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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Coastal Panel Refuses to Greenlight Project(s) Viewed as Over The Edge

• Controversial Development’s Impact Deemed Unacceptable

BY BILL KOENEKER

The California Coastal Commission members had almost finished deliberating on the request for the five mansions sought by David Evans, better known as The Edge, and his purported partners on a hillside above Sweetwater Mesa.
Anyone who could count knew what was next when it came time for the vote—denial.
Suddenly, the attorney representing one of the five applicants wanted to withdraw. “Yes,” said the Coastal Commission.
This gave Don Schmitz, ostensibly representing the other four applicants, an opportunity to plead for postponement or a withdrawal.
He nearly had an ally when Commissioner William Burke asked if the applicants wanted to waive the permit streamlining deadline. Schmitz said yes, but asked if the application fees could be waived.
“This isn’t a negotiation,” shot back Burke. The moment was gone.
The motion to allow for a postponement was voted upon with only one vote for approval. At that point, even Burke voted no, saying he wasn’t “going to waste my vote.”
The main motion was made for a denial of the four remaining permits when eight commissioners agreed they wanted to deny the permits and only four voted yes.
It could be said it was anybody’s guess how the commission might vote, given that there were so many new members on the panel.
Listening to the commissioners’ comments gave everyone, including the CCC staff, a chance to size up the newest members of the panel.
Commissioner Mark Stone said he had met Evans a year ago and had agreed the houses were lovely. “The problem is the location. They are too heavy on the impacts. There is a project. It was intended to be a project. It is a development,” he said. “It is too heavy a footprint. I am going to follow the staff’s recommendation and ask them to come back to minimize [the impacts].”
Panelist Bruce Reznik, who is an alternate for Commissioner Esther Sanchez, appointed February, 2011, said he is a huge fan of U2, has gone to all of their concerts and found the matter difficult for him. “[Evans] has the best of intentions. Overall it is the scale of the project. It is the wrong scale and the wrong place,” he said.
Reznik said he did not know how to approach the unity of ownership issue. “Even the advocates talk about ‘The project.’ I worry about the precedent of scale and the precedent of ownership, I support the motion [of denial],” he added.
Panelist Sarah Gurney, an alternate for Commissioner Steve Kinsey, appointed May, 2011 wanted to know why there had not been all of the review and testing of the possibility of cultural and anthropological resources.
“You did not address the issue? Did the applicant do a survey?” she asked.
She was told the applicant was not directed to do a survey for the upper portion of the site and that it could be done if so directed.
Commissioner Jana Zimmer, appointed May, 2011, wanted to know what the zoning is and if the site was an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area. “The applicant has not shown visual resources are mitigated,” she said.
Zimmer indicated the policy is, if it is feasible not to build on ridgelines, not to do so. “They did not do that,” she said. “I have problems with fire access and impacts. I was surprised to find back in 2003 a definition of ESHA in the Santa Monica Mountains. There is room here for the applicant to get approval for an alternative,” she said.
On the question of the unity of ownership, something the staff presentation had provided in detail, Zimmer said she thought it is a legal question that would have to be resolved in court.
Commissioner Dayna Bochco, appointed May, 2011, stated the proposed structures were just too big for the area chosen. “This is not a good place to have big houses. It is too much for the site,” she said.
Commissioner Martha McClure, appointed May, 2011, who said she was from the Northwest countryside, noted the applications are for properties that are on the proper land designations.
McClure said her family lived on a farm where they shared the same boundaries. She said they were like many rural families who built houses all on the same land and worked together to maintain roads and other infrastructure.
“If I own five parcels, I can build on them. I’m still allowed to build on each parcel. I see this unity of ownership as a slippery slope. The National Park Service should have purchased it,” she said.
Burke agreed, “I don’t buy the unity of ownership issue. How can you deny the people’s right to build a house? Some things are not clear. If Evans walked in and said, ‘I want to build one house,’ he has to have the road. He needs the water. We are arguing about the number of houses. I agree, it ends up in court. We need to deal with the commission requirements,” the commissioner said.
Commissioner Wendy Mitchell said, “I don’t know how we say no. I wish the NPS bought it. But I don’t know how we legally deny it. There is nothing green about a 10,000-square- foot house. I would like it to be open space.”
Commissioner Bruce Brennan, appointed April, 2011 said, “I believe in property rights. I agree with Commissioner Burke about the road. I back up the side of property rights.”
Panelist James Wickett, appointed last year, said there were a lot of issues to consider. “The road is a non-starter. They are wonderful environmental houses. There are infrastructure problems. A ridgeline is not a great place to be,” he said. “I agree with Commissioner Zimmer about the ownership issue. It is a matter of fact. I go with the staff on that. I am voting a no vote,” he said.
Chair Mary Shallenberger said she did not find the applications to be a hard call. “There is a unity of ownership. The whole property is an ESHA. It’s no threat to other properties in California. Mr. Evans told me it was one project with him and his partners. They don’t have a right to this road. They built on the ridgeline. The proposed houses do not minimize the impact on ESHA. People do not have a right to build on a ridge,” she concluded.
Another element that was new for seasoned commission observers, especially of Malibu agenda items, was the lack of supporters or opponents from Malibu.
The NPS made a joint presentation with State Parks pointing out the project’s shortcomings.
A representative of the Las Virgenes Homeowners Association was also present. Malibu attorney Frank Angel, spoke on behalf of Agoura-Hills-based Save Open Space.
Other out-of-area speakers included the Las Virgenes Federation, Save Our Mountains, Inc. from Mandeville Canyon, a spokesperson from Heal the Bay and other individuals.

Lumber Yard Loan Mod Is Under Bank Scrutiny

• City Asked for Estoppel Certificate

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council is scheduled to take action authorizing the city manager to execute what is called an “estoppel certificate” that is requested by Wells Fargo Bank as a result of the extension of the maturity date of a construction loan by Malibu Lumber, LLC.
An estoppel certificate is described as a document to give a third party critical information on the relationship between a landlord and tenant.
Malibu Lumber Yard, which is comprised of Richard Weintraub, Richard Sperber, and RAS Investments, LLC, the newest owner to become involved with the firm, sought to exercise its option to extend the maturity date of a $20 million construction loan for one year.
Wells Fargo now wants the city to provide the estoppel certificate confirming the current status of the ground lease.
The $20 million construction loan was obtained after Malibu Lumber, LLC signed the lease document, which was approved by the city council in 2008.
The bank wants to make sure there are no current defaults or other changed conditions under the lease that would make such an extension inadvisable from Wells Fargo’s perspective, according to a staff report.
“The Estoppel requested by the lender seeks confirmation from the city that the ground lease remains in force and effect, that the city is not aware of any default thereunder and that there is no outstanding deferred rent which has accrued as of the date of this Estoppel,” wrote Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman and special counsel Dennis Roy, in the staff report.
Feldman is expected to tell council members that the document acknowledges that it will not be construed or applied to modify in any way the existing ground lease between the city and Malibu Lumber, LLC, that the city is not assuming any obligation for enforcing any of Wells Fargo’s rights against Malibu Lumber, LLC and that “the city will retain its right to continue its implementation and administration of the ground lease in accordance with its terms without further notification to Wells Fargo.”

ZORACES Meeting to Focus on Ways the City Can Foster Small Local Businesses

• Petition Drive Hopes to Show Support for Action

BY BILL KOENEKER

The next Zoning Ordinance Review and Code Enforcement Subcommittee meeting to deal with “growing and sustaining local businesses,” is on Tuesday, June 28, at 9 a.m.
Mayor John Sibert said at a previous city council meeting that there are a “couple of more steps,” involved before any recommendations go before the full council. “The staff report will be out before the week of the [ZORACES] meeting,” he added.
By Tuesday afternoon of this week, the report was not yet available, according to the city manager’s executive assistant Mary Linden.
“I have to get it back from planning before I can post in on the website,” she said.
The council subcommittee comprised of Sibert, Councilmember Jefferson Wagner and Planning Commission Chair Jeff Jennings conducted a town-hall meeting several weeks ago, when over 100 people showed up to talk about the matter.
Various ideas were offered up, including store owners asking for more customers, shopping center owners vowing they did not want more regulation, and other speakers insisting some kind of legislative approach should be undertaken, or types of incentives offered.
A local petition recently surfaced on the Internet and laid down the rules of what is thought to be a method to “Preserve the local businesses of the coastal city,” described as the “Community Soul of Malibu.”
The signatories are petitioning the City of Malibu. The petition was started by small business activist Jae Flora Katz, who asks “neighbors and friends of Malibu to sign the petition.”
Citing the city’s General Plan and mission statement as its guiding light, the website indicates the town is at a pivotal crossroads regarding commercial development.
“Retail leases are turning Malibu into a clone of ritzy ‘Beverly Hills’ malls, far removed from the essential nature of our low key, inviting beach community,” the website says.
A plan to manage and limit future chain establishments is advocated. “Existing chains will not be affected (excluded are banks, real estate offices, gas stations, etc.),” the petition states.
As of last Tuesday afternoon, there were 191 names, including signatures from Poland, Australia, Canada, Switzerland and various locations in California.
This week the list of signatures rose to 290.

