Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Changes to Code Enforcement Policy Recommended by City Council

• Municipal Focus Shifts to More Regulation and Policing of Commercial Properties within Community

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu municipal code enforcement policy is expected to be tweaked, but a major overhaul of policy is not expected after the Malibu City Council’s review this week of the staff’s recommended changes.
Unlike over a decade ago, when hundreds of homeowners showed up to carefully watch what the council had planned, there were very few eyes watching as was the case years ago when the topic became even the centerpiece of a council election campaign.
Planning Director Joyce Parker Bozylinski told the council the 2000 interim code enforcement policy, which remains in effect to this day, had been reviewed recently by the council’s Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement subcommittee, or ZORACES, which discussed proposed changes to the code enforcement policy.
Those recommendations from ZORACES have been incorporated into the proposed code enforcement policy, said Parker Bozylinski.
The planning director went on to say, the code enforcement policy for the most part will remain reactive for residential properties rather than proactive.
“Code enforcement for residential properties will primarily remain reactive, which is a complaint driven code enforcement program. Current exceptions are for health and safety violations or building or grading without a permit, which would remain in effect and would be pursued proactively,” Parker Bozylinski said.
She said there is one exception for a recommended change, which would be to allow staff to pursue certain violations easily viewed when staff is on the property for a scheduled unrelated site inspection.
“These violations would include observations of illegal habitable structures; either new habitable accessory structures or conversions of an existing non-habitable accessory structure,” she added.
However, zoning violations in non-residential zones would be pursued on a proactive basis and no longer require a written complaint.
“While this would apply to any violation in a commercial zone, this would also allow staff to more uniformly enforce the city’s sign ordinance. Often residents and other business owners don’t know what the city’s rules are for signs, or whether a new business has received a permit for a sign so they may not submit a written complaint,” Parker Bozylinski added.
Progress reports will now be provided, a departure from the past, according to the planning director, who said only certain types of information would be released, but the idea is to let the public know the cases are being handled and not stalled at City Hall.
A new policy has been added that pertains to existing violations when the property owner applies for a new permit on the property.
“The staff will work with a property owner to clear up any outstanding code violations concurrently with any request for a new permit on the property. The policy would allow staff the ability to work with an applicant on a plan to cure the existing code violation while concurrently processing a coastal permit for new development,” the planning head said.
“To avoid confusion about violations to conditions of approval, staff has added a policy stating that violations to conditions of approval on planning permits may be enforced on a proactive basis without a written complaint,” the planning director added.
Lucile Keller, who said she was representing the Malibu Township Council, said MTC supports policies for commercial code violations. “We are concerned Malibu does not protect the identity of the complaintant. The fear of retaliation needs to be addressed,” she said.
Council members said they thought the recommended changes would be helpful for ongoing programs.
Councilmember Jefferson Wagner, who along with Mayor John Sibert is on ZORACES, may have summed it up. “It is a new path to go on. It is quite a step forward for the city. I don’t see any problems,” he added.
“It solves a lot of the problems,” agreed Councilmember Lou La Monte.
APPEAL FEES
On another planning matter, the council agreed the appeal fee might be too high and agreed to schedule a public hearing to consider a modification to the existing fee.
Council members learned the city’s appeal fee compared to other coastal cities may be the highest and said they wanted the staff to figure out how to recover costs but keep the fee affordable.
What has happened, is that appellants, in quite a few instances, can avoid the fee altogether, and appeal the matter directly to the California Coastal Commission which charges no fee for an appeal.
The staff including City Attorney Christi Hogin suggested several alternatives.
“We need enough of a fee to thwart frivolous appeals. We need enough of a fee to make people serious,” said the mayor.
Hogin said the purpose of the appeal fee is when you have a service that is not for all citizens then you can shift the burden of costs.
She suggested that if there was a lot of interest by the citizens in a specific, appeal there could be a different fee. “If there is some general community interest, instead of fees across the board,” the city attorney said.
The council agreed the matter should go back to the drawing board for alternatives and recommendations so the council could consider a new appeal fee.

Council Majority Agrees with National Mayors’ Conference Stance on Wars

• Opposition on Afghanistan and Iraq Based on Depletion of Local Government Resources

BY BILL KOENEKER

With apparently no fear of being compared to the cities of Berkeley or Santa Monica, the majority of the Malibu City Council voted this week to support a letter crafted by the United States Conference of Mayors, calling for an early end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to focus on reinvesting in domestic job creation.
The motion, brought to the table by Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, was prompted by Malibu residents, who had asked her to do so, she said.
“It doesn’t say how or when. There were 150 mayors, who supported it and I wanted to add the city to a growing list of cities,” she said.
There were two speakers, who urged the council to support the letter.
Monique Lukens told the council the state of the military has changed with young soldiers enlisting who see the military as just a means to education and buying a house.
“They don’t believe in the message. They have been given misinformation while working and have become mercenaries. It happens to law enforcement agencies also,” Lukens added.
“If we are not helping them, we should leave and take care of things at home,” Lukens told council members.
Mayor John Sibert said he took exception to the characterization of the military in that fashion. “I was in the Marine Corps. I do not want to see the military demonized,” he said.
The mayor noted he would not ordinarily support a resolution he considered symbolic, but he thought the letter was carefully worded.
Councilmember Jefferson Wagner, who abstained from the vote, said, “I don’t think we are going to answer the maladies of the military. I look at it differently. There is a bigger issue than stated by the speakers.”
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who abstained from the vote, had a different take on the matter. “I don’t feel capable of solving foreign relations problems of the U.S. I think it is not what we should be doing in Malibu. We should not be making policy decisions,” she said.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said, “I actually do think I’m qualified to make decisions on foreign policy, but I don’t know why this is here,” he said, then quipping, “This looks like a document done by 150 mayors.”
Conley Ulich made the motion, which was seconded by the mayor, for Sibert to write the letter.
The mayor, La Monte and Conley Ulich voted yes, while Rosenthal and Wagner abstained.
During the closing hours of the mayors’ conference held last month, nearly 150 of them met to debate and pass a policy resolution, calling on a speedier drawdown of troops in the two war zones.
The nation’s mayors called on leaders in Washington to end the wars as soon as strategically possible and bring war dollars home to meet vital human needs.
Mayors are calling for war dollars to instead be used to promote job creation, rebuild America’s infrastructure, provide aid to municipal and state governments and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy and reducing the federal debt.
During the debate process and in the written resolution, mayors stated that the drawdown of troops should be done in a measured way that does not destabilize the region and that can accelerate the transfer of responsibility to regional authorities.
The city council’s letter will be forwarded to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the newly elected president of the United States Conference of Mayors.

SMMC Optimistic About Future of Bluffs Park Campground

• Tour Before Board Vote on City LCP Amendment Offers Closer Look at Planned Improvements

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Members of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority board and the public had an opportunity to visit the Conservancy’s Bluffs Park property and learn more about the plans that include two small campgrounds, three coastal accessways, a picnic area and restrooms.
Paul Edelman, the Deputy Director of Natural Resources and Planning for the SMMC was not discouraged by a July 7 legal ruling that threw out California Coastal Commission approval for the project, which includes an ambitious new network of trails, and camping facilities at Bluffs Park and Corral Canyon.
The conservancy already filed an appeal and was voting later that evening to apply to the City of Malibu for a Local Coastal Amendment for the project.
The project cannot proceed only the litigation is concluded, but Edelman is confident that the the issue can be resolved and the plan will move forward.
Bluffs Park campground plan includes two clusters of walk-in campsites with firefighting gear and electrical outlets instead of fire pits or BBQ grills; two parking areas that will be restricted for campers only, self-contained vault-style toilets, a picnic area and improvements to existing trails.
“Our plans are detailed down to the last hose bib and plug,” Edelman said. The Coastal Commission said we could [put some of the proposed improvements] in ESHA, but we didn’t need to.”

