Malibu Surfside News

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

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Malibu Mayor’s Gavel Changes Hands

• Largely Ceremonial Post Rotates According to Formula

BY BILL KOENEKER


The outgoing mayor of Malibu handed over the gavel to the incoming mayor this week when the Malibu City Council conducted what is traditionally called its reorganization meeting.
Outgoing Mayor Jefferson Wagner stepped down so that incoming Mayor John Sibert could take over the largely ceremonial duties of the office.
The positions are rotated every 9.6 months and while there is an “official” vote, the top two positions mayor and mayor pro tem are usually rotated. Councilmember Laura Rosenthal was tapped as mayor pro tem.
Sibert said, during his incoming remarks, that he wanted his tenure earmarked by “reasonable people, who can disagree reasonably.”
He said that he thought collegiality is important for the conduct of the council, the public and the administration of the city.
Sibert ticked off a list of the accomplishments of “not just this past city council, but during the last few years.”
The incoming mayor said the city was able to build Legacy Park, Trancas Park, Las Flores Park, take on the remodeling of the library and purchase and remodel a new city hall, while at the same time keeping a double A bond rating and maintaining $9.5 million in reserves.
“However, there is a lot to be done,” said Sibert, citing the need for the proposed master plan for safety improvements on Pacific Coast Highway. He noted that safety issues are still foremost for the city.
Sibert said he thought the city was turning the corner on what he called the “dogma” that the city has been dragging its heels on water quality issues and environmental concerns.
“We are doing a better job that any other city in California,” Sibert said. “Maybe if we get past that we can work things out with the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the folks that keep suing us, I think wrongly.”
The incoming mayor said another issue the city has to tackle is the “older youth of the city.” He said there is just not that much offered to older teens in Malibu.
“Having said all of that, there are clouds on the horizon. The state has a lot of red ink, which it will share with the county. The county will share the red ink with us. We may be doing well, but as [Los Angeles County] Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said, ‘We are one disaster away from bankruptcy.’”
During the coming year, Sibert said he would take the advice of his Marine Corps drill sergeant, who said, “It is important to know when to charge, and it is important to know when to duck. I don’t think I have always done that. We need to learn to do that.”
Wagner agreed there is still much to do and said he hoped by the time he left office work would have started on a Civic Center wastewater treatment plant and that there would be a viewshed ordinance in place. “It is something you asked us for and the council is working on it,” he added.
“One proud moment after 10 years is a [finished] working trails map,” the outgoing mayor said.
Wagner said he also wanted to acknowledge the staff and the work they do at City Hall. “You do have a decent staff,” he said.
Wagner said he also learned a lot about the economy of the city. He added he thought there was a more relaxed feeling at City Hall. “Thank you for the honor of letting me sit here,” he concluded.
The 9.6-month term was changed to avert a potential political crisis several years ago when both former Councilmember Andy Stern and Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich thought they should be inducted as mayor.
A compromise was reached when then Councilmember Sharon Barovsky suggested that the time served as mayor be reduced from the traditional one-year term to 9.6 months. She offered to serve a shorter term in order to keep the time frame in sequence.
All parties agreed, with Conley Ulich rotated into the mayoral office first, then Stern assuming the post after 9.6 months, then Barovsky.

Tree Maintenance Plan Proves to Be a Costly Municipal Undertaking

• Inventory of City’s Trees Is Complete n But Funds for Work Will Have to Wait

BY BILL KOENEKER


An impressive data program created by a consulting firm to keep track of the city’s trees was shown to the Malibu City Council at its meeting this week.
The council was scheduled to get an update on the fledgling tree maintenance program that has just got off the ground.
There are 7398 trees owned by the city either in parks or municipal right-of-ways, according to the consultant, who said they also counted 118 stumps, which are considered hazards.
The council was being asked to discuss putting together a budget for the next fiscal year for the actual maintenance of the trees.
The urban forestry consulting firm hired to do a tree inventory created a computer database for each tree that includes a photo, GPS location, assessment of the tree, current health, size and recommendation on how it should be trimmed or pruned and priority ranking or its urgency for attention, reported it would cost over $58,000 to carry out the first-time needed maintenance.
Just doing the most urgent pruning, trimming or removal would cost an estimated $29,000 or more.
Malibu Country Estates resident Marilyn Santman, who years ago had asked the city to start maintaining its trees, said she thought that was a lot of money.
She also suggested maybe the data program could be used in an expanded version, if the city enacts a view preservation ordinance.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said she wanted to find a way to pay for the program, such as instituting fees on the many new parking spaces created in the Civic Center at Legacy Park. “Why not do that?” she asked.
Other council members praised the data program, but hesitated to talk about the costs.
The council took no further action on the matter, but understood that the staff would prepare some kind of budget allocation for their approval for the next fiscal year.
The staff has urged the start-up of the program since unmaintained trees can end up to be a liability for the city and can present hazards.
Now that an inventory is done, the second phase of the process is to develop a tree maintenance plan and schedule based upon the tree’s priority ranking and the city’s available budget to perform the work.

Updated City of Malibu Trails Map Slated to Air

• Planning Commission to Review Updated Staff Report

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to review and make a recommendation at its meeting next week whether to include the city’s updated Parkland and Trails Systems Map into the Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan and General Plan Open Space and Recreation Element.
Staff Planner Joseph Smith indicated that updating the trails system “has been a work in progress since the Trails Committee was first created in 1999.”
Smith, in a staff report, noted since that time, the committee has worked to produce an accurate assessment of historical, existing and future-planned trails throughout the city.
Part of the idea was to evaluate their connectivity with trails outside city limits. The trails outside municipal boundaries are shown on the map for reference purposes only since the city has no jurisdiction over those trails.
On Jan. 19, 2011, the Trails Committee adopted their final version of the proposed trails map which includes a mix of conceptual and trail alignments and trail names as envisioned by the commission, according to the staff planner.
The map also shows connections to regional trails within the Santa Monica Mountains.
“It was the Trails Committee’s intent to incorporate as many trails as possible into the proposed map with the understanding that some of the trail segments may never be built,” added Smith in his memo to the council.
The proposed map includes 121.3 miles of trails within city limits, which includes a 22.3 mile segment of the California Coastal Trail.
By way of contrast, the existing map includes 35.6 miles of trails and does not include the coastal trail.
The trails are mapped along public and private streets, property lines and bisect some parcels. Including the Coastal Trail, about 2737 public and private parcels are affected by the proposed trail alignments. The existing map contained in the LUP affects approximately 309 parcels.
The staff report also reveals the staff is recommending six changes to the trail panel’s adopted map, including adding Encinal Creek Trail between Pacific Coast Highway and the beach near West Sea Level Drive. “This addition was requested by the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority staff. The lower three parcels along this alignment include a trail offer to dedicate which the MRCA board accepted on Dec. 10, 2010. This trail allows a connection along Encinal Creek between PCH and the beach,” the staff report notes.
The Anacapa View Trail was added along the Anacapa View Drive road alignment. This addition was also requested by the MRCA staff, who pointed out the existing LUP showed this trail and there are several offers to dedicate that exist along the alignment.
An alternate Trancas Canyon Trail was added to the south of the Trancas Canyon Road alignment, also at the request of the MRCA staff who cited OTDs as the reason.
The Wandermere Trail was removed. The trail was proposed to begin at the Wandermere/ Heathercliff intersection and terminate at the Wandermere cul-de-sac. “Staff removed the isolated segment because it lacked connectivity to other neighborhood or regional trails in the area,” Smith noted.
The Escondido Connector was added between the DeButts Terrace Trail and the southwest property line of Escondido Canyon Park—also requested by the MRCA staff.
Another trail deleted was the El Nido Trail. “The trail was located within Solstice Canyon National Park and began near the north city boundary as an offshoot from the Rising Sun Trail. It continued northeast into unincorporated Los Angeles County. National Park Service staff requested this segment be removed because the trail no longer exists. NPS noted that public access from El Nido has been cut off by private development and after the Corral Fire, they decided to no longer maintain it because it is steep and badly eroded,” the staff report states.
At the same time, the commission and the public are being asked to review another amendment for a proposed trail incentives plan that “would allow minor deviations from required residential development standards in exchange for a trail offer to dedicate or direct grant of trail easement.”
“Reducing the number of redundant trails that do not appear to establish connectivity with regional trails could help eliminate situations whereby a property owner would seek a trail incentive for a redundant trail or a trail that does not have connectivity,” the staff report states.
The proposal consists of how a property owner would qualify, if the trail is feasible and a set of guidelines dealing with feasibility issues.
“To qualify for an incentive, trails must be identified on the proposed map and demonstrate compliance with all applicability provisions and required findings contained in the trail incentives plan,” the report further states.
“Findings are included in the plan that establish an overall framework for staff and the approving body to use when determining if an OTD or easement qualifies for a development incentive,” the planner concludes.

