Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Opponents of State Parks Lagoon Plan Say They Won’t Let Up Efforts

• Petition for Writ of Mandate Cites Five Areas of Concern under State Coastal Requirements

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The Malibu Surfside News has obtained a copy of the petition for writ of mandate requesting a temporary stay, temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctions filed by the Wetlands Defense Fund, Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network and beach access advocacy organization Access for All against the California Coastal Commission, named Respondent; California Department of Parks and Recreation, the applicant; and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, agent of applicant, to prevent the State Parks’ Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project, which is scheduled to break ground in June.
The project, which involves dredging, draining and reconstructing approximately 12 acres in the western portion of the lagoon, has received all of the necessary permits and to proceed-including the contested Coastal Commission approval-but it has also become increasingly controversial, generating a growing groundswell of opposition.
“This petition seeks to protect wetlands, environmentally sensitive habitat, and a public access trail to the beach in Malibu Lagoon,” the document, prepared by the law firms of James Birkelund and Rose M. Zoia, states.
The petitioners allege that the Coastal Commission's approval “violates the Coastal Act…and its provisions that protect wetlands from dredging if less environmentally damaging alternatives exist, prohibit significant impacts to protect environmentally sensitive habitat areas and endangered species, and mandate the preservation of existing public access trails to the sea. Respondent’s approval of the project also violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).”
According to the petition, the lagoon is “impressively diverse with 17 vegetation communities and habitats” that “provides habitat for an array of endangered or sensitive species, including the tidewater goby, steelhead trout, California least tern, elegant tern, snowy plover, California brown pelican and Heermann's gull.”
The petition also states that “The project is slated for development within Malibu Lagoon State Beach, an area that is designated ESHA under the coastal act. ESHA is afforded one of the highest degrees of protection under the Coastal Act.
“Construction of the project would eradicate existing habitat in the western lagoon, destroying the ecology on which the tidewater goby and other species depend for survival and recovery.”
Access for All Executive Director Stephen Hoye blasts the project’s plan to remove the wooden bridges and the trail that connects them to the beach, stating that the plan reduces public access from two trails to one.
“From a public access standpoint, this is a radical, ill-thought out project which would squander important public access opportunities, and, indeed, would destroy what I and others consider one of the best accessways in Southern California,” Hoye wrote in his declaration in support of the injunction, which accompanied the petition.
“It’s so difficult to open up new access situations, which can take up to five years of litigation and associated work, that to destroy such a wonderful route to the beach as the wooden bridges is unacceptable…The final version approved by the commission entails the destruction and complete elimination of one trail.”
Malibu resident David Olan, founder of the Association of Surfing Lawyers, also had harsh words for the project in his declaration.
“The project would destroy one of the two public access ways through the Malibu Lagoon area. There is no replacement planned for the potential loss of this public access,” Olan wrote.
Olan described the bridges trail as “vastly more popular of the two trails and provides the shortest route to the sea.”
It is a California state requirement to provide access for all and the project would be clearly an inhibition of public access.”
Olan stated that,“once destroyed, this trail would not be replaced, and, in fact, cannot be replaced because the project’s massive grading plans will render replacement of the trail physically impossible. If destroyed, the remaining public access route to the beach would be around the edge of the lagoon, which is much longer, less sightly, and very cumbersome.”
Olan called the bridges trail “a unique and irreplaceable public access route to the sea,” its loss would cause “irreparable harm to a public good.”
Olan also raised the issue of the potential impact of the project on the surf break. He wrote: “The project also threatens to adversely affect the sand flow at Surfrider Beach, which was named the world’s first surfing reserve,,,The environmental documentation for this project fails to adequately analyze potential impacts to the surfing waves.”
The petitioners conclude that the commission “failed to consult with a responsible and trustee agency, the Department of Fish and Game, as required under CEQA; the commission prejudicially abused its discretion by issuing staff reports that do not comply with the requirements of CEQA”; and the commission “improperly approved the project in the face of feasible alternatives.”
The petition will be heard on May 9.

Planning Commission Is Still Unable to Agree on Language for Citywide View Ordinance

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission last week again took public testimony and again deliberated on a proposed citywide view restoration ordinance, but was unable to reach even an agreement on entertaining a motion.
“I just want to get this over with,” said Commissioner Joan House.
At its previous hearing, the planning panel was unable to agree on any of the motions set forth because of continued tie votes.
At that meeting House was absent. At this week's meeting Commissioner Roohi Stack was absent.
The stalemate appears to be whether there is a majority vote to approve the staff generated ordinance or recommend adopting an ordinance modeled more closely on a current ordinance enacted in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Commissioner John Mazza asked if there is a requirement that the commission make recommendations for the entire ordinance or if a set of recommendations could be chosen that sidesteps it all.
Assistant City Attorney Greg Kovacevich said no. “The planning commission needs to make a recommendation to the city council,” he said.
The current staff report made a list of items and new language that they believed panelists agreed upon from the previous commission meeting.
The staff report noted that “The public comments from 18 speakers discussed various aspects of the proposed ordinance. The commission came to consensus on the following items.”
This week the commissioners again went over the consensus items and for the most part came to the same consensus. Hence, Mazza’s comments about sending forth to the council just the items where the commission reached agreement.
Those items included: Claimants are permitted one primary viewing area with one view.
Any initial and maintenance costs should be borne by the claimant with any costs of new plantings to be borne by the foliage owner. Removal shall be considered only as a last resort, unless volunteered by the foliage owners
That is when Mazza suggested that the commission put before the city council all of those items where consensus was reached.
Chair Jeff Jennings, who said he did not think the city council cares what the planning commission recommends, should nevertheless make an attempt to recommend a full package.
“We could ping pong this thing back and forth. Roohi is not here,” he said, suggesting the commission wait until all five members were present to vote.
Jennings added, “I would just as soon have another bite of the apple. I don’t think we can bifurcate it.”
The commission agreed to close the public hearing and continue the matter to May 17.
A 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 obstructed by landscaping on neighboring properties.
The impetus for the proposed ordinance comes from the voters on April 8, 2008 when an advisory measure asked the citizens, “Should the Malibu City Council adopt an ordinance that would require 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 on June, 2008 to create the View Protection Task Force to gather public input on what should be included in the citywide ordinance.
The now defunct 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.
It has been Jennings and Mazza that have led the debate about what the panelists should approve or not approve.
Jennings said the process was asymmetrical in the sense that the claimants gained views, while the foliage owners simply lost their trees and maybe privacy.
Mazza said he agreed with one of the speakers, Judy Decker, who urged the commission to include a hardship clause or exemption for senior citizens and those on fixed incomes.
“This doesn’t provide what 60 percent of the people voted for,” he said.
Mazza said he much preferred what he called the “basic guts of the PV ordinance,” such as a mediation paid for by the claimants and a process where the issue, if not resolved, would go to the planning commission and it would be appealable to the city council.
Jennings said the city would be creating a right that does not exist and he felt uncertain about the efficacy of mediation.
However, the votes taken thus far have made clear the position of all of the candidates.
Kovacevich said the city could be a defendant. “It is the obligation of the city to defend itself,” he added.

