Malibu Surfside News

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Talks Might Lead to End of Septic Ban Woes

• Accord Possible on Civic Center Wastewater Plan Design

BY BILL KOENEKER


Discussions between city staff and the staff of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board over the past two months now seem to offer a glimmer of hope that potential lengthy and costly litigation may be avoided and a final design plan agreed upon, according to City Manager Jim Thorsen.
Just several months ago in a previous report by Thorsen, the talks were characterized as stalled with the board unwilling to bend in any direction.
However, Thorsen, in his most recent staff report, which the city council is scheduled to talk about next week at its meeting, held out hope that things were changing.
“At this time, staff believes that there has been progress in our discussions with the RWQCB on the Phase 1 and deep well injection dispersal plan. It is understood that we still need to concur on the ultimate phasing of the entire prohibition area before we can fully complete any of the final plans and [Environmental Impact Report],” he wrote.
“However, a positive response to the RWQCB’s support of the Phase 1 and deep well injection plan and with the anticipation that the RWQCB and the city will be able to agree on an ultimate phasing plan of the entire prohibition area, city staff is recommending that the city council authorize: Staff and [the consultants] RMC Water and Environment to re-initiate efforts to design the central water treatment facility. [The] City attorney [is] to negotiate a six-month extension on the existing tolling agreement that is set to expire March 31, 2011,” the city manager added.
Thorsen said he and the RWQCB executive officer prepared a revised Phase 1 map that is a blend of the RWQCB original phasing plan and the city’s proposed plan.
“Those revisions were shown to other board members and a compromise appears to be supportable for that initial phase,” Thorsen noted.
The city manager insists that approval of a deep well injection system is required to discharge excess treated effluent when no more recycled water can be used. “The approval of this design concept is vital to the city being able to disperse the estimated volume of effluent from the treatment plant. It is believed that without the use of deep well injection, there is no physical solution within financial constraints to disperse the estimated flows. The city still intends to reuse effluent to the maximum extent practical, however, even with recycling, it is estimated that at least 50 percent of the flows will still need to be dispersed through deep injection,” he said.
It is anticipated that if the city receives a nod for the deep well injection disposal, Thorsen went on to say that given the money the city has already spent in the design process, a final resolution of the boundaries and phasing “will need to be reached within the next 60-90 days.”
The city manager maintains a quick resolution of the phasing and boundaries will enable the design team to complete its work in a timely manner without further changes or delays. “It is estimated that the prohibition issues have set back the design completion of a central wastewater facility approximately one year,” Thorsen asserted.
The regional board approved the prohibition last year and the state board upheld the septic ban. The adopted plan stipulates that all commercial properties must cease discharge by 2015. All residential properties must cease discharge by 2019. No new discharge is allowed from any property in the prohibition boundary. The city estimates the cost for a centralized wastewater treatment facility and associated infrastructure range from $30-$52 million depending on size, location and other factors.
Cost for the treatment plant is anticipated to be borne by the property owners through the formation of an assessment district, according to city officials.
The city immediately brought suit against the state agency but that litigation has been tolled by an agreement between both parties, while the regional board staff and city staff discuss the matter.
Initially, the board had shown little inclination toward compromise on what the city wanted to do for adjusting the phasing and boundaries of the prohibition.

Council Considers Audit of City’s Sheriff’s Agreement

• Firm Would Verify Delivery of Services

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council is poised to approve a contract with a consulting firm to audit the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Local Agency Formation Commission agreement with the county.
Lance, Soll & Lunghard, LLP, has been asked to perform an audit of the sheriff’s department “ascertaining that the city has received the proper level of service…and the county has properly abided by certain LAFCO agreements.”
The one-time audit by LSL, which conducts the interim, annual and single audits of the city each year, would cost an additional $14,500.
Municipal officials want LSL to obtain all time records and time cards of the sheriff’s employees assigned to the city for the period of 07/01/09 through 06/30/10.
The audit will consist of selecting a week for each month and the schedule of the names and level/positions of deputies assigned to the city and the number of hours worked from the time card.
For each week scheduled, the auditors are being asked to add all hours worked and verify that the total hours per service units/positions are in compliance and to discuss and document any discrepancies with the contact person at the sheriff’s department. Then, for each week scheduled, add all hours worked and verify that the total hours per service units/positions is in compliance.
The audit shall also select two weeks from the weeks tested (one in the first half of the year and the other in the second half of the year) and determine that total hours to the payroll register and the sheriff’s itemized invoices sent to the city agree.
“Our report should be used by you solely to assist you in ascertaining that the city has received the proper level of service regarding the sheriff’s department and the county has properly abided by certain agreements of the LAFCO agreement upon incorporation by the City of Malibu. The distribution of the report is limited to the city council and city officials of the City of Malibu,” LSL stated.
There are a dozen items the city wants the auditors to look at under the LAFCO agreement.
The purpose, according to LSL, is to test and verify non-affected agency and district responsibilities in regard to the LAFCO agreement and the city.
The auditing firm will verify “that the city is not funding school related activities. or bearing any cost or responsibility of the waterworks agency, verify and determine whether the city is properly bearing or not bearing costs of the Point Dome Community Services District, and verify that the costs for vacant lot weed abatement is not paid by the city.”
The audit will also determine the city is not paying for flood control activities, solid waste management, storm drain maintenance and verify proper amounts the city has received for citation fines collected by the California Highway Patrol, which are split 50 percent to the city and 50 percent to the county. Fines collected from LASD-issued citations are split 89 percent to the city and 11 percent to the county, according to the report.
At this time, the audit does not include any comparison of the costs charged by the LASD to other cities for the same services being provided to Malibu.

Pot Permit Goes to First Qualified Applicant

• Only One Allowed

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu Planning Commission last week, on a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Joan House and Roohi Stack dissenting, granted a permit for the operation of one more medical marijuana dispensary.
At the same time, the commission tentatively turned down another applicant who sought a permit at another location. The city’s ordinance only allows two operating pot pharmacies in the city. Currently PCH Collective has the other permit.
At the beginning of the meeting, when the staff report was being presented to the commission, Planner Ha Ly amended her statements that were in the original staff report and said the city attorney’s office had determined that the permit would be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Initially, she had told the applicants the situation was much like when the commission heard from two applicants, who were vying for one permit for the farmers market at the same location. The commission held hearings for both applicants and then decided to grant the permit to one of the applicants.
However, Assistant City Attorney Greg Kovacevich said the farmers market hearings were very different than what was before the commission now.
He noted that there was only one more permit allowed for a marijuana dispensary. Unlike the farmers market where there is no such limitation of only one or two permits allowed.
He also said what was dissimilar is that the applicants for the farmers market both chose the same location, whereas the applicants for a dispensary were proposing two different locations.
“You can’t approve both. There is no more than two permitted,” he said.
Commissioners were informed by a spokesperson for Twin Lyons Wellness Center, the losing applicant, they would have proceeded very differently if they had that information. The spokesperson said he could not recall if they had been informed about the first come first served basis.
When the panelists deliberated on the first application sought by Malibu Collective Caregivers, whose application was deemed complete weeks before Twin Lyons, House wanted more information about how the two businesses could maintain a nonprofit status, which is required by state law and how that can be verified.
House objected to how the parking requirements were determined for the applications.
She said she could not support it because the uses are not retail. “It is a medical use,” she said.
She was able to garner one other vote for her position. “I agree with Commissioner House. I cannot support it,” said Stack.
The commission spent more time going over the conditions of the application.
When the dust settled, the permit for Caregivers was approved, and the planning panel turned to the second application.
The staff recommended the commission deny the second application if it approved the first one and the city attorney’s office opined the planning panel could not approve another permit.
The commission still conducted a full public hearing.
That was after Chair John Mazza wanted to make certain what were the options of the second applicant after the last permit was approved.
Kovacevich said the application could be withdrawn. The applicant could go forward or ask for a continuance of the item to see if the prior applicant gets appealed.
After more than another hour of testimony and deliberations, the commission ultimately agreed to deny the permit and directed the staff to bring back a resolution denying the request for the operation of a third medical marijuana dispensary.
The matter has been scheduled for the next hearing of the planning commission on March 1 when the resolution denying the permit can be formally voted on.