Public Input Sought as Search for New School Superintendent Starts

• Outline Qualities that Match District

BY JULIE WALLACH


The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education is asking community members to provide input on the characteristics they would like to see in a new school superintendent.
The board members are soliciting opinions in response to the prompt, “What personal and professional qualities for an incoming superintendent will be a match for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District?”
The information will be used in selecting a new superintendent that will begin work on July 1. Tim Cuneo, the current superintendent, will retire June 30.
Ideas will be heard and information about the search process shared by Peggy Lynch and Michael Escalante of Leadership Associates, the recruiting firm assigned to the task of finding a new superintendent.
Community members can share their thoughts at Grant Elementary School and Lincoln Middle School on Feb. 1 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and at Malibu High on Feb. 2, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. No appointment is necessary to attend and participate in the discussions.
If interested parties are unable to attend the session, but wish to share their thoughts, contact Leadership Associates by email to plynch@leadershipassociates.org or mescalante@leadershipassociates.org (subject line: “SMMUSD Superintendent Search”). 
Faxes can be sent to 949-461-9119, or community members may call Lynch or Escalante at 909-985-7814.

City of Malibu and LASD Seek Applicants for Volunteers on Patrol Program

• Participants Act as ‘Eyes and Ears’ for Lost Hills Station

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The City of Malibu and the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station are seeking volunteers to help the sheriff’s department to keep an eye on things in Malibu.
At the December 13 regular city council meeting, the council approved the implementation of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Volunteers on Patrol program for Malibu.
The council agreed with the recommendation of the Public Safety Commission that the VOP program would provide a benefit to the city’s public safety efforts.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will train prospective VOP participants. The city is responsible for supplying vehicles and uniforms.
“The VOP program was created by the sheriff’s department to allow civilian volunteers to help the department achieve its goals while helping to serve and protect the local community,” a press release states. “As the ‘eyes and ears’ for the department, VOP members help identify suspicious activities, crimes in progress or other dangerous circumstances and notify the authorities for proper handling.”
To be considered for the VOP program, applicants must complete a detailed application and be subject to a background check. If accepted, applicants must complete a LASD training program and commit to a minimum of sixteen hours per month, as well as attend scheduled, mandatory or emergency meetings.
According to the application packet, volunteers must be 18 years of age or older, must live or work within the City of Malibu, must not have been convicted of a felony crime or certain misdemeanor crimes, must have a valid California driver license, must be emotionally stable, must not be addicted to any legal or illegal substance including alcohol, or prescription drugs, and cannot have any physical disability that would create a danger to the volunteer or others while completing tasks. Disabled volunteers could be utilized in specified and designated duties other than patrol.
“We’re looking for energetic people who are willing to put in 16 hours a month,” Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department representative Deputy Shawn Brownell told the Malibu Surfside News. “Shifts would be four to six hours. Volunteers are paired up and sent out in teams,” Brownell explained, adding that most patrols would be scheduled during the day.
“Volunteers on Patrol have various responsibilities, primarily non-hazardous duties, which have traditionally been performed by patrol deputies,” the information packet states. “This program; therefore, allows patrol deputies to perform the more hazardous duties that they have been trained to do, thus helping the department to better achieve its goal of serving the community.”
Duties could include searching for missing children, patrolling the community for criminal activity or safety hazards, conducting school, park and shopping center safety checks, conducting residential vacation checks, patrolling for graffiti and property damage, performing fire watch, conducting traffic control, assisting disabled persons, assisting at sobriety check points, fulfilling requests from city and county services, assisting L.A. Sheriff’s Training Academy role-playing, when requested.
All volunteers in the program will work in teams of two in conspicuously identified vehicles supplied by the City of Malibu.
Individuals interested in applying for membership in the Malibu VOP program can find additional information, including a VOP application package on the city’s website at www.ci.malibu.ca.us

Coastal to Begin Review of Rocker’s Controversial Mega-Manses in Hills

• Subdivision Plans Create an Environmental Uproar

BY BILL KOENEKER


A controversial residential subdivision planned for the hills high above Sweetwater Mesa being shepherded by the rock guitarist David Evans, whose stage name is The Edge, along with other investors, is scheduled to go again before the California Coastal Commission on Feb. 10, when the coastal panel meets in Chula Vista.
Each of the applications for the proposed mansions—some of them planned for over 12,000 square feet in size are “owned” by different entities.
For instance, the application of Lunch Properties LLLP is to construct a 22-foot-high, three-level, 12,004-square-foot single-family home with 629 square feet of storage space, an attached 2128-square-foot garage, and swimming pool, requiring 4800 cubic yards of grading.
The proposed project includes the access road to connect Sweetwater Mesa Road in the City of Malibu to the subject property, involving 10,750 cubic yards of grading, retaining walls and an entry gate. There are two fire department staging areas totaling almost 10,000 square feet, requiring 700-cubic yards of grading.
The Vera Properties LLLP application consists of a proposal to build a 22-foot-high, two-level 12,785 square-foot. single-family home with 2116 square feet of storage space, a 1694-square-foot detached garage, swimming pool and 1595 square feet of terraces requiring 10,700 cubic yards of grading, including a 7800 extension of an eight-inch diameter water line down to the property and to the other four houses from an existing water line in the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District beneath Costa Del Sol Way near the top of the mountain north of the properties.
The Mulryan Properties LLLP request seeks to construct a 28-ft-high, two-level, 7220-sq.-ft. home with a 1398-sq.-ft. attached garage, 3709 square feet of terraces, swimming pool, access drive with two hammerhead turnarounds and 5950 cubic yards of grading. The proposal also includes a 20,000-sq.-ft. fire department staging area, involving another 9400 cubic yards of grading and placement of 13,950 cubic yards of excess excavated material generated from development of related applications upon the 1.88-acre area.
The Morleigh Properties LLLP application calls for construction of a 28-ft.-high, three-level, 8348-sq.-ft.-single family home with a 753 sq. ft. attached garage, swimming pool, two hammerhead turnarounds, and 18,050 cubic yards of grading.
The application of the Ronan Properties LLLP consists of building a 28-ft.-high, three-level, 12,143-sq.-ft. home, 2232 sq. ft. of storage space, 3161 square feet of terraces and a 1762-sq.-ft. detached garage, swimming pool and 16,000 cubic yards of grading.

Land Acquisition Options in Western Malibu Explored at This Week’s Council Meeting