City Manager Seeks to Have Sacramento Lobbyists Hired for Another Two-Year Stint

• Company Said to Be Helpful with Water Boards Also Represents Evans’ Sweetwater Mesa Project

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council is expected to approve an amendment next week to an agreement between the city and a Sacramento lobbying firm for additional duties and a two-year extension to its contract worth $300,000.
The agreement with California Strategies, LLC, which also works for The Edge, also known as David Evans, the guitar player for U2, provides government relations consulting and advocacy services for its clients.
The firm is headed up by two top former governmental officials, Rusty Areias and Ted Harris.
The contract calls for compensation in the amount of $12,500 per month and is included in the budget for fiscal year 2011-2012.
The city began using the well-known and expensive firm in 2004 and through the years the city has subsequently amended the agreement to revise the scope of work, according to city officials.
“In the past year, California Strategies has worked with the city on several critical issues, including facilitating communications with the State Water Board about the septic prohibition and representing the city at recent Areas of Special Biological Significance hearings,” a staff report states.
“Staff is requesting the council approve amendment five to the agreement, revising the scope of work to meet the council’s current priorities and extending the term of the agreement two additional years to expire June 30, 2013.”
Some of the tasks included in the scope of services in the agreement include:
• Facilitate support from the State Water Board to help guide workable implementation of the septic ban process.
• Participate in setting up and coordinating meetings with state legislators and agency department leaders to provide the city the opportunity to meet face to face with key decision makers on pertinent city government affair issues.
• Troubleshoot the city’s governmental affairs issues, including pertinent administrative legislative and regulatory matters.
• Work with key officials (executive, legislative and local government) and stakeholders to support the city objective and selectively engage in efforts to secure grants, incentives and favorable policies
• Reach out to develop stronger partnerships with other municipalities, non-profit organizations, the environmental community and others that share similar interests to proactively work together to address issues related to the Malibu coast.
The agreement also states the lobbying firm will continue to explore legislative, regulatory or policy directions to help address unpermitted drug and alcohol rehabilitation group homes. The consultants have also agreed to assist the city with “Messaging and communications, and working with the new in-house communications staff.”

City Appears Poised to Sign Off on Septics MOU with the Water Boards

• Documents Are Said Not to Be Ready for Public Review

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council is scheduled to consider at its meeting next week a memorandum of understanding between the municipality and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and the State Water Resources Control Board regarding implementation of the Malibu Civic Center area septic prohibition.
The MOU and the staff report are being prepared by City Manager Jim Thorsen and by Tuesday afternoon the documents were not yet ready for public review.
The city manager’s executive assistant, Mary Linden, said Thorsen was out on vacation this week, but he was still putting the finishing touches on the document, along with Sam Unger who is the top administrator for the RWQCB. “I don’t know when it will be ready,” Linden added.
Last week, Thorsen had indicated the city and the local water board were close to some kind of agreement on the MOU, but remained tight-lipped about the details.
Last March, Thorsen had announced that progress was being made between the city and the water boards about an agreement that called for the city to build a wastewater facility in the Civic Center area.
There are two details that have emerged from correspondence between Thorsen and Joan Lavine, a Malibu Road resident and attorney, who has filed a lawsuit against the local and state water boards over the legality of the ban on on-site systems.
Lavine sent Thorsen an email asking if the MOU included a lifting of the septic ban imposed on the Civic Center that is now in the L.A. Basin Plan.
The city manager responded by email “No, not at this time.”
Lavine also asked whether Unger had offered to stipulate to repeal the Basin Plan amendment banning septic systems in the Civic Center area. Again, Thorsen answered, “No. not at this time.”

SMC Takes Up Pre-Purchase Tasks for Satellite Campus

• All Parties Are Expected to Finalize Agreement by the Start of 2012

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Public Facilities Authority, a joint powers agency of the City of Malibu and Santa Monica College met recently to hear an update about the status of negotiations with the county to build a satellite campus on county property in the Civic Center area of Malibu.
Last month Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky made the announcement about the board and the college reaching a preliminary agreement.
Authority members were told in a report issued two weeks ago that the college, city and county, after the final details of the agreement are worked out, are expected to sign it by January, 2012.
The college is now in the process of what it calls its pre-purchase tasks such as preparing environmental phase one and phase two reports, conducting a land survey, performing geotechnical testing and preparing site drawings showing the approximate new building location, requested by the county.
“All of the pre-purchase tasks will be completed by mid-summer 2011. The land survey is critical to determine the division of the property. Once the survey is complete, the parties will have to consult on the exact dividing line that will determine the borders of the new site,” the staff report states.
“Assuming nothing new is discovered during the environmental and geotechnical testing that would make the site unsuitable for a community college facility, a series of technical meetings with the county will be required to determine the extent of the utility relocations and to determine a plan to keep or relocate the communications tower,” the report goes on to state.
Depending on the availability of county personnel for the necessary meetings, the process should be able to be concluded by early fall 2011, according to college officials.
The preliminary terms of the agreemnt have not changed since the matter has been discussed with the county, according to college officials.
The arrangement will be by lease. There will be an initial 25-year term, with fourteen five-year options. The amount of $4,369,655 will be pre-paid rent, paid in advance, covering the cost of demolition of the former Sheriff facility and other improvements, including paying for and performing some portion of the county’s compliance with effluent and stormwater treatment requirements. Other work includes rerouting of utilities.
The county will retain ownership of the helipad and existing garage and fueling station.
The communications tower will remain in place or be relocated at the college’s expense. The county can review parking and circulation plans in order to ensure continued access for other Civic Center facilities and to meet its parking obligation of the Superior Court.
All improvements are to be architecturally compatible with the existing Civic Center. The county may request up to 5,700 square feet within the new complex for a community sheriff’s station and emergency operations center. The interior of the space would be outfitted at the county’s cost.

Publisher’s Notebook:

• Malibu Teeters on the Edge •

BY ANNE SOBLE

It seemed as if almost everyone in Malibu had their handhelds, laptops and other computers tuned to CAL-SPAN last Thursday to watch the live streaming of the California Coastal Commission hearing on the controversial Sweetwater Mesa project associated with U2 guitarist David Evans, aka The Edge. Those whose day jobs precluded live monitoring of the controversy indicated they would catch up with the fireworks after the replay video was posted on the CCC website.
The quote that summed up the opposition to the project came, not surprisingly, from the CCC executive director, who said, “In my 38 years, I have never seen a project as environmentally devastating as this one.”
The primary counter-quote was from Evans’ chief land use consultant, “There is nothing these property owners can do that they haven’t already done.”
The consultant’s opinion may be genuine, but it’s difficult to think there was that much cognitive dissonance between the perceptions of the phalanx of expensive consultants and the wording of the state’s Coastal Act and the CCC staff reports on the project.
There was a lot more that could have been done to make Evans’ and his non-partners’ proposal more acceptable to being modified to a point where there was a chance for approval of an alternative project.
First, the unity-of-interest, single control issue is no small matter. The applicants should have jumped at the chance to provide copies of all of the publicly inaccessible Delaware documentation (certified to assure validity) related to the parcel transactions. If the owners of the five parcels have complete control of the land, such as being able to sell their parcel without Evans’ approval and other constraints, this would have facilitated applying for five separate development permits.
Without this documentation on ownership and control of the land, Evans’ personal statements to commissioners that it is “his” project, and the media interviews in which he indicated that two of the houses were “spec,” the sale of which were to finance his own “Leaves in the Wind” dwelling, raise too much doubt. Despite the seemingly unlimited budget for attorneys, expediters, PR firms, websites and other media, and “public benefits” packages, Evans has been quoted as saying he involved others in the project because he couldn’t afford to do it alone.
Second, there should have been an effort to move all allowable structures from the ridgeline. No one is entitled to the best possible view, if it is at the expense of the public’s interest in open space and view protection. The owner(s) would still have spectacular views; they just might have to walk a few yards to get to them. An environmentalist of Evans’ conviction should be able to relate to that.
Third and fourth would have entailed scaling back the footprints of any allowable structures, as well as the grading for a road required to access them. Fifth and sixth would have required appreciating the potential impact of whatever water system is planned and providing assurances that environmentally sensitive habitat areas would dictate infrastructure plans.
When eight members of the Coastal Commission voted against the proposal, they articulated the reasons Californians went the legislative route to try to keep their priceless natural resources from being developed into oblivion.
However, there was one questionable note at the meeting: a commissioner injected "God's intentions" on whether all mountaintops should be developed (and later could be heard sotto voce, asking whether another commissioner "was making fun" of this comment); and a different commission member said of Evans' intentions, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." The commissioners should eschew theology and stick to the Coastal Act.
The CCC’s final determination on the project may wind up in the courts. But, irrespective of what does or does not happen if the matter goes the legal route, the environmental character of the proposed development—its size, where it is located and how it is situated—and the environmental resolution of the people behind it is no longer taken for granted.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Second ‘How to Promote Local Small Businesses’ Session Set for June 28

• Activist Starts Petition Drive Urging City Constraints on Commercial Development

BY BILL KOENEKER

Mayor John Sibert announced this week the next Zoning Ordinance Review and Code Enforcement Subcommittee meeting to deal with “growing and sustaining local businesses,” is on Tuesday, June 28, at 9 a.m.
He said he doesn’t like the words retail chain ban or retail formula ordinance and said he wished the local media would stop using the terms.
Sibert said there are a “couple of more steps” involved before recommendations go before the full council. “The staff report will be out before the week of the [ZORACES] meeting,” he added.
The council subcommittee comprised of Sibert, Councilmember Jefferson Wagner and Planning Commission Chair Jeff Jennings conducted a town hall meeting several weeks ago when over 100 interested individuals showed up to talk about the matter.
Various ideas were offered up including storeowners asking for more customers, shopping center owners vowing they do not want more regulation, and others insisting some kind of legislative approach should be undertaken or other types of incentives offered.
This week, another local petition surfaced on the Internet and laid down the rules of what is thought to be a method to “Preserve the the local businesses of the coastal city,” decribed as the “Community Soul of Malibu.”
The signatories are petitioning the City of Malibu. The petition to Preserve the Soul of Malibu Today was authored by small business activist Janet Katz, who asks “neighbors and friends of Malibu to sign the petition.”
Citing the city’s General Plan and mission statement as its guiding light, the website indicates the town is at a pivotal crossroads regarding commercial development.
“Retail leases are turning Malibu into a clone of ritzy “Beverly Hills’ malls, far removed from the essential nature of our low key, inviting beach community,” the website says.
“We are committed to preserving the natural, rustic beauty and lifestyle of Malibu for generations to come. Our immediate goals as Malibu citizens regarding our retail centers are that:
Every commercial development is consistent with the Malibu General Plan and zoning codes.
Our city closes existing loopholes in zoning codes.
Our city puts into policy and enforces a balanced, intelligent plan that ensures a diversity of community serving businesses and that upholds and encourages small retail businesses that citizens consider vital to this city.
Planning is implemented that protects and encourages small retail businesses that citizens consider vital to this city.
A plan to manage and limit future chain establishments is achieved.
Existing chains will not be affected (excluded are banks, real estate offices, gas stations, etc.).”
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 191 signatures, including the latest signers, who are from Poland, Australia, Canada, Switzerland and other locations around the world.

Western Malibu Parcel Is Pulled from Housing Element Update

• Trancas Field Has Been Clouded by Litigation for Years

BY BILL KOENEKER

Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin announced this week at a city council meeting, existing litigation that was discussed at a closed door session before the council meeting, currently known as Trancas-PCH, LLC vs. City of Malibu, will be going before the public for discussion.
Hogin, who said the lawsuits related to the property make for the longest running litigation in the city’s history. “It is the sixth lawsuit since 1993. We call it Trancas Six,” she said.
“No matter what happens in this lawsuit, it won’t be over,” said the city attorney, who added that is why she talked to the council about a different approach towards the property and its litigation.
“The council agreed to pull what we call Trancas Field out of the proposed housing element update and hold a special meeting to initiate public discussion to best address development on that piece of land,” Hogin said.
The special council meeting is scheduled for July 6 at City Hall.
The council made no comment about the decision, and the city attorney offered little else in the way of explanation at the meeting.
An informal press conference with local media took place after the meeting when Hogin was queried for further explanation.
The city attorney was asked, “Why now?” as far as reviewing the case. She said that there is a June court date for a status conference and, given that the city is moving closer, it was time to talk to the council about it.
“The discovery process is expensive,” Hogin said, by way of explaining trying another approach.
When the city attorney was asked if she would tell the court at the status hearing that the city will pursue a settlement, she said, “No, I’m telling the court we are going to trial.”
The story started in 1985 when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave tentative map approval to Trancas Town Ltd. for a proposed development on 35 acres and imposed conditions long before the site was called Trancas Field or the city was incorporated.
The municipality, which was incorporated in 1991, denied the approval of those county-approved maps in 1993, stating the tentative maps had expired.
A trial court disagreed and ordered the city to review the Trancas Town maps. An appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision in 1995.
After more litigation, the council approved the final subdivision map in 1997.
The Trancas Property Owners Association got involved and filed an action against the California Coastal Commission and then became deeply embroiled in subsequent litigation.
More litigation ensued for the next decade, with one of the most scandalous episodes being when the city and the Trancas Owners Association entered into what the court called a “confidential agreement with the Trancas Owners Association that obligated the city to refrain from entering a new settlement with Trancas-PCH. The terms of the confidential agreement were not made public.
The court also scolded some council members for what appeared to be violations of the Brown Act.
More lawsuits were filed and by 2006 Trancas-PCH filed a petition for review with the California Supreme Court, which was denied by the high court.
The lawsuits never stopped. There were demurrers, collateral estoppels and even a remititur.
On Aug. 8, 2006 the trial court issued a writ of mandate commanding the council to set aside the April 30, 2003 settlement.
In September 2006 the council adopted a resolution rescinding approval of the April 2003 settlement.
Trancas-PCH filed subsequent legal action. The litigation continues to this day.

Water Quality Symposium Has Technological Theme

• Concludes with ‘Legacy’ Tour

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The City of Malibu is sponsoring Malibu’s 2011 Water Quality Symposium, entitled 21st Century Science and Technology, on Thursday, June 30, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at City Hall, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road.
“Presentation topics will include several water quality source identification studies, the economics of sea level rise, a visual tour of Malibu Marine Resources and more,” a press release states. “Some of California’s most respected water quality experts and scientists are scheduled to make the presentations.”
Highlights are anticipated to include a presentation by US Geological Survey biologist John Izbicki on the Malibu Civic Center Bacteria Source Identification Study, and a talk by Heal the Bay President Mark Gold, who will discuss the “State of the Malibu Creek Watershed: Summary of a Decade of Monitoring.”
Immediately following the event, attendees will be invited to tour Legacy Park, “the centerpiece” of the city's $50 million Civic Center-area water quality project.
The symposium is open to the public. The cost to attend the symposium is $25 per person, which includes lunch. Space is limited, early registration is encouraged. RSVP to Rebecca Nelson in the Environmental Programs Office at rnelson@malibucity.org, enter “Symposium” in the subject line). Payment to the City of Malibu must be received by June 23, after which seats will be made available to those on the waiting list.