Trails Map Approved for Coastal Amendment

• Council Continues Dedication Incentive Proposal Plan

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council unanimously approved an updated version of the city’s trails map to be included in a Local Coastal Program Amendment at its meeting this week, but it postponed a hearing on creating development incentives for trail dedications.
Comments had been received both in support and opposition to the proposed amendment. However, the council got bogged down in reviewing trails that were questioned by property owners, who wanted them removed, or trails that were sought or wanted removed by other agencies.
Some of the primary concerns were trail alignment locations and redundancy, legal issues, infringements on private property, property evaluation, takings, leverage from other public agencies, and conflicts with existing LCP.
Some speakers told the city council that 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.
Other complained the proposed trails went right down the middle of their property where they planned to build a home.
The trails 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.”
The planning commission-recommended map includes a mix of conceptual and actual trail alignments. However, some homeowners challenged the so-called wish list saying it represents an encumbrance on their properties and that some lending institutions and escrow companies took the maps seriously.
The council spent hours on a motion to determine whether certain trails should be considered in a later LCPA instead of the current document before them.
Reiterating they were not “removing” any of the trails in question, but rather deleting them from the motion before them, the council agreed on a list of a dozen or so trails and provisions that would not be submitted with the LCPA designated for the California Coastal Commission for certification at this time.
The trails “removed” from the motion include the Decker-Edison Trail, the Encinal Creek Trail, the Lechuza Trail, the lower Trancas Canyon alignment, the Market Trail, Point Dume trails, Rosemary Thyme Trail and the California Coastal Trail.
The so-called “keepers” are the Avocado Trail, the El Nido Trail and the Escondido Connector Trail.
The proposed map includes 121 miles of trails within city limits, which previously included a 22-mile segment of the California Coastal Trail.
The trails are mapped along public and private streets, property lines and bisect some parcels.
The Pacific Coast Highway bicycle lanes were not identified on the map because the proposed map is exclusive to implementing LUP Policy 2,45, which necessitates an extensive public trail system running across the Santa Monica Mountains [and] a separate policy exists within LUP Policy 2.42 which necessitates the development of a bikeways plan in the city’s coastal zone to provide safe and accessible bikeways and support facilities, city council members were told
Including the coastal trail, about 2737 public and private parcels are affected by the proposed trail alignments, a city planner noted.
The city attorney insisted property owners would not be required to provide trail dedications across their property. Trail dedications may be volunteered, she said.
“The proposed map is intended to be a conceptual document to be used for future trail planning efforts,” a planner added.
The council postponed another LCPA, the issue of offering building incentives for those who offer a trail dedication.
The planning commission had 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.

City Staff to Look into Whether Curbs Put in Trancas Center Permits Would Prohibit Eviction of Current Tenants

• Nursery Advocates Say Business Was Guaranteed a Location

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council chambers were filled this week with supporters of the Trancas Canyon Nursery, who are rallying against the 30-day eviction notice to vacate its location at the Trancas Country Market.
Supporters, who have circulated petitions, created a Facebook page and planned other activities, came to City Hall to ask the council to show its support and see if it could do anything to intervene.
“It is not the business of government to oversee rental agreements,” said Trancas activist Cindy Vandor, who added the support received by the developers who sought to remodel the shopping center, was based on existing businesses being allowed to stay.
That is also the way Mayor John Sibert said he remembered it. “When we approved it, we said the nursery had to stay. We insisted on that. Can they change it?” he asked.
With the agreement of other council members, the mayor called on the staff to investigate the matter. “Is the city enforcing the coastal development permit?” he asked. City Manager Jim Thorsen said the staff would research the CDP issue.
City Attorney Christi Hogin promised the matter would be investigated speedily since time is running out because of the eviction notice.
“[Planning Manager] Joyce [Parker Bozylinski] and I will look at it this week,” Hogin added.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said, “I completely support the idea of whatever we can do. I remember everybody said all of the businesses are going to stay. Is there any condition? Is there something we can do legally?” he asked.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich explained to the large number of supporters—many had urged the council to write a letter. “We can’t take action tonight. We can write individual letters to the owners,” she said, referring to the fact the item was not on the agenda, thus no action can be taken by the council without a public notice and formal public hearing.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she had been moving behind the scenes to find out what has been going on. “I’m just a conduit. The goal is to keep the nursery, not go and come back. It is truly a magical place,” she said.
Conley Ulich said she saw the loss of mom and pop stores happening years ago and that is why she had introduced her retail formula ordinance. A majority of previous councils had declined to support the proposed ordinance.
“It is the same now. We have lost our uniqueness. I will reintroduce the retail formula ordinance. You are the people who will be credited with saving Malibu,” she said.
During the meeting, Linda Bernhardt, the managing director of land use and regulatory affairs for Loeb and Loeb, the law firm which says it represents the Zuma Beach Properties, LLC, the owners of the shopping center, emailed a response to the city council offering comments.
“The Malibu Garden Center, Inc, and Steven Stefano [sic] (Original Tenant) were issued a 30-day notice to terminate tenancy pursuant to the provisions of the lease entered into on December 15, 1997 and amended by letter agreement dated January 13, 1999.
At this time the original tenant owed approximately $20,000 in back rent. The 30-day notice was issued to the nursery to set in motion the legal process necessary to provide tenants with sufficient notice to prepare to leave as needed to begin grading and construction on the site,” the letter states.
However, nursery supporters have prepared their own set of responses which were also sent to the city council. “Trancas Canyon Nursery has offered to pay any back rent owed by the previous owner, Steve Stefanco (sic). That offer was not acknowledged or responded by the new owners. It is not a part of the agreement they were asked to sign to extend the dates of their eviction to 6/30/11 (per Debbie Stone),” the supporters email contends
The supporters go on to say the employees who worked at the nursery paid the rent as employees. Then Carlos Cabrera bought the Garden Center and renamed it Trancas Canyon Nursery and all the rent has been paid on time.
Loeb and Loeb have more to say. “In response to the request of the existing tenant of the nursery, a confidential agreement was drafted by all parties to extend the period the existing nursery tenant could operate on the premises. This agreement was finalized last week and circulated to all parties for signature. On Friday April 22, Mr. Carlos Cabrera executed the agreemnt on behalf of the existing nursery tenant. In addition, after discussions with Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, we have agreed to meet with the existing nursery tenant this week to begin discussions regarding tenancy in the new project,” the Loeb and Loeb letter further states.
Supporters insist Cabrera did no such thing. “Loeb and Loeb have no signed agreement from Carlos Cabrera,” the supporters answer.
The Loeb and Loeb letter concludes that they want more meetings to “begin a dialogue to establish the owner’s vision of the nursery space and to learn of the business plan for the existing nursery tenant and how the two may work together in the future,” signed Linda Bernhardt.
The supporters counter there is no new project but rather existing permits and plans. “There is no new vision approved by the city unless the new owners start over and go through an entire new planning/permit approval process by the city of Malibu. The approved plans (available for public viewing) at the City Hall have the words ‘existing nursery’ positioned over the direct location of the nursery. The existing nursery is the Trancas Canyon Nursery. This is what has been approved by the City of Malibu,” the supporters’ letter concludes.
In 2009, the planning commission approved the proposed expansion plans of Trancas Country Market, including a 25,728 square-foot addition to the existing commercial shopping center, permits for two restaurants and a new parking lot across the street for employees.
The planning panel appeared to have been won over when Dan Bercu, who described himself as an owner partnering with an outside investment firm, eliminated plans for an 11,000-square-foot stand-alone building on the old riders and ropers site next to Trancas Lagoon.
The matter was appealed to the city council by the Malibu West Homeowners Association in 2010 insisting the plans should have gone through an Environmental Impact Report process. The council turned down the HOA appeal and approved the proposal.
Later neighbor and critic Hans Laetz started the appeal process to the California Coastal Commission, but withdrew that appeal after he and the shopping center owners entered into a proposed settlement agreement, which is now being worked out with the representatives of the new ownership.

SMM Conservancy Pockets $750K to Back Off Project

• Won’t Oppose New Carbon Package

BY BILL KOENEKER

The board of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy agreed this week to endorse what is being called a “public benefits program” offered by David Evans, better known as the Edge—the rock guitarist of U2, for his Sweetwater Mesa mega-mansion subdivision.
The framework of the so-called public benefits program would consist of Evans handing over $750,000 to the SMMC for the acquisition and development of the Coastal Slope Trail between Evan’s property where he plans to build five mansions eastward to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority’s Tuna Canyon Park, and earmarking $250,000 of pre-acquisition and trail design services for Schmitz and Associates, which has been spearheading Evan’s permitting process.
In return, the Conservancy and MRCA will “take a neutral position on the project but may ask the [California Coastal] Commission to consider its 2009 comment letter.”
The CCC staff report had recommended denial of Evan’s plans for five 10,000- to 11,000-square-foot homes and he and his agents then withdrew the applications.
The SMMC documents also indicate the Conservancy and the MRCA may not oppose another development consisting of a single family residence on each of the three pads located along Carbon Mesa Road. No other information is available about that project.
The SMMC is also obligated to “support the public benefits program by resolution and in writing and by speaking in favor of the public benefits program.”
The SMMC documents indicate the deal is contingent on final approval from the Coastal Commission, the County of Los Angeles and the City of Malibu.

