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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

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.

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