City Selects Tsunami Warning System that Is Cost Effective and Can Handle the Mission

• Council Approves National Weather Service Radio Warning Equipment that Delivers Multi-Hazard Info

BY BILL KOENEKER

A tsunami warning system for Malibu was approved by the Malibu City Council this week, after it agreed to purchase the transmitter equipment required to utilize the National Weather Service radio warning system.
The council had previously looked into the matter and turned down expensive systems, such as those used in Hawaii and had asked for further investigation by the staff.
Emergency Services Coordinator Brad Davis told council members Monday night that he had found an alternate and very popular warning system used by the NWS.
It is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly.
It also broadcasts warning and post-event information for all types of hazards, including earthquakes, chemical releases or oil spills, and other kinds of disasters.
The system, Davis explained to the council, requires a special radio receiver or scanner capable of picking up the signal.
Each radio, which costs between $30 and $50, is designed to sit quietly in the home or office and only goes on when an emergency alert is issued by the NWS.
The warnings are multi-hazard and are programmed to be specific to the user’s local area.
Malibu needs a suitable transmission site, which was found by the Weather Service’s recent studies, done at the behest of the city.
The site is located on Point Dume, which is the current location of the city’s AM radio transmitter, according to Davis.
Tests have concluded that this site would provide suitable coverage for homes along the coastline when linked to an existing NWS transmitter at Saddle Peak.
“The National Weather Service has asked if the city would agree to share the cost of providing such a system by providing funding for the transmitter equipment,” Davis told council members.
The cost would be $22,500 to purchase transmission equipment and a cabinet.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said, “Brad has come up with a solution that is very ingenious compared to the other systems that cost millions.”
Council members agreed that the system offered the solution and more since it broadcasts multi-disaster warnings.
There are still quite a few specifics to be addressed, such as the distribution of radios, would citizens be required to purchase a radio, and how would citizen response efforts, if any, be coordinated with city staff.
Malibu has more than its share of potential hazards, with wildfire much higher on the list than tsunamis, so a multi-hazard system has the potential to add an important tool for citizen notification.

June Visit of Navy Ship Brings Back Memories of Military’s Place in Malibu Area’s History

• Activities Form a Chapter of Forgotten Beach Lore That Spans WW II and the Paranoia of the Cold War

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The USS John Paul Jones, an Arleigh Burke-class AEGIS guided missile destroyer, spent the weekend in Malibu. Its crew had the opportunity to spend shore leave on Malibu’s peaceful, if foggy, beaches. For old-time Malibu residents, and those with a fondness for history, the destroyer was a reminder of Malibu’s wartime history.
In May of 1942, just months into World War II, Malibu’s first newspaper was launched. The Malibu Bugle was created to spread the news to the Civil Defense volunteers in the Malibu Sector, which comprised 300 square miles, from Calabasas to the beach. 
Many volunteers were put to work on October 22, 1942, battling not enemy invaders but a 25,000-acre fire that swept over Saddle Peak and into Malibu, destroying 18 homes, and causing numerous injuries.
According to longtime Malibu resident Dorothy Stotsenberg, in her book “My Fifty Years in Malibu,” there were five mounted patrols in Malibu during the war. The Army established beach patrols throughout Malibu immediately after Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. 
The U.S. Coast Guard Beach Patrol established eight stations in Malibu during the war. The Adamson House property was commandeered for use as Coast Guard HQ. According to Malibu historian Ronald Rindge, in “World War II Homeland Defense: U.S. Coast Guard Beach Patrol in Malibu, 1942-44,” the Adamson pool house served as living quarters for the two officers in command. The enlisted men lived in “hutlets” on the beach. The Malibu Pier, destroyed by a storm in 1942, was rebuilt in 1944 and used as a Coast Guard lookout point.
According to Stotsenberg, the old Malibu Courthouse was the site of the “Malibu Casualty Station,” where diligent volunteers wound bandages and knitted watch caps.
Some intrepid Malibu residents built bomb shelters and prepared for the worst. Visitors to the ruins of the Roberts’ Ranch in Solstice Canyon can take a peak into one surviving shelter. But with tires and gasoline rationed, strict nightly blackout rules that prohibited the use of headlights, streetlights or visible houselights; and the continual fear that Japanese forces could invade the coast at any time, many war-era Malibu residents reportedly sold at a loss and left.
The government took possession of Point Dume during the war. The Army and the Coast Guard used the windy, treeless promontory as a lookout. They also installed anti-aircraft guns there.
The military built barracks on Wildlife Road and leveled several acres of land for a motor pool. 
The Point was used as a target and artillery range. Malibu historian Judge John Merrick, who was stationed in Malibu during the war, frequently recounted how targets, mounted on rail cars would travel by gravity down what is now Cliffside Drive. A pulley system was used to return the targets to the cliff top.
Malibu children in the ’60s and ’70s liked to collect a different sort of shell from Point Dume’s beaches. Shell casings still occasionally turn up in gardens or on the beach.
Military convoys were a frequent sight in Malibu during the war. Surfers were not, as young men enlisted and were shipped out.
“When the United States declared war in December 1941 it broke the back of California surfers’ lifestyle,” wrote Gary Lynch on the website www.legendarysurfers.com.
“Almost every able-bodied man enlisted in the armed services...many would never be seen again.
“The war took some of the best men surfing had to offer, leaving a trail of waste and broken dreams,” Lynch wrote.
Many Malibu beaches were off-limits due to military activity. Those who did have the opportunity to surf included military personnel, who recounted having the surfbreaks to themselves.
After the war, technology developed for the warplane industry would revolutionize surfing, when shapers began to experiment with lightweight fiberglass and resin, in place of wood.
The threat of prospective Japanese invasion ended in 1944. However, Point Dume had a close call during the Cold War—it was one of several local sites under consideration for a missile base. A Nike missile silo was constructed at the top of Las Flores Canyon in 1954. During the height of the Cold War, the underground bunker reportedly housed 18 27-foot tall Nike-Hercules Missiles, equipped with nuclear warheads. 
Today, the site is home to Los Angeles County Fire Suppression Camp 8. Fire crews continue to use the Army barracks and mess hall, but the missile silo houses only ghosts. The troops stationed there learn to fight fire, not foes.
A second site, located off Mandeville Canyon, above Los Angeles, is now part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Instead of a high security military installation, it’s a popular picnic area and hiking destination and offers what is described by many as “the best view in the Santa Monica Mountains,” as well as a reminder that sometimes peace does get a chance.
Malibu’s Hughes Research Laboratories, or HRL, a designated Physics Historic Site, also has an important place in military history. The first working laser was demonstrated there in 1950.
The think tank continues to develop innovations in propulsion, robotics, semiconductors, integrated circuits and other 21st century wizardry that enables the military to build and operate high tech ships like the John Paul Jones.  
Japanese forces didn’t invade California, no Cold War-era warheads were ever fired and the JPJ’s visit was purely ceremonial.
Dignitaries from Malibu and several surrounding cities welcomed the JPJ’s crew and officers at the Malibu Pier on Friday, and celebrated afterward with an exclusive, lantern-light reception aboard the ship. 
Sailors came ashore on leave to visit family members who traveled up from the ship’s home port in San Diego.
Volunteers arranged for some service men and women to spend time with adopted Malibu families or to enjoy a host of special opportunities and discounts provided by local businesses. 
The public was not able to tour the ship due to security issues, but they had a chance to see it at anchor in the bay, where it dominated the horizon.

SMMUSD Board Meets on Thursday as Finances Remain Its Top Priority

• Advisory Panel Members Sought

BY KAYLA BROWN

The Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Thursday, June 16, at 6 p.m. in the boardroom at the district office (1651 16th Street in Santa Monica,).
The major items on the agenda include the public hearing and approval of the Tier III Categorical Funding. Items that have been postponed at previous meetings will also be addressed.
The detailed agenda is available on the district’s website at http:www.smmusd.org/board/meetings.html.
The Board of Education also announced that it is currently accepting applications for openings on the following district advisory committees: Early Child Care and Development, Health and Safety, Special Education, and Visual and Performing Arts.
Applications can be found at http://www.smmusd.org/DAC/pdf/DACappEngSP.pdf.