Carbon Land Acquired to Add to Coastal Slope Trail

• MRCA and County Seek Completion

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority announced last week the acquisition of land in the Carbon Canyon area that will be added to the Coastal Slope Trail.
The proposed Coastal Slope Trail alignment extends from Topanga State Park near Topanga State Beach to Leo Carrillo State Park, according to the MRCA.
The addition includes the acquisition of three full parcels and a trail and conservation easement through the fourth parcel. Two of the properties were donations from owners that the MRCA described as “supportive of creating the Coastal Slope Trail.”
The other two were purchased with Los Angeles County Prop A funds, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s Third District trails funds.
According to the MRCA, Joe Edmiston, the executive officer of the MRCA, said Yaroslavsky’s commitment to the development of the Coastal Slope Trail and the financial support that his office has provided has become the “key to the success of the program.”
As evidence of that commitment, the MRCA also announced that the state agency in conjunction with Yaroslavsky’s office is poised to acquire up to a half-dozen more properties along the trail in 2011.
The Coastal Slope Trail has been a part of the Los Angeles County Trails Master Plan since the early 1980s. However, not until 2007 did park agencies begin to refine the trail alignment and to acquire parcels and easements.
The mostly yet-to-be constructed trail alignment will offer unparalleled coastal views and multi-use recreational opportunities in reach of the ocean’s cool breezes.
The National Park Service developed the current proposed trail alignment. The MRCA has been working to acquire the individuals properties that make up the trail.
The Carbon Canyon segment of the trail is comprised of 21 individual parcels. The new acquisitions, the first public open space in Carbon Canyon, include key stepping stones to completing that segment, according to the MRCA.

School Board OKs Pink Slips for Six FTE Teachers and Five-plus Nurses

• Majority’s Action Reflects Fiscal ‘Abundance of Caution’

BY JULIE WALLACH


Santa Monica-Malibu’s board of education recommended that 11.6 FTE pink slips be issued for the upcoming school year, based on potential cuts to education that could amount from $3.6–8.8 million.
Debra Moore Washington, assistant superintendent of human resources for the district, stated at the Feb. 17 board meeting that the district is exercising an “abundance of caution” and will “engender flexibility for the district and its programs” by issuing pink slips to six certificated FTEs and 5.6 nursing positions.
“Since we have an Ed Code that provides March 15 deadlines, many districts are asking for resolutions such as this,” Washington stated. Specific reasons for the potential layoffs were presented. “We know that our enrollment is slightly down, particularly in kindergarten for next year, which may mean that we need fewer teachers at the elementary level.”
Washington added, “We don’t know whether Point Dume is going to end up a charter and whether all or some of these teachers will be put back in SMMUSD where we have to make positions for those teachers. We don’t know whether our retirements or temporary releases are going to give us enough flexibility that we need in staffing for next year. We don’t know what our state taxes are going to do.”
Board member and president Jose Escarce recommended the board support the layoffs by stating, “If it turns out that teachers need to be put back in other schools, if kindergarten turns out to be lower than we hope, then we do need flexibility.”
Much planning for next year is contingent upon tax initiatives to be extended for the next five years. Parents statewide recently organized the “Let Us Vote” campaign. Individuals are encouraged to send letters to legislators, urging them to vote in favor of a special election to extend current taxes that will expire on July 1, 2011. According to the campaign website, “Without these tax extensions, our schools could lose an additional $5 billion in funding.”
NURSING POSITIONS
Nursing positions reinstated in December may be terminated in 2011-12
As of the Feb. 17 board meeting, 5.6 FTE nurses will be given pink slips in order to “provide flexibility,” according to Moore Washington, who is hoping that an ad hoc committee created to address nursing positions will complete their work and report to the superintendent by April so that they will know “whether or not those notices that have to be delivered by March 15 will stand or be rescinded.”
According to Moore Washington, the committee’s purpose is to find “another way to put more boots on the ground with the same amount of money and provide a broader breadth of service in health services for students.” This could include “nurses, health clerks and LVNs or something else that will help us to provide better services.”
In Dec. 2010, the board of education restored 2.0 temporary nurse FTEs, supported a superintendent’s task force to examine and present alternative delivery models to be reported on by early March 2011, and develop job descriptions for a health clerk and LVN. Currently, 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 and 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.
Board member Nimish Patel spoke of the 11.6 layoffs as a possible “best case scenario” given the state of California’s economy.

State Legislative Committee Aired MLPA

• Pro Forma Hearing Did Not Provide Option to Revisit Plan

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Environmental groups, including Heal the Bay and other Marine Protected Area advocates, are hailing last week’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture meeting as another step toward successful implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act for the south coast region, which includes the Point Dume MPA.
The committee met in Sacramento specifically to review the ocean protection plan approved in December for California’s south coast. The legislators heard presentations from MLPA Initiative and Department of Fish and Game staff followed by public testimony.
The two-hour meeting included a summary of the south coast process, which included more than 50 public meetings, 150 hours of public comments and 18,000 e-mails during a two-year period.
“Agency staff, elected officials and stakeholders testified about the inclusiveness of MLPA planning efforts,” a press release states. However, MPA opponents, primarily from the sportfishing community, reportedly outnumbered proponents 2:1 during public comments.
Opponents who hoped the opportunity to address the legislators would lead to changes in the approved plan were disappointed.
Point Dume is at the center of the south coast MPA plan controversy. The proposed State Marine Reserve extending from the west side of Paradise Cove to the outflow of Zuma Creek and out to the three-mile state boundary will receive the highest level of protection, prohibiting recreational and sport fishing activities, causing an outcry from sportfishing organizations and lobbyists, including the United Anglers of Southern California, the Sportfishing Association of California, Kayak Fishing Association of California, American Sportfishing Association.
Observers say a lawsuit filed by a coalition of sportfishing organizations is unlikely to be heard before the MPA plan is implemented.
Numerous blogs and recreational fishing websites encouraged their readers to attend the Sacramento meeting and to contribute to the lawsuit on the basis that the MLPA process was “corrupt,” and that the science that forms the basis for the MPAs is inaccurate, and that sportfish populations are not declining, but instead are rebounding.
Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro, who chairs the Joint Committee, explained that his committee does not have authority to make changes to the plan.
Chesbro called for ongoing public participation and cooperation as California works to complete the statewide marine protected area network called for under the MLPA. “It is critical that we have ocean users as partners in conservation,” he said.
“I am impressed by the science available to back up the MLPA …Looking at the monitoring results from the Channel Islands, and based on scientific studies from around the world, we know that marine protected areas work,” State Senator Fran Pavley, who represents Malibu, said.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, in a letter to the Joint Committee, called the south coast plan a “balanced marine protected area network that protects the region’s most iconic ocean areas while leaving nearly 90 percent of state waters open for fishing.”
“Southern California’s coastal economy employs more than seven million people and contributes nearly $900 billion to the overall state economy,” Newsom wrote, urging the Joint Committee’s “continued support for the Marine Life Protection Act.”
The MPAs are expected to become official later this year. The City of Malibu will host docent classes next month.

