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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Council Holds Malibu 20th Anniversary Meeting in New City Hall

• The Second of the Events Marking the Date of the City’s Founding Focused on the Future While Shining a Spotlight on the Past

BY BILL KOENEKER

Taken up with the continuation of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of cityhood and introduction of the new Malibu City Hall.
Boy Scout Troop #223 assisted in the pledge of allegiance, Malibu High School choir members Sophie Galate, Julia Wisnicki and Gabriella Marinaro sang the national anthem and there was a musical by Maria Newman and Scott Hosfeld performing an original composition by Newman that received rousing applause by the standing-room-only crowd.
That was followed by a Chumash blessing by Alan “Spirit Hawk” Salazar, who performed a blessing that asked that the bad spirits be taken away as well as bad thoughts. “We have many beliefs,” he said as he asked for a moment of silence.
Mayor John Sibert, who took on the part of master of ceremonies introduced individuals who he said, “will be a part of Malibu history forever.”
Considered by many the founding members of the City of Malibu, Sibert introduced Walt Keller, who was greeted with a standing ovation along with Carolyn Van Horn.
Sibert ticked off a list of introductions: those early council members who also performed mayoral duties during their stint, who were present for the night’s celebration.
They included Missy Zeitsoff, Jeff Kramer, Joan House, Jeff Jennings, Ken Kearsley and Andy Stern.
Those who could not attend were Tom Hasse, who sent forward a note about his absence because of an ailing mother in the Midwest, Mike Caggiano, who is in Costa Rica and could not make it to the states and Sharon Barovsky, who could not be present and Larry Wan, who did not attend.
The mayor also remembered two of those who had passed away, John Harlow and Harry Barovsky.
Later in the meeting, Keller spoke about how he wanted to thank all of those who were involved in the incorporation movement.
“The Malibu Committee for Incorporation was completely volunteer,” he said.
The road to cityhood became a maze of lawsuits after the Local Agency Formation Commission or LAFCO approved the budget and boundaries for the proposed city, Keller explained.
Developers or opponents to cityhood insisted that an environmental assessment of the city was required before LAFCO could approve the incorporation petition. “We were the first city required to have an EIR,” said Keller. The matter delayed cityhood for a year.
Keller did not mention it, but when LAFCO finally approved the petition in July, 1989, it was with the stipulation that Los Angeles County would retain jurisdiction over the sewer district for 10 years.
Keller, who was the first mayor of Malibu, recalled how that did not end the delays and stalls of cityhood opponents.
For six months afterwards, the county refused to set a date for an election. Again MCI and the Malibu Township Council were forced to sue, even after an appeal the supervisors lost.
And then on June 5, 1990, an overwhelming 84 percent of the Malibu voters voted in favor of cityhood, Keller said.
However, the supervisors delayed the effective date of incorporation until March 28, 1991, according to Keller. “It was another loophole that screwed us out of another year,” he said.
Even after the election the battle did not end and the new city council-elect consisting of Keller, Wan, Caggiano, Van Horn and Zeitsoff successfully lobbied the state Legislature to pass a bill ordering the county supervisors to let Malibu incorporate.
Keller said it was not until Ed Edelman became part of the board of supervisors that the relationship thawed. “[Supervisor] Ed Edelman was a friend, so is Zev [Yaroslavsky],” Keller said.
What Keller did not mention was the previous cityhood attempts that for one reason or another were foiled.
The first failed effort began in 1962 when citizens petitioned the board of supervisors for cityhood.
Tentative plans for a freeway through Malibu and the prospects of a nuclear reactor in Corral Canyon were considered the impetus for the desire to incorporate.
Ken Kearsley talked about the prospects for such a power plant Monday night.
“My bride and I came to Malibu 50 years ago,” he said. “We paid $35,000 for our house to live next to a nuclear reactor?”
Kearsley said he still had a copy of the feasibility study of the EIR at that time. The time for self-determination seemed self-evident.
A battle raged for boundaries. The exclusion of the area east of Las Flores Canyon, part of the original rancho and traditionally thought as part of Malibu helped defeat cityhood, according to the Malibu Independence Day Commemorative Journal.
By the day of the election, 10 of the 37 candidates were opposed to incorporation and 76 percent of the 2,738 voters turned out to defeat cityhood by 266 votes.
There would not be another attempt for incorporation until 1971, though in three previous elections the voters kept defeating sewer bonds.
The defeat was quick and decisive this time. The cityhood petition was turned down by the then newly-formed LAFCO.
That did not stop Malibuites for long. Another petition was filed with LAFCO in 1974.
New boundaries were considered for this attempt that went as far west as Ventura County and Los Angeles to the east.
Cityhood opponents quickly formed committee’s to oppose incorporation.
It was 1976 on November 2, when the voters took to the polls for the election of Richard Nixon for U.S. President, but in Malibu included the defeat of city hood by just 120 votes.
Another effort would not be made until the long successful struggle that resulted in incorporation.
When it came time for dignitaries to speak one of the warmest came from Fred Gaines from Calabasas.
“Malibu is more than a place. It is a dream. Everybody comes here and everybody has a memory. Malibu magic took over one night when my father took my mother to the old Sea Lion. My father asked my mother to marry him.”
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky talked to the council members seated on the stage and said, “The dedication is beautiful. There are not too many city halls that have this ocean view.”
Yaroslavsky joked about how his predecessor would always say that, “Malibu is two percent of the population of the district but will take up 60 percent of your time.”
“It hasn’t worked out that way. The city hasn’t become normal, but it is moving that way,” the supervisor quipped.

Council Looks at City Trails Map and Incentives for Dedications to Include in New LCP Amendment

• Additions and Deletions Rankle Some

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council is scheduled to consider an updated version of the city’s trails map at its meeting on Monday, April 25 and to also consider creating development incentives for trail dedications.
When the matter was heard by the planning commission, which recommended approval after making its own modifications, the discussion and deliberations were focused on two main issues when the discussion turned to the updating of the trails map
Panelists were 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 task for the city council is to review 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 and to decide if it also wanted to approve another Local Coastal Program Amendment that would consist of relaxing some development standards to create building incentives for trail dedications.
Planners and trail committee members acknowledged that updating the trails system “has been a work in progress since the committee was first created in 1999.”
The committee had worked for years to produce what they describe as an accurate assessment of historical, existing and future planned trails throughout the city. Committee members and staff planners acknowledged the final map is a “wish list.”
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.
However, some homeowners have challenged the so-called wish list saying it represented an encumbrance on their properties and that some lending institutions and escrow companies took the maps much more seriously.
“Future buyers and [others] go berserk,” said Malibu architect Ed Niles. “I don’t want my future family burdened with an imaginary line on my property.”
The proposed map includes 121 miles of trails within city limits which includes a 22-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 has 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.
The panel debated whether to delete the Encinal Creek Trail, which it ultimately did not do.
They 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 and was 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.
The commission agreed the trail could be realigned and agreed to keep it included on the trails map.
Another trail deleted by the staff after a recommendation from the National Park Service was the El Nido Trail.
However, a trails committee member sought to have the trail put back on the map. The commission agreed to include it on the map.
The panel also dealt with the issue of offering building incentives for those who offer a trail dedication.
The planning commission approved recommending the city council adopt a LCPA to create development incentives for trail dedications.
The purpose of the amendment, according to municipal planners, is to create an incentives plan for trail dedications offered within the city that would establish a new discretionary request called a trail dedication incentive or TDI that would be available to property owners seeking to provide a trail dedication as part of a residential development application.
The TDI would not be available for commercial properties.
The TDI would allow “minor deviations” from required development standards in exchange for an offer to dedicate or OTD or direct grant of a trail easement, according to city planners.
Don Schmitz, who is the chair of the city’s trails committee and a land use consultant said there were several “significant differences,” between what the committee handed in and what the planning panel got from the staff.
Schmitz said those were the percentage of the deviation and special accommodations for unique important links to allow greater incentives,

Watershed Meeting Allows Sides on Lagoon Issue to Address Their Serious Differences of Opinion