Controversial MHS Field Lighting Plan Has October CCC Hearing Date

• DEIR for Measure BB-Funded Campus Improvements Confirms that Malibu Park Is Dark Sky Area

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The Malibu High School field lighting issue is heating up again, following an announcement by the City of Malibu that its Local Coastal Program amendment to permit permanent field lighting until 7:30 p.m. during the months of Pacific Standard Time, plus 18 additional nights for school activities up to 10:30 p.m. will be heard by the California Coastal Commission at its October meeting in the Los Angeles area.
This winter, DST runs from Nov. 6, 2011 to March 11, 2012, which could mean more than 100 nights of field lighting, if the LCP amendment passes.
“On July 15, the city withdrew and resubmitted the subject LCPA with the CCC so that the amendment can be heard locally by the CCC at their October 5-7, 2011 meeting in Los Angeles/Orange County,” a press release states. “If the City did not withdraw the LCPA, then the one-year deadline for CCC action would have required the CCC to take action at either their August meeting in Watsonville (Central Coast Area) or their September meeting in Crescent City (North Coast Area).
On March 22, 2010, following the Coastal Commission's unanimous rejection of a Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District proposal for temporary field lighting that included a reprimand from the commission to the CCC staff for failing to accurately represent the rural character of the Malibu Park area, the Malibu City Council adopted an amendment to allow “limited” but permanent lighting at public high schools. Ordinance 345 amends LCP Local Implementation Plan and Title 17 zoning of the Malibu Municipal Code to allow the conditional use of night lighting at public high schools, which would allow Malibu High School to apply for a conditional use permit for night lighting.
The adopted amendment language reads, “Limited lighting of the main sports field at public high schools during Pacific Standard Time until 7:30 p.m., except that for 18 days in any 12 month period up to 10:30 p.m. The school district shall obtain a conditional use permit from the city pursuant to Malibu Municipal Code Chapter 17.66.”
Proponents say that night games are an essential part of high school education.
Opponents of the plan, who greatly outnumbered lighting supporters during the previous attempt to obtain a permit for the lights, argued at the school district's public scoping meetings and before the Coastal Commission that Malibu Park, which is surrounded by 5000 acres of National Park Service land and Zuma Beach is rural residential, unlit and possesses dark skies. They provided photographic evidence that the football field is clearly visible from as far away as Charmlee Wilderness Park, Point Dume State Beach and the newly created Point Dume Marine Protected Area and documented an extensive list of animal life on the school property and surrounding area.
Commission staff received a reprimand for failing to challenge the school district's claim that the neighborhood was equipped with street lights and did not have wildlife.
The City of Malibu’s staff report, which accompanies the LCP amendment application states that “when the lights are in operation during nighttime hours, they would create illumination/sky glow that would be visible from public scenic and visual resources. The amount of sky glow would depend on weather conditions since sky glow is exacerbated during foggy conditions.
In the year since the CCC denied the original SMMUSD application, the school district appears to have changed its position on the rural, dark skies character of the MHS campus.
The Draft Environmental Impact Report developed for the Measure BB-funded MHS improvement plans that include a parking lot on the bluff overlooking the football field, it states, “Due to the rural nature of the surrounding area, and the absence of streetlights, lighting levels in the vicinity of the high school are well below average for residential areas.
“According to the luminescence study, lighting levels on-and off-site were less than 1 fc [foot candle], which is substantially less than the typical 7 to 10 fc in residential areas.”

Publisher’s Notebook

• This Could Never Happen in Malibu •

ANNE SOBLE

Once upon a time, there was a community that was so special that people all around the world knew about it and just hearing its name conjured up visions of beauty and euphoria. Although others thought that the community was a virtual paradise, its residents were very unhappy. They did not want to be special. They wanted their community to be just like every other community.
One of the reasons they wanted their town to be like everywhere else is because it takes effort to be different. It’s much easier to conform to established norms. Being unique requires thought, creativity, and imagination.
When the special community originally formed a local government, they said it would remain small, avoid bureaucratic metastasizing and serve as a laboratory for socio-political and environmental experimentation. Citizen-representatives would be change-agents implementing a new political paradigm.
But the residents didn’t want to spend time at meetings. Soon the government looked more like every other small town government. It grew, and it grew. Decision-making became standardized because pre-existing models could be utilized instead of having to create customized ones.
Residents also grew tired of business centers that started out to be as unique as the special community’s internationally renowned environment. They were delighted when the community’s commercial centers became replicates of the centers that the surrounding communities have. The residents could now boast that they had all of the high-end amenities that every other community has.
When the special community opened a school, it was going to break the mold of educational facilities that followed the same formulae that resulted in teen malaise and academic indifference. The school was going to be innovative and make learning exiting. Because it was near the sea, it was going to focus on water sports, and even look at alternative athletics, such as archery, fencing, and riflery.
But many of the special community’s parents did not want their children to be different from children in other communities. They wanted their children to be able to fit in. They were willing to stifle the uniqueness of their special place so this could become the case.
The “everyone else” logic well known to every parent—everyone else is doing something so the child should be allowed to do it—took hold among the adults in the special community. More and more residents contended, “Every other community has such-and-such,” and they wanted to have it too.
Soon the residents clamored for the community’s specialness to be completely undone. The uniqueness of its setting slowly faded into the background. Residents were content knowing that their lives were becoming more and more like the lives of people everywhere else. They no longer had to worry about the stigma of standing out.
Before long, the special community became increasingly ordinary, and all of the people around the world began to realize that what they once thought was such a special place had become no different than their own hometowns. The community’s name no longer conjured up images of beauty and euphoria.
After a while, people everywhere else ceased to talk about the changed community. As it no longer merited special attention, many of them even forgot its name.

City Council Unanimously Adopts Ordinance Approving Tobacco Sales “Stings”

• Members Want Curbs on Selling Products to Minors to Bring Current Practices to a Halt

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council received shocking news this week when it learned that a survey found that 37.5 percent of the tobacco retail stores in Malibu have illegally sold tobacco products to minors. That is nearly five times the statewide rate of 7.7 percent.
The use purchase study was conducted by the Alliance to Keep Kids Tobacco Free and was cited by Malibu residents Walter Zelman, chair of the Department of Public Health at California State University and pediatric pulmonologist Georgia Goldfarb.
“So while it is illegal to sell to minors, clearly many stores in Malibu are doing just that,” wrote the pair in a letter to the city.
Parents, students and experts paraded before the city council to reveal the easy access of tobacco to minors in retail outlets in the coastal city and the health consequences.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who has sheparded the effort through City Hall, said as a “youth smoker” she wanted to tackle the issue and was disturbed by how easily tobacco is being sold to Malibu youngsters.
Of the dozen speakers, who testified before the city council, the consistent theme or message of both adults and youth was urging the council to “put up roadblocks” to stop sales to minors.
Rosenthal said there are 16 outlets, mostly gas stations, grocery stores and liquor stores, which sell tobacco products. Of those 16, there were six that sold to underage youth.
Rosenthal said she wants to model an ordinance like the one currently in place in Calabasas.
In 2009, Calabasas adopted a tobacco retailer licensing ordinance that has been described as an effective way to enforce state laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors.
The law requires all retailers to register with the city if they intend to sell tobacco products. The city conducts compliance checks and if a retailer is found to be out of compliance, the registration could be revoked and the retailer would be required to wait a minimum of three months before filing a new registration application. Multiple violations result in longer waiting periods.
“We have somebody up here that was the Marlboro man,” said Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich referring to Councilmember Jefferson Wagner.
As if coming to his defense, Mayor John Sibert said, “[Wagner] never smoked. The smoke was added [as an effect].”
Wagner said the amount of cigarette butts he picks up daily in front of his store is a “reminder of my past.”
Back on topic, City Manager Jim Thorsen said the compliance checks or “stings” could be handled by the sheriff’s department.
There was a brief discussion about using code enforcement from the planning department or whether to charge fines. Both were nixed.
Rosenthal offered a motion that would result in an ordinance requiring two or three compliance checks per year with the resulting consequences patterned after the Calabasas law.
The staff had indicated due to the limited number of retail outlets in Malibu and the potential difficulty in obtaining registration, that they not impose a registration fee.
State law, according to city officials, requires any person selling tobacco products be over 18 years old.
With the city adopting a tobacco ordinance, Rosenthal also wanted the law to include a stipulation that would have both the business owner and the employee, who sells to a minor, be cited if that employee is underage.

Malibu: My Town

 By Bob Curtis

I can’t think of a more nondescript
thrown together place as this town
that has never really decided what it’s going to be from decade to decade to decadence and back.

Small towns grow,
spread out,
from town square,
from hardware and barbershop
to modest homes
and then, in time,
the big mansions
of the wealthy.

But most folks have the same goals:
A nice house,
maybe two cars,
work hard,
love your family,
send your kids to college.

That kind of stuff

But this fairly small town of
thirteen thousand is
not at all like that.
The mega-mansions
that cling to the hillsides
and the “my wife designed
this joint” palaces that
cast a dark shadow over
the cringing ocean,
are as atrocious as the
five dead gas stations,
the Lincoln Boulevard
strip malls that dot its
Main street, main drag strip,
main eyesore, main pain.
It’s called……
The Pacific Coast Highway,
or PCH, or as the locals say:
The Highway.

