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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu Zoning and Power Politics •

ANNE SOBLE

Some Malibuites have been quite vocal that the City of Malibu is changing, and they contend that the change is not for the better. Yet few argue with the philosophical foundation for dealing with change: protection and preservation of the city’s unique land and marine environment, its natural and rural setting, and its coastal resources.
Regulations that address the process of change are in the city’s zoning code that was first drafted in 1993 after Malibu incorporated, although some critics contend the rules have been CUP’d and varianced to achieve contrary goals.
On Tuesday, August 9, the city planning department and contract consultants will hold group stakeholder “interviews” in 45-minute segments throughout the day in the Zuma Room on the first floor at Malibu City Hall to gather input on the “strengths and weaknesses of Title 17 (Zoning) of the Malibu Municipal Code” and “recommended changes” to Title 17.
The allocation of meeting times to Malibu’s various interest constituencies is raising some questions. Paramount among them is what the time allotments say about the relative influence of these constituencies in the planning process. If Malibu property owners get one-fourth of the total time allotment, while those whose business is to seek to benefit from the zoning code changes get three-fourths, does this say something about importance? Does it say something about how input will be weighted? If it does, the issue of political power has to be addressed publicly.
Interestingly, the city announcement of the “interviews” directs the media to the resident-property owner input session, when it is the special interest sessions that offer the media greater insight from both a public policy perspective and its watchdog function to ensure transparency.
While there are lists of so-called housekeeping items to incorporate and policy issues to settle, the primary goal of this overall effort is described as the drafting of a zoning code that preserves Malibu’s uniqueness and beauty. Also, the city’s regulations have to be in compliance with state law and consistent with what the city staff calls “the latest smart growth and sustainability principles.”
Persons wishing to attend sessions requiring an RSVP are asked to do so by email to: jsmith@malibucity.org
August 9 will begin with a ZORACES meeting at 9 a.m. to discuss the zoning code update. “RSVP not necessary.”
10:15 to 11 a.m. Session for permit expediters, planners, attorneys, and project managers. “RSVP required.”
11 to 11:45 a.m. Session for architects, developers, and trades. “RSVP required.” Then there will be a two-hour break.
2 to 2:45 p.m. Session for business community (Chamber of Commerce, real estate professionals, commercial property owners, managers, and tenants). “RSVP required.”
3 to 3:45 p.m. Resident community (community groups, property owners, and tenants). “RSVP required.”
4 to 4:45 p.m. “Free for all (open to all and earlier attendees).” “RSVP not necessary.”
“Free for all” may mean open to all in municipal parlance but Webster defines “free-for-all” as a disorganized or unrestricted situation or event in which everyone may take part, especially a fight, discussion, or trading market.” If there is any notion that there is biased influence regarding zoning, this is exactly what might occur.
Many Malibuites are now questioning the factors that influence the development of municipal policy. August 9 should be a case study of quintessential local politics in action.

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