• Issue of Plan Transparency Continues

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Both sides in the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project debate had an opportunity to talk at the Malibu Creek Watershed Council Meeting at Malibu City Hall on March 24.
State Parks spokesperson and lead project proponent Suzanne Goode presented “The Truth About Malibu Lagoon: a Film” at the meeting, and discussed the evolution of the project, which entails draining, dredging and reconstructing the western portion of the Malibu Lagoon.
Goode said the restoration project was developed over the course of 10 years with the help of professional facilitators, numerous meetings and input from the Lagoon Task Force, which was created in 1995. Goode indicated that more than 100 recommendations were reduced during the process to 44 action items. “A lot of studies were done,” Goode said.
She explained that the current restoration plan was designed to address the water level in the lagoon during the periods when the berm creates a closed system. At the time, the lagoon, flooded by discharge from the Tapia wastewater treatment plant upstream, breached frequently, contaminating the ocean at Surfrider Beach.
“A lot of problems admittedly originate in the upper watershed,” Goode said. “But there was a use in focusing on the lower watershed.”
Keeping the water level lower by increasing the lagoon’s holding capacity would result in “fewer occasions when people would be exposed to pollution,” Goode said.
She outlined an earlier engineering solution project to lower water that would have employed a rubber bladder buried in the sand.
“I was never very comfortable about that project,” Goode said. “In 2000 [there was] a study on what is happening in lower watershed: plants, water, geomorphology. This was really quite valuable info. At that point, we decided we shouldn’t go with bladder.”
Goode, explained that at that period, the Tapia plant was prohibited from discharging for seven months out of the year. “That really helped keep the water level low and there were fewer breach events,” she said.
“A UCLA study came up with a whole matrix of actions that could be taken,” Goode continued. “We couldn’t do all of them. Some canceled each other out.”
According to Goode, the people that participated in the subsequent 12 months of meetings to winnow the UCLA recommendations down to a practical number included representatives from three home owners associations, state parks, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Los Angeles Beaches and Harbors, surfing associations, and others.
“We met every month,” Goode said, calling it “ a very excruciating experience.”
Goode said the process resulted in a “high priority long term and short term” plans for salt marsh restoration that included reconnecting hydrology and increasing salt marsh habitat, and would “increase tidal flushing in the wet season, improve water circulation, [and] increase water capacity.” The plan was then presented at Malibu City Hall in 2001.
“We argued over every comma, colon, period,” she said. “This was unanimously decided on. Every member signed off.”
Goode described the project’s critics as “people who haven’t lived in Malibu for long,” adding that “there is a lot of misinformation.”
Regarding the surfbreak, which project critics say was altered during the 1983 restoration, and could potentially be impacted by the 2011 project, Goode said that the restoration work is entirely in the western channels and that it can’t impact the waves. “The berm will not be touched,” she said.
Goode also explained that the project does not address pollution from upstream because state parks has no control over upstream pollution sources. We don’t have the authority to address it,” she said. The primary purpose of this project is ecological restoration. The purpose is not to clean the water that comes from upstream. That is not something state parks can do in the lagoon.”
“The lagoon is not healthy. The western channels are not healthy. We can make it healthier for the wildlife that lives there. Instead of three channels parallel to the opening, [there will be] one channel oriented to the outflow.”
“The [San Fernando Valley chapter of the] Audubon Society officially opposes the project,” organization chair Mark Osokow told the task force. “A lot of the information you presented is correct but you are presenting a lot of information related to natural process as bad and I would dispute that. Anybody who has studied salt marshes, and I’ve studied them, knows its not a steady state system.” Osokow said he wrote his thesis on the lagoon, but that his research, and that of other academic researchers, was not incorporated in the project.
“You can’t flush out more and increase holding, they’re contradictory,” Osokow said. “[Project scientist Richard] Ambrose expressed that what you’re doing there is experimental. I would recommend that you look at the upper watershed first, before you deal with lagoon issues.”
“The western channels are themselves a manufactured ecosystem,” Goode replied. “If they were a totally natural set of channels I would agree with you, but they were not created properly.”
“There’s been a lot of work on upstream pollution sources,” Shelly Luce, executive director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, said.
“The US Geological Survey has done extensive work,” City of Malibu grant consultant Barbara Cameron said. “They have observed things important to know, but nothing they have observed contradicts the plan. When the berm was closed in the summer very significant amounts of sand came over the berm into the lagoon. [It’s] a surprise how much intertidal action occurred when the berm was closed. A lot more information that generally supports [the plan] has been made available to the project team,” she said.
“The Lagoon Task Force stopped meeting,” project opponent Marcia Hanscom said. “Everything went underground. This project with this grading plan I didn’t see until this summer,” she said. “I was stunned by this. Why would you do this? Acres and acres of habitat that is functioning. It’s way more than anyone needs to do, if we need to do anything.”
Hanscom added that “A lot of studies that underscore this project are 10 years old. The only thing we’ve been able to find about species having trouble in the lagoon, the ones they name are marine invertebrates. Did they study the invertebrates that are there? No. It seems like there were different understandings of what was studied. People are reading all of the reports that are available and saying ‘wait a minute, this is too much.’”
Hanscom also criticized what she described as the project’s lack of input from the surfing community. “One guy, [Bob] Purvey, [went] to task force meetings representing surf interests. That was a big mistake. Many surfers say the surfbreak changed drastically in 1983. Just knowing that they saw it change would say to me you’ve got to have a study on this and how the sediment creates Third Point.”
Hanscom also blasted the plan on the issue of access. Stating that the plans call for removing, not relocating the current trail through the lagoon. “Two minus one leaves one,” she said. “You’re removing one and that’s not acceptable or legal.”
“My family has lived in Malibu for over 90 years,” Alden Marin told the task force. “I never once heard of this plan. I am being accused of coming forth with misinformation. My father swam there in [the lagoon] in the 1920s. He remembers it exactly the way it is now without the channels. The lagoon was always the way we know it, a small marsh.”
Marin described Malibu Creek and the “pristine pools” he swam in when he was child. “I wish we could join both sides [to clean up the watershed],” he said.