Publisher’s Notebook

• SB 28 Is a Twofer for Malibu •

BY ANNE SOBLE

A bill approved by the state Senate on Monday could help tackle two serious problems at the same time. SB 28 might make Pacific Coast Highway safer and contribute mightily to the state’s dwindling coffers. Everyone in Malibu would second both objectives, right? Maybe yes, maybe no, as gauged by observations of the motorists on Malibu’s main artery.
The bill now headed to the Assembly for action would increase the fines for using a handheld device while driving. Using handheld phones while driving became illegal in California in July 2008 with a base fine of $20 per violation. The base fine would increase to $50 per violation under SB 28. With various fees, a first offense would cost $328, up from the current $208. Fees would be the same for the texting-while-driving component that first took effect in January 2009.
Some three years after California law prohibited the use of a handheld cell phone while driving, the data and public consensus hold that too many people are still talking and texting while at the wheel. One response is that the current fines do not appear to be a sufficient deterrent for the one-third of the drivers who ignore the law, although there are valid questions about the degree of enforcement in some jurisdictions.
If over 30 percent of drivers are flouting the law, that is described by traffic experts as being comparable to over 30 percent of the drivers on the road at a set time being impaired by alcohol and drugs. The potential for accidents increases exponentially.
Under the new bill, a repeat offender would be fined $100, or $528 with fees. A subsequent violation would add one point to the the violator’s driving record.
The public policy objective is use of deterrence and education to achieve compliance near the 90-plus percent that is reportedly now the case for seat belt use. Under SB 28, $10 from each fine would go to a fund to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.
The bill also would make it illegal to talk on a handheld communication device while riding a bicycle, an all too frequent sight with the cyclists on Pacific Coast Highway where distraction might prove fatal.
California Highway Patrol statistics show a reduction in collisions and fatals in the first year after the 2008 handsfree law went into effect. Analysis of later years’ crash data shows the same downward trend, but because drivers are often reluctant to acknowledge they were using a handheld device when an accident occurs, this cannot be attributed solely to the law.
The Senate’s action may have been given a symbolic boost by the fact that April had been declared “Distracted Drivers Awareness Month.” If the measure becomes law, it could have a lot more impact than any symbolic designation on the calendar. If it makes a difference on PCH, or any other road for that matter, all objections are hereby overruled.

Family Members Ask Why There Still Are No DNA Test Results for Latest Bone Find in Mitrice Richardson Case

• Investigation and Exhumation Process Appear to Be Taking Back Seat during Legal Proceedings But LASD Claims It Knows Who Painted Obscene Misogynistic Mural Yet Have Not Filed Charges

BY ANNE SOBLE

Family members of Mitrice Richardson ask the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office on a regular basis whether the DNA analysis has been completed for the bones found in February in a repeat search of the remote Malibu Canyon area site where most of the skeletal remains of the Los Angeles resident were found in August of 2010.
Richardson is the 24-year-old African-American honors college graduate and beauty pageant competitor who was taken into custody by Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputies at Geoffrey’s restaurant on Sept. 16, 2009, for allegedly being unable to pay an $89 dinner check and possessing what has since become a legal amount of marijuana.
Patrons and restaurant staff described Richardson as speaking gibberish, being mesmerized by bright lights, and stating that she was from Mars. The restaurant manager performed a citizen’s arrest and three deputies transported the handcuffed woman to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.
Richardson’s automobile—with her purse, credit cards and cell phone locked inside—was towed to the Malibu impound lot in the Civic Center area, depriving her of the use of those items when she was released from Lost Hills alone just after midnight the next morning.
The first find of remains occurred 11 months after Richardson went missing on Sept. 17, 2009. Other than a possible sighting that morning, there was no trace of her until State Parks rangers checking on an abandoned marijuana grove in the area made the grisly find.
Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, is expressing concern that the DNA analysis of the second bones find has taken over two months because that information is necessary before the coroner’s office proceeds with the exhumation of her daughter’s remains for additional examination and testing.
Even before the second field search, the county coroner’s office had blasted LASD Homicide Bureau detectives for moving Richardson’s remains before coroner’s investigators could examine them in place, which is an apparent violation of state law, and thereby compromising the coroner’s office investigation by their haste and carelessness.
Sutton has raised the issue of whether the ongoing proceedings related to family lawsuits for negligence and civil rights violations filed against Los Angeles County have brought what is supposed to be an ongoing investigation to a halt.
However, sheriff’s department spokesperson Steve Whitmore recently told the Malibu Surfside News that the LASD “continues to investigate the cause of Richardson’s death, even though it is now locked in litigation with the woman’s family.”
Whitmore said, “Unusual as it may seem, Sheriff [Lee] Baca remains committed to assisting the family in any way possible to provide answers to the mystery surrounding their daughter’s death.”
This ostensible assurance is among the reasons that family members hope the LASD Homicide Bureau, whose investigators are known in the department as “The Bulldogs,” will ultimately help to bring the person or persons they think murdered Richardson to justice.
But public statements notwithstanding, the current emphasis is primarily on the deposition process of gathering testimony to be used either in settlement negotiations or if the matter goes to trial.
Richardson’s arresting officers, the jailer who booked her at Lost Hills and is the last person believed to have had contact with Richardson at the Lost Hills Station, and other LASD personnel have been subpoenaed to give depositions.
Her great grandmother Mildred Hughes and other family members have also received writs to provide statements. This process is expected to continue for another month.
MURAL UPDATE
A pornographic mural depicting African-American women, some of whom appear to bear a resemblance to Richardson, was found on a culvert wall in June of 2010 not far from where the majority of her remains would be discovered two months later.
LASD Homicide Bureau detectives have repeatedly stated that they do not think the mural is related to the Richardson case, but her mother and others insist that individuals acquainted with specifics of the case, including aspects yet to be made public, painted it.
Sheriff’s department spokesperson Whitmore confirmed reports that two individuals had come forward to accept responsibility for the mural. He did not dispute reports that the pair are white males who have not been charged for what, at a minimum, appears to be vandalism of public property.
Whitmore stated, without directly applying the comment to this specific instance, that charges might not have been filed because the pair provided information, then added that the matter is now under Homicide Bureau’s jurisdiction.
However, when asked why, if there is no connection to any death, Homicide Bureau is continuing to handle the matter, he did not reply.
In a subsequent email to the Malibu Surfside News, Lt. Michael Rosson of the LASD Homicide Bureau discussed the mural.
“The Mitrice Richardson case remains an open case, so the information I can comment on is limited. There are two persons responsible for the mural in Malibu, both are male and were identified by investigators from the sheriff’s department. The individuals agreed to speak to investigators, while represented by their respective attorneys. They were very forthcoming about the mural and at this time all investigations point to the mural not being related to Mitrice’s disappearance or untimely death. All other information will remain confidential at this time.”
MITRICE, INC.
An organization named after Mitrice Richardson that was recently founded by her mother, her aunt Lauren Sutton, and her college mentor and friend, Ronda Hampton, will hold its inaugural fundraising event on Saturday, April 30, in the Pasadena Playhouse library.
The organizers say the event from 7 to 10 p.m. is being held on what would have been Mitrice Richardson’s 26th birthday.
Because Richardson is believed to have been in a mental health crisis when she went missing on Sept. 17, 2009, the organization’s goal is to “increase awareness of mental illness and assist families in the search for their loved ones.” The fundraising event is free of charge and will include food, entertainment and a silent auction.
MURAL—The culvert wall in this redacted photograph is covered with racist and sexually explicit graffiti of African-American women bearing a resemblance to Mitrice Richardson who went missing on Sept. 17, 2009. Paintbrushes found at the scene had not dried, a possible indication that the mural was painted immediately before a June 2010 field search for the missing woman. This was two months before her skeletal remains were found at a remote Malibu Canyon parkland site a few miles from the mural location. This resemblance and the subject matter greatly upset Richardson family members who remain concerned that the mural may be connected to her death. The graffiti was painted over the day after it was discovered.