• Plan for Center Parking on the Table

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council this week discussed what direction to take for possible acquisition of two west Malibu properties that were recently acquired by new owners.
The council had created an ad hoc committee to mull over whether to try to purchase a 9.83-acre vacant site known as the DeWind property that was recently purchased by Point Dume Village shopping center owner Zan Marquis and a 6.2-acre property with a residence known as Fig Tree Ranch or Vital Zuman Farm, which was recently acquired by Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
This week the council zeroed in on the DeWind property.
“How about [considering creating a] Bluffs Park West?” asked Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, about acquiring the relatively flat property. “We have one last opportunity to get the 10 acres. This will never happen again,” she said, adding the financing could come from the city’s reserves that are currently at $9.5 million.
“We can work with Zan, who has parking issues. It will allow for parking for employees and give our children an asset,” she said.
Conley Ulich reminded her colleagues that 50 percent of the population of the city resides west of Kanan Dume Road.
Outgoing Mayor Jefferson Wagner encouraged the council to consider the matter and suggested the council authorize the ad hoc committee, consisting of himself and Conley Ulich to negotiate. “Keep the door open. With her passion and my pragmatism, we might bring something back to the council,” he said.
The council also heard from one of the AYSO commissioners who said there is not enough space to practice and there might be a loss of fields if the school starts more programs and utilizes those ball fields.
Some of the neighbors who are just below the site on Bonsall Drive said they did not object to a park, ball fields or gardens.
Planning Commissioner John Mazza, who reminded council members of his fiscal conservatism, said there is money for the park either from the reserve or shifting money from other accounts. “My only rule is buy low. There is no other chance to buy 10 acres on PCH that is flat enough for fields,” he added.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said he would love to buy the property to build a park, “but we have to build a wastewater treatment plant.”
“We need to try to find a way to buy it. Our revenues are flat. If we can find a creative way to buy,” said La Monte, who went on to talk about the potential of using a development agreement to change the zoning and get what the city and the landowner wants.
“I would love to buy this property,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal. “My concern is not [the cost of] buying it, but [the cost] of developing it. I like the idea of a development agreement with Zan.”
Rosenthal said she had other questions, such as would it solve the parking and traffic problems on Heathercliff. “I want to know is everybody really for it? Is this what the community wants?”
“It would be a great park. But it is not just the acquisition of land. It is the cost of developing a park,” agreed Mayor John Sibert. “I don’t want to see it get lost. I don’t want to end the discussion.”
The council unanimously agreed to have the staff research the matter and bring back some answers for the council.
Marquis has indicated he wants to pursue getting zoning changes and other entitlements in order to build a parking lot on the rural-residential zoned property that would enable him to expand the shopping center and provide more parking for customers and employees.
He has also said that he is interested in listening to what the city has to say.
The council had formed the ad hoc committee and also set up a blue ribbon task force to look at both properties when they were on the market as possible sites for future municipal facilities, including ball fields, a municipal satellite library, or teen and senior centers.

Literary Accounts Offer Different Perspectives on Malibu

• Persistent Myths Can Be Perpetuated Even in Works Purported to Be Non-Fiction

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Malibu’s history can be hard to divine. While the seaside community’s fictional glamour is a popular element of movies and fiction, one sometimes has to search hard for realistic-and authentic-depictions of Malibu not only in films and fiction but sometimes even in the realms of supposed non-fiction.
Author Peter Theroux, who wrote an acclaimed 1995 account of the cultures and communities that make up the greater Los Angeles area called “Translating LA,” apparently didn’t spend much time in Malibu. He dismisses Point Dume as “a small prominence of land sheltering a Marine station” during a surfing excursion with a friend.
Theroux seems to have been under the impression that the Point was still a U.S. Army outpost as it was during War War II, or he may have mistaken the Los Angeles County Lifeguard headquarters at Zuma Beach for a “marine station,” either way, the area doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression.
Mike Davis has much more to say about Malibu, although little of it kind, in his 1998 book “The Ecology of Fear,” which includes a section titled “The Case for Letting Malibu Burn.”
Davis, infamous for what has often been described as inflammatory hyperbole and for a tendency to stretch the truth (a well-known critic once described the author as “right about what the forest looks like, but not consistently reliable in describing the trees”) gleefully promulgates the all-Malibu-residents-are-rich-and-irresponsible stereotype.
Readers willing to look past the incendiary rhetoric will find that Davis provides a succinct and entertaining, if questionably accurate, history of Malibu and a wealth of fire-related statistics, including a list of Malibu wildfires from 1930-96, a discussion of the mechanics that drive local wildfires, and an acerbic denouncement of irresponsible development in the urban-wildland interface of the Santa Monica Mountains.
“Stand at the mouth of Malibu Canyon...for any length of time and you will eventually face the flames,” writes Davis. “It’s a statistical certainty...From the time of the Tapias, the owners of Rancho Malibu have recognized that the region’s extraordinary fire hazard was shaped in large part, by the uncanny alignment of the coastal canyons with the annual ‘fire winds’ from the north; the notorious Santa Anas.”
Davis originates one of the most pervasive Malibu fire myths, the claim that in “Two Years Before the Mast,” Richard Henry Dana describes seeing Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit engulfed in “a vast blaze” as his ship sails from San Pedro to Santa Barbara in 1826.
What Dana actually wrote concerning wildfire is not an eyewitness account and pertains to Santa Barbara, not Malibu: “The fire was described to me by an inhabitant as having been a very terrible and magnificent sight,” Dana wrote, describing Santa Barbara’s fire-scoured hills. “The air of the whole valley was so heated that the people were obliged to leave the town and take up their quarters for several days upon the beach.”
Davis repeatedly quotes an author named John Russell McCarthy in “The Case for Letting Malibu Burn,” describing him as a “real estate clairvoyant” who predicted overdevelopment in Malibu.
“These Waiting Hills,” McCarthy’s 1925 book detailing his predictions for Malibu's future, turns out to be surprisingly whimsical and poetic, written by an author who finds “a lasting delight [in the Santa Monica Mountains] and would like to share that delight with others so minded.”
McCarthy does predict that “Homes, of course, will rise here in the thousands. Many a peak, perhaps, will have its castle. Far back from every road, on crest, slope and canyon rim, homes will rise on green estates...Lawns will displace toyon and sumac...”
McCarthy also makes a plea for preservation. “These changes the hand of man will effect in the Santa Monicas, but the essentials-height, outlook, sun and sea will remain,” wrote McCarthy. “Wide slopes of chaparral will remain...gardens of sage will still invite bees. Deer will still feed... squirrel and coyote and hare will follow their ancient custom by day and night. Here in the midst of beauty old and new, people from all over the world will come to live, bringing with them the best thought and custom that their old communities provided. Is it altogether vain to think that, given such people and such a place, a new and better kind of community will arise?”
At that point, however, McCarthy’s prognostication goes slightly astray:
“The airplane will soon become common; may easily predominate within a few years,” he writes, envisioning a time when “green landing fields will checker the summits. Hangers will hide under green vines and trees. Sedate businessmen will ride in five minutes from their hilltop homes to their city offices. Mother will take the kids for a spin before breakfast, out over Russell Valley and down by the sea at Malibu. The family blimp, even, will not be a stranger to these hills.”
Malibuites may not be blessed with personal dirigibles, and “every old tree, sycamore, or oak, or walnut” has not been preserved as McCarthy hoped they would be, but the mountains don’t have the “miles of wide roads” with signs telling of ‘Punk’s Garters’ or ‘Silly Corsets’” that he feared.
And while Davis was correct when he wrote in 1998 that fire would again burn Malibu, the community “where hyperbole meets the sea,” continues to “bask” under blue skies, taking a break from“the relentless staccato rhythm of fire, syncopated by landslides and floods.” At least, for now.

Dining a La Malibu

CHARLIE’S

Charlie DiLorenzo says its time to “do lunch,” so the popular local restaurant will start serving the midday meal on Monday Jan. 31. Lunch at Charlie’s will be where it’s at on Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The menu will feature many of the signature dishes served at dinner or in the lounge. DiLorenzo said, “Our customers have been requesting lunch for a while. Malibu is a small community and we felt a need for more lunch choices for our locals and destination diners, where they can dine in a great room with a professional yet relaxed service.”
For the month of February, other than for the special Valentine’s Day menu, DiLorenzo will offer lunchers “a thank-you plate of Charlie’s home-baked cookies.”
Starters include lobster spring rolls with mustard sauce, crisp calamari steaks with spicy marinara, house chips with blue cheese and gunslinger sauce and chicken wings available in three choices.
Salads, sandwiches, pizzas and pasta selections are plentiful. There is a chopped salad, classic Caesar, pear and walnut salad, and warm spinach salad. Sandwiches and burgers include the club sandwich, grilled cheese, rib-eye steak sandwich and the Charlie burger—char-grilled Kobe beef with applewood bacon, avocado and tomato.
Pizzas are popular at Charlie’s and include the house choice white pizza, a tomato, basil and garlic and a pepperoni pizza.
Classic pastas include spaghetti aglio y olio, penne alla vodka and mushroom risotto.
DiLorenzo opened her “dream restaurant” for the neighborhood in spring 2009 to an overwhelming response from locals and visitors. It is celebrating its second anniversary on Jan. 30 with a special “locals only” party. See their ad on page 5 for details.
DiLorenzo has a degree in design and architecture from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and lends her creative sense and sensibilities to this stylish yet casual restaurant and lounge, which features neutral tones and natural woods highlighted by striking Dolce and Gabbana leopard-print ‘mademoiselle’ chairs and a hand-blown glass chandelier.
Charlie’s is located at 22821 Pacific Coast Highway. Telephone: 310-456-3231.