This is… MALIBU
Gated, guarded,
gonzofied home
of Movie icons,
real estaters and invested,
secretive tycoonsters.

And then there are

the really local locals.
Pick-up trucks
and Priuses
They all want to save
something…anything.
And they’ve got the
bumper stickers
to prove it.

Save the Lagoon
Save Third Point
Don’t Cross Creek Trancas
Don’t Trancas Cross Creek
Save The Bones
For Henry Jones
‘Cause Henry Don’t
Eat No Meat
Save the Savers
Legalize Pot
Save the World

Strange town…strange.
Chuck full of really rich people,
really rich institutions
of higher learning
and yet the little town
of Malibu is flat out
out-ta money, but spends
mucho moola on things like
a hundred yards of
Highway Divider Beautification,
which soon becomes
The Divider of Weeds.

New bumper sticker:
Save Malibu From Itself

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Water Board Unanimously Approves MOU with City on Septic Ban

• Some Environmentalists, Surfing Activists and Sewer Opponents Are Critical of the Final Document

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board last week unanimously approved a memo of understanding between the City of Malibu and the water board for implementing the Civic Center septic ban by building a wastewater treatment plant in the area.
However, the MOU has apparently left a bad taste with many environmentalists, who urged the board to not approve the MOU. They also complained they were left out of the negotiations.
Mark Gold, the president of Heal the Bay called last week’s RWQCB vote—the Malibu City Council had approved the MOU the week before—“an absolute knockout in round 3 in the battle for improved water quality at Surfrider, Malibu Lagoon and nearby beaches.”
Gold, in his blog, Spouting Off, explained he compared City Attorney Christi Hogin’s testimony as, “clos[ing] the done deal for weakened septic system regulations with the [RWQCB] like watching boxing champ Manny Pacquiao take on Woody Allen. No contest, Hogin should be in line for a big raise for negotiating a deal for Malibu that will save taxpayer’s millions at the probable expense of water quality at beaches visited by millions of visitors each year. And she did this when Malibu’s only leverage was its stated threat of litigation against the Regional Water Board for enforcing previously approved prohibitions.”
The MOU, which was negotiated between City Manager Jim Thorsen and the executive officer of the RWQCB Sam Unger, contains language that requires further monitoring for certain phases and boundaries, such as the Malibu Knolls, before those areas are required to hook up to a sewer plant.
However, Mayor John Sibert called it a  “sea change” between the city and the water board. “The underlying premise of the MOU is that science should help define policy. Under the MOU, the city and the Board commit to undertaking monitoring and testing and using that information to determine the steps that will truly improve water quality.”
Gold made it clear that he felt the environmental and surfing community “did not get” by the board approving the MOU.
“Despite nearly a five hour hearing and extensive testimony, [we] did not get greater accountability for the City of Malibu, a commitment for disinfection or sewering of homes on Malibu Road and properties near the pier by 2012, a city commitment for recycled water storage, the elimination or reduction of phase 3 or even sensible monitoring,” he charged.
Gold even took the water board staff to task. “We heard a lot of rhetoric from the Regional Board attorney on how the board couldn’t order Malibu to do anything in the MOU. Tough to negotiate with that attitude. This was the MOU, not a discharge permit. Of course, the Regional Board had unlimited clout with the existing, enforceable, onsite disposal prohibition in the Civic Center, but it refused to use that leverage to get Malibu officials to agree to doing anything more than what they already agreed to in the MOU,” he added.
Gold said it was “Hogin’s tough, no-nonsense approach [that] clearly made the difference.” His example: Hogin saying, “Malibu is laying down their arms without unloading them.”
Gold called it a “Palinesque approach to environmental regulation if there ever was one. Hogin even said that Malibu’s signing of the MOU was an ‘act of faith’ Maybe for Malibu. For the Regional Board, it was more like a leap of faith…across the Grand Canyon.”
Taking another shot at board members, the Heal the Bay head said despite Councilmember Jefferson Wagner’s support for water storage as necessary for water recycling, for irrigation, and firefighting, Hogin refused to commit Malibu to recycled water storage.
“The best the board could get her to do was to commit to studying storage and storage infrastructure. Hogin’s tactics over the course of the afternoon were simple, yet 100% effective. Whenever the board asked her to agree to an MOU change, she refused and stated that the city council hadn’t empowered her to make significant changes—just clarification. And she did this with two council members at the hearing. This is pretty tough.”
Back to Hogin, Gold claimed she “pulled off the unimaginable. She convinced the board that beginning beach monitoring near Malibu Road was too expensive to begin before 2014, a time period after the vote on the first assessment district.
The Regional Board approved a septic ban for the Civic Center in 2009. The state Board adopted that same resolution in 2010.
The measure prohibits all new onsite wastewater discharge systems in the Civic Center area and prohibits discharge from existing OWSDs based on a phased schedule to cease discharges.
The prohibition, according to the RWQCB, does not prevent repairs, maintenance and upgrades to existing systems, provided they do not expand the capacity of the systems or increase flows of wastewater.
Malibu city officials initially objected to the adoption of the ban and expressed its intent to file a lawsuit challenging the septic ban.
In 2010, the city and the water boards entered into a tolling agreement by which they agreed specific milestones to assure completion of phase one by November 2015 and phase two by November 2019.
The city and the water boards agree that certain properties in the area designated as phase three may not be connected to a facility based on monitoring data to be collected by the city under the oversight of the Regional Board.
“If it is determined that the phase three properties must be connected to a facility, they must be connected by November 2025,” the RWQCB resolution states.
If an assessment district is not approved by dischargers, the Los Angeles water board may enforce all state policies, plans, or regulations to gain compliance, including the requirement to upgrade each OWDS to advance treatment or other appropriate means by November 2019. “Advanced treatment for OWDS is defined as disinfection treatment to a level that meets applicable water quality standards for fecal indicator bacteria and or denitrification not to exceed a total nitrogen concentration of 10 milligrams per liter (mg/l) for those properties impacting an impaired water body with a nutrient total maximum daily loads or TMDL.”
All property owners that are required to upgrade their system will need to obtain city of Malibu building permits and obtain an operating permit, in accordance with city ordinances.
The city’s operating permit program requires that advanced residential OWDS must be inspected every three years by a certified OWDS inspector.
The Los Angeles water board will also require effluent monitoring for these systems that shall be submitted and reviewed by the Los Angeles water board on a quarterly basis for total suspended solids, total nitrogen, total phosphorus and fecal indicator bacteria as appropriate.

Trancas/Zuma Marijuana Site Destroyed

• NPS Discovered 3500 Plants on 10 Acres in June

BY ANNE SOBLE

National Park Service rangers who are also specially trained federal law enforcement officers seized over 3500 marijuana plants from 9.6 acres of parkland in the west end of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
NPS, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and California State Park personnel discovered the active grow site in late June, and have spent the last two weeks hauling out nearly a ton of plants and growing apparatus, in order to begin restoring the site to its natural state.
Water to irrigate the illegal crop was being diverted from a nearby creek via two miles of plastic hose.
SMMNRA superintendent Woody Smeck said, “Marijuana cultivation is a serious and rising problem in the Santa Monica Mountains and other parklands across the country,”
He said, “The environmental damage caused by marijuana cultivation in otherwise pristine natural areas costs approximately $12,000 per acre to clean up.”
Smeck added that marijuana plantations often occur in remote and hard-to-access park locations, away from designated trails and other places frequented by the public and reminded hikers and bikers to stay on designated trails. The NPS urges members of the public to report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement agencies.
The marijuana growing season is approximately April through November. Park rangers conduct regular patrols of remote parkland throughout the summer and fall to rein in growing efforts and prevent extensive damage to the natural environment.