Fishing Activist Seeks Support for Artificial Reef

• Project Designer Sees Plan as Means to ‘Mend Fences’ Following Dume MPA Decision

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Fishing activist Chris Goldblatt has been an outspoken critic of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative plan to create a Marine Protected Area off the coast at Point Dume that will restrict fishing, but he says that he hopes to unite both sides of the MPA debate in a project to build an artificial reef at Paradise Cove, just outside the Point Dume MPA.
“There was a lot of vitriol,” Goldblatt told the Malibu Surfside News. “It didn’t bode well for the environment and fishing. I did a lot of soul searching. This is a project both sides can get together on. It's a fence mending project.”
Goldblatt’s Fish Reef Project is operated under the auspices of the public non-profit Reef Ball Foundation. Goldblatt says he envisions creating an artificial reef of between one and four acres in 40 feet of water a quarter mile off of the Paradise Cove Pier.
The reef would be designed like a wheel, with spokes extending out from an oval hub to provide an optimum mix of reef and open sand.
The reef balls, which can weigh up to 1000 pounds, are made of concrete, sand and silt dredged from harbors, and ground oyster shells.
Placed on reef-less expanses of mud and sand, they would provide anchorage for kelp forests habitat for a wide range of marine life, according to Goldblatt.
“It’s like planting trees in the Amazon,” Goldblatt said, adding that the reef would become an underwater oasis in a desert of mud where no reefs currently exist. “The MPA folks say that the [MPA] closures will increase overflow [of fish species]. The fish will need somewhere to overflow to.”
“This project is reality based,” Goldblatt told The News. “It will have measurable results. There are 500,000 reef balls in 70 countries, supported by scientific institutions as a way of providing critical habitat for optimal ecosystem health. They make people and fish happy.”
“Our group includes Robert Abbot, a fisheries PhD, who has already made two reefs in the Bay Area. They’re a huge success. Eelgrass, oysters, salmon breed [there].”
Goldblatt, who has written two semi-autobiographical novels for young adults that involve fishing adventures, spent much of his childhood fishing at Paradise Cove.
Goldblatt said that at the age of 10 he began working on the sportfishing boats that launched from the pier, prior to the 1983 storm that swept most of the structure away.
Goldblatt said he also learned to dive at a young age, often diving solo—at night—off Point Dume.
By the time he was 19, Goldblatt was captaining fishing boats. He told The News that fishing was a lifeline for him when he was growing up. He received a degree in fisheries managment from Hawaii State University.
Goldblatt said the Paradise Cove reef has the potential to become “a thriving kelp forest for white sea bass, black sea bass, calico bass and lobster.” He added that the balls, which are hollow inside and perforated with large holes, could also provide ideal habitat for abalone, which was once abundant along the coast in Malibu.
The reef would also provide refuge for juvenile fish and an anchorage for phyto-plankton and zooplankton. “The reefs will allow plankton to become marine life,” Goldblatt explained.
Naming rights for the proposed reef will go to the first individual or organization to contribute $5 million or more to the project. “It's like Mount Rushmore of the ocean,” Goldblatt said. “The name will be on nautical charts and maps for all time. It's a way to be permanently memorialized.”
All contributors to the non-profit Fish Reef Project will become members of the program, receive quarterly updates and be invited to the reef christening ceremony.
Those who contribute $5000 or more will have the opportunity to include the ashes of a loved one in the casting of a reef ball. Participants who donate $10,000 will also receive that right, as well as having a brass plaque fixed to their reef ball, GPS coordinates and a bi-annual update, which will include photographs of the reef's progress.
Goldblatt says he does not wish to be beholden to corporations or federal grant money for the reef and is instead seeking donations from the public and businesses to fund the entire project.
“Paradise Cove was the site of the first man made reef in California,” Goldblatt told The News. “In the early 1950s, cars were dumped, which created nice habitat, but eroded in less than a decade.” The legislature recently passed the Artificial Reef Bill, which recognizes the great importance of making reefs.
“The permitting [process] is expected to be a gauntlet of more than six local and state agencies, but with the support of the community we are confident that in six to eight months that we can begin to place our reef balls, reef structures,” Goldblatt said. “We are very careful to create reefs only on sandy or mud bottom, never disrupting existing reef systems.” He added that the reef would not cause sand flow issues and that it would not be a hazard to boats.
According to the Fish Reef Project website, “The reef will turn muddy bottom into a thriving cornucopia of marine life. Malibu Fish Reef will be the gold standard for kelp and reef restoration projects.”
“I have seen how hateful the MPA debacle has become and I and others have decided to extend an olive branch, bury the hatchet, and work towards a reality-based environmental project that all sides can agree on and benefit from,” Goldblatt said.
More information is available at http://fishreef.org

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lagoon Project Foes Step Up Efforts to Increase Ranks and Raise Funds

• Organizers Explore Process to Recall Mayor While They Wait for Ruling on Injunction Request

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Opponents of the State Parks sponsored Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project are raising a host of new questions and concerns about the plan to drain, dredge and rebuild the Malibu Lagoon, following the city council’s airing of the issue last week.
The council deadlocked 2–2 at the meeting in a vote on whether to send a letter to the governor on the issue in support or opposition of the controversial plan, which has already received approval from the Coastal Commission and is scheduled to break ground in June, but is facing a growing groundswell of opposition in the community.
At the same meeting, immediately before the lagoon issue discussion, US Geologic Survey scientist John Izbicki presented information that sent a shockwave through the chamber and has added fuel to the arguments opposing the lagoon project.
According to Izbicki, the most recent research by the USGS scientists indicates that bacteria in the lagoon originate with birds, not humans, and that 16 percent of the lagoon experiences low levels of oxygenation, a statistic that project opponents state supports their contention that 84 percent of the lagoon is not impaired.
A flurry of emails from project critics this week calls for a recall effort to remove Malibu Mayor John Sibert from office. Discussion is focusing on the number of signatures required for a recall and the dates for a potential deadline.
Sibert, who is a member of the governing board of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, was requested by two speakers at last week’s meeting, to recuse himself from the discussion. He declined, stating, “You can change opinions, not facts. My bias is towards science and truth. I represent Malibu on the council.”
The opposition group says it is also incensed that the three council members who pointed out flaws in the restoration project then refused to oppose it for fear of losing the bond money funding the project to another project elsewhere in the state.
Third generation Malibu resident and surfer Andy Lyon had harsh words for Sibert following the meeting. “The mayor acted reprehensibly. He doesn’t care about this city,” Lyon told the Malibu Surfside News. Lyon stated that the USGS study confirms that the State Parks project is based on “faulty science.”
Sibert didn’t err on the side of Malibu,” Lyon said. “He brushed off [our concerns]. He wasn’t impartial.”
“Sibert downplayed the USGS data, then allowed someone from the restoration commission to come up and comment on the disputed oxygen levels,” Lyon added. “That person didn’t speak during public comment on the agenda item. He didn’t have a speaker slip. It wasn’t his data. The mayor is acting like the Wizard of Oz and now Toto is pulling back the curtain.”
Longtime Malibu resident Alden Marin called the three-hour city council session “arduous.” “They can’t let go of the money,” Marin said, referring to Sibert and Councilmembers Jefferson Wagner and Lou LaMonte, who criticized the plan but declined to oppose it. Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich opposed the project and wrote a personal letter to Governor Jerry Brown.
Mayor Pro Tem Laura Rosenthal was absent from the meeting. Critics soundly criticized her for not attending a session on the controversial subject.
Marin called the council outcome a fait accompli. He told The News that Save Malibu Lagoon has delivered two packets of material on the lagoon debate to the governor. He encourages Malibu residents to contact the governor’s office at 916-445-2841 to express their views.
“The subtext is basically about development,” Malibu Colony resident Carol Moss said.
“They’re going to be using pumps 24 hours a day. They can call everybody out of the ocean for up to six months [if pumping increases bacteria],” Save Malibu Lagoon member Wendi Werner said. “They’re pulling out bridges, putting in massive amounts of concrete and steel. This project is going to be a fiasco. It’s greenwashing.”
“This is a pilot program,” Werner added. “Heal the Bay will be making money off of it. They’ll be doing monitoring for the next five years.”
HOLDING POND
Members of Save Malibu Lagoon are also expressing concern that the plan to deepen the lagoon and increase its holding capacity is intended to provide a massive wastewater storage facility for Civic Center’s sewage treatment plant.
“It will be Malibu’s biggest leach field,” Lyon said. “The lagoon may never breach again if they make it deep enough. It’s going to be a freshwater lake.”
The lagoon is on the Pacific flyway [for migratory birds],” Warner said. “Bird guano is part of the life cycle. The USGS study shows that. This isn’t about conservation or restoration. It’s about agencies and money.”
LEGAL ACTION
The project’s opponents, including Steve Hoye of the public access advocacy group Access for All and the Wetlands Defense Fund, have filed for an injunction to prevent the project from breaking ground in June. The motion will be heard on May 9 in San Francisco.
Save the Lagoon members say they are planning a protest march and rally at the lagoon on Saturday, April 23, from 12-2 p.m., followed by a fundraiser in a private home in Malibu Colony.
More information on the rally and other opposition events is available online at savemalibulagoon.com
RIFT—This bumper sticker, an example of backlash generated by anger over the lagoon project, is cropping up on local cars.