SAVORY

Point Dume is cultivating a reputation as offering more than one of Malibu’s best all-around lifestyles. It is becoming western Malibu’s most interesting location for fine dining.
Chef Paul Shoemaker’s Savory Restaurant on Point Dume has received rave reviews for its full plate dinner menu, and also is now offering a tasting menu that invites patrons to sample a range of selections, which are not only delicious but a lot of fun, judging by the animated conversations about the cuisine.
The menu changes frequently, depending on the chef’s inspiration and the seasonal delicacies he discovers at farmers markets or buys directly from local growers and purveyors, offering diners new tastes every visit.
A recent menu featured a field green and beet salad with blue cheese and candied walnuts, a rich and nutty risotto of farro—a heritage grain popular in ancient Rome—in a tomato base with Swiss chard and a pungent parmesan; baby Brussels sprouts with butternut squash and chestnuts; delicate slices of yellowtail presented on a bed of leeks with capers and lemon; and lightly seared albacore that was served with couscous, cucumber, lemon and garlic.
The succulent and artistically presented crab cake (nearly all crabmeat) that was served with a masterful remoulade with fine herbs, stole the show with one recent party of diners.
Margherita pizza, made with Savory’s distinctive handmade thin crust, buttery buratta cheese and pungent fresh basil, is a tempting first course or satisfying entree with a salad.
Meat and potato fans can opt for the hanger steak, served with sliced fingerling potatoes, brocollini and spinach and a Bearnaise sauce, or the popular “Juicy Lucy,” a formidable Cheddar cheese hamburger served with fries, which is a restaurant favorite. A recent variation—dubbed the “Bluesy Lucy” substitutes blue cheese for cheddar.
Savory’s desserts are lavish. Recent selections have included a delicate panne cotta with fresh berries, blueberry cheesecake topped with gelato, and a chocolate-brioche bread pudding with coffee ice cream.
Patrons may even hope to be surprised with one of Shoemaker’s creations not on the menu, such as a recent foray into the realm of molecular gastronomy.
A prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu lists shaved apple salad with beets and blue cheese; turbot with market vegetables; rack of lamb with a snap-pea risotto and mint; and sweets.
Wine selections can accompany each course, and no dinner at Savory is complete without a custom roasted and blended espresso or foamy cappuccino.
Savory is located at 29169 Heathercliff Road in Point Dume Village. Telephone: 310-589-8997.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Council Urged to Get Involved in Skate Park Closure and Relocation

• City Was Given 90 Days Notice of Termination of Use of Property Earmarked for Development

BY BILL KOENEKER


Several mothers and their sons came to Malibu City Council chambers last week to ask the council to focus on the pending closure of Papa Jack’s Skate Park.
During the holidays, Steve Soboroff, who heads the proposed “Whole Foods in the Park,” shopping center in the Civic Center, where the skate park is located, announced a 90-day termination of the agreement under which the skate park is operated by the municipality.
“I think it is time to start thinking about this,” said Regan Schaar, a former planning commissioner for the city and the mother of well-known skateboarder Tom Schaar.
She reminded council members how important she thought the skateboard park is especially for teens. “We don’t offer a lot for the teenagers.” she said.
Schaar said it appeared that the city would need to secure a piece of land and that would cost money. “We need an effort at the city council level,” she said.
Another mom and her son talked about how important it is for the city to act now to prepare for creating another skate park.
“With Papa Jack’s closed the shopping centers will become the skate park,” Schaar quipped.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she completely agreed with the speakers. “I want to transition to a new park. I don’t know why the parks and recreation commission can’t handle it,” she added.
However, Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said there was a need to act quickly and she felt a council subcommittee would be the best way to expedite matters. “We need to give our kids a place to skate. I hope Steve [Soboroff] will give us more time. We need something in writing. All we have now in writing is a termination notice,” she said.
The council agreed and directed the staff to bring back an agenda item to form a skate park committee.
When the announcement was made by Soboroff, he told the Malibu Surfside News that he was willing to extend the skateboard park’s operations for possibly another year if the city council asked.
He said he was willing to lend his expertise and money, $25,000, to help the city relocate the 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.
Soboroff said he did not want any challenges at that time. He estimates Whole Foods should be operating by 2014.
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 buildings.

Two Applicants Vie for One Pot Permit

• One of the Potential Site Owners Is the Current Mayor

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu Planning Commission will face a thorny issue at its meeting on Feb.15 when it is asked to consider the applications of two different operators who want to set up shop as medical marijuana dispensaries.
The dilemma is more complicated since the city only will allow two permits at any one time for dispensaries to operate in town and one of the permits has already been issued to PCH Collective, which has been operating for several years.
Another twist to the story is one of the pot pharmacies wants to operate out of a building currently owned by outgoing Mayor Jefferson Wagner, who often refers to his surf shop located there as the “second city hall.”
One of the requests is for a permit to operate Malibu Collective Caregivers at 22235 Pacific Coast Highway. The property owner is given as Michael Magee.
The other applicant also seeking a Conditional Use Permit for Twin Lyons Wellness Center at 22775 Pacific Coast Highway. The property is held in the name of Zuma J’s LLC.
When lawmakers created the ordinance setting out the conditions required to obtain a permit, one of the aspects city council members insisted upon pertained to how many dispensaries would be allowed in the city. The council agreed to limit the number.
The code reads, “Numerical Limit. No more than two medical marijuana dispensaries shall be permitted to operate in the city at any time.”
Municipal planner Ha Ly said it is up to the commission how it wants to hear the requests. “We are presenting them as two separate applications,” she said.
Ly indicated it could unfold much like how the planning panel handled two separate applications for the farmers market when two operators were seeking one permit.
“They heard both applicants separately before they made any decision.” Ly said.
Much of the rest of the zoning code deals with where dispensaries can be located and other regulations. Such as the distance from churches temples, schools, playgrounds, parks, day care facilities and each other.
The code also stipulates a number of development and performance standards such as lighting, security, no onsite consumption, hours of operation and use of the doctor’s recommendation, somewhat like, but not a prescription, for patients to obtain the drug.

Audit of City Finances for FY 2009-2010 Passes Muster

• No ‘Material Misstatements’ Found

BY BILL KOENEKER


The City of Malibu’s independent auditors finished their review of the city’s finances and concluded they found no irregularities and that the city’s financial report reflected accurately the finances that transpired during the past fiscal year.
“In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the respective financial position of the governmental activities, each major fund and the aggregate remaining fund information of the City of Malibu as of June 30, 2010,” stated a letter issued by certified public accountants Lance, Soll and Lunghard.
The accounting firm indicated they looked to see if they could obtain “reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement.”
The firm indicated the audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statement.
An audit, according to the consultants, also includes assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by city managers, a well as evaluating the overall financial statement presentation.
The financial review also tests for the city’s compliance with certain laws, regulations, contracts, grant agreements and other matters.
“ We believe that our audit provides a reasonable basis for our opinions.”
The auditors explain that their review was conducted with the purpose of forming opinions on the financial statements that “collectively comprise the city’s basic financial statements.”
The city’s annual financial report for fiscal year 2009-2010 reflects total fund balances of $29.3 million at the end of the fiscal year, an increase of over $7.5 million from the previous year, due to the certificates of participation issued but not yet spent for the improvements to City Hall, according to Reva Feldman the city’s assistant city manager.
The general fund reserve totaled $26.7 million at the fiscal year’s end. Of that amount, over $1.9 million was reserved for encumbrances and prepaid expenses, $7.8 million was reserved for the improvements to City Hall. $1 million was reserved for Bluffs Park /Landon Center improvements, $1.1 million was designed for deferred maintenance. $4.3 million was set aside for capital improvement projects and $61,511 was reserved for vehicles and information technology, according to Feldman.
The special revenue funds, which account for all restricted monies designated for specific uses, ended the fiscal year with a fund balance of $3.4 million representing an increase of $400,000 from the previous fiscal year, Feldman added.
“The auditors issued a management letter that had no findings indicating that the standards applicable to financial audits contained in the government auditing standards have been adhered to by the City of Malibu,” wrote Feldman, in a memo to city council members.

