Malibu Surfside News

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Malibu Lagoon Opponents to Battle in Court This Week

• Decision to Determine Project’s Fate


On Thursday, Oct. 27, a San Francisco Superior Court judge will hear the lawsuit filed by the Wetlands Defense Fund, Access for All and the Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network, that alleges that the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the California Coastal Commission-approved plans to drain, dredge and recontour the Malibu Lagoon and remove an existing accessway to the beach is in violation of the Coastal Act.
“The case is about a decision by the California Coastal Commission to allow dredging and fill within Malibu Lagoon in a misguided effort to “restore” the lagoon,” the opening brief in the case states.
“Malibu Lagoon is a sensitive environmental resource: it contains prime coastal wetlands; it is designated as Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area under the Coastal Act; and it is home to numerous sensitive and endangered species. [The petitioners] seek to protect these resources as well as public access trails that run through the lagoon to the ocean.
“The Coastal Commission approved the alleged “restoration” project, named the Malibu Lagoon Wetland Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Plan (the Project), to dam, drain, dredge, and completely remake a 12-acre section of the lagoon with over 87,000 cubic yards of soil excavation and fill. The problem is that the project is a blunt instrument that creates more damage than restoration. Moreover, the responsible public agencies approved this project without analyzing any alternatives that would be environmentally sensitive and avoid severe impacts to the existing lagoon wildlife.”
In their joint opposition brief, the CCC and State Parks responded by stating “Malibu Lagoon is degraded due to past human activities. In particular, the current artificial hydrology of the lagoon does not allow adequate water circulation.
As discussed throughout this brief, the record is replete with evidence to support the Commission’s conclusion that the dysfunctional configuration of the lagoon leads to a host of problems—including poor water circulation, eutrophication, “dead zones,” impaired water quality, and low species diversity—and that these problems cannot be addressed without changing the fundamental hydrology of the lagoon by reconfiguring the channels.
“Specifically, the Restoration Project will ‘improve the long-term function of the lagoon ecosystem by recontouring/reconfiguring the lagoon, slopes and channels to increase hydrologic flow.’ The recontouring/reconfiguration involves as well as removal of some of the excavated sediment material. The Plan also includes “revegetation with native wetland and upland plant species and removal of non-native plant species; construction of a public access trail around the lagoon with new interpretive public informational/educational improvements; and implementation of a long-term monitoring plan.
“The petitioners’ lawsuit disregards the extensive environmental review that occurred prior to the Commission’s action and upon which the Commission based much of its analysis. Petitioners’ request for a writ of mandate to set the decision aside and should lift the stay order. (the Agencies) have not demonstrated compliance with the Coastal Act and California Environmental Quality Act.”
The petitioners reply brief states that the agencies “skewed the facts.” and that their “discussion of permit approvals omits critical information. Significantly, the California Department of Fish and Game—the state agency tasked with protecting wildlife—never approved dredging in Malibu Lagoon.”
The outcome of the court case will be posted at on Friday.

Eyewitness Recounts Double Fatality Scene

• Cause of Kanan Accident Undetermined

A man at the wheel and his passenger were fatally injured on Tuesday, Oct. 18, when the vehicle he was driving, for reasons as yet unknown, left the pavement on the downhill portion of Kanan Dume Road and plunged into an embankment just miles north of Pacific Coast Highway.
California Highway Patrol Officer Leland Tang confirmed that Steven Halpern, 60, and his mother Belle Halpern, 90, died from injuries sustained in the solo vehicle accident.
The mother and son were longtime residents of the Trancas Highlands area.
“There is no determining factor [at this time],” said Tang, when questioned about the cause of the mishap. “There is no [known] cause.”
Tang said the CHP has ordered up toxicology tests but he noted that the coroner’s office is backlogged and it does not expect any results for at least 30 to 40 days.
Malibu resident Carol Larkin, who was driving by the accident scene immediately after it occurred, gave the Malibu Surfside News her account of the early minutes after the crash.
“I was in the car coming over Kanan from Agoura and I turned the corner one or two miles from PCH,” she began.
“There was a car crashed into a rock. The engine was still smoking. I passed the car slowly then stopped. I went to the passenger side and saw a woman. The air bags had gone off. Her legs were pinned under by the console near the driver,” she recalled. “Her head was over the console. I went to her side of the car. I looked down and saw blood and what looked like shrapnel in her legs. Two guys stopped and talked to the driver,” she remembered, saying she had already called 911.
“It took a awhile for the paramedics to get there. I climbed into the car behind the passenger side. She was alive at that time. She was screaming, ‘Get me out of here,’” Larkin recounted.
“I told her everything was going to be all right. I saw a fragile hand come out. I took it and could tell she was old. I repeated everything was going to be all right. But it was gruesome,” said Larkin.
“An ambulance arrived, then the paramedics. They had to use the jaws of life,” according to Larkin.
“The car was all smashed up in the front. They had to take sections of the car apart. They had to cut out the windshield, then cut the door off and cut the roof off,” she noted.
“The license plate said UCLA. A neighbor driving by saw the UCLA plate and recognized the victims,” Larkin recalled. “She said it was a devoted mother and her son.”
Larkin, who said she did not witness the actual crash, was as mystified as authorities by what might have happened.
“I don’t know what happened. They could not find a cell phone. So they don’t think he was calling or texting,” she said.
“A park ranger brought oxygen. It seemed to take a long time. It was very upsetting. They were put into an ambulance and helicoptered out,” Larkin added.
Another accident took place nearly at the same time that backed up traffic on Pacific Coast Highway and left a pedestrian in critical condition on PCH near the pier, according to authorities.
A Santa Monica woman was apparently attempting to cross the Coast Highway near the pier, when she was struck by a northbound vehicle, according Sgt. Phillip Brooks, a traffic investigator for the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.
Brooks stated the woman was not walking in the crosswalk and may have been wearing a set of headphones.
The woman was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. She had been working as a temp in a nearby office and it was her last day of the five she was hired for, according to interviews and reports.
The woman was scheduled for surgery last week. Her son reported she had broken her back in five separate places.

City Council Tentatively Adopts Plan to Engage in Local Tobacco Sales ‘Stings’

• Many Stores in Malibu Reportedly Sell Products to Minors


The Malibu City Council this week unanimously agreed to adopt an ordinance that requires local tobacco retailer registration in an attempt to reduce the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors.
Back in July, the council decided to go forward after it received some shocking news 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, according to authorities.
One Malibu parent praised the council’s actions saying it was important to hold local retailers accountable, though he said he had naively hoped, at one time, an ordinance was not needed.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who had shepherded the effort through City Hall, said she was satisfied that the city could use the current Calabasas measure as a model for Malibu’s ordinance but, unlike Calabasas and other cities, would not have to charge a fee for the retailer registration.
Other council members praised Rosenthal for her leadership in the matter.
Last summer when the issue was laid down on the council table the surprising use purchase study referred to by several parents, which was conducted by the Alliance to Keep Kids Tobacco Free, 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 city officials.
Parents, students and experts had paraded before the council to reveal the easy access for minors to obtain tobacco in retail outlets in the coastal city and the health consequences.
At that time, Rosenthal said, as “a youth smoker,” she wanted to tackle the issue and was disturbed how easily tobacco is being sold to Malibu youngsters.
Of the dozen speakers who testified before the city council in July, the consistent theme or message of both adults and youth was urging the council to “put up roadblocks” to stop sales to minors to help stop underage smoking.
Rosenthal said there are 16 outlets—mostly gas stations, grocery stores and liquor stores—that sell tobacco products. Of those 16, there were six, which sold to underage youth.
Rosenthal said she wanted 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 will result in longer waiting periods.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said the compliance checks, or “stings,” could be handled by sheriff’s department personnel.
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, they were suggesting not imposing a registration fee.
State law, according to city officials, also requires that any person selling tobacco products must also 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 the employee making the sale is underage.