Publisher’s Notebook:

• Asking Questions •

BY ANNE SOBLE

It is beginning to appear that many of the questions raised during the grassroots effort to get the large-scale Malibu Lagoon construction project put on hold so it could be challenged in court are also under consideration in other communities where some of the same stakeholders are active.
Many of these questions revolve around the relationships between state public and quasi-public agencies and the non-profit organizations that seemingly have lock-holds on policymaking and the allocation of financial resources to implement that policy.
Normally when policy analysts look at the potential for incestuous behavior by regulatory agencies, it is with the industries they are supposed to regulate. This form of co-optation, such as between an energy commission and oil companies, is readily documented, as is the revolving door used by regulatory personnel who take jobs in those industries.
Less obvious is the potential for incestuous relationships between public entities and the non-profits they often “employ” to help design and then implement publicly funded projects. These projects may not adhere to notice and bid regulations or even allow for local government input and oversight.
Critics of the Malibu Lagoon project, which they describe as a “teardown and rebuild what may have never existed” project, contend that the lines between these parties, especially in terms of personnel and membership, have blurred. Some people serve in both public and private capacities and may even play a part in determining their own salaries.
Another concern being raised by these critics is whether some non-profits have become such political sacred cows that no elected or appointed officials will challenge them publicly. Critics assert that the groups help to ensure this by handing out accolades perceived as directly correlated with financial contributions or political largess.
Since serious allegations are becoming increasingly widespread, it is incumbent upon the media to begin to seek documentation to affirm or deny them. Efforts are underway to obtain state records, including financial disclosure forms from the Fair Political Practices Commission, for all of the key players.
The FPPC has not shied away from fining Malibu city council candidates and other locals for violating its requirements. If the critics making these charges take their concerns there and to other state oversight agencies, as well as to the forum of public opinion, answers might be forthcoming.
One of my grad school professors incessantly repeated a variant of the dictum heard by nearly everyone at some time in their education: ‘If you want the right answers, you have to ask the right questions.’
The number of people trying to ask the right questions to determine whether there is the need to put a stop to possible self-serving collaboration that has become a political stranglehold on the environmental community is growing exponentially.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Residents Packed Town Hall on Ways to Support Small Businesses

• Store Owners Say that What They Need Most Are More Locals Shopping in Malibu

BY BILL KOENEKER

There was a town hall meeting last week, with rules, a facilitator and various segments of the Malibu community to talk about small local businesses and how they could grow and survive in the coastal community.
Mayor John Sibert laid down the first commandment when he said, “Do not demonize those who disagree.”
There were then four “communication guidelines” that participants were asked to agree to before the meeting started by facilitator Natoma Keir, who suggested folks speak from their own experience, with what she called “I” statements.
The audience was asked to speak “freely and openly” and to consider how that sharing might be represented when it is repeated outside the meeting.
“Everyone is expected to be treated with respect and give each person time and space to participate and listen to all views with an open mind, even when you disagree,” were the rest of the guidelines participants were expected to agree upon.
There were no time limits for participants to speak and some folks spoke more than once.
The town hall was actually a meeting of the Zoning Ordinance Review and Code Enforcement Subcommittee comprised of Sibert, Councilmember Jefferson Wagner and Planning Commissioner Jeff Jennings.
The event was videotaped and can be found on the city’s website.
City Planner Joe Smith discussed the basics of how communities can go about making changes.
He mentioned how the city has a General Plan where the “high goals and policies” are expressed and then how the city’s ordinances are crafted to implement the General Plan.
He said there were several options from legislation, such as a retail formula ban, to creating incentives. “There are different ways of doing this,” he added.
First to volunteer to speak was developer Norm Haynie who said the question was, “How do you make space available to have mom-and-pop stores when they can’t compete with the chains?”
He said the city could offer more space on a lot than currently allowed, what is called the Floor Area Ratio, but that extra space would have to be rented for 75 percent of the market for mom-and-pop stores.
Planning commissioner John Mazza suggested it is a matter of uses. “There is lack of community uses. Use the Planning Commission determination of a Conditional Use Permit to determine a diversified use. A lot of cities have utility uses. They have rules for too many souvenir shops, or too many art galleries,” he noted.
The first store owner to speak was Leslie Goldstein, who owns Pinnacle. “Do the rest of you shop locally? We try to carry what you want. It is not the rents. The people who live here are not staying here to shop. But what we do have, you have to support. We are here for you. We need you, the local people, to be here,” she said.
Don Schmitz, who is vice chair of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce’s governmental affairs committee, said, “We are absolutely 100 percent in support of local businesses. If there is any other perception, it is a misperception,” he said, adding any suggestion of some kind of level of regulation will not resonate with the Chamber. “It will dampen business. It is not easy to get a permit. It is not easy to get a Conditional Use Permit.”
Susan Stiffleman, one of the original members of the Save Trancas Nursery campaign, said she totally disagreed with the Chamber and Schmitz.
“What excites me is a Conditional Use Permit. Businesses are here to serve us. We are the pockets. Businesses are here but are not necessarily here for our own best interest. We should develop a high level of accountability for those who want to do business, it is not just a matter of choosing mom-and-pop stores,” she added.
Another nursery campaign member, Janet Katz, said that so far, nothing has happened, whether talking about the years the formula chain ban has been waiting in the wings or talking about a ‘shop locally’ campaign. She named several cities that have a chain ban and said when they were contacted they had nothing but good things to say about the ordinance.
She said that there has been no lowering of the quality of stores in Ojai and in Solvang and officials said that the ban protected businesses and rents had not increased. “We are at a crossroads,” she said.
Shopping center owner Michael Koss said of the 67 tenants in his store, the Malibu Country Mart, 40 of them are locally owned. He said the Chamber found that there are 386 mom-and-pop stores in Malibu and only 30 chains. “There is a misperception. He said the CUP process in Laguna Beach is a matter of four or five bureaucrats deciding. The CUP is not good,” he noted.
Koss said the cities pointed out by Katz with retail formula bans are all tourist cities. “You have no big box stores. You moved to this area because of no big box. Buying local is great. I encourage you to support local businesses,” he said.
Jay Luchs, who is part owner of the Malibu Village shopping center and sells retail space for the shopping center and also for the city-owned Malibu Lumber Yard, said, “We would like to keep a mix. Some of these nationals help the locals. Getting rid of the nationals would be a problem.”
Steve Soboroff, who is developing a Civic Center shopping center with a Whole Foods Market, said, “I have seen a lot of chain stores that are horrible, and I have seen local stores that are the same. I’m the guy who brought in Radio Shack.”
He said he would promise to use every possible effort to advertise locally, support local charities and hire local contractors.
Self-described mom- and-pop business owner Arlington Forbes said he and his wife’s store had been around more than five years through the support of his landlord and support of his local customers.
“We always listen to our customers. But you have got to come to the store or we won’t exist. We try to entice you. Support the stores you like. It is your determination. We feel embraced by the community,” he said.
Malibu Village owner Pouya Abdi said he wants to keep mom-and-pop stores. “I’m in the middle. I need to make it work with the mom-and-pop stores.
“If I can get an extra tool, this incentive is a tool. I could build a building for mom-and-pop stores,” he said, referring to an increased FAR in exchange for lower rents for local businesses.
David Reznick, who heads up the Malibu Bay Company, which once owned the Trancas shopping center and Malibu Colony Plaza, said it is difficult to do business in Malibu.
“There is the high cost of doing business. The high costs of rent. Some businesses are doing very well. A CUP will cost and run up the rents,” Resnick said, adding that he favored incentives.
A couple of longtime residents said they don’t shop locally anymore for a variety of reasons.
One woman said she did not get the greeting or the welcome at local businesses that she gets over the hill. “Courtesies do not exist for local businesses here. Do some PR,” she said.
Another long-term resident indicated that most of his favorite businesses either moved away or went out of business. “I’m buying less and less [here],” he said.