Lagoon Plan Foes Fire Volleys

• Group Adds New Concerns to Its List

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Opponents of the Malibu Lagoon restoration plan continue to raise questions about the validity of the project that would involve using heavy equipment to dredge, re-contour and deepen the western portion of the lagoon and remove the islands and bridges that provide access to the beach through the center of the lagoon. The redevelopment portion of the project is scheduled to begin on June 1.
A press release issued by the opposition organization Save Our Lagoon focuses on what opponents say are serious problems with the present lagoon parking lot, which was the first phase of the restoration project.
“The parking lot was rebuilt in 2007 to slope storm water away from the lagoon and to use crushed shale layers to filter and percolate storm water, but it now suffers from ongoing maintenance problems and safety hazards, in addition to a separate new set of environmental issues,” said David Olan, a lawyer and surfer who frequently uses the park.
“What we’re seeing is a series of broken promises and unrealized expectations,” Olan stated in the press release.
“The State of California spent more than $1.1 million altering the lot to remedy environmental concerns, but the reality does not live up to what we were promised by the plan and its advocates. We are very concerned that phase II of the lagoon reconstruction plan will have a similar result, and the consequences of such broken promises in this coming phase would be far more severe.”
Project critics have harsh words for a concrete observation area that was intended to provide a location for birdwatching and educational programs, but is reportedly described by frequent park visitors as unattractive, uninviting and rarely used.
Picnic benches and tables were also criticized for being located by the parking lot instead of in a location with a view.
Olan points out a pipe protruding from the ground that was intended to be an outdoor shower for beachgoers, but was never completed. He also has harsh words for the park’s two outhouses that he says are frequently covered in graffiti and infrequently serviced.
Olan questions the park service’s ability to adequately maintain existing facilities. “Designs that require extensive maintenance should be ruled out if such a level of caretaking is not possible,” he wrote.
The Malibu Township Council, after lengthy discussion and presentations by representatives from both sides of the issue, has opted to oppose the restoration project.
A letter from the MTC board to California Governor Jerry Brown states that MTC’s board of directors “urge the state to postpone the start of the plan in order to consider alternative plans that will reduce environmental damage of the work required to improve the health of the Lagoon.”
The letter goes on to state that “The use of bulldozers in this sensitive area is unacceptable. There have been several alternative plans put forward, one by an environmental organization as well as a proposal from a resident, which should be considered. We ask that you use your influence to postpone the start of the state’s plan now scheduled for June, until alternate plans can be considered.”

IEP Student Mental Health Services Funding Shifts to School District—$250,000 per Month

• Includes Those in Residential Facilities and Getting Outpatient Care

BY JULIE WALLACH


Last October, outgoing Governor Schwarzenegger blue-penciled a mandate and $133 million in funding for AB 3632, legislation that provides services to students with Individual Education Programs who also receive mental health services.
According to a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District report, AB 3632 funding includes, “case management and payment of residential and therapeutic costs of students in residential treatment, outpatient mental health services to students and their families, and attendance at IEP meetings.”
In order to continue services after Schwarzenegger’s line item veto, in Nov. 2010, the California Department of Education approved the release of $76 million in funds. Those funds were expended by mid-January.
At present, SMMUSD has 15 students at residential treatment centers and 59 students receiving outpatient IEP-based mental health services that require funding amounting to $250,000 per month.
As “payers of the last resort for educational services,” the law requires that IEP services continue without interruption. In order to remedy this, many districts are now contracting with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.
According to Sara Woolverton, director of special education for the district, “The DMH is asking SMMUSD to sign a memorandum of understanding agreeing to pay them to provide services from February-June 2011.”
However, Woolverton indicated that the DMH has “not been able to provide accurate information about the students they’re wanting payment for” and added that “their list of those who currently receive services includes students who had already graduated years ago and siblings of students with IEPs who do not have their own IEPs.”
“Of the 127 students on the list, only 46 were accurate,” Woolverton said.
Governor Brown is now asking the legislature to allow a vote to potentially restore funding for the 2011-2012 school year.
Three lawsuits are pending against former Governor Schwarzenegger.

Documents from 1940s and ’50s Foretold Different Fate for Malibu

• Lagoon Was Once Slated to Become a Luxury Yacht Club and 500-Boat Harbor

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The state park’s Malibu Lagoon restoration plan has focused community attention on the 31-acre wetland and generated fears and a lawsuit. Arguments continue to rage over whether the restoration plan is too extreme and if it will have a negative impact on the surf break.
However, there was a time when the lagoon—and the beach so famous for its surf that it was recently named the world’s first surfing reserve, faced complete destruction.
Longtime Malibu resident Louis Busch reminded the Malibu Surfside News that in 1946 the lagoon was set to become a yacht harbor, complete with berths for 500 yachts, a two-story concrete boat garage for 180 more boats, a 60,000-square-foot clubhouse, 11 acres of dredging and a massive 4700-foot-long breakwater that would have meant the end of Malibu’s endless summer for surfers.
The Malibu Quarterdeck Club and Yacht Harbor development, headed by Edward D. Turner, would have “partially realized the dreams of the late Frederick Rindge, onetime owner of the entire Malibu, soon to be realized with the completion of the Malibu Quarterdeck Club and Yacht Harbor,” a brochure from the 1940s proclaims.
“Rindge during his lifetime had envisioned the Malibu, with its picturesque mountains and unrivaled beaches, as ‘the Riviera of America,’ a dream, however, that he was not destined to see accomplished,” the brochure continues.
Turner saw the Malibu Lagoon as “a site for the construction of a yachting center in the Southland comparable with the famed Miami Quarterdeck Club.”
Cliff May (1909-1989), the architect famed for developing the California ranch house, was enlisted to design a clubhouse and surrounding grounds in a “style reminiscent of the South Seas.”
The plans called for “hand-hewn redwood with aquamarine tile roofing...a 14-foot glass windshield, constructed of specially treated glass and metals, and inverted like the prow of a ship, will be placed atop the breakwater to protect bathers and those dining on the outdoor terraces and in dining rooms.”
The optimistic Turner reportedly built a construction shed to house the heavy equipment required for the project and began work before final approvals from the county were in place.
However, Rhoda Adamson, Rindge’s daughter, who still owned the Adamson House with her husband Merritt Adamson, vehemently opposed the plan, as did William Hubert, the owner of the Malibu Pier, and other members of the community.
The battle raged for over a year in front of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
In September of 1947, Turner began excavating for the foundation of the yacht club. In November he held a BBQ in the Malibu Colony celebrating the driving of the first pile for the clubhouse. Two weeks later he was dead, leaving his stockholders scrambling to retrieve their uninvested capital.
A second effort, spearheaded by Henry Gutman, president of the Malibu Improvement Association, reportedly had the blessing of the county and the federal government in 1966. The 1960s marina would have been easily accessible from the San Fernando Valley. Concurrent plans for a multi-lane freeway through the Santa Monica Mountains would have transformed what is now the Civic Center into an interchange.
“One of Malibu’s fondest dreams, that of establishing a small craft harbor, with all its attendant lodging, dining and recreational facilities, now seems closer to reality,” a 1966 advertisement for the proposed marina stated.
“The county has approved the idea of private financing for the harbor and the Federal Government has expressed interest in the project since being assured space within it for Coast Guard facilities,” all that remains is the lease negotiations with the state, bilateral approval of the over-all project, and completion of the various stages of development leading up to the Marina as planned by the Improvement Corporation and the state.”
There would have been little need to worry about the plight of California brown pelicans, great blue herons or other resident bird species—most were rarely seen, with populations hovering on the brink of extinction due to DDT use. However, the environmental movement had begun and the project met furious opposition.
“Many new and exciting changes are taking place with each passing day in Malibu,” veterinarian Herbert Snow, president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1966, wrote. “The Malibu of tomorrow will be a blend of proud past history, coupled with a progressive and orderly development.”
The Los Angeles Regional Planning Commission that year estimated that the population of Malibu would expand to 117,000 by 1980.
Snow was correct that many changes would take place in Malibu, but the yacht harbor wasn’t destined to be one of them. Malibu’s surfers, environmentalists and the lagoon’s bird and animal population can be glad of that.