Council Subcommittee Explores Some Significant Code Enforcement Changes

• Recommendations Could Increase Local Regulatory Power

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council’s Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee met last week to hear from the staff on updating the city’s code enforcement policy.
The subcommittee is comprised of Mayor John Sibert and Councilmember Jefferson Wagner. Planning commissioners and others contribute to the discussion in the informal setting.
The staff was instructed to bring back a document with the actual policy language for further comment by the subcommittee.
The impetus for the discussion came from the city council, at the request of Sibert. Planners were directed to look at the current enforcement policy “to ensure that it is meeting the current needs of the city.”
Code enforcement became a very heated and controversial issue in the city’s history over 12 years ago and played a key part in one city council election.
The city currently has an “interim” code enforcement policy that was adopted in 2000 and was based on the recommendations of a 16-member code enforcement task force formed after the political furor of code enforcement issues spent itself.
The task force submitted a report that consisted of three subcommittee reports that resulted in the existing policy, as Planning Manager Joyce Parker Bozylinski points out in a staff report.
The current policy has three components. The first establishes that code enforcement is handled on a complaint basis except for those complaints involving health and safety matters or construction and grading without a permit.
All other complaints must be in writing and anonymous complaints will not be investigated.
The second component states that no progress reports will be provided to the complainant. “The reason for this policy was to avoid situations where a complaining party or member of the public would constantly call staff for updates on the case,” the planning manager added.
The final component of the code enforcement policy, according to Parker Bozylinksi, deals with enforcement. “This section covers home occupations, pre-1993 unpermitted structures. The home occupation provision is obsolete. The pre-1993 provision states that generally there will be no criminal prosecutions or civil actions on structures built before 1993.”
Parker Bozylinski said the staff had several questions in terms of what direction the subcommittee recommended code enforcement move towards. “Currently the provision that allows staff to prepare, serve and record a notice of violation on a property is only in the building code. Amending the municipal code to allowing notice of violations to be recorded on properties with zoning violations could be a good tool for staff to utilize to ensure compliance with all of the city’s regulations,” she wrote.
The planning manager, in a staff report, also wanted to know, “should the policy provide that no new planning or building permits will be issued on properties that have an active code enforcement case except to correct the violation? The policy could allow an applicant to process a permit for new development concurrently with a plan to cure the existing code violation.”
The big question that Parker asked is, “Should the city move to a proactive code enforcement program in which code enforcement staff would actively target certain code violations such as signage or other more visible violations and pursue these violations citywide without a written complaint?”
“While code enforcement policy could have a provision that indicates violations of conditions of approval on a planning approval, coastal development approval or any permit issued by the city can be pursued without a written complaint, staff believes this should be standard operating procedure. Any violation of a condition of approval should be pursued proactively without a written complaint if the city does not enforce the conditions of approval on a permit, those conditions of approval become meaningless,” according to Parker Bozylinksi.
Subcommittee members said they wanted to see what all of this would look like in a written policy format before further discussion and continued the matter until the staff could bring back a document.
Parker Bozylinski said she understood the panel could accept a proactive policy say for instance when it came to signage that staff could contact businesses and explain how a sign could be in violation. “But a written complaint would still be needed for residential,” she added.
The subcommittee, as the planning manager understood it, would recommend a notice of violation could be filed with not just building violations, but also zoning which is currently not the case.
The subcommittee stopped short of endorsing stopping an applicant from proceeding with a request for a permit if there is a code violation on the property. “It would be more like trying to work with the applicant and to analyze what the violation is compared to with what is sought in the permit request,” she said.
The planning manager told subcommittee members the department has tools available to code enforcement to gain compliance and to recover the costs. the planning division has an after-the-fact approval permit fee that is set at five times the regular fee.

Restaurant Owner Asks City for Help in Resolving Signage Issue at Accident Site

• Recent Motorcyclist Fatality Raises Speed and View Concerns

BY BILL KOENEKER

The owner of a restaurant in west Malibu that is located near the scene of several fatalities over the years, the most recent two weeks ago involving a local motorcyclist, came to the Malibu City Council chambers this week in the middle of the anniversary celebrations to seek municipal help.
Jeff Peterson, the owner of Geoffrey’s restaurant, said the signs that indicate ingress and egress, as well as no parking, at the Pacific Coast Highway location, have been taken down repeatedly, causing confusion for customers and motorists.
“I called the city. I called Caltrans. We were told one time that the conservancy took them down. Caltrans said the city should put up the signs,” Peterson told council members.
“It is really dangerous. The signs were pulled down again. I have to get [someone] to respond,” the restaurateur said.
Malibu resident Joseph Annocki, 41, was killed in a motorcycle collision on March 16, when an out-of-state driver, who was attempting to leave the dining establishment, reportedly made an illegal left turn into opposing traffic at about 9 p.m.
Annocki, estimated to have been traveling at 60 mph, apparently attempted to swerve and brake. He was able to slow and down the bike, but he was thrown into the errant vehicle whose driver was unsuccessfully trying to correct his mistake.
Peterson indicated that speeding occurs often on this section of PCH. He said, “People are going down that hill at 65 mph. It is dangerous. Caltrans is not taking responsibility,”
Comments acknowledged that there are no parking areas, but the issue of both sides of PCH often having vehicles closely parked up and down the hill by restaurant valets was not raised.

Get Out the Sheet Paper, the City Song Contest Is Calling All Composers

• Deadline for Entries Is June 15

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu city song contest officially opened this week at the Malibu City Council meeting during the city’s 20th birthday party on Monday night.
Council members gave their approval at a previous meeting to the official city song selection guidelines and allocated $1500 for the cost of the project.
The money was used for a brochure that announces the “Malibu idol” style selection process, gives the deadline for submissions and explains that songs may be submitted in MP3 format or CD with a completed entry form. Entries may be submitted to Citysong@ci.malibu.ca.us. Entry forms may be found at the city’s website at: www.ci.malibu,ca,us or at the new City Hall, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road. Entries will not be returned.
The guidelines call for the city to accept either new compositions or existing songs. The artist must agree to allow the city to use the song at no cost. The song will be owned by the city and “will be used at a variety of city special events and activities.”
It may be boilerplate language, but the fine print in the general release states “the undersigned agrees to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the City of Malibu...against any and all loss, liability charges and expenses, including attorney fees and costs, which may arise by reason of participation in any program.”
The songs, as they are submitted, will be uploaded to the city’s website so the public can listen to them.
“All we need to do is get a panel of judges,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who has spearheaded the event and made the announcement about the opening date this week.
A panel of five judges will be chosen by the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. The judges will review all song submissions and select the top five finalists.
These five finalists will be invited to perform their song at the 2011 Chili Cook- Off over the Labor Day weekend.
Beforehand, the community will be invited to vote for a favorite song and mail in a ballot. These votes will determine which song is finally selected
The panel of judges will announce the winning song following the Chili Cook-Off performances.
The finalists will be chosen by June 30. Selection ballots will be accepted from Aug. 1 through Sept. 1.
The quest for an official city song came about after a local family performed a song in council chambers they had composed about Malibu and urged council members to consider adopting an official city song.
Rosenthal was enthused about the idea and suggested the council put together a challenge to other artists.
Subsequently, the city council passed the task on to the parks and rec panel for establishing a process for selecting a song that would be adopted as the official city song of Malibu.

School Board Narrowing Its Choices for Superintendent

• Candidates Described as ‘Strong Pool’

BY JULIE FULMER WALLACH

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board members chose final candidates for the district superintendent position last weekend, and will interview them in closed session this coming weekend.
The current SMMUSD superintendent, Tim Cuneo, will retire on June 30, after serving almost three years in that position. Cuneo replaced Dianne Talarico and was among those proposed for the post by Leadership Associates, the firm that the board selected for the current search.
According to school board president Jose Escarce, the board is “pleased with the entire group of applicants.” He said, “This is a strong pool, and we are extremely excited.”
A tentative timeline had been set for the candidate who is selected to be offered a contract during the week of April 4.
If this occurs, according to Escarce, “a public announcement may not be made until after the board...negotiates a contract. [The board] also wants to be respectful of [arrangements] regarding the candidate’s current job.”
The new superintendent will begin work on July 1.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Beyond a Drought •

ANNE SOBLE

It has now been declared that the drought that has wreaked havoc in the state of California for three years is officially over. Most Malibuites may not have been particularly impacted by the drought, except for noticing the occasional placement of “conserve water” signs at population pockets along Pacific Coast Highway.
Although Malibuites are often predisposed to describe the area as a “rural” community, there is rural and there is rural. The Malibu dwellers who live a more traditional version of a rural lifestyle watched their wells either dry up or come perilously close to doing so. Irrigation lines for horses, llamas, goats and sheep were modified to take advantage of every drop of water. Larger acreage water needs called for special accommodation. Landscaping and crop choices were dictated by drought tolerance.
Even so, these constraints paled in comparison to the drought’s impact on the state’s small farmers. In many cases, water had to be trucked in on a regular basis, which is not only difficult, but also very expensive. And some food fanciers contended that produce doesn’t taste as good when it is not irrigated with the water from the same area.
For those who experienced the rockslides and mudflows that accompanied the record rainfalls, the ending of the drought may be small solace as their homes and lives are still being cleaned up and repaired. The celebration of the drought’s demise would be more jubilant, if it was not accompanied by the kinds of personal catastrophe that are all too familiar to most Malibuites.
This is why there should be extensive preventive planning in all areas made vulnerable by recent wildfires or the kind of poor planning that did not take this kind of rainfall into account. Some kinds of planning mistakes only become obvious during a disaster, but the fact is so-called 100-year storms occur as often as every 10 years.
The water conservation measures that were implemented on the local and state levels should not be abandoned because we have enjoyed a year of record rainfall. This precipitation has replenished much needed reserves, but cannot be treated cavalierly. If we have learned anything about meteorology, it is that one should be wary of predictions for future winter rains, as we might find ourselves surprised by the opposite of this year’s bounty.
Water is so critical to life that it should be perceived as priceless, whatever the clouds have to offer. This is in keeping with the conservation approach we should take to all finite resources. If we do, we will always be better prepared to cope with the unpredictable shortfalls that are inevitable.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Gets Wet Start as Powerful Pacific Storm Soaks Malibu