Consultants Schedule Two More Workshops on Controversial Municipal Housing Element

• Amended Contract Calls for Monitoring of SCAG Numbers

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council is poised to approve a total of $81,830 for an amended contract next week for the preparation of the General Plan Housing Element Update with J.H. Douglas and Associates to provide the city “with guidance on the update and comment for the upcoming Regional Housing Needs Assessment or RHNA requirements and conduct two additional workshops on the preparation of the current housing element update, according to a staff report.”
The city conducted a scoping session two weeks ago on the update, where many participants contended the city is taking the wrong approach and more public meetings should be scheduled before the public hearing for the draft Environmental Impact Report.
The staff report indicates the amendment to the agreement increases the current contract with the consultant by $11,600 culminating in a total of $81,830.
The Southern California Association of Governments or SCAG recently started the process of determining the RHNA requirements for the upcoming housing element 2013-2021 planning period.
The RHNA is mandated by state housing law, according to a city staff report, as part of the periodic process of updating local housing elements.
“The RHNA quantifies the need for housing within each jurisdiction during specified planning periods. Prior to the issuance of required RHNA numbers to each city, SCAG holds a series of workshops where cities can comment on the proposed RHNA numbers to ensure they accurately reflect the future growth and needs of the city,” wrote Associate Planner Richard Mollica, in the staff report.
Activists complained that the city was not paying attention when SCAG issued the last set of numbers.
It makes no sense, they said, that Malibu’s population purportedly increased by 70 during the last decade, according to the U.S. census, but that 441 units of affordable housing are required. During the previous planning period, the number was 14.
Mollica, in his report, wrote having the consultants watch over will ensure the city “takes a proactive approach to the development of its future RHNA number.”
In a letter to city planning officials, the consultants point out the RHNA is critical to local jurisdictions “because it establishes the amount and type of new housing that must be accommodated in land use plans and regulations.”
The letter goes on to state if the housing element of the General Plan does not identify sites with appropriate zoning to accommodate the RHNA, property must be rezoned to meet the shortfall.
“The next RHNA is expected to be adopted by SCAG in 2012 and will be a key component of the next housing element update, which must be prepared in 2013,” the consultants’ letter explains.
“Staff believes it would be important to retain the services of an experienced consultant to assist staff,” Mollica added. “In addition, the agreement includes facilitating two additional public workshops on the preparation of the current Housing Element Update.”
The consultants indicated they could assist the city during the SCAG workshops “to ensure that the housing growth allocation for Malibu is fair and reasonable given local land use constraints and infrastructure.”

SMM Group’s Letter Criticizes Sweetwater Mesa Development

• CCC Set to Hear Project Next Week

BY BILL KOENEKER

An out-of-area group called Save Our Mountains, Inc., or SOMI, has expressed opposition to what they call The Edge Project, Sweetwater Mesa.
The California Coastal Commission is expected to hear the matter next week. Rock musician The Edge, whose name is David Evans, is scheduled to be in Southern California playing a concert with his band U2 the day after the June 16 hearing. It is not known whether the guitar player/developer will attend the CCC hearing.
SOMI, which is a Mandeville Canyon-based team composed of four homeowner groups, with offices in Century City, sent a letter this week to all Coastal Commission members about their objections to the proposed five-home subdivision.
“We hope you will adopt your staff recommendation and disapprove the applications by ‘The Edge’ and his partners to build five massive structures [above] Sweetwater Mesa. For a variety of reasons, this project is deceptive, disastrous and ill-conceived,” states the letter.
The group indicates it has a petition signed by 11,000 Angelenos who have signed the document for “preservation of wilderness open space.”
SOMI indicates it was successful in stopping a planned gated community of 37 mansions on a 371-acre parcel of mountain land that became Westridge Canyonback Wilderness Park, which connects 1500 acres of open space in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains, bordered by upper Mandeville, Sullivan and Mission canyons, and San Vicente Mountain Park.
The objections to The Edge project stem from the grading on prime wildland “towering over the heart of Malibu.”
“Unfortunately this project broadcasts, in blinking red neon, that a developer of sufficient wealth and celebrity can play from a different playbook and skirt the rules applying to everyone else,” the letter goes on to state.
“The commission must send the message that [it] is not ‘for sale’ and cannot be bought. Coastal protection must not become a negotiation between a scofflaw and the constable designed to find the price at which the constable will look the other way. The commission is the public's last bulwark and protector of the coast. We urge it to vote ‘no’ on this inauspicious, deceptive and ill-conceived project,” wrote Eric F. Edmunds, Jr., who is the chair of SOMI.

Council Set to OK $25K Contract for City Arts Task Force Consultant

BY BILL KOENEKER


Malibu City Council members are expected to approve a $25,000 contract next week to hire a firm called Creative Hub “to facilitate the works of the [city's] Arts Task Force in creating a cultural arts report.”
Last year, when the council set up the charter for the task force, the document charged the panel with working with a consultant that could be hired to assist city staff and the task force with creating what is called a “strategic arts plan.”
Last December, the staff issued a Request for Proposal for consulting services for the preparation of the arts plan related to public art in the city. The city received four proposals by the RFP deadline, according to a staff report.
The staff ultimately selected Constance Jolcuvar of Creative Hub because of her work with Agoura Hills in creating a cultural arts initiative for that city.
The initiative features such objectives as a cultural arts council to oversee the initiative, a cultural artists' society to conduct fundraising and a comprehensive plan called the “cultural arts blueprint.”
The consultant is being asked to do the following: plan and facilitate a summit of stakeholders; develop a “visioning” survey; facilitate the gathering and research of information, such as the timeline to complete the arts report; complete an assessment of existing art venues, organizations, works of art and artists in Malibu for inclusion in a virtual cultural arts center; feasibility of creating an arts council or commission; feasibility of creating a fund to offer grants for local artists; explore the role and responsibilities of local government in administration of the arts program; and find funding opportunities and human and monetary resources needed to implement the program.
Also on tap is a proposed revision to the task force charter to abandon a 10-year forecasting plan and instead move forward with writing an arts plan. This would include a vision for the future of arts and culture in Malibu, a plan for coordination of the existing cultural resources and activities, and an inventory of existing resources and recommendations for implementing a public arts program in Malibu.

Local Attorney Takes on Water Boards with Lawsuit over Septic System Ban

• Petition Calls the State’s Action a Regulatory Taking

BY BILL KOENEKER

A Malibu Road attorney has filed a lawsuit against the local and state water boards and the California Environmental Protection Agency concerning the Civic Center septic ban, which includes residential areas, such as Malibu Road. The state agencies were all served last week.
Attorney Joan Lavine, who owns a home on Malibu Road, and has legally tangled with the city over an unrelated matter with successful results, seeks to have the ban overturned and set aside and is also making a claim that the septic ban has resulted in an inverse condemnation, “due to the unconstitutional regulatory taking…of all viable economic value and use of her substantial property interests in her Malibu Road property and seeks the award of reasonable monetary damages.”
“I have not heard from any of the opposition attorneys yet,” she said, when asked if she had gotten any reaction from the state agencies.
A prohibition on all Civic Center area septic systems including residential areas was approved and adopted by the RWQCB on November 2009 and approved and ratified by the State Water Resources and Control Board on September 21, 2010.
Lavine asserts in her complaint that by doing so, the agencies “illegally engaged in a regulatory taking and confiscation of her substantial real property and related interests.”
The lawsuit calls the prohibition “an invalid underground regulation and is arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, overbroad, confiscatory, is an exercise of authority in excess of and without jurisdiction, is a usurpation of power, authority and jurisdiction where respondents have none, is without any factual support, and is invalid as a matter of law and therefore is null and void.”
Besides monetary damages, Lavine is seeking a writ of mandate and or prohibition restraining the water boards from enacting such “a quasi-legislative action.”
Lavine said she was not notified that her property impermissibly discharged water, pollution or contaminants, violated any health, safety, environmental or clean water laws, or in any way was non-compliant with any law, rule or regulation over which the water boards have jurisdiction.
She indicated in the legal brief she has not been notified that her property in any way created or caused a nuisance. She has never been cited for any said potential hazards described, she wrote in the lawsuit.
She said the water boards' actions make her property unsalable and unmarketable and constitutes a per se regulatory taking.
“No evidence was received into the record at the November hearing that pollution was/is generated at the Lavine Malibu Road property. No evidence supports a finding as applied to the petitioner’s Malibu Road property that discharges failed to meet water quality objectives,” the petition goes on to state.
Levine asserts that allegations that law enforcement activities and law enforcement citations issued for alleged discharges by other properties and other property owners are not a factual basis for law enforcement actions against her property and that the board’s use of alleged wrong- doing of unrelated third parties and other properties is “an irrational basis to engage in law enforcement” against her property.
In her extra-record evidence, Lavine cites the recent U.S. Geological Survey research by John Izbicki.
Lavine is demanding a trial by jury.