Leaked Letter Creates Controversy for California Coastal Commissioner

• Author Declines to Comment on Incendiary Statements

BY BILL KOENEKER


A highly critical and expletive-filled letter written by Democratic Party Chair and former state Senator John Burton sent to Malibu resident and California Coastal Commission Chair Sara Wan has caused raised eyebrows in the coastal community.
“Yes, I got a letter from Burton,” said Wan, who added, “I still have the utmost respect for him.”
Burton, who has appointed Wan to the coastal panel on numerous occasions when he was a state senator, criticizes Wan for how she purportedly conducted herself when she was recently elected chair, accusing her of “screwing” fellow Commissioner Mary Shallenberger out of being elected to the position.
The chair of the commission is elected by the other members of the panel and assumes no extra power other than to conduct the Coastal Commission meetings.
Neither Burton nor Shallenberger returned phone calls to The Malibu Surfside News.
Wan said she had no idea how the media got hold of the letter and said the controversy was “quite contrary to the business of the commission.”
Shallenberger is considered a close colleague of Wan’s and often votes with Wan on many issues.
“I still consider Mary my friend,” said Wan, who declined to answer any further questions on why the letter was sent or if she knew it to be true that Shallenberger viewed the election in the same way as characterized by Burton.
Since Shallenberger is no stranger to Sacramento or its politics, the letter, according to some capitol observers, could be viewed as equally if not more embarrassing to her by stating that a seasoned pro such as herself could be “screwed” out of a commission chair position.
Shallenberger began work for the California State Senate in 1987 and was the principal consultant of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. From 1994 until 2005, she was the special advisor to the Senate Pro Tem on policy and political issues related to natural resources and the environment, according to biographical information on the California Coastal Commission website, which states, “During her tenure in the Senate she was instrumental in nearly every major environmental bill that passed the Legislature.”
Wan, who co-founded Vote the Coast, which is a political action committee dedicated to helping the election of coastal friendly candidates, conducted several fundraisers for Burton over the years when he was a senator.
From 1998 until 2004, he held the top spot on the Senate and was also elected to the state Assembly before his time on the Senate. He was subsequently forced out of office by term limits.
In 2009, Burton won election for chair of the California Democratic Party, which he still holds.

School District Staff Responds to Campus Tragedy This Week

• Samohi Freshman Jumps to Death

BY JULIE WALLACH


A first-year student at Santa Monica High School, Matthew Mezza, 14, jumped to his death last Friday at the Sheraton Delphina Hotel across the street from school campus.
According to an email sent to all school district parents last Friday, Superintendent Tim Cuneo wrote, “It is with great pain that we inform you of a very tragic event that just happened to one of our Samohi students. 
“At approximately 5 p.m. today, a student left campus and jumped onto the sidewalk from an upper floor of the Sheraton Delphina Hotel across the street from the school.”
Samohi’s website offered a list of symptoms that could indicate a child is having emotional difficulties that include becoming more withdrawn, increased absences, change in sleeping patterns, poor hygiene, increased memory difficulties, trouble breathing and fatigue.
Other signs mentioned on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website include “observable signs of serious depression, acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, including alcohol and drug abuse, experiencing dramatic mood changes, suicidal ideation and making statements about hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness.”
A more covert warning sign is when an individual who exhibited symptoms of depression or suicidal ideation suddenly seems happier and calmer. According to the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education website, “Many people suffering from depression and even contemplating suicide hide their feelings and appear to be happy just prior to their suicide attempt.”
Cuneo and grief counselors were at Santa Monica High School Tuesday morning to provide support to Mezza’s classmates, and a PTSA meeting took place on Wednesday to help grief stricken students.

City to Discuss Next Phase of Tree Maintenance Plan

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council, at its meeting next week, is scheduled to get an update on the fledgling tree maintenance program that has just got off the ground.
The council is expected to hear about the inventory that was carried out on the trees that are located in the city’s right-of-ways.
The council is being asked to discuss putting together a budget for the next fiscal year for the actual maintenance of the trees.
An urban forestry consulting firm, according to a staff report, was hired to do a tree inventory
and created a computer data base for each tree that includes a photo, GPS location, assessment of the tree, current health, size and recommendation on how it should be trimmed or pruned and priority ranking or its urgency for attention.
The city was urged by the staff to start the program since unmaintained trees can end up to be a liability for the city and can present hazards.
The staff report indicates the second phase of the process is to develop a tree maintenance plan and schedule based upon the trees’ priority ranking and the city’s available budget to perform the work.
“There are many trees located in the city’s right-of-way. These trees improve our quality of life, and in many ways, they are an integral part of the character of our community. When properly maintained, trees can be an important and valued public asset,” wrote Senior Public Works Inspector Arthur Aladjadjian.
“However, unmaintained trees can also serve to be a liability for the city since they may potentially create conditions leading to root intrusions of stormdrains, trip and fall hazards when sidewalk edges are uplifted by roots, falling branches, and impairing site distances at certain intersections and driveways. In an effort to reduce this potential liability, staff identified the need for a citywide tree maintenance program.”
Trees on city right-of-ways reportedly include some of the original Point Dume eucalytus and pine windbreaks that were planted in the 1940s as well as a number of historic live oaks.

Journey of 4000 Miles Begins with Malibuites’ Passion for Book

• Film Adaptation of ‘The Long Walk’ Offers Wide Canvas for Independent Filmmakers

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


In an era of computer-generated imagery and gimmicky 3D effects, Australian director Peter Weir's “The Way Back” is a rarity: an independent film shot entirely on location in the epic tradition of the films of David Lean.
“The Way Back” was inspired by the 1956 book “The Long Walk,” a purportedly true story of a Polish political prisoner and his companions, who escape from the horrors of a Russian gulag and subsequently trek more than 4000 miles across Siberia, the Gobi Desert, and the Himalayas, to India and freedom. Weir describes the source material as “a wonderful combination of prison story and survival tale.”
Translated to film by Weir and cinematographer Russell Boyd, a longtime collaborator of Weir’s who won an Academy Award for his work on Weir’s last film, “Master and Commander,” the story is unexpectedly beautiful and even awe-inspiring.
The Malibu Surfside News spoke to two of the films producers, Malibu residents Joni Levin and her partner Keith Clarke. Levin and Clarke, who are the principles of Point Blank Productions, co-produced the film with Weir and Weir’s longtime collaborator Duncan Henderson. Clarke also co-wrote the screenplay with Weir.
Levin and Clarke have produced numerous TV documentaries on subjects ranging from film history to the life of Dr. Seuss. That background shows in the attention to detail and intense feeling of veracity the film conveys.
No green screens were used in this film. Snow, sand, wind, vast desert and mountain vistas were shot on location. Even the Russian labor camp set built in Bulgaria, a country that still vividly remembers Soviet rule, has a gritty authenticity—all the more so since a snowstorm at the beginning of the film was 100 percent genuine.
The filmmakers say they began the production with extensive research on the gulags, reading records and memoirs and traveling to Siberia. “We had gone to Siberia, met survivors, heard their stories. That’s a weight you carry,” Clarke told The News. “Peter got the bullhorn out [on the first day of shooting]. There were 200 extras in the snow. It was cold. He told them ‘as you work here today we are here to honor those who can’t be here.’”
“He felt a sense of responsibility,” Levin said. “He wanted everything to be authentic. Eight million Poles were shipped out to gulags. They disappeared.”
The 65-day shooting schedule took the crew halfway around the world.
“Peter shot the film sequentially,” Levin explained. “Bulgaria, Morocco, India.”
Weir is no stranger to filming in difficult locations or to the theme of man versus the environment. “Mosquito Coast,” “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” “The Last Wave,” Master and Commander” and many of his other films examine the theme.
In “The Way Back,” Weir again focuses on what he describes in a press release as “ordinary people subjected to extraordinary events and environments, forcing them to peel away facades and peer inside themselves.”
The lead characters subjected to the extraordinary in this film are Jim Sturgess as the compassionate and level-headed Pole Janusz, Ed Harris as the grizzled and enigmatic American Mr. Smith, Saoirse Ronan as an orphan who joins the fugitives, and an almost unrecognizable Colin Farrell as a tattooed and psychotic Russian criminal. The rest of the ensemble is comprised of actors Mark Strong, Dragos Bucur, Alexandru Potocean, Gustaf Skarsgard, and Sebastian Urzendowsky.
The locations are so vivid and so immediate that they too have a starring role, which may have been one of the elements that attracted National Geographic to the project, the organization's first feature film.
Harris reportedly had to find creative ways to juggle a full schedule to accommodate the project. “Peter and he wanted to do another film together [after ‘The Truman Show.’],” Levin told The News.
“Ed added so many layers,” Clarke said. “He’s really grounded.”
In a press release, Harris describes Weir as “Well suited for the story. [The characters] have their pretensions stripped bare,” Harris said. “They live completely in the moment. Breathing in, breathing out, putting one foot in front of the other.”
For Levin and Clarke, “The Way Back” has also been an odyssey of many years and miles. They optioned the novel in the mid-1990s (Warner Brothers, which had the rights at one time, reportedly envisioned a big budget Hollywood adaptation with Burt Lancaster in the lead) and then bought the rights outright, when the option expired. It was years before the film began to take shape.
“Peter saw the film exactly as we did, and we told him we would wait for him, as long as it took,” Levin said. Adding that, when the project finally began to move forward, Weir insisted that it remain an independent production. According to Levin and Clarke, he completed the shoot on time and under budget.
“The Way Back” belongs to the same sub-genre as Zoltan Korda’s 1943 film “Sahara,” Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” filmed in 1940 by John Ford, and even Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”
“The Way Back” is a grim film and there is a Kabuki-like formality to the characters and the fates assigned to them—the audience knows from the start that not everyone is going to survive—but it is also incredibly beautiful in an austere and mostly unsentimental way and features spectacular cinematography that deserves to be viewed on the big screen.
A nuanced and haunting score by German composer Burkhard Dallwitz, performed on classical, electric and 12 string guitar; bass recorder; harp; and synthesizer, augments the film.
“The Way Back” opens in the U.S. on Friday. More information on the film is available at: thewaybackthemovie.com