Student Starts Petition Drive to Increase County Reward for Info on Death of Mitrice Richardson

• Action Was Inspired by His Eighth Grade Community Service Learning Project at Malibu High School

BY ANNE SOBLE


When Freddy Keith was considering topics for his eighth grade Community Service Learning Project at Malibu High School on the topic of social injustice, he said he “remembered the articles [he] read last year in the Malibu Surfside News about the disappearance and death of Mitrice Richardson.”
The Richardson saga that began in Malibu in September 2009 still remains a mystery and part of a widespread debate about unjust treatment of arrestees, especially those with mental health issues, who are released from Los Angeles County sheriff’s stations without their belongings—vehicle, money, ID, cell phone, etc.—at all hours in what may be remote locations.
Inspired by the advocacy component of his project and concerned about the timeliness of the issue, the 13-year-old decided to prepare a petition to collect signatures in favor of increasing the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors reward “for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the death of Mitrice Richardson” from $10,000 to $100,000.
Keith’s petition can be signed online at www. change.org/petitions/advocate-for-justice-in-the-death-of-mitrice-richardson (and immediately be added to the total signature count there), or the copy of the petition form printed below may be signed and mailed to:
Justice Petition Drive
Drawer MR
P. O. Box 947
Malibu, CA 90265
For full size printer version Click Here

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

MPA Opponents See Sacramento Hearing as Chance to Change Final Plan

• Implementation Continues to Move Forward Despite Eleventh-Hour Fishing Advocates’ Lawsuit

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Opponents of the Marine Life Protection Act’s South Coast Study Region’s Marine Protected Areas say they are hoping a hearing arranged by Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata), the chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, will offer them an opportunity to influence the legislature to modify the plan approved last year
As part of the language of the MLPA Initiative passed by the state Legislature in 1999, the Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture is charged with providing oversight for the MPA Draft Master Plan and can recommend changes, if required, within 60 days of the plan’s approval. However, the hearing appears to be regarded by most as a formality.
The two-hour meeting, which will include a presentation by the California Department of Fish and Game and MLPA Initiative staff on the South Coast Region's MPA plan, followed by public comment, will be held at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 10 a.m.
“This is an opportunity for everyone who has an interest in the Marine Life Protection Act on the South Coast to talk to the Legislature,” Chesbro stated in a press release. “The Joint Fisheries Committee will be meeting its responsibility to provide oversight of the Marine Life Protection Act.”
“It’s an opportunity for speaking directly to the legislature,” Andrew Bird, Chesbro’s communication director, told the Malibu Surfside News.
Bird said that the public is encouraged to express their concerns at the event, but that as far as he knew, changing the final South Coast Region MPA plan was “not what the hearing was about.”
Various fishing organizations are encouraging their members to attend the Feb. 17 meeting in Sacramento to oppose the plan that would place several popular kayak and dive fishing areas, including the area located between the west end of Paradise Cove to the outflow of Zuma Creek, off limits for recreational and commercial fishing as part of the state-mandated system of MPAs.
Many fishing advocacy groups and blogs soliciting donations from recreational fishers to help fund a lawsuit filed last month in San Diego Superior Court by a coalition of fishing interests, including United Anglers of Southern California, who are seeking to overturn South Coast and North Central Coast MLPA MPAs.
The suit alleges that the California Fish and Game Commission “does not have the statutory authority to adopt, modify or delete marine protected areas under the MLPA’s main rule making provisions until it has approved a final Master Plan for the state,” and that “The South Coast study region regulations were adopted on the basis of an environmental review process that is in violation of CEQA,” among other contentions and accusations of corruption.
Observes say the case is unlikely to be heard before the South Coast Region’s MPA’s become a reality in mid-2011.
In the next step towards implementing the South Coast Region’s plan, California Sea Grant has published the official request for proposals for the South Coast Marine Protected Areas Baseline Program.
The proposal due date is Thursday, April 7. The OPC has authorized up to $4 million to support the baseline program.
According to the press release, the purposes of the Baseline Program are: “To provide a summary description, assessment and understanding of ecological and socioeconomic conditions in the South Coast region, inside and outside MPAs designated under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), at or near the time of MPA implementation; and to measure initial ecological changes and the short-run net benefits or costs to consumptive and non-consumptive user groups following MPA implementation.”
The Sea Grant awards are expected to be made in July 2011, ahead of the official MPA implementation. Further details will be posted at www.csgc.ucsd.edu.

Lane Closures Will Impact PCH Commuters

• Planners Say Project Will Continue Until the End of 2012

BY BILL KOENEKER


Attention Pacific Coast Highway commuters: your next demon on PCH is called the Coastal Interceptor Relief Sewer Project, with construction starting, you guessed it, just before and during summertime on a stretch of the coast highway between Will Rogers State Beach and the City of Santa Monica near the Annenberg Community Beach House.
The City of Los Angeles is the lead agency for the project, which consists of construction of a 4500-foot gravity relief sewer with about 3100 feet of the sewer built under PCH and 1400 feet constructed beneath the parking lots of Will Rogers Beach and the Santa Monica Beach Club, according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Works.
Construction is expected to start at the end of this month or early next month through the end of 2012. The work hours allowed per Caltrans permit is for Monday through Friday, some work on Saturday, from 7 am through 4 pm and night work from 9 pm to 5 am.
The potential construction impacts include reduced southbound traffic lanes throughout construction, two lanes open from 5 am to 9 pm, one lane open from 9 pm through 5 am. There are no impacts expected on the northbound side.
During the summer 2010, LADPW completed upgrades on eight low flow diversion structures, including several in the Pacific Palisades area. The LFDs divert urban runoff to the sanitary sewer system during year-round dry weather, preventing stormwater from discharging to Santa Monica Bay, except during rain events.
To handle the increased flow of stormwater from the LFDs Hyperion wastewater treatment plant, according to LADPW, the coastal interceptor relief sewer will be built to provide additional capacity to the existing interceptor sewer.
The project is funded by the Prop O Clean Water Bond passed by Los Angeles voters in 2004 appropriating $500 million for stormwater pollution prevention projects. The project cost is $10 million.

Property Owners Criticize New Hillside Fire Requirements

• Water Flow Increases Are Required

BY BILL KOENEKER


Frustrated homeowners, who are trying to build hillside homes, came to the Malibu City Council chambers this week to complain about the new fire department rules that would require many of them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars or in several cases a million dollars to make improvements to the aging water system in order for them to get building permits.
The fire department contends the water flow through the aging pipes of Waterworks District 29 must meet a certain “fire flow” rate and if it does not, in most cases it is lower than the standard threshold, it is up to the builders to mitigate the matter.
When they go to the water district they are told how they can increase that flow either by constructing larger water mains or paying for water storage tanks to increase gravity flow to garner fire department approval for a building permit.
In the past, the critics say the fire department allowed homeowners to place water storage tanks on their own property in order to provide some modicum of fire protection during the all-to- certain event of a wildfire.
John Whiffen said he bought a lot in Encinal Canyon and last year submitted his plans to the fire department, He was told he would have to spend nearly $1 million to increase the water flow. “I'm asking the council to develop a water plan. We need an urgency ordinance and need to set up an assessment district,” he said.
Not one of the critics argued that the improvements are not needed. The biggest complaint was that the burden of improving the water district infrastructure is being placed on the backs of only the new homebuilders and not everyone, who would benefit from the improvements.
Local contractor Richard Sherman said there are about 50 projects and they are not just in Malibu. “The way they are trying to do it won’t work,” he said.
Engineer Norm Haynie said an assessment district is appropriate. “Waterworks District 29 has failed to provide water flow. It has violated the law by not doing that. They say they have no money. They say they have no plan. That is ridiculous,” he added.
Haynie suggested an interim measure would be to allow storage tanks on the home owners' property. “What is safer a storage tank with water or an empty pipeline?” he said.
Don Schmitz, a land use consultant, who said he was representing the Malibu Chamber of Commerce, stated the current situation amounted to a de facto building moratorium. “There was no legislative act. It is unjust. It is not legally defensible. The chamber is concerned about the change of policy and recommends implementation of an urgency ordinance and a policy that allows for onsite water storage,” he said.
“This is a serious situation,” agreed local architect Mike Barsocchini. “They are having each individual upgrade the water system.”
Realtor Paul Grisanti said as a member on the city's public works commission, he knows the panel has been “agitating for more stored water for years.”
“Waterworks District 29 has thrown their hands up. We need a plan. Remodel permits are the same problem. It is not just new people. We need to have more water available,” he said.
There were others who spoke. A retired fire captain who said he was trying to build his dream house in Malibu Park; a fire rebuild on Las Flores Mesa; An applicant on Malibu Knolls. Some said they have already spent thousands and thousands of dollars for plans and permits then were stopped in mid-track when they confronted the fire department regulations.
Council members said they could not talk about it since the issue was not on the agenda.
The fire department critics were allowed to speak under an agenda item about the council approving the updated developer fee program for the benefit of the consolidated fire protection district of Los Angeles County.
The fees can only be used “to address fire protection and emergency medical service requirements within the city and the fire district that result from urban expansion and new development.”
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich wanted to know how the city would benefit from the program since no new development since no new development of fire stations or other capital improvements were planned for Malibu.
Councilmember Jefferson Wagner made the argument that any new stations built in Agoura would help Malibu, since most of the wildfires start in the 101 corridor, or those stations can be used when the other stations or staging areas in Malibu are in harm’s way during a wildfire.
“By building a station at Kanan and the 101, that benefits us,” Wagner said.
Without being able to address the speakers before them, the council unanimously approved the updated developer fee program and vowed to get the water flow issue on the agenda at a future meeting.