Publisher’s Notebook:

• A Look at Malibu Businesses•

BY ANNE SOBLE

The first town hall on the Malibu retail environment was an important step toward clarifying the issues and dispelling some of the myths circulating in the effort to seek municipal oversight of local small businesses.
To hear small business owners stress that it is not as much high rents as the lack of local patronage that leads to closures affirmed what many have been saying. If people want local bricks-and-mortar stores, they have to shop in them regularly and understand that their higher costs may be reflected in their pricing and their space constraints can impact inventory.
However, one of the most important segments of the meeting was when business owners began to raise the issue of the overriding societal change that is irrevocably altering the dynamic of retail marketing in Malibu, in California, in the nation, and throughout the world.
It’s not that there shouldn’t be any concern about Malibuites leaving the community to go to big-box stores, but it seems certain that number is far surpassed by the number of local residents who shop online.
To hear a local business owner say that someone will come into a store, check out a style, and even try it on; then go home and, with a few clicks, “order it for 60 percent less,” illustrates the impact of the Internet on Malibu retail establishments better than any abstract discussion of market forces.
Malibu really has little to fear from mega marts. They are not clamoring at the city’s gates. Why should they? Most of them already have access to 90265 spending power at their outlets in adjacent communities, or online. Municipal legislation to curb them would be largely symbolic.
To some degree, the nostalgia associated with hometown businesses is a demographic one related to age, gender and culture. Sociologists have studied how suburban development isolated residents, Stores in shopping centers were where they could meet other people, or “hang out.” Younger demographics now hang out someplace else—the Web.
Some futurists at think tanks and business schools foresee tremendous changes in shopping centers, as we now know them. Storefronts are expected to steadily decline in number, or consolidate into joint outlets, as retail marketing becomes increasingly digitized, and whatever is needed is as close as one’s hand-held.
In the short term, the community can get behind a “Shop Malibu” campaign to support the current local business base. There have been several such campaigns in the past, many of them generating more advertising revenue than cash register receipts. Slogans are no substitute for spending.
In the long term, Malibu’s community identity derives from family, friends, neighbors and the diverse citizenry who live here; and its sense of place is in the equally diverse lifestyles and public areas centered in the extraordinary natural wonders around them.
Just as the turmoil of the industrial revolution upended political, economic and social structures when it took place, the current technological revolution is dramatically altering traditional institutions in every facet of human activity.
And this revolution has only just begun.

Firefighter Drive Gives Muscular Dystrophy the Boot

Malibu drivers need to be on the lookout for firefighters. On June 9, 10, and 11, Los Angeles County firefighters will hold their annual Fill the Boot fundraising campaign which benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association, an organization committed to finding a cure for muscular dystrophy, and other related diseases, a press release states.
County firefighters will be stationed at various intersections throughout the County of Los Angeles during this three day campaign to collect funds to benefit various MDA programs including summer camps, support groups, and scientific research.
This is the eighth Annual Fill the Boot campaign that Los Angeles County Firefighters will be participating in.
In 2009, LACFD firefighters were able to raise over $332,000 to aid the MDA in their efforts to find a cure and they are hoping to surpass that this year. Firefighters across the United States participate in Fill the Boot programs and are helping to raise funds for the MDA, “one boot at a time.” Last year, California firefighters raised over $1.75 million with Fill the Boot programs, the press release states.
“Citizens across the county are encouraged to come out and help firefighters fill their boots in order to give those affected by Muscular Dystrophy and other related diseases the proper medical treatment they deserve.”
In Malibu, the fundraising drive—or drive-by—can be hazardous, as firefighters occasionally have to dodge fast-moving vehicles and distracted drivers while collecting donations at the intersection of PCH and Webb Way.
Malibu drivers are reminded to watch for the fundraisers and to drive safely.
“The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) made a commitment to the MDA in 1954,” the press release states.
“IAFF is the MDA’s single largest sponsor and with that the IAFF has helped to raise over $450 million to benefit this organization. The success of the Fill the Boot campaign has led to major medical breakthroughs that will continue to aid the MDA in finding a cure for those who are combating Muscular Dystrophy and other related diseases. MDA receives support from the IAFF and non-Union fire departments nationwide.
“Fill the Boot funds support MDA’s services locally and nationally. MDA is a voluntary health agency working to defeat 43 neuromuscular diseases through programs of worldwide research, comprehensive services, and far-reaching professional and public health education.”
MDA maintains about 230 clinics nationwide. According to the press release, the association’s programs are almost entirely funded by individual private contributors. More information about MDA services and research can be found at www.mda.org.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Critics Dispute Consultant’s Approach to Updating Malibu’s Housing Element

• Residents Want Alternatives to State Numbers and Options

BY BILL KOENEKER

Officially, it is called the General Plan housing element update, which city officials say will “establish new policies, goals and programs for the entire city.”
Several dozen residents showed up at last week’s scoping session to challenge the municipality’s approach to develop a “program to upzone a limited number of parcels to accommodate the city’s required housing needs as determined by the Southern California Association of Governments [or SCAG].”
Speakers made several recommendations, telling the consultants they should approach the problem in a different fashion.
Those who advocated for the city to challenge the numbers of affordable housing mandated for Malibu were told by consultants that there is no successful way to challenge those numbers.
Though Malibu’s population rose by a minimal amount in the last 10 years, there were 441 units of affordable housing assigned to Malibu compared to 14 a decade ago. Some of the speakers said that was not fair to the community.
The consultant said that the city must allow a minimum number of housing units per acre to accommodate those numbers.
If there are not enough vacant parcels to accommodate those numbers then some properties must be rezoned.
The consultant also told the audience that there is no effective means to change SCAG’s numbers.
The scoping meeting is the first official public hearing for the consultants, Rincon Consultants, Inc. to start work on preparing an EIR.
Malibu West resident Lynn Norton said she had several suggestions for providing affordable housing beside upzoning properties. She suggested the city permit mixed-use zoning by allowing residential units within commercial zoning for affordable housing and spreading it across citywide.
Consultants conceded that the mixed use concept might work instead of rezoning.
Members from the Malibu West Homeowners Association endorsed the mixed-use concept and also talked about the city creating an inventory of second units and granny flats for inclusion into any kind of affordable housing plan.
The state requires that housing elements be updated and certified every five years to reflect the most recent trends in demographics and employment that may affect existing and future housing demand and supply.
Some members of the public seemed to groan when told the next public hearing was planned when consultants had finished a draft document saying it would be ready by November, but then backed away from that timetable.
On the previous Monday night, the city council got an earful of the public’s reaction to the staff’s proposal for the housing element and learned those speaking did not like what they had already heard about the upzoning of properties.
Most of the vacant parcels are in western Malibu, where the Malibu West HOA members see the proposed changes as a red flag.
Broad Beach homeowners were also represented by an attorney who said that an EIR would not be enough detail to allow for upzoning and the California Environmental Quality Act would require much more environmental review on each and every parcel.

Streisand Comments on Possible Sale of Her Ex-Homes that Are Now SMMC Park

• Entertainer Received Favorable Tax Package for Donation

BY BILL KOENEKER

The controversy surrounding Governor Brown’s proposed revised budget for the upcoming fiscal year recommending selling Ramirez Canyon Park, caught the attention of Barbra Streisand, who donated the land and its five-building compound to the state in 1993.
The estate’s donation was originally intended for the creation of a think tank for environmental causes and was to be called the Streisand Center.
Streisand did not set up any kind of trust to maintain the property or an environmental center.
Streisand, commenting on Brown’s decision, said, “While I had hoped that the Ramirez Canyon property I donated to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy would have been used for a state-of-the-art environmental conference and study center, as was originally intended, I understand Governor Brown’s tough decision given the severe budget shortfalls that California is facing. I only hope that there is little disruption to the residents of Ramirez Canyon through this potential transition and that whatever entity does purchase the land and the homes on it will preserve its special habitat.”
The site houses the headquarters of the SMMC and the offices of its executive director, Joe Edmiston.
Without funding, the property, which was acquired by the Conservancy through a complicated tax write-off, has been maintained by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
The SMMC ran into problems with neighbors when it attempted to become self-sufficient and utilize the property for money- making enterprises, including weddings, photo shoots and movies.
The state agency and the neighbors have been in protracted battle since.
The possible sale was just a mention in Brown’s revised budget for FY 2011-12, but it has caused a reverberation in the surrounding community and elsewhere.
The revised budget proposes the sale of what it calls “underutilized state properties,” and the park is simply described as “the Ramirez Canyon property in Southern California.”
“These properties serve no state function and should be sold off,” a press release about the budget states.
The Conservancy issued a statement from the chair of the SMMC, Antonio Gonzalez, concerning the proposal to sell off the property.
“I recognize the difficult fiscal situation the state of California faces. When all the facts are known, I think it is likely that the state will reconsider the proposal to sell off Ramirez Canyon Park to pay down the debt,” he said.
Gonzalez went on to say since the park was donated and is surrounded on three sides by National Park Service land belonging to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the fact that the California Coastal Commission’s zoning of the property is for park/open space use “it is likely that these development restrictions could markedly affect the price the state could receive for the park.”
The MRCA gets its money to fund the Conservancy by “using funding from discretionary sources such as antenna revenue and filming at other parks,” said a SMMC spokesperson, who also noted the park is still used by the public.
“Until the pending litigation is settled, public outreach programs for disabled youth and at-risk youth are still conducted as often as three times a week.
“The trails and streamside areas have been made accessible so that kids and young adults who would otherwise not have a park experience because of their physical limitations can enjoy the Santa Monica Mountains.
“The MRCA have been running these programs for many years and the programs continue despite the litigation,” the SMMC spokesperson said.