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Property at Western Malibu Road Experiences Earth Movement

• Cause of Failing Hillside Does Not Appear to Have an Immediately Determinable Explanation

BY BILL KOENEKER


A small slide above Malibu Road has reportedly caused Malibu city officials to “yellow tag” two residences, where debris, mud and rocks are slowly coming perilously close to the dwellings.
City officials, who have been consulting with geologists, have been monitoring the slide for the last several days and are trying to determine a temporary “fix” to stop the debris from coming down the hillside.
No one is saying if the latest earth movement is from a previous slide, where remedial work was recently approved by the planning commission last October.
The slope repair sought by a neighbor on the bluff called for “trimming a slump-affected slope back to slope gradient equal to two to one, utilizing the cut materials as fill and hydro-seeding to stabilize the failed slope, including a variance to exceed the maximum grade cut of two to one for the finished slope and a site plan review for remedial grading.”
Longtime residents say the area has a history of slide activity.
The current slide, which measures approximately 30 feet, has reportedly been visibly active for several weeks.Observers say recent heavy rains may be a contributing factor but are not the cause of the slide.
A concrete drainage swale, retaining wall and a number of trees and shrubs and garden steps have slipped down the hill.
City officials and law enforcement representatives say they are keeping careful watch on the slide.

City to Vacate Parts of Rambla Pacifico after Months of Wrangling over Issue

• Council Members OK Creating Pedestrian Easement

BY BILL KOENEKER


After months of delay, the Malibu City Council this week, by unanimous vote, approved vacating a portion of Rambla Pacifico Road, but a revised resolution provided by the city attorney calls for the city to reserve a non-vehicular access for public use across the vacated right of way.
The Lower Rambla Pacifico Road Owners Association is trying to put in a private emergency access road to reopen Rambla Pacifico Road.
However, a staff report prepared by the Public Works Department insists the city’s road easement does not give it the legal right to sell its easement, transfer the easement to other parties, or even retain some municipal rights of the roadway for a trail easement.
Hogin said, the recommendation adopted by the council was “slightly different. We want to keep a trail easement. ROA is going to give us the trail easement for a non-vehicular trail.”
Attorney Alan Block, who said he represented the La Costa Property Owners Association said he was told the ROA does not have any insurance for road movement or slippage.
“The property owners do not oppose construction, but oppose construction on their property,” Block said.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said she thought it was a great addition that the city was keeping a pedestrian easement.
“It has been a long road, I’m glad we are reaching the end of this,” noted Councilmember Lou La Monte.
The vacation action, or rather inaction, was marked by fits and starts with the various hearings being scheduled and postponed for the last several months.
The ROA had pleaded with the city to not take action on vacating a portion of the road until they were finished with the roadwork.
The ROA had stumbled into several legal roadblocks and the evidence of who owned what on the easements and underlying easements complicated matters for the ROA and the city.
Monday night, Hogin acknowledged that various parties had raised concerns about ownership of the property owners’ easements and the ownership interests of the ROA. “It is still ongoing,” said Hogin, but said that claims that the road easements would revert to the adjacent property owners appeared to not be true.
“It is unfolding as the ROA said it would,” the city attorney added.

Council Vetoes Continued Funding for Point Shuttle

• Transit Money Is Usable Elsewhere

BY BILL KOENEKER


Calling it “the ghost shuttle,” Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich successfully urged her colleagues at this week’s Malibu City Council meeting to not spend any more money on the Point Dume nature shuttle.
It has sometimes also been called the “van to nowhere,” since its function is to transport folks from Westward Beach Road to the top of the Point Dume Headlands.
Public Works Director Bob Brager acknowledged that ridership is very low and the cost per person per ride averages about $67 for the short trip.
“We should not renew the [$54,600] contract,” said Conley Ulich. “It is a ghost shuttle.”
Council members briefly discussed the matter and were most concerned whether they would lose the transportation funding, if they terminated the contract for the shuttle. They were assured the money could be used for some other kind of transportation that would move riders from one end of Malibu to the other.
“Nobody here thinks we should do this,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who wanted to know why the staff recommended the council approve the contract for another year
“We have to give notice to the contractor and the California Coastal Commission and State Parks,” said City Manager Jim Thorsen. “The public works commission was charged with looking at it. But we can terminate it now. There is limited use of the Prop A funds, but they will still be there and won’t go away.”
Members said they wanted a council subcommittee to look into the matter and the city manager said he would bring back an agenda item to form the panel.
Almost 11 years ago, the city entered into a settlement agreement with the Coastal Commission and the state Department of Parks and Recreation, which ended litigation over access to the Point Dume Headlands.
The agreement required the city to construct a limited number of parking spaces adjacent to the headlands and to provide shuttle service to transport passengers from Westward Beach up to the top of the headlands for a period of 10 years.
On March 10, 2010, the city fulfilled its 10-year, over a half-million-dollar obligation to the Coastal Commission and State Parks to provide the shuttle service, according to municipal officials.
During the operation, the ridership has been very low and sometimes non-existent with some council members, over the years, bitterly complaining about the costly obligation.
The shuttle has been funded by the city’s Prop A funds and that caused the ire of critics, who said the monies could be used for a more useful public program.