BY ANNE SOBLE


It was ark-building time in Malibu last weekend as Malibu was pummeled by a powerful Pacific storm that even had local ducks scrambling for cover.
Despite forecasts from some of the Southland’s most preeminent meteorologists that the ocean is experiencing La Niña conditions that usually indicate dry or drier weather, local rainfall records continue to be exceeded.
Rain gauges on Point Dume and in Malibu Park recorded upwards of four inches of rain during Sunday’s torrent, while those in western Malibu, traditionally the heaviest local rainfall area, indicated seven or more inches of precipitation.
Add wind gusts clocked at 55 mph on hand-held weather meters and residents kept asking themselves whether this really was the spring equinox.
Tree limbs and branches were everywhere. There were several reports of downed fences and rails. The water runoff and the mudflow did not call for evacuations, but that doesn’t make the cleanup task any more palatable.
Traffic on Pacific Coast Highway and the mountain through-routes moved slowly, compounded by ponding, rockfalls, an errant water hydrant, and light signal and other repair issues.
Even though local motorists have been forewarned that a series of construction projects on the eastern end of PCH may have a major cumulative impact on traffic for two years or so, this week indicated that adding weather into the mix could be paralyzing.
Residents are also reminded that saturated hillsides will be prone to movement for several weeks to months after the rains are over. After two dry days, huge boulders fell on Malibu Canyon Road Tuesday. The same might happen on Kanan and other roads as soil contracts in response to changes in moisture levels.
Motorists are advised to stay alert for intermittent closures triggered by earth movement.
Adding to the stress of the rain aftermath, a 3.3 earthquake was felt in the greater Malibu area at 11:56 p.m. on Monday. The small temblor was located three miles out in the ocean.
More spectacular was the fire hydrant sheared off in a vehicle accident just after dawn Tuesday that spewed gushing water five stories high on PCH east of Big Rock. Traffic maneuvered around the spectacle that took over an hour to be shut down.
On the bright side, the city’s ambitious 20th birthday celebration on Sunday looks to be rain free. Everyone should be in the mood for a festive occasion after having dealt with a week of the winter that doesn’t want to end.

Lagoon Project Advocates Release Video to Try to Address Critics’ Concerns

• Effort Is First Major Acknowledgement that the Opposition Can No Longer Be Ignored by the State

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Representatives from the agencies promoting the Malibu Lagoon Restoration have released a video in an attempt to stem the groundswell of opposition that appears to be building in the Malibu community against the project scheduled to break ground in June.
“The Facts Supporting the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project” video was created by Shifting Baselines for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, one of the lead organizations in the plan to drain, bulldoze and reconfigure the western portion of the Malibu Lagoon.
“There have been concerns voiced,” the video begins. “Here we set the record straight on a few distortions of the facts.”
“Malibu Lagoon, right now, is choking to death, and its hard to see from a human perspective,” Shelley Luce, director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission states in the video, standing against a background of blue sky and green tule reeds at the lagoon.
“What happens is the tidewaters come in, they carrying sediment. The sediment drops out and there isn’t enough draw on the way back to bring any of that sediment there, so it’s rapidly filling.” Clark Stevens, executive officer of the Resources Conservation District, explains.
Stevens warns that if the funding is not used for the Malibu Lagoon, it will be awarded to another water project.
“The ecology of the lagoon is severely impaired and the end result is that the state water board, the EPA, regional water board, they’ve all made it clear that this lagoon is so polluted that it needs to be cleaned up,” Mark Gold, the president of Heal the Bay, which worked with state parks to develop the restoration project, says.
However, opponents of the reconstruction plan are already saying the video raises more questions than it addresses.
Critics point out that the restoration project does nothing to address the issue of upstream pollution entering the lagoon.
Opponents also question the project’s science on oxygen levels. Marcia Hanscom, a biologist with the Wetlands Defense and an outspoken critic of the project, counters that areas with low dissolved oxygen are much smaller than estimated and that the areas of highest concern are outside the reconstruction project.
”Something is wrong with their conclusions,” Hanscom told the Malibu Surfside News. “There are fish living there. There are no records of [fish] die-off in the lagoon.”
Hanscom is also critical of proponent’s claims that the process was “open and transparent.” “Yes, there were lots of meetings,” Hanscom said. “But that was the Lagoon Task Force. This project was only presented after the state stopped convening [the task force]. We never saw the grading plans.”
Project critics also question the contention that tidal flow is responsible for sedimentation, since the lagoon is only open to the ocean during the periods when the berm is breached. They have repeatedly expressed concern that sediment will continue to flow into the lagoon from upstream, and point to provisions in the approved plan that allow for re-dredging the lagoon at the end of five years as proof that the state is also uncertain about the outcome of the project.
“They’re trying to make something that was never here,” longtime Malibu resident and surfer Andy Lyon told The News. “If you look at the plans, they’re making a huge lake behind the Colony, but it’s never been like that.”
Lyon is also concerned about the impact the project will have on the surf break.
“One thing I care about is messing with a world famous surf break,” Lyon said.
The video does not address the issue raised by members of the surfing community that the 1983 restoration permanently altered the surf break by changing how the creek empties into the bay and altering how sediment is deposited. They say that the new project has the potential to intensify the problem.
A Civic Center area restaurateur told The News that he and many of the other businesses in the area are worried about the impact the heavy equipment and multiple dump trucks required to remove the excavated fill and mud will have on summer traffic and whether the project will deter visitors during peak tourist season. “We had an unusually cold summer last year and record rains this winter. We are counting on summer business,” he said.
The project’s proponents counter that the window for work to proceed has to be limited to the summer months, when the impact on sensitive birds and fish species will be reduced.
The Malibu City Council will discuss the issue at its April 11 meeting. Opponents are preparing to file a court injunction on May 11 and opposition to the restoration project continues to build. A “Stop the Bulldozers” fundraising event at Duke’s Restaurant last week attracted between 200-300 protesters, including actress and activist Daryl Hannah and a wide cross section of residents, environmentalists, access advocates, surfers, bird-watchers and beachgoers, and weekly lagoon walks are planned to “educate the public.”
“Bulldozers are not an evil thing in and of themselves,” Suzanne Goode, senior environmental scientist for California State Parks, says on the video. “They’re merely a tool, just like a shovel or a hoe.”
Project scientist Richard Ambrose elaborates on why bulldozers are required, referring to the extensive excavations required to facilitate the reconstruction. “Volunteers with shovels in 10 years would not be able to re-contour the lagoon,” he says.
“[Project opponents have] known this place for a long time. They are very fiercely protective of it,” Stevens says in the video.
“I understand that. That’s why we are trying to let people know this is the doctor. This thing has appendicitis. It has toxic things flowing through it. It needs to be restructured so it can be healthy and have a long, long life.”
“This has been a very transparent and open process that has taken ten years. There may be some people who just came to Malibu within the last year or two, or perhaps they’re very young, in their 20s, that don’t recall that we went through this exhaustive process,” Goode says. “At some point, when you’re planning a project and you have all of the input from the stakeholders, you have to move on and get the project planned. We cannot go back and reopen things after everyone has agreed unanimously that this is what we need to do.”
“We have the funds in place, we have the political will, we have the scientific backing to do a true ecological restoration,” Luce says at the end of the video.
However, some observers say it appears that project proponents do not seem to want to engage in an open dialogue with those who oppose the project.
The “Facts Supporting the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project” video can be viewed online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEQbsYcHOL4.
Information on the lagoon project opposition is available at www.savemalibulagoon.com
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Planning Commission Airs Proposed View Restoration Ordinance