City Council Approves Public Safety Commission’s Bicycle Safety Workshop

• Doubts Cast on Event Efficacy by Sheriff’s Department

BY BILL KOENEKER


Despite doubts cast by the Sheriff's department, the Malibu City Council, this week, gave the green light to authorize the Public Safety Commission to schedule a special meeting on a Saturday morning to conduct a three -hour bicycle safety public workshop and approved the allocation of overtime pay for staff required to attend.
The purpose of the meeting, according to city officials, would be to try to sort out the differences of opinion that have arisen during several past commission meetings about interpretation of the law.
Commission Chair Carol Randall told the council a public workshop would provide a much more informal atmosphere to offer a dialogue between cyclists and motorists.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she wanted to make sure the event is publicized for both motorists and cyclists. “Let's do an outreach,” she said. Rosenthal said she would attend the meeting. Councilmembers Lou La Monte and Pamela Conley Ulich said they would also be there.
Commissioners agreed to inviting leaders from cycling organizations and members of the cycling clubs in the Los Angeles area, the council PCH safety subcommittee, representatives from the Sheriff's department, the Automobile Club of Southern California and other experts in the field of traffic safety.
The staff report contained some revealing information about the sheriff's department's stance on the meeting. Council members did not discuss law enforcement’s reaction.
“It should be noted that the Sheriff's department expressed concern about whether a workshop would be a benefit to the city's goals of improved safety. During previous discussions with members of cycling organizations and bike clubs, the Sheriff's liaison stated that the cyclists continued to disagree with the Sheriff's interpretation of the law. There was additional concern expressed that the goal to open communication between motorists and cyclists would not likely be achieved through the workshop as it is doubtful that many non-cycling members of the public would consider attending,” the staff memo adds.
A three-hour time limit for the workshop was agreed upon to keep the city’s costs to a minimum.

Toilet Art Project Generates Discussion During City Anniversary Event Report

• Dada-esque Commodes Derided as Potential Butt of Jokes

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council agenda item this week was ostensibly on getting council approval for the use of Legacy Park for the upcoming 20th anniversary of Malibu's cityhood.
However, it rapidly turned into a discussion about the artwork proposed as part of the festivities.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich told council members she wanted to organize a community art project much like the event that took place on the city’s 16th birthday party.
She said the limited dollars and resources available nowadays prompted she and others to come up with an art project entitled the “Porcelain Project.”
“We are using the toilet seats and urinals from the Malibu Library as the art project,” Conley Ulich said, as she held up an actual toilet seat from the library.
The proposal will transform 20 pieces of porcelain restroom fixtures (sinks, urinals, and toilets) that have been recycled from the library reconstruction project and make them into “works of art.”
However, Councilmember Lou La Monte cautioned, “The concept of dealing with the porcelain, if you will excuse the expression, will be the butt of every joke,” he said.
La Monte noted the city is currently on a mission to change the image of Malibu such as the hiring of a press information officer.
“We are trying to upgrade our image. I’m cautioning you,” he added.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal discussed another art program. “The other thing about the art program was the old photos. We found a Facebook page of old pictures [of Malibu],” she said.
“To take art like that, it is creative, it shows about recycling.”
Conley Ulich said the history and future of Malibu has been and is connected with sewers.
“The city was founded because we did not want sewers in Malibu to control growth. It is the very representation of history and fate of Malibu. The toilet is an integral part of our city,” she explained.
“We were thinking of how we could do something. We came up with the toilets and urinals. We can help heal the city and do what Marcel Duchamp [did] in his seminal piece of the Dada movement,” Conley Ulich said.
“When we talked about it some people were embarrassed.”
Conley Ulich suggested that the 20 pieces of art could be displayed at Malibu City Hall and at the Landon Center or other locations for a limited period of time, before being auctioned off through eBay or another process on or around Earth Day—April 22. The proceeds of the sale would be used to help build the proposed Civic Center wastewater treatment plant.
Conley Ulich said she has gotten some artists and celebrities involved.
“David Ashwell has agreed to do a piece,” she said. “Catherine Oxenberg is doing a royal throne. We have gone to other celebrities who would like to participate. Some want to do their own art,” she added.
The city reportedly received extra points from the environmental architecture program LEED—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—for the plan to repurpose the bathroom fixtures.
The council agreed the city could display the 28 pieces of children’s art it recently received from the art contest along with other photographs of Malibu at city hall for a limited time.
Mayor John Sibert said he wanted it to be clear that the only action the council was taking was approving Legacy Park as the location for the city’s 20th anniversary bash.

Eight More Bones Found in Latest Search of Remote Area Where Mitrice Richardson’s Remains Were Discovered

• Case Becomes More Convoluted as Each New Development Raises Complicated Issues

BY ANNE SOBLE


A field search directed by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Search Operations Response Team on Sunday found eight bones that may belong to Mitrice Richardson in the same remote Malibu Canyon backcountry where most of the missing 24-year-old’s remains were found last August.
Two groups of six persons were helicoptered in by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, including people involved in the coroner department’s study that concluded her cause of death could not be determined. A human-remains retrieval German shepherd was also airlifted in.
The recovered bones were described at a press conference held at Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station that day as neck, finger, wrist, and rib remains. It was not stated, but onlookers believed the find did not include the hyoid bone, which could indicate choking or strangulation, a supposition raised by Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, who believes her daughter was sexually assaulted and then murdered.
It is now believed that more than 90 percent of Richardson’s skeleton has been collected.
When Sutton visited the search site last November to place a handmade memorial there, a finger bone was found, which spurred her to push for a repeat search, the implementation of which had been hampered by usually heavy rainfall for that time of year. Despite these rains, however, the search crew indicated that the memorial is still intact.
The majority of Richardson’s skeletonized and partially mummified remains were found 11 months after her release from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station just after midnight on Sept. 17, 2009. Other than a possible sighting that morning, there was no trace of the honors college graduate and beauty pageant contestant until park rangers checking on an abandoned marijuana grove found the remains.
The county coroner has blasted sheriff’s department homicide detectives for moving these remains before coroner’s investigators could examine them, which may be a violation of state law, as well as compromised the coroner’s office’s investigation. The dispute is now being reviewed by the Office of Independent Review, the county watchdog over law enforcement agencies, which has already determined that the LASD’s overall treatment of Richardson was proper.
But Sutton and Richardson’s biological father Michael Richardson (her stepfather Larry Sutton helped raise her) have sharply criticized the sheriff’s department’s inmate release procedures and the investigation of the case. The parents have filed separate lawsuits—the pair never married—that have been consolidated by the court and will begin scheduling depositions next month.
Sutton, with Mitrice Richardson’s aunt, Lauren Sutton, and psychologist and family friend, Ronda Hampton, have formed a triad based on relentless determination to keep the public spotlight on the dead woman and the need for additional investigative efforts.
Sutton has absorbed all the costs of this campaign, as well as the settling of all of her daughter’s outstanding obligations—including the college loans—and all funeral and burial expenses. She is urging authorities to exhume Richardson’s body and conduct specific additional testing that she believes could lead to a determination of the cause of her daughter’s death.
Richardson was arrested at Geoffrey’s restaurant on Sept. 16, 2009, for allegedly being unable to pay an $89 dinner check. Patrons and restaurant personnel described her as speaking gibberish, drawn to bright lights and acting bizarrely. The restaurant manager performed a citizen’s arrest and the three deputies who responded to the scene took the handcuffed Richardson through the mountains to the Lost Hills station.
Her car, containing her purse, credit cards and cell phone were locked inside her vehicle, which was towed to the Malibu impound lot in the center of the city. The same OIR report that exonerated the LASD indicated the need for a review of release policies and improvements that take into account LHSS’s remote location. Because station personnel are not allowed to discuss the case with the media, it is not possible to determine whether any of the recommended reforms have been implemented, let alone studied.
An incident (see separate story) involving a woman released on the same day as the Sunday search has prompted Sutton and her supporters to construe that nothing has changed in terms of the station policies that she believes resulted in her daughter’s death.