School Board Members Weigh In on Governor Brown’s Proposed Budget

• Ed Funding Allotment Contingent on Tax Extensions Vote

BY JULIE WALLACH


Gov. Jerry Brown introduced his proposed California budget Monday, unveiling a plan that will attempt to protect K-12 core education programs.
The budget indicates, “Funding K-12 education consistent with the levels provided in the current year is predicated upon about $2 billion in additional revenues for Proposition 98 that are subject to approval by the vote of the people.”
Proposition 98, passed in 1988, guarantees minimum funding levels for K-14. The funding level is determined by General Fund revenues, per capita personal income, school attendance growth or decline and other factors. This year’s Prop. 98 funding is $49.7 billion.
Brown mentioned the proposition in his budget introduction Monday, stating, “If you look at Proposition 98, you see there’s been a substantial cut. If we go on with current statutes, there’s a cut of over $2 billion. With my program—including the extension of the taxes—schools will be held even at $49 billion.”
Board member Nimish Patel remarked, “I actually like the proposal...it’s about shared sacrifices where we have an increase in tax with an equal decrease in spending. So far the governor has stated that the spending cuts would not affect K-12 education since it has borne a disproportionate share of budget reduction in recent years.
“Basically K-12 will receive the same amount of funding for the 2011-2012 year as we will have this year. Similar to what Brown is doing with Sacramento, I would like us to follow a similar strategy at the school district level.”
Patel added, “Thankfully we passed Measure Y and YY in Santa Monica, which will significantly help in reducing the amount of cuts we would otherwise have to make.”
Tax extensions are an integral part of maintaining K-12 funding. Brown stated Monday, “Since it will take some time to fully implement these changes, I propose to ask the voters for a five-year extension of several current taxes so that we can restructure in an orderly manner.”
Tax rates include personal income tax, vehicle license fee, sales and use tax, all of which have been in place since 2009. Other revenue proposals are included in the budget and would amount to $12 billion.
Juan Cabrillo Elementary principal Barry Yates shared, “I am very optimistic that K-12 schools in California will not face additional cuts from the state for the time being. I believe the governor understands and appreciates the financial blow we have already absorbed and the K-12 schools cannot take an additional hit.”
There are five furlough days scheduled this year at all SMMUSD schools that amount to a $2 million savings.
Yates commented, “The furlough days were helpful in achieving a balanced budget along with cutbacks in services and staffing. Furlough days, if continued into the 2010-2011 school year, may help resolve most budgetary issues. If the furlough days are not continued into the next school year, changes in school staffing will take place, but hopefully not on the scale as we have previously experienced.”
Board member Ben Allen commented, “I’m certainly glad that the Governor has acknowledged that schools have already received a disproportionate share of cuts, and that they can’t sustain much more.  I’m hoping that the stars will align and that the Governor will be able to get his revenue measures passed in June. 
“Needless to say, we’re going to be watching the process very carefully. If the Legislature declines to put the Governor’s revenue measures on the ballot, or if the voters reject them in June, the School District, and all other agencies that depend on state funding, will be in for a wild ride. Let’s make sure it doesn’t come to that!”

Vital Zuman Slated to Remain Farm

• Realtor Says New Owner Doesn’t Plan to Develop Site

BY BILL KOENEKER


The continued speculation about what real estate mogul and investor Donald Sterling plans to do with the purchase of the Fig Tree Ranch currently known as Vital Zuman Farm has caused the part-time Malibu resident to issue a statement through the real estate agent that handled the transaction.
“[Sterling] purchased the property to support Vital Zuman project,” said Realtor Sandra Peltola, who said she represented both the buyer and the seller, Alan Cunningham.
“[Sterling] said he has no plans to develop the property. There are no plans to change it,” added Peltola, who said that Sterling paid $2.5 million for the property.
Cunningham will remain to head up the operations, which mostly consist of volunteers, according to Peltola, who said Sterling liked that concept.
Peltola said the house will be remodeled and Cunningham will live off site. She said she did not know if Sterling, who owns a home in the Malibu Colony, would use the residential portion of the property once it is completed. She said it would probably take several years for the remodel to be finished.
The real estate agent said Sterling approached her since she had the listing, and took a tour of the property.
When Peltola was asked what motivated Sterling to purchase the land, which has been touted as a half-century-old organic farm, she said, “He is a philanthropic person. He does grants all around Los Angeles County.”
Malibu city officials have had their eye on the property since it was known that Cunningham would have to give up the property.
One council member suggested the city could purchase the property and maintain it as an historic farm.
At one time, a municipal blue ribbon task force looked at the property and adjacent acreage called the DeWind property and was asked to make recommendations for what the city could do with the land if it purchased it.
The DeWind property was recently sold to Zan Marquis, the owner of the Point Dume Village shopping center.

Point Dume Assailant Is Sentenced to 24 Years in State Prison

• Count on Deadly Weapon Dismissed


Christian Marcus Verdin, a 31-year-old San Bernardino man, accused of attacking a 45-year-old female jogger March 12, 2010 at the Point Dume Headlands was sentenced on Thursday, Jan. 5, to 24 years in state prison, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
Verdin pleaded no contest to one felony count of assault with intent to commit rape and one count of second-degree robbery. He also admitted a prior strike and admitted the weapon allegation as part of a negotiated plea, according to Deputy District Attorney Pamela Revel.
Verdin was sentenced by Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Michael Kellogg, who dismissed two additional counts, assault with a deadly weapon and grand theft auto, according to the DAs office.
Verdin approached the Malibu resident while she was running at Point Dume State Park. He allegedly was carrying a weapon (scissors or a knife) when he assaulted her. During the struggle, the woman managed to break free, sliding 150 feet down a cliff to the beach below.
Verdin then drove away in the woman’s 2004 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was arrested in April 2010, when detectives from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department determined that a DNA match identified him as the alleged assailant.

Planning Commission to Review Updated Map for Parks and Trails System

• Some Residents May Raise Concerns


The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to review and discuss the updated map for the municipal parkland and trails system for incorporation into the Local Coastal Program and General Plan at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 1, in the council chambers.
The revised map proposes new trail alignments throughout the city. Some of the changes may be challenged by neighboring property owners. Planning staffers indicate that the map will be posted on the city’s website for review by the public prior to the meeting.
In the same manner as is the case with city council sessions, planning commission meetings are televised live on City TV channel 3 and are streamed live on the city’s website.
Meeting agendas and links are at www.ci.malibu.ca.us

AT&T Seeks Tax Refund from City

• Claim Rejected

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council, at its meeting this week, turned down a claim by AT&T Mobility seeking a $99,920 refund of the city’s utility user tax.
According to City Attorney Christi Hogin, who recommended the request be denied, the claim which was received in November, asserts that AT&T Mobility improperly applied the utility users tax to its mobile data services for smart phones, BlackBerry and laptops in violation of the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act.
In a memo to council members, Hogin indicated similar claims were filed with taxing jurisdictions nationwide.
Hogin wrote the claim should be denied for several reasons.
However, local activist Ryan Embree said the city should honor the claim and give back the money since it is mostly Malibu users.
“I think we owe these people their money back. We are screwing ourselves. We can refund it back to Malibu residents,” he urged.
Hogin replied that she was sticking to her legal opinion and if the council wanted to talk about it, they should do so in a closed session.
Council members said nothing and then Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich moved the recommendation and the council unanimously voted to reject the claim.
In her staff report, Hogin cited numerous reasons why the claim should be rejected. One of which is that Malibu municipal law requires that all claims made on behalf of a class or group must be verified by each member of the class.
“Since the claim is being made on behalf of a class pursuant to a settlement agreement between AT&T Mobility and numerous class action plaintiffs, the claim is not verified by each member of the class and therefore fails to comply with the [Malibu municipal code] claim presentation requirements,” Hogin opined.
The city attorney cited another reason for rejection. “Portions of the refund claim older than one year must also be returned as untimely.”
Hogin also noted that where taxable and non-taxable services are combined on a customer’s bill, the entire amount is subject to the tax under the city’s code unless the service supplier identifies the portions of the bill which are not taxable.
“As the service supplier, AT&T bears the burden of proving the proper appointment of taxable and non-taxable charges. The city should not be liable for AT&T’s breach of its duties in collection and remittance of the tax,” the city attorney concluded.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Geography Lesson •

ANNE SOBLE


It’s become obvious during the last few years that the loss of a number of basic commercial services in Malibu has meant that local residents have to go beyond the city’s boundaries to meet these needs. Since they have to drive to other locations for items that are no longer available locally, their general shopping habits have shifted accordingly.
This is Economics 101 at its most basic. If someone is going to spend time and resources at a distant location, they might as well take care of other needs while they are there. This is both efficient and cost-effective.
Still, I think many people were surprised at the extent of the local concern when Pacific Coast Highway between Yerba Buena and Las Posas Road was closed for three weeks.
The commuters to Los Angeles from points north, or west, hollered, but so did the Malibu residents who depend on the big box hardware store and other places in Camarillo. Now that I think about it, I have bumped into someone I know nearly every time I have gone up there.
And, of course, there are the local fashionistas who hit the outlet stores. Some of Malibu’s best dressed will acknowledge that their designer duds came at a hefty discount.
When the City of Malibu found itself in a financial bind due to the terms of its property transactions and had to go to a boutique format, rather than the small-town-necessities route, it had to know it was effecting a self-fulfilling prophesy and a commercial sea change.
Many Malibuites would gladly return to their old ways of shopping for as much as possible locally, but once forced to do things differently, the changes will increase exponentially like the numbers on the Richter Scale.
Now that the community is the midst of a real winter rainy season, stores that count on a steady flow of foot traffic and a surfeit of visitors looking for celebrities and wanting to buy a souvenir of their day in Malibu might wish that they stocked umbrellas, slickers, Wellies, tarps and roof patch.
And if longtime local Dick Van Dyke has anything to say about it, they’ll also stock screwdrivers—Phillips, slots, hex sockets, etc. in all sizes. That’s not asking too much, is it?