Farmers Market Board Starts Up New Local Business Group

• Organizers Say Their Effort Isn’t n Competing with Malibu Chamber

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Cornucopia Foundation, which oversees operations of the Malibu Farmers Market, has initiated a new division of the non-profit group called the Malibu Business Alliance.
“This was done in response to the many emails we’ve received from local residents asking what we can do to assist local businesses to stay afloat during these tough economic times,” said Debra Bianco, who is president of the organization.
Bianco indicated the executive board had recently met and voted to take a position to create a non-political business alliance whosemission “is to help grow local business.”
The Cornucopia spokesperson also indicated the board of the foundation is also growing and some of the new members are geared up for the new task, but declined to formally announce the new appointments.
Some of the members have met with Mayor John Sibert, who was said to have given his blessing to the alliance endeavor. “We resolved to take our plan of action to the next level,” Bianco added.
What that means is a plan to offer the foundation as a “common meeting ground and small/local business advocate” by providing a physical meeting place for small business owners in which “they can feel comfortable, meet, brainstorm, and strike up deals amongst themselves. The meetings will be videotaped.”
There is an annual membership fee of $150. And other services are offered, such as email blasts for $25 and the use of a booth at the farmers market for $100.
Members will gain exclusive access to rent a booth at our market. It is limited to five booths and Cornucopia will supply the tent, backdrop and table which they value at $500, according to Malibu Rentals.
The retailers can use the booth for exposure and public relations purposes. “They are not there to sell products, but to meet and greet residents who are potential customers and give out time-sensitive coupons,” Bianco added.
New residents will receive a welcome basket at the farmers market full of fruits, veggies, and coupons from the local businesses.
Cornucopia is also in the process of putting together a new website that will feature a Malibu Business Alliance page to include businesses— logos will go on their page with a link to the business, according to Bianco, who said the new website should be up and running by Aug. 31. In the meantime, the organization can be reached at TheCornucopiaFoundation@gmail.com
Bianco insisted that in no way has the alliance considered taking over the Malibu Chamber of Commerce’s functions. “We cannot advocate or take political positions. We are not going to have mixers,” she said.
Chamber CEO Rebekah Evans was asked to comment on the latest development. “I really haven’t heard about them. I would love to work with them, but we have our own ‘Shop the Bu’ campaign,” said Evans, who indicated the chamber is creating its own website for the campaign and signage will be posted in all of the local stores.
Bianco noted the non-profit is taking a lesson from the environment, that diversity is the key to survival of the community of life,” the group wants to foster the notion that diversity is also the key to enduring vital communities.
“The residents of Malibu have been very clear that they embrace a more rural, small town feel. This includes a preference for unique businesses,” its mission statement says.
“The commercial and business landscape is and will define our Malibu community environment and we must proceed thoughtfully. As such, who better to be a central leader and facilitator as the community comes together to address the critical issues of Malibu community preservation than the Cornucopia Foundation?” Bianco asked.

Hearing on Alleged Accessway Mismanagment Is Postponed

• Access for All’s Founder Says That He Regrets ‘Going off the Reservation’ in Carbon Beach Case

BY BILL KOENEKER

Access for All, which was instrumental in helping get the David Geffen accessway opened on Carbon Beach, has run afoul of the state over its dealings with another beachfront owner about an accessway at the same beach also known as Billionaire's Beach, according to state officials.
A hearing before the state Coastal Conservancy was scheduled for July 21, but has been postponed until September for the Conservancy to consider and make a determination as to whether Access for All has “failed in its obligation to properly manage the Ackerberg easement located at 22486 Pacific Coast Highway for public access to the shoreline and, if so, possible authorization for the Conservancy to accept the easement or designate another entity to accept the Ackerberg easement.”
The questions involved what Linda Locklin, the coastal access project manager for the California Coastal Commission, calls AFA’s “side deal involving Ackerberg.”
The idea was Ackerberg was to pay Access for All $250,000 for the organization to pursue another accessway on Carbon Beach held by Los Angeles County.
“They do not have the authority opening or closing or trading accessways,” said Locklin.
Steve Hoye, the spokesperson for Access for All, said, “What I did I did out of frustration. They handed over that easement six years ago and then took six years to clear it up. We sued [earlier]. We settled,” he said.
Hoye acknowledged “he went off the reservation” on how he handled the matter and said he regrets doing so. “But at no time did I jeopardize the easement. What I wanted was two easements. At first we would open the county easement and then the Ackerberg easement. I have not done so much, but sort something out with a private homeowner. It was a bad idea in retrospect. It is not mine to play with,” he added.
The revelations came after the California Coastal Commission won a lawsuit filed by Lisette Ackerberg challenging the state agency.
Judge James C. Chalfant recently upheld a Coastal Commission cease and desist order, which directed the Carbon Beach homeowner to allow opening up a public accessway from Pacific Coast Highway to the beach.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court judge also ordered the removal of unpermitted items blocking the accessway, including large rocks, wall, concrete slab and generator, fence, railing, planters and landscaping, which was all located directly on the accessway.
The condition of a vertical accessway was a requirement of the coastal development permit issued in the early 80s for Ackerberg to construct the oceanfront mansion.
The judge also dismissed Ackerberg's attempt to extinguish the public access easement from her property by entering into a private settlement with AFA. The judge's ruling concluded, “[Ackerberg] has avoided her obligations with respect to the easement for 26 years.”
The state claims it did not know that AFA had entered a settlement in exchange for a pledge of up to $250,000 and attorney's fees to Access for All to pursue another accessway. AFA would work with the homeowner to sue Los Angeles County to open another accessway next to the Malibu Outrigger condominiums.
Hoye said he did no such thing, but merely promised to pursue the county accessway first. “The only thing I agreed to do was file a formal application and that I would not advocate, urge or go to the meeting,” he said.
“We would have had two accessways. After the county accessway was opened, Ackerberg and I would apply to open [her] accessway,” he added.
“But by and large I blew it,” said Hoye, acknowledging he never thought the commission or its staff would react the way it did. “I don’t even know if I want the easement,” he concluded.

Citizens Redistricting Commission Makes Progress Redrawing Area Maps

• District ‘Visualizations’ Based on Census Data Are Scheduled for Final Ratification on August 15

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Citizens Redistricting Commission continues its line drawings of districts in discussing and drawing Congressional and legislative districts, according to a press release issued by the commission last week.
The commission launched what is being called an “unprecedented interactive process” where the public can easily view what are called district visualizations online and submit written public comment in real time as the commission meets.
During their last two days of meetings last week, commissioners referred to the comments that they were receiving online during the meetings, according to a press release.
The public can view the so-called visualizations and follow the line drawing meetings live online at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov and continue to submit comments to votersfirstact@crc.ca.gov
The commissioners also listened to public testimony given at their meetings from individuals from all over the state.
The commission is expected to release final district maps on or before August 1 and vote on ratifying the maps on August 15.
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission performed an 180 degree turnaround and surprised everybody last week by announcing it would not release second draft maps as previously promised.
The unhappy tone of many when the first set of maps was released was somewhat mollified when the commission announced a second round of maps and meetings were forthcoming.
Through press releases and subsequent meetings the commissioners assured the public that they would get a second shot at how district boundaries would be drawn during the second round of drafts and meetings.
The new 14-member commission is charged with redrawing California’s Senate, Assembly, state Board of Equalization and Congressional districts based on information gathered during the 2010 census, according to its website.
The commission must draw the districts “in conformity with strict, nonpartisan uses designed to create districts of relatively equal populations that will provide fair representation for all Californians.”
The commissioners are currently soliciting public comments on the visualizations and will be receiving, reading and considering those comments throughout their meetings directing the lines drawn for the final maps.
The state’s voters created a Citizens Redistricting Commission in order to be able to elect more accountable legislative and Congressional representatives. The commission prepared the draft maps “without regard to current districts, incumbents candidates or political parties.”
The commission used what it described as a “transparent process, adhering to a rank-ordered set of criteria that is designed to produce sensible and fair districts.”
Every 10 years, California redraws the lines of the political landscape through the redistricting process.

Publisher’s Notebook

• Speaking for the Public •

ANNE SOBLE

Although there are some people in Malibu who refuse to acknowledge California state law, those who do know that all beaches—as in every beach even when it is fenced off and marked private—belong to the public below the mean high tide line.
Whether these beaches are accessible is another matter. That is why public access is one of the thorniest and most controversial issues related to the California coastline. Many of the major access disputes have focused on the best local beaches.
Some beaches, such as the three Rivieras on Point Dume, are hard to get to but might be not in a class with other beaches, except for the exclusivity that results from the difficulty of getting to the area below the mean high tide line.
Getting to the Riviera triplets requires traversing the rocks from Paradise Cove, coming the opposite way from Westward Beach, the former Riviera 4 that was acquired by state condemnation, or using the stairs from the Headlands down to Pirate’s Cove.
Owners of some of the private dry sand areas above the mean high tide line may put up fences, signage, have a key system, and hire security guards, monitors, or beachmasters, to police the dry sand, but they know where their boundaries end.
Some of them, however, take chances and misrepresent access rights to those crossing below the mean high tide line, but this is becoming harder to do as the public learns its rights from groups that actively promote the public use of what it owns.
The Geffen easement opening, and now the Ackerberg easement opening, may be viewed with scorn by locals who think that “private” beaches should be off-limits to the public, but future state policy is headed in this direction despite the temporary concerns over backroom deals.
The winner in all this may be the California Coastal Commission. The panel’s action on the Evans/Edge development, followed by Ackerberg, might reinforce the notion of the agency as a champion of the public interest, as opposed to the facilitator of the mansionization of the state’s coastline.
Not that this wasn’t often the case in the past, but it’s a matter of perception.
The crux of the problem facing all enviro organizations, as well as government, is funding. It takes money to prepare access challenges and determine easement priorities. It also takes money to maintain easements.
Lack of financial resources may be a chief reason some enviro frontline organizations are making less than stellar decisions. Of concern is that people are starting to wonder if there are other questionable deals the public hasn’t learned about yet.