Supporters of Trancas Nursery Rally against 30-Day Eviction Notice

• No One Will Identify the New Owners of West Malibu Shopping Center Slated for Expansion

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Trancas Canyon Nursery, formerly known as the Malibu Garden Center, where Sea Lily flowers is also located, has been the focus over the past two weeks of a growing legion of supporters after it was learned by the community that the garden supply and landscape business was recently given a 30-day notice to vacate its location at the Trancas Country Mart.
Petitions have been circulated, a Facebook page for the nursery has been created (Save Trancas Nursery), a protest/celebration at the nursery on May 1 at 11 a.m. is planned and supporters are organizing several other events as well.
Supporters are urging the public to attend a meeting at a private residence in the Malibu Park area on Friday at 7 p.m. For RSVP and directions email: savetrancasnursery@gmail.com
On Tuesday morning, some of the core group of supporters met with architect Doug Burdge of the local firm who did the design for the 12- to 18-month reconstruction and expansion project at the shopping center that is slated to get underway soon.
Burdge and local resident Dan Bercu have been the public faces and voices behind the shopping center makeover that has been wending its way through the city planning system for the last two years.
However, for as yet undisclosed reasons, Bercu has recently stepped out of the picture and defers all questions.
During a brief interview, Bercu remained mum and tersely responded, “It is a confidentiality issue.” However, his telephone number is still listed on the hanging banners at the center offering leasing information.
Burdge, however, has confirmed that he and his associates are still the architects of record but has also remained quiet except to acknowledge there are new owners.
Nursery supporters say it is critical to learn who the new owners are so that questions can be directed to them.
The 30-day notice which was signed and served by Kibo Property Management also includes the name Zuma Beach Properties, LLC.
When the Zuma Beach Properties office, which is located in St. Louis, Missouri, was telephoned, the answering service operator who picked up the call responded Paige Sports Entertainment. She said she also answers the phone for Zuma Beach Properties, LLC. “I can take a message for them. It is after 5 p.m. and the offices are closed,” she added.
According to various published reports and websites, Paige Sports Entertainment is owned by Bill Laurie, a former pro basketball player, who is the husband of Nancy Walton Laurie. Several other Laurie business ventures are reportedly located at that same address.
Nancy Walton Laurie is the daughter of the late Bud Walton, the brother and business partner of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.
When her father died, she and her sister, who is part-time Malibu resident Ann Walton Kroenke, who along with her husband Stanley Kroenke, owns the Malibu Colony Plaza, inherited a stake in Wal-Mart that is reportedly now worth billions of dollars.
Debbi Stone, who recently took over ownership of the nursery along with Carlos Cabrera, are telling folks they are currently negotiating with a law firm that represents the investors for more time to leave—possibly 90 days. They currently are on a 30-day rental agreement.
Supporters say it is not just a nursery business, but “an oasis” where children for years went to hunt for eggs during Easter, carved pumpkins at Halloween, and played with the animals all through the year at the small informal petting zoo.
Community members for the last several years have joined in the summer Saturday night barbeques and music fests.
Residents say that choosing a living tree at the nursery for Christmas and planting it when the holiday is over is a family tradition.
The growing list of supporters praise the center for its chickens, rabbits, ducks, cats and koi that have found a home in the nursery and give it a small town feel.
Stone has worked at the nursery for 26 years. The nursery’s co-owner Carlos Cabrera has been working in the Malibu community for over 25 years. The former owner Steve Stefanko decided to give up the business and move to Hawaii in December 2009.
“Carlos and I took on the nursery ourselves.We would like to be a part of the new Trancas shopping center and the new landlords will keep us in the plan,” Stone has said.
However, when the law firm who represents the investors called them back, Stone said they were told they would have to leave the property when construction starts on May 15, or no later than June, if a 90-day agreement can be reached so they can use the garden center site for grading and other construction uses.
Stone was told they could apply for a nursery site in 12 to 18 months when the remodeling is finished.
Bercu had announced the construction would start in September 2010. Later the date was changed to February 2011.
At that time, Bercu said it was a matter of resubmitting design changes to the city’s planning department.
Over a year ago, Bercu had indicated he had acquired new partners after a Chicago-based investment firm wanted out.
New partners were found, though Bercu declined to name them other than saying that they are local. But it is not clear whether there was yet another ownership change between then and now.
What has a number of nursery supporters puzzled is why the current ownership appears to be unwilling to be associated with Malibu’s westernmost shopping center.

City Council to Consider Approval of Municipal Trails Map and Incentives to Encourage Dedications for LCPA

• Some Property Owners Cite Inadequate Notice of Inclusion

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council is scheduled to consider an updated version of the city’s trails map to be included in a Local Coastal Program Amendment at its meeting next Monday and to also consider creating development incentives for trail dedications.
“Comments have been received both in support and opposition to the proposed amendment,” wrote the city’s associate planner Joseph Smith, in a staff report to council members.
“Some of the primary concerns with respect to the proposed amendment are trail alignment locations and redundancy, and legal issues (infringements on private property, property evaluation, takings, leverage from other public agencies, and conflicts with existing LCP,” Smith added.
Some speakers told the planning commission members that the inclusion of their properties on a trails map would encumber their land, and others said the last minute addition of trails on their land gave these property owners little notice.
Planners noted that updating the trails system “has been a work in progress since [a trails] 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.”
The planning commission-recommended map includes a mix of conceptual and actual trail alignments. Further, the map demonstrates connectivity to regional trails within the Santa Monica Mountains, according to Smith, who added, “It was the intent of the planning commission and trails committee to incorporate as many trails as possible into the proposed map.”
However, some homeowners have challenged the so-called wish list saying it represents an encumbrance on their properties and that some lending institutions and escrow companies took the maps much more seriously.
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.
Smith indicated the map shows the existence of the planned California Coastal Trail, which is a statewide trial alignment mapped along the entire 1200-mile coast of California. The segment within Malibu “was included on the proposed map for conformance with the LCP and to highlight its significance.”
The exact depiction of the trail is not shown because its “exact alignment is not specifically detailed.”
“The Pacific Coast Highway bicycle lanes were not identified on the proposed map…because the proposed map is exclusive to implementing LUP Policy 2,45, which necessitates an extensive public trail system running across the Santa Monica Mountains [and] a separate policy exists within LUP Policy 2.42, which necessitates the development of a bikeways plan in the city’s coastal zone to provide safe and accessible bikeways and support facilities,” Smith noted.
Including the coastal trail, about 2737 public and private parcels are affected by the proposed trail alignments, the city planner noted.
Smith insists property owners would not be required to provide trail dedications across their property. “Trail dedications may be volunteered by the property owner or, in some cases, purchased from the property owner. This understanding is included on each proposed map page upon the insistence of the planning commission,” the planner noted. “The proposed map is intended to be a conceptual document to be used for future trail planning efforts.”
The council is also being asked to deal with another LCPA, 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 the city planner.
The key word, according to the associate planner, is feasible.
“Feasibility includes a host of issues that need to be evaluated. Can the parcel or alignment location physically support the trail? Can it be used in a feasible manner typical to other trails in the area? Are there physical obstructions that will prevent public access along the trail? In addition, feasibility also includes an analysis of the OTD or easement’s connectivity to existing or planned trails in the area. Does it make sense for an OTD or easement to be located on the subject parcel? Does it appear to be isolated and lacks connectivity? Is adequate access already provided nearby?” Smith wrote.