Local Surfers Air Stance on Lagoon Issues

• Council Has No Jurisdiction But Provided Public Soapbox


It was arguable if they were in the right place to affect change, several council members reminded the speakers the city had no jurisdiction over Malibu Lagoon, but no one in Malibu City Council chambers this week challenged their sincerity or enthusiasm for making a run at participatory democracy.
They were the young surfers, many of them from the Malibu High School surfing team, who strode into City Hall this week to urge the council to take a different tack on the controversial planned restoration of Malibu Lagoon.
Baron Hilton said, “I surf Surfrider, a lot. This is a no win, no win situation. The restoration won’t help the marine life. We shouldn’t do this,” he said.
Others talked about how the planned restoration would hurt the lagoon and ruin the waves. “The effect on waves [will be] the ride is smaller and slower and there are no waves all the way through from one point to another,” said another surfer.
Mike Moss, who is the high school’s surfing coach, said he is also a marine biologist and he viewed the lagoon as functioning pretty good. “It doesn’t need to be fixed,” he said.
Rich Lawson, who teaches at the high school, acknowledged he thought the lagoon had a problem, but questioned how it should be fixed.
“What is the right idea?” he asked, which was the theme of others—that there is no consensus. Two camps of environmentalists were fighting it out in court, said several speakers.
A few surfers, who said they were from Agoura Hills, told the council more attention should be paid to upstream activities, questioning why start with a remedy at the end of the ecosystem rather than start at the beginning or at its source.
Surf activist Andy Lyon likened the issue to the football field lighting. “This is like their football field. You got the lights [for the football team]. Malibu still supports this. Why not pull the letter [sent to the California Coastal Commission],” he said.
Like the other speakers before him, Lyon pointed out the surf break is a world-famous break and should be treated accordingly.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said all of the speakers were eloquent, but they were using the wrong forum. “It is not our lagoon. We don’t have jurisdiction over it, whether we pull the letter or not,” he said.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said she disagreed. “I do think there are things we can do. I call this government gone wild,” she said.
Conley Ulich said some of the proposition money was used in guise.
“The Prop 50 money was for security for clean drinking water post 9/11. Using these funds presently, I believe they are wrong. This is supposed to do with security. To start using this is absolutely wrong,” said Conley Ulich who said she understood nearly $1 million had already been shelled out to Heal the Bay.
Conley Ulich asid she could try to bring it back on the agenda, but that would not be until Nov. 8. Maybe there is an opposse it. I think you are right on, Put it on the record. Hold people accountable,” she said.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she applauded the enthusiasm for what the surfers believed in. “This is not our project. It is State Parks land. The council voted on it. I do have an opinion on it, anybody that wants to talk to me, I will do that. I have done that in the past,” she said.
Mayor John Sibert said, “It is not our property. It is not a Malibu project. We can disagree. We can have different opinions. If it is going to be stopped, it will not be stopped by anything but the court.”

Publisher’s Notebook

• Bigger Reward Might Catch Mountain Lion Poacher •


Would an increase in reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed one of the declining number of local mountain lions provide added incentive for someone to turn in the poacher? Those investigating the cat’s demise say yes.
The cougar known as P-15 (the P is for the animal species name Puma concolor) regularly traveled throughout Malibu as it explored the extent of the Santa Monica Mountains. Malibuites have reported seeing the handsome animal that was radio-collared by the National Park Service to learn more about its behavior.
The seven-year-old male mountain lion’s remains were discovered last month on the westernmost flank of the Santa Monicas. The big cat had been tracked for two years by National Park Service researchers, but in late August its radio collar stopped transmitting signals.
The state Department of Fish and Game opened an official investigation into the case after it was determined that P-15 did not die of natural causes and its body had been severely mutilated for trophy purposes. DFG’s Andrew Hughan said, “Unfortunately, there are no leads at all.” Hughan added, “The necropsy did not reveal anything we did not know about the animal from the inspections.”
There currently is an $11,700 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the cougar killer. And there is one thing the DFG spokesperson is very certain about, “We would appreciate additional reward money. The only way we are going to catch these guys is for someone to want the reward badly enough to turn someone in.”
Six contributions comprise the total reward amount. The DFG Cal-TIP hotline—the group Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters—has offered $2500, and the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust have jointly matched that. The City of Calabasas has added another $5000; the Ventura Animal Rescue Team Inc., $1500; and the San Diego Mountain Lion Foundation, $200.
The City of Malibu should make a contribution. Malibu owes no small part of its mystique to the wilderness that surrounds it. The wildlife of the Santa Monica Mountains is to be treasured. The message that we do not tolerate wanton killing of this wildlife is important.
As the number of big cats declines, funding for wildlife research and wildlife crossings is more important than ever. That is why Caltrans, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the NPS are working together to obtain a $10 million grant for a wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon at the 101. Malibuites also should add their voices in support of this proposal that has long been a goal of the wildlife conservation community.
Malibu has always spoken out against development in wilderness areas. This stance must include concern for long-term mountain lion and other wildlife survival. We have encroached on these animals’ habitat, we must do all that we can to mitigate the damage we have done.

Young Great White Shark Heads Home

• MBA Staff Decided ‘It Was Time to Release Him’


The great white shark brought from Malibu on Aug. 31 to be put on exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is back in familiar ocean waters.
The young male shark was released offshore south of Point Conception on Tuesday by the aquarium’s animal care staff after being moved out of the million-gallon Open Sea exhibit earlier in the morning.
The decision to release the sixth great white shark to be displayed at the aquarium after 55 days on exhibit was based on behavioral changes that may have indicated confinement stress.
Ken Peterson, MBA communications director, told the Malibu Surfside News, “[The white] was sometimes rubbing against the walls of the exhibit as he swam. While this wasn’t a problem now, our veterinarian and husbandry team were concerned that, if the behavior continued, it could cause abrasions.”
Jon Hoech, director of the aquarium’s husbandry team, added, “These decisions are always governed by our concern for the health and well-being of these animals under our care. It became clear that it was time to release him.”
As with the five whites that preceded him, the latest shark has been tagged to document his activities in the wild.
A pop-up tag collects information on where he goes, the depths he dives to, and the water temperatures he spends the most time in for the first 180 days he’s in the wild. It is scheduled to pop free in late April and transmit its data via satellite.
A second tag is of longer duration—up to five years—and provides location information via a new data collection system that is being utilized for the first time.
The shark, then four-foot, eight-inches in length, and weighing 43.2 pounds, was collected on Aug. 18 by aquarium staff and seine fishers. He was kept in the MBA four-million-gallon ocean holding pen off Malibu for 13 days to see how he acclimated to captivity.
The shark gained almost nine pounds and grew two inches while in the Open Sea exhibit.
This white was the smallest of the six to be put on display and might have been a relatively late seasonal birth among the so-called “young-of-the-year” sharks that spend their juvenile stage in waters off Southern California, including Malibu, because of the warm ocean temperatures and ample supply of fish for eating.
As the great white sharks move toward adolescence, they start to leave for colder water temperatures and the population centers of pinnipeds, which are the adult animals’ dietary mainstay.

Notorious Malibu Resident Targeted by the Feds

• Government Announces Intention to to Seize $70.8 M in Assets


The U.S. government announced it is moving forward to seize certain assets of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who amassed a fortune of houses, including a $30 million Malibu mansion, cars and memorabilia all while officially making less than $100,000 per year.
The government’s actions are the outgrowth of not one study but several including a report two years ago when the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations used Mr. Obiang as a case study in a report entitled “Keeping Foreign Corruption Out of the United States: Four Case Histories.”
The highlights of the study reflect on the major point that Mr. Obiang had help—lots of help. The study reports, “From 2004 to 2008, Obiang, son of the President of Equatorial Guinea, has used U.S. lawyers, bankers, real estate agents and escrow agents to move over $110 million in suspect funds into the United States. Mr. Obiang is the subject of an ongoing U.S. criminal investigation, has been identified in corruption complaints filed in France and was a focus of a 2004 subcommittee hearing showing how Riggs Bank facilitated officials from Equatorial Guinea in opening accounts and engaging in suspect transactions.”
The subcommittee reported names of bankers that helped Mr. Obiang allegedly circumvent U.S. anti-money laundering controls at U.S. financial institutions by allowing him to use attorney-client, law office, and shell company accounts as conduits.
The report also names the various shell companies the banks formed for Mr. Obiang including Sweetwater Malibu LLC, Sweetwater Management, Inc. and Sweet Pink, Inc. Mr. Obiang’s Malibu mansion is located on Sweetwater Mesa Road.
Out-of-area realtors are also named in the report for helping Mr. Obiang buy and sell high-end real estate in California including his purchase of the $30 million Malibu home with funds wire transferred from Equatorial Guinea.
Mr. Obiang also used a U.S. escrow agent to purchase a $38.5 million U.S.-built Gulfstream jet.
Mr. Obiang is also accused of bringing in large amounts of suspect funds into the United States by taking advantage of banking systems that were not programmed to block wire transfers bearing his name, according to the subcommittee report.
The current investigation was reportedly carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of a U.S. Department of Justice Initiative.