• Public Invited to Testify on Provisions

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu Planning Commission is scheduled to take public testimony and deliberate on a recommendation for the proposed citywide view restoration ordinance on Tuesday, April 5. It will be the sole item on the agenda.
According to city 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.”
The staff is recommending the commission adopt the negative declaration and recommend approval of a zone text amendment and a citywide view restoration ordinance.
The impetus for the proposed ordinance comes from the voters on April 8, 2008 when an advisory measure asked, “Should the Malibu City Council adopt an ordinance that would re quire the removal or trimming of landscaping in order to restore and maintain primary views from private homes?” The measure was approved by 60 percent of the voters.
The then city council decided in June, 2008 to create the View Protection Task Force to gather public input on what should be included in the citywide ordinance.
The task force met for almost a year and ultimately approved a proposed draft ordinance, while two members of the task force prepared a minority report. One of the dissenters was Lou La Monte, now a council member.
In a move that astounded some task force members and angered others, the council referred the draft law to the council’s Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee, or ZORACES, for review. That panel recommended the city hold one or two planning commission workshops.
In the fall of 2010, the planning panel did hold two workshops to provide further opportunity for residents to express their views and provide comments.
At the first workshop, according to the planning department, the commission directed the staff to draft an ordinance that would accomplish certain goals.
Those included providing a role for the city to offer assistance to residents, establish clearly defined rules or standards composed of objective factors, and limit overall costs to the city.
At the second meeting, according to planners, the panelists reviewed a draft of the proposed ordinance and by consensus requested certain items be included in the ordinance.
Those items included compelling commercial properties to be included in the ordinance, allowing property owners to choose where to take their primary view, permitting property owners to apply for the protection of one additional view if their property has more than one unique or different view, allowing property owners to retro-actively restore views that existed at the date of incorporation or the date the house was purchased, whichever is later, granting property owners the right to restore views if the obstruction is within a 1000-foot radius of their property, require city trees be subject to the ordinance and not exempt from restorative action, include language to clarify that the proposed ordinance will not impact any existing CC&Rs, prohibit restoration of views that were obtained illegally or as a result of a disaster, and allow a new property owner to continue where the previous property owner left off in the view restoration process, according to a staff report.
Associate Planner Ha Ly indicated in a memo to the planning commission that all of those items have been incorporated into the proposed ordinance prepared by the staff, except for commercial buildings.
Planners noted 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 foliage that meets the definition of Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area or native trees “is exempt from restoration actions.”
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 emphasis on neighbors resolving issues prior to court action.
Planners told planning commission members it would adopt provisions from the task force document, and other ordinances currently enacted by other cities.
The proposed ordinance is currently posted on the city’s website.

PCH Facility Spotlights Problematic Location

• Highway Ingress and Egress Raise Serious Safety Concerns

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


Malibu resident Joseph Annocki, 41, was killed in a fatal motorcycle collision on Pacific Coast Highway on the night of March 16. He is the first PCH fatality of 2011.
Annocki reportedly struck a vehicle whose driver was attempting to make an illegal left turn out of Geoffrey’s restaurant just before 9 p.m. The motorcyclist was declared dead at the scene. Eastbound lanes of the highway were closed until the next morning. The incident remains under investigation.
Law enforcement officials stated that the driver of the vehicle, described as a visitor from Oklahoma at the wheel of a rental car, could potentially be charged with misdemeanor manslaughter. Alcohol was not a factor, according to the Lost Hill’s Sheriff Station.
Initial reports indicate that the driver may not have realized that the Qwick Kurb paddles were the center divider of a four lane highway that only allows right turns at that location.
The initial assessment is that the man thought he could make a left turn and began heading into opposing traffic before realizing his mistake and attempting to reverse the vehicle and change course.
The motorcyclist, estimated to have been traveling at 60 mph, apparently attempted to swerve and brake, was able to slow or possibly stop the bike, but not in time to prevent the fatal collision.
Longtime west Malibu residents say that stretch of highway, which includes a beach easement, an apartment complex, Geoffrey’s restaurant’s driveway, a curve and a steep hill is often blocked by closely parked vehicles, and has been the site of a number of accidents, including at least one other fatality.
The paddles were installed several years ago in an effort to improve safety and eliminate illegal left turns.
Some highway safety advocates are asking whether more could be done to improve the safety of the highway in that area.

Charter Cable Stops Broadcast of Municipal Meetings

• Demands Payment to Continue to Air City Programming

BY BILL KOENEKER


Malibu city officials announced last week that Charter Cable stopped broadcasting municipal programming including city council meetings and planning commission sessions on March 20.
Local Verizon FiOS cable subscribers will continue to receive city broadcasts.
However, Verizon has advised the city that the broadcast will be unavailable from Monday, March 21, through Thursday, March 24.
Regular city programming will return on Friday, March 25, according to Verizon representatives.
The city will continue to offer live webstreaming of city council and planning commission meetings on its website. The meetings are also archived for future or repeat viewing, according to municipal officials.
Charter indicated it would stop carrying Malibu’s government access programming, which includes the city meetings and broadcasts of public service announcements, unless it receives about $900 per month, according to city officials.
City Manager Jim Thorsen, at a previous meeting, told city council members Verizon is connected to the new city hall and will not charge.
Charter insists that changes in California’s cable franchising law have left the cable giant off the hook to carry Malibu City TV without charging.
In a staff memo to city council members, the city attorney’s office opined they dispute Charter's interpretation, but the cable company won’t budge on its own interpretation of the law.
“There may be a fee for construction of a fiber optic line into the new city hall, unless the city signs a long-term agreement,” adds the staff memo.
The council was also told that Charter appears to be the only company to take such a stance.
According to a staff report, the dispute centers on the interpretation of certain sections of California’s statewide cable franchising law.
The city insists the law and legislative history supports the requirement that Charter carry the city’s channels without charge as it has in the past and points to Charter’s application for a state cable franchise where it stipulates that it would provide public, education and government access channels and the required funding as required by the public utilities code.
“Unless and until the city and Charter can agree on carriage for Malibu City TV, staff expects Charter will continue to refuse to carry Malibu City TV and channel 3 will remain empty of programming.
“Verizon has not made the same carriage demands as Charter, so Malibu City TV should remain available to subscribers of Verizon FiOS,” the staff report concludes.

School District Nurse Layoffs Generate Numerous Student Service Concerns

BY JULIE FULMER WALLACH


School nurses are experiencing layoffs and the possibility of long-term changes to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s health services infrastructure.
At a recent nurses’ meeting, Debra Moore Washington, assistant superintendent for human resources, publicly laid-off 6.6 nurses. Layoffs were made in the presence of an attending guest speaker and in front of the nurses’ colleagues.
Anne Ernst, Malibu High School nurse, described the manner in which layoffs were issued as “unprofessional, cold and dehumanizing.”
Juan Cabrillo nurse Meg Mahon, who received a layoff notice from the district, shared that Washington apologized for the way layoffs were handled, but Ernst said that nurses notified their union of how layoffs were handled.
Ernst said, “In the past, nurses have met with HR personnel individually rather than in a public forum. It was demoralizing.”
In an interview with The News, Ernst shared her concern that the district will “replace nurses with less qualified staff. As people that deal with students directly, we won’t be able to provide the services we have in the past and perform good assessments for a variety of health-related issues.”
A concerned parent said at Malibu High School’s PTSA meeting last Thursday that Malibu’s remote location from a hospital creates more of a need for nurses on campus.
There are currently 11 FTE nurses, with two of those positions temporary until June. The board approved 5.6 FTE nurses, which translates a total of nine nurses districtwide. An extra “precautionary” layoff was also made.
At the district board meeting last Thursday, Washington provided a job description for licensed vocational nurses, or LVNs, who could possibly replace nurses at some point. An LVN can perform certain medical procedures such as give injections and administer medication. While RNs in the district have bachelors and masters degrees along with teaching credentials, LVNs are high school graduates with two years experience in a medical setting.
Washington said, “It’s not that we know now that we are going to use the job description right away, but it gives us the ability to use it now or in the future. There are several areas of the LVN job description that we’ll be doing more work on. It will come back to the board for approval after more discussion. We may need some legal opinion about what an LVN can and can't do.”
Marolyn Freeman, director of student services for the district, stated, “LVNs cannot function in a school without the supervision of an RN.”
Board member Jose Escarce, who is an MD said, “There are things that an LVN can do very well. Skills are different, they are at different levels of education, but everyone has skills they can contribute. I want to make sure that we recognize limitations but acknowledge what they can do.”
Ben Allen, vice president of the board added, “Everyone was concerned with the extent to which services were being compromised, so how do we expand coverage given all of the factors? How do we get medical coverage at every campus given budget constraints?”
Boardmember Nimish Patel said, “There is a certain level of frustration because, why would we jeopardize the health and safety of our children? It is very frustrating that we have to make all these sacrifices but we do.”
“It is important to ask where the other cuts are and why are budget cuts on the backs of nurses,” Mahon said.
Anne Ernst concluded, “Our job involves a lot more than passing out band-aids. We provide screening for emotional issues that may otherwise go undetected. If students are not healthy or too anxious, they cannot learn. Health goes hand-in-hand with learning.”