FBI Says There’s No Need to Get Involved in Mitrice Richardson Case

BY ANNE SOBLE


The family of Mitrice Richardson was informed by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department on Friday by telephone that the Assistant Director in Charge of the Los Angeles field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Steven Martinez, had written Sheriff Lee Baca in a letter dated Feb. 11, 2011, that “I must inform you that the FBI will be unable to assist in this matter.”
The most critical family concerns, including additional testing of her remains and laboratory analysis of Richardson’s clothing that had been ignored and “misplaced” in the body bag containing her remains that was delivered to her mother, Latice Sutton, for interment, are not under FBI purview, according to Martinez.
Martinez wrote that the FBI “does not do autopsies” or “render cause of death opinions.” With regard to the articles of clothing, he said that “no evidentiary chain of custody” was maintained since the items left the law enforcement agency’s possession. However, Sutton contends that she was told by Sheriff Baca that this would not be an issue,
Sutton said the work that she had hoped would be done by the FBI relate to mistakes by sheriff’s department personnel and the coroner’s office. She said the FBI is basically saying that it refuses to address negligence and errors on the local law enforcement level. The letter makes reference to the “excellent working relationship and partnership” the FBI has with the LASD.
Richardson’s mother expressed “anger and frustration,” but she indicated that she will continue the fight to determine how her daughter died and bring the perpetrators to justice..
Sutton said she will begin to redirect her efforts against the local law enforcement agencies in order to get them to take the actions she is urging.

Similarities to Mitrice Richardson Case Noted in Woman’s Release from Lost Hills on the Day of Latest Search

• Richardson’s Mother Files Complaint and Says the Sheriff’s Station Must Change Its Practices

BY ANNE SOBLE


Annette Coffey is soft-spoken during a telephone call from the Santa Barbara area on Monday. She told the Malibu Surfside News that she is “still in shock,” and she doesn’t remember everything that happened during her “horrifying experience” at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, where she said she “was treated badly, [her] questions were ignored, and [she] was given no help with out-of-order telephones.”
On Sunday morning, Coffey was in an automobile accident in the area, and she said, “Because of a registration technicality,” her car was impounded and taken to a tow yard in the West Valley.
She said the responding deputies took her into custody, and transported her to Lost Hills where she was booked on allegations of driving under the influence, but said she was not given a sobriety test; possession of drug paraphernalia, but said she doesn’t know what they are referring to; and possession of hypodermic needles that she asserts are clearly labeled for “medical purposes and not to be used as evidence” of illegal drug use.
Coffey said the needles were used for subcutaneous injections of medication when she was undergoing chemotherapy for liver cancer and hepatitis C late last year.
She said she had never heard of Mitrice Richardson, so didn’t know that she was being told to do what Richardson was reportedly told to do, leave her purse with several hundred dollars, credit cards and her cell phone locked inside the vehicle before it was towed.
At Lost Hills, Coffey said she was kept in an area “that was freezing,” and given a telephone that would only “beep,” which may be similar to what appears to be the case on a Richardson videotape. She was then released out of the same side door as Richardson.
But there are also major differences. Coffey was released in the mid-afternoon. Her ethnicity is what society persists in labeling as “white.” She is 43, and, in her self-description, said that she didn’t look very good that day.
Coffey said she walked out into the Lost Hills parking lot. She had not eaten all day and was beginning to feel unsteady, which she attributed to chemotherapy having altered her metabolism. She said it took all of her energy to even cry.
She was standing there crying, when three women walked over to her and asked if they could help.
The women were at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station because it was the base for operations related to efforts associated with the case of another release from the same location.
They were Mitrice Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton; her aunt, Lauren Sutton; and clinical psychologist and family friend Ronda Hampton—three people who had familiarity with the station’s release policies.
Coffey said the trio offered to help, got her some coffee and then went into the station as a group to work out a way for the apparently addled woman to get her purse.
Sutton said when the four of them walked into the station; the deputy at the front desk treated them “rudely.” He then called a female law enforcement technician from the back, who Sutton and Hampton said was even ruder. Hampton said the LET “rolled her eyes” as she listened with an “uninterested, if not disdainful, expression.”
Sutton said, “Their behavior reminded me of how I was treated when I filed the missing person report after Mitrice was released.”
After making arrangements to drive Coffey to the tow yard, where the women said they encountered additional unpleasant behavior from the person on duty until they threatened to report him to Lost Hills. He then got her purse from the car and inventoried its contents.
The trio then helped Coffey to arrange transportation to Santa Barbara County. Sutton said they resolved to file a complaint as soon as they could send an email to Sheriff Lee Baca’s chief of staff, Commander James Lopez.
When the Malibu Surfside News contacted the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department media liaison Steve Whitmore, he confirmed, “Yes, they have a filed a complaint with Commander Lopez, and it is being investigated. In fact, the station and the OIR have already begun looking at the pertinent information.”
When The News contacted the office of the Lost Hills commander to request basic information about Coffey and try to verify her statements, as well as obtain the names of the personnel on duty so they could be interviewed, Lt. Steve Smith, in charge of operations, emailed back: “Based on the allegations made regarding the release of Ms. Coffey, an inquiry is currently being conducted. For this reason, your requested information regarding the involved employees will not be permitted to be released to you.”
In her own email to Whitmore, Sutton wrote; “It should never be an option to make a woman leave her purse, containing her cell phone, money, credit cards, and identification, in the vehicle while being detained, and then release her with no way to care for herself, especially when she lives more than 30 miles away. This pattern of practice must be changed. It is negligent and more people will be harmed, even killed, if this practice continues.”
Coffey becomes choked up as she expresses her appreciation to the three women. She said, “I was supposed to start walking, but I didn’t even know in what direction to go.” She said the three women “were there for me like angels.”
The News has received and is researching the details of two other cases where women have said they were released from Lost Hills alone, on foot and without their purses. Because they either had no means to contact people to help them, or no one could be reached, these women reportedly had to walk long distances to get back to their homes.
If any or all of these stories prove to be accurate, they may be an indication that Lost Hills has not made any attempt to address the minimal wrist-slaps it received from the county Office of Independent Review last year.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Malibu Lagoon Project: A Case Study in Community Controversy

• Opposition to State Proposal Appears to Be Growing as Proponents Watch from the Sidelines