Interview with a Vampire Expert Sheds Light on Old Fears

• Malibu’s Resident Revenant Authority Discusses the History and Popularity of the Genre


Malibu resident Leslie Klinger has a treat for horror fans this Halloween. His latest book, “In the Shadow of Dracula,” a collection of 22 classic vampire stories from the 19th and early 20th century, was released just in time for the holiday.
Klinger was at the grand opening of Diesel Bookstore at the Malibu County Mart this weekend to talk about the vampire genre.
An attorney by profession, Klinger has a passion for the popular literature of the gaslight era. He is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on Dracula, and is the editor and annotator of the formidable “New Annotated Dracula,” published by W.W. Norton. Klinger has written numerous articles and essays on the subject, and even teaches a UCLA Extension course on “Dracula and His World.”
Unlike earlier researchers, he has had the opportunity to examine “Dracula” author Bram Stoker’s original drafts and notes, using a computer to analyze differences in the author's drafts.
While Stoker’s 1897 novel created what has been viewed for decades as the definitive vampire, the Irish novelist did not invent the genre.
“In the Shadow of Dracula” includes what Klinger said is generally considered the first true vampire story, “The Vampyre,” published in 1819. John Polidori began the story during a cold and wet summer holiday in 1916 at a villa in Switzerland that he shared with poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley and Shelley’s lover and future wife Mary Wollstonecraft. Byron is said to have suggested a contest to see who could write the most terrifying story to pass the time. Wollstonecraft won, with the creation of “Frankenstein.”
Byron encouraged Polidori to complete “the Vampyre” the following year. Klinger includes an atmospheric but incomplete vampire story fragment written by Byron for the writing contest.
The book also features an excerpt from “Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood,” an authentic “penny dreadful,” serial that was published from 1845-47 in a series of cheap penny pamphlets. Klinger described the spectacularly lurid prose as “deliciously dreadful,” and adds that many “traditional” vampire characteristics were popularized with Varney, including sharp fangs, hypnotic power and superhuman strength.
Irish novelist Sheridan Le Fanu’s compelling novella “Carmilla,” also included in the collection, features a vampire who sleeps in a coffin, is crafty, intelligent and can change shape. Le Fanu's story is also “heavily charged with sexual elements.” Klinger said Le Fanu was a major influence on “Dracula,” and has inspired numerous 20th century imitations.
“There were dozens of stories to chose from,” Klinger told The Malibu Surfside News.
He opted to provide a wide range of stories that encompass everything from the demonic coffin-dwelling, blood-sucking revenant to pathetic specimens who inspire pity rather than terror. There’s even a psychic vampire, who feeds on its victims life force, rather than on their blood.
“[The publisher] wanted to have a book that appealed to younger people, who are new to Victorian literature,” Klinger said. “These are vampires that don’t sparkle.”
Klinger added that he hopes that the collection will fire the imagination of “Twilight” fans and encourage them to explore the rich and diverse antecedents of the current vampire vogue.
“If this reaches a new audience, then I am thrilled,” he said.
IDW, the publishing company, focuses primarily on the comic book market. This is their first foray into literature. Editor Jeff Conner told The News that they attempted to “polish off some of the rust,” but left the stories unabridged.
Changes include the addition of paragraph breaks and modernized punctuation and some word changes. Klinger has included footnotes to define terms that some 21st century readers may not have encountered and has written introductory notes on the authors.
Asked why vampires continue to fascinate, Klinger replied that it depends on the reader.
“Fascination with death, certainly. Blood is a mystical, magical substance. We can’t live without it,” he said. “Writers in the 19th century discovered a genre that has literary merit. It provides a trope that explores the human condition. Vampires stand metaphorically as outsiders. It’s a tangible representation of deep-seated fears.”
Klinger suggested that “Horror is a way for people to exercise their muscles.”
“Why do we have nightmares? Because we are training ourselves to deal with the things that scare us. We want to be scared in a safe way, to experiment, to get our fears out and look at them.”
Klinger said that while the erotic element is an obvious theme, the vampire can also be viewed as a political metaphor—the diseased and dissolute aristocrat sucking the blood out of the people. “It’s a flexible trope,” he said.
In addition to being an authority on Dracula, Klinger is also a leading Sherlock Holmes scholar, and the editor and annotator of the three-volume, encyclopedic “Annotated Sherlock Holmes.”
“I like to think that Holmes and Dracula walked the streets of London at the same time,” Klinger said.
Klinger’s next book, “A Study in Sherlock,” is a collection of short stories contributed by many contemporary writers in tribute to Sherlock Holmes that he co-edited with writer Laurie King. It’s due out in November.
Other upcoming projects include “In the Shadow of Sherlock Holmes,” a companion volume to “In the Shadow of Dracula,” and annotated volumes of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories, and Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed comic book series “The Sandman.”
Klinger’s books are available in Malibu at Diesel Bookstore. More information can be found online at

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

State Parks Prepares to Ask CCC for Permit to Begin Pier Repairs


The state Department of Parks and Recreation is seeking a permit from the California Coastal Commission at its meeting next month in Oceanside for a permit to conduct pier repair and maintenance activities on the Malibu Pier.
The historic landmark is a 780-foot-long wooden pier that is owned by the state and is used by the public for fishing and other recreational purposes. The historic structure was originally constructed in the early 1900's and was designated a California Point of Historical Interest in 1985, according to a CCC staff report.
All of the pier’s existing piles and structural framing members consist of timber. The existing timber piles are all chemically treated and a significant number of the timber piles have been wrapped with a fiberglass coating. There are currently fourteen missing or damaged pier piles that need to be replaced.
About seventeen other pier piles have been identified as potentially needing repair within the next three years, according to state officials.
State Parks proposes to conduct an on-going pier repair and maintenance program to replace the missing or damaged support piles and to repair and replace other piles, decking, stringers, tile caps and cross braces as needed.
The proposed work would be phased so as not to require the closure of the public access to the pier at any time, according to state officials.
Specific work zones would be fenced off in such a way that pedestrians would be able to pass the work areas.
The CCC staff is recommending approval of the proposal with six conditions regarding permit, term, construction responsibilities and debris removal, piling materials, project timing and public access.
“Even though there is a certified Local Coastal Program in place for the City of Malibu. The proposed repair and maintenance activities are located within areas subject to tidal action and therefore within the Coastal Commission’s retained permit jurisdiction,” the CCC staff report states.
The staff wants to limit the term of the permit to 10 years so that the commission can assess the potential impacts of the pier repair materials prior to further continuation of repair and maintenance activities.
Another special condition requires that the applicant undertake construction activities only during weekdays and non-holidays after Labor Day and before Memorial Day each year.

Mercury Resolution Raises Many Questions

• Group Says It Will Tout City’s Action at World Conference

The Malibu City Council last week adopted a resolution in the words of the staff report “committing to address major sources of anthropogenic mercury to the environment through education and stewardship and supporting efforts to reduce this pollutant worldwide.”
The measure was at the request of Mayor John Sibert, who interrupted another agenda item to allow this matter to be heard, since there was a contingent of out of area individuals who were urging the city to adopt the ordinance
Calling themselves Californians for Green Dentistry, the Newport Beach-based group gave up its public comments in exchange for the council to quickly approve the ordinance while cameras recorded the event for the group’s use.
A press release issued by the organization praised Sibert “for his resolution calling for action against the five major sources of mercury, of which dental amalgam is one. The nations of the world will convene later this month in Nairobi, Kenya to negotiate a treaty on mercury. The voice of Malibu will be heard. I will present this resolution to the United States Department of State before it goes to Nairobi to participate in the treaty talks,” said Charles G. Brown, president of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry and a Washington D.C. lawyer, in the press release.
Dr. James Rota, a Malibu resident and a mercury-free dentist was even more ecstatic, in the press release. “The amalgam era is ending in America; it has already ended in Malibu. We salute the city council for sending the right message to Sacramento, Washington and the world.”
Marisa Russo, a dental hygienist in the movement for mercury-free dentistry stated in the press release, “This resolution will build awareness for consumers to choose mercury-free dentistry.”
The council’s resolution states that amalgam is the second-largest selling mercury product in the U.S. where more mercury resides in human teeth than in all other mercury products combined.
The city resolution also notes the U.S. EPA is expected to publish draft federal dental amalgam rule making regulations soon.
The council’s ordinance “encourages local dentists to educate patients about alternatives to mercury amalgam for fillings, to install dental amalgam separators in their operations and to properly dispose of the mercury-containing material collected.
It also resolves “to reduce local environmental impacts due to mercury and hereby directs staff to continue educating the community regarding stewardship of household hazardous materials and proper disposal or recycling of them, including pollution prevention and increased information on the hazards of mercury.”
The resolution does not ban mercury in the city nor ban its use in dentistry.
The staff report concludes “by adopting resolution no 11-44, the city will again take a proactive stand on environmental issues and declare its commitment to addressing major sources of anthropogenic mercury to the environment through reduction and stewardship and support worldwide efforts to do the same.”