SMMUSD Board Agrees to Sign MOU to Cover Mental Health Service Costs

BY JULIE FULMER WALLACH


The board of education approved an MOU between the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health in a 5-1 vote, with Ben Allen voting against the motion and Laurie Lieberman absent.
Board members expressed their concern about how the DMH handles services under AB 3632, the mandate that outgoing Governor Schwarzenegger blue-penciled last year, which funds services to students with Individualized Education Programs who also receive mental health services.
Allen said, “I am under the impression that school districts have not been dealt with particularly good faith in this manner.”
Board member Nimish Patel shared, “I am outraged by this issue. We are already facing a devastating budget crisis and we’re faced with approximately $200,000 a month that we didn’t account for in our budget.”
At the meeting, Allen asked Tri-City Special Education Local Planning Area Director Jeanne Davis if “other districts are paying the services because there’s no other choice?”
Davis responded, “Yes. If we were to say Monday, we’re going to take over our own services, we would probably face a number of due process hearings that would cost as much as this is costing.”
According to superintendent Tim Cuneo, there are currently 15 students placed by DMH at residential treatment centers and 59 students receiving outpatient IEP-based mental health services from DMH.
Cuneo’s report regarding the MOU states, “Because the districts did not have adequate time to develop alternate means of providing these services, and because the law does not allow for an interruption in IEP services, most districts are opting to contract directly with county DMH to provide these services.
“Additional cost to the district from providing these services through contracting with DMH is approximately $250,000 per month.”
According to an information packet provided by a group of parents and professionals who are working on legislation to reinstate AB 3632, “Several county mental health agencies have already notified school districts that they will no longer accept new referrals of children with mental health needs. Most school agencies do not have the capacity, expertise, or infrastructure to provide these services, nor do they have adequate funding to cover these new costs.” Davis added, “We need to have a plan for this very, very needy group of students.”

The Origin of Baywatch Malibu: Part Two—Perspective on the 1957 Rescue

BY Howard Lee


I was Bob Burnside's partner on the Northern Division (Malibu Coast) lifeguard emergency truck on the winter day in 1957. We responded to an overturned boat one-and-a-half miles offshore from Leo Carrillo Beach.
On site, Bob paddled our rescue paddleboard out to the capsized craft and found a woman and three men hanging onto the boat. One of the men was suffering badly from overexposure to the 48-degree water.
After assessing the situation, Bob determined he had better paddle the man to shore for emergency medical care and assured the other three a rescue vessel was on the way.
Bob returned to shore exhausted, in tandem with the overexposed man. He relayed the paddleboard to me for return to the capsized boat. Before starting, I quickly briefed Bob that our headquarters at Zuma Beach had contacted the Navy at Port Hueneme and were sending a crash boat to assist. Bob was re lieved he didn’t tell those people a lie.
My paddle out was really long because I had recently returned to lifeguard work after serving two years in the Army. Since back, my workouts consisted of running, swimming, rowing dories and surfing. Paddleboard practice had been minimal, believing board surfing would condition me for that. Wrong. There is nothing like training with the equipment you are going to actually use.
The distance alone was challenging, but the worst thing about the paddle to the boat was negotiating the huge and thick kelp beds. The only way to make headway much of the time was to grab handfuls of kelp and pull myself and the board over the kelp.
Then, once outside of the kelp, the wind created ocean chop. By the time I reached the boat, my arms were like lead, but I felt great relief when seeing all three of the people were still hanging on. In my estimation they now had been in the water for two hours.
The two men and one woman were freezing cold. One of the men said he couldn't hang onto the boat any longer, so with help from the other two, we managed to put the overexposed man on top of the boat’s upturned bottom. He was mostly out of the water and able to get some warmth from the sun. The skiff/boat was only 15 feet long, so only one person at a time was able to take a break from the cold water.
After some time passed, there was still no crash boat in sight. The boat had to travel about 12 miles to reach us, and I thought it should have arrived by now, but I kept this thought to myself. The man on the overturned boat’s bottom appeared to have recovered somewhat, so I suggested he rotate with his friends so they too could get some time out of the water.
He responded, “No!” He then said he wanted me to paddle him to the beach. The other man was showing some anxiety and said he too wanted to go to shore. The men may have been looking toward shore where they could see red lights shining from lifeguard, fire, sheriff and ambulance vehicles parked up on the bluff.
They no doubt figured there must be a nice warm blanket and hot coffee there somewhere. I told them, “No. It would not be a good idea to paddle anyone to shore because I would not leave any one of you to fend for yourself in your present condition; and that the crash boat would no doubt be here before I could get even one of you to shore.”
I no more than finished giving them my position, when I looked in the distance and there it was—the crash boat heading right for us. Just like the cavalry.
The Navy took us aboard their boat, along with my paddleboard, and then bundled up the three survivors in coats and blankets. I informed them they could find their friend who was paddled ashore earlier by contacting the Los Angeles County sheriff’s, fire or lifeguard departments in Malibu.
The Navy crash boat was ready to return to Port Hueneme with the survivors who were doing fine in their recovery from the cold water. I requested the Navy drop me and my board off as close to shore as possible and in a place where there was a corridor through the kelp. We found the spot a little up coast, which added a little more distance to my paddle to shore, but it was worth it to avoid having to crawl over the kelp again.
I said good-bye to the survivors, thanked the Navy crew for their assistance, then jumped into the ocean. The sailors passed me my paddleboard and away I went toward shore.
Shortly, my arms were turning to lead again even though there was no urgency to make shore and passage through the kelp this time was much easier.
While paddling, I began thinking about Bob's paddle out to the capsized boat and then almost immediately back to shore, in tandem, with the man suffering severe overexposure.
That was a tremendous accomplishment; a feat I am thankful I didn't have to attempt. I also thought about how calm the woman from the capsized boat remained the whole time. She had to be freezing from the cold water, but never complained. Her stoic demeanor was helpful to me in dealing with the two men approaching panic. The thought of Bob and the woman inspired and strengthened me to paddle in good form the rest of the way to shore.
Bob met me at the water’s edge. We were both worn-out and freezing, but spent a few minutes talking through chattering teeth about the rescue. Bob wondered if I was ready to transfer from Zuma Beach back to Hermosa Beach where we had a rescue boat readily available to back-up lifeguards on rescues.
Hell, at that moment on the beach talking with Bob, I was ready to bypass Hermosa and rejoin the Army. Just kidding!
While securing the paddleboard to our emergency truck, some spectators, as they left the bluff in their cars, passed us waving, and others stopped to give us some kudos. We received compliments on our rescue by way of honking horns and touches of sirens from firemen, sheriff’s deputies and CHP as they departed, or was it because we were in the way?
We then jumped into our truck for the ride back to headquarters with our heater going full blast.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Malibu Rallied to Help Those Who Bore Brunt of Disaster

• Community Had Little to Fear from Threat to the West

BY ANNE SOBLE


When it was 2:46 p.m. last Friday in Sendei, Japan, it was almost 10 p.m. the night before in Malibu, and people may have been getting ready to go to sleep unless they checked the news.
The news was devastating, an 8.9 temblor, one of the strongest earthquakes in history, had struck northern Japan. A tsunami would follow, producing waves over three stories in height. Even for one of the most earthquake-ready nations in the world, the damage would be unthinkable.
Malibu’s east-west geography meant relative assurance of minimal impact, but not responsibility. Locals are being asked to support relief and aid agencies (a partial list is printed below) responding to the crisis.
How well and quickly Japan recovers will serve as a model for improved planning in Malibu and other earthquake vulnerable areas, where even a lesser temblor could bring life to a standstill.