Brown Appoints a Ventura Man to Coastal Commission

• Represents South Central Coast Region

Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. recently announced the appointment of Brian Brennan, 59, of Ventura, to the California Coastal Commission.
Brennan has served as a Ventura City Councilmember since 1997 and was mayor from 2003 to 2005. He has been a senior executive aide to Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett since 2008.
Brennan was the general manager of Chart House Restaurants from 1976 to 1997. He was chair of the Ventura Visitor and Convention Bureau from 1994 to 1997, a member of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce since 1989, and a founding member of the Ventura County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
The position of Coastal Commissioner does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Brennan is a Democrat.
Brennan will serve in the south central coast slot on the commission representing the counties of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura. The appointee for the area must be selected from a list of locally elected officials.
A Ventura County representative has not served in this slot since 1995.

Pep Expansion Letter Set for Review at Next Week’s Council Meeting

• Traffic Impact Remains an Issue

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council is expected to discuss the adequacy of the responses to the city’s comment letter on the Draft Environmental Impact Report and determine whether to take a position in support, opposition or remain neutral on Pepperdine University’s expansion plans at its meeting next week.
Last December, the council heard from university officials about its plans which were immediately followed by Malibu Country Estate residents who were critical of the proposed project and sought a stronger response from the city.
The city attorney had indicated at that meeting that the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning staff had agreed to accept a comment letter from the city after the public comment period deadline.
The Regional Planning Commission is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on Pepperdine University’s expansion plans on May 4. The planning panel is expected to consider a Conditional Use Permit, parking permit and Environmental Impact Report.
The CUP would authorize the construction, operation and maintenance of 394,137 square feet of new development and grading in excess of 100,000 cubic yards within approximately 365 acres of existing core campus area on the 830-acre site, according to regional planning department documents.
The six components of the expansion call for student housing rehabilitation, a new 5470 seat athletic events center, upgrades to the soccer field, a new “town square and welcome center,” enhanced recreation area and school of law tri-level parking structure.
The buildout, according to city planners, would be in two phases over about 12 years.
“The final EIR determined that all environmental impacts associated with the project can be mitigated to less than a significant level except traffic,” wrote the city’s senior planner Stephanie Danner in a report to the council.
“Even with mitigation measures, the environmental impacts of traffic and access during major events remain a significant and unavoidable impact. Therefore a statement of overriding consideration would need to be approved by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission.”
Pepperdine officials said they have made every effort to accommodate the MCE residents’ complaints and concerns including shifting most of the newly planned recreational facilities away from that neighborhood.
Plans call for 468 new student beds. The new events center is a planned 5000-seat venue that would allow NCAA regulation volleyball and basketball.
The events center will be relocated to the northern campus interior and provide parking for 830 adjacent parking spaces, including 265 new spaces.
A new campus center is planned and additional parking structures are included there.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Happy Malibu Earth Day •

BY ANNE SOBLE

Given all of the concerns facing Planet Earth at this point in time, some might argue that there is little to celebrate on the 41st anniversary of its day, but the presence of still unsolved problems doesn’t alter the fact that the vast majority of people everywhere consistently voice concern about conservation and the environment, even if they are not in complete agreement about how to achieve general goals.
March 26 through April 30 was designated Earth Month in the City of Malibu and numerous events were planned. Earth Day itself, on Friday, April 22, will be marked by a celebration at Legacy Park from noon to 4 p.m. that will feature a wide array of children’s activities, including an interactive story time, a puppet show, music, arts and crafts projects, a seed giveaway and a scavenger hunt, all taking place across the street from the Malibu Library. These events will be fun, as well as help to send a message to future public policy makers that the planet’s well-being will depend on them.
Also planned is an Eco Fair featuring educational and promotional booths on topics such as water quality, water conservation, smart gardening, recycling, and home energy efficiency. A native plant sale and composting demonstrations are expected to round out the afternoon’s schedule.
After the Earth Day celebrations are over, what goes on the other 364 days of the year is what really matters. The extent of personal involvement with issues related to the protection of natural and human resources is the real test of a commitment to community and planetary welfare.
As articles in this week’s issue of The News illustrate, some Malibuites are acknowledging the planet with activism on the local level that is related to concerns that have galvanized these residents in a way that the political process is rarely able to do during elections.
The broader based of these issues is the State Parks Restoration Plan for Malibu Lagoon—actually a complete lagoon redesign project—that its opponents think is a disproportionate response to conditions that will continue as long as the lagoon is home to a thriving native bird population and a critical way station for migratory species. State Parks dismissed these people’s concerns, only to have what was perceived as the state agency’s arrogance and indifference toward any criticism help to catapult what began as a small group into a much larger one that is willing to turn to the courts and recall of elected officials to redress its grievances.
At an important city council meeting on the lagoon project last Monday, a State Parks spokesperson may have thought a majority of council members already had made up their minds, or didn’t care whether they or the public had questions, and did not stay for the council’s Q-and-A segment. For many in the meeting room, the specifics of the project have been overshadowed by a sense of bureaucratic disregard of the public.
Another issue generating local concern is focused on the west Malibu area where out-of-state commercial property owners’ service of a 30-day eviction notice on a small folksy garden center of long standing has led to a backlash that exceeds that for any of the many business closures that have become the Malibu norm. If the owners are who the state public paper trail appears to indicate that they are, they are no strangers to public wrath over development sensibilities. But they still may be surprised at the depth of the local fury.
Looking out for the planet takes many forms. There is no issue so small that it is not interconnected with numerous other issues, and their cumulative effect is inestimable.

Annual Chumash Day


GENERATIONS—Three generations of Chumash ceremonial dancers performed at the City of Malibu’s 13th annual Chumash Day event at Bluffs Park. Hawk feathers, which require a special permit to own, decorate the dancers. Clappersticks—wansak’—made from elderwood provide a percussion accompaniment for the traditional dances and songs.Young Chumash are being encouraged to learn the culture’s languages, songs, dances,and traditions, keeping the culture alive.