Rambla Pacifico Ribbon-Cutting Planned

• Residents Complete Emergency Access Road on Their Own


The Lower Rambla Pacifico Road Owners Association announced the reopening of the slide beleaguered canyon roadway is expected any day this week and that a ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for Sunday, Oct. 23, at 11 a.m.
Scott Dittrich, the president of LRPROA stated in an email that after 27 years Rambla Pacifico Road is almost complete.
This $4 million project will finally serve the residents of the disaster-prone canyon as an emergency ingress and egress.
The design, planning and construction of the road, which went on for years, has been filled with bumps and roadblocks.
Even this year, during the final construction days of the road, the Road Owners Association went back before the Malibu Planning Commission to readjust where the gates were going to go and, almost a year before, sought an amendment to their coastal permit for design changes to the road construction.
The planning panel approved a redesign that allowed for building two retaining walls, one 18 feet high tall and one eight-foot high wall, along the edge of the approved roadway.
During construction of the roadway, according to planning staff report, grading occurred outside of the LRPROA easement and encroached onto the Malibu La Costa Owners’ Association property addressed as 3850 Rambla Pacifico.
As the grading on the property was not approved by the MLCOA, a stop work order was issued by the city. Since that time, the ROA submitted plans to restore the cut areas on the La Costa property and everyone agreed about the scope of work.
However, the two parties could not come to an agreement regarding additional grading on the MLCOA property, which could have resulted in allowing the two approved gravity retaining walls along the edge of the MLCOA property to be buried beneath finished grade.
Without an agreement to complete grading outside of the roadway easement on the MLCOA property, the exposed gravity retaining walls would have measured 18 feet and eight feet in height as measured from finish to grade.
“Since the finished height of the two retaining walls exceeded the maximum height allowed under coastal plan, they can not be found in substantial conformance with the walls approved under the coastal permit,” wrote Senior Planner Stephanie Danner.
The city required an amendment to the approved permit with the inclusion of a variance.
Danner concluded that due to the fixed location of the roadway easement and the existing topographic conditions in the area along the lower portion of the reconstruction area, the height of the proposed gravity retaining walls was necessary to construct the roadway.
The commission also granted approval for the installation of drainage improvements.
Last December, the road association appeared before the city council, which approved vacating a portion of Rambla Pacifico Road, and agreed to take a non-vehicular access for public use across the vacated right-of-way.
The city attorney acknowledged that various parties had raised concerns about ownership of the property owners’ easements and the ownership interests of the ROA. “It is still ongoing,” the city attorney said at the time, but noted that claims that the road easements would revert to the adjacent property owners appeared to not be true. “It is unfolding as the ROA said it would,” the city attorney added.
The LRPROA has finally completed the private emergency access road and are ready to reopen Rambla Pacifico Road.

Pelicans Are at Risk from Fishing Gear

• ‘Barbless’ Hooks Can Help Prevent More Seabird Deaths


The California brown pelicans are one of Malibu's most impressive and most loved avian residents, but the International Bird Rescue, a non-profit organization that rescues and rehabilitates sea birds, is warning that life-threatening fishing line and tackle-related injuries are skyrocketing among the California brown pelican population. The San Francisco Bay Wildlife Center has reported admitting more than 221 Brown Pelicans since June 1, a press release states.
“Life has not been easy for the California Brown Pelican population since it was depleted through exposure to DDT over 50 years ago. Now with Pelican numbers rebounding, they are coming into conflict with people on a scale never before seen. The toll on the nonprofit is extraordinary, straining both human and financial resources. As quickly as the birds are rehabilitated and released into the wild, more arrive. Its San Francisco Bay Center currently has 76 Pelicans in care, and its Los Angeles Center has another 35,” the release states.
According to the IBR, the pelican's opportunistic feeding behavior, diving to grab fish as they are being pulled out of the water by fishers, make them regular victims of entanglement in fishing line and severe hook wounds.
The hooks can pierce bills, causing long tears in their pouches that make it impossible for them to feed. Hooks can also be swallowed. Surgeries to repair these wounds are currently being scheduled back-to-back from 9 in the morning until as late as 10 at night.
So far, most of the injured birds have come from the Central Coast. However, local fishers are encouraged to switch to barbless hooks, to dispose of line properly, and to avoid casting when seabirds are in the area. Detailed “unhooking” instructions are available at
Malibuites can help prevent line and tackle injuries by collecting lines and hooks in the water or on land, and cutting the line into small pieces before placing it in a trash receptacle. Seagulls, terns, cormorants, loons and even sea lions can also become entangled in fishing line.
“We share our coast with wild animals such as the California Brown Pelican, which after 30 years of being listed as an endangered species is now facing another human-caused situation, fishing tackle entanglements. It is not only our responsibility but everyone's duty to help these magnificent birds,” says International Bird Rescue's Director Emeritus, Jay Holcomb.
Volunteers willing to donate time or money can contact the International Bird Rescue at

Planning Panel to Hear Dume Condo Project

• Staff Recommendation Places Trancas Water System Plan on Hold


The Malibu Planning Commission was expected to consider the proposed Trancas Highlands water system and utility improvements at its meeting this week after the hearing scheduled two weeks ago was postponed.
However, the staff is now recommending the matter be continued to a date uncertain.
The current plans had called for a 500,000-gallon water storage tank constructed on a vacant lot at 31537 Anacapa View Drive, which is located in the northwest corner of the neighborhood, according to planning department documents.
At the same time, at a separate hearing, the council was expected to consider an application on the same property at 31537 Anacapa View Drive for the construction of a new, 12,731 square foot, two-story single-family home with a 3168-square-foot basement and attached 640 square foot garage, a detached 470 square foot guest house, a motor court with fire department turn around, swimming pool and a new 2250-square- foot access road, according to a public notice. That hearing, which was continued to Oct. 18, is expected to also be continued.
Also on tap, the commission is scheduled to consider an application for the construction of a new, two-story, 4,834 square foot three-unit condominium building on Point Dume at its meeting next week.
The three-unit condo complex would be located at 29255 Heathercliff Road. The plans call for six parking spaces, a subterranean garage, additional onsite parking for four guests, uncovered balconies and patios.
The commission is being asked to grant a conditional use permit for multi-family condominium use within a multi-family zone, a tentative parcel map for approval of the three-unit condo subdivision and a Local Coastal Program amendment to change the parcel’s land use and zoning designations from RR-One Acre to MF in order to correct the zoning map discrepancy between the Malibu municipal code zoning map and the LCP land use and zoning map, according to the planning staff, which is recommending approval.