Council Studies Recommendations for Budget by Its A/F Subcommittee

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council had a second look at the proposed budget for fiscal year 2011-2012 at its meeting last week when members were able to learn the recommendations of its Administration and Finance Subcommittee.
As is the usual case, the A&F panel comprised of Mayor John Sibert and Councilmember Lou La Monte, made their recommendation for awarding the general fund grants amounting to $100,000, which was more than last year.
“We decided we were going to give more. But spread it out among more organizations,” said La Monte.
The Malibu Community Labor Exchange was awarded almost a third of the pie when the subcommittee recommended giving the exchange $30,000. The grant to the labor exchange is contingent upon the appointment of a new director and holding a fundraiser, according to budget documents.
Next on the list is the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu teen center, which the subcommittee recommended awarding a $14,500 grant.
Other amounts handed out include: $5000 to Friends of Urgent Care. A grant of $7500 to Children’s Lifesaving Foundation. Another $7500 is suggested for Malibu West Fire Safe and Sustainability.
Malibu Biodiesel Inc. was promised $5000 if it secures a site, offers proof of a guaranteed source of obtaining material and provides proof of permits and insurance by June 30, 2012.
Other amounts include $3000 to SOS Community Outreach, $3000 to Malibu Friends of Music and another $3000 for Malibu High School Grad night and $5000 to the Malibu High School PTSA.
The city’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year totals $37.9 million. The amount includes general fund revenues of $20.7 million and general fund expenditures of $21 million, which includes a total of $561,000 for the city’s liability payment to Cal_ PERS, according to a staff report.
The A&F was told how the costs came about and decided to recommend an option suggested in a report prepared by consultants hired by the city to help curtail current and future costs for what is called the unfunded liability with CalPERS.
When the city joined CalPERS, a side fund was created to account for the difference between the funded status and unfunded status of the city’s plan. Currently, the city pays approximately $75,000 a year towards the total unfunded amount of $561,000.
The consultants recommended that the city pay off the unfunded amount, which would lower the city’s annual contribution rate by 1.5 percent and would immediately provide a cost savings for the city.
The A&F subcommittee subsequently recommended the council fund the city’s liability with CalPERS in fiscal year 2011-2012.
The subcommittee is currently in the process of reviewing long-term CalPERS options for the council to consider, according to a staff report.
The proposed budget also includes an increase of $10,000 in facilities rent.
“The city’s obligation for rent payments of the [old] City Hall space will end in July 2012, at which time the city’s debt service associated with the acquisition and improvements of City Hall will commence. $50,000 for leasehold improvements of city facilities has also been included in the proposed budget,” the staff report states.
The budget for City Hall operations has increased as a result of the city’s occupancy of the new facility.
Funding has been added for custodial services and other department related expenses. The budget for the upcoming fiscal year, according to the staff report, includes the addition of a maintenance worker that will be responsible for all city facilities and primarily City Hall. The position has been budgeted for nine months for the upcoming year.
The A&F subcommittee has recommended the inclusion of the position for the upcoming fiscal year.
The city council will vote on approving the proposed budget at an upcoming meeting.

Edge Subdivision Scheduled for Coastal Commission Hearing on June 16 in Marina Del Rey

• Ownership Issue Still Contentious

BY BILL KOENEKER

The California Coastal Commission is scheduled to consider a controversial five- home subdivision planned for the hills high above Sweetwater Mesa at its June 16 meeting in Marina Del Rey.
The project is spearheaded by David Evans, better known as the Edge, guitarist for the band U2, who wants to build the homes, ranging from 7000 square feet to over 12,000 square feet. The area is deemed inappropriate for the project by the Coastal Commission staff, which is making a recommendation for denial.
The matter had been on the February agenda with the same recommendation of denial before the item was pulled from the agenda.
“As is explained in detail, due to the specific facts of this case, the commission can deny the present applications without committing such a taking. That is true, in part, because there are feasible alternatives to the proposed development that would avoid or substantially reduce the adverse environmental effects of the projects and the impacts,” the CCC staff report states.
Some of those particulars were laid out in the staff report and concluded: “The five lots at issue are all contiguous. The five lots at issue were all purchased on the same day in 2005. Prior owners proposed a single development scheme for all five lots. The current owners propose a unified development scheme with a shared road and [plan] to coordinate road and utility development. The current project has a single project manager, a single architect and single landscape architect, a single website devoted to publicity for the project, until recently, had a single agent before the commission who coordinated the filing of the coastal development permit. Project proponents regularly refer to it as a single, coordinate project.”
However, that is not what has stirred the ire of the applicants and its public relations firm. It is the staff report statements about unity of ownership that “one or two parties appear to control this entire project,” that caused a reaction from Fiona Hutton & Associates, who was hired by the applicants.
“In a blatant attempt to arrange or change the facts to support their predetermined position, the Coastal Commission staff is setting a dangerous precedent by applying standards to these property owners the staff have never used before. The individual property owners have provided all information required by law for consideration of their application. More importantly, staff is pursuing a legal theory that Coastal Commission legal counsel has advised them in the past is beyond their authority,” said Fiona Hutton, in a prepared statement.
The commission staff points to these facts: “David Evans’ statements to two sitting commissioners. David Evan’s statement on his website for this development. Statements in numerous news articles. All five properties were purchased on the same day, with loans from the same bank. The coordinate recordation of the deeds of trust and grant deeds with sequential recordation numbers at the Office of the county Recorder for Los Angeles County.
“All five properties were purchased by LLCs that were created on the same day a week earlier. The five LLCs all converted to LLLPs on the same day. The principals of the five LLCs (and original principals of the five LLLPS were: One individual, his wife, his business partner, the director of that business partner’s company, the project manager.”
Three of the five lots changed their principals in 2010, soon after commission staff informed the parties of staff’s intention to assert related ownership. One of the new owners is the individual’s sister.
“We find these unfair requests and contentions by staff extremely troubling and look forward to presenting our proposals and the real facts to the appointed Coastal Commissioners in June,” Hutton stated.
However, the commission staff report counters that the applicants have failed to provide ownership information to staff despite repeated requests, and that they failed to provide information to rebut the inferences that were first presented in the February staff report.

Pre-Trial Conference Set for PCH Crash Defendant

BY BILL KOENEKER

Sina Khankhanian, 27, charged with the murder of Emily Shane, was in court again this week on Tuesday morning at a hearing where another pre-trial conference was scheduled for July 6, according to a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
Several months ago, a judge found that there was enough evidence for the San Fernando Valley man to stand trial.
Khankhanian pleaded not guilty at his arraignment to a formal charge of murder, according to the DA’s office.
Khankhanian, who is being held on $3 million bail, is being charged with one felony count of murder with special allegations of using his vehicle as a deadly weapon to commit murder, according to the DA’s complaint.
If convicted, the defendant could face a maximum prison term of life with the possibility of parole.
Deputies reported the defendant, allegedly in an attempt at suicide, drove his vehicle off the roadway on Pacific Coast Highway east of Heathercliff Road, crashing into a power pole, overturning his vehicle, and fatally hitting Shane.
Shane’s death has generated a public safety movement campaign for PCH.