Lagoon Debate Takes on Hostile Foe Dimension

• Differences Are Given Political Spin

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


The State Parks Department appears to be embracing what one observer described as a “Cold War” mentality in the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project debate.
A memo circulated to Adamson House docents repeatedly refers to opposition to the plan for dewatering, dredging and re-contouring the western portion of the lagoon, as “anti-restoration propaganda.”
“Some local activists have been distributing misinformation and self-serving propaganda against this project, which has also been endorsed by several related organizations,” the memo states.
“When conducting tours or encountering visitors on the site, you may receive questions about the project. Attached you will find a fact sheet about the project, which you may print out to which you can refer, as necessary,” the memo states.
“Any anti-project propaganda in the form of signs or posters found in the state park should be removed and destroyed,” the memo instructs.
Docents are informed that they should tell visitors that “the lagoon in not healthy,” that the “only way to correct the poor circulation is to remove old fill and reconfigure the channels to a more natural pattern,” and that “wildlife will be protected.” The script states that a proposal by project opponents, including “use of [a] “hydro-rake,” is “inferior to the [parks’] plan.”
“Hydro-rake is a backhoe with a rake attachment that removes excess vegetation and sediment. This will not address the poor topography. Regulatory agencies will not allow work in wet channels. Hydro-rake would stir up sediments and harm fish. Hydro-rake solution would need to be repeated every few years. The proposed project is self-sustaining,” the fact sheet concludes.
Lagoon project opponents spoke out at the Malibu City Council this week during public comment. The council is set to officially discuss the issue on April 11.
State park representatives have not been actively involved in the debate over the project, apparently content to leave the defense of the project, which has already approved state-level approval to proceed, in the hands of activist and surfer Bob Purvey, who has longstanding ties to Heal the Bay, which worked with the state to develop the project and the Malibu Coastal Conservancy.
Wetlands activist Marcia Hanscom, who has spearheaded the lawsuit opposing the project, told the city council that the lagoon is in the permanent jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission. “[The city’s] Local Coastal Program contains a specific policy,” she said. “Both phases [of the project] must be approved by the city and the commission. It seems you must take action. Bob Purvey has said the city has no say.”
“I’ve been looking at the budget online,” project opponent Ann Doneen said. There are three budgets. They conflict with each other.”
Surfer Athena Shlien said she was concerned that the council would provide “staged democracy,” instead of true democracy. “The mayor is on the board of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission. I’m hoping [his] loyalty is with the City of Malibu.”
Longtime Colony resident Carol Moss asked Mayor John Sibert to recuse himself on April 11. “There seems to be a conflict.” Moss added that “[the project] is presented as a done deal. It’s not a done deal,” she said. “The city council has more impact than you know.”
Project opponents are hosting a “stop the bulldozers” information and fundraising event on Friday, March 18, at 7:30 p.m. at Duke’s Restaurant. They say that if the lawsuit they have filed is not heard in time to stop the project scheduled to begin June 1, they will file for an injunction.
Information on the opposition effort is available online at www.savemalibulagoon.com
Information on the state parks project, including the Final Environmental Impact Report and maps and diagrams, is available at www.parks.ca.gov
The city council agenda will be available next week at www.ci.malibu.ca.us

Applicant Denied Pot Permit Appeals Decision to Council

• Seeks Comparison with Approved Bid

BY BILL KOENEKER



An applicant who was denied a permit for a medical marijuana dispensary at a planning commission meeting on March 1 has appealed the planning panel’s decision to the city council.
That same applicant, Twin Lyons Wellness Center, has also appealed the planning panel’s decision granting a permit to Malibu Collective Caregivers after the commission had approved a permit for the competing applicant. Twin Lyons wants the city council to rehear both applications.
The two applicants are vying for one permit of two allowed citywide. The other permit was granted to PCH Collective.
The city’s ordinance only allows two operating pot pharmacies in the city.
Twin Lyons has insisted the city should grant the permit to the facility that is considered the best operation and fit for the municipality rather than on a first-come, first-served basis.
“The appellant was lead to believe that such a comparative consideration was within the power of the planning commission and had been employed in recent cases,” wrote Twin Lyons attorney James Anthony, in an appeal letter to the city. “The appellant was thus clearly lead to believe that both applications would be heard and then one would be chosen.”
However, Assistant City Attorney Greg Kovacevich had instructed commissioners.
“You can’t approve both.”
The panelists deliberated on the first application sought by Malibu Collective Caregivers, whose application was deemed complete a week before Twin Lyons.
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 conducted a full public hearing on the Twin Lyons application after Kovacevich said the application could be withdrawn or the applicant could go forward or ask for a continuance of the item to see if the prior applicant gets appealed.
The commission opened a public hearing and after testimony and deliberations ultimately agreed to deny the permit and directed the staff to bring back a resolution denying the request for the operation of a medical marijuana dispensary, which they did on March 1. The commission without discussion formally denied the permit.
“The planning commission’s findings are not supported by the evidence; nor is its decision supported by its findings. Therefore, the city council should re-hear both applications, weigh all the evidence, and approve the application that best meets the requirements of the city’s medical marijuana dispensary ordinance, the city’s Conditional Use Permit requirements and the best interests of the city and of the public health, safety and welfare,” added Anthony.

MPA Volunteers to Serve as Data Gatherers

• Critics Are Portraying Young Field Workers as ‘Fish Police’