PCH Issues Continue to Dominate Safety Commission

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Highway safety issues continued to dominate the City of Malibu's Public Safety Commission at its first meeting of 2011. The intersection at PCH and Busch Drive took center stage for much of the session.
“The City of Malibu is in violation of the Local Coastal Program all along PCH, but especially at Busch Drive,” Malibu Park resident Hans Laetz told the commission during public comment. Laetz, who called the intersection “an atrocity,” presented photos of the intersection.
Laetz added that the Bonsall Drive intersection, which has an overgrown blind curve with no space for pedestrians leading up to the westbound entrance, is also a problem, and that the Busch and Bonsall intersections are just two examples of many areas on PCH that he views as not compliant with the Coastal Act or the city’s LCP.
“There is no room for pedestrians,” Laetz said. “That road was engineered in 1945, built in 1947, the City of Malibu has not done one thing except [add] the bus stops and we all know how well those were done.”
Laetz suggested that a double signal, like the one at Los Flores, could be a potential solution at the Busch and Bonsall location. “I'm not a traffic engineer, but time has come,” Laetz said.
Lew Gluesing, the city’s traffic consultant, told the commission that he had reviewed the traffic study for the Busch and Bonsall intersections and visited the location earlier that day.
“Based on traffic data this intersection doesn't have the signal concerns or deficiencies from a safety point of view that I can see,” Gluesing said. He later clarified that the issue he was looking at was vehicular not pedestrian safety.
The commission continued to discuss the rumor that the Department of Fish and Game may permanently close the Zuma Beach underpass at some point in the future. In summer, the underpass offers westbound beachgoers access to the Zuma parking lot without requiring a left turn across the highway. However, Zuma Creek floods the road during the rainy season and the pass is closed for as much as three to five months a year.
“We haven’t had any comments back from DFG,” city public works director Bob Brager told the commission. “I don't know if anyone knows what will happen with that.”
“It’s an important and crucial issue that needs to be addressed,” Commissioner Marlene Matlow said, indicating that it is the National Park Service that wants to vacate the easement.
“Beaches and Harbors is a major factor,” Caltrans representative Jim Riley said.
Commissioner David Saul suggested that the city find out which agency is responsible and invite them to a future meeting.
The commission discussed whether there was room to align the eastbound beach exit with the Busch Drive traffic light and whether increased eastbound access would offset the potential closure of the underpass.
“What is involved in closing down an entrance to the parking lot of the public beach?” asked Chair Carol Randall.
Brager presented photographs of several recent improvements, including new parking signage on Cliffside Drive at the Point Dume headlands and on Westward Beach Road and sidewalk repairs on Morning View Drive
“If it’s in our jurisdiction we need to address it immediately,” Brager said. “We can’t replace signs in [Caltrans and Beaches and Harbors’] jurisdiction, he explained. “If anything is within our jurisdiction—signs broken, knocked down, faded—we can replace, if it’s brought to our attention.”

Perspectives Change on the Other Side of Malibu’s Shoreline

• Ocean Excursions Lead to Surface Adventures with Marine Life on Its Terms

BY BILL KOENEKER AND SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Every year, thousands of gray whales travel from the arctic waters of the Bering Sea to Baja California and back-a journey of almost 12,000 miles. Malibu residents are blessed with a front row seat, as the giant mammals travel down and up the coast from late December until April.
Hunted to the edge of extinction, the gray whale was given partial protection in 1937 and full protection in 1947 by the International Whaling Commission. The eastern north Pacific gray whale population has made a strong recovery and now numbers between 19,000 and 23,000, according to the American Cetacean Society.
Although adult gray whales can measure nearly 50 feet and weigh 30-40 tons, they can be remarkably difficult to spot. However, females with young calves prefer to stay close to the coast to protect their young from great white sharks and the near shore off of Point Dume is a good place to catch a glimpse of one of the earth’s largest living animals.
Whale watchers occasionally spy fin whales, minke whales, and several species of dolphin. Whale watchers in Ventura County are reporting pods of orca in the channel this week.
Later in the year, blue whales-the largest animals on earth-and humpback whales are also sometimes seen. Sea lions, harbor seals, and several species of dolphin are year-round residents.
The annual grey whale migration coincides with peak winter bird migration. Whale watchers often see species like the western grebe—a large sea bird whose sinuous S-shaped neck and bright orange eye make it easy to recognize, or the surf scooter, a medium-sized sea duck with a distinctive orange beak. The scooter, like the grey whale, is a long-distance traveler, heading from the arctic to the southern hemisphere.
The staff of the Malibu Surfside News recently took a trip on the Malibu Surfrider, a 50-foot, open-deck fiberglass boat that launches from the Malibu Pier. A dozen passengers took the nearly three-hour cruise up the coast to Zuma and back to the pier.
No whales were sighted on the trip, but passengers where treated to the amazing sight of hundreds of dolphins leaping and dancing in the water.
Captain Rick Hays provided marine mammal information and some local history, handing around a model gray whale and explaining what to look for, including the “footprint” created as the massive marine mammal submerges and the distinctive, heart-shaped spout, generated when the whale surfaces to breathe.
The first marine mammals sighted on the cruise were the Point Dume sea lions. Point residents often hear this colony vocalizing, their barks and growls providing a counterpoint to the solemn clang of the buoy bell that they regard as their own personal island.
According to Hays, only the alpha sea lions can claim a place on the buoy, although there is considerable jostling for position. The younger, smaller sea lions have to content themselves with basking nearby, flippers in the air.
Nearby, cormorants perch on the pinnacles-the only visible portion of the tall spires of volcanic rock that extend deep into an undersea canyon and are a favorite destination of divers and a serious hazard for inexperienced sailors. A wrecked sailboat on the beach is a visible reminder of the hazards of local waters.
The area has a tradition of smuggling and whaling. Hays reminded his passengers that the Paradise Cove Pier was the anchorage for one of the West Coast's last whaling ships. During the winters of 1934-36 the steam schooner California anchored off Paradise Cove killed an estimated 272 gray whales before protections for the rapidly declining species were enacted in 1936.
Hays said that there has been an unusually large number of squid off the coast of Malibu this winter-so much that squid fishers met the 118,000 ton quota set by the Department of Fish and Game several weeks before the end of squid season-and that the presence of the marine cephalopod means plenty of bird, dolphin and sea lion activity.
Squid weren’t in evidence this weekend. The local wildlife population was feasting instead on thousands of anchovies.
Hays spied bird activity through his binoculars and turned the boat round to investigate. A mile off of Latigo Canyon, the air was suddenly filled with the white and gray feathers of hundreds of gulls, while the sea, sparkling with anchovy scales, appeared to boil with dolphins and sea lions. The dolphins, interested in the boat, swam along side the bows, leaping and diving too swiftly to be easily caught by the camera.
The return journey offered calmer water than the outward trip and spectacular views of the Malibu coast as the sun slipped out from behind clouds in the late afternoon.
Although the Malibu Pier accommodates disabled visitors, the boat launch to access the whale watching boat requires visitors to negotiate a steep flight of stairs that cannot accommodate wheelchairs and isn’t advisable for anyone with mobility issues. However, lsland Packers, the National Park Service concessionaires that operate out of Ventura Harbor, confirm that they can safely accommodate disabled passengers.
Whale watchers, who suffer from sea sickness and would prefer to miss the boat, can often get a good look at passing whales without having to leave dry land. Point Dume State Beach is reportedly one of the best places in Southern California to spot passing whales.
The lookout at the northern point of the headlands offers a comfortable location to sit and watch for whales. Experts often gather there, and most are happy to offer expertise to novices.
Whales often come so close to the Point that watchers sometimes hear the sound of their breathing before they see them. The Malibu Pier offers whale watching boat cruises twice daily on weekends and holidays, through April.
Tickets are $45 for adults, $35 for juniors and seniors. Reservations are recommended. Visitors should check the day of their trip to make sure that the launch has not been cancelled. More information is available at www.malibupiersportfishing.com
Island Packers, at www.islandpackers.com,offers daily three-hour whale watch trips from Oxnard or Ventura. Only the Ventura landing is wheelchair accessible. Adult tickets are $33, seniors are $30, children $24.