Publisher’s Notebook

• LASD Scandals and the Mitrice Richardson Case •


Malibu is relatively immune from the gritty reality of much of what goes on in law enforcement—especially the county jail system. But when something happens in our backyard that is a mystery and systemic problems are exposed that may shed light on this, they cannot be ignored.
The ACLU and the FBI have ripped open the viscera of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the agency may never be viewed the same way again. While the extent of the allegations of corruption, indifference and brutality may not be regarded as local concerns, the Mitrice Richardson case is a very local issue, and we have to ask whether any insights into this case can be derived from what is being addressed countywide.
Do the descriptions of LASD treatment of the mentally ill as subjects of anger, frustration and sadism speak to how a bizarrely behaving young woman might have been treated? As noted in this week’s update on the Richardson case, the deputies who took her into custody reportedly referred to her as a “ding”—which has now been divulged to be the LASD’s in-house slur for the mentally ill.
If Richardson’s mental illness was evident, why wasn’t she 5150'd—put on involuntary hold for medical evaluation where she would have been safe? Did deputies consciously decide to ignore her mental problems? Was there peer pressure to do this? Did deputies not want to do the paperwork to 5150 a ding? Shouldn’t it have been obvious that releasing a ding on her own without means to care for herself would leave her vulnerable and easy prey? Or was the problem that this was all too obvious?
If the culture of silence that pervades law enforcement in general is an impediment to the protection of those most in need of protection out in the field, is it possible there are people at Lost Hills who know more than they have made public because of the fear of retaliation? Is someone remaining silent because they fear losing their job, or even their life, as has been alleged in some of the LASD scenarios that have been reported downtown?
Anyone who might know anything at all about the Richardson case should break the code of silence and share what they know. It might be the missing clue that cracks open the case and helps to close the book on how this tragedy occurred. Public disclosure is the only way to bring an end to the brotherhood that protects the very individuals whose behavior tears the sheriff’s department down.
Where else to start with public disclosure? We have little faith in the Office of Independent Review, whose contract lead attorney appears to spend more time on out-of-town jobs than on county issues, Promises made at a Compton meeting 13 months ago for additional investigation of the Richardson case have not been kept. And nothing has been done to address the LASD mishandling of remains contrary to the county coroner’s directives and state law.
On a related note, Sheriff Lee Baca’s office has not yet responded to the Malibu City Council’s request to meet to discuss suggested changes in detainee release policies. The sheriff should make this meeting a high priority. Implementing the Malibu suggestions would show responsiveness to citizen concerns. Given the extent of the ACLU and FBI allegations, this could be the first step in a number of major changes that need to be explored if the LASD is not to become a caricature of itself.
At the press conference last year announcing that skeletal remains were identified as belonging to Richardson, Baca acknowledged that “going by the book in this case wasn’t good enough.” He said, “[Doing things] properly doesn't mean we couldn’t have done something more.” The time to do something more is now.

Fishing Interests Lose Lawsuit


A lawsuit filed by recreational fishing interests opposed to plans to implement a network of Marine Protected Areas in Southern California under the state-mandated Marine Life Protection is still proceeding, but a San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to prevent implementation of the North Central Coast MPAs.
Although the decision pertains to the North Central Coast and does not directly impact the proposed South Coast MPAs, including Point Dume, observers say the decision is a blow to the South Coast plan’s opponents.
The lawsuit, which sought to require California Coastal Commission review of the MLPA plan, was filed by the United Anglers of Southern California, the Coastside Fishing Club and recreational fishing advocate Robert Fletcher, and financed by the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, a coalition of fishing groups and gear manufactures.
The petitioners argued that the state should be required obtain a Coastal Development Permit from the Coastal Commission before implementing the reserves. However, the judge found that the network of MPAs is exempt under the Coastal Act.
“The designation of MPAs falls within an exemption in the Coastal Act for ‘establishment and control of wildlife and fishery programs,” Judge Ronald Prager wrote in the tentative ruling. “Under this statute, the Coastal Commission is statutorily obligated to defer to Respondent where the MPA is concerned. Living marine resources fall within the definition of wildlife. Thus, no permit was required by statute.”
In the South Coast case, the plaintiffs argue that the MLPA processes environmental review, overseen by the state Department of Fish and Game, has violated the California Environmental Quality Act in the Commission’s environmental review of the regulations.
The fishing groups opposed to the MPA plan are reportedly considering appealing the judge’s decision in the North Central Coast. The South Coast MPAs won’t be officially implemented until Jan. 1. Observes say it remains to be seen if this ruling foreshadows the outcome of the South Coast MPA lawsuit.

LASD Woes Shed Light on Aspects of Mitrice Richardson Case

• Responding Deputies May Have Called Her a ‘Ding’—Their In-House Slur for the Mentally Ill


The gruesome pictures emerging from the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the American Civil Liberties Union to blow the lid off rampant abuse and mismanagement of the county jail system by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are having repercussions well beyond the confines of downtown prison walls.
Though miles away from the county central jail, new facets of a Malibu story may develop because of disclosures of the culture of deputy violence against prisoners, especially the mentally ill, and the code of silence that protects the abusers.
Mitrice Richardson is the 24-year-old African-American honors college graduate who was taken into custody by three sheriff’s deputies at Geoffrey’s restaurant on Sept. 16, 2009, for allegedly being unable to pay an $89 dinner check and possessing what has since become a legal amount of marijuana.
Patrons and restaurant staff described Richardson as disoriented, speaking gibberish, saying she was from Mars, and mesmerized by bright lights and computer screens. After the restaurant manager performed a citizen’s arrest, the deputies handcuffed her and transported her to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.
Richardson’s car—with her purse and cell phone locked inside—was towed to the Malibu impound lot in the Civic Center area.
The Los Angeles resident was released from Lost Hills alone just after midnight the next morning, without a means of transportation, money, credit cards or cell phone in an unfamiliar area.
Richardson disappeared without a trace. Other than a possible sighting the morning of Sept. 17, there was no sign of her for 11 months until park rangers checking on an abandoned marijuana grove not far from that sighting location discovered what were determined to be her unclothed skeletal remains.
Last November, the coroner’s office officially ruled that a cause of death could not be determined and publicly criticized the sheriff’s department for impeding its investigation by mishandling the remains.
An important aspect of the current spotlight on the troubles of the sheriff’s department is that the public has become aware of the word “ding.” One might think that ding is slang for ding-a-ling, ding-dong or dingbat, terms often used as much for humor, or even affection, as anything else.
But there is no humor or affection in the LASD use of the word ding, which is the in-house slur for people who are mentally ill. This usage is closer to the word ding that means to hit someone over the head or injure them because that is what is alleged that a segment of LASD subculture regularly does to the mentally ill.
Ronda Hampton, a practicing psychologist and family friend who has been dedicated, first to finding the missing woman, and then to learning the cause of her death, told the Malibu Surfside News this week that she was told by a staffer at Geoffrey’s some time ago that Richardson was referred to as a “ding” by the arresting deputies. 
She said she brought that fact to the attention of the authorities, including the LASD and the watchdog group, the Office of Independent Review, and everyone downplayed it.
She said she began researching the term and found articles as far back as 1991 corroborating that the mentally ill are not only referred to as dings by law enforcement but “there was also a ding floor/unit at the county jail.”
She asked whether the deputies’ use of the term to describe Richardson meant they were aware that she was in acute mental distress. If so, she said there are even stronger grounds to challenge why they did not arrange to have her 5150’d, the procedure that would have placed her on an involuntary hold for her own safety and provided medical evaluation.
Family members state there has been no word yet whether new information, if any, has resulted from tests being conducted by the LASD Crime Lab on Richardson’s forensic samples and clothing.
Even before additional bones were discovered six months after the original skeletal find, the county coroner’s office had lambasted LASD personnel for moving her remains before specially trained coroner’s investigators could examine them in place. This is a violation of state law, and the coroner’s report stated that it compromised the coroner office's investigation.
The Office of Independent Review, the county panel that reviews allegations of law enforcement misconduct, had previously indicated that it would be monitoring the dispute between the two agencies and was going to take another look at the case as a whole, but this appears to have taken a back seat to other higher profile department problems.
Family members and supporters are scheduled to meet with Sheriff Lee Baca at his office next month. In an email to Baca, Hampton stressed that the need to correct the department’s systemic problems should not result in other issues being ignored.
She told Baca, “People should not be released from your jails in a way that renders them helpless to care for themselves. Women should not be afraid of law enforcement officers, lest they be raped and harmed by those who are supposed to serve and protect. The mentally ill should be cared for and not mocked by uncaring officers, and swift and immediate action should be taken against any officer who engages in any form of misconduct.”
Hampton said she intends to keep attention focused on Mitrice Richardson until all the questions about what happened to her that can be answered have been answered.