Ocean Protection Council Awards $4 Million for MPA Monitoring Plans

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The Ocean Protection Council has awarded $4 million to support initial monitoring of the newly designated South Coast Marine Protected Areas, including Point Dume in Malibu. The MPAs are scheduled to officially go into effect on Oct. 1.
According to the press release, the monitoring projects, which will collect baseline information for up to three years, “will target marine life and habitats, as well as commercial and recreational activities, inside and outside the protected areas in the South Coast region from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the California/Mexico border.”
The South Coast MPA Baseline Program is a collaboration of the Ocean Protection Council, MPA Monitoring Enterprise, Department of Fish and Game, Ocean Science Trust and California Sea Grant.
According to the press release, the projects funded through the program were solicited through a public call for proposals and were selected through a competitive, peer-review process administered by California Sea Grant.
“Through the South Coast MPA Baseline Program, teams of researchers,citizen-scientists and fishermen will survey the region's sandy beaches, rocky shores, kelp beds and deep-water ecosystems inside and outside the network of new MPAs. These surveys will include ecologically and economically important species of fishes and invertebrates, as well as a range of human activities, such as commercial and recreational fishing, and non-consumptive recreation such as tide-pooling, bird watching and scuba diving.
“Researchers will combine new and historical data, collected inside and outside the MPAs, to document key aspects of the region’s ecological and socioeconomic characteristics at or near the time of MPA implementation. From this, they will be able to document initial changes in marine habitats, species, fisheries and recreation that may be associated with the new MPAs. The results of these projects will lay the foundation for future assessments of the effectiveness of the MPAs in meeting the goals of the Marine Life Protection Act.”
The Ocean Protection Council has authorized approximately $16 million to support MPA baseline characterization in the Central, North Central, South and North Coast regions. Selected projects are required to provide at least 25 percent matching funds or in-kind contributions for each baseline project.
More information is available at www.csgc.ucsd.edu
Heal the Bay is one of the organizations involved in collecting baseline data. The organization's citizen science-based monitoring program volunteers routinely traverse the beach in the vicinity of the Point Dume-area MPAs.
In response to concerns raised by fishing advocates, Heal the Bay stresses that “MPA Watch is unbiased data collection, based solely on trained volunteer observations. This data will help with interpretation of biological data being taken inside and outside MPAs by other groups.”
A two-day training session for new volunteers is planned for Aug. 1 at the Santa Monica Pier, and Aug. 2 in the field. More information is available at: www.healthebay.org/get-involved/volunteer/mpa-watch.

Plein Air Artist Shares Six-Year Channel Islands Odyssey

• Exhibition Explores Painter’s Perspective on Local Archipelago’s Ecosystems


BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

For the past six years, Southern California artist David Gallup has documented the natural history and marine life of the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary. Malibuites still have an opportunity to explore the Channel Islands without having to travel farther than Pepperdine University’s Weisman Museum of Art. The exhibit “David Gallup: Channel Islands,” which is scheduled to close on July 31, features 60 plein air, observation-based paintings of the Channel Islands in the tradition of the impressionist movement by artist David Gallup.
The product of six years of study in Channel Islands National Park, the exhibit ranges from large, complex paintings executed in studio, to the quick studies Gallup paints in the field.
The subject matter ranges from stormy petrels on the wing, to whales surfacing, an ecstatic frenzy of dolphins, cathedral-like sea caves, a cove wrapped in deep fog, and pelicans silhouetted by the glow of the setting sun.
Gallup was at the Weisman Museum on Saturday to answer questions and discuss his work with visitors as part of Pepperdine University's Community Art Day.
He told the Malibu Surfside News about his approach to his subject matter and his technique.
Gallup, who says he prefers not to rely on photo reference, uses extensive field observations to create even the largest and most complex images.
“The eye sees differently from the camera,” Gallup explained. “A lot of poses hold for a few seconds, the camera freezes the moment, the eye records a sense of movement.”
Gallup compared his work to film, rather than to photography, adding that he attempts to capture the way light moves, and even the after-images it leaves on the retina.
“That’s never something captured in a photo,” he said.
Gallup pointed out a painting of storm petrels skimming the surface of the water. A second glance at the painting reveals the fin of a juvenile blue shark beneath the whirl of wings. “The shark is easy to miss,” Gallup said.
He recounted a visit to the islands where he had the opportunity to observe many of the spectacular fish and explained that observation is a critical component of his work.
“All of the birds have slightly different wing strokes,” Gallup said. I wanted to capture the sense of motion. They are delicate but incredibly hardy. They spend their lives at sea. They hardly ever go to shore. They can almost walk on the water but they can't walk on land.”
In addition to observation and field studies, Gallup stresses the importance of brushwork. One large canvas depicting a sea cave is almost sculptural, the focus is on the textures of the rocks.
Rough studies reveal how the artist's brush travels across the canvas and give an indication of the speed at which the artist works.
Color is also an important aspect of the work. A painting that features an undersea garden of kelp contains an astonishing range of purples, reds, yellows and greens, used to convey the underwater world of the kelp forest. The balance of warm and cool colors gives weight and volume to the water.
The exhibit grew out of a day trip Gallup took to the islands in the winter of 2005.
Gallup wrote in his artist’s statement for the exhibition: “From the initial boat ride out with dolphins and whales, to hikes and kayak trips around the island perimeters in different weather and light, interior island hikes, wildlife encounters, and even flying and diving expeditions, I have strived to utilize these paintings to bring the entire experience of my personal discovery to the viewer. Still, this is not about the Channel Islands as much as an exploration of a more global theme: discovering the wilderness in one’s backyard. The islands are a great way for me to engage this aspect of an ultimately universal experience; man’s reconnection with nature.”
“David Gallup: Channel Islands” is on exhibit at the Weisman Gallery through July 31. The museum is open Tuesday –Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. More information is available at 310-506-4851.

Forensic Work Underway as Mitrice Richardson’s Remains Reburied

• Dead Woman’s Clothing Is Transferred to Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab for Its First Examination

