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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

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.

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