Malibu Request for Meeting with Baca on Detainee Release Policies Pending

• City Council Spearheads Change Citing Mitrice Richardson Case


The Malibu City Council is awaiting word from Sheriff Lee Baca about when he will be able to meet with some of its members about a policy recommendation that was unanimously approved on Sept. 26 regarding the protocol for release of detainees from local sheriff’s stations.
In a letter dated Oct. 4 that was drafted by staff and signed by Mayor John Sibert, Baca was informed that “the City of Malibu strongly suggests that local stations should allow detainees to be released between sunset to sunrise only when proper transportation has been secured. Furthermore, the city recommends that all arrestees should be permitted to retain possession of their purse, wallet and/or cell phone, rather than leaving those valuables in their vehicles, which may or may not be readily available to them upon release.”
In accordance with a second council directive, the letter states the representatives “would like to request a meeting with [Baca] and Captain Joseph Stephen [Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station commander] to discuss how the city and the sheriff’s department can work together to implement or alleviate our concerns.”
Although the council primarily looked at the issue from a broad perspective—something that many of the change proponents also emphasized, one of the driving forces for the proposal was the community’s widespread concern for the fate of Mitrice Richardson, a 24-year-old Los Angeles resident who was booked at Lost Hills on two field-citable misdemeanors two years ago, and released at minutes past midnight without her wallet, money or cell phone. Her skeletal remains were discovered in remote Malibu Canyon backcountry seven miles from the station eleven months later.
During the September meeting, Sibert emphasized the advisory nature of the council’s action, stating, “We do not have the authority to tell them how to do their business.” The LASD provides contract law enforcement basis for the city and, although the city has no direct power over the agency, it is a client with an annual bill of $6.5 million.
Baca’s management of the sheriff’s department is currently under fire for serious problems with the county jail system and rampant prisoner abuse.
Meeting with Malibu and implementing popular release policy changes might give him a much needed public relations boost at a time when he needs one.

Mitrice Richardson Litigation Settlement Is Finalized

• Each Parent Has Received $450,000 from L.A. County


Assistant County Counsel Roger Granbo told the Malibu Surfside News this week that the two consolidated lawsuits in the Mitrice Richardson death “are settled and over, with the mother and father each getting $450,000.”
Granbo signed the final settlement papers on behalf of Los Angeles County.
The assistant county counsel also indicated, “The settlement amounts have been paid” to Latice Sutton and Michael Richardson separately—the two never married.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a settlement total of $900,000 in a closed-door meeting on Aug. 16, subject to all parties signing the final agreement.
Sources in the county indicated that the contract counsel representing the case against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had made offers as low as $100,000.
The text of the agreement indicates the “parties agree that there are disputed questions of fact and law in both the first litigation and the second litigation, and that this agreement arises from compromise. Defendant [Los Angeles County/LASD] expressly denies liability in both actions and that payment of moneys pursuant to this agreement is not an admission of liability by defendant.”
All sides are responsible for their own costs, expenses and attorney fees.
The parents’ consolidated litigation had been pared down considerably by Superior Court Judge William Fahey and set for trial in mid-September if a settlement and release agreement had not been negotiated before then.
Some family members and supporters following the case had expressed a strong preference that the litigation go to trial so that depositions and other discovery documents might become public.
Unconfirmed rumors about retractions and inconsistent testimony were rife throughout the lengthy discovery process.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Council Listens to Wide Range of Opinion on Local Business Policies

• Staff Asked to Come Back with Specifics to Shape Options that Help But Do Not Hinder Businesses


The Malibu City Council had a tool box of options at its disposal Monday night to take action “growing and sustaining local community serving business,” but instead asked for more study by the staff and took limited action on allocating $1000 to a Montana-based consultant. There was a brief discussion the matter might come back in January 2012.
There were 41 speaker slips and the council got bogged down in a post-midnight session that dragged on as council members tried to find consensus on what they could agree would work to help local businesses stay afloat in Malibu.
There were dozens of Malibu residents who came to urge the council to take some kind of legislative action to give “local businesses a level playing field.”
Civic Center shopping center owners including several local business owners showed up, for the most part, to urge the council to take no regulatory action that would place further restrictions on their businesses.
Matthew Khoury, who introduced himself as a Canadian and one of the new owners of Malibu Village shopping center, said he and his partners are community minded and have already cut deals with local businesses including the European shoe repair and are “trying to keep Guidos.”
“The reason we can afford them is we have national tenants,” he said. “We are very focused on local businesses “
Richard Weintraub, one of the owners of the Malibu Lumberyard, said he is proud of the property and noted “there are lots of locals in there. My kids go there, but that it costs to support mom-and-pops.”
Michael Koss, the general partner of the Malibu Country Mart, said Malibu retail is suffering, the economy is not good. “I hope the citizens and city are thoughtful about what they do tonight,” he added.
Developer Norm Haynie said it is easy to figure out what people in Malibu want. “People vote with their dollars. The free market works.”
He said he noticed something about chains and Malibu—people have their favorites. “Starbucks is OK. The Cheesecake Factory. No. Marmalade is OK, but the Olive Garden has to go,” he added.
The next day after the meeting, the Preserve Malibu Team had this to say in an email. “As citizens we will continue to stand up for preserving our city. The landlords representing our main retail centers last night clearly demanded no planning measures what so ever in our city. Outside after the meeting, a local landlord alongside his investors warned in front of a group of people and a city council member that if any regulations are passed they will immediately sell their Malibu strip center to Saudi Arabia and tear up all of the local leases they’ve signed. Clearly not every landlord is to be trusted to do the right thing. This is exactly why these measures are needed. This city must be protected from the blatant self-interests of some developers over the very real needs of the people who actually live here and the beach visitors who come to visit. We expect that our elected officials will follow through on their vital recommendation to city staff to study and then go further to fully implement, on the books, clear and balanced commercial planning tools. Tools that our city has readily available as discussed at the meeting last night. Tools that are commonly used in cities across this country daily. Thoughtful city oversight is not unique to cities as important as Malibu. Now it’s time to finally protect this community and its future.”
The staff report offered options such as the city registering or licensing all businesses and charging a fee. All commercial business uses would be determined by an administrative Conditional Use Permit.
The short-term measures include allocating a certain amount of resources to the Malibu Chamber of Commerce or Cornucopia Foundation or an outside consultant for a shop local campaign.
Proponents seeking legislative action from the city council were clear what they wanted to see happen.
Time and again those speakers called for the council to exercise Option B2, B3 and B4.
B2 calls for the council to initiate an amendment for modified CUP findings and/or commercial diversification requirements. B3 would have the council amend the municipal code and Local Coastal Program to create formula business regulations. B4 would have the council create a business registration program or business licensing program.
This is the fourth meeting in a series of committee meetings and town hall gatherings for the city to collect input from residents, businesses, community and local associations.
Municipal Planner Joseph Smith indicated in his voluminous staff report that two concerns have emerged from those sessions. Concern number one is the escalating loss of local community serving businesses in Malibu and secondly what is perceived as the inadequate land use and zoning controls to preserve Malibu’s unique character from a changing commercial environment.
After hours of public testimony it was time for the council to speak.
Councilmember Lou La Monte said he wanted to hear from Mayor John Sibert and Councilmember Jefferson Wagner, who both served on the Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee or ZORACES, which has held several meetings on the issues already.
Wagner said whatever legislative action is taken, the city must keep in mind about the property owners and their mortgages. He said the text is important because of what lenders will allow or not allow.
The mayor said he had not formed any opinion. “The real issue here is do we need some sort of local campaign? I don’t think the chamber is right. The chamber represents the businesses.”
He said a point the city made when it was directly involved with its Lumberyard was to require 20 percent local tenants. “I would like to see more diversification. ZORACES looked at an incentive for the shopping center owners by offering an increased Floor Area Ratio,” Sibert noted.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich talked about incubator businesses and using the vacant city hall to house them. She also advocated the city spent the $1000 for the out-of-state consultant, though earlier in the evening she had called on all municipal contracts to be signed with locals.
Sibert was dismissive of incubator businesses saying they have all failed.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she thought it was ironic that the city was trying to jump start working on a shop local campaign and the city is prepared to hire someone from Montana. “Everyone can agree on doing a buy local campaign. I don’t recommend going with the chamber. Who knows better than the people who live here or shop here,” she said.
The council continued to discuss the Montana consultant. Conley Ulich said it adds a fresh pair of eyes.
The council then turned their attention to registration and had many questions to ask of staff.
“People want us to close loopholes. The only way to do that is with a business license.. We would not have that with registration,” said Rosenthal. Who was quick to add later, “We don’t like business licenses,” she said.
After further discussion, Wagner said most of the business names could be gotten from sales tax lists and alarm registration. The council continued to discuss the matter for some time.
Rosenthal said she was trying to figure out what exactly was the thing that most upset people about some of the national chains when the council turned toward a discussion of chain stores.. “It might upset people because they can’t afford them,” she added.
The mayor noted a chain store ban would not have stopped what happened with Trancas Nursery.
The council continued to burn the midnight oil as it veered towards a discussion about chains, clustering, incentives and CUPs.
By the late hour, the staff had to ask several times what the council wanted them to specifically study.
Smith, in his staff report, points out modifying the CUP process would increase the regulation of some commercial uses in order “to preserve and protect Malibu’s rural character” and the integrity of adjacent residential neighborhoods.
“However, note that most business uses within the city do not currently require a CUP to operate and would not be affected by this option,” he noted.
Allowed uses change by commercial zone and are either permitted ‘by right’ meaning no CUP is required or they require a CUP to evaluate potential effects on the surrounding environment, according to the planner.
Smith notes modifying the CUP process can take many forms so it is important to identify the primary objectives sought by this option.
Retain the existing CUP process. Findings could be expanded to consider how the proposed use promotes and maintains a healthy balance between local community serving uses and visitor-serving uses and the proposed use will maintain a balanced mix of uses, which serves the needs of both local and non-local populations, he noted.
Lawmakers could require a level of use diversification within new and existing commercial centers by establishing numerical limits on specific uses identified as overabundant or detracting from a healthy balance between local community-serving and visitor- serving uses and/or requiring spacing requirements to prevent the clustering of uses, identified as overabundant or detracting from a healthy balance between local community-serving and visitor-serving uses.
The third option considered by Smith is what he calls formula business regulation. The focus is on a shared emphasis on “preserving Malibu’s unique character from a changing commercial environment and sustaining local community-serving business.”
The city planner says it would take from a year to a year and half to enact such legislation.
Another option is streamlining the CUP process to provide more emphasis on sustaining local community-serving business.
“However, this option is not limited to local community serving businesses, nor emphasizes preserving Malibu’s unique character,” he noted.
It would rather encourage the opening of new businesses by reducing the requirements and review process placed on business owners. The process would benefit any business use subject to the CUP process.
Another option is a business incentives program which could offer commercial property owners incentives for providing dedicated tenant space, leasing priority, reduced rents for small neighborhood and community serving businesses.
“The program could benefit under-represented business uses within the city and businesses that directly support and enhance the community,” the planner added.
The benefits to commercial property owners could include increases in floor area ratio, permit fee reductions and rebates provided by the city.
Another option could be the creation of what are called overlay zones or specific plans.
Smith describes it as a more complete and thorough approach, the city can create overlay zones and specific plans for one or more commercial areas in the city that could incorporate any of the previously discussed options.
“However, the preparation of overlay zones and specific plans requires a lengthier timeframe and would need funding,” he noted.
Overlay zones can be prepared and superimposed over base commercial zoning districts in targeted areas of the city in order to increase or decrease development requirements for those areas, Smith noted. An overlay zone is essentially a “special district” which addresses particular land use circumstances in the designated area.
Specific plans are more comprehensive in scope than overlay zones. They provide detailed specifications on all future physical development and uses to be implemented within a geographically deigned area, according to Smith. Specific plans typically include the goals and objectives and policies for the plan, the types of land uses to be developed on each parcel, physical and environmental conditions in the plan area, a plan for circulation in and adjacent to the plan area, requirements for capital improvements, written standards, regulations and policies for such items as architectural design, open spaces, preservation of existing structures and other relevant factors to the plan area.
Sibert mentioned that trying again for a specific plan for the Civic Center area might be the way to go. He did acknowledge the city has tried in the past on numerous occasions to come up with a plan that would be approved but to no avail.
The plans can be very expensive and take up to years to finalize.