BY ANNE SOBLE

The exhumation of the remains of Mitrice Richardson early last Wednesday morning were handled with respect and compassion, according to Latice Sutton, the mother of the 24-year-old whose cause of death remains a mystery.
Richardson family members say they hope that additional forensic analysis of the remains will shed light on what happened before Richardson’s skeletal and mummified remains were discovered in a rugged Malibu Canyon ravine last August.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has been under fire for its treatment of Richardson while she was in custody for field citable charges, as well as for its handling of her remains, a matter still under investigation.
Richardson ostensibly disappeared in September 2009, the day she was released from Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station just after midnight without her car, purse or cell phone.
She had been booked for not paying an $89 dinner bill at Geoffrey’s restaurant in Malibu. Witnesses reported that her behavior was bizarre and she appeared to be disoriented. There are indications she might have been experiencing a bipolar episode.
Eleven months after her disappearance, her remains were spotted during a National Park Service field reconnaissance near the site of a former marijuana grow about seven miles from the Lost Hills Station.
When a solitary bone was found near the same site three months later, then eight more were found close by this February, the family began to insist that additional forensics work be performed.
Officials of the Los Angeles County Department of the Coroner agreed to arrange the exhumation in order to do additional testing and to allow all of the remains to be reburied together.
Sutton had engaged Dr. Howard Oliver, a noted forensic pathologist and expert witness, to oversee sample gathering at the coroner’s facility after the remains were brought there Wednesday morning.
Oliver told the Malibu Surfside News that the coroner’s staff worked with an extensive check list, took numerous specimens, x-rayed the remains and all hair, studied a skull fragment, and even took samples related to insects in the area to shed light on the possibility that the remains might have been moved from another location.
Oliver said the coroner’s staff was professional, thorough, sympathetic and respectful of Richardson’s mother’s concerns.
The forensics expert indicated that the coroner’s preliminary review did not change the determination that the cause of death is unknown, which he said is not surprising in light of the current information.
Oliver indicated it might be several months before the extensive lab work is complete and there is any indication of whether causal reassessment is in order.
Oliver confirmed that still missing is Richardson’s hyoid bone, which could indicate the possibility of choking as the cause of death. This is deemed important because residents in the area reported hearing screams that sounded as if they were then cut off. He indicated that given the presence of other bones around the throat, the absence of the hyoid raises numerous questions.
EXHUMATION
EMOTIONS
Family members and close friends who took part in the exhumation and reburial described the experience as intense.
Richardson’s mother said, ”During the early morning exhumation, I was anxious, almost in disbelief that it was going to really happen.”
During most of the digging, she said she kept her composure by shifting her focus to two LASD homicide detectives on the case, Lt. Mike Rosson and Detective Dan McElderry. Sutton and other family members have been critical of how the two men handled the case and interacted with the family.
Sutton said, “From the time they arrived, they were stand-offish and did not even have the courtesy to say ‘hello’, ‘hi’, or ‘good morning.’ So I decided to approach them, say hello, then begin questioning Lt. Rosson about my daughter’s investigation, on which he had no updates.”
She said she struggled to maintain her composure, and added, “I did fine until the point where the crane was attached to my daughter’s vault to be pulled up from the earth. I could feel various emotions, but the two strongest were sadness and anger.”
Sutton indicated that after [her daughter’s remains were] driven away, [her] attention turned to [the law offices where] depositions were being taken from patrons who were at Geoffrey’s the fateful night.
She said, “It was at a deposition that I began to lose control emotionally, as I listened to the deponent describe the interaction between his table group and Mitrice. I could visually imagine how she would talk, smile, move, and completely have their full attention. I could feel myself emotionally breaking down and had to leave.”
REBURIAL
As Sutton was leaving the attorney’s office, she got the call that her daughter’s remains were being returned for reburial. She said, “We raced back to the cemetery to await their return.”
Sutton said, “When the coroner’s office removed her casket from their truck, that’s when I began to emotionally lose control. As she was being lowered back into the earth, I lost all emotional composure. As I screamed and cried, the reality that she is gone and I will never see her in this lifetime hit me like a ton of bricks.”
Richardson’s mother added, “The reality of the promise of her future has been ‘snatched’ by some deviant, and now I can never hug her, laugh with her, experience her getting married, having children, or simply going shopping with her...ever.
“Until I find out ‘who’ physically killed her, the rage I am feeling will be present with me. But the joy and moments I shared with her, and each moment I continue to share with Mitrice’s sister, keeps me sane and contains the rage I have in me.”
CLOTHING
TRANSFER
Last Friday, family members went with Chief James Lopez, the recently promoted former assistant to Sheriff Lee Baca, and Dean Gialamas, an acknowledged forensics expert who is the director of the LASD crime lab, touted as the largest municipal crime lab in the nation, to the undisclosed location where the clothing found not far from Richardson’s nude remains in August 2010 had been stored in its original packaging and protected.
According to Richardson’s mug shot, booking report, and her mother’s description, the clothes are the same garments she was wearing when she was released out the side door of the Lost Hills Station. The package was officially escorted to and logged-in at the crime lab that day.
Sutton told The News that no one with the LASD has ever explained why the clothing was of no interest to the detectives and had not been sent to the crime lab immediately after it was found. The lab has experts in all aspects of technical crime analysis, including specialists in the field of sexual assault.
Richardson’s mother maintains that her daughter was sexually assaulted before she was murdered. She said she is hopeful that the analysis of the clothing will provide answers to this and other questions.
Sutton concluded, “It is my prayer that we uncover clues that will lead detectives to a person-of-interest/suspect in my daughter’s murder.”



ANOTHER FAREWELL—Family members and friends brought sunflowers, which were Mitrice Richardson’s favorite flower, to the cemetery and placed them around the burial site before the crew prepared to put her casket in the vault and return it to the ground. Richardson’s college mentor, Ronda Hampton, said, “A story that you cannot see is the gentleness of the workers as they removed and returned Mitrice. They were so delicate, it was amazing. At one point, they needed to remove a large sunflower that was already at her grave side and, if you will notice, there is one worker who kept the sunflower by his side and carried it with him while he was putting the dirt back over her.” Everyone who was there said all of the staff at Inglewood Cemetery Park were compassionate and sensitive. Hampton added, “I am in awe of the kindness of others.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Final Redistricting Map Will Be Available July 28

BY BILL KOENEKER

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission performed a 180 degree turnaround and surprised everybody last week by announcing it would not release second draft maps as previously promised.
The unhappy tone of many when the first set of maps was released was somewhat mollified when the commission announced a second round of maps and meetings were forthcoming.
Through press releases and subsequent meetings, the commissioners assured the public that they would get a second shot at how district boundaries would be drawn during the second round of drafts and meetings.
However, at its meeting on July 9, the commissioners decided “that in order to produce the best district maps possible, it will amend its schedule and not release a second round of draft maps.”
The 14-member commission is charged with redrawing California's Senate, Assembly, and state Board of Equalization and Congressional districts based on information gathered during the 2010 census, according to its website.
The commission must draw the districts “in conformity with strict, nonpartisan uses designed to create districts of relatively equal populations that will provide fair representation for all Californians.”
The commission indicated at its July 9 meeting it would be posting what it describes as “visualizations of proposed districts” and make equivalency files available for organizations and news outlets to provide greater detail to the public on the visualization proposals. The commission press release indicates the visualizations are proposed options for districts and are considered and discussed by the commission at its meetings while instructing the lines be drawn.
The final district maps are slated to be released July 28 and adopted by the commission on August 15. The commissioners are currently soliciting public comments on the visualizations and will be receiving, reading and considering those comments throughout their meetings directing the lines drawn for the final maps.
The state’s voters created a Citizens Redistricting Commission in order to be able to elect more accountable legislative and Congressional representatives. The commission prepared the draft maps “without regard to current districts, incumbents candidates or political parties.”
The commission used what it described as a “transparent process, adhering to a rank-ordered set of criteria that is designed to produce sensible and fair districts.”
The commission had asked the public to join it and held 23 input hearings throughout the state, receiving testimony from 1533 residents.
The first preliminary district maps, according to the commission, “are drawn without regard to political incumbents and partisan considerations…districts reflect geographic and common sense boundaries [and] the districts balance the needs of different communities of interest in California.”
In contrast to previous redistricting, the commission is releasing the draft maps before its final Aug. 15 deadline, which gives the public the time to work with the commission to develop final maps, according to the press release.
Every 10 years, California redraws the lines of the political landscape through the redistricting process.