MSN Photos/Frank Lamonea

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Council Fails to Reach Consensus on Malibu Lagoon Restoration Plan

• Lawsuit Filed by Plan Opponents Seeks Temporary Restraining Order to Stop June Start Date

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

After more than three hours of public testimony and a lengthy debate, the Malibu City Council, with Councilmember Laura Rosenthal absent, deadlocked on the hotly contested Malibu Lagoon Restoration and Enhancement Project.
The project, which includes draining, dredging and reshaping the western portion of the lagoon, has drawn a firestorm of criticism in the Malibu community, although the plans have already received all of the necessary approvals and work is scheduled to begin in June.
Opponents have filed a lawsuit and are seeking a temporary restraining order.
The council had the option of taking a position on the project to support, oppose or remain neutral; and direct staff to prepare a letter to that effect.
A presentation on lagoon water quality by US Geologic Survey scientist John Izbicki that preceded the restoration project discussion appeared to send shock waves through the crowded council chambers and provided many opponents of the state parks’ project with ammunition during public comment.
Izbicki described recent bacteriological research on “almost 5000” water samples from 50 sites in and around the lagoon. According to Izbicki, analysis has revealed “almost no detections of fecal bacteria in groundwater.” However, 60 percent of samples from the lagoon “exceeded [bacterial] standards for marine water, 16 percent of samples exhibiting low levels of dissolved oxygen and levels of enterococcus that are “consistently high.”
According to Izbecki, even when the breach is open, water inside the lagoon picks up a massive load of enterococcus during the six hours between tides. And a connection between the lagoon and nearshore ocean exists even when the berm is closed, through a feature the scientist described as “a seepage face.”
Izbecki indicated that the concentrations of bacteria were more than 1000 times greater than the combined effluent from the entire Civic Center area.
However, the fecal indicator bacteria in the Malibu Lagoon are not associated with human-specific bacteria.
“Birds produce fecal material,” Izbecki said. “The bottom as a substrate is a reservoir for that material, it allows materials to survive and even grow. The birds will reinoculate the lagoon. Its a natural process.”
“This is really shocking what you're telling us, that this is from animals,” Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said.
Due to the large number of speakers, public comment was held to two minutes, with state parks and the lead opponents receiving 10 minutes each.
“[It’s] important to recognize what we’re trying to do here. You can change opinions, not facts,” Mayor John Sibert said, explaining why he declined to recuse himself from the discussion after critics indicated that his position on the board of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission constituted a conflict of interest.
“My bias is towards science and truth,” Sibert said. “I represent Malibu on the council.”
Lead opponents Marcia Hanscom and Roy van de Hoek began public comment with a presentation that outlined the basis for the lawsuit that has been filed.
“[This project] violates the law, the Coastal Act,” Hanscom said. “If this was a private developer, there is no way ESHA would be allowed to be destroyed like that. This project will kill wildlife. It eliminates an access [to the beach]. It’s unnecessary.”
“This is a fully functioning lagoon and wetland,” van de Hoek said.
Suzanne Goode, the State Parks spokesperson and lead advocate for the project, provided a presentation on the project but left before public comment had ended, and was not present during council deliberation to answer questions.
“The trail through the lagoon rests on fill…[it] has become a very big problem for us,” Goode said. “Fine nutrient laden sediments [are] trapped in the channel. Circulation is very poor, pinched off by fill left for the footpath. Sediment settles. Extreme nutrients cause excessive growth of phytoplankton, algae and submerged vegetation.” Goode explained that this was not necessarily bad, but at the lagoon there is an “overabundance.”
“[It’s] the most nutrient rich lagoon in Southern California,” Goode said. Microcystis dominates the phytoplankton [and] can produce microcystin [a toxin]. We’ve been told we need to clean up upstream, but we actually need to clean up what's in the lagoon.”
Beach access advocacy group Access for All’s director, Steve Hoye, blasted Goode’s statement that the footpath's bridges “pinch” the channel and stated that the one access that will remain open to the public is three times longer than the current footpath route. “Do you know how long it takes to open an access?” asked Hoye. “[The footpath is] extremely valuable because its beautiful,” he said, stating that beach access is a state priority. “Do we eliminate the beauty of this area and the access to one of the most beautiful beaches?”
Lifelong Malibu resident and surfer Andy Lyon argued that historical photographs indicate that there was never a lagoon prior to the 1983 reconstruction. “Show me one picture,” he said. “It never existed. You can’t show it any time in history. It never happened.”
Hartmut Walter, professor emeritus at UCLA, supported Lyon’s contention. “I have begun to doubt that this is a lagoon,” he said. “It is an estuary.” Walter described the lagoon as a manmade “novel ecosystem.”
“It’s foolish to try to restore [it to a] pristine ecosystem,” Walter said, adding that it is impossible to accurately recreate historic conditions. “It’s a small estuary, much too small to be critical wetland. not sufficient.
“What is purpose of a state park?” Walter asked. “One is to protect nature, but there are many others. [This project] seriously shortchanged Malibu and the California society by not focusing on cultural issues,” Walter said. “Foreigners, residents, kids use this park. This proposal has neglected that. It is unique in that the large birds are unbelievably confiding and tame. There is no other place in California where we can get so close to big nature.”
The council debated, discussed and deliberated in what one observer described as a scene reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, but they could not reach a consensus.
“I wanted to ask State Parks and there’s no one here to ask,” Conley Ulich said. “[If 16 percent of the water is anoxic] is 84 percent OK? I also wanted to ask Mr Izbicki [what will happen] if they scoop it out and the birds inevitably are going to poop again?” said Conley Ulich.
“This city does have a history of looking at a plan and going back and maybe changing. I think its possible to do this,” Conley Ulich said. She added that the definition of restoration is to “return something that was removed or abolished.”
Conley Ulich stated that the lagoon was unnatural and was not going to be restored but made into something else. “We are in an economic state when I hate spending this much money when there are other ways,” she said. “I feel like the only thing green about [the project] is the money.”
“I hope I will never make a decision over whether I’m going to get reelected,” Sibert said, in response to audience comments.
Councilmember Jefferson Wagner wanted a motion that would incorporate an alternative plan that would involve removing obstructions above the bridge.
At one point Lyon, apparently frustrated with the process, began shouting at the council.
“I understand you,” Councilmember Lou La Monte said. “I don’t know if there was a lagoon. There’s very little we can do. How we vote on what doesn’t make any difference. With all due respect, this is kind of going to look like a theme park of a lagoon. The Legacy Park does too, but it is cleaning the water. We don’t have jurisdiction of PCH. Caltrans does. We don’t have those kinds of jurisdictions. We have the responsibility. It’s the state’s lagoon. It’s not ours.”
Whatever work is done in the lagoon will not [work] for more than a few years,” Wagner said. And we’ll all be back here again.”
Sibert declined to entertain a motion that the issue be continued until the fifth member of the council could break the deadlock.
The council, deadlocked 2:2 on whether to support or oppose the plan, voted instead to direct staff to coordinate with the California Department of Parks and Recreation on project scheduling and reciprocity of any studies conducted within the project area; and follow up with State DPR and Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board to expand the water quality monitoring requirements of the project.
Conley Ulich suggested that each council member write a letter to the governor expressing their personal views on the issue.
Hecklers in the audience shouted “cop out” as the council adjourned for the night at 11:30 p.m.