Board Meeting Prompts Possible Try at School District Secession

• Council Members to Do Another Assessment of Pros and Cons of a Separate Malibu Organization


The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education met in Malibu last week when Malibu city officials and parents attempted to make a strong case for Malibu representation on the school board. The board meeting was held in city council chambers at City Hall.
“We filled this room with Malibu parents,” said Councilmember Lou La Monte, who complained the board applied the two minute rule, cutting down the total number of minutes advocates were able to speak to board members. It was not an item on the agenda.
“The board refused to invest 12 more minutes for Malibu,” added La Monte. “Finally they seemed to get our message, but offered no time for putting it on the agenda,” added La Monte.
According to state rules, the same Brown Act, a state law the city is bound by, prohibits the board from discussing any matter not on the agenda or has not been publicly noticed in a timely manner.
La Monte on Monday night, at the city council meeting, said the Malibu faction had asked that a non-voting Malibu resident be placed on the school board to act in an advisory capacity.
The council member said maybe it was time to once again consider separating the district. “Maybe separation from that school district is the only way. We should investigate the possibility to stay or find another way,” he added. “Do we need an ad hoc committee?”
Councilmember Pamela Con ley Ulich wanted the city attorney to speak about the role of the city council in the matter.
City Attorney Christi Hogin said the city and the school district do have a relationship through the joint use agreement. “We have spent a lot of money on that. The city is not in the business of public school education. There is no reason why a city subcommittee could not get information,” she added.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said there are already several studies that could be gathered. “Lou is asking for us to talk to people and get info,” she explained.
“It is important to look into it,” said Mayor John Sibert.
“We are trying to get info, pro and con,” added La Monte.
“You haven’t heard any negatives from the council,” said Councilmember Jefferson Wagner.
For years, Malibu had a representative on the school board when either Mary Kay Kamath was elected to the panel or after when Kathi Wisnicki served on the board.
Since then Malibu has not had any candidate successfully get elected to the school district board.
La Monte, as part of his campaign promises, said he would seek better representation of Malibu at the school district.

Reward Offered for Info Leading to Who Killed Cougar


A $5000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the poacher or poachers who killed a mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains last month.
The California Department of Fish and Game’s CAL-TIP hotline is providing $2500, and the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are jointly matching that amount.
The mountain lion, aka cougar or puma, was discovered on Sept. 11 after DFG and the National Park Service received a call about the remains of a carcass in the westernmost Santa Monicas in Ventura County.
Concerns about the seven-year-old male cougar’s fate had already been raised when the NPS tracking collar that was used to follow the animal’s movements for almost two years stopped transmitting signals.
The big cat known as P-15 (P is for the species Puma concolor) regularly traversed Malibu as it explored the full extent of the Santa Monica range.
DFG game wardens opened an official investigation after it was determined that P-15 did not die of natural causes and had been severely mutilated, most likely for bragging rights by whoever killed it.
Mountain lions are designated as a “specially protected mammal” in California, and it is illegal to hunt or trap them. An unauthorized killing is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
DFG and the National Park Service ask that anyone with information regarding the case call the DFG Cal-Tip hotline at 1-888-334-2258.

