu Middle and High School will perform at the National Honor Choirs in Chicago next spring. Upcoming performances include the 62nd annual Stairway of the Stars, a districtwide music event; a spring semester musical at Malibu High and various holiday choir and orchestra events.
“Arts Education provides a place where students can learn the creative process,” Loch said. “Students develop skills of critical and creative thinking, problem solving, self discipline, and collaboration. The arts provide a way for students to express emotion as well as learn to empathize with their classmates, their community and the global community.”

Veto of State Special Education Bill Could Cost School District Millions

BY JULIE WALLACH


Gov. Schwarzenegger cut $133 million statewide in funding for mental health services to students with severe emotional issues by vetoing California Assembly Bill 3632.
The Special Education Pupils Program, or AB 3632, was adopted in 1984 to “transfer responsibility for providing mental health services to special education pupils from school districts to county mental health departments,” according to the State of California’s website.
Services covered under AB 3632 include individual and group therapy, crisis counseling, case management and residential placement.
According to Jan Maez, the district’s chief financial officer, SMMUSD could see a cost of up to $4 million per year, with 19 district students needing coverage at $170,000 per student covered annually.
Ben Allen, vice president of the board explained, “The severity of potential cost is so high and could very adversely affect the district.” Allen urged the board to contact state government officials and organize an advocacy campaign.

City Council Decides to Terminate Its Outside PR Firm’s Contract

• Members Approve Creating an In-House Position

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council’s Communications-Public Relations Ad Hoc Committee told members this week they were recommending the current public relations firm not be hired next year and instead the council should create an in-house position, among other recommendations. The council concurred and directed the staff to come up with a job description for a “professional, experienced,” communications specialist.
The ad hoc panel is comprised of Councilmembers Lou La Monte and Laura Rosenthal, who were tasked by the full council with examining the communications strategies and plans for the city.
Rosenthal said a specialist or public information officer could help the city to better get its message out while at the same time exercising more control.
La Monte agreed, “We need to take control of our message.”
The subcommittee also advised that council members get more out into the community and attend all of the events, which could be tracked by an official municipal calendar.
The ad hoc council panel started in June and examined a wide array of issues.
The pair looked at other cities, including Santa Monica, Calabasas and West Hollywood in their efforts to investigate various communication policies and plans. The ad hoc panel also talked to residents, business owners, and media representatives, according to a power point presentation they made to the council.
One of the major recommendations to come out of the committee’s report is that the council not renew the contract of Fiona Hutton & Associates, which is due to expire this month.
La Monte and Rosenthal have emphasized that they wanted to look at all kinds of communications not just public relations.
During their presentation they talked about how they looked at emergency communications, public relations and the perception of Malibu by the county, state and world, then took a long, hard look at the city’s public information plan.
Some of the objectives the ad hoc panel said it hopes to accomplish are improved efficiency and cost savings for the city.
The Hutton contract was for $8000 per month, which could translate into a $96,000 annual salary for an in-house position.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said he did not issue the Request for Proposal originally sought by the city council for a public relations contract.
“I did not put out the RFP. I knew this was coming forward,” he said.
In describing the city’s communications challenges, the pair talked about geographical constraints of the city, the number of part-time residents, budgetary constraints and the fact there is no in-house staff. Another challenge is the “historic mistrust of government.”
La Monte and Rosenthal also insisted they could readily see the opportunities since there are inexpensive methods that can be employed using social media, the interests of the council and staff in getting the message out, a perception there is an openness to creative ideas which can lead to creating a funding plan and the fact that “Malibu can sell itself.”
The committee offered a laundry list of tools it wants to consider. They mentioned email based systems, social media, community leader outreach, media relations, promotion of commissions and committees, public service announcements, putting together a coordinated calendar, smart phone applications, expanded city television programming, mailers, newsletters, interactive websites, news releases and op ed pieces.
Both Councilmembers John Sibert and Pamela Conley Ulich were quick to point out they agreed on the need for a calendar.
BY BILL KOENEKER