RWQCB Changes Meeting Venue

• July 14 MOU Hearing Has been Moved from Simi to Glendale

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has changed the venue to consider a resolution to authorize its executive officer to sign a memorandum of understanding between the City of Malibu and the Regional Board and the State Water Resources Control Board regarding implementation of a Civic Center septic ban at its meeting on July 14 at 9 a.m. to the city council chambers in the City of Glendale.
Two weeks ago, the majority of the Malibu City Council gave the green light to its city manager to sign the MOU that was put together by City Manager Jim Thorsen and the RWQCB’s Executive Officer Sam Unger.
The purpose of the MOU is to coordinate between the two entities the implementation of installing a wastewater treatment plant in the Malibu Civic Center area.
The comments and responses to the MOU were recently released by the state agency and offered a glimpse of what many of the stakeholders’ positions are on the issue.
The Malibu Bay Company, which still owns property in the Civic Center, indicated the MOU “represents a practical and well thought out approach to improve water quality in the Malibu Civic Center and Malibu Lagoon.”
The Malibu Road Association indicated the MOU offers “an achievable solution that meets the financial, scientific and political needs for Malibu to move forward.”
The president of the Homeowners Association of Vista Pacifico, a 17-unit complex expressed strong support for the MOU.
“Along with three other condo/townhome complexes, whereby together we comprise 191 units, our townhome complex has been connected to the county operated wastewater treatment plant at Vista Pacific and Civic Center Way for over thirty years, which we believe has helped mitigate contamination of our water and Malibu Lagoon. Our townhome owners paid for the operational costs of the plant and for the plant's expansion and upgrade in the early 2000’s; however, we expect that the life-span of the plant will be coming to end by sometime after 2020, so it would make sense for us to tie-in into a new, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant in phase 11 as proposed by the tentative MOU.”
Shopping center developer Steve Soboroff called the MOU “an agreement that is doable; a strict, tough, practical agreement.”
However, environmental groups were not as pleased by the MOU, its terms and the process about how the document got to the public for review.
Heal the Bay complained environmental organizations had been excluded from the MOU negotiations.
“Arguably one of the most critical and complex water quality issues that our region has faced this decade is being rushed through the process in a completely nontransparent manner. This is unacceptable. If the Regional Water Board and Malibu truly wanted environmental group involvement in MOU negotiations, then we would have been allowed to review and negotiate draft MOU language.”
Other remarks are highly critical of many aspects of the MOU and the Heal the Bay comments go on for pages about specific language in the MOU.
The Santa Monica Baykeeper charges the MOU “weakens the requirements and gives little accountability to the City of Malibu for ensuring that the water quality improves and directly contradicts the requirements of the Malibu septic prohibition.”
“The fact the Regional Board was willing to voluntarily negotiate a less costly approach to water quality standards compliance was unprecedented and of great benefit to Malibu,” the Baykeeper asserted.
“Legal arguments aside, the tentative MOU is unnecessary as an implementation framework. Consequently, we urge the LARWQCB to reject both the tentative MOU and the tentative resolution.”
The Malibu Surfing Association indicated its members are still getting sick at Surfrider Beach and that the MOU “must build upon TM-1 with an understanding that compliance wil be difficult to achieve and prescribe penalties for noncompliance at levels which recognize this history.”
The MSA also emphasized that if there is a no vote from the assessment district that the city of Malibu must implement and fund alternatives to a centralized plant.
Joan Lavine, who is suing the water boards over the septic prohibition , made pages of comments about the MOU, and her reasons for urging the board to reject it.
The Regional Board approved a septic ban for the Civic Center in 2009. The State Board adopted that same resolution in 2010.
The measure prohibits all new onsite wastewater discharge systems in the Civic Center area and prohibits discharge from existing OWSDs based on a phased schedule to cease discharges.
The prohibition, according to the RWQCB, does not prevent repairs, maintenance and upgrades to existing systems, provided they do not expand the capacity of the systems or increase flows of wastewater.
Malibu city officials initially objected to the adoption of the ban and expressed its intent to file a lawsuit challenging the septic ban.
In 2010, the city and the water boards entered into a tolling agreement by which they agreed to extend the time within which the city must bring an action against the water boards challenging their actions to approve the septic ban or what it calls the “Basin Plan Amendment.”
The purpose of the tolling agreement was to afford both parties an opportunity to reach concurrence on a phased implementation, boundaries and other matters related to the septic ban.
The result of those discussions is the MOU to memorialize the agreement between the city and the water boards “that employs both a plan and schedule to construct one or more centralized wastewater treatment facilities in the Civic Center area.”
A summary was provided by the Regional Board that notes the city agrees to construct one or more facilities, according to a specified schedule that contains specific milestones to assure completion of phase one by November 2015 and phase two by November 2019.
The city and the water boards agree that certain properties in the area designated as phase three may not be connected to a facility based on monitoring data to be collected by the city under the oversight of the Regional Board.
“If it is determined that the phase three properties must be connected to a facility, they must be connected by November 2025,” the RWQCB resolution states.
If an assessment district is not approved by dischargers, the Los Angeles water board may enforce all state policies, plans, or regulations to gain compliance, including the requirement to upgrade each OWDS to advance treatment or other appropriate means by Nov 2019. “Advanced treatment for OWDS is defined as disinfection treatment to a level that meets applicable water quality standards for fecal indicator bacteria and or denitrification not to exceed a total nitrogen concentration of 10 milligrams per liter (mg/l) for those properties impacting an impaired water body with a nutrient total maximum daily loads or TMDL.”
All property owners that are required to upgrade their system will need to obtain City of Malibu building permits and obtain an operating permit, in accordance with city ordinances
The city's operating permit program requires that advanced residential OWDS must be inspected every three years by a certified OWDS inspector.
The Los Angeles water board will also require effluent monitoring for these systems that shall be submitted and reviewed by the Los Angeles water board on a quarterly basis for total suspended solids, total nitrogen, total phosphorus and fecal indicator bacteria as appropriate

Safety Agencies Give Yearly Reports

• Summer Season Is in Full Swing for ER Teams

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s fire and lifeguard representatives were at the City of Malibu’s July Public Safety Commission meeting to present the agencies’ annual review of services.
“The summer beach team is fully deployed as of July 4 weekend,” Lost Hills Sheriff's Station Malibu Liaison Lt. Jim Royal told the commission. According to Royal, the team has issued 500 alcohol on the beach citations, and towed 60 vehicles. The Lost Hills station has conducted eight DUI checkpoints this year, arrested eight DUIs, and impounded 80 cars.
Crime statistics indicate Malibu crime levels are down 8.8 percent for the year, despite an increase in vehicle burglaries and other thefts. Royal said the station has deployed “special burglary suppression teams,” over the past six months, and that the detective bureau is “really increasing focus.”
Royal said that the sheriff's department and CHP have increased truck weight enforcement on Kanan Dume Road, and that sheriff's deputies have issued 19 citations over the past month. “I believe enforcement is going to be the key,” he said.
“Search and rescue and reserves are in full swing for the summer months,” Royal said. “We are slightly down this year with traffic accidents.”
Royal also updated the commission on the new Malibu Volunteers on Patrol Program. According to the lieutenant, the first two volunteers are currently undergoing background checks. Five more volunteers are just beginning the process. A vehicle has already been secured and the program should be “up and running in the next few months.” Volunteers will assist with vacation checks, special events, and help set up and take down DUI checkpoints, among other duties.
Royal reported that a patrol car equipped with a new, high tech license plate scanner is “deployed but at the station waiting for computer software. “Technology changes,” Royal said. “It’s getting upgraded. Soon. Hopefully.” Royal said the upgrade is out of his control, but that he is attempting to expedite it.
Royal also discussed a July 4 arrest at Trancas Canyon, which involved drawn guns. “The [license] plate did not belong to car [the suspects] were driving. It’s called a cold plated vehicle. It’s a high-risk stop and would involve guns drawn. All deputies are trained in backdrop awareness. It's something not seen a lot around here, but necessary. It turned out to be nothing real serious but it could have been a stolen car, or a robbery just occurred. We have to take precautions.” Royal said that, in this case, the driver took a plate off of a friend's car and put it on his vehicle.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Anthony Whittle provided the commissioners with a written report on the fire department's Malibu activity over the past year, which included 2450 total responses, 1455 emergency medical calls, 15 structure fires, three vehicle fires and eight vegetation fires, as well as routine brush inspection, and participation in community and municipal activities.
“We did finally place the volunteer engine in Corral Canyon. Those firefighters, nine volunteers, are being trained on a weekly basis. We've received several new vehicles in the past several years. Rebuilding 71 is back on track, hopefully back on track.”
According to Whittle, brush clearance inspection has been delayed because of the weather.
“Initial inspections will be completed by next week,” he said, calling compliance levels “decent.”
Los Angeles County Lifeguard Captain Chuck Moore said the beaches are “business as usual,” and that the northern sector, including Malibu's county beaches, is expecting a busy season.
“The water is much, much warmer and there have been more beautiful beach days this year than all of last year,” Moore said. From Friday through Monday we had almost 800,000 people. Nighttime attendance was 50,000 on the beaches after 8 pm. I don't know if that will continue but we are aware of it. We’re ready to go if something happens.
“We are back, fully staffed. The new fiscal year began July 1. If weather turns bad we may shorten a shift here and there, but at this point we need lifeguards in the towers, and they're in the towers.”
Barbara Cameron, the City of Malibu's grant expert, was also present at the meeting, to explain her role in the grant writing process.
“I'm here to explain my role in the city. Brad Davis and public works are responsible for the kind of grants you’ve requested in the past. I’ve been here 37 years. I know many and all of you. I’m a community resident who understands issues very, very well. I often worked with public works to make an application more human, tell a story. I think that’s one of the things that came to mind as I was listening. The city does apply for and receive many, many grants.”
Cameron said that she has never seen a grant for the type of public outreach the safety commission has discussed, including pamphlets or handouts on PCH safety for cyclists and drivers.
“I’ve never seen anything,” she said. “This city and the agencies are doing all the right things to get funding when its available.
“My boss is Jim [Thorsen, the City Manager]. No council member can individually direct my work load,” she said.
She also addressed the commission’s discussion on whether grants would be available to pay for the removal of flammable trees.
“Funding goes to neighborhoods willing to adopt a plan. It has to be a neighborhood. The Fire Safe Council, they hand hold you. Its terrific. Those funds are not given blanket to neighborhood.
“Homeowners have to want to do this, neighbors protecting neighbors. It has to be voluntary. It's not just a straight forward ‘you cut eucalyptus trees.’ What you see as the end result doesn’t reflect what the process is.”
During public comment, Monique Lukens, who also spoke to the Malibu City Council last week, described a recent traffic stop that she said she found frightening and uncomfortable.
She expressed concerns about Lost Hills Sheriff's Station traffic stop protocol regarding women. “I’m asking for the right to stop at lit, populated areas in Malibu and to change release protocol,” she said. Lukens’ item will be on the agenda for the August public safety meeting.