CCC Unanimously Approves MHS Lights

• Concern Remains that Other Light Curbs Will Be Relaxed


The California Coastal Commission approved a modified version of the City of Malibu’s Local Coastal Program amendment to permit field lighting at Malibu High School.
The meeting had a festive air, with many MHS students in the audience, including members of the MHS football team in uniform.
The commission praised the staff report, which suggested numerous modifications to the city’s original amendment request, ranging from requiring state-of-the-art, shielded lights, and a complex bird-monitoring program.
The commission voted to deny the city’s LCP amendment, which coastal staff indicated did not offer adequate environmental protection on the basis that it did not incorporate “feasible mitigation measures and/or alternatives have been incorporated to substantially lessen any significant adverse effects of the Implementation Plan Amendment on the environment.” They then passed a motion to approve the modified LCP amendment proposed by staff.
The LCP amendment that was approved states that: Lighting of the main sports field at Malibu High School may only be permitted if it complies with the following standards:
a. Lighting shall be minimized, directed downward, and shielded using the best available visor technology and pole height and design that minimizes light spill, sky glow, and glare impacts to public views and wildlife to the maximum extent feasible.
b. Lighting may only occur for a maximum of three (3) days in any calendar week and must be limited to the following time restrictions:
i. During Pacific Standard Time (defined as of 2011 to be the first Sunday in November to the second Sunday in March), the lights may be illuminated no later than 7:30 p.m. except as indicated below.
ii. From each September 1 through May 31 period, inclusive, the lights may only be illuminated after 7:30 p.m. up to 18 times, and then (a) only until 10:30 p.m., (b) never on consecutive nights, and (c) on no more than two nights in any given calendar week.
iii. The lights may not be illuminated at any time between June 1 and August 31, inclusive, of any year.
c. For lighting that is to be allowed during bird migration periods (Fall Migration: September through first week in November, and Spring Migration: Last week of March through May), an Avian Monitoring Plan, that is prepared by a qualified ornithologist/ecologist and reviewed and approved by the City Biologist, shall be required prior to issuance of the coastal development permit, and the permit shall be consistent with and require compliance with that plan. The plan shall, at a minimum, include the following elements:
i. Monitoring shall be conducted by a qualified ornithologist/ ecologist to assess potential adverse impacts to migratory and resident bird species.
ii. The monitoring design and schedule shall include a paired monitoring design (i.e. a night with lights immediately preceded or followed by a night without lights), and a monitoring frequency of once per week during any week when lights are operated during Fall and Spring migration periods for at least one year. If the monitoring results indicate that the one-year monitoring period was a typical bird migration year with a typical range of atmospheric conditions and the main sports field lights have resulted in no adverse impacts upon birds, no additional monitoring may be required. If the monitoring results indicate otherwise, monitoring shall continue for an additional year(s) until a year of monitoring under typical conditions occurs and the consulting ornithologist obtains enough data to assess potential adverse impacts to migratory and resident bird species.
iii. The description of observational monitoring activities shall include tallying species and numbers of birds observed within a 200-foot sphere of the light standards and noting atmospheric conditions, bird behavior, and changes in bird behavior.
iv. The monitoring plan shall specify a threshold for determining significant adverse impacts to migratory and resident bird species from field lights.
v. Seasonal migration reports (fall and spring) of monitoring results shall be submitted to the City Biologist. However, the consulting ornithologist shall immediately notify the City should an adverse bird event related to the approved field lights occur at any time during the course of monitoring. The monitoring plan shall also include a provision for submission of a final monitoring report to the City Biologist at the end of the monitoring period.
The approved Avian Monitoring Plan shall be implemented concurrent with the approved field lighting operations. If the Monitoring results indicate that the approved field lighting results in significant adverse impacts upon birds, the City shall require modification of the approved lighting schedule in order to ensure avoidance of the identified impacts.
d. The applicant shall be required to submit a written statement agreeing to the above restrictions.
Several of the commissioners expressed concern about the impact of the lights on the environment, but they indicated that they were reassured by staff’s modifications. Newly appointed Commissioner Dayna Bochco dismissed the Malibu Park area as suburban. “I do feel this is not a rural area at all. It’s suburban,” she said. “I feel it’s an important issue that staff wrote [the City of Malibu’s] LCP in first place. Our staff are saying that was too strict. We were not aware of situations.”
After discussion, the commission added the requirement that the monitoring plan be developed with the input of the CCC’s biologist.
“After hearing all of the testimony, I am somewhat uncomfortable on two issues,” Commissioner Jana Zimmer said. “How the city, because we are no longer going to have jurisdiction, is going to be monitoring the avian plan. Particularly there appears to be a deferral for establishing the sign of what the impact will be. I suggest, if this is approved, that when the city does establish that threshold, it is done with concurrence from the commission’s biologist. Zimmer said the city needs to establish the range of “how many birds have to fall out of the sky.”
“The other part that bothers me is the requirement to modify is very vague. If we are really mitigating, I would like to see a more specific mitigation.”
Malibu Mayor Pro Tem, Laura Rosenthal speaking as a resident and school activist, suggested during public comment that the school’s students could participate in the monitoring program.
“You have exceptional scenic views and dark skies,” Commissioner Sanchez said. “There is no question that it will change character of Malibu, and forever. And it could be this is going to open doors for more nights. Whenever you have limit to industrial you know that there is going to be litigation. This is very difficult to me.”
The commission also approved an indemnification clause that would hold the district, not the commission, financially and legally responsible for any legal costs associated with litigation pertaining to the lighting issue.
“This is a typical condition we apply to permits where there is controversy and potential for litigation,” the commission’s deputy director explained, responding to school board representatives who expressed concern that the cash-strapped district cannot afford the cost of litigation. “We have applied it to other school districts.”
A motion to eliminate the clause was made by Commissioner Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, an outspoken advocate for the Santa Monica–Malibu Unified School District and candidate for State Assembly, but failed to receive a second. The commissioners reminded the audience that the LCP amendment does not automatically authorize the lights. Instead, it permits the City of Malibu to issue a Conditional Use Permit for the lighting to the school district, provided the CUP request is consistent with the amendment passed by the commission and that it receives the approval of the city’s Planning Commission and City Council.
“This is an opportunity for neighbors to talk to the city about mitigation,” Commissioner Martha McClure said.

Alternatives to City Hall Sought for Skate Park

• Staff Needs to Act Quickly to Move Equipment by Deadline


The Malibu City Council unanimously voted to authorize the city manager to negotiate and sign a short-term lease/permitting agreement not to exceed $35,000 annually to relocate the city-run skate park.
“We are looking for a long term and short term site to help relocate the park in a speedy matter. We are searching high and low for a site. What this does is allow us to more quickly respond to remove the equipment at the end of the month,” said City Manager Jim Thorsen.
The council agreed to attach a Dec. 1 2011 deadline and if no offers are finalized, the ramps will be moved to the parking lot behind City Hall. Members upped the ante from $10,000 to $35,000 after a representative, acting on behalf of Steve Soboroff, presented the council with a check for $25,000 promised for relocation costs and $2500 for the farewell party the city recently sponsored.
Almost 10 months ago, the city received notice of termination of the skate park agreement, the new owners including Soboroff needed to get back the land for an Environmental Impact Report that is about to begin on the property for a Whole Foods anchored shopping center.
After further consideration, Soboroff agreed to extend the use of the property through Oct. 31, 2011 to allow more time for the city to relocate the park.
Soboroff also agreed to donate $25,000 to assist the city in relocating the skate park.
However, some parents urged the council to appeal to Soboroff to extend the lease further.
The council heard from a number of speakers who each had their own idea of what the city should do.
Hamish Patterson reminded the council skateboarding is also an adult sport and that the city should consider building a world-class facility that includes new equipment rather than the old ramps.
One speaker questioned the need for Soboroff to have the skate facility removed by the time the Environmental Impact Report study gets underway. Another speaker accused the council of sitting on their hands, knowing years beforehand the skate park would be removed.
However, Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said the city had set up a fund in 2008, but nobody contributed money in anticipation of the removal of the skate park.
“I hate to say so, but I am glad this is happening. Now the people are worked up,” she noted.
Conley Ulich who along with Councilmember Jefferson Wagner sits on the skateboard council subcommittee and has been discussing the matter for some time, recited some of the history about what the city has been exploring in the way of options.
Municipal officials have talked about using the parking lot at Malibu Bluffs Park.
However, planners insist the feasibility of relocating to the site is dependent on the use of the privately owned property adjacent to the park to offset the loss of parking spaces.
“Even though the property owner’s representative is willing to assist the city, to date, the city has been unable to get authorization to use the land due to lender complications,” Parks and Recreation Director Bob Stallings wrote in his staff report.
Another relocation site considered by the committee included the Boys and Girls Club. Schools, churches, private land and other city-owned property have been considered. Conley Ulich did not mention the club.
“Subsequently, the Boys and Girls Club have agreed to locate two skate ramps at their Malibu High School facility once a determination is made on other potential skate park sites,” added Stallings, in the report.
The committee also considered relocating the skate park to the west end of the Zuma Beach parking lot # 12.
As a follow up, the city manager and Stallings met with the Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors Deputy Director Kerry Silverstrom to discuss the potential use of the Zuma Beach parking lot.
“The county staff was receptive to the idea and requested time to fully vet the city’s request before committing to the relocation,” Stallings noted.
Wagner said the problem in relocating the park is the difficulty in securing property. “It is not a matter of will,” Wagner said in addressing the critics. “We are not sitting on our hands. And I agree the park should be for all ages.”
Councilmember Lou La Monte agreed with the speakers who said the city needs a world-class facility. “These people on the subcommittee are working very hard for you,” he added.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal agreed with Wagner on the difficulty of locating any kind of city-owned facility when the city does not own land. She said she felt comfortable with the Dec. 1 deadline for moving the ramps to City Hall.
Mayor John Sibert said the Zuma Beach location would be ideal. “It is a good place. It is flat and about five acres. It is not flat behind City Hall. We need to find some land,” the mayor added.
Other costs include moving the ramps, possible fencing, windscreens, resurfacing, access gates and office trailer and utility connections.
“Until the relocation site has been identified, the projected costs are anticipated to range from $15,000-$50,000. Once a final location is determined, staff will present a budget to the city council for approval,” Stallings concluded in his staff report.
For more than 12 years, the city had maintained an agreement at no cost to use vacant land that was called Papa Jack’s skate park.