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN


A training session for Marine Protected Area volunteers hosted by the City of Malibu, and sponsored by Heal the Bay, turned contentious last week, when opponents of the Point Dume Marine Protected Area that would limit or eliminate fishing of the coast from the western end of Paradise Cove to El Matador State Beach spoke out at the session.
Eight volunteers, mostly high school and college students attended the training session. Five outspoken fishing advocates also attended the event. Two students took the bus from UCLA to attend the training session in Malibu. High school students had the option to earn community service hours by participating in the project.
Heal the Bay biologist Dana Murray explained that the program provided an opportunity to involve the public in monitoring the MPA, which is scheduled to be officially established later this year. The volunteers will walk the beach along the proposed MPA and adjacent areas and gather data on beach use.
By starting ahead of the official dedication of the new underwater park, the volunteers will be able to gather several months of baseline data.
Each volunteer received a packet of maps, information on the MPAs, sample survey forms and a bumper sticker that said “My Other State Park Is Underwater.”
A field training session was scheduled for the Saturday following the classroom training. See page 13 for story.
Murray stressed that the volunteers, described by MPA critic Chris Goldblatt as “fish police,” are strictly citizen scientists whose job will be to gather raw data and not enforcers.
“You’re not out there enforcing compliance,” Murray said. “This is unbiased observation. You are out there to collect data.” She added that the volunteers will also provide extra eyes to report injured marine mammals and sea birds.
Murray said that MPAs on the Channel Islands have been successful, encouraging fish stocks to increase, and that Heal the Bay hopes to see similar results off the coast of Malibu. She described the MPA as an “underwater Yosemite.”
“Ninety percent of all large fish are gone,” Murray said. “Globally, the catch is reduced by half…”
“[You’re] talking about virgin stock,” Goldblatt interrupted. “Pre WW II. It’s unsustainable. Essentially impossible. Surfing, SCUBA, kayaking, swimming [will be] negatively impacted by the MPA.”
“The Department of Fish and Game [the agency responsible for overseeing the MPA] doesn’t regulate beach going,” Heal the Bay’s Sarah Sikich replied. “That’s not how the DFG has worked [at the MPAs already established].”
“There are MPAs in 45 nations and territories,” said Murray. “They promote tourism. There are bigger fish, more fish, species diversity.” Murray stated that in the Channel Islands MPAs, established in 2003, the increased fish population was “spilling over” into adjacent areas, improving recreational and commercial fishing prospects.
Sikich added that the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative to develop the network of MPAs along the California coast, involved the input of a wide range of stakeholders.
Goldblatt did not agree. “[It’s an] insult to everybody in the room,” he said.
“People who fish for subsistence, you are getting between people and their need. There’s going to be a lot of resistance. You are destroying a culture that has been in place with caucasians for 100 years, for Native Americans for 7000 years. You should tell your minions,” Goldblatt said.
“There may be a dark side,” another MPA critic said. “MPAs in Guam caused deaths.”
“We’re just collecting data,” Murray interjected.
“You’re exposing spear fishermen to boat strike death,” Goldblatt said. If you support these things you are exposing yourselves to danger,” he told the volunteers.
Jennifer Voccola, the City of Malibu’s Environmental Programs Coordinator, opted to call the sheriff, after making several requests to the fishing advocates for order.
Witnesses indicated that the city employee appeared to overbalance on her high heeled shoes when she went to discuss the matter with Goldblatt.
She stated after the incident that she lost her balance and grabbed at Goldblatt’s shoulder to steady herself.
Goldblatt, however, viewed the incident as an attack, crying out that he had been assaulted, and was in pain.
Goldblatt reported to the Malibu Surfside News that he had filed assault charges with the sheriff’s department against Voccola.
The visit from the sheriff’s deputy restored order to the meeting, but not before several of the volunteers had left.
“This is a pilot program,” Murray said, at the conclusion of the session.“Volunteers will help refine it and shape it. We’ll be collecting baseline data now. Monitoring will continue after implementation. It’s important to get a wide scope.”
“Why are you putting effort into counting people?” asked one of the fishing advocates. “You should be counting fish.”
“Don’t they understand that what we’re doing in gathering data?” Malibu resident Melia Grasska, a high school student who has volunteered for the program, told the Malibu Surfside News after the meeting. “This is data they can use, too. It’s unbiased research.”
Information on the MPA Watch program is available at healthebay.org.

Appellate Court Rules County Can’t Be Held Liable for Malibu Creek Pollution

• NRDC Lawsuit Fares Better on Other Polluted Waterways

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed part of a lower court decision in an opinion issued last week finding that Los Angeles County is responsible for untreated stormwater runoff it allows in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers.
However, it stopped short of issuing the same ruling for two additional waterways, the Santa Clara River and Malibu Creek, indicating the evidence did not pinpoint the county.
The lawsuit was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Santa Monica Baykeeper. Both parties have a similar lawsuit pending in the court against the City of Malibu and other municipalities.
In its decision, the three-judge panel agreed with NRDC and the Baykeeper that the county— through its flood control district—has been illegally discharging polluted water into the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers under its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, according to the NRDC.
The lower court had sided with the county, ruling that the plaintiffs had not provided enough evidence that the pollutants had been under the defendant’s control.
Both the NRDC and the Baykeeper, who appealed the trial court’s opinion, claimed victory over their partial win.
“The court’s decision should be celebrated by all who value coastal and aquatic resources like recreation, natural habitats and scenic beauty,” according to Liz Crosson, the executive director of Baykeeper.
“This decision is a critical step towards addressing water pollution in major Los Angeles waterways,” Crosson added.
The ruling affirms that the county must do more to improve water quality and protect public health and the environment.
As a remedy for the violations identified by the court, NRDC and the Baykeeper indicated they will seek a court order requiring the county to reduce runoff pollution to levels that protect public health and the environment, according to a press release issued by the NRDC.
“For years, the county claimed that it could never be held accountable for its toxic discharges. All that changes with this ruling,” said Aaron Colangelo, a senior attorney with NRDC.
When it rains in Los Angeles, billions of gallons of water pour into the county’s storm drains possibly carrying bacteria, pathogens, animal waste, metals, oils and other pollutants, which flow untreated into the Pacific Ocean and onto Southern California beaches.
The NRDC maintains that stormwater runoff is the primary known source of pollution at beaches nationwide.

Council Passes on Painted Porcelain Potties and Precludes Presentation in City Parks

• Project Sponsor Said ‘Toilets Are Integral Part of Our City’

BY BILL KOENEKER


It seemed apparent from the last time when the Malibu City Council was asked to vote on the “The Porcelain Project,” a planned art exhibition of recycled plumbing fixtures, that members really did not want to go on record approving or disapproving the use of discarded sinks, toilets and urinals from the remodeling of the library for an art exhibit celebrating the 20th anniversary of the city’s incorporation or for city-sponsored Earth Day events.
At this week’s Monday night meeting, the council, this time, went on record with a 3-2 vote refusing to endorse the proposal and deferring its money-making schemes and exhibitions to the county library system.
“You know my feelings about this. I still have reservations about this thing. It is a private [endeavor],” said Councilmember Lou La Monte, who suggested that instead of the proceeds going to the proposed Civic Center Wastewater facility, the monies collected from the sale of the art work go to the library.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who previously told council members she wanted to organize the community art project and was again asking council members to endorse the Porcelain Project or what some wags have derisively called the Potty Project, seemed to take to La Monte’s idea immediately
Conley Ulich was asking the council to give an official endorsement by agreeing to accept the proceeds of the community art project and approve the use of two of the art pieces for display at the Michael Landon Center at Bluffs Park for nearly three weeks in April.
“Maybe the proceeds could go to the Malibu Friends of the Library or the book fund. It is a good idea,” she said.
La Monte talked about who had the authority to grant the display space at the Michael Landon Center and was told it was up to the council “Doesn’t the Parks and Recreation Commission have the authority?” he asked.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said only if the council gave them the authority otherwise the council could take action.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal agreed with the recommendations and was ready to move the item.
After it was seconded by La Monte, Councilmember Jefferson Wagner said he had a problem with it. “I have supported Pam on a number of issues. It would be difficult for me to approve this. I have no problem giving [the proceeds] to the library. But I have a problem displaying it at Bluffs Park.”
La Monte agreed. “I have some issues with putting it on city property,” he said.
Wagner said if the art pieces were put on city property that constituted city endorsement. Both men said they had gotten phone calls from constituents.
Rosenthal suggested that just two pieces be displayed for the purpose of education and to show recycling and reuse.
But then Mayor John Sibert stepped into the conversation and said he too had some reservations much like La Monte and Wagner. “I don’t have a real problem with it at the Malibu Lumberyard,” the mayor added.
“As long as it is not city-sponsored,” replied La Monte. There was a brief discussion about the use of the city-owned shopping center, but council members agreed they had no control over the art space at the Lumberyard.
“ We could select a piece such as just sinks not urinals,” said Wagner.
Whereupon, Conley Ulich said, “I have to differ. If you want to pick the pieces, it is city-sponsored.”
At a previous meeting, La Monte had cautioned the city could become the “butt” of every joke by taking on such irreverence when it was trying to improve its image, especially in light of spending upwards of a $100,000 by hiring its own publicist for an image makeover..
“We are trying to upgrade our image. I’m cautioning you,” he added.
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.”
Conley Ulich had said the history and future of Malibu has always been connected with sewers and toilets.
“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 had explained.
Conley Ulich went even further in her analysis, comparing the situation to the Dadaism cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I, and expressed its manifesto of anti-war politics through a rejection of the standards of Western art and the creation of so-called anti-art.
“We can help heal the city and do what Marcel Duchamp did in his seminal piece of the Dada movement,” she had said.