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


It was standing room only at Coogie's Beach Cafe on Saturday night, for an information session and silent auction to raise awareness and funds for the lawsuit challenging the California State Parks Malibu Lagoon Restoration Plan. Crowd estimates ranged from 150 to over 300 people. The audience included surfers, birdwatchers, area residents and beachgoers.
A series of speakers outlined their concerns, which included fears that the proposed changes will negatively impact native bird and animal populations, alter the surf break, limit access to the wetlands and the beach and potentially damage cultural artifacts. Others stated that the restoration plan will result in the wrong kind of wetland, one that did not historically exist in the Malibu watershed.
An information sheet available at the event states that litigation is necessary to save the lagoon: “The habitat in Malibu Lagoon has taken 27 years to develop since the last restoration in 1983, and the concept that destroying our wetlands is necessary to improve that very same wetlands is not supported under the Coastal Act. The project would also permanently demolish Malibu Lagoon's most popular public access trail to the sea, a valued recreational and educational resource that cannot be replaced. There are better alternatives that would protect existing resources.”
Opponents state that the plan, which has already received all of its permits and approvals, is not a restoration project but wholesale destruction that will have a permanent negative impact on the 31-acre park's flora and fauna, including several species of threatened or endangered birds and the endangered tidewater goby, a tiny fish that was reintroduced to the lagoon in the 1990s and has reportedly thrived-a fact that project opponents say indicates that the lagoon is a functioning ecosystem.
“The Malibu Lagoon is a magical place for me,” Save Malibu Lagoon spokesperson Marcia Hanscom told the audience on Saturday night. “There are more birds and animals every year. I love it so much. I can’t bear to see it bulldozed.”
Hanscom stated that the park receives 1.5 million visitors a year and is home to five endangered species.
“The people who are studying this on the other side don’t understand. They think this is a salt marsh. [Instead] it’s one of the few naturally functioning lagoons left, open [to the ocean] in winter, closed in summer.”
“I was under the impression that my speech to the California Coastal Commission would make a difference,” project opponent Athena Shlien said. “It didn’t matter what we said. The wheels were already turning. I went from sad to mad.” Shlien described the lagoon as “a grandmother who has been there for three decades,” and blasted upstream sources of pollution, including Tapia and Pepperdine, and the City of Malibu for using the herbicide Roundup at Legacy Park.
“A lot of people say you have to have a plan, we have a plan,” Shlien said. “It’s not about stopping restoration, it’s about using kindness, care and love, because life is precious.”
UCLA biologist Vladimir Kasho described the restoration project as “a very dangerous experiment.”
“The people who designed it are mostly engineers. [They] know how to make channels, not so much about life,” Kasho said. “People [will say] 20 years from now ‘whatever these people did is completely wrong.’” Kasho said that academic scientists publish papers and encourage peer review of their work. “These people had their own meetings with their own scientists. They didn’t want discussion,” he said.
“The lagoon is not getting worse, it’s getting better,” said longtime Malibu resident and surfer Andy Lyon.
“The proof is going out there and seeing it. The guys who designed [the restoration plan] never came back to look at it.” Lyon accused the planner of using outdated satellite maps to design the project. “I realized on the way home from the CCC meeting that they based the plan on a 2004 aerial photo where the breach was going where its never been,” Lyon said, expressing concerns about how deep the channel will be and the impact of the increased water capacity planned.
“It’s wrong on so many levels,” Lyon said. “[The lagoon] has finally healed. Finally looks normal.”
“I look at this as an experiment on animals,” Malibu resident Alessandra de Clario said. “Have you ever tried to herd a cat, a kitten, or a dog? And they’re going to herd fish?”
“I worked with Jerry Brown in the 1970s, when there was talk of turning the lagoon into a marina,” longtime Malibu Colony resident Carol Moss said. “Jerry Brown needs to be updated. He needs to hear, so he can act.”
Several organizations, including The Wetlands Defense Fund, and Access for All have filed a lawsuit to stop the restoration project.
They are also planning to file for a restraining order, because they anticipate the June starting date for the project will pass before the lawsuit arrives in court.
Arguments against the restoration plan and details on the lawsuit and the alternative plan developed by project opponents are available at www.savemalibulagoon.com

City Council Considers Sponsoring Cycling Safety Workshop

• Sheriff’s Department Expresses Concern about Its Effectiveness as Cyclists Want Own Rules

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council, when it meets next week, is scheduled to consider giving the green light to several city-sponsored events.
The council is being asked to consider whether to authorize the Public Safety Commission to schedule a Saturday morning meeting to conduct a three-hour bicycle public workshop and approve the allocation of overtime pay for staff to attend.
The purpose of the meeting, according to a staff report prepared by City Manager Jim Thorsen, would be to try to sort out the differences of opinion that have arisen during several past commission meetings about interpretation of the law.
During a recent meeting last month, commissioners talked about asking the council to authorize a public workshop to address those differences “as well as establish an opportunity for dialogue between cyclists and motorists.”
Commissioners agreed to recommend inviting leaders from cycling organizations and members of the cycling clubs in the Los Angeles area, the council PCH safety subcommittee, representatives from the sheriff’s department, the Automobile Club of Southern California and experts in the field of traffic safety.
Commissioners, according to the report, also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a moderator or facilitator, but ultimately agreed that the cost and time would outweigh what it could offer.
“It should be noted that the sheriff’s department expressed concern about whether a workshop would be a benefit to the city’s goals of improved safety. During previous discussions with members of cycling organizations and bike clubs, the sheriff’s liaison stated that the cyclists continued to disagree with the sheriff’s interpretation of the law. There was additional concern expressed that the goal to open communication between motorists and cyclists would not likely be achieved through the workshop as it is doubtful that many non-cycling members of the public would consider attending,” the staff memo said.
When commissioners discussed the matter, they thought the event could be worthwhile even though staff overtime would be required. A three-hour time limit for the workshop was agreed upon to keep the city’s costs to a minimum.
Thorsen indicated the actual fiscal impact would depend on how many staff members were in attendance. He expected that three officers from the sheriff’s department would also attend and would either receive overtime pay, or they would need to adjust their regular schedules to attend. There would also be overtime pay for public works and administrative staff, he said.
WATER SYMPOSIUM
City officials are expected to decide to have the next Malibu Water Quality Symposium at Malibu City Hall on June 30.
The staff report indicates revenue from fees and contributions are expected to offset costs associated with the symposium, so there should be no fiscal impact.
Malibu hosted what was called “a very informative and successful water quality symposium in 2009 at Pepperdine University.”
“Since that time, critical research projects have been completed within the city’s region and throughout the United States. This symposium event provides an opportunity for regulators, elected officials, researchers, city staff, residents and others to have a comprehensive presentation of these research projects in one location,” a staff report states, adding this year’s event should provide “an excellent opportunity for scientists, engineers, water and wastewater consultants, contractors, regulators and water quality experts to hear about and discuss related projects.”
City officials say they hope to have individuals from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
It will be an all-day event and lunch will be included as part of the $25 registration fee.
The designers of Legacy Park, RMC Water and Environment, GeoSnytec and Dr. Rich Ambrose have agreed to host a one-hour technical tour at Legacy Park after the symposium.
Municipal officials are hopeful that there may be as many as 250 paid admissions.
Several other cities have already offered to co-sponsor the event which could provide an additional $2500 to offset the cost of the symposium.
20th ANNIVERSARY
The council is also expected to hear an update from colleagues about the direction on the activities proposed for the city’s 20th birthday party.
Both Councilmembers Laura Rosenthal and Pamela Conley Ulich have been working with a volunteer committee which has incorporated fundraising activities to help pay for the costs of the two-day event.
The council has already established a $2000 fund to assist in paying for invitations, food, decorations, and similar expenses.
The event will take place on March 27 at Legacy Park and will be held at the same time as the farmers market. The event is one of the six events that are allowed at the park on a annual basis, according to a staff report. The day’s event will include a park gathering with music, food and children’s activities.
A more formal celebration will take place on Monday night, March 28, at a city council meeting.
The Monday event will be for the community, dignitaries, elected officials and volunteers. The event is on the actual anniversary date of incorporation and will be an opportunity to showcase the new city hall, which will be officially opened that evening.
Conley Ulich has been trying to organize a community art project much like the event that took place on the city’s 16th birthday bash.
She and others have come up with an art project called the “Porcelain Project”
The proposal will transform 20 pieces of porcelain restroom fixtures (sinks, urinals, and toilets) that have been recycled from the library reconstruction project and make them into “works of art.” The 20 pieces can be displayed at Malibu City Hall and or at the Landon Center and or other locations for a limited period of time. The 20 pieces will be auctioned off through eBay or other process on or around Earth Day, April 22, 2011 and the proceeds will be used to help build the proposed Civic Center wastewater treatment plant.
In addition, the city could display the 28 pieces of children’s art it recently received from the art contest along with other photographs of Malibu at city hall for a limited time.