Council Allocates More Dollars for Water Quality Research Projects

• Work to Have Direct Affect on Wastewater Facility

BY BILL KOENEKER 

In a continued effort to pump manpower and money into the ongoing research for water quality studies in the Civic Center, the Malibu City Council this week, without comment, approved spending more dollars for the ongoing studies.
In good news for municipal officials, the U. S. Geological Survey announced it is prepared to apply unspent federal funds of $40,000 in matching funds to continue its ongoing research.
A team of scientists from the USGS conducted water quality research through 2009 and 2010 to determine the source of bacteria and nutrients in Malibu Creek, the lagoon and near shore at Surfrider Beach and in front of the Malibu Colony.
“These research projects also provided a better understanding of the occurrence, distribution and sources of pathogens in shallow groundwater. This information is very important for multiple reasons, including but not limited to the city’s effort to ensure that its clean water program specifically addresses the actual source of bacteria or nutrients and protects human health, as well as natural resources,” wrote City Manager Jim Thorsen, in a memo to council members.
Thorsen added the use of the information can be used for total maximum daily load or TMDL standards as well as in the more recent battle the city has had over the Regional Water Quality Control Board septic ban in the Civic Center.
Last year, the city spent $150,000 to fund sample water collecting for the USGS study alone.
The USGS funding of $40,000 can be used to allow “for additional analysis of data collected as part of the study…and additional interpretive products and presentation of results at technical and scientific meetings.”
Also on tap, the council agreed to award a total of $80,000 to continue groundwater elevation monitoring to Stone Environmental, Inc. in the Civic Center for one year and for consulting services related to the RWQCB Civic Center septic ban.
The additional appropriation is to continue groundwater elevation monitoring in downtown Malibu.
About $50,000 is for the groundwater studies and $30,000 is for consulting work on the septic prohibition
“The cost of the monitoring program is anticipated to be reimbursed by contributions by individual Civic Center commercial property owners,” added Thorsen.
The city manager insists groundwater elevation monitoring is crucial for the city in the “understanding of the long-term groundwater regime in the Civic Center area and in the development of dispersal and reuse strategies for the proposed Civic Center wastewater recycling facility.”
Thorsen goes on to state it is imperative that the city maintain long-term data pertaining to the groundwater elevation because data gaps that may occur without the continuation of the monitoring may allow for scientific uncertainty due to assumptions that must be made when data is unavailable.
The city manager goes on to say it is also important to continue the monitoring due to the rainfall events that have occurred this rainy season. The large amount of rain experienced in December 2010 and the recent major storms provide large fluxes on the influence of storm water on the groundwater levels. It is important to measure these fluxes over time to better comprehend the influences of these events on the groundwater regime.
All of this data, according to Thorsen, is important to supplement the data and accuracy of what is called the “Transient Model” developed by Stone Environmental for predicting influence on the groundwater elevations under flux conditions
“Enhancement of the model with this increased data set will improve the reliability of the model to more accurately predict the influence of future storm events, the influence of existing onsite wastewater treatment systems on the Civic Center area and the influence of the proposed city wastewater recycling facility.” Thorsen added.
The enhanced model will be better able to coordinate all of these anticipated fluxes and stresses on the groundwater regime simultaneously. “This has been expressed as a significant concern by the RWQCB on existing on-site wastewater and for any proposed municipal solution to the prohibition,” he added.
Thorsen bolsters his argument for continuation of the groundwater elevation monitoring by suggesting it is essential in the city’s development of a salt and nutrient plan required by the RWQCB in the permitting of any water recycling facility.
“Salts and nutrients are a byproduct of the water recycling program and must be adequately managed as to not degrade or impair receiving water quality,” noted Thorsen, who added, that many salts and nutrients are soluble and enter the water column at the point of discharge. It could occur at the point of discharge for the city wastewater facility or at the point of discharge for individual property owners utilizing the produced recycled water for irrigation purposes.
The study will also help with the development of dispersal options for the city’s proposed wastewater facility. Dispersal of the treated wastewater will be required during periods when recycled wastewater cannot be used, according to the city manager.
The understanding of the groundwater regime is important in any discharge option the city may consider, according to the city manager, who noted consideration of deep well injection for the wastewater facility is still thought of as an additional option.
“The city is likely to consider a combination of all of these [dispersal ] options with any water recycling facility,” the city manager concluded.
CDBG Funds
It is an agenda item that irritates some city council members when they are asked to approve Community Development Block Grant funding exchanges.
This time the council is being asked to approve an exchange with the city of Hawaiian Gardens for $63,241.
Hawaiian Gardens city officials have offered to exchange the city’s fund for 70 cents on the dollar. The city will receive $44,269 that can be used for any general fund purposes.
Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman told council members that exchange rate is better than in the past when the city was getting 55 cents on the dollar.
“The city receives an allocation of CDBG funds each year from the Los Angeles County Community Development commission,” Feldman said.
In recent years, the city has not been able to identify a project that meets the criteria of funding.
In fiscal year 2009-2010 the city exchanged funds that were subject to recapture with the City of La Mirada and received a total of $32,227 in general funds. These funds were awarded as part for the general fund grant program in fiscal year 2010-2011,” she noted.
By recapture, Feldman means, if the funds are not used they are lost and must be given back.
However, the CDBG program allows cities that cannot use the block grant money to trade and whatever rate is negotiated for real dollars that have no restrictions on them.
In the past, some council members have complained that there should be some kind of program established so the grant funding could be used and there would be no loss of any kind.
Feldman has insisted the staff has not been able to find a project because the criteria is so exacting that there are no applicable programs that could be currently put together in Malibu that the funds could be used for.
The assistant city manager has also said the amount of money that has been obtained on each dollar offers a good return for the city and the funds can then be easily used by the city with no strings attached and for whatever kind of program council members desire.
Feldman told council members that in the past the money has been used for general fund grant programs.
The service funding can usually be used for the Day Labor Exchange Program “We look each year for eligibility,” she concluded.

Proposed View Restoration Measure Continued by Planning Commission

• Panel Unable to Take Action after Hearing Resident Input

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Planning Commission last week took public testimony and deliberated on a proposed citywide view restoration ordinance, but was unable to reach an agreement on approving the staff generated ordinance or recommend adopting an ordinance modeled more closely on a current ordinance enacted in Rancho Palos Verdes. The matter was continued to the planning commission’s April 19 meeting.
A 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 impetus for the proposed ordinance comes from the voters on April 8, 2008 when an advisory measure asked citizens “should the Malibu City Council adopt an ordinance that would require 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.
There were some public speakers who urged the commission to adopt a proposed ordinance which was crafted by a municipal task force charged by the city council to vet the issue.
Some of those speakers were on the task force and suggested that the task force’s recommended ordinance would better serve the city.
The then city council decided on June 2008 to create the View Protection Task Force to gather public input on what should be included in the citywide ordinance.
The now defunct 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 those panelists was Lou La Monte, now a council member. The other was Suzanne Zimmer, who helped La Monte craft a minority report that differed sharply from the majority’s recommended ordinance.
Task force chair Sam Hall Kaplan, and task force members Barry Tyreman, Leon Cooper, Marilyn Santman, and Lucille Keller all joined forces last week to urge the commission to recommend adoption of their proposed ordinance.
Speaking about the ordinance that was proposed by the staff and currently before the commission, the task force chair said, “The proposed ordinance is flawed. It is not resident friendly and does not fulfill the measure approved by the voters. The task force ordinance is reasonable…and will best serve the city,” Hall Kaplan said.
Minority member Zimmer also spoke to the commission and took issue with some of the language the staff added in the proposed ordinance before the commission.
She cited several changes in definitions that expanded the rights of the claimants including allowing a viewing area to include upstairs bedrooms, applying for more than one view and the right of homeowners to have the final determination of the primary view.
“The city has the final determination. How can you change the definition?. Upstairs bedrooms have never been recognized. You are creating new views,” she added.
It was commission Chair Jeff Jennings and Commissioner John Mazza that led the debate about what the panelists should approve or not approve.
Jennings said the process was asymmetrical in the sense that the claimants, gained views, while the foliage owners simply lost their trees and maybe privacy.
“We should come up with some mechanism that the plaintiff ought to pay for it. The foliage owner should get some relief,” he said.
Mazza said he agreed with one of the speakers, Judy Decker, who urged the commission to include a hardship clause or exemption for senior citizens and those on fixed incomes.
“This doesn’t provide what 60 percent of the people voted for,” he said.
Mazza was also adamant that the city should provide no subsidy for mediation. “The city should not pay,” he added.
Mazza said he much preferred what he called the “basic guts of the PV ordinance,” such as a mediation paid for by the claimants and a process where the issue, if not resolved, would go to the planning commission and it would be appealable to the city council.
Jennings said the city would be creating a right that does not exist and he felt uncertain about the efficacy of mediation. “By creating a right that does not exist favors the claimant,” he said.
Mazza said some folks will not go along with it and others will say, “Ok it’s the law now,” he said.
Jennings countered, “It is only the fight that creates the costs,” he said.
Commissioners wanted to know what would be the legal ramifications for the city.
Assistant City Attorney Greg Kovacevich said the city would be a defendant. “It is the obligation of the city to defend itself,” he added.
Then it came time for a vote. Mazza made a motion for his PV-like ordinance, that failed by a tie vote.
There was a motion to bring the matter back on the consent calendar with changes recommended by the planning commission. That lost after Mazza abstained rather than vote and Jennings was the only yes vote. Then Kovacevich suggested the matter could simply be continued, presumably with Commissioner Joan House a voting member of the panel.
“I’ll vote for that,” said Mazza. The motion was unanimous.