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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Proposed View Restoration Measure Continued by Planning Commission

• Panel Unable to Take Action after Hearing Resident Input


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.

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