State Parks Rejoinder

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The debate over a California State Parks Malibu Lagoon Restoration Plan has left many Malibu residents bewildered. The plan, which involves dewatering the portion of the lagoon that was reconstructed in the 1980s, removing sediment and fill, deepening and reconfiguring the channels, restoring a portion of the former parking area to wetlands, and removing the artificial islands and the bridges that connect them to the beach, has received support from the California Coastal Commission, and numerous environmental advocates, ranging from Heal the Bay to the blogger known as L.A. Creek Freak but it has also generated opposition and a lawsuit, sponsored by Wetlands Defense Fund, Access for All, and Save Malibu Lagoon, that has attracted considerable attention in Malibu and the support of a variety of interests, including surfers, birders and area residents.
Surfers say they fear that the increased water volume in the reconfigured lagoon will increase water quality issues. There are also fears that the changes will have a negative impact on the surfbreak. The 1983 reconstruction is blamed for permanently altering the surf at first and second point.
Birders have expressed concern that they will lose access to one of the premiere birdwatching areas in Southern California and that species disturbed by the project may not return.
Some opponents have expressed concerns that the reconfigured lagoon will eliminate habitat for the endangered tidewater goby.
The fish was introduced to the lagoon in the 1990s, and has reportedly thrived. Evidence, opponents say, that the lagoon is a functioning ecosystem.
Restoration plan proponents present a very different picture of the lagoon, calling the 31-acre wetland seriously impaired, with limited biodiversity, dead-end channels that are rapidly silting up and a critical lack of dissolved oxygen.
California State Parks representative and restoration plan advocate and spokesperson Suzanne Goode spoke to the Malibu Surfside News this week to clarify several issues.
Part of the problem, Goode says, is the fact that issues like the silt that is filling the channels, the artificial fill that blocks circulation and the low oxygen levels aren’t immediately apparent.
“It looks beautiful,” Goode told The News. “But there’s low dissolved oxygen, the channels are slowly choking up with silt, the topography is oriented the wrong way, its too steep, there’s poor circulation.
“We’ve learned a lot more [about wetlands restoration] in the past 20 years,” Goode explained.
Goode describes the earlier restoration effort, which replaced baseball fields and Caltrans road fill dating from the construction of Pacific Coast Highway in the 1940s with the current arrangement of islands and channels, as a “low budget effort.”
The current plan, Goode says, addresses the problems created by the original reconstruction, including the dead-end channels that are too shallow to allow silt and toxins to be flushed, and have caused low oxygen levels, which cause die-offs.
Phase one of the plan, which relocated the parking lot closer to the highway, replaced the pavement with permeable materials, installed a bioswale to catch runoff, has already been completed.
Phase two, which requires bulldozers to remove more than 88,000 cubic yards of fill and silt and the deepening and reconfiguring of the artificial portion of the wetlands, is drawing considerable eleventh-hour protest.
The complete Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Plan, including maps and diagrams is available online at www.parks.ca.gov

City Planning Commission Approves Trails Map but Makes Some Changes

• Controversy Erupts Over Staff Additions and Deletions
BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu Planning Commission last week was asked to carefully review some of the trails that were added by staff planners after the trails committee had handed in their final work product.
Some speakers told the planning panel the inclusion of their properties on a trails map would encumber their land and others said the last minute additions of such trails gave property owners little notice.
The commission was charged with making their recommendations, which will be forwarded to the city council 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 told the commission, the committee had worked to produce “an accurate assessment of historical, existing and future-planned trails throughout the city.”
Some planning commission members, especially chair John Mazza, emphasized the trail maps is a wish list for the city.
“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,” both Smith and Mazza said.
However, some speakers challenged the so-called wish list saying it represented an encumbrance on their properties and that some lending instructions and escrow companies took the maps much more seriously.
“Future buyers and [others] go beserk,” said Ed Niles. “I don’t want my future family burdened with an imaginary line on my property.” Later, during commission deliberations, the panel agreed to delete what they called the “Lower Niles Trail,” from the trails map.
The proposed map includes 121.3 miles of trails within city limits which includes a 22.3 mile segment of the California 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..
However, what generated the most controversy was the recommended six changes to the trail committee’s adopted map including adding the Encinal Creek Trail between Pacific Coast Highway and the beach near West Sea Level Drive.
A nearby property owner wanted to know why the proposed trail was mapped given the current exisiting trail that follows Sea Level Drive, which is so close nearby. “This addition was requested by the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority staff. The lower three parcels along this alignment include a trail offer to dedicate. This trail allows a connection along Encinal Creek between PCH and the beach,” Smith told the commission.
The panel debated whether to delete the Encinal Creek Trail, which it ultimately did not do and subsequently agreed to include the West Sea Level and East Sea Level Rd trail which the trails committee did not include, since its charge was trails landside of the Pacific Coast Highway.
The Escondido Connector Trail was also added to the map by the staff. It is located between the DeButts Terrace Trail and the southwest property line of Escondido Canyon Park—also requested by the MRCA staff.
However, it too, was blasted by property owners who said they are building or are currently planning on building homes in or near the proposed trail.
“That trail will go right through my house,” said one property owner, who asked that it be deleted.
Mazza argued the trail could be realigned and the commission agreed to keep it included on the trails map.
A trail deleted by the staff after a recommendation from the National Park Service 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.
However, a trails committee member sought to have the trail put back on the map. The commission agreed to include it on the map with Mazza again reminding others the map is a “wish list.”
There was also a debate about the Rosemary-Thyme Trail. “I don't know how we can eliminate it,” said Mazza.
Commissioner Jeff Jennings said he was on the council when the controversy erupted about how the city could keep the trail.
“I support keeping it on the list. I was on the council. We heard hours of testimony, but no one could prove there had been five years of continuous use,” Jennings added.
In a letter sent to the city and the media, Trails Committee member Jo Ruggles has called on Jennings to recuse himself from the vote of the commission because he had already voted on such matters.
The commission was originally scheduled 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 a trail easement. That matter was continued until March.

Proposed View Restoration Ordinance Is Wending Its Way through the System

• Planners See No Significant Environmental Impacts

BY BILL KOENEKER


Malibu planning officials have issued a notice of intent to adopt a negative declaration, meaning they do not believe there are any significant environmental impacts to the proposed adoption of a citywide view restoration ordinance.
The purpose of the review, according to municipal officials, is to allow public agencies and other interested members of the community the opportunity to share their expertise, discuss agency analysis, check for accuracy, detect omissions, discuss public concerns and solicit counter proposals to the proposed ordnance.
According to planning department documents, the proposed view restoration ordinance would establish and provide a right of action for property owners in the city to restore pre-existing views from private residences that have been “significantly obstructed by landscaping on neighboring properties.”
Planners note an equally important goal of municipal officials is “to restore pre-existing views, while considering the privacy, safety and stability of hillsides, natural and rural settings of the city and acknowledging the importance of trees and foliage.”
Planners are quick to point out that any foliage that meets the definition of Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area, as well as native trees, “is exempt from restoration actions.”
A notice issued by the planning department indicates the proposed ordinance establishes a process by which property owners within the city may seek to restore a pre-existing view with an emphasis on neighbors trying to resolve their view issues prior to court action.
The public comment period on the ordinance begins Feb. 10 and ends March 11.
At this time, city officials indicate that a hearing date before the planning commission has not been scheduled.
The commission had conducted informal public workshops and a formal public hearing about a proposed ordinance after the matter had been discussed by a task force for almost a year.
The task force had created its own ordinance and recommended the city could simply adopt it.
However, some city council members at that time frowned on proceeding in that fashion and instructed the staff to start from ground zero.
The planning department told planning commission members it would adopt provisions from the task force document, and other ordinances currently enacted by other cities.
The planning commission made recommendations for inclusion into the proposed document, but has not yet seen a draft version.
The matter will return to the planning panel for its recommendations although a hearing date has not yet been set and then will go before the city council for approval or denial.