Second Boatload of Alleged Undocumenteds in a Week

• Smugglers Left 15 People Stranded

BY ANNE SOBLE

Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency concerns that the use of boats to smuggle undocumented immigrants into the area is on the rise appear to be borne out by another roundup of suspected seafarers last weekend.
This time, however, it was the alleged illegal immigrants who turned themselves in to the authorities because they had been left stranded on Santa Cruz Island—the largest of the Channel Islands off the local coast.
Because Santa Cruz is part of Channel Islands National Park, this meant the National Park Service was involved in the incident, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard and ICE.
Federal authorities took 15 undocumented immigrants into custody after one of them placed a cell phone call to 911 reporting they had been left on the island without food or water.
It was not known whether the smugglers were aware that Santa Cruz was a safer drop-off point about 18 miles off the coast than the farther south and smaller Santa Barbara Island with its sea lion colonies and accompanying great white shark population.
A dozen or so immigrants and a few crewmembers is the usual load carried by the boats—mainly panga-types—that are used for transport. Travelers can pay as much as $5000-$7000 for the arduous trip on the high seas.
It is still being determined whether the smugglers feared they had been spotted and left their human cargo to fend for themselves on the north side of the island. Smugglers will often unload immigrants in dangerous circumstances to avoid being caught with them on board.
ICE has issued alerts asking passersby to call 911 to report suspicious activity along the stretch of coastline from Malibu to Point Mugu. However the craft often travel without lights, usually arrive in the pre-dawn hours, and are often not readily visible to motorists.
Agency spokespersons indicate that they expect sea smuggling to increase as landside enforcement becomes more stringent.
Their concern is that, in addition to human trafficking, there is extensive narcotics trafficking. It has been confirmed that some of the illegal immigrants are covering part of, or the entire, pricey journey by serving as mules, or couriers, for drug dealers.

Judge Voids CCC Approval of SMMC Parks Plan on Procedural Grounds

• Camping Package Will Have to Adhere to Requirements

BY BILL KOENEKER

No sooner had Malibu city officials put out a press release trumpeting their win over the California Coastal Commission’s approval of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy’s park plan, which includes overnight camping, than the SMMC and Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority issued its own missive indicating the Conservancy and the MRCA will appeal the judge’s ruling siding with Malibu.
“We are not going to let the lawyers keep the people out of parkland that belongs to all of the people of California,” said Conservancy Chair Antonio Gonzalez. “This is a social justice issue, an issue of public access.”
However, Malibu municipal officials called it a matter of a state agency overstepping its authority.
“There are limits to the Coastal Commission’s authority and we are grateful for the court enforcing one such limit,” said Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin.
What Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John Torribio did last week when issuing his ruling after hearing both sides of the case was void the decision by the Coastal Commission, which granted the SMMC its parks plan.
The issue narrowly revolves around a little known and used provision called the override procedure. The Conservancy and the coastal panel and its staff invoked the override procedure for the Conservancy’s parks plan asserting Malibu had no authority over the matter.
However, the judge indicated the enabling legislation is a procedure designed for public works projects or energy facility development.
“The statute does not include the word ‘plan’ and should not be construed to mean it applies to a future public works ‘plan.’ The terms ‘plan’ and ‘project’ are not interchangeable.
“The Conservancy itself has characterized the amendment proposal as a public access enhancement plan. All other developments requiring an amendment to the certified LCP shall follow LCP amendment procedures of the affected local government and the commission,” the judge wrote.
“The court finds that the commission exceeded its authority in granting the proposed amendment using the ‘override procedure.’”
The court also ruled on the public notice required for review of the plan. The court opined that the parks plan documents and staff reports amounted to the equivalent of an Environmental Impact Report and should have a 30-day review as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.
“The commission acted in excess of its jurisdiction and did not comply with the strict notice requirements mandated by CEQA,” the judge added.
The court also ordered that the Coastal Commission require that specific “public works projects” be identified in any subsequent application.
Hogin said, “The Conservancy and the Commission basically teamed up to rewrite Malibu’s LCP as it would apply to the Conservancy’s several properties scattered throughout Malibu and tried to do it by invoking an obscure provision of the Coastal Act meant for energy facilities and regional public works projects. Hopefully, in the wake of the court’s ruling the city will be able to assume its role in the development of policies and work with the Conservancy to achieve our shared goals of public access, a world-class trail system and wonderful parks.”
The Conservancy initially submitted an application to the city for a Local Coastal Plan Amendment creating the Malibu Parks Public Access Enhancement plan overlay district, which would establish new land policies and development standards to supplant those of the current underlying zoning designation to connect trails to undeveloped SMMC’s properties in various coastal canyons in Malibu.
The plan also dealt with Ramirez Canyon Park, the former residential compound of Barbra Streisand, and the headquarters of the SMMC and current offices of its executive director Joe Edmiston, which is located at the end of a narrow, private road.
The city approved most, but not all of SMMC’s proposal excluding and not approving the controversial overnight camping proposed in the plan.
Unhappy with the city’s modifications to its plan, the SMMC proposed an amendment to the city’s modifications.
The SMMC proposed an amendment to the city’s certified LCP to incorporate the parks plan under the override procedure of the Coastal Act.
The application acknowledged that the Conservancy was not proposing a public works project or energy facility development, according to the court.
Nevertheless, the coastal panel approved the SMMC’s proposal over the objections of the city, ostensibly using the override procedure and rejected the city’s own LCPA.
Both the city and the Ramirez Canyon Preservation Fund, who was a party to the litigation, challenged the action as improper.
The court did not discuss the merits of the plan.

Federal Civil Rights Complaint Filed in Alleged SMMUSD Hate Crime

• Incident Has Led to Renewed Emphasis On Need to Address Diversity Education at All Schools

BY KAYLA BROWN

The dispute over the alleged occurrence of a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District campus hate crime has escalated as Najee Ali of Project Islamic H.O.P.E and Melvin Snell of the Los Angeles Humanity Group Foundation filed a federal civil rights complaint on July 6 against three individuals involved in a Santa Monica High School wrestling team incident.
On Tuesday, July 12, the Malibu Surfside News was sent a press release indicating that an additional civil rights complaint had been filed against the SMMUSD, former district Superintendent Tim Cuneo, and previous Samohi Principal Hugo Pedroza for the “obstruction of justice.”
On May 4, a male African-American Samohi student was allegedly confronted with a noose, and attacked by two male Caucasian students, prior to wrestling practice. The pair reportedly chained the student to his locker, and proceeded to taunt him with racial slurs.
While the incident was reported to school district administration that day, the mother of the victim, Victoria Gray, was not notified until several weeks later by a complete stranger.
Ali and Snell initially encouraged additional investigation of the incident by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and have now taken further legal steps.
Filing a complaint with U.S Attorney Andre Birotte of the Central district office-Los Angeles, they said they hope to now “let the investigation take its course, and let the chips fall where they may.”
Despite Samohi officials’ and campus assistance’s claims that this incident was a “prank,” Ali asserts, “if it was a prank, why did [district personnel] go to such great lengths for students to destroy all evidence [photos of the incident], and why was the mother never contacted?”
Display of a noose “knowing it to be a symbol representing a threat of life, on the property of a high school” in the state of California, is considered a criminal offense and is punishable up to a year in jail and a fine up to $5000 (California Penal Code Section 11411).
Thus why Ali and Snell said they insist “the students involved did indeed commit a hate crime” and should be adequately punished.
In addition, they allege that Samohi wrestling head coach, Mark Black, should be considered “a party to this incident for covering up the crime and encouraging the destruction of evidence.”
The federal complaint was formally filed against Black, and the two student wrestlers involved in the attack.
Alluding to what the two activists allege is Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s attempt “to cover up a vicious hate crime,” Ali and Snell’s underlying concern fueling this complaint is the “message that campus hate attacks will not be punished or taken seriously.”
As the incident unravels, the district, law enforcement, and the community are under a microscope.
Those concerned about the incident appear to agree there is future benefit in Ali and Snell’s notion to encourage “more diversity and intervention, because things like this can get out of hand, and that’s something we